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Archive for April 2016

Keeping Your Workforce (And Your Company) Relevant



How well are you keeping up with the fast pace of technology and impactful changes within your industry?  How are you staying competitive?


A major concern for companies and organizations is the persistent need to stay competitive and relevant.
A snapshot by Fortune into the new realities of the 21st-century corporation predicts that human capital will definitively become every company’s most valuable asset. For many, this makes perfect sense, but at some point, companies may be forced to recognize that a “great” employee today may not look so impressive a year from now.


And it’s no different for companies as a whole.  Keeping your workforce up-to-date is becoming increasingly critical in today’s economy and business environment. Just as with an individual professional and his or her professional development, for a company, the ultimate outcome of well-planned workforce development and staying on top of industry change, is that it safeguards customers, the company and the company’s relationship with its customers.


What can you do as an employer to keep your workforce (and your company) competitive? Following are some ways you can start:


  1. Learning as a Professional Lifetime Endeavor Foster an organizational culture of ongoing learning and professional development.  Professional development isn’t always necessarily formal, costly, formal or off-site.  Take advantage of peer-to-peer learning as an efficient and cost-effective way of improving skills.  Also consider cross-training or rotating certain job duties. Employee discussion groups are a great way to allow employees to share their experiences and mentor others.
  2. Get Your Employees Psyched about Taking Charge – Encourage your employees and put the onus on them to take charge of their own careers. You can let them know that you can support them, but that in the end, the final responsibility is theirs to develop as a career professional.  Keep them learning, for their own good, and for the good of the company.


  1. Foster a Transparent Corporate Culture – There may be some need for discretion when making some decisions, but in many companies, important information is too often kept from the individuals who are expected to assume greater responsibility in the future. This can put newly-promoted employees in an awkward position and result in lost productivity while he or she scrambles to get up to speed with new responsibilities.


  1. Assess – What skills are needed for each position in the company?  What skills are needed for each position that employees may be looking to advance to?  Invest some time with each employee to discuss the skills that are important now, and what skills will be important in the future.  Also, help them see where they may be lacking, and where they need to fill in.  Form a team specifically charged with identifying employee learning needs, such as formal classes, support for higher learning or training in certain skills.  Discuss with company leadership and HR ways that the company can help (remember it’s in the company’s best interest, too). You may want to consider investing in a firm to help you assess your company’s current and future needs.


  1. Show Support – Encourage employees by showing interest in what they have learned in courses, seminars or other learning activities. Get them thinking about what they have learned that they think will be most useful to them in their current positions, and where they think they need to improve.  Get them thinking about what they’re learning in terms of how it will benefit them in future responsibilities.


You can be of beneficial support to your employees, not just for their own development, but also to help keep your company competitive.  Definitely a win-win.


Are you keeping your company competitive through professional development for your employees? We’d love to hear about what is working for you!

  • Jonathan W. Crowell

Get Going on Employee Wellness: One of the Most Cost-Effective Initiatives You Can Take


One of the HR hot buttons this year touches on the question of employee wellness, and whether or not it’s a worthwhile investment for company resources.


Truth be told, the ROI on employee wellness programs is still a bit of a tricky one to quantify, in part because wellness as a concept is an ever expanding one – as time goes on, more and more components go into its definition.


With the hectic and stressed pace of modern life, coupled with longer lifespans and an aging workforce, it makes good humanitarian sense to have employee wellness on the radar, but it is so much more than doing your employees a favor – a concern with employee wellness has been tied to improved staff health, productivity, and morale.


Furthermore, findings from 56 studies on worksite wellness programs that were published in the American Journal of Health Promotion showed an average 27 percent reduction in sick leave absenteeism, 26 percent reduction in health care costs (every dollar invested in a company employee wellness program returned $6 in annual health care savings), and 32 percent reduction in workers’ compensation and disability management cost claims.


Beginning an employee wellness program might seem like a daunting task to tackle, but it makes good business sense, and the sooner you get started, the better.  The best part is, it doesn’t even need to involve a huge financial investment!  As always, it’s the little things that count most.


Here’s how to get started:


  1. Assess employee wellness needs – Put together a balanced committee that represents the interests of employees and management alike (even if it’s just two people).  Distribute a Health Risk Assessment (HRA) among your employees to realistically gauge risk factors in their lifestyles (smoking, exercise, eating, etc.  Be mindful of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) and Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) regulations while gathering data for an HRA). Take an employee survey about what might interest them in a wellness program, what their concerns are, and what their availability to participate is.


  1. Get buy-in from your employees – Make sure they know that a wellness initiative is not just about getting incentives from the company insurer, but that it will benefit them as well, in the long run.  Employee wellness is not just about physical health, but also about emotional, psychological, and even spiritual health.


  1. Brainstorm with employees for solutions – It would be great if every company could install an in-house gym and hire a full-time trainer, but it doesn’t have to be that dramatic.  Get further buy-in from your employees by having your committee brainstorm with them about what practices can be adopted to help with wellness efforts, e.g., healthy food for meetings, smoking cessation incentives, pedometer challenges to encourage more walking, etc.  See if your company can get a group rate at the local gym.


  1. Screenings and in-house medical services – Time is valuable, and if employees can get their blood pressure tested, or get flu shots, or get screened for cancer during their lunch break without having to leave, all the better.  Plus, it’s something your staff can have fun doing together.


  1. Put the program in writing and put a plan in place to evaluate – Everything improves once you begin to measure it.  Plan on evaluating the program periodically and measuring employee progress.  Get employee feedback regularly.


An employee wellness program is a win-win scenario, that makes good fiscal sense from a management standpoint, and is also veritably beneficial for the employees themselves in the long-term.  It’s also a great opportunity to help bolster employee-management communication and relationships.


Want more ideas to support a wellness program?

  •  Wellness newsletter
  •  Office walking/exercise groups/fitness challenges
  •  Workshops on wellness issues
  •  Healthy potluck lunches and healthy snacks for meetings and breaks
  •  Physical activity breaks
  •  Group fitness or yoga classes/gym memberships
  •  Smoking cessation classes and incentives
  •  Company sponsored incentives such as water bottles, gym bags, healthy cookbooks, and pedometers, employee parties for reaching fitness goals, etc.


Some Resources for Implementing an Employee Wellness Program 

A checklist for implementing an HRA, from the CDC


A Brief Summary of the HIPPA Privacy Rule


A guide to workplace health promotion practices from the Partnership for Prevention


A specific step-by-step guide to creating an employee wellness program from Hope Health



What does your employee wellness program look like?  Drop us a line! We’d love to hear what is working for you!

  • Jonathan W. Crowell


Human Resources Sustainable Strategic Planning: Better Focus on People, Less on Programs


“HR continues to be about relationships rather than programs and a deep understanding of the business. The key skill set for future HR people will be how to effectively understand and manage the impact of mergers, demergers and globalization. These changes have profound impact in the workplace…”
 — Jenny Arwas, MBE, Former Director, BT Group Functions HRBT, November 2015

Recruitment, training, succession planning, conflict resolution: The management of human capital (HCM/HRM) is undoubtedly one of the more daunting time and emotional investments when it comes to operating any-sized company or organization. At times HRM can seem to dominate all other aspects of operations, and often make those involved wonder whether it’s all worth it. This is especially true since the returns on HR investment are difficult to accurately quantify.

It should come as no surprise that the income rate growth among companies that most care about and invest in HRM are consistently higher over time, in comparison with companies that don’t (to the tune of between 60 and 130 percent higher).

According to Keagan Kerr, vice president of corporate affairs and human resources for Coeur Mining Inc., “You’ll see more HR practitioners learning more about organizational effectiveness and culture and people because that’s what makes a difference in the organization.”

If you’re having some difficulty picturing more specifically what “investing more in your people, and less in programs” looks like, here are a few guidelines to help you focus.

  1. Develop a plan to develop a sustainable HRM plan
    If you really want to improve the ways and means by which you most effectively manage your human capital and their individual and collective talent, you need to establish a long-term plan, which includes having those in leadership positions to develop HR management skills and experience. Don’t get gun shy about developing an effective HR strategy because of feeling overwhelmed – research and study the best practice methods used by similar companies to yours within your industry. Start out with one area of your HR strategy and then slowly add on as things get rolling.  Solid HRM strategies are not just a checklist afterthought, they are a non-negotiable for success in business today.  Hire an HR firm, if necessary, to work with you to get things rolling.
  2. Begin with an end in mind: Develop your HRM operations and planning as far as seven to ten years out
    Set an ambitious seven-to-ten-year time horizon for your HRM planning. This type of HRM planning needs that kind of time to survive economic, industry, and legislative changes that may arise, to say nothing of restrategizing that may come from leadership, companywide crises, and advances in technology. It’s reasonable to assume that it takes at least seven years for leadership to install, gestate, tinker with, improve, and reap the benefits of HRM plans and policies, to eliminate unproductive and ineffective approaches, and to hire the next generation of company leaders. It can also take that long for a new foundation of trust to be developed (or rebuilt) between employees and leadership.
  3. Start small and focus on the basics
    Anyone can dramatically improve whatever it is that they do best, by focusing on doing the basics better – and effectively managing human resources in an organization is no different. Department by department, start going through all the HRM-related activities and motions with real focus and intent. Research has shown that several such procedures (recruitment, training, compensation, job definition, succession planning, etc.) are performed hurriedly and far less than adequately.
  4. Constantly be looking to nurture commitment, build consensus, and foster mutual understanding
    Human (and organizational) nature tends toward a pull in the direction of disconnect and alienation, without conscientious and consistent efforts to curb this dynamic. If leadership continuously fails to listen, fails to explain, fails to anticipate problems, fails to communicate expectations, and fails to approach HRM proactively, employees will ultimately drift away. A rebound from a disconnected workforce would be difficult, at best, if not impossible. Leadership can indeed work with HR to nurture and develop team that can – and will be willing to – meet and exceed the organization’s performance needs.
  5. Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect the first time – “We’ll work on it…”
    Having an expanded time horizon allows you and your HR team to develop a paradigm, a unique philosophy, as well as specific objectives, and a tried and proven overall strategic approach. Human resources strategic planning still invokes some degree of mystery when it comes to being able to know how to do and predict for everything, and it may take a while to get up to speed, but it’s far better to get going now than to wait until you can formulate the perfect scientific approach – don’t be afraid to experiment, evaluate and improve as you go.

Human Resources is a huge investment in resources, but it pays off, especially when you focus more on your people and less on your processes.  Do your homework, and if necessary, call in some expertise.

How is your HRM strategic planning looking these days?  We’d love to hear more from you about what’s working best!  Drop us a line!

— Jonathan W. Crowell