I’m Back From Vacation!!!

Don’t Work While You Are On Vacation!

Stop right there, don’t say it. I already know what you’re thinking. There is NO way I can’t do some work while I am on vacation otherwise my desk and inbox will be full when I get back and I don’t want to deal with it. Well, I say try harder!

It is so relaxing to not do work on vacation. I was gone for a week and hardly thought of this blog. Yes, I said “hardly”. I’ll admit how hard it is to completely go off the grid from work. However, I feel so much more relaxed and rejuvenated.

We’ve Already Discussed PTO

Yes we have, but only the difference between PTO and Vacation. Not the actual process of using it. Not only for ourselves but our team members too. We want you to encourage your team members to use their time. Everyone needs rest and relaxation. If your department is stretched, try to give people a 4-day weekend or an extra 3-day weekend when applicable. If you don’t have those types of concerns, then make sure you check in with the team and find out their vacation schedules early so you can put them on the team calendar so everyone knows when people will be out. This is a great tool for everyone so they know when they need to pick up the slack or when it’s their turn to get out of Dodge!

Cashing Out Time Instead of Taking it.

Please don’t allow this to happen. All you are going to get out of it is a burnt out staff and higher turnover. When you encourage your people to take time off you are effectively telling them that you genuinely care about them and their well-being. Their job will be here when they come back because frankly, you don’t want to do it for them for an extended period of time anyway.

Vacation Season? Is There One?

Generally speaking the summertime is the busiest time for vacations because kids are out of school and it is nice. If you can spread out the vacations during this time then the rest of the team won’t always feel like there is a lack of bodies for a three month period and get burnt out waiting for their turn. Do you have on-call staff that can cover? If so, this will prevent too much overtime for the people that are still in the building. They won’t have to pick up the extra work for the vacationing team mate because you have this built in already.

Some Slack Should be Given upon Return

Now if you have a desk job you know what that inbox looks like when you return from vacation. On the first day back for your team members, set the expectation that the first day back is going to be a catch up day. Try not to schedule them for back-to-back meetings on this day. They will appreciate it and you for giving them the time to catch up on correspondence.

Wineries, Family, and Fun

For me, I spent a glorious week with my family and toured some wineries and ate some fantastic food. Notice how I put wine first! You know!

It filled my heart with joy to reconnect with my cousins and just enjoy life for a bit. After all, why do we work so hard if we can’t enjoy it now and again?!?

Stay Interviews

How Important is Employee Retention?

If you want to keep good employees in your organization you need to ask your team how they are doing. Don’t just rely on the annual performance review for your communication. You should be speaking to your team at least quarterly and I like to work with my managers and supervisors on conducting “Stay Interviews”.

What is a Stay Interview?

It’s a conversation that increases employee engagement and retention.

These structured questions are asked in a casual manner and usually take only about thirty minutes. Here are some examples:

  • What makes you get up and come to work each morning?
  • What keeps you home pressing the snooze button?
  • Do you believe your work here is meaningful?
  • Have you ever considered leaving this job for another opportunity?
  • What can I do as your manager to make your work experience better?
  • If you could change something about your job, what would it be?
  • What motivates you?
  • What might tempt you to leave?

Hey, Wait a Minute…You Asked if they Would Leave?

Yes, I did and you should too. This is not used as a means to punish people and there definitely should be NO retaliation for any answers you receive. This is an information gathering meeting so you may retain the employees that are doing the best job for your team, department, and organization. Remember, that stay interviews are conducted to help managers understand why employees stay with the company and what might cause them to leave.

Communication is a Two-way Street

Make sure you give the employee plenty of warning for this meeting so they have time to prepare and feel comfortable asking you questions during this one-on-one time. In fact, encourage them to come with questions and suggestions.

If you stay on a regular schedule with these interactions your teams will be increasingly engaged and come to expect them. That would be an incredible result! These are only a sampling of the questions that you can ask your team.

Remember these Simple Rules

Never promise something you can’t deliver. This would be a raise, bonus, or promotion. Keep asking them what you can do for them. You are bound to find one or two things you can do for them.

The second thing to remember is to keep these meetings short and sweet. Thirty minutes is the maximum. If the conversation is great and you are both communicating in ways you haven’t before then by all means don’t cut them off, just remember you have other people on your team and want to be fair and consistent.

Interview Questions that Suck…

What is your greatest weakness?

Why would you ever in 2019 want to ask a candidate what their weaknesses are? This is a punitive and antiquated question. I feel like this question needs to go hide in the closet and never come out again.

The answer you are most likely going to get from people so they don’t have to speak badly about themselves, is “If anything, I am a perfectionist”. Is that really a weakness? Candidates spin this so it looks like they’ve answered your question. I don’t see how wanting to do things extremely well in our work is a bad thing. If we were to really just lay it out there, a good answer to this question could be; “Sometimes I just hate dealing with stupid people and want them to leave me alone so I can get my job done”. Is that a weakness? I know we all have thought this same sentiment at one time or another.

Where do you see yourself in Five Years?

Wow. As an HR professional that has been in this business for a long time, I know that either people stay in their positions for ten or more years, or they leave within two or three. With the surge of millennial’s in the workplace, asking them what they think they might be doing five years from now is daunting to them. I once read an article that said instead of trying to retain millennial’s, we should invite them to come and work for us and if they decide to leave, invite them to come back when they have tested out other organizations. Guess what you’ll get back? A more experienced employee with ideas that might help you move your business two or three steps further based off the knowledge that they have gained elsewhere. On top of that, you will have shown this employee that you cared enough to let them fly free and come back to the nest when they were ready.

Tell me about yourself…

Yikes. I have been guilty of asking this question in the past. This is a very difficult question to ask candidates and even more difficult for them to answer. Most people don’t want to talk about themselves. It is awkward and at times you may be getting answers to questions that fall on the line of being illegal. Does this question affect the candidate’s ability to do the job? Will the answers they give you contribute to their ability to do the job? Most likely, not. So don’t ask this. Let’s stick to questions that are job related. Especially if these are initial screening questions. As HR professionals we want to verify that they have the necessary skills and abilities to do the job, not if they were to be any tree in the world, they’d be an Oak.

On-boarding; Make it the Best First Day of their lives.

An employees first day is one of the most important days of their tenure at your company. Better yet, the first two hours are. Those two hours are highly critical for their decision making process. The decision on whether or not they are going stay with your organization.

We could back up a bit to the recruiting process and the interactions and interviews you had with them because we know that these events are also ones that shape their decisions too. We must always be on our best behavior. Let’s just assume for the sake of this article that we already are doing this.

Day One…

My philosophy is to start the new employee later than their normal schedule will be and let them go home early the first day with a full days’ pay. You have already emailed the pertinent on-boarding paperwork to them so when they show up at 9:00 am on their first day they have all that paperwork with them filled out for you to simply double check. They should have their proper identification out and ready to present to you. Why do they have it ready? Because you emailed them a list of everything they need to bring with them on that first day. Is that snickering I hear from you? All of this preparation does come with the knowledge that sometime the new hire will not have read the email and come empty-handed. Remind them that they must bring in the proper identification to you within the three days or we are not in compliance. Don’t let this ruin the employees first day experience. We all know that we are responsible for getting that information.

Tips and Tricks

If you can have a card signed by the team and some executives ready for them that be a great welcome for them. Have their desk set up with all the basic supplies they need for their jobs and the card presented on the desk. If the position does not have a desk set up then presenting it at the end of the HR portion of their first day is fine.

The next step should be with a team leader or supervisor to give the new hire a tour of your facility. Take the time to show them the restrooms, lunch area, lockers if applicable, etc. After the tour have a special meeting to introduce them to the team with pastries and juice. A meet and greet if you will. Show the employee their desk and let them take a bio-break.

Mealtime

Lunch on the first day for the new hire should never be spent alone. We are not, or should not be too busy to schedule a special lunchtime meeting between the new employee and their manager. This is a nice way to answer get to know them personally, answer any questions they might have, and give them the rest of the days’ itinerary. A written agenda shows you took the time to prepare the days’ events and sets aside time for other for any other introductions with department heads this role with will be working with.

The End of the Day is Near

At the end of this first day, remember to give your new team member, if you can, a daily operation manual for them to go through or take home to read at their leisure. Right before they go home for the day the manager and the employee can work out the regular schedule for the rest of this first week and going forward depending on your needs at the organization. Having clear communication of expectations is the best way to start out this relationship.

This first day the new employee has met many people, learned many new things, and most likely is exhausted. Leaving early is a chance for them to regroup for the next day. (As well as knowing we have to get caught up on all the things we didn’t get to do today, its a never ending cycle).

First Impressions are Lasting

I hope this glimpse of a first day has helped you out. First impressions are lasting. Please comment with ideas you have used for on-boarding your new employees!

Employee Engagement, How can I get it?

Employee engagement is when your employees are committed to your organizations goals and values. They are motivated to contribute to it’s success with an enhanced sense of their own well-being.

Instead of starting off with what it is and why we want it, let’s get right in to some examples of what you can do. Are you hungry for information? It’s meat and potatoes time!

Meat and Potatoes; Employee Engagement style…

  1. Try to be flexible in their schedules. I know not all company’s can let people change their start/stop times but if you can, then do it. Give clear guidelines and deadlines for projects and you might be surprised that they get the job on time and correct! When you give them the freedom to finish things at their discretion, you are treating them as the adults they are.
  2. Encourage your team members to volunteer, or better yet come up with an idea and volunteer as a team. Some employers set a side a day of volunteering with specific projects in mind. Ask your team members for suggestions, I bet you will get quite a few!
  3. Build trust with your employees. When you are open and an authentic manager you will build trust and remove the need for them to hide things from you. When they feel they can come to you without retaliation, they will respond better and engage themselves more in the department.
  4. Make sure your team receives their breaks and lunch times. Uninterrupted. Another nice thing to do is if you see an especially stressed out employee, give them a chance to take five to care for themselves. They may have just had a rough experience and need to compose themselves. This shows you care for their well-being.
  5. Ask for feedback from your employees without fear of criticism or judgement. This doesn’t mean you have to implement everything they suggest but make sure you try to choose one idea to put into effect so they continue to share ideas. After all, they are the ones in the trenches making it happen.
  6. Play office games to get them to know each other. Have group fun events like a pizza party or karaoke after work on a Friday night. This breaks the monotony and allows some fun down-time for the team as a whole.
  7. Promote honesty; Build relationships; and show gratitude regularly.

The main way to engage employees is to get leadership buy-in and action. If the executives don’t lead by example the trust is never built and engagement fails.

How do I do this?

Provide your employees with tools for success. If they don’t have the computer, or training, or office supplies necessary and feel like they have to provide all those things themselves, they won’t stick around because they don’t think you care.

Communicate the goals of the organization. Make sure you have regularly schedule meetings with the team so they know the “why” of what they are doing. Let them know where the company is headed and how their contributions are getting them there.

Give them as much autonomy in their roles as you can. I hear it regularly during the hire process that employees want to be valued for their expertise and to have managers just let them do their jobs without hovering. You hired this person for a reason, let them shine.

Recognize their hard work. Not everyone likes open public recognition or a gift card, but telling someone how well they are doing with a “great job” once in a while can move mountains!

Get to know your team. You don’t have to become best friends with everyone and as a manager I don’t suggest you do that at all anyway. However, you can find out about them, what they like, their hobbies, what is important to them, or their charities. Asking about things other than work is another way to show them that you care.

How do I increase Employee Engagement?

Simple. Train them. Give them meaningful work. Make sure they are in the right role. Check in with them often.

What are the benefits of Employee Engagement?

I’m sure you all know but here they are:

  • Higher employee satisfaction
  • Lower turnover
  • Higher productivity

Engage with your team and work with all of your managers and supervisors to create the atmosphere that stops people from pushing the snooze button multiple times and makes them want to jump out of bed and come to work!

The Art of Resume’ Reading

Looking at resume’s seems to be a lost art form these days. The more technology we use to parse out words and phrases, takes away the humanity of the resume itself. After all, this is about the human. The people we want to bring in to our organizations.

I’m a bit old school and like to look at every resume. I look at details like length of service at each job, duties they performed, skills they may have, people they managed, and what their education is. I’m sure you all check out these details too.

Technology

Resume readers, and I mean the robot kind, are programmed to look for key words and phrases that match up with the job description. That’s fine but what a robot doesn’t do is see experiences that may not match exactly to the current job applied to, but have related experience that transfers to the posted job requirements.

I like to look for these types of details because it shows flexibility and their potential range. Now some might say that looking at each resume might be deemed as discriminatory because of the title names sounding “ethnic” and that would cause me to not pick them for interviewing. Well that would be true if I was a BAD HR Director. But since I’m NOT, I don’t worry about it. I always start with the job description and match skills and experience. If you take a chance on someone that is really close to your requirements as well, it may surprise you.

So now you have a pool of candidates…

Let’s do a phone screen interview. I have used a specific phone screen template for many years now and I always start with the “housekeeping” questions. What are they you ask?

  1. How did you hear about this opening? *This allows you to track and report where people are finding your ads to make sure you are getting your money’s worth.
  2. If chosen, what is your availability for an in-house interview? *This give you a firm grasp of when is best to schedule with this candidate. It is very helpful especially if you are planning for multiple interviews in one day.
  3. Do you have a wage in mind for this position? *I know in some states it is illegal to ask what someone is currently making per hour so I don’t ask that question. Asking the candidate what they are looking for is perfectly legal. It gives you a chance to see if their expectations are within the pay grade range you have set up for this position. If it is too high you can tell them what the range is and ask if it fits within their budget. If yes, great! Continue the interview. If its not, then politely say that we didn’t want to waste their time and they didn’t want t o waste ours. End the interview at this point.
  4. If you were to be hired for the position, when would you be able to start? *The answer to this question can give us many clues. If they say “I need to give 2 weeks” that is a standard time frame that most companies ask employees to respect. If they say “anytime” they are most likely not currently working (so check their resume to see if it jives). Now, some positions may require longer notice periods but for the most part the answer to this question helps you and the hiring manager.
  5. Why are you leaving your current position? *If in #4 they answer “anytime” , you can assume they aren’t currently working but I have heard many reasons for this question. I personally don’t take offense or read much into it, I just like to know why if they are willing to tell me. It can be for reasons like lay-offs, personal growth, “I always wanted to work here”, or just moved to the area. Remember from my first article, sometimes people leave their bosses. That is a big reason.
  6. Are you available to work at our xxx location? *You want to be sure to tell them where they will be working in case you have multiple locations and you know where this particular position will work.

Meat and Potatoes

Now that the housekeeping questions are complete, you can get into the “meat and potatoes” of the job to see if the candidate really knows their stuff. I like to put together questions pertaining to the job title and then work with the hiring manager to come up with a few questions that they want to know up front before face-to-face interviews. I suggest about ten questions. It shouldn’t take longer than 30 minutes of interview time. The last three questions are usually the same for me.

What kind of manager to you like to have? *Most people will say that want communication with their manager and no micro-managing.

Why are you the person for the position? *I like to hear people respond with confidence here such as, I “know” I’m the right person because…. If they use, “I think I’m the right person…” then it shows less confidence in themselves and possibly their ability to do the job.

What questions do you have for me? *This is a good tool for getting more information about where the candidate is coming from. What they are really interested in. I find too, if as the HR person I don’t know the answer, it is an opportunity for me to ask the hiring manager so I have a better understanding of the role and the department. You learn something new everyday.

Now that the phone screen is over…

After each interview, I like to type up the responses and send them along with the resume to the hiring manager. From there, the manager can see we have asked each candidate the same questions and they can pick from the group who they want to bring in for the next round. I usually step back in when the manager has made a decision and wants to make an offer. Of course different companies have different recruiting and hiring processes but this gives you some ideas to use.

PTO vs. Vacation, Sick, and Personal Time

I have always been of the opinion that if my employer offers me vacation or PTO then it is my right to take it for whatever I want without explanation. A PTO policy creates a pool of days that employees can use at their discretion. This creates a sense that they may actually get a true work/life balance. Does your employer ask you for details of your PTO? If so, why?

Why should it matter how employees are using their time? Did they earn it? Did they follow policy and procedure for requesting it? Did it get approved? If so, then you shouldn’t have to go any further. The reason I ask is because if managers are asking why or where someone is going does that make it subjective to the manager to pick and choose which time off they will approve and which they won’t if they don’t like the answer from the employee? Is saying that I want to stay home and work a week in my garden without interruption any less or more important than wanting time off to go to a theme park with the family? Approving time should be based on the policies and procedures of the organization. For example, your company may use the “first come, first served” approach or the “seniority” route. If you use these methods instead of finding out the itinerary of your team member you are in better shape to stay away from a discrimination claim. An employee that overhears an approval for the theme park but then requests the garden time and gets denied may question your decision and your motives resulting in filing a grievance.

A PTO Bucket of Days

This is my favorite way to go only because I haven’t had the experience of unlimited PTO in an organization yet. I’ve read about it but I don’t see a lot of company’s trying this approach quite yet.

I have been in several organizations that allow you to take up to three weeks of vacation/PTO at a time. Now, I know what you are thinking….All that work piling up if you actually took three weeks off. Believe me, I hear you. With as many emails I get on a daily basis, I would not want to come back to over 2600 of them after three weeks away and that would just be the email pile up. There would also be a whole lot of other catch up to do after that amount of time off.

However, some employees are more task-oriented and don’t usually sit at the traditional desk so their work doesn’t pile up. This makes it easier for them to take this amount of time off. I would say that in my experience people take about 5 days off at a time so they can spread out their time off during the year instead of all at once.

Vacation, Sick, and Personal Time

If you have a vacation, sick and personal day type of leave then other problems and concerns may arise. If an employee is ill throughout the year and runs out of their allotted “sick” time they may want to borrow from the personal or vacation bucket. Do you allow this or not and say “Sorry, Charlie”. While some policies allow for the use of vacation for sick time, others don’t and then you run into the employees who may lie or make up stories about how they are using their time.

Employee are Adults…wait, what?

We want to empower our “adult” employees to take their PTO at their discretion so we can stop the practice of needing to ask permission from their managers to miss work. We also want to encourage them to use the time they have earned to decrease burnout in the workplace.

Always, always, always, have policies and procedures to establish how requests are made and granted so you are treating everyone fairly and consistently. Your employees will value the flexibility of PTO vs. the Vacation,Sick, and Personal Day approach.