Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Cure for the Ailing Workplace

Research shows the benefit of compassionate communication within the workplace

WASHINGTON, DC — Compassionate communication within an office can help prevent workplace burnout, and promote healthier work environments. Sarah Tracy, Ph.D., Director of the Project for Wellness-Work Life at Arizona State University, has some tips for how managers can use compassionate communication to enhance the workplace.

To create a better working environment, managers should encourage positive, compassionate communication between employees. There are three components involved when communicating compassion: recognizing, relating and responding.

Recognizing refers to the process of noticing and understanding details about another person, in order to act appropriately towards them. This includes observing nonverbal cues, listening to what the others have to say, and opening oneself up to feedback. Managers need to ensure that employees are regularly interacting with each other, and are aware of nonverbal clues about possible suffering.

Relating occurs when people identify, feel for, and connect with another person. Relating is fostered when employees are encouraged and rewarded to find connections with each other. This can also decrease the “us versus them” attitude they may have with peers and clients.

Responding is when employees engage in communication or behaviors that focus on another person’s suffering or distress. This can be as simple as acknowledging the presence of someone waiting in line, or as direct as providing praise as a show of support. The act of responding has the potential to greatly improve unsavory workplace situations.

“Workplace stress, bullying, and burnout are important issues that occur in many different forms throughout the workplace. They can lead to dissatisfaction and high rates of turnover among employees,” says Tracy. “Positive communication including energy, vitality, affection, and compassion can help improve employee relations at work.”

Positive interactions have been shown to help decrease stress. Teaching compassion-related skills like recognizing, relating and responding, can help create healthy and successful work environments.

About the author:
Sarah J. Tracy is an Associate Professor and Director of the Project for Wellness and Work-Life in the High Downs School of Communication at Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz. Tracy was invited to write an essay for Communication Currents, a publication of the National Communication Association.

To read Tracy’s essay, click here.

About the National Communication Association

The National Communication Association advances communication as the discipline that studies all forms, modes, media and consequences of communication through humanistic, social scientific and aesthetic inquiry.

The NCA serves the scholars, teachers, and practitioners who are its members by enabling and supporting their professional interests in research and teaching. Dedicated to fostering and promoting free and ethical communication, the NCA promotes the widespread appreciation of the importance of communication in public and private life, the application of competent communication to improve the quality of human life and relationships, and the use of knowledge about communication to solve human problems.

NCA is the largest national organization to promote communication scholarship and education. A non-profit organization, NCA has over 8,000 educators, practitioners, and students who work and reside in every state and more than 20 countries.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Top 10 Human Resources Trends of 2010

"Challenging times inspire creative solutions, and the volatile economy has forged many changes in the human resources sector," says Jeff Fenster, founder of CanopyHR Solutions. "Businesses are trimming excesses in order to succeed, and that means human resources has become a more integral part of business planning than ever before."

Stretching the Compensation Dollar. Although 2010 showed some signs of recovery, HR managed workforces that were considerably smaller than just a few years ago. HR's role in managing productivity through ancillary projects while maintaining employee morale and well-being was challenged by the parallel expectation that workers be twice as productive. Innovative HR professionals instituted creative programs such as gift card giveaways and lottery prizes to boost employee enthusiasm in lieu of raises and bonuses.

Embracing Social Media. Social networking's undeniable impact hit the big screen in 2010, and it hit workplaces in a number of ways as well. Managers learned to be on the lookout for lost productivity as employees grew increasingly concerned with checking in with their favorite social networking sites. On the upside, savvy HR pros saw a shift in the landscape as hiring and firing trends played out online. Posts cost some careless employees their jobs as HR monitored Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. Smart employees landed new gigs by harnessing the power of social networking to market themselves and share information about job openings. Policies were developed to communicate clear boundaries and expectations and to attract top talent with the latest tools-with some even canceling subscriptions to and shifting to social media recruiting.

Keeping the Communication Lines Open-Especially Amid Health Care Reform Anxiety. Maintaining employees' trust in the company and its business decisions through the ups and downs of health care reform was a must. Smart senior management kept communication lines open to demonstrate accessibility and willingness to answer questions and address concerns as they arose. That applied not only to top-down communication, but to lateral lines as well. Human resources professionals were charged with bringing functional departments together; communications, legal, payroll, and IT departments-everyone had to communicate a unified message to maintain employee trust.

Retaining Top Talent. When soaring unemployment numbers left many top performers handling increasing workloads for the same old salary, human resources departments had to focus on retaining company stars. Some of these high performers got antsy as compensation froze and expectations rose. Many continued to struggle with the lingering losses they've felt after company layoffs. This delicate situation required that HR pros soothe sore nerves and keep these folks from looking for greener pastures with creative incentives and sincere appreciation.

Managing Three Generations of Work Styles. As young Millennials entered the workforce, companies had their hands full integrating three distinct generations: Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. The aging Boomers believe strongly in security and loyalty. They don't always see eye to eye with hard-working Gen Xers who have more of an independent streak. The Millennials shook things up with the attitude that if they don't like what's happening at work, they'll go home to Mom and Dad. This generational juggling was best handled with management training that stressed the characteristics of these disparate groups and how to motivate and inspire the most productivity from them. Succession planning also came into play as firms prepared for the replacement of retiring Boomers with less motivation to stick around now that they're feeling overworked and underpaid.

Sharing an Ounce of Prevention. Healthcare reform drew the spotlight to employee wellness issues in 2010, shifting more emphasis to preventive programs like smoking cessation and obesity reduction. Ben Franklin's proverbial "ounce of prevention" may finally see its day in the sun in 2011 workplaces, as employers continue the 2010 trend of encouraging employee participation in wellness programs in order to increase productivity, reduce absenteeism and boost the health of their staffs. For some, it's also a long-term strategy to avoid higher health coverage costs for increasingly overweight and unhealthy American employees.

Clearing Up Confusion. Another obvious consequence of healthcare reform's starring role in 2010 was employee confusion and uncertainty about health benefits. It became an imperative for human resources staffers to communicate benefit changes in advance, whenever possible, and explain changes in terms of how they would affect individual employees and their families. A crucial piece of that puzzle was often dispelling the misperceptions that dominated the public conversation-from dire cuts to death panels. Few changes have occurred yet, so this trend will persist in 2011 and beyond, compelling HR teams to closely monitor things like free flu shots, effective dates and the details of grandfathered health plans-and of course, clearly communicating these details to employees in a timely manner. The smartest pros will keep arming themselves with concise answers to difficult questions that will continue to arise as changes are implemented and look for new ways to reach employees with relevant information.

Managing the Virtual Workplace. Tech advances continued to lure employees into new territory, especially when it came to virtual work and telecommuting. The trend came with pluses and minuses. Some companies slid into this trend with ease, as exempt Gen Xers with no defined hours blended work and personal responsibilities into an organic off-site workday. Other companies struggled with non-exempt workers. Meticulous time tracking was required to ensure proper payment of overtime and the like. Most of the latter companies discovered the concept was detrimental to business. It's a lifestyle management issue that will continue to show up on HR radar screens in 2011 and could be further impacted by additional tech developments.

Working Together. Leaner, more streamlined companies must share information laterally to get the most from scarce resources. HR teams took a leadership role in reaching out to other departments and "sharing the sandbox." More than ever, employees in every department have a sense of facing adversity together. Strategic-minded businesses used the momentum to support strong teamwork and innovative solutions that crossed department lines for everyone's benefit.

Riding Out the Recession. As much as circumstances have improved, the recession we battled against throughout 2010 continues to impact companies and individuals-a trend that will likely continue beyond 2011. HR departments and executives need to tune into their resources and prioritize more than ever before. True innovation is the best way to establish solid initiatives without a solid budget. Successful firms will continue to prioritize wisely, focusing on the most effective tools to enhance business strategy and achievements and develop new business.

"Uncertainty breeds fear in everyone from employees to executives," says Fenster. "Perhaps the most important take-away from the major shifts we saw in 2010 is that the best HR professionals are those who are best at managing uncertainty and allaying fears. That means always reaching out for new information and reliable answers and communicating that information clearly. It also means creating new ways of helping managers and employees move forward, even when the future remains uncertain. Great change requires great innovation, so I think we're going to see some exciting programs and strategies come out of this adversity."

About this list.

This list was compiled by CanopyHR Solutions: Based in Irvine, Calif., CanopyHR Solutions is a progressive payroll and human resources company dedicated to helping its customers maximize the power of their people, increase business efficiencies, lower costs and focus on what they do best. Canopy HR Solutions first disrupted the status quo of the payroll and human resources in 2008 with a customer-first business model that allowed its customers to select only those service modules they need. Their innovative style and superior, consultative approach to service has allowed the agile company to thrive by arming customers with the tools and technology to support their payroll, benefits and HR administrative needs from recruitment to retirement at an unbeatable price point. For more information, visit

Thursday, December 9, 2010

End of the Year Employee Satisfaction and Engagement Surveys

When was the last time your company took a good hard look at itself? And I don't mean the books?

Looking for a great gift to give your employees this holiday season? How about a year end soap box? Some of the best consulting advice can come from in house. Our research has shown that organizations are significantly more likely to have a high acceptance of changes to day-to-day operations if those changes are the result of suggestions coming from employees.

Simply by implementing a year end employee engagement and climate survey can immediately improve:

  • Employee satisfaction
  • Employee confidence
  • Employee performance and productivity
  • Employee - Managerial interaction
  • Over all morale

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Safety Incentive Plans

When examining your own safety reward program or when building one from scratch, consider the following guidelines:
1. Keep Rewards Small

Material rewards should not be perceived as the major payoff. The promise of incentives and rewards should only serve as reminders to work safely, and delivery of such rewards should be viewed by employees as a token of appreciation for performing the desired safe behaviors. If the focus is on the material reward, then the focus is not on working safely. A good rule of thumb is to try and equate the value of the safe behavior with the value of the reward. Therefore, giving away a $20 gift certificate to everyone who completed their observations for the month might be excessive.

2. Involve Workers

Include as many workers as possible in the construction, selection, and delivery of the reward system. By doing this, buy-in is generated up front and support or lack thereof will be evident early on so changes can be made prior to launching the program. Also, by involving workers, you are more likely to choose appropriate reinforcers rather than having management choose what they THINK workers would like. Here is a great link to an employee survey template.

3. Specify The Behaviors You Desire

Behaviors required to achieve a safety reward should be clearly spelled out and perceived as achievable by participants. If safe behaviors are not specified, then employees will not know what they need to do in order to receive the reward and interest will soon wane. Bad example: Receiving a reward if you haven’t had any accidents in the past year. Good example: Receiving a reward for achieving a percent safe goal for a behavior or set of behaviors on a checklist.

4. Collect Data And Post It

Progress toward achieving a safety reward should be systematically monitored using checklist data, and publicly posted for all participants. If safety performance is not monitored, then it will be impossible to accurately determine which employees deserve the reward.

5. Provide Meaningful Rewards

Carefully determine the rewards given as a part of your program. If employees do not find the rewards meaningful, then the reward program will not be an incentive to work safely. Some organizations have done plant-wide surveys to determine what types of social, tangible, and work process rewards are meaningful to employees.

6. Never Penalize All Group Members For Failure Of One Member

Groups of employees should not be penalized or lose their rewards/incentives for the failure of one group member. Group rewards should be tied to the overall performance of the group, but some control must be in place to assure that each member of the group who gets the reward actually earned it.

7. Give The Reward To Everyone Who Meets The Criteria

You should design a reward program with this principle in mind. If you can’t afford to reward everyone who meets your criteria, you should reinvestigate your criteria. Everyone who meets the behavioral criteria you have specified should be rewarded. Otherwise, some employees who have worked safely will not be rewarded. These employees will perceive they have been punished. Some guidelines to follow:

It is better for many participants to receive small rewards than for one person to receive a big reward. Example: An organization decides to use a lottery incentive program where there is a raffle for a television set, a stereo, or a vehicle; usually participants accumulate chances for the drawing and then at the end of a specified period of time, the drawing occurs. One person wins. The problems with this are:
  • Everyone worked safely many times but was not rewarded.
  • The person who won did so by chance.
  • The focus might be on the big prize, not safety.
One group (or individual) should not be rewarded at the expense of another group (or individual). Everyone should have equal opportunity to achieve the reward. The process by which the incentive is given should not be a formal competition where one group "beats" another. Healthy competition can be very effective in generating high levels of safe performance but be careful not to set up a win-lose situation. Those employees who came close to winning will feel punished because they worked safely, but were not rewarded.

8. Keep The Program Rules Simple

The most successful reward programs are also usually the simplest. The less complicated the program, the better the chances that all workers will understand and participate in it, and that the safe behaviors will occur consistently. Launch the program with a special kick-off event or as part of your behavior-based safety program kick-off event to let everyone know the "rules," and to show that the program has the support of management.

9. Follow Through With Rewards

Nothing kills a reward program quicker than failure to deliver the promised rewards. Make a commitment to follow through with all aspects of the program. It may seem frivolous, but an effective Safe Performance Reward Program can play a very important role in workplace accident prevention.

All of these guidelines can be applied to safety programs that focus on automobile fleet safety, employee safety to control Workers’ Compensation costs and the WC Experience Mod, or customer/3rd party safety as it relates to General Liability.

About our Guest Author:

John Keller is a Certified Risk Manager and consultant with Praxiom Risk Management in Tampa, FL. Praxiom is a full-service outsourced Risk Management consulting firm specializing in Workers’ Compensation safety, loss prevention, claims management, insurance placement, and is comprised of veterans of the risk management and financial services industry. Praxiom works with clients nationwide. Comments and questions are welcome at Click here for John's full bio.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Advisory Board: A Powerful Tool for Business Succession

When it comes to business succession, the creation of an Advisory Board is a strategy that can produce many benefits for a family business engaged in determining the future.

In general, family businesses utilizing an Advisory Board as part of their succession management process tend to thrive in size and profitability. And, not surprisingly, they also are inclined to have healthy family relationships and successfully transition from one generation of family ownership to the next.

For most family businesses interested in implementing the Advisory Board strategy, the time required to prepare for an initial meeting will range from 6-24 months; this point cannot be underscored enough as it will take that amount of time to conduct the due diligence required to effectively utilize this vital consultative panel.

Many architects and civil engineers will tell you the key to a successful construction project is mostly about site preparation work; the same concept applies to getting the family business ready to support the activities of their Advisory Board.

The members of an Advisory Board are not family business consultants. An Advisory Board may consist of one or several objective and experienced business people who are unrelated to the business at hand. Impartiality is pivotal to the composition of an Advisory Board as an “outsider” can bring perspective to both the issues and opportunities that face the family business.

It should be noted that Advisory Board members are not trained or experienced in dealing with family business dynamics. Those difficult family issues must be recognized and resolved before the Advisory Board can go to work. If these concerns are not dealt with honestly and thoroughly beforehand, the succession management process will be stalled…and at times completely derailed.

A professional succession management program facilitated by a qualified financial consultant can help guide the Advisory Board process. As an example, the approach taken by Northeast VisionLink includes a structured, yet informal meeting for frank conversation about the history of the family business, its present situation and anticipated future – with the goal of opening the lines of communication to allow the family to think about working together as a cohesive group. Individuals may have varying personal goals, but with the guidance of a qualified consultant, the shared common objectives for the business as a whole will become more visible.

One-on-one interviews with all family members involved in the business as well as key non-family members of the management team is part of the due diligence conducted by a financial consultant; these sessions provide individuals the opportunity to discuss their personal goals and aspirations as well as their ideas and concerns about the family legacy, all in a confidential manner. The interviews serve as the foundation for a recommended course of action or strategic plan by an Advisory Board.

It should not be forgotten that an Advisory Board has a business orientation; that is to make the business more successful. The needs and goals of the family drive the strategic objectives for the business and, from a succession management perspective, gives the Advisory Board a framework to build upon.

The next step is putting together a "to do" list for the family and for the business - and getting agreement on a time frame for completion. At this point, participants are in fact helping the family business create the infrastructure needed to grow the business for both the present and the future. This is also the time period when a financial consultant can begin to determine the composition of people that could be recruited for the Advisory Board.

Part of the challenge of a financial consultant is to ensure the correct personal chemistry between the family and board members. It is extremely important that they share common values. Likewise, confidentiality is always an important element of the recruiting process. A financial consultant can meet and talk to potential board members as a representative of the family without divulging the identity of the family business.

It must be noted, however that once an Advisory Board is in place it will be privy to sensitive infrastructure materials, including a formal business plan, a written succession plan, and Buy/Sell Agreements.

An Advisory Board can be a powerful tool for growing a business and maintaining healthy family relationships. Most importantly, it can create a safety net for the family and the business in the event of a catastrophic occurrence, such as the unexpected death of the business owner.

Next month we’ll get into specifics regarding the composition of an Advisory Board, its intrinsic benefits and suggested compensation for participants.

About our Benefits Installment Author: James E. (Jim) Moniz, CEO of Northeast VisionLink, a Massachusetts firm that specializes in structuring executive compensation. James E. Moniz is a national speaker on the topic of wealth management and on executive compensation. Jim Moniz will be presenting at this years SHRM conference in Phoenx, be sure to check out our presentation: “Creating and Sustaining a Competitive Advantage, The Role and Impact of Effective Compensation and Rewards Strategies”

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

10 Reasons Your Employees Hate You (Or at least reject you)

Here's a fun (though serious) list to ponder.

Being the boss comes with some great perks- a better bank account, corporate benefits, and a fancier title- but why, before you even hold your first meeting, do you get the sense your employees hate you? Unfortunately, more power comes with more problems, and Neil Giarratana, author of "CEO Priorities" and former CEO himself, offers 10 reasons your employees hate you before you even settle into your office:

1)Someone else had aspirations for your job, didn't get it, and concluded that the selection process had serious flaws.

2)Blame MUST fall on someone, and, because you're the biggest beneficiary of the company, you are the biggest target.

3)Your style of leadership or rumored future plans could be the problem. Even if you made NO indication of any future plans, rest assured the rumor mill is alive and well.

4)Someone in the company knows you from another company situation or from within the company, and got to know you during your climb up the ladder. His 'memories' of you are more like nightmares. He might have even worked for you at a previous company.

5) There are concerns you will bring in a new team and replace current management, which could involve new hires or people from your old company.

6)Your real or rumored lifestyle may offend certain people in the company.

7)You seem so different from their beloved previous leader that you can't be any good.

8)You come from another industry and don't understand what "our industry" and "our culture" are all about.

9)No one really knows what you're going to do, how you're going to act, or what policies you will follow, but everyone knows that in spite of that, it will be and has to be stopped.

10)You may already know an executive in the company and you may not think very highly of him. In all probability, he will know this, too, and be part of an 'undercurrent' problem you experience with him because he will be concerned that you will readily replace him.

In his book, CEO PRIORITIES (Career Press), retired international CEO, Neil Giarratana, shares "conduct and survival related" insights and recommendations aimed at providing future and current CEOs with the means to be on the positive side of that "popular opinion" equation and thereby reduce or eliminate the disdain factor so omnipresent in today's discussion of business leadership.

Fear at 360 Degrees…

To unlock the power of the 360 degree feedback process a manager must either be well prepared to navigate through gap analysis and a host of comparative data or should be flanked by a coach throughout the debriefing period.

It is easy for a manager who feels untrained when it comes to giving feedback to fall into some of the common traps that have given the 360 degree feedback a bad reputation in the past.  Feedback that mentions “who said what” or focuses solely on the weaknesses of an employee without being careful to offer a balanced feedback may do more harm than good and be easily overwhelmed by the quantitative measurements. If the desired result of a 360 degree feedback process is to improve the behavior of employees or leaders, then it is vital that the feedback be as accurate, balanced and relevant as possible.

While all this sounds like common sense, are you able to distill the meaning of the results of a 360 degree feedback in a professional and constructive manner? Or do you find it to be a personal affair?

Questions to ponder:

  • Have you ever struggled with giving a balanced feedback?
  • Do you have an anecdotal vignette to share?


  • Partnering with coaches can provide long term benefits in the professional development of your employees, leaders and ultimately your organization.
  • Using 360 Degree Feedback tools that have been custom build for your organization can make all the difference.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The reshaping of feminine leadership in a mixed gender environment

Continuing on the theme dedicated to Team Building, team Effectiveness and GroupThink we are highlighting a thought-provoking research conducted by the Bristol Business School at the University of West England that focused on the different leadership roles of men and women within teams. Specifically, the research question was ‘To what extent is leadership as a sense-making process impacted by gender? Using a pragmatic approach involving the use of induction, discovery of patterns, deduction and testing of theories and hypotheses, Grisoni and Beeby compared the interactions and results of teams comprised either by men alone, women alone or mixed genders.

The research indicated that the essential conservatism originally associated with male professionals permeated all three teams indicating that men and women adopted teamworking strategies for sense-making that contained many similarities. The authors used “meetings” as part of their study because the modern business trend is to utilize team-based leadership that involves more meetings with increasingly growing numbers of women in senior positions.

The essence of the study can be distilled to the following: 
The gendered nature of meetings could be a barrier to the expression of feminine forms of leadership which typically entail ‘managing’, ‘facilitating’, and ‘influencing’ and would instead shape their leadership toward a more mixed gender scheme of ‘developing’, ‘nurturing’ and ‘managing’ attributes.

Questions to ponder:

  • Have you experienced a difference in single gender meetings vs. mixed gender meetings? 
  • Do you find that feminine leadership is reshaped by the mixed gender business environment?
  • How is male leadership affected by the increased number of senior female leaders? 
  • Are the male professionals morphing their leadership styles as well? 
  • Is this a desirable outcome for the teams in your organization?

Grisoni, Louise, and Mick Beeby. "Leadership, Gender and Sense-making." Gender, Work & Organization 14.3 (2007): 191-209.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ability diversity or cognitive diversity: what yields the most accurate decision-making group?

According to a study published on the Information Science Journal, it was proven through unique empirical research that while ability diversity decreased group decision errors by approximately 4%, cognitive diversity was much more effective as team decision errors were reduced by approximately 13% thus putting into question the popular belief that reliance on using more capable members to create high performance homogeneous groups may lead to better team decisions. The final conclusion of the study was that a much better strategy is to create groups of members that ‘think differently’ and cooperate to produce a group decision

So, group composition really improves decision making? Certainly. Yet, the traditional approaches should be augmented. At a software tech firm, for example, forming coding teams that produce error free, innovative work would require more than just the lumping together of the brightest programmers and then setting them on a problem. It takes more diversity than that.

A good first step for our software firm would be to compose the group from, say, two bright computer programmers, two physicists, and two mathematicians. This would give you a group formed from members with diverse abilities. Yet, according to the new research, this would only reduce the team’s decision errors by about 4% because their cognitive abilities are still so similar.

What is needed is not only diversity of skills and high intelligence, but also diversity of thinking style. The most difficult trick of all turns out to be in identifying thinking styles. A good second step comes from the research of Professor Thomas Malone of MIT. Putting a few women on the team would improve the overall social sensitivity of the team thereby increasing its collective intelligence.

Questions to ponder:
  • Is your organization postured to make savvy team decisions or is their effectiveness limited by lack of diversity (ability and cognitive)? 
  • How does the composition of group membership differ between most accurate and least accurate decision-making groups? 
  • Can you even identify your most and least accurate groups?
Here is an interesting and related video:

If you are struggling to find ways to identify thinking styles, one way is to examine management decisions.

The research article cited above: West, David, and Scott, Dellana. "Diversity of Ability and Cognitive Style for Group Decision Processes." Information Sciences 179 (2009): 542-58.33

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Money, Markets, Stress and Productivity

You work hard to get ahead and ideally put yourself in a better financial situation and ultimately to retire to a comfortable lifestyle.

You know that saving and putting money away is important and you do it when you can.
You wonder if you are doing the right thing.

You are bombarded all day everyday by the 24 hour news and the investerati that you need to do this and you better not do that. It’s confusing to say the least.

Studies show that employees waste a lot of time. Some studies put the figure at as much as one hour a day. In addition, those same studies show that as much as half of that time is spent on personal finance.

Opportunity cost or economic opportunity loss is the value of the next best alternative foregone as a result of making a decision.

When employees choose to engage in activities other than work while at work, they have made such a choice. Besides the time and productivity decrease, it is virtually impossible to know what they may have achieved during that time.

When the activity chosen at work is personal finance however, we can say beyond any reasonable doubt that they have chosen an activity which is not only detrimental to their employer but detrimental to themselves as well.

While it is great to see people taking an interest, it is entirely unhealthy for a business to have its employees re-balancing their 401k, day trading, calling their stockbroker, stock picking and monitoring the stock market.

And what’s worse is that it’s all likely to no avail since every study on the subject shows that passive investing beats active investing over any reasonable time-frame, especially given the lowering of index fund fees.

Engaging in an activity at work that isn’t work is a waste of valuable productive time but to engage in an activity that has been proven to be counterproductive is hard to imagine but it happens every day in every office.

The solution is simple. Consider the fact that over 90% of professional money managers cannot beat the simple S&P 500 index.

There is an abundance of evidence that suggests that simply buying an index fund (either ETF or mutual fund) will not only save you a fortune in fees over a lifetime but increase your investment results. Furthermore, you will personally be better off as well having more time and less stress.

About our Guest Author:

Scott Barclay is the author of ‘How the Investment Business Really Works’ ( and is a sought after speaker and workshop facilitator.

Mr. Barclay worked for some of wall street’s biggest firms and knows how the investment business really works. He graduated from the University of Alberta in Psychology and Physics and has completed graduate work in both finance and organizational behavior from McMaster University and the University of Texas at Dallas.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

3 Tips for Executive Development

Leaders are suffering from their own business hangover. During our recent political in-fighting and economic uncertainty, businesses have had their nose to the grindstone striving to do more with less. Everyone was so focused on surviving and cutting, they're just now looking up and realizing they have no clear next steps, limited vision and no energy.

AmyK, who has worked with Martha Beck (Oprah's Life Coach, bestselling author and columnist for O), National Geographic, IBM, John Paul Mitchell Systems, to name a few, offers you, our readers, these t
hree quick and easy tips for executive development that any business leader can practice to immediately improve his/her leadership performance:
  • Focus on energy, not time. Time is a constant; energy is a manageable, renewable resource. What's sucking out your energy and what refuels it? Your answers will influence your strategy for energy management within the constraints of time.
  • Leadership happens one conversation at a time. Slow down and ask better questions. Focus on thought-provoking questions over reports. In meeting prep, devote at least five minutes to think of three to five questions that will lead to a more productive, more thought-provoking meeting. These five minutes will save you hours down the road.
  • Create internal alignment. Step back and ask yourself: What am I resisting? What am I judging? What am I attached to? Answer these three questions and you'll gain clarity, insight and a foundation for momentum.

About our Guest Author:

With over 700 presentations to 20,000+ executives in seven countries, AmyK Hutchens serves as an Intelligent Activist and business strategist to leaders around the globe. AmyK is a former senior EVP of operations for a leading sales and marketing firm, director of education for Europe and Australia for a 900 million dollar consumer products company, and chosen member of National Geographic's Educator Advisory Committee. She is the winner of five Telly Marketing Awards and the Summit International's Award for Creativity (2008) and a featured guest on NBC, Fox and ABC for her brain-based commentary on current events.

Monday, October 25, 2010

When the whole is greater than the sum of its parts: The intrinsic benefits of Group Think

New Study by Carnegie Mellon, MIT and Union College documents how collective intelligence of groups surpasses the cognitive abilities of the individual group members and that the tendency to cooperate effectively is linked to the number of women in a group.

The authors of the study confirmed the hypothesis that groups, like individuals, have a consistent ability to perform across different types of cognitive tasks and that the effectiveness of a group can, in fact, be predicted in many situations. Because the effectiveness of a group is derived by how well its members work together, it was also proven that in groups where one person dominated, the group was less collectively intelligent than groups where the conversational turns were more evenly distributed. Moreover, it was noted that groups containing more women demonstrated greater social sensitivity (social sensitivity is how well group members perceive each other's emotions) and greater collective intelligence compared to teams containing fewer women.

By extrapolation, the study postulates that it’s possible to improve the intelligence of a group by changing its members, by teaching them better ways of interacting or by giving them better electronic collaboration tools. The bottom line is that it is not the individual intelligence that will make the group succeed, but how the collective intelligence is harnessed together with the right mix of social sensitivities.

Questions to ponder:
  • Based on the findings of this latest research, how do you encourage group thinking in your business?
  • Or do you encourage it at all?
  • Do all of your teams look alike or are their demographics such that you too can predict the effectiveness of the group?
  • How do you help your groups to sharpen their thinking and therefore to improve their effectiveness?
  • Finally, do you have tools in place to measure the effectiveness of your teams?
We will be discussing these questions and more on our Facebook page.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Workers Compensation "Payroll" Inclusions and Exclusions

Today we present an article on Worker Compensation Inclusions and Exclusions from our Guest Author: John Keller, CRM ARM CIC AAI

Throughout my work consulting with businesses in all aspects of Workers Compensation, I’m always asked a basic question about WC payroll, so I thought I’d elaborate for all. Most of us know that Workers Compensation premium is a function of rates and payroll by classification code. Because this is relatively straight forward, it’s easy to gloss over “what is considered ‘payroll’ for workers compensation purposes?”

Incorrect payroll has a direct impact on Workers Compensation premium, and it’s critical that the correct payroll be used. Under-report payroll and you’ll have a large, nasty audit bill hit you 3 months after the policy expires (100% due in full, by the way); over-report payroll, and you drag down your cash flow throughout the year, and then have to claw for your money back at the audit.

Below is a comprehensive list of the inclusions and exclusions for “payroll” as defined by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI):

Inclusions in payroll for Workers Compensation insurance:
  1. Wages or salaries, including retroactive wages. (Check with your insurance company auditor to have them provide state caps on individual weekly wage) Not capping individual wages is a common cause for over-reporting.
  2. Commissions and draws against commissions
  3. Bonuses including stock bonus plans
  4. Extra pay for overtime work, with exception
  5. Pay for holidays, vacations, or periods of sickness
  6. Payments by an employer of amounts required by law to be paid by employees to statutory insurance or pension plans (like Federal Social Security)
  7. Payments to employees on any bsis other than time worked, such as piecework, profit sharing, or incentive plans
  8. Payments or allowance for hand tools or power tools used by hand and used in their work or operations for the employer
  9. The rental value of an apartment or house provided for an employee
  10. The value of lodging, other than apartment or house, received by employees as part of their pay
  11. The value of meals received by employees as part of their pay
  12. The value of store certificates, merchandise, credits or any other substitute for money received by employees as part of their pay
  13. Payments for salary reduction, employee savings plan, retirement, or cafeteria plans that are made through employee-authorized salary reduction from the employee’s gross pay
  14. Davis-Bacon wages or wages from a similar prevailing wage law
  15. Annuity plans
  16. Expense reimbursements to employees to the extent that employers’ records do not substantiate that the expense was incurred as a valid business expense
  17. Note: when it can be verified that the employee was away from home overnight on the business of the employer, but the employer did not maintain verifiable receipts, a reasonable expense allowance, limited to $30 day, is permitted
  18. Payment for filming of commercials, excluding subsequent residuals

Exclusions in payroll for Workers Compensation insurance:
  1. Tips and other gratuities received by employees
  2. Payments by an employer: (1) to group insurance or pension plans and (2) into third-party pension trusts for the Davis-Bacon Actor or similar wage law (pension trust must be qualified under IRC Sections 401(a) and 501(a)
  3. The value of special rewards for individual invention or discovery
  4. Dismissal or severance payments, except for time worked or accrued vacation
  5. Payments for active military duty
  6. Employee discounts on goods purchased from employer
  7. Expense reimbursements to employees to the extend an employer’s records substantiate the expense was a valid business expense
  8. Note: reimbursed expenses and flat expense allowances, except for hand or power tools, may be excluded from the audit if all three of the following conditions are met: (1) the reimbursed expenses were incurred upon the business of the employer, and (2) the amount of each employee’s expense payments is shown separately in the record of the employer, and (3) the amount of each expense reimbursement approximates the actual expenses incurred by the employee
  9. Supper money for late work
  10. Work uniform allowances
  11. Sick pay to an employee by a third party such as an insured’s group insurance carrier that is paying disability income benefits
  12. Employer-provided perks such as: (1) use of an automobile, (2) an airplane flight, (3) an incentive vacation (e.g. contest winner), (4) a discount on property or services, (5) club memberships, (6) tickets to entertainment events
  13. Employer contributions to salary reduction, employee savings plans, retirements, or cafeteria plans (IRC 125) – contributions made by the employer that are determined by the amount contributed by the employee
I hope this helps you have a good understanding of what to include and what not to include in reporting payroll to the WC insurance company. Since payroll is used (directly and indirectly) as a factor in determining everything from premium, the Experience Modification Rate (EMR), deductible levels and aggregates, Min/Max on retrospective plans, and tracking ratios like frequency rate, it’s critical that payroll is understood and submitted correctly.

This article can also be found on John Keller's Hub by clicking here.

About our Guest Author:

John Keller is a Certified Risk Manager and consultant with Praxiom Risk Management in Tampa, FL. Praxiom is a full-service outsourced Risk Management consulting firm specializing in Workers’ Compensation safety, loss prevention, claims management, insurance placement, and is comprised of veterans of the risk management and financial services industry. Praxiom works with clients nationwide. Comments and questions are welcome at Click here for John's full bio.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Leadership Roles: a process of co-construction

A new research article published in Academy of Management Review suggests that leadership identities are assumed by individuals in an organization through a process of co-construction. The mechanism appears to work as follows. In their social interactions, individuals either claim, grant or, it would seem, assign leader and follower identities to themselves and, relationally, to their colleagues. According to the paper's authors, "through this claiming-granting process, individuals internalize an identity as leader or follower, and those identities become relationally recognized through reciprocal role adoption and collectively endorsed within the organizational context."

It is not enough if every time during a team meeting, one member of the team takes it upon herself to delegate the majority of the tasks discussed to her peers. What is needed is co-construction. That is, in order for the team member who does the delegating to assume the identity of "leader", her peers must submit to the delegation; they must "grant" that the identity / role is appropriate through reciprocal adoption of the role of follower. By assuming the role of follower, they, in turn, confer a leadership identity upon the other. Thus, their roles are co-constructed. It takes two to make a leader.

How does this conceptualization of leadership challenge received wisdom on the topic of leadership development? Further, how does this affect our methods of identifying high potentials in the organization?

DeRue, D. Scott; Ashford, Susan J.. Academy of Management Review, Oct2010, Vol. 35 Issue 4, p627-647

You can also join the discussion of this topic on our facebook page.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Can HRM Practices Boost Employees Job Satisfaction?

A joint study by the Colorado State University and the Texas State University highlighted the relationship between perceived favorability of HRM practices vs. job satisfaction, and the extent to which trait entitlement alters that balance. While it appears that there is a direct link between perceived favorability of HRM practices and high employee job satisfaction, offering more or better HRM practices will not automatically yield increased job satisfaction as employees expectations differ with regard to what they feel they deserve.

Bottom line, employers need to consider other factors than just employee satisfaction when deciding what HRM practices to implement.

Do you have a particular success story related to HRM practices that you would like to share? You can leave your comments here or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Zinta S. Byrne, Brian K. Miller and Virginia E. Pitts. "Trait Entitlement and Perceived Favorability of Human Resource Management Practices in the Prediction of Job Satisfaction.” Journal of Business and Psychology, Volume 25, Number 3 (2010): 451-464

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Discussion Boards

We have added discussion boards to our Facebook page. These boards will facilitate an open and constructive dialog on the topics presented on this blog.

Connect with us Here and let's get the conversation started!

Current discussion board topic:

The post by Jim Moniz (Recruiters: making strong connections) argues that recruiters must have a handful of important characteristics but that, most importantly, they must catalyze a "happy marriage" between employer and employee. This most important characteristic also seems like the most tricky and hardest to nail down.

What's your method for ensuring a good fit? How about when you hire over the internet? How can you ensure a good fit when you have never met the the candidate in person?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Recruiters: making strong relationships

Getting the job filled with the right person may be the ultimate goal of a recruiter, but instilling trust and confidence in clients should always precede that target.

At the core of this challenging profession is the desire and skill to understand clients’ needs, specific industries and the geographical landscape of placement territory.

A “good recruiter” never rests on the laurels of past performance – its opening night every day for those in the recruitment business, and having more than a passing knowledge of the industry in which they
specialize is paramount.

Many recruiters get into the business after enjoying a career in the industry for which they recruit – this rings true particularly in recent years within the high lay-off high technology realm. Having the ability to “speak” a client’s language cuts down on potential miscommunication and in due course the time it will take to make that working match. In addition, recruiters who have been personally involved in a specific industry understand how to best locate candidates for a particular geographical area.

Recruiters with the right stuff know the impact of trust. A client company should never have to worry about being left out in the cold if a new hire doesn’t work out. A dependable recruiter will be there with “replacement warranty” in hand to make sure that this bump in the road is smoothed out in the short distance.

Beyond building relationships with clients and candidates, recruiters must have integrity. They will never steal candidates from one client to “sell” to another and will always be available to clients to iron out problems.

And the cream of the recruiter crop will take the time to understand a client company’s corporate culture. It should never be about merely filling a position – it should always be about filling it with the right candidate, one who will meet the needs of a client and in turn make for a happy “marriage” between employer and employee.

About our Benefits Installment Author:
James E. (Jim) Moniz, CEO of Northeast VisionLink, a Massachusetts firm that specializes in structuring executive compensation. James E. Moniz is a national speaker on the topic of wealth management and on executive compensation. Jim Moniz will be presenting at this years SHRM conference in Phoenx, be sure to check out our presentation: “Creating and Sustaining a Competitive Advantage, The Role and Impact of Effective Compensation and Rewards Strategies”

Friday, October 8, 2010

Recruiting 2.0: A Guide to Success in the Web Jungle

The Internet provides for a diverse and individual recruitment program in which the new functionalities of what is called Web 2.0 can be used successfully. However, for many organizations, Web 2.0 is new territory and not every recruiter is proficient with its features. Yet, one thing is certain: The new Web 2.0 methods for communicating with applicants over the are better, faster, cheaper and modern.

Learn about Recruiting 2.0 in 2 stages: Stage 1 leads you through the basics of recruiting 2.0 using concrete examples in an interactive, conference style, webinar. Stage 2 will help you personally with the selection and installation of the Web 2.0 technologies that successful recruiters use worldwide for free.

Stage 1 - Web Conference (Webinar)
• What is Recruiting 2.0 in practice?
• What are the most successful online features of Recruiting 2.0?
• Alternative forms of candidate selection.
• New information technologies in the background: Funnel model for Talent Management
• What will be expected in the future from recruiters?
• Duration: about 90 minutes

Stage 2 - Web-Coaching Webinar

• Individual training in dealing with Webcams
• Installation and testing of selected Web 2.0 technologies on your computer
• Accompanied by a Recruiting 2.0 project
• In-depth Q&A
• Duration: variable

In developing these Webinars, HR-Meter has spoken with HR executives from around the globe about their experiences, done comparative research on the benefits of all of the tools and procedures we discuss and have even made use of them in our own recruiting processes.

PLEASE NOTE: Unlike many of the free Webinars on this topic, HR-Meter will never uses informative Webinars like these to sell products, software or advertising.

To register, please visit the official website by clicking here. The registration form is located at the bottom of that page.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

HR-Worldview is now on Facebook

Dear Subscriber,

I just wanted to let you know that we are in the process of improving the content of our Blog! We intend to make more regular posts, feature more highly experienced guest authors and facilitate a more robust discussion of the topics at hand.

In order to help with discussion, we have decided to create a Facebook page. We will make all of our future HR-Worldview blog posts available on our Facebook page as well as pose pertinent questions about the topic!

But we need your help to make this a thriving community.

So, connect with us on Facebook and let's get the conversation started!

HR-Worldview Team

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Performance or Learning Orientated Employees: Who Is Best For An Organization?

A joint study conducted by the Universities of Houston, Georgia, and Connecticut, confirmed that when employees face changes the performance typically is diminished until the new work habits are assimilated. However, those motivated by “performance” view a positive evaluation of their performance by others higher than the actual learning process vs. those who embrace the idea that “learning” would improve their abilities in the long run. The article is provocative in that it suggests that employees motivated by learning rather than performance are more desirable but it also offers an interesting strategy for bringing around those who are purely performance oriented.

Do you know what motivates the employees and managers around you?

How would you introduce changes in your organization if your employees were mostly performance-motivated?

Ahearne, M., Lam, S. K., Mathieu, J. E., & Bolander, W., “Why are some salespeople better at adapting to organizational change?,” Journal of Marketing, 74 (May 2010): 65–79

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Globally integrated, flatter, and leaner: the profile of a thriving global company in 2020

In September 2010, the Economist Intelligence Unit published the results of a quantitative study that demonstrated how the speed of change brought on by the evolutionary technological changes, the globalization of markets and the recent economic realities have forever redefined how companies must operate in 2020.

Because "speed" will increasingly become the keyword for success, companies will see a paradigm shift toward a more "just in time workforce" vs. a permanent workforce. Hiring local managers will guarantee an expeditious and seamless integration in new and emerging markets and HR will be a critical link between the centralized decision making authorities and the globally decentralized branches. Is your company ready for 2020?

"Global firms in 2020. The next decade of change for organizations and workers," Economist Intelligence Unit. Sep 2010: 1-32.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Establishing incentive plan measures, part II

Last month we took a look at Profit-Based Allocation as a basic approach for company executives to consider when developing incentive plan indicators; this month we’ll explore Targeted Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and how they can lead to improvement in profits.

KPIs generically constitute incentive plans that are within the reach or control of employees, the theory being that the easier it is for employees to reach their goals, improvements in company profits will be the outcome. The KPI approach can involve company, department or individual metrics, but in order to achieve the best results the right metric must be selected.

Company metrics could be a combination of revenue growth and net income and might include return in equity, return in assets, gross sales, net income, revenue per employee and profit per employee. Departmental indicators could include gross sales and margins, overhead percentage, production quotas, client referrals, and employee retention percentage. Individual metrics are tied to personal performance goals.

While Targeted KPIs can achieve good results, down sides do exist:

-Miscalculations; KPI improvements sometimes do not sufficiently offset failures in other areas, leading to incentive payments even though profits are off the mark.

-“Gaming”; some employees may learn how to play the system and achieve KPIs without hitting profit goals, resulting in intentional or unintentional failure to achieve profit objectives.

-“Sandbagging; there may be a few employees who barely reach their targeted KPIs during the allotted time period, and then attempt to carry-over performance into the next period, leading to failure to achieve full profit potential.

-Misalignment; KPIs can sometimes force employees into action outside their skill sets and abilities. The KPI may be achieved, but job satisfaction could be diminished.

A single solution to designing an incentive plan with universal effectiveness simply does not exist – measures and metrics must be suitable and specific to the company and industry and based on an organization’s culture, business model and goals. By making a decision about which incentive plan indicators works best for your company, staying the course and tweaking when needed, the results in terms of both profitability and employee commitment will be evident.

About our Benefits Installment Author:

James E. (Jim) Moniz, CEO of Northeast VisionLink, a Massachusetts firm that specializes in structuring executive compensation. James E. Moniz is a national speaker on the topic of wealth management and on executive compensation. Jim Moniz will be presenting at this years SHRM conference in Phoenx, be sure to check out our presentation: “Creating and Sustaining a Competitive Advantage, The Role and Impact of Effective Compensation and Rewards Strategies”

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Establishing Incentive Plan Measures: Part 1

In order to appropriately establish measures for a comprehensive incentive plan and determine which core approach will be taken to develop a program, company executives must first understand and embrace a few foundational principles.

These foundational principals boil down to three goals – creation of an incentive plan that not only improves profits but is also drives results and is self-financing (paid for with results realized). These principals pilot two basic approaches that company executives should consider in the development of incentive plan indicators – Profit-Based Allocation and Targeted Key Performance Indicators.

We’ll concentrate on Profit-Based Allocation for this month’s posting, and have Targeted KPI’s to look forward to next time.

Under the Profit-Based Allocation method, a company decides that it will allocate a percentage of annual profits to employees; the award amount is divided among employees based on a pre-determined formula with payouts typically occurring at the end of the year.

A “best practices” framework for a Profit-Based Allocation should address the following issues:

-Define profits, be it net income or another measure
-Establish a baseline upon which contributions to the profit pool will be based
-Identify a threshold to ensure that a certain measure or series of measures will be achieved prior to payments being made
-Select a fixed or tiered percentage to share
-Select an allocation formula to determine how the value will be distributed to participating employees
-Establish a personal performance component to clarify the performance threshold that must be achieved to receive benefits

Keep in mind that since the single focus of Profit-Based Allocation is on annual profits, the value created can lead to some inherent drawbacks. Some examples might be: long term needs are overlooked, individual accomplishments are not recognized and it can be possible to “cook the books” shorterm to impact a bonus. Seeing that this approach has its anchor in company performance, the absence of a strong performance management system or an apathetic workforce can compromise the effort.

Next month we’ll examine Targeted KPIs and how they can lead to improvement in profits.

About our Benefits Installment Author:

James E. (Jim) Moniz, CEO of Northeast VisionLink, a Massachusetts firm that specializes in structuring executive compensation. James E. Moniz is a national speaker on the topic of wealth management and on executive compensation. Jim Moniz will be presenting at this years SHRM conference in Phoenx, be sure to check out our presentation: “Creating and Sustaining a Competitive Advantage, The Role and Impact of Effective Compensation and Rewards Strategies”