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Entries with Topic HR Knowledge .

November 10, 2022

The Value of an Employee Handbook

O, humble employee handbook! Nonprofit employers count on you to provide organizational best practices to their workforce while ensuring they maintain compliance standards. Unfortunately not enough attention is paid to updating the handbook as there should be—placing these employers at risk.

Today, companies put the handbook online, posting anything from a 2,000-page guide for GitLab to a 5x8” gray card for Nordstrom that reads “Use your good judgment in all situations.” One thing about the employee handbook has not changed. It remains invaluable and indispensable to its company and their employees.

Do you know what a help an employee handbook can be for your nonprofit, your workers, and your constituents? Let’s break the handbook down to its core elements to see what makes it so powerful and beneficial.

Employee handbooks contain both policies and procedures. What is the difference between a policy and a procedure?

A policy is a principle or rule that governs decisions and actions. It functions within the framework of a company’s mission as set by management. Policies include rules for employees regarding smoking, non-disclosure agreements, vacations, dress codes, technology use, and plenty more.

Policies have scope (covering all workers) and purpose (the law that necessitates the policy). Policies promote consistent conduct and equal treatment of all employees, keep employees mindful of their duties, and help the organization comply with the law. Noncompliance can result in fines, lawsuits, loss of the company’s reputation, or risk for the employees.

Finally, policies change as the company grows, as the larger industry evolves, and as new laws and technologies arise. With good policies in place, companies and their employees can thrive in a safe, secure environment. They stabilize a company, enabling it to avert or manage workplace incidents (like an accident) or crises (like a pandemic). They hold management accountable, uphold expectations for the workers and set behavior and performance standards so that everyone can achieve success. As personnel come and go, policies sustain resilience and continuity for the institution because they will always tell new employees exactly what to do. Without policies, a company would run on chaos, but not for very long.

A procedure is a reliable process broken down into a series of steps to attain a desired result. They are instructions adopted by management to carry out policy. While policies offer the why behind a company’s actions, procedures advise how to carry out those actions. A procedure also has scope (a specific employee performing a task and who they report to) and may not apply to everyone working at the company. Procedures are required for training, process auditing, process improvement, and or compliance initiatives. They guarantee the consistency that decreases process variation, which increases procedure control. Decreasing process variation eliminates waste and boosts performance. The best procedures are written in simple, clear, and concise language.

Compiling policies and procedures into a well-organized document accessible to everyone isn’t just a good idea. It can be a lifesaver. Can you imagine police and fire departments without well-managed policies and procedures? How about the law firm or brokerage handling your personal affairs? Or the lab manufacturing your child’s asthma inhaler? Smart policy and its consistent administration ensure safer communities, safer products, and safer work spaces. They are fundamental to any nonprofit’s long-term success.

Some companies issue a policies and procedures manual, a detailed repository of every policy and procedure, even those that don’t concern employees. Other companies issue an employee handbook, which covers everything pertaining to employees, their responsibilities, and the company’s responsibilities to them. For nonprofits, an employee or volunteer handbook would include protocols for donor privacy, fundraising, whistleblowers, records retention and destruction, in-kind gift acceptance, and other situations specific to philanthropic institutions and the laws that regulate them.

Some entities issue both, providing the employee handbook to staff and posting the voluminous policies and procedures tome on the company intranet in case someone needs detailed information about a particular subject (corporate history, news articles, etc.).

Of the two, the employee handbook is the more essential document for the following reasons:

  • As part of the onboarding process, the handbook introduces new hires to the company’s mission and principles. It helps the freshly onboarded acclimate to their new roles, enabling them to become productive more quickly.
  • It sets and sustains the company’s tone and culture and shows how employees can succeed within that culture.
  • It clarifies what the company expects of each employee as well as what it offers them in compensation and benefits.
  • It ensures compliance with the law. Clear explanations from the handbook help protect the organization, showing that it endeavors to obey the law and expects its employees to do the same.
  • It outlines the employee’s legal rights and entitlements (such as the Family Medical Leave Act) under state and federal law.
  • Managers can consult the handbook to answer employees’ questions, helping to ensure both parties are on the same page concerning a workplace issue.
  • It highlights the company’s benefits, which helps to retain valued employees.
  • It can protect the company from claims and lawsuits brought by current or former employees. The handbook is one of the most useful documents to produce in the company’s defense. A legally sound employee handbook can prove that the company has exercised “reasonable care” towards its employees.
  • It requires the employee to sign the handbook’s acknowledgment page. The signed acknowledgement page verifies that the employee had an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the organization’s policies, ask related questions, and agreed to follow the terms and conditions of employment set by the organization.

With the increase in flexible work schedules and more employees working off site, companies are putting their employee handbooks and policies and procedures guides online. For many, this is more convenient and efficient—and it saves on the cost of printing. But wait! There’s more! Companies are putting their entire policies and procedures guides live on the internet for everyone to see. Why would they do that?

Many of these electronic handbooks come from newer companies or tech firms to demonstrate their commitment to corporate transparency. Such firms include Basecamp, Trello, Netflix, Zappos, Hubspot, Nordstrom, Sterling Gold Mining Corporation, Facebook, and Twitter (likely rewriting their employee handbook very soon).

Some of these handbooks are masterful achievements in design, copy writing, and corporate branding. And they are unique. Regarding Twitter, EmploymentSolicitor.com challenged other law firms to help create The Employment Solicitor.com Twitter Staff Handbook, with policies stated in 140 characters or less. Meanwhile, Netflix kept it simple: “Act in Netflix's best interest.” These are not your daddy’s employee handbook! Did I mention these handbooks are downloadable?

Beyond their novelty, publicly accessible handbooks reap handsome rewards for their companies. Obviously, they don’t post anything confidential online for legal reasons, but everything else they share with an eye toward burnishing their employer brand as well as their products and services. As they give visitors a taste of their company culture, they get to market millions of eyeballs for minimal expense.

They can also attract desirable employees: Check out our benefits! See how well we treat our employees! Note how committed we are to the environment! Plus, it’s a useful way to engage potential donors or volunteers who are doing their homework before contributing to your cause.

It’s all there for the whole world to see, yet it still serves as the employee handbook. Expect this to become standard operating procedure for many companies, including nonprofits. The more things change, the more handbooks will need updating. Updating online is simple and inexpensive.

According to a survey conducted in 2020 for People Matters, a media company specializing HR marketing, 57% of employees actually read the employee manual. When asked if they had revised their employee manuals since the pandemic, 69% of HR professionals surveyed said no. How are these unread, outdated handbooks meeting the needs of their companies? The answer is that they aren’t.

When your nonprofit decides to invest time and money to produce an employee handbook, you will find countless resources online that can help, but…

UST understands those needs because we are the leader in the field of nonprofit HR solutions. Through our cloud-based UST HR Workplace, powered by Mineral, we offer on-demand resources and expertise to help create the employee handbook your foundation needs . . . in minutes. UST’s integrated platform of HR tools, templates, and on-demand trainings will ensure that your employee manual meets your standards while maintaining compliance with federal and state law. The platform will alert you whenever a policy or law that can affect your handbook changes. And, you can track employee acknowledgments with built-in electronic signatures. With a subscription to the UST HR Workplace, your handbook will stay current and relevant for your peeps. Request a FREE 60-Day Trial of the UST HR Workplace today!

This blog post was written by Amélie Frank, consulting copywriter to UST. To learn more about Amélie’s professional portfolio you can find her online at https://www.linkedin.com/in/amelie-frank/.

November 04, 2022

HR Question: Anxiety and Depression as Disabilities

Question: Are depression and anxiety considered disabilities?

Answer: They can be, yes. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a disability is defined as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.”

Some examples of major life activities are caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, eating, sleeping, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. A major life activity also includes the operation of a major bodily function, such as neurological, brain, and respiratory functions.

Although the condition must “substantially limit” a major life activity, this term is broader than you might think. “Substantially limits” doesn’t mean that the condition has to prevent or significantly restrict a major life activity. Rather, the comparison is between the employee’s level of functioning as compared to most people in the general population. It is not a demanding standard. 

If an employee informs you that they have anxiety or depression and requests an accommodation, you should begin the interactive process. Basically, you and the employee determine what, if anything, can be done to accommodate them so that they can perform the essential functions of their job and have equal benefits and privileges of employment. As part of this conversation, you may require the employee to provide documentation to support their request for an accommodation.

This Q&A was provided by Mineral, powering the UST HR Workplace. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a FREE 60-day trial here. As a UST member, simply log into your Mineral portal to access live HR certified consultants, 300+ on-demand training courses, an extensive compliance library, and more.

October 27, 2022

Unemployment Fraud and the Risks to Nonprofit

In the midst of the pandemic, unemployment benefit claims skyrocketed—impacting employers across the country with increased fraudulent benefit claims. And the number of reported incidents is staggering—driving up the cost of taxes for nonprofits and causing frustration for both employers and their employees. Nationally, states processed more than one billion unemployment claims in 2020 alone, amounting to over $500 billion in paid benefits. Unemployment systems in nearly every state have been impacted by international and national crime syndicates with 35% of applications being fraudulent.

It's more important than ever that employers carefully review their quarterly charges statements for any discrepancies—specifically for individuals listed as receiving UI benefits who are still actively employed with your nonprofit. By doing so, you not only protect your assets but you also help to protect your employees who are being targeted by these fraudsters.

While government agencies continue to grapple with the theft of millions of dollars through fraudulent UI benefit claims, UST recently compiled over-whelming statistics surrounding UI fraud and the impact on employers to create the 2022 Fraudulent Unemployment Infographic . Discover the overwhelming facts about unemployment fraud and how it can affect your workforce.

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October 21, 2022

Recruiting With Purpose

As talent becomes harder to recruit and retain, some employers have tendered unusual perks to sweeten hiring deals. Can your company compete with the benefits being offered by your for-profit counterparts?

  • Onsite facilities for Botox injections and tanning beds (Chesapeake Energy)
  • Cryo-preserve your entire body after you die (Numerai)
  • Lunchtime surfing with daily surf reports from the reception staff (Patagonia)
  • Free use of the company yachts (JM Family Enterprises)
  • Gender reassignment surgery (Goldman Sachs)
  • For nudists (I am not making this up, I swear), Naked Fridays, a chance to “engage employees and build trust within the team” (onebestway)
  • A 3D-printed model of your head (Innocent Drinks)
  • Flexjobs found one firm that vowed, “We promise not to poke you with a sharp stick.”

Whatever extremes some employers may undertake to lavish their appreciation, it all underscores that human capital is any business’s most important asset.

Whether they are active job seekers or the passive ones keeping an antennae out for anything interesting, an enormous talent pool is in flux. Workers now prowl for jobs with greater learning and growth. Companies need to burnish their reputations to lure in the best and brightest. Fueling this career migration is a desire for purpose. Companies are figuring out that aligning their employer brand with a candidate’s yearning for purpose can entice desirable workers to apply.

Purpose seems like one of those immeasurable intangibles. If you’re a nonprofit lacking funds to offer expensive perks on your employees, how do you snag recruits with a concept? 

The good news is that, as a foundation for good, you already have what it takes.

It All Starts with Purpose

Be it the Preamble to the Constitution, a corporate motto, an employer brand, or a nonprofit’s mission statement, the institutions we’ve built began with a purpose—a compelling reason why. For most companies, the purpose resides with the employer brand. Not to be mistaken for branding elements such as logos, fonts, colors, and other instantly recognizable cues, your employer brand also defines your values and your work culture. It is both a message and a promise, speaking directly to all stakeholders—customers, employees, competitors, and partners. Anyone who encounters it knows precisely what the brand stands for. When Allstate Insurance tells you that “You’re in Good Hands,” you know the brand and its values..

Does a statement of purpose translate into financial success? A Harvard Business School study verified that, over a ten-year period, values-driven companies outperformed non-purposeful ones by a factor of 12 in their stock price. Where purpose is active, performance thrives. Imperative’s 2016 report into workplace purpose revealed that:

  • 85% of purpose-led companies showed growth
  • 42% of non-purpose-led companies showed a drop in revenue

Purposeful organizations succeed due to dedicated employees. To what are they dedicated if not purpose? It takes a company’s purpose to recruit, engage, and retain this kind of talent. The organization does best when its hiring practices align with its purpose and with the purpose of its employees.

Tips for Recruiting with Purpose

Eighty-five percent of US employees said they would stay longer with a socially responsible employer. Here are four practices to help you score top talent.

  1. Showcase purpose from the start.
    Do you understand your nonprofit’s mission?  While every business knows what it does, very few know why. Until you can explain why your company exists, you cannot connect meaningfully with anyone, including your stakeholders. We want to know how the world is better because your nonprofit is in business.
     
  2. Build purpose into recruiting and onboarding.
    State your values and your mission-driven initiatives in all communications. Use your application and interview processes to demonstrate your nonprofit’s reason for existing to candidates. Make sure that job descriptions are free of biases and optimize those hashtags! Don’t just state the requirements of the position. Job descriptions should speak directly to the values of the people you want to hire. Ask yourself if the content is original and fresh if the posts are mission oriented and updated frequently. Include employee presence and participation on your website. Probe interviewees for their purpose. Ask about their goals, values, and the issues they care about most. Ask how they will contribute. In turn, share your personal purpose and how it comes alive for you through your work.
     
  3. Make your Job Board a site with purpose.
    Update your job board to show prospective workers how your new job opening is anchored in your values. Ask yourself: Does our job board inspire prospective talent? Is it user friendly? Does it delineate what we stand for? Does it reveal that we provide opportunities to learn, grow, and contribute? Does it offer behind-the-scenes glimpses of what it’s like to work here? Does it feature the faces and voices of our staff? Are the posts individualized to reflect the uniqueness of each open position? If you can’t answer yes to most of these questions, it’s time to revamp your job board and find a more efficient way to tell your story.
  4. Make your mission real for newbies.
    Give candidates a purpose that motivates them to work for you. Tell them how their efforts can change the world. During onboarding, share stories that bring your purpose alive with videos, testimonials, and employee profiles. Share details about company projects that have positively affected the lives of others. Have employees share what working for your company has meant to them. In everything you do, demonstrate that your company’s purpose is authentic and straight from the heart.

Avoid Poor Employer Branding

Today, 75% of job seekers consider an employer’s brand before applying for a job. Lousy employer branding can range from an unhappy interview experience to an annoying campaign jingle to a job board that fails to convey what a great place your company is to work or hire. A sour interview experience can wind up as a low rating on Glassdoor, which can damage your reputation and several such reviews can undermine your purpose and your credibility. At a minimum it will certainly discourage promising candidates from applying to work for you.

Your employer brand must always be supported across all departments at your company. Mindful practices of consistent communication, courtesy toward all candidates, and practicing what your mission preaches will protect your ability to shine in this competitive marketplace. It will also sustain your credibility with your employees, preserving both their engagement and retention.

About Remote Workers

Remote work and hybrid workplaces are issues that expose a significant rift between employers and employees. Many employers want their workers back in the office. Many employees don’t want to return to the office. From INC, one in three U.S. workers doesn't want to work for anyone who demands employees be onsite full-time. Another survey by Envoy affirms that nearly half of employees will likely look for another job if their current employer doesn’t offer a hybrid workplace.

Remote discrimination is a problem at hybrid companies as remote employees are excluded from specific perks or advantages enjoyed by those working on-site. To avoid making remote personnel feel unappreciated, companies need clear hybrid working policies.

From Recruitee’s Adrie Smith: “We know there’s a talent shortage in many areas and skills. In fact, 78% of HR managers said that most skills will become even more niche in the next ten years. This statistic alone has led many recruiters to look for candidates further afield. And for hiring teams to consider remote employees.”

Fortunately, she assures, new tools emerge daily to help workplaces connect with distant candidates. Below are some remote hiring guiding principles.

Video interviewing is a core skill. Take the time to master the technology, overcome glitches, and develop the social graces involved in virtual face-to-face meetings.

Elongate the hiring process. Give yourself every opportunity to get to know your candidate better.

Prioritize collaborative hiring. Involve your team in the hiring process. Focus on the candidate’s skills, personality, and experience.

Mind your job promotion platforms. Certain types of remote talent will spend their time on different platforms, communicate in different ways, and respond to different kinds of job outreach. Whether on your site, social media, or job board, your remote job description should . . .

  • Accurately describe the remote policy. Not every remote situation is the same. Some offices are “remote first,” “remote-friendly,” or “hybrid.”
  • Explain why a particular position or certain teams are remote if you still have employees working in an office.
  • Communicate any logistics requirements that result from remote work. You may need to have remote workers living or working in a certain time zone or to be flexible to travel to headquarters each month.
  • Summarize your communication culture. Candidates should know what to expect regarding communication and collaboration. This will weed out people unprepared to collaborate in a hyper-communicative environment.

If you want to staff your organization with the best people, take the money you are using for workplace perks and invest it in purposeful hiring. In return, you'll have more time to focus on your products and profits.

By 2035, the labor majority will be Gen Z workers. Many of them will be replacing the workers who opted to be fully cryo-frozen over at Numerai.

This blog post was written by Amélie Frank, consulting copywriter to UST. To learn more about Amélie’s professional portfolio you can find her online at https://www.linkedin.com/in/amelie-frank/.

October 07, 2022

HR Question: Keeping a Remote Workforce Engaged

Question: We’ve transitioned to a remote-first workforce. How can we keep our employees and managers engaged with video meetings and messaging apps—especially those employees that are missing the social aspects of working together physically?

Answer: Even with video conferencing and messaging apps, fully involving remote employees in team and company meetings remains a challenge. There may be no replacing the experience of being physically in the room, but you can take steps to make these meetings more productive and inclusive. 

The most important thing to remember when “meeting” with remote employees is that you can’t conduct the meeting in the same way as you normally do when everyone is physically present. You have to find a way to replace the advantages that close proximity has, especially the ease of reading body language and picking up social cues. These, unfortunately, do not translate well over the screen or the phone. So, what can you do? 

What remote employees need to fully participate in meetings is space and time to speak. You can provide this space and time in a few ways. First, if there are some physically present participants, ask them to pause for a second before jumping into the conversation. This gives remote employees time to get a word in, plus it helps counter any time delays caused by the conferencing technology. Second, whoever is leading the meeting should regularly invite remote employees to add anything if they have something to say, preferably before moving on in the agenda. Third, when possible, have a remote employee lead the meeting or a section on the agenda. This focuses attention on the remote speakers and can help remind everyone that the meeting isn’t just happening in the physical room. Finally, if a group of remote employees are located in the same workspace, occasionally setting their site as the physical meeting space can help your non-remote employees get a feel for the challenges of being remote during a meeting.

Some preliminary work before the meeting can also help make the meeting itself more efficient. First, test any systems ahead of time so that they’re working for everyone when the meeting starts. Second, email the agenda out so everyone knows what to expect. Third, assign someone in the meeting room to be the contact person that remote employees can email or message if they have questions, concerns, or issues. 

After the meeting, check in with any remote employees and ask them to be candid about their experience. What worked well and what could be improved? See what you can do to accommodate them in the next meeting. 

You may not be able to fully replicate the experience of physically being in the room but taking these steps can enable remote employees to feel more involved and make the meeting itself run more smoothly.

This Q&A was provided by Mineral, powering the UST HR Workplace. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a FREE 60-day trial here. As a UST member, simply log into your Mineral portal to access live HR certified consultants, 300+ on-demand training courses, an extensive compliance library, and more.

September 23, 2022

The Do’s and Don’ts of Difficult Conversations

If you want to be an effective leader, you must have strong communications skills and a good amount of composure. In today's workforce, the only thing that separates one leader from the next, is how they communicate, handle conflict, and lead. Being a team leader can be an incredibly rewarding role but it comes with its challenges. And while handling difficult conversations may be the least appealing part of managing employees, it's an important part of leadership that every manager should be prepared for—whether it's about poor performance, attendance, peer conflict, or behavioral issues, these conversations are ultimately inevitable in any workplace dynamic.

It's common for defenses to be high when having a difficult conversation, so it's imperative that you have a plan for when they come about. Prepare ahead of time and pick a neutral time when it's calm. Go into the conversation with an open mind and ready to listen. It takes a nanosecond to invoke defensiveness—employees may respond with a blank stare, a passive sigh, or even an angry rebuttal so be clear and concise, using non-defensive communication while also being professional and friendly in nature. Poor communication can affect morale, performance goals, and sales so take some time to ensure you know the facts and have a plan for whatever response you may get.

Below are some do's and don'ts on how to effectively (and respectfully) navigate difficult conversations in the workplace while maintaining morale, fostering trust, and maximizing productivity.

  • Do think about what you want to say and how you'll say it—come prepared to have a productive conversation.
  • Do sort out the facts beforehand and ensure you have documentation to support everything.
  • Do create an environment of trust and honesty.
  • Do use active listening and allow your employee time to provide feedback and ask questions.
  • Do put yourself in their shoes and seek to understand what they're feeling—defensive, embarrassed, etc.
  • Do allow your employee to feel emotions and ensure you're sensitive to their feelings.
  • Do find a solution together—establish actionable items that both you and your employee are clear about.
  • Do ask for confirmation at the end of the conversation to make sure everyone is on the same page.
  • Do keep the lines of communication open and make it a point to check in on your employee in the weeks following your conversation.
  • Don't procrastinate having the conversation—a lack of action on your part can make things worse.
  • Don't have a difficult conversation where others can possibly overhear—ensure your employee feels safe.
  • Don't dance around the issue. Be as explicit as possible.
  • Don't let professionalism overpower humanity.
  • Don't begin with the end in mind. Consistently consider your employee's perspective which can help provide a complete understanding of the problem.
  • Don't start the conversation in an accusatory fashion—avoid using "you" statements and instead focus on the behavior being addressed.
  • Don't be dismissive of your employee's feelings.
  • Don't make assumptions or jump to conclusions—there may be circumstances at hand that you are unaware of.
  • Don't let your emotions get the best of you—difficult conversations are often over sensitive topics which can cause employees to respond defensively.

Difficult conversations can be awkward and unpleasant but with some thoughtful tactics in your back pocket, you can successfully address a tough situation and find effective solutions to whatever issues may arise while also ensuring you maintain respect with your team.  

September 08, 2022

HR Question: Banning Personal Electronics

Question: Can I ban cell phones at work? How about audio and video recordings?

Answer: This question has brought up issues that have been the subject of recent litigation, so it's a great time to be asking.

To answer your first question: yes, you can limit or even prohibit use of cell phones during work hours. Employees can be expected to give their undivided attention to the work you pay them to perform, and if that means cell phones need to be turned off or put away, you are entitled to make this request. However, employees should be allowed to use cell phones during their break and meal periods, as this time needs to be truly their own in order to satisfy the requirements of state law. Fair warning: if you attempt to prohibit cell phone use during all non-break time, you may receive some fairly aggressive push back. A more lenient policy may do the trick. Typical standard language says, "Personal cell phone use should be kept to a reasonable limit during working hours. Reasonableness will be determined by your manager." This language gives your managers considerable discretion, but they should be trained to use the same standard of reasonableness for all employees to avoid claims of discrimination.

To answer your second question: no, audio, video, and photography cannot be strictly prohibited, but they can be limited. The National Labor Relations Board, which enforces the National Labor Relations Act, has said that employers cannot outright prohibit recordings as this could interfere with employees' ability to organize with respect to their terms and conditions of employment. For instance, employees might choose to record a conversation during their lunch hour related to asking for raises and want to share that recording with employees who work different shifts. This would need to be allowed. However, you can still have a policy that prevents recording (via audio, video, or photograph) confidential information, such as proprietary business practices, customer lists, client or patient information, or employees' personal information. Be aware that you cannot deem all information confidential, e.g. "all conversations in the office" or "anything related to customer/patient care." 

If you feel it is important to have such a policy, you may say something like, "Audio and video recording devices, including cameras and smartphones, may not be used to record or capture any confidential information, whether it is proprietary business information or clients' or employees' confidential personal information. If recording non-confidential information, e.g. taking photos of colleagues, please seek the consent of all parties to the recording." A policy like this can be added to your handbook during your next handbook review, or if you feel the need is urgent, you can distribute it to all employees now and have them sign an acknowledgment form. 

This Q&A was provided by Mineral, powering the UST HR Workplace. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a FREE 60-day trial here. As a UST member, simply log into your Mineral portal to access live HR certified consultants, 300+ on-demand training courses, an extensive compliance library, and more.

August 26, 2022

Offer Development to Groom Current (and Future) Leaders

Leadership development is an attractive benefit that is becoming commonplace in the current job market. About half of Millennials expect their company to help pay for leadership training, and 60% say they'd prefer a job that provides professional development over one that provides regular pay raises.

How Know-How Helps

First, employees want to gain mastery over current job and life challenges. But then, one in five will leave their current position in search of a job that provides additional professional development opportunities. Nearly a third of workers say education would help them feel more engaged and loyal. Yet fewer than half of businesses offer leadership training. Even fewer offer mentoring or career counseling. Think about offering all that with these four levels of staff development.

  • On-the-job training. Hands-on, informal and unstructured, make use of available resources.
  • Training and Development. Professional, expert and targeted instruction.
  • Capability development. Organizational focus to benefit your workplace culture.
  • Talent and performance training. Offered as part of a benefit program in career development.

Try to make education an ongoing process with multiple built-in opportunities. On-the-job training can be the most cost-effective approach for smaller organizations. Coaching fosters teamwork and saves funds by working internally. Leadership education is important to succession planning as well as retention. Whatever their path, give employees the opportunity to practice and implement the skills and knowledge they have gained.

Leadership Realities

In the past, businesses had two ways of moving people up to leadership levels: Climbing the ladder through promotions or following a career path that included educational leadership development. Today's post-recession workers feel the need to protect their careers from further economic downturns by staying employed where they can receive training and development. In a tight market, you should expect to include some training in their benefits package. The best practice for this situation is to make an effort to align their leadership development with the anticipated needs of your nonprofit.

Your nonprofit might be overdue in training new leaders. Baby Boomers who started organizations decades ago are retiring or preparing to retire from their leadership positions. Add to that, about half of current young professionals will leave the nonprofit sector. If you're facing an upcoming leadership crisis, by all means focus on leadership training. Your workforce will enjoy a successful career path, and your nonprofit will benefit from well-trained leaders who know how to take your organization forward.

Development 101: Begin Simply

One of the best ways to offer career development is to build leadership skills through practical hands-on experience. It will help your managerial staff to know their organization well so encourage managers to delegate and coach where needed in order to build a list of success stories. Some cost-effective ideas to start you in the process include:

  • Team leadership. Team members organize and run a meeting or event.
  • Communication. Employees present verbal reports at a monthly meeting or create material for an internal newsletter.
  • Volunteer leadership. They're in charge of coaching volunteers to assist with a fundraiser or other campaign.
  • Project ownership. Employees manage projects, such as appreciation events or redesigning your website.

A Sensible Approach

While you're considering how to best juggle all the possible educational benefits, take a pragmatic look at the costs. There's a simple formula you can use to maximize educational effectiveness without breaking the budget. The Center for Creative Leadership promotes a cost-effective model for leadership development that you should consider:

  • Begin with 70% on-the-job learning
  • Add 20% coaching and mentoring
  • Round it out with 10% formal training

Many nonprofits fail to follow this guiding principle and the result is often an unfocused, unsuccessful training program that does little more than pay lip service to the idea of leadership development.

Make Mentoring Happen

Do your managers notice emerging leaders in their teams? You can design a formal mentoring program or keep it informal, as you see fit. Make sure they have a safe space to learn so that they can accelerate learning. Allow time during work for mentoring sessions. If your nonprofit cannot support an internal mentoring program, you may be able to partner with other local organizations and businesses for potential mentors. Resources include the Aspire Foundation, which provides global, free online mentoring to women working in nonprofits. Search online to find the numerous mentor-training resources available.

Affording Formal Training

As you know, finding adequate funds for your training initiatives can be a challenge. There are ways to leap past those hurdles. Here are some possible means of funding formal leadership development in your nonprofit:

  • Nontraditional grants. Check online for the specific kind of training you want funded. Taproot Foundation provides service grants in some cities.
  • Free and Low-Cost Online Classes. Some valuable opportunities await online, such as the SBA's and SCORE's free online training on business topics and other online courses offered through organizations such as FutureLearn, Coursera and +Acumen.
  • Local colleges or universities. Some schools still allow people to audit classes.
  • Connect with Corporations. Your corporate partners might be willing to invite your staff to join their development trainings for free or low cost.
  • Pull from your board of directors. Form a board committee to focus on leadership development training.

Funds spent on leadership training provide high returns on investment (ROI). And this ROI isn't just fiscal. It's a great way to increase your mission impact, bring in higher revenues, control costs and provide for greater stability as you build employee loyalty. Strengthen your training programs to focus on success in achieving leadership roles, and employees will stay as they reach for the heights of leadership succession.

Logic Dictates

A recent study showed that only a third of nonprofit executives rose through the ranks of their organization. If two-thirds of nonprofits are having to hire executives from outside, that suggests they lack appropriate leadership development. They may even be neglecting larger strategic issues. The results of this lack of focused strategy means that nonprofits are not rising to meet the challenge of diversifying their leadership in race, ethnicity, or educational background. It's critical that they improve their ability to groom talent from within.

You may experience push-back from an executive who doesn't want to dedicate resources to leadership development. The truth is, some leaders dislike the idea of training their replacements. It makes them feel that their time is coming to an end. If that's true in your nonprofit's case, you will need to explain that a strong leader is someone who prepares for the inevitable, which includes future changes. It will likely help if your organization's board of directors makes succession planning a part of the job description for all executives. A legacy can be ruined by leadership succession that is ill-planned. Instead, your executive has the opportunity to make an enduring mark on your organization by leaving it in capable hands.

And, often, the best way to do this is to promote from within.

This is an excerpt from UST’s eBook, “Innovative Strategies That Overcome Nonprofit Retention Barriers” in collaboration with Beth Black, Writer and Editor.

August 12, 2022

HR Question: Managing Remote Employees

Question: What are effective ways to manage remote employees and monitor their work? 

Answer: Managing remote employees can certainly be a challenge. Here are some of the practices we recommend: 

  • Set measurable goals around quality of work. Whether employees get their work done to your satisfaction is more important to your bottom line than whether they’re always at their workstation. Make all the resources necessary for employees to do their jobs remotely easily available. These may include phones, computers, extra monitors, video conferencing software, and instant messaging apps. If you need employees to have fast internet speeds, consider subsidizing the necessary costs. 
  • Create and communicate a work-from-home policy so everyone knows what’s expected of them.
  • Talk regularly with employees about what’s working well and not-so-well. Encourage them to reach out to HR or a manager if remote work is causing any difficulties or challenges.  
  • Hold all meetings virtually, even if some people are working in a company office, so everyone is equally able to participate. This means having employees who are in the workplace login from their individual computers and not be in the same room as their other in-office colleagues during the meeting. 
  • Promote a good work-life balance by making sure remote employees know when their workday ends. It’s very easy for employees working at home to spend more time working than they would in an office environment.

This Q&A was provided by Mineral, powering the UST HR Workplace. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a FREE 60-day trial here. As a UST member, simply log into your Mineral portal to access live HR certified consultants, 300+ on-demand training courses, an extensive compliance library, and more.

July 15, 2022

Hire and Develop Managers People Want to Work For

As of early 2020, the nonprofit employment sector is reported to be the third largest in the nation, following manufacturing and retail. Job statistics will no doubt remain unsteady in the next few years, as unfolding events put these employers at risk. Beyond catastrophic demands placed on them for services, a lot of nonprofits also had to deal with financial losses caused by the pandemic. The result is that you are likely dealing with the ramifications caused the Great Resignation, not to mention facing financial challenges in hiring right-fit people for your organization. One important way to attract more qualified candidates — and retain them — is to hire managers who support and sustain their teams.

Recognize Your Challenges

Have you done all you can to assure that every manager in your organization has the temperament and training to effectively run a department without alienating staff? The challenges you face can be daunting. You may be forced to offer lower compensation for longer work hours. Additionally, slow progress toward your mission’s goals can weaken your employees’ resolve to stay. So, while burnout might be a problem, your bigger challenge might be finding enough qualified candidates who are inspired by your mission.

Specific skills can be taught in most cases, or an inventive employee might come up with smart ideas to improve your processes. Also, consider work and life experience, because in an often-gritty world, your organization could draw strength from people who have life lessons to share. Contract workers can transition into excellent full-time employees. The one common denominator they must all have is passion. Be sure to ask for their story. Find out what happened that brought them to your office and you might be impressed by what you hear.

Manage Your Talent

You want the right person for the job. You can also find the right job for the person. Either way, you should consider the following guidelines to boost your success over the long haul:

  • Think Future. If you’ve thought about where you want your nonprofit to be in 5 years, you need to give equal time to what workforce you’ll require. You can’t grow your own expanding workforce. Eventually, there will be specific skills that require significant training, so now is the time to strategize what you will need in the future and how you will attract, hire and retain that talent. Include soft skills, such as drive, trainability and emotional intelligence to build a smart, driven, adaptable team.
  • Take a Second Look. While building a candidate pipeline from external sources is good for your organization, you should also give current staff members a fair chance to move up in the organization. Help diverse team members rise into management roles. You’ll benefit with leaders who know about the culture. And you’ll also build employee engagement when others see upward mobility happening.
  • Follow the Numbers. Always design a job with clear performance goals, so that the person in that role can be evaluated easily by others.
  • Orchestrate Your Teams. Like a symphony conductor, you need to put together teams that work well in a collective setting with more productive results.

Your Managers

As individuals, companies, industries and nations work to rebuild after upheaval, workers need a paycheck, of course. But along with that, they need a strong sense of purpose and opportunity. When they feel that, your staff members will engage, perform, commit to staying and seeing your nonprofit through challenges that lie ahead. The only way to ensure that dedication and loyalty in workers is to provide them with leadership that supports their efforts, trusts them to perform and guides them toward future successes.

Make sure your managers:

  • Motivate each team member with a compelling mission and vision. Beyond your organization’s mission and vision, how about each team? If your nonprofit provides housing for homeless people, does your marketing team have a mission and vision of their own to share the message?
  • Assert themselves to overcome adversity and resistance. How does a manager help team members with their problems? What energy does a great manager put forth to support each team member’s success?
  • Create clear accountability. Does everyone understand what’s expected and what they must do to succeed? Is there honest follow-through? Or is there favoritism? Does the manager encourage a team spirit that supports everyone pulling together for the success of every project?
  • Build relationships based on trust, dialogue and transparency. Do the managers encourage pay equity and transparency? Do they have the ability to communicate and trust their team members?
  • Make decisions based on productivity, not politics. Do your managers choose people and projects that work or are they unable to control office politics on their team? Can they protect team members from organizational politics and lead everyone to the greater good?

Additionally, here are five core qualities that every management candidate should possess. Whether you’re promoting from within or seeking someone new, make sure to look for someone who:

  • Listens. You want a leader who takes the time to hear about issues and come up with solutions.
  • Mentors. Most managers possess a veritable wealth of experience and expertise, but it’s critical to find someone who is eager and capable of sharing it with staff.
  • Empowers. Find a manager who offers workers the power to make their own decisions. This builds engagement and employee development.
  • Leads by Example. Smart, honest, big-hearted, hardworking and open-minded leaders will inspire their team to behave the same way.
  • Has Their Back. When workers feel respected and protected by their manager, they’ll be more interested in working harder and smarter to achieve team goals.

Take the opportunity to review your leadership development options and implement what you need to develop managers who have these qualities and can prioritize this kind of conduct. Strong, appropriate leadership is an urgent need, and equipping future leaders with these critical skills will help to assure your nonprofit meets the demands of the future.

Acing the Interview

Success in an interview is often talked about from the perspective of a candidate. But the truth is, the interviewer should design a session that illuminates qualities of the candidate, teases out relevant details and helps the team make a decision.

Prepare questions that can bring out specifics. Instead of “yes/no” questions, ask about issues and strategies a candidate might devise to help her teamwork through them. To learn, for example, if a potential manager would have their backs, you might ask what that person would do if a team member admitted making a mistake. What would they do? Would they take away the project and finish it on time? Would they work through the mistake together with the employee to fix it? Listen for their answers to understand how they might succeed or fail with respect to the traits listed above.

Once all blind interviews have been conducted, allow yourself to cautiously acknowledge general first impressions on finally meeting a new candidate. Does that person make eye contact? Greet others with a smile?

Lose Your Implicit Bias

You want to trust your “gut feeling” about a candidate, but the truth is that you must do so with caution. Implicit bias happens when you allow stereotypes and preformed attitudes to affect your actions on a subconscious level. It can make you misread your emotional responses to a person you don’t know. We are all hardwired to prefer people who are similar in some ways, so it’s important to pay attention at every step in the process and take action to remove implicit bias, as much as possible.

Take steps to control it by asking yourself these questions as you work through your hiring process:

  • Is your job description limiting your responses? The words you use reflect your employer brand messaging, so choose them carefully. A word like “driven” could alienate potential female candidates who might see it as too masculine.
  • Do you speak with people before you see them? One small step toward fair initial impressions would be to conduct a phone interview first. Listen intently to the content of their answers; Anything else, such as tone, pitch, accents, even regional articulation, should be unimportant.
  • Have I assigned a writing task? Prior to an in-person interview, ask a candidate to write a 500-word essay presenting ideas to respond to a strategic issue. Then, you can weigh their responses without the bias of visual or vocal stereotypes.

If, after you’ve gone through a thorough vetting and interviewing process, removing as much implicit bias as possible, you still feel some nagging doubts about a person, then try to understand why you feel that way. Ask other team members for their input and find out if they have the same reaction. And try not to rush the process. At some point, you will have to make a decision. Make it your best possible effort.

Ultimate Interview Tips

Escape the trap of the traditional interview by using a little imagination. Consider these three principles to gain a clearer picture of the person you’re interviewing:

  1. Creativity Counts. Challenge your candidates with unusual questions and allow them to show you who they really are. Ask questions like: What is your natural strength? What qualities of your parents do you like the most? The reasons they give for their answers can tell you a lot about their level of self-awareness, their ability to fit a role and their ability to evolve beyond their current skills.
  2. Up for a Challenge? Design a situation that elicits their managerial behaviors. Have them guide a team to make a quick project and watch what happens. Can they provide steps for a committee to draw an unnamed object (such as a tree)? How’s their attitude?
  3. Go Team! Make the manager’s potential team part of the hiring team. Will they trust this person, understand instructions and feel confident in their ability to make progress on projects together? Will they be able to learn from this person? Let them express concerns.

Beyond the Interview

These days, it’s easy enough to check any candidate’s social media profiles as well as their references. If you can arrange extra reference checks in addition to those provided by the candidate, you’ll probably learn more. Be sure to ask about their behavior under stress as well as how that person worked with others. And remember, what that person has accomplished, what goals they’ve reached and challenges they’ve overcome, really do matter more.

This is an excerpt from UST’s eBook, “Workforce Management Tactics that Strengthen Nonprofit Brands” in collaboration with Beth Black, Writer and Editor.

July 08, 2022

HR Question: Ensuring Your Online Training Strategies Are Effective

Question: How can we make sure our online trainings are effective?

Answer: Online trainings can be a useful tool for developing talent, but they can also end up being a waste of time and resources, even if the content and presentation are good. The difference between effective and ineffective training often comes down to whether employees are able to absorb and retain the information they receive.

There are lot of obstacles to absorption and retention of trainings. Busy employees may listen to a webinar while they work on other things, catching only tidbits here and there. Or they may put a training video off until they’ve finished a project and are too exhausted to give it due attention.

To avoid these training pitfalls, consider these three tips:

Follow the AGES Model. The NeuroLeadership Institute argues that we learn quickly and retain information best when we focus on one topic (attention), actively connect what we learn to what we already know (generation), experience positive feelings while learning (emotion), and space our intake of information (spacing). For example, cramming training on multiples topics into a tight two-day workshop would be much less effective than spreading that training out over a few weeks. You can learn more about the AGES Model here

Give employees time to reflect and practice the skills they’ve learned. In some professions, like music and athletics, you spend most of your work time learning, building, and reinforcing skills before the big performance, whether it’s a concert, game, or race. Good performance necessitates constant practice. But in most professions, practice seems like a luxury you can’t afford because you’re expected to be performing during your work time. This is one reason trainings fail to deliver results. To master new skills, employees need time to focus on building those skills. That means some work time needs to be set aside post-training for them to reflect on and practice what they’ve learned.

Align trainings with the present needs and future goals of both the company and the employee. When assessing employee training goals, consider what additional knowledge and skills would enable them to do their jobs better now, but also set them up for success in their future careers. Employees are more likely to be excited by and personally invested in their training if they understand their personal return on that investment. If they don’t recognize its value, it won’t have any value to them.

This Q&A was provided by Mineral, powering the UST HR Workplace. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a FREE 60-day trial here. As a UST member, simply log into your Mineral portal to access live HR certified consultants, 300+ on-demand training courses, an extensive compliance library, and more.

June 30, 2022

Celebrate Success in the Workplace to Increase Engagement

Without the staff to support your mission-driven initiatives nonprofits across the globe wouldn’t exist. Recognition plays a huge role in employee satisfaction and job longevity so it’s imperative that you implement strategies that work solely to create an employee experience that keeps employees engaged, productive and loyal. Employers who take steps to celebrate successes—professional and personal-- while also encouraging employees to celebrate each other create a positive work environment where employees are happy.

There are many ways to celebrate and recognize employees that aren’t the obvious award ceremony. It’s important to consider your employees’ preferences for recognition as some people don’t enjoy being the center of attention but may not mind receiving recognition via email vs. in person. Using a short survey to get a feel for how everyone prefers to be celebrated and what kinds of rewards they’d like can go a long way in making sure your efforts don’t fall flat. The last thing you want to do is embarrass anyone you’re trying to celebrate or praise. It might take a little more effort to personalize your recognition program but in the long run it will be well worth the time spent surveying employees to better understand personalities.

Celebrating successes not only improves morale but it can also help to boost confidence, decrease absenteeism and strengthen your organization’s reputation. Discover some of the ways UST celebrates its employees in our 5 Creative Ways to Celebrate Your Team and add them to your employee engagement initiatives. Having a strong culture of praise and encouragement is a win-win for all involved and in this day and age employee retention efforts are vital to the success of your nonprofit.

June 24, 2022

How to Help Employees with Career Development

Employees are the backbone of every nonprofit and your most valuable asset—contributing to the overall success (or failure) of your organization. When employees are engaged and excited about the work they do, you’ll experience increased productivity, improved job performance and higher retention rates. A key factor in employee satisfaction is career advancement and development opportunities which shows your workforce that you care about more than just hitting your numbers.

In an effort to keep employees engaged, employers must invest in their time and resources in training and development initiatives. It’s imperative that both employers and employees take skill enhancement activities seriously to ensure longevity of individual careers and organizational goals. The importance of offering training and development is more important than ever as employees continue to leave their current jobs for ones with better benefits and growth opportunities.

In a recent article by Intoo, “7 Ways to Help Your Employees with Career Development,” they discuss how you can contribute to the professional advancement of your employees with helpful tips for providing employees the tools they need to advance their career with your organization.

This article was originally published by UST’s outplacement partners at Intoo and is being shared with their permission. 

June 17, 2022

Solicit Involvement for Employee Engagement Initiatives

Modern benefits are indeed useful for retention but that is not the whole story. To be fully engaged, nonprofit employees need to feel they have a say in what goes on at work. The trick is, you must involve your staff in developing and implementing the critical cultural and environmental initiatives designed to engage them in their work. The following strategies for this are intuitive, low-cost and easy to execute.

Common Keys to Engagement

Studies have long proven that engaged employees are more likely to stay and disengaged employees are more likely to leave. But the question remains, how do you quantify, support and grow engagement? The 2018 State of the Workforce Management Report advises that a stressful work environment was tracked at 21% of reasons for failed retention, and limited opportunities for advancement cause more than one in ten employees to quit their job. You can avoid this by sharing openly how and when your nonprofit will remedy any such situation.

Make this dialogue part of a strategic retention plan to prevent and solve the crisis of disengagement. While setting up and maintaining a viable set of strategies presents its own challenges, they are minimal compared to problems posed by a lack of preparation. Another recent report²⁰ shows that 18% of executives say a lack of an employee engagement strategy is the biggest challenge they face. They're troubled by "an inability to measure and assess engagement" — a situation you can address by following some basic guidelines mentioned in this section. Then, you can solicit managers and employees to improve their work experience.

FIRST FOCUS: MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR MANAGERS

According to TLNT.com, "Up to 75% of the factors that frustrated [lost workers] and caused them to begin looking elsewhere were controlled by their manager." Advise your managers to get actively involved in working with staff on employee engagement and retention initiatives. Provide them with the tools to keep their staff happy and watch your retention levels rise.

Loyalty Leaders

A surprising half to three-quarters of all turnover is actually preventable, if managers know how to implement all the tools and strategies available. Do your managers have the tools they need? Help them to develop a loyalty leader mindset²¹, and your team will benefit greatly. Knowing what to suggest to managers can help in times when most employees are "at will" and free to resign, with or without notice.

Following are some low-cost Retention Tools provided by TLNT.com for managers that produce high-impact results:

Conduct "stay interviews." Ask current employees why they choose to stay. Once you know, you can implement strategies to support these reasons.

  1. Show them the impact of their work. This is a common tactic in nonprofit management, but if it has been a while since your staff has seen the beneficial results of their work in the community, make time for it.
  2. Ask highly valued employees to let you know if they plan to leave. If key employees are frustrated in their jobs and seeking other employment, wouldn't you want to know before they leave? Learn why they're making a change and discuss possible ways to keep them loyal.
  3. Identify what motivates your targeted employees. Be sure to know what keeps your highly valued employees in place. Compensation? Benefits? Culture? Mission? Their needs will likely change over time, so it's a good idea to survey them at least once a year.
  4. Develop a list of positive/negative job-related factors. Consider giving them more of what works and less of what doesn't. If their survey responses share that they enjoy working on a new piece of equipment, find out how you might update other equipment they use. Items that employees often report as negatives, such as paperwork or back-to-back travel, should be managed meaningfully in the employee's work schedule.
  5. Personalize Your Personnel Department. Maximize the impact of surveys by developing individualized employee retention plans for workers based on their responses. Show you know and care about their personal needs and wants.
  6. Work with staff to create personalized "how to manage me best" profiles. Ask workers to spell out the most-effective and least-effective strategies for their own management. Create a profile when they start at your organization and update it every couple of years.
  7. Give them a say in solving problems. Most staff members want to produce more, and often they know what is holding them back. Help them resolve barriers buried in the organization's culture, scheduling, or somewhere else.

Every one of the above recommendations will serve your organization well if used appropriately. Care should be taken, however, to follow the "spirit" that underlies this list: Know your employees' needs. If a manager has a longtime staff member who is overdue for promotion, sending an email of thanks for a successful project could backfire. This is especially true if the employee has been watching younger staff members hopscotch past them

SECOND FOCUS: GO STRAIGHT TO THE SOURCE, THE STAFF

You've begun improving staff engagement by working with managers, but it's also critical to solicit employee involvement directly. Colorado Nonprofit Association Director of Membership Services Gerry Rasel has the distinct experience of working for a nonprofit that supports best-practices in other nonprofits. Personal experience informs her work. "My best tip for any nonprofit is that it's always about listening to your staff," she said. "I work at a place that is really, really good at that. As an employee, the respect I feel and the knowledge that my opinion is heard goes a long way to keeping me engaged at work."

Share timelines and give your employees a voice in the organization's retention initiatives. Implementing a plan is a critical beginning, but it's important to update your strategies regularly, and to do so you should hear the voices of your employees. Not all nonprofits make that effort. Nearly three-quarters of nonprofit executives make a conscious effort to engage employees, but only 37% report that they've recently updated their employee engagement plan. This reveals the underlying issue that many nonprofits fail to formalize their engagement plan schedule as much as they formalize other routines in the organization. With a formal schedule in place to ask, listen and respond to your staff members, you're more likely to raise employee engagement and hold it at acceptable levels. More than 70% of nonprofit executives surveyed cited "Increasing Employee Satisfaction & Engagement" as a priority. The only priority that earned a higher number was "Recruiting and Retaining Top Talent." So, whatever you can do to increase employee engagement and retention will go a long way to meeting what are likely the top two priorities of your nonprofit's leadership.

A Culture of Action

Dialoguing with your staff is important, but it can also be risky. If employees share their ideas but nothing is implemented — there's no active response — they will disengage altogether, quickly. You can prevent that disaster by moving forward efficiently with a culture that supports communication and action. Organize their input into four distinct areas for a coordinated response:

1. Leadership.

  • Schedule regular informational sessions with various team leaders to explain the organization's status and opportunities for the future
  • Create opportunities for employees to share their understanding of the organization's values.

2. Enablement.

  • Create a transparent resources report so staff members can see and discuss openly where funds are allocated.
  • Bring clients in to share their success stories and allow coworkers to share their successes that were dependent on the help of their teammates.

3. Alignment.

  • Ask employees to write their own job descriptions when hired and then annually. Look for changes in the descriptions and let the manager and staff member work it out and then update HR if changes have occurred or if original descriptions were incorrect.
  • Use an Intranet to encourage staff/leadership communication. Leaders can pose and answer questions online.
  • Schedule a quarterly awards event that recognizes staff for their achievements. Avoid rewarding the same people repeatedly at the expense of quieter employees.

4. Development.

  • Offer personal or professional coaching. Set up a budget and allocate a set number of sessions but allow the employee to maintain control regarding the content.
  • Create a peer-tutoring program where workers can share extra-curricular or work-related skills with their fellow employees while improving public speaking skills and honing leadership abilities. Note responses to various topics.

You shouldn't throw everything at all four engagement areas at once. Don't risk chaotic and failing programs, especially when funding is tight and time to devote to these initiatives may be short. Organizations that report the most impactful results carefully select one or two projects at a time.

Go Beyond

The good news is many engagement initiatives suggested from for-profits already happen in nonprofits. While your for-profit competition is trying to align their company with a purpose, your nonprofit has made a mission of it. Now, build on that with ideas that go beyond the usual:

  • Healthy Snacks. Fewer than half of employers make healthy snacks or a healthy cafeteria available to their employees. Yet, three-quarters of employees want access to healthy foods onsite. Rethink the choices in your vending machine and take a vote for options to increase staff input.
  • Vigorous Health and Wellness Programs. The economy is quickly moving to a freelance paradigm. Robust health and wellness programs make a significant draw for employees. Help build health, relaxation and fun by offering on-site yoga or dance classes.
  • Have Fun. Set aside Friday afternoons for a staff activity that's just for fun and team-building. Host a scavenger hunt for animals in the local zoo, take a group bike ride, enjoy a frozen yogurt social or take a group painting class. Find something fun for everyone.
  • Make It Visual. Create and share a flowchart that demonstrates how certain tasks performed by an employee ultimately help to fulfill the organization's mission.
  • Let Them Explore. Create paths that help team members move laterally within the organization. A transferred worker can explore a new passion while you keep that person in the building.
  • Make Leaders Approachable. Have the organization's leader host weekly office hours, two hours a week, where employees can explore ideas and concerns that keep them engaged.
  • Pay Attention Online. Watch for patterns in Glassdoor reviews to spotlight areas that need improvement.
  • Reward Coursework. Offer points or tangible rewards for those who take work-related open-source courses. Online classes and tutorials abound. Encourage your workforce to learn.

Think creatively, proactively and prudently, and you'll discover a multitude of affordable ways for your team to become involved in developing their own reasons for engagement.

his is an excerpt from UST’s eBook, “Innovative Strategies That Overcome Nonprofit Retention Barriers” in collaboration with Beth Black, Writer and Editor.

June 10, 2022

Stress in the Workplace: How is it Affecting Your Employees

“Round and round and round she goes, and where she stops, nobody knows.”

~ Major Bowes Amateur Hour, c. 1930s

Nonprofits across America are facing the same situation. Rising demand for services in the face of a severe labor shortage. Each part of this problem aggravates the other, until it might seem that you’ll never find a way out of all the struggles. To be sure, the pandemic triggered some thorny nonprofit sustainability challenges, such as the Great Resignation. But let’s be honest — a lot of the problems currently overpowering the American workforce have been brewing since well before COVID-19. In this post, we’ll take a look at where we are today, how we got here, and what you can do to help your staff cope with that wild and wicked ride known as STRESS.

Where We Stand

Mental Health America (MHA) reported in April that 70% of American employees they surveyed last year were finding it difficult to concentrate at work. The study of 11,300 US employees shows a precipitous rise in the stress symptoms employees are feeling from 65% in 2020 and 46% in 2018. Of course, the pandemic has played a large role in this, but we should also consider other factors. Clearly, the events of 2022 — even with the easing of some pandemic pressures — have done very little to assuage workers’ concerns.

With everything going on in the nation and the world, it’s no surprise that American workers are feeling vulnerable and anxious. Threats to personal wellness and safety constantly lead national news stories. Included in the mix, COVID-19 still looms, and inflation has tugged at the nonprofit worker’s ability to make ends meet. Your employees must heap these external fears upon the traditional career concerns, which results in pernicious workplace stress.

How We Got Here

Consider the most common stress-inducing problems related to workplace culture. These remain unchanged from survey reports of years past. Lack of recognition for employees’ contributions remains a problem. There’s also workplace harassment which unfortunately, some nonprofits have done little to address. Left unhandled, this kind of problem will not only stress employees to the point of burnout, it will stain your employer brand permanently.

Also, many nonprofits lack a real path to career success for everyone, not just a chosen few. Developing a culture of support in all areas has been difficult for many nonprofits. The MHA survey reported that:

  • Only 40% of employees agree that their company invests in developing supportive managers.
  • Less than half of employees know about their company’s mental health services, and only 38% would feel safe using those services.
  • Two out of every three employees are not comfortable providing feedback to their manager.

The survey lists more illustrations of problems taking place in America’s workplace cultures. If you haven’t done so lately, this is a good time to survey your own team for their particular stressors. It will be no surprise that different fields bring varying challenges; medical nonprofits often face compassion fatigue while workers in educational nonprofits can be stressed by low pay. Find out what is ailing your staff, so you can determine the best way to address those issues.

Unrest From Uncertainties

With the advent of the Great Resignation, positions are staying unfilled longer, which means that remaining employees are exhausted. Like riders unable to escape an eternally moving carousel, the fact that they are stuck in such an uncertain and incessant situation will no doubt make it feel worse. Even the most dedicated workers will eventually burn out. Nonprofit leaders who have failed to carefully balance workloads between remaining team members will likely notice this more than others.

After more than two years working remotely, some employees are still just simply not ready to return to onsite work. While a number of nonprofits have required workers to return, the fact remains that this is causing stress for those who don’t yet feel safe in the workplace. Help them adjust by ensuring that you keep up with current CDC guidelines in knowledge and practice. Then, communicate your safety practices. Transparency will ease tension. As COVID-19 case rates rise and fall, help your employees trust that you are going to do everything in your power to keep them safe, which includes establishing a caring culture.

Even remote workers may be feeling stressed about their careers. Take steps to account for proximity bias, an unconscious preference that leaders feel toward staff members they see in person over employees who aren’t onsite.

Uncertainty remains a huge stressor. This is the “nobody knows” part of the rhyme above. Unclear or changing job expectations will cause your employees to lose faith in their abilities to meet your demands. Uncertainty is a given in today’s world, but vague job performance expectations will only add to the weight they shoulder regarding overall career ambiguity, organizational changes, and even the dread of workplace violence.

Individuals & Organizations

Eight in 10 of the survey respondents stated that the stress from work affects their relationships with friends, family, and co-workers. Of course, it also affects their employers.

Stressed workers exhibit lowered performance, possibly due, in part, to lack of sleep. They become anxious and uncommunicative. At some point, most burn out and quit. This has been part of the Great Resignation, particularly for nonprofit employees suffering low-pay issues. They will resign to find better paid jobs in another industry, if that’s what it takes to escape the stress of unpaid bills. Longtime employees who have always taken strength from their belief in your mission might lose that resolve when they can’t afford to put gas in their car or food on their table.

Employers have been using temporary or contract workers to fill talent gaps, which can help in the short term. But bear in mind that this rarely provides a long-term solution. It’s an employees’ job market, and unless they want to work on-call, gig workers are finding opportunities to move up to full-time positions that have become more available.

When workers are stressed, job satisfaction scores plummet. Turnover becomes a problem and hiring new staff with a tarnished employer brand will be difficult.

Steps to Take

Here are some steps that can help destress your staff and keep your nonprofit moving forward:

  • Communicate more than ever. Try transparency, as in posting an equitable pay schedule that lets everyone know your compensation is fair. Open discussions on all topics of stress, including workplace safety. Be honest, and approach discussions with a real interest in addressing their concerns.
  • Offer wellness benefits. Provide services for mental and physical health, and advocate for a positive culture that encourages using these services as part of constructive healthcare practices.
  • Offer fun and healthy activities. Whether it’s online Yoga classes for remote employees or group walks at lunchtime for those who work onsite, be creative in providing opportunities to enjoy life and increase their wellness.
  • Offer paid time off. Encourage your employees to take time off for their needs without having to explain why they’re absent.
  • Build more flexibility in deadlines and schedules. If they’re covering for lost coworkers, offer overtime pay, too. But equally important, let them catch a breath between assignments.
  • Be the example that speaks to your culture. If you work long hours, your staff will see that as a requirement for success. Work-life balance is essential to everyone, and an annual vacation should be encouraged for all, including you.

UST’s Content Library provides valuable resources to help you halt that stressful unmerry-go-round, so your staff can find their footing on solid ground, once again.

This blog post was written by Beth Black, consulting writer and editor to UST. Visit PracticalPoet.com to view Beth’s online portfolio and learn more about her editorial services.

June 03, 2022

HR Question: Stress on the Job

Question: An employee says that the stress of the job is affecting their mental health. How should we handle this?

Answer: This employee may just need to talk through their concerns and get your help prioritizing or delegating. They may, for example, feel like every single thing on their to-do list is life-or-death by Friday at close of business, when that’s not really the case. Some manager guidance can go a long way, especially for your employees who are usually self-directed.

On the other hand, the stress and mental health effects the employee describes may rise to the level of a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In this case, we would recommend beginning the interactive process to determine what, if anything, can be done to accommodate them so that the essential functions of the job get done to your standards and the employee is able to keep working. As part of this conversation, you can request a doctor's note to substantiate the disability.

If you have more general concerns about the effects of stress in your workplace, you might consider ways to help your employees reduce and manage their stress. Tried and true methods include offering health benefits so employees can access health care professionals and paid time off so they can take a day here and there to rest and recharge. Simply encouraging employees to support one another and allowing them breaks during the day can also be a great help.

This Q&A was provided by Mineral, powering the UST HR Workplace. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a FREE 60-day trial here. As a UST member, simply log into your Mineral portal to access live HR certified consultants, 300+ on-demand training courses, an extensive compliance library, and more.

May 26, 2022

Creating a Unified Company Culture

If you haven’t experienced it, consider yourself lucky. Most of America’s workers have, at one time or another, faced problems with a toxic workplace culture. It might have been bias against a minority (including women, even if they’re a company’s majority). It could have been a difficult manager who was allowed to target others with impunity. Or, it simply might have been a culture that failed to support its workers’ dreams and wellbeing adequately. Whatever the issue, most American workers have quit a job that came wrapped in a dysfunctional culture.

The Great Resignation has launched this trend into the stratosphere. In the month of March, alone, more than 4.5 million American workers quit their jobs. This is not going to change anytime soon. And it’s expensive. Every employee who flees your toxic culture will likely end up costing you several thousand dollars to replace.

It’s time to cut off any culture concerns before they consume your organization. Here are some ideas and steps to help you ensure your culture is avoiding toxic situations and proactively developing a positive, supportive culture that will sustain your workforce, your nonprofit and your mission.

Common Culture Concerns

In nonprofits across the nation, shared beliefs and behaviors lead to the way employees interact. It leads to the way nonprofit leaders, and ultimately, nonprofit employees make decisions. Whether you want it or not, your nonprofit has a culture.

You might be imagining culture as some nebulous concept floating in space. The truth is, most workers will point directly at their manager to place the blame for negative work experiences. Here are some reasons why:

  • They don’t feel safe being honest with their manager about job-related or personal problems.
  • They feel there is no transparency or open communication coming from their manager regarding job expectations, burnout prevention, training, mentoring, career advancement pathways or even a status update on the health of the organization.
  • They don’t feel their manager has protected them from workplace discrimination.
  • They can’t expect a positive outcome from reporting harassment, sexual or otherwise, to their manager.
  • They may actually have been targeted for harassment, sexual or otherwise, by their manager … with no larger oversight.
  • They don’t feel truly valued by their manager, and hence, the organization.

Why It’s Important

Even if your employees choose to stay with your organization, you will likely experience a negative effect on individual and team productivity. People who experience any of the above reasons will have difficulty concentrating on projects and working effectively in teams. And your employees’ daily sense of wellbeing can impact your recruitment efforts, as they will react with poor reviews on sites like Glassdoor, thereby damaging your employer brand irreparably.

Don’t underestimate the destruction caused by burnout brought on by a toxic culture. Problems that you might not know about could be affecting your workforce. For example, proximity bias has become a serious problem for remote workers, particularly as some of their colleagues return to the workplace. Those who remain remote, either for geographical or health reasons, have been discovering that they’re not in line for training or leadership opportunities simply because they don’t physically walk into their employer’s building to work.

Yet, this can be difficult for an employer to see, especially one who relies on remote workers. It would take some effort to track conversations and career tracks for everyone on staff to determine accurately if you’ve been remiss. For instance, have you been showing the same interest in your remote workers careers as the paths allowed to those you see in the hallway at the office? Remember, you don’t have to be aware of a bias to have one.

Determine Your Culture’s Toxicity

The first step is a willingness to accept the possibility that your culture isn’t perfect. From there, you should ask these questions and search for signs of dysfunction:

  • Gloom and doom. When you look at the faces of people around your workplace or in remote meetings, do they reflect any happiness? Or do they look like they just lost their luggage? Lagging enthusiasm at work is an easily notable feature of a toxic work environment.
  • Error Terror. It’s normal for people to fear making a mistake at work, but trying to avoid an embarrassing moment and living in anxious fear of the threat of consequences means they’re working in a culture that penalizes failure.
  • The Slow Boil of Constant Turmoil. When communication fails, teams fall apart, individuals lose connection and nobody knows what to do in their role. From there, trust dissolves and power struggles ensue. Collaboration will fall by the wayside, derailing projects, people and your nonprofit.
  • Drama Trauma. Some gossip is normal in any community setting, and workplaces are no exception. But when the rumor mill spins out of control with malevolent half-truths at tennis-match levels, it’s a clear sign that workers are trying to operate in a communications vacuum as part of a dysfunctional culture.
  • They Come, They Go, They Don’t Even Show. Higher than normal employee turnover is an undisputable sign of a culture in need of repair. Many are leaving positions without securing a new job elsewhere first. Mental health and the need for wellness is affecting your employees’ decisions. In these trying times, workers won’t just walk away from a toxic culture. They’ll run.

Cut off Culture Concerns

You can think of your culture as a tree with many branches. Over the years, people have developed initiatives that worked at the time, or habits have developed that may have been overlooked. Some of the branches are robust and strong, green with leafy foliage and hosting birds’ nests. Some of the branches are scraggly and half-dead, bringing nothing to the tree but dead weight. Every branch came from the center or from another branch, just as your cultural practices have come from the leadership and behavior of your employees over time. Now is the time to shape your culture by pruning away that which doesn’t serve your workforce and mission and to allow which is healthy to blossom as a beautiful part of the community.

What to do next:

  • Ask. Conduct a company-wide anonymous employee engagement survey. Ask about problems in key areas, such as harassment, bias and inclusion. Find out if your culture supports Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Access and a sense of Belonging for everyone. Ask them to describe their experiences. Look at age, religion, race, gender, gender identification, sexual orientation, distance (remember remote workers), physical and mental abilities — plus as many additional categories as you can find. Make it bold and encompassing, so that all staff members understand that you’re really addressing their issues. Do not retaliate against any whistle blowers.
  • Listen. Talk to your employees. An open door policy and a respectful ear might lead to some honest comments that will strengthen your culture. 
  • Learn. Learn from the results. Look at your team leaders to discern any additional issues.
  • Apply. You may need a professional consultant to help your team launch the initiatives that come from this new information. Or, you may be able to figure out some strategies that will empower your team to overcome what has been going on. Give it time, but don’t let it slip away. Be sure to use additional surveys and metrics regularly to guide your actions as you move forward.

Seek and Destroy

Five major forms of dysfunction will lead to all kinds of trouble in your culture. Clean these up and your culture can shine. As categories, they are:

  • Disrespect. Loss of dignity or consideration.
  • Non-inclusivity. Biased against subgroups, cronyism and nepotism.
  • Dishonesty. Unethical behavior or failure at regulatory compliance.
  • Ruthlessness. Cutthroat or backstabbing behavior and competition.
  • Abuse. Hostility, harassment or bullying.

Equity vs. Equality

While both are vitally important, equality and equity are not the same. Understanding how they differ will help you find a way to enshrine both as central themes within your renewed culture.

  • Equality: Everyone is paid the same for equal work. It doesn’t matter if they’re male or female, local or remote. Making pay transparent throughout the company is one way to ensure that it happens.
  • Equity: Take the needs of individual employees into consideration for the sake of fairness. A two-story building with offices upstairs — but no elevator — would not be equitable for a person in a wheelchair. While everyone has equal freedom to use the stairs, not everyone can.

Your culture probably doesn’t suffer from all of the ills mentioned here, but understand this: No culture is perfect, and every organization could benefit from an honest discussion, at least, to address the concerns of the hardworking people you need to achieve your mission. Handle it with a caring heart and deep concern, and you will be able to achieve a world-class organization where people really want to work.

This blog post was written by Beth Black, consulting writer and editor to UST. Visit PracticalPoet.com to view Beth’s online portfolio and learn more about her editorial services.

May 03, 2022

HR Question: Avoid Turnover and Increase Retention

Question: We’ve seen a lot of turnover lately. Do you have any tips for increasing retention?

Answer: Employee retention is one of the most difficult and expensive challenges faced by business owners, managers, and HR departments. Fortunately, the keys to retention are simple and straightforward, though certainly easier said than done. The following three practices are essential:

  • Pick the right people in the first place. Put thought and care into your recruitment and interview procedures. The more time you and other employees can spend with candidates, the surer you’ll be they believe in your mission, understand the challenges and frustrations of the position, and want to contribute to your success.
  • Make sure your compensation and benefits remain competitive. This is a tall order and may squeeze your bottom line in ways that make you uncomfortable, but it’s necessary if retention is at the top of your priority list. Make it a goal to do a yearly analysis of your total compensation package to ensure it’s at least keeping up with the market. Many employers who know they can’t offer competitive pay offer other compelling benefits, like generous PTO and the ability to work from home.
  • Be appreciative. A little gratitude can go a long way. And you can show it in multiple ways–from flexibility when employees need it, to a willingness to hear out ideas, to employee appreciation programs. Even a simple thank you can work wonders.

This Q&A was provided by Mineral, powering the UST HR Workplace. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a FREE 60-day trial here. As a UST member, simply log into your Mineral portal to access live HR certified consultants, 300+ on-demand training courses, an extensive compliance library, and more.

April 18, 2022

How Compensation Growth Strategies Can Help Sustain Your Organization

Studies in 2016 by both SHRM and Nonprofit HR showed that nonprofit workers resigned from their jobs at the same rate as for-profit workers — both at 19%. This myth-busting truth surprised a lot of nonprofit leaders at the time. And now with the pandemic, it’s continuing on a larger scale. The Great Resignation has created an intense employee-employer job shuffle, where lower-paid workers are quitting their jobs for the financial rewards of corporate careers. Meanwhile, higher-paid workers are leaving those jobs in search of more meaningful work.

Nonprofits Feel More Turnover Pain

There are reasons why it seems like nonprofits lose more employees. The truth is nonprofits often feel the pain of employee loss more than corporations — even when the same number of employees are leaving — simply because they tend to lose institutional knowledge that was never properly recorded due to a lack of infrastructure. Who in your organization knows critical donor information? Is it accurately recorded for posterity? Protecting your nonprofit from this type of loss could mean investing in a better program that helps to keep accurate records. Or it could require investing in more companywide training—empowering your staff to use your records system competently.

If you believe such expenses are unnecessary, do you know how your organization bounces back after someone leaves? How difficult is it to adapt everyone’s workload to cover for the last person who left? Was that person a paid employee or a volunteer? What does the organization lose in time, effort and funds to rebuild what was lost?

Remember, as you work to sustain your organization through turnover, it is important to focus some energy on building a resilient and flexible infrastructure that won’t suffer if a key employee leaves.

If you have already strengthened your infrastructure as much as possible and still need to stabilize your workforce, you can easily calculate your actual turnover rate to determine the urgency of your compensation status. If you do have high turnover, especially since the pandemic, it's time to consider how you might improve engagement with adjusted compensation strategies.

Great Resignation Results

Nonprofits face advantages and challenges in regard to both groups of resigning workers:

  • Your nonprofit will benefit by engaging and retaining your current workforce (who already value your mission), but you must offer compensation that realistically addresses their personal financial needs.
  • At the same time, your organization will gain some valuable advantages if you can attract and recruit corporate workers with your inspiring mission and compassionate culture, but you will only be able to retain them with credible compensation that provides for their needs.

Your compensation plan can support employee engagement and retention while setting a tone of respect and appreciation. Just follow these two tenets:

  • Payment in fair exchange for their time, focus and hard work.
  • Expressing gratitude for the benefits that your organization has realized as a result.

Both of these concepts support the adequate pay and rewarding culture that will sustain your nonprofit with an engaged workforce.

Compensation Growth Defined

The term “compensation growth” often leads to two action plans. First, if needed, increase your nonprofit’s pay scale, allowing salaries to reflect current best-practices. Second, meet with each employee upon hiring and then annually to develop a clear compensation plan that allows for reasonable cost-of-living increases and merit raises. Help them trust in a future with your organization. Handling the first action plan will allow you to implement the second. So, where does all that increased compensation come from?

A Valuable Distinction

Total rewards compensation involves thinking beyond the dollar signs on an employee’s paycheck. A more comprehensive approach takes two basic forms: Direct compensation includes the employee’s salary, commissions, bonuses, allowances, and overtime pay. Indirect compensation includes benefits such as health insurance, retirement funding, use of a company phone, discounts to public events, and invitations to internal events such as company picnics. Indirect compensation’s beauty is that it can rise to the size of your imagination without costing a lot.

Find opportunities in your company culture. For example, remote or hybrid schedules will likely remain popular for years. If possible, adopt scheduling flexibility and give employees more say in determining when and where they work. AARP recently reported that the Great Resignation has included many seniors who no longer wish to work full-time schedules. Simultaneously, others need more hours to make up for financial losses from the Great Recession. The trick is to work with them to meet their needs.

There are plenty of other indirect options, such as improved training availability and clear leadership paths. Mentoring and coaching for all employees can keep your staff engaged — even those who are chosen as mentors will value the experience and the trust you place in them. 

Mental Health: 2022’s Best Benefit

Mental health services are critically important in 2022. Socioeconomic and political upheavals accompanied by pandemic and war have left many workers experiencing anxiety and depression. If your nonprofit provides services that help — and you build a culture geared for better overall health — your engagement should rise significantly, and employer brand will shine in the marketplace. Consider these options:

  • Offer coverage for mental health care.
  • Offer Walk and Talk sessions with a paid therapist or coach.
  • Offer paid time off for mental health days.
  • Provide enjoyable activities that boost socialization and wellbeing.
  • Support a walk-a-thon to promote mental health and destigmatize problems.
  • Provide discounts for massages, weekend getaways, local museums and more.
  • Balance workloads and reduce stress related to unreasonable deadlines and overwork.

Sometimes Money Does the Talking

No matter what, they’ll need to earn a decent living. Ease their personal budgetary concerns by properly managing your organization’s budget. If traditional income streams have dried up, these options might help:

  • Increase your funding through sales. Work with one of several online outlets to create a line of branded products. If you have a website, you can set up an online store. Be sure to develop that with a professional. Promote your products on social media.
  • Increase your funding through donors. There are myriad ways to increase funding these days, such as online crowdfunding apps like GoFundMe, Mightycause, FundRazr and Fundly. Research several to pick the best one for you. Items you sell could also be useful as rewards for crowdfunding donors. A branded mug, for example, would be a great gift for those who donate $35 to your cause.

You’ll benefit from a clear business and marketing plan with specific designated use for collected funds. Be honest with donors about your organization’s need for compensation growth. When you compensate them properly, your workforce will help you reach impressive goals that build your brand, draw more donors, and sustain your nonprofit organization.

This blog post was written by Beth Black, consulting writer and editor to UST. Visit PracticalPoet.com to view Beth’s online portfolio and learn more about her editorial services.

April 12, 2022

HR Question: Employees and Mental Wellness

Question: We’ve been both super busy and understaffed recently. Is there anything we can do during this time to help our employees avoid extra stress or burnout before we can hire more employees?

Answer: Yes. Here are a few things you can do to make this time run as smoothly and stress-free as possible:

Remove nonessential work duties: For the positions that seem most stretched, make a list of tasks that could be put on hold (or perhaps reassigned). You can invite input from employees, too, but I’d recommend acknowledging that they’re overwhelmed and saying that you’ll do your best to alleviate some of the pressure. Then hold off on nonessential tasks until business slows down or you’ve increased your headcount.

Allow for flexible scheduling: If employees need to work longer hours on some days during the week, consider allowing them to work fewer hours on other days of the week. Note that some states have daily overtime, spread-of-hours, or split-shift laws.

Budget for overtime: Employees may need to work extra hours to keep up with the current demands of their job, so allow them to work overtime if you (and they) can swing it. If you’re pretty sure overtime will be necessary, inform employees of that ahead of time, so they can plan accordingly.

Ensure all equipment is fast and reliable: It’s important to identify, troubleshoot, and correct any slow or nonworking equipment issues (such as laptops, internet hardware, cash registers, or vehicles). If not resolved, these issues can slow down work and add to everyone’s stress.

Look for ways to automate: Consider whether any of your employees’ manual and time-consuming tasks could be eliminated or simplified with the use of new or different technology.

This Q&A was provided by Mineral, powering the UST HR Workplace. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a FREE 60-day trial here. As a UST member, simply log into your Mineral portal to access live HR certified consultants, 300+ on-demand training courses, an extensive compliance library, and more.

April 08, 2022

Strategies to Improve Employee Bandwidth

To improve the overall effectiveness, the performance, of your team, you’ll want to improve in two areas: efficiency and productivity. Be sure to take advantage of a highly effective yet often-overlooked best-practice procedure for improvement in this area. Ask your employees to identify ways that the team can be more efficient and productive. When you involve the front-line workers who experience systemic barriers, they’ll help you find better solutions in a shorter amount of time. Also, you need to know the difference between the two and which one should be tackled first.

Productivity vs. Operational Efficiency

Efficiency is about accomplishing the same goals with fewer resources, while productivity is about accomplishing more without increasing your consumption of resources. Resources could be worker hours, supplies, phone lines, funds or whatever it takes to get the job done. For example, if your organization uses 10 people to make calls and solicit restaurant donations for a community food bank, improving efficiency could be improving the phone system so that eight people could make the same number of calls in the same amount of time. Improving productivity would be training those 10 people to achieve a larger donation with each call. If you improve both, you've built a smaller team that can achieve more. It’s best to begin by improving efficiency. Always start by reducing the amount of wasted effort and resources. Once that has been set and stabilized with a clear baseline of operations, you can work to increase productivity without undermining efficiency. Why spend resources training all 10 people to improve their phone skills if you’ll only need eight people after modernizing the phone system? But once you’ve set up the right team of callers on a modern phone system, you can then target exactly who needs training with greater results. Create a lean, mean machine and then make it run like a dream.

Take the time to strategize your best practices when preparing to improve your efficiency. It’s not simply about cutting costs. Analytics can be a key factor in making the right choices. Once you’ve fully analyzed your processes, then you can begin to pinpoint where waste occurs so that you can begin to fix it in a way that is sustainable, perhaps with incentivized buy-in from the staff.

A promising way to begin improving efficiency is to eliminate bottlenecks. These are points in your workflow where the bureaucracy overwhelms and slows the process of completing a task. Or it could simply be a matter of disorganization. Is there a file that everyone needs but is hard to locate? Do you have a disorganized email system that makes it difficult to find important correspondence? So when someone needs something from these, they have to stop the flow to go find what they need. Bottlenecks can waste time, effort, and money. One strategy to eradicate such waste is the 5S method: Sort, Shine, Straighten, Standardize and Sustain. When you clean up your organization and its worksite, your improved efficiency will lead to more fruitful improvements in productivity.

Remember Productivity and Employee Bandwidth

Once you've established a baseline of operations, the next step is to work on productivity. The current vernacular for this is employee bandwidth, which measures in large part team productivity.

But how did bandwidth come to relate to employees? The term started in IT, where it was used to describe the speed of internet that could flow through a particular electronic system. The metaphoric use, today, describes how much productive work a manager can expect from staff members in a particular amount of time. This really is not about making staff work harder or faster to beat the clock. It’s about studying and working with the complete cultural and systemic condition. Is an employee close to burnout? Why? Too much work or too little? Are employees bored with no opportunities for growth? Are some frustrated by red tape and micromanagement? All of these must be taken as part of the bandwidth equation.

UC Berkeley professor Morten Hansen wrote about a study of more than 5,000 professionals over a period of 5 years. He looked at the way people took on workloads and delineated four common personality styles that describe how different staff members behave:

  • Accept More, Then Coast. Employees who volunteer for a lot of projects but fail to finish them all.
  • Do Less, No Stress. Employees who do the bare minimum to keep their jobs.
  • Do More, Then Stress. Like the first group, they say yes to every opportunity, but then they overwork in order to accomplish it all and eventually burn themselves out.
  • Do Less, Then Obsess. This is the most realistic group. They choose a few priorities and then work hard to accomplish them with great success. 

In performance reviews of the four groups, the Do Less, Then Obsess group scored as much as 25

percentage points higher than the other three. This style clearly works better as the workers are forced to pay attention to key factors on a regular basis.

Five Tips to Improve Bandwidth

There are five simple steps you can take to raise the level of productivity with employees and bandwidth in your team.

  1. Provide opportunities to develop cross-discipline expertise. Are team members stuck in one role, never learning anything new and bored? There’s a simple cure for that. Provide the opportunity for members of different teams to leap into other silos and develop basic skills there. Other benefits include having people who can fill in for a few weeks if you lose a team member.
  2. Raise the corporate culture. No doubt you’re already working to maximize the impact of your employment culture. When you emphasize innovation, team relationships, communication, and trust, you build better relationships with your staff and their productivity will increase as they feel happier and more fulfilled in their careers.
  3. Effective communication. Avoid confusion and build a smart team filled with people who know what is expected and can express what’s going on at their level.
  4. Use technology appropriately. The advent of inexpensive apps and software have made technological advances much more affordable in recent years. You can now improve your efficiency, increase productivity, and build worker satisfaction with several available products. See what your competitors are using and find a version that’s affordable and useful for your organization.
  5. Show your appreciation. Build rapport with the team and make sure to commemorate their achievements. The more they feel recognized for their efforts, the more eagerly they will participate in the culture and proactively fulfill their assignments.

You can also improve retention and institutional knowledge by hiring staff with full-time hours and benefits, rather than bringing them in as part-time or contract employees. Grow their roles with your organization and reap the benefits of built-in bandwidth.

Help Them Avoid Burnout

Your goal of maximizing employee bandwidth is to increase productivity without burning out your staff. Employers who push their staff to do work faster or harder, risk a high attrition rate, as employees flee for safer grounds. The first thing to understand is that employee burnout usually has more to do with an organization than any particular employee. You could be overloading your most capable employees with too much work and too many responsibilities.

It’s time to begin thinking of your employees’ time as a precious resource and plan accordingly. If regular overtime is celebrated in your company culture, take another look at that value and check for damage to the lives of your staff members. Too many emails flying back and forth? Too many meetings in one day? When you begin to provide some relief from these constant interruptions, and give employees control over their own calendars, you’ll see your staff’s energy revitalize as they gain a sense of control and autonomy.

All of this comes from the common problem of excessive collaboration. If your organization has grown and developed numerous layers of decision makers, this could be hampering your employee bandwidth. As each stakeholder manages multiple projects, and must sign off on each, the staff members must make themselves available for a seemingly endless round of meetings, conference calls, and emails. The exhausting schedule becomes counterproductive to the point of chasing employees out the door. Restructuring the hierarchy of command can save managers from wasting time on redundant activities and freeing them to accomplish more.

Empower Your Employees

Remember, in the end, most workers want to feel fulfilled and competent in what they do for a living. They want to contribute and make a difference. It’s up to you to give them the workspace that allows them to fulfill their dreams of succeeding. Economist Theodore Levitt said, “Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.” With this advice, you can allow employees to increase their efficiency, their productivity, and their team bandwidth.

This is an excerpt from UST’s eBook, “Strategies to Secure Nonprofit Endurance” in collaboration with Beth Black, Writer and Editor.

March 18, 2022

HR Question: Questions to Avoid During an Interview

Question: What questions should an employer avoid asking during the recruiting and interview process?

Answer: You should avoid questions that are not job-related or that cause an applicant to tell you about their inclusion in a protected class. These would include questions about race, national origin, citizenship status, religious affiliation, disabilities, pregnancy, sexual orientation or gender identity, past illnesses (including use of sick leave or workers’ comp claims), age, genetic information, or military service. You should also avoid asking about things that might be protected by state law (e.g., marital status and political affiliation).

Asking these sorts of questions could result in rejected candidates claiming that the decision not to hire was based on their inclusion in these protected classes rather than job-related considerations. We recommend looking at your state’s protected class list to be sure you don’t run afoul of it.

During an interview, it is advisable to present the candidate with a copy of the job description that lists all essential job functions, including any physical requirements necessary to perform the job, and simply asking the candidate if they are able to perform the job duties listed. For example, if the position requires someone to lift 25 pounds repeatedly throughout the day, you should ask the applicant whether they can lift 25 pounds repeatedly throughout the day. You should not ask whether they have back pain or any other physical issues that might prevent them from lifting 25 pounds or if they’d filed a workers’ comp claim when doing manual labor in the past. If you need someone to work Sunday mornings, you should ask the applicant if they can work Sunday mornings. You should not ask if they attend church or have other commitments that would prevent them from working Sunday mornings.

If a candidate proactively acknowledges a disability or medical condition, we recommend that you refrain from addressing this candidate's mention of it directly. Instead, confirm that the candidate can perform the essential functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodation. You'll want to be certain that you are asking this question consistently of all candidates, and not just those who have disclosed a past medical condition or those you suspect may not be able to perform the essential functions of the position. It’s also important not to make assumptions about a candidate's ability to perform their job based on their having disclosed that they have a disability or other health condition.

Finally, unless a candidate has an obvious disability or has voluntarily disclosed that they have a disability, we would not recommend asking applicants if they would need accommodation to perform job functions as it would have the effect of creating a pre-employment disability inquiry, which is prohibited under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

You can also download UST’s Interviewing 101 as a guide for preparing to interview candidates and hiring the right people for your nonprofit. This Q&A was provided by Mineral, powering the UST HR Workplace. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a FREE 60-day trial here. As a UST member, simply log into your Mineral portal to access live HR certified consultants, 300+ on-demand training courses, an extensive compliance library, and more.

March 11, 2022

Creative Workplace Benefits

Employee benefits, also known as perks and fringe benefits, are provided to employees over and above salaries and wages. Employee benefit packages may include overtime, medical, dental, vacation, profit sharing and retirement benefits, to name just a few. Offering these types of benefits to your employees is important because it shows them you are invested in not only their overall health, but their future. A rich employee benefits package can help attract and retain talent. Benefits also have the ability to help set you apart from competing organizations—benefits more often than not, can be the deciding factor when future talent decides to accept a job offer.  

When looking at fringe benefits, there are two types, fringe benefits that are required by law (i.e., social security and health insurance and fringe benefits provided at the organization’s discretion. (i.e. free breakfast and lunch, gym membership, employee sock options, retirement planning services, child care, education assistance, etc.). Organizations will offer additional fringe benefits in hopes of increasing employee wellness and employee engagement. Employees often work harder when they feel their employer appreciates their contribution to the organization. One way to increase employee satisfaction is by providing additional benefits like paid holidays, employer-provided car, workplace flexibility, etc. It will help reduce incidences of a disgruntled workforce and keep the employees engaged.

Healthcare and retirement benefits are important for obvious reasons, but the popularity of additional fringe benefits seem to be on the rise, especially following a global pandemic. Check out UST’s list of Creative Workplace Benefits for some ideas on how you as an employer, can show your staff support while increasing your chances of retaining your employees. 

Being creative with your benefits package at a budget restricted nonprofit can be less expensive and often better received than a raise, so put on your thinking cap and leave no stone unturned. Remember, money alone will not keep employees engaged so take the time to come up with a plan to show them some appreciation.

February 28, 2022

Building a Professional Development Plan

This article was written by Mitch Stein, Founder & CEO at Pond and shared with explicit permission.

The nonprofit workforce has been through a lot in the last few years—they’ve faced job insecurity and financial shortcomings as well as mental and emotional strain—leaving many burnt out and pursuing new jobs. In order to achieve stability, nonprofits need to be innovative with development opportunities that can help combat preventable terminations.

In a recent article by Pond, “How to Build a Professional Development Plan for the New Nonprofit Landscape,” Mitch Stein shares strategies for building a professional development plan that ensures employees are prepared and able to perform critical tasks in times of uncertainty while also being supported in their career trajectory. You’ll learn how to identify skills gaps, curate professional development resources, encourage cross-training, and align your development program around your nonprofit’s core values.

Remember, in the end, most nonprofit employees want to feel fulfilled and competent in what they do—they want to contribute as well as make a difference. These strategies can help you sustain your organization’s workforce and remain competitive in today’s ever-evolving employee marketplace.

January 07, 2022

HR Question: The Complicated Layers of HR Compliance

Question: HR Compliance: What It Is and Why It’s So Complicated

Answer: Running a business comes with no shortage of perks. You get the freedom to be your own boss, invest in an idea, steer its trajectory, and create wealth. It has its challenges, too. Competition may be fierce. Demand for what you offer may be low. Costs may not be sustainable. But even if everything else is going your way, there’s one challenge that’s ever-present. We’re talking, of course, about HR compliance.

The Definition of HR Compliance

HR compliance is the work of ensuring that your employment practices conform to federal, state, and local laws. This work requires learning which laws apply to your organization and understanding what they require you to do. That’s easier said than done.

HR compliance is truly an art. It requires knowledge, skill, and cooperation. You have to be able to decipher legalese, know where to go to ask the right questions, and create policies and procedures that minimize business risk. You have to ensure that everyone from the executive team to newly minted managers know what they can and cannot do. You have to conduct investigations and enforce your rules consistently. And all this is just the bare minimum—necessary, but not enough to create a truly successful culture.

The work of compliance is never entirely done. Not only do new legal requirements appear on the regular, but, as you’ll read below, compliance obligations are often unclear. While some compliance obligations are definitive, others are unresolved, and a good number require you to make a judgment call. Let’s look at each of these in turn.

Why HR Compliance Can’t Always Be Assured

Some employment laws take the form of “Do this” or “Don’t do that.” The requirements may be simple, like minimum wage, or complex, like FMLA, but either way there’s usually no real question about what you need to do or not do. Compliance with these laws is pretty straightforward. Don’t pay less than the minimum wage. Provide leave to eligible employees for the reasons that qualify, continue their health benefits (if applicable), and return them to their position when their leave ends. As long as you’re clear on the details, you’re not likely to lose sleep wondering if you’re compliant.

Sometimes, however, those details are unsettled. Lawmakers don’t always specify everything a law requires before it passes or takes effect. Even when laws seem clear, trying to put them into practice often raises a lot of questions. And the legislature isn’t the only source of law: regulatory agencies demand their say, and courts get involved, too. To complicate matters, these branches of government don’t always agree with each other, and what they say today may not be what they say tomorrow. Keeping up with the latest official guidance takes time and persistence. It can feel like a marathon, when what you want is a quick sprint to the answer. You have other demands on your time, after all. 

Finally, a lot of employment laws have standards you have to follow, but they don’t tell you how. Neither the IRS nor the DOL, for example, tells you whether your workers are employees or independent contractors—unless there’s an audit or complaint. Instead, these agencies publish tests with general criteria that you use to make case-by-case determinations.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) works this way, too. The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, with a few exceptions. One of the exceptions is that the accommodation doesn’t create an undue hardship on the employer’s business. The basic definition of an undue hardship is an action that creates a significant difficulty or expense. Although the law provides factors to consider in making this determination, the onus is on you to decide whether an expense or difficulty from an accommodation is significant. And, ultimately, your conclusion could be challenged in court.

Why HR Compliance Looks Like This

If HR compliance seems overly-complicated, that’s because it is. Our current legal landscape is the result of three competing philosophies about how the workplace should be governed, who should govern it, and whose rights in the workplace should be prioritized in the law.

Owner Control

According to the first view, business owners should have control over their workplaces for one simple reason. They own the business. It’s their property, and as owners they should have the legal right to govern it. Employees have no right to control aspects of the workplace because the workplace isn’t theirs. They don’t own it. It’s not their property. If they don’t like the terms and conditions of their employment, they can and should go elsewhere.

While an owner might employ managers or an executive team to make decisions about who to hire and fire, what to pay, how to assign work, and other such matters, the owner remains in charge. Advocates of this view include the economist Milton Friedman. In 1970, he famously argued that corporate executives should bow to the desires of the owners. The will of the owners reigns supreme. 

Worker Control

According to the second view, workers should have a say in the decisions that get made simply because those decisions affect them and their livelihoods. In this line of thinking, the governance of the workplace should adhere to the principles of democracy. However, proponents for this view differ on how democracy in the workplace should be practiced.

In the 1930s, Senator Robert F. Wagner introduced the National Labor Relations Act. He wanted to guarantee the “freedom of action of the worker” and ensure that workers were “free in the economic as well as the political field.” Today, talk of democratizing the workplace usually refers to bolstering unions. But there are other proposals to note. Some champions of workplace democracy, like Senator Elizabeth Warren, have pushed for employee representation on corporate boards. Others favor cooperative models in which the division between employers and employees doesn’t exist.   

Full-fledged workplace democracy is still a fringe view, though. The very definition of an employee remains a worker who does not have the right to control what the work is, how it’s done, or how it’s compensated. Employees may be given authority to make decisions. They may have influence over their superiors. But they are not legally in charge. 

Societal Control

Advocates of the third view argue that the government has an interest in exercising some measure of control over the work and the workplace. In the employer-employee relationship, employers typically have significantly more power than employees—especially an employee acting as an individual. Frances Perkins, who served as Secretary of Labor and was a key architect of the New Deal, believed that government “should aim to give all the people under its jurisdiction the best possible life.” She saw a role for legislatures in countering long hours, low wages, and other conditions unfavorable to employees. 

How These Philosophies Have Played Out

In the United States, HR compliance is the result of these three competing and arguably incompatible philosophies. Government action with respect to employment has tried to empower workers and afford them certain rights, protections, and freedoms in the workplace, all while preserving the employer’s control over their business.

We can see this balancing act in the differences among state laws. Some states prioritize the right of owners to control their workforces and are loath to restrict that right through legislation. Other states act out of what they see as a duty to secure the rights of workers. Imposing obligations on employers doesn’t bother them.

We also see this balancing act in the way that employment laws tend to set parameters rather than dictate exactly what employers must do. You can pay employees whatever you want, so long as you pay at least the minimum, offer an overtime premium when applicable, and meet equal pay requirements. You can theoretically terminate employment for any reason or no reason at all (though we don’t recommend it); but you can’t fire someone for an illegal reason. Even laws that require a new practice, such as paid leave, allow flexibility provided you meet minimum conditions.

Takeaways

First, when you’re assessing your compliance obligations, understand that not all compliance obligations are clearly delineated or settled law. Unsettling as that may be, it’s how our system has been set up. In those cases, you’ll have to weigh your options and the risks involved, and then make a decision. Sometimes you may need legal advice in addition to HR guidance. Remember, however, that despite all the many employment laws on the books and in the imaginations of legislators, the system is designed to keep employers in charge. You can’t eliminate all risk, but by understanding the nuances and open questions, you can significantly minimize it.

Second, document your actions and decisions. It only takes an employee filing a complaint for enforcement agencies to get involved, but you are better protected if you can quickly and clearly explain to them the reason for your actions.

Third, evaluate whether your policies, procedures, and practices are satisfactory to employees. No employment law gets written in a vacuum, and no law is truly inevitable. Lawmakers passed the Fair Labor Standards Act because workers and the general public felt that labor standards were unfair. Today we wouldn’t have people pushing for predictive scheduling laws if they felt that work schedules were already sufficiently predictable. Harassment prevention training wouldn’t be mandatory (where it is) if sexual harassment weren’t widespread.

Fourth, lead by example. Make good employee relations a key part of your brand and competitive advantage. Employees have higher expectations today than they used to. Meet those expectations and motivate other employers to do the same, and you may find that the compliance landscape of the future is less winding and boggy than it could have been.

Finally, spend some time each day learning about your compliance obligations. Use resources that break down federal and state employment laws in a way that laypeople can understand. Keep up to speed on the latest compliance obligations and contingencies you should consider. HR compliance is an art. The first step to mastering it is learning what it entails and how it works.

You can also download the Telecommuting Checklist as a tool for when an employee is transitioning to a remote schedule. Q&A provided by Mineral, powering the UST HR Workplace. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a FREE 60-day trial here. As a UST member, simply log into your Mineral portal to access live HR certified consultants, 300+ on-demand training courses, an extensive compliance library, and more.

December 21, 2021

HR Question: Telecommuting Policies

Question: How do I make a telecommuting policy?

Answer: Although some employers will be comfortable sending everyone home with their laptop and saying, go forth and be productive, most will want to be a little more specific. A good telecommuting policy will generally address productivity standards, hours of work, how and when employees should be in contact with their manager or subordinates, and office expenses.

For instance, your policy might require that employees are available by phone and or a messaging app during their regular in-office hours, that they meet all deadlines and maintain client contacts per usual, and that they check in with their manager at the close of each workday to report what they have accomplished. Be sure to let employees know whom to contact if they run into technical difficulties at home.

You’ll also want to specify how expenses related to working from home will be dealt with. If you don’t expect there to be any additional expenses involved, communicate this. You don’t want employees thinking this is their chance to purchase a standing desk and fancy ergonomic chair on your dime. That said, you should consider whether employees will incur reasonable and necessary expenses while working from home. Some states mandate reimbursement for these kinds of expenses, but it’s a good practice to cover such costs even if it’s not required by law.

You can also download the Telecommuting Checklist as a tool for when an employee is transitioning to a remote schedule. Q&A provided by Mineral, powering the UST HR Workplace. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a FREE 60-day trial here. As a UST member, simply log into your Mineral portal to access live HR certified consultants, 300+ on-demand training courses, an extensive compliance library, and more.

December 03, 2021

Celebrating the Holidays with a Hybrid Workforce

After an extremely challenging year (or two) of workforce disruptions, nonprofit employers are finding their footing again. And, with the holidays upon us and more organizations supporting flexible routines—working remote, adopting a hybrid model, or still meeting in-person—many are looking for creative ways to celebrate the holidays with their devoted staff. It’s these events and get-togethers that bind employees together and makes them feel valued while also improving overall morale.

Opportunities to recognize employee achievements and strengthen team connections should never be overlooked but especially not during this time of year. Whether you realize it or not, your employees miss their colleagues and the fun activities they use to do together such as holiday celebrations—even if they prefer working from home. A sense of community among your remote or hybrid team is crucial for building a positive employee experience and maintaining your nonprofit brand.

All of the activities below are designed to accommodate teams regardless of their work location or time zone. You can even run some of these activities over the course of a few days (or weeks) ensuring all participants have time to respond. And, with a little research you can find a plethora of helpful templates, checklists, and directions online to assist with coordinating a fun-filled event.

  • Holiday Scavenger Hunt – You can do a simple photo scavenger hunt where players receive prompts and must then capture those images and submit. The first person to submit all the images wins! Or you can utilize an app such as GooseChase to create an unforgettable scavenger hunt experience that everyone will love.
  • Holiday Trivia – Categories might include movies, historical events, music, or traditions.
  • Gingerbread House Decorating Contest – Provide employees with a Gingerbread House Kit and have everyone join over video to decorate together. You can even create themes such as “horror movie holidays” or 90’s Christmas” to amp up the fun.
  • Treat Tasting – Create or order kits that include seasonal chocolates, cookies, or flavored candy canes that everyone can taste together one by one.
  • Never Have I Ever – Those who are guilty stay on camera while those who are innocent temporarily switch off their webcams. You can have employees take turns at sharing never have I ever prompts that might include “never have I ever regifted a present” or “never have I ever gotten drunk at a holiday party.”
  • Online Secret Santa – Platforms like Elfster and DrawNames make it super easy to host a virtual Secret Santa Exchange that involves everyone on the team, regardless of their location.
  • Ugly Sweater Contest – This is a classic holiday tradition that is super simple to coordinate with a virtual luncheon. Ask employees to wear their ugliest or most creative holiday sweater at your next video meeting and then let everyone vote and offer awards like gift cards or gift baskets.
  • Virtual Cooking Class – Find someone who’s willing to give a cooking or baking lesson to the whole team. Perhaps there are people on the team who enjoy baking holiday cookies that would be willing to share their favorite recipe. There are also professional organizations that offer lessons of a wide variety of dishes like Virtual Team Cooking Class or Thriver.  
  • Fun Year-End Awards – Issue a survey accepting nominations for Most Enthusiastic, Best Pajama Wearer, Most Likely to Have a Dog Barking in the Background, Never Not Drinking Coffee, or Most Likely to Be on Mute and provide fun rewards to the winners.
  • Drive-Thru Holiday Lights – If all of your team is working within a 30-mile radius you can all meet up to caravan through a local holiday themed light display—and don’t forget the hot cocoa!

Get creative and take the time to celebrate your team this year by spreading a little extra holiday cheer! By planning something fun and engaging for your team, you can renew loyalty, get employees excited about the new year ahead, and nurture company culture.

November 10, 2021

Creative Ways to Celebrate Your Team

One of the main reasons employees leave their jobs is because they don’t feel appreciated—causing many to question their work and often looking for a job elsewhere. Not surprisingly, but now more than ever before employees expect their workplace to deliver a productive, engaging, and enjoyable experience so to keep high performing employees on the payroll, leaders must consider recognition efforts a top priority. Celebrating achievements at work is also an important part of the productivity cycle and can transform the organization by keeping everyone aligned to the mission and values that contribute to its long-term success.

Impactful recognition has little to do with money and doesn’t need to be extravagant to be effective—it should however be genuine and come from a place of appreciation. It’s important that leaders celebrate wins big and small as both are equally valuable and impactful. Often missed opportunities to celebrate an employee include successful completion of large or new projects, teamwork, work anniversaries, and ongoing behavior that positively impacts fellow co-workers. When a manager takes the time to regularly demonstrate gratitude and appreciation for an employee’s accomplishments—both professional and personal—it can motive, engage, and reinforce positive behaviors and outcomes.

Remind your employees that you value their contributions and celebrate their successes. Check out UST’s 5 Ways to Celebrate Your Team for some creative ways you can start recognizing your team. 

It's up to leaders to find opportunities to celebrate their employees while also encouraging employees to celebrate each other. By creating a culture of recognition, you can improve morale and ensure your most valuable assets remain motivated to stay.

November 05, 2021

HR Question: Disciplining Employees

Question: What are some typical examples of employee discipline? Are there any you recommend?

Answer: Discipline should reflect the severity of the behavior, attempt to correct it, and be applied consistently. You’ll want to consider how you addressed certain behaviors in the past and the precedent you want to set for the future. For instance, if you jump straight to a final warning when a certain employee is an hour late to work, but let another employee come in late regularly without so much as a written warning, you’re setting yourself up for trouble.

We generally recommend progressive discipline. This means you start small and work your way up to termination. Progressive discipline often includes these steps:

  • Oral counseling/warning(s)
  • Written warning(s)
  • Final written warning
  • Unpaid suspension
  • Termination

At each step, make your expectations clear, notify the employee of the consequences if they fail to improve (that they’ll be one step closer to termination), and document what actions you took. The warnings you give to the employee should stick to the facts, i.e., what infraction was observed, when it occurred, and what policy or policies were violated. Opinions about the infraction should be left out, as these are easily disputed. For example, “Yesterday, you arrived 20 minutes late in violation of our attendance policy” simply states the facts, whereas “You’re always tardy and can’t be trusted to arrive on time” is likely to get pushback.

Q&A provided by Mineral, powering the UST HR Workplace for nonprofit HR teams. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a free 60-day trial here. As a UST member, simply log into your Mineral portal to access live HR certified consultants, 300+ on-demand training courses, an extensive compliance library, and more.

October 22, 2021

Best Practice Tips for Successfully Managing a Remote Workforce

Flexible work arrangements have been around for decades but now that we’re beginning to see the new era of work take shape it’s more important than ever to support and manage remote teams in a way that allows them to work effectively from home—ensuring sustainability of day-to-day operations. Managing employees without daily face-to-face interaction has its own unique set of challenges but when leaders focus their skills on the right set of best practices employees—and organizations—can excel.

Being proficient at managing remote employees requires strong communication skills, reachability, positive reinforcement, flexibility, and empathy. Productivity is no longer based on “desk time” and visible activity, managers must now gauge success based on outcomes and revise how they lead their people while finding new ways to keep them engaged.

Implement these best practice tips to improve morale, productivity, and engagement.

  1. Set clear expectations and healthy boundaries— Provide guidelines, clarify priorities, and set boundaries. Working from home makes it much easier for work to seep into other areas of life. Ensure your team understands what is expected of them—specifically around working hours and availability, performance and what defines success.
  2. Define the why — Ensure your team knows their role in helping the organization to achieve success and maintain sustainability.One’s sense of pride and accomplishment for their work is directly tied to productivity and when employees are happy with their work, they feel valued, see the impact, and want to stay with the organization.  
  3. Communicate — Remote employees can feel disconnected which can lead to a whole host of other problems. You can combat this with regular and meaningful communication, recognizing that motivated employees are more productive and engaged. Keep workers up to date on policy and staffing changes and company successes and give praise and positive reinforcement as often as possible. The longer you go without communicating with your team, the more likely they are to become disengaged from their work.
  4. Schedule regular check-ins — More frequent use of video conferencing can help to strengthen the relationship between manager and employee as well as the team as a whole. Always set aside some time for small talk—asking about their weekend or plans for an upcoming holiday can help them feel more connected. These check-ins also allow your staff the opportunity to provide updates on their work and express any frustrations they may be experiencing.
  5. Take advantage of technology — Tools like Microsoft Teams, Slack and Monday.com provide solutions to some of the biggest challenges a remote workforce experiences and can help to bring remote co-workers together through face-to-face conversations and collaboration. Not to mention can also help with project management and daily task tracking.
  6. Focus on outcomes, not hours worked — Trust is crucial in this day and age of work. It erodes your employees’ trust and confidence. Providing expectations (goals and desired results) surrounding work priorities and then allowing employees to own the execution can enhance creativity, reduces stress, and build morale.
  7. Provide what they need — Make it a point to regularly ask your employees if they have what they need in order to do their job successfully. As company initiatives and goals evolve, their needs may change by way of what technology they use to get the job done. Set them up for ongoing success.
  8. Show compassion, patience, and empathy — The remote work environment is a completely different ball game than being in an office where there aren’t children playing, dogs barking, or Amazon ring the doorbell. All of these distractions can cause unforeseen stress, both physical and emotional, damaging productivity and your bottom line. The most successful managers are good listeners and asking for employee feedback opens the pathway to great conversations and shows you genuinely care.
  9. Don’t forget about team building — Bonding activities help foster a sense of unity, boosts morale, and builds connections. Virtual events such as online Bingo, Tiny Campfire, remote MTV Cribs, escape rooms, or happy hour are wildly popular.  
  10. Celebrate successes — Now more than ever, your employees need positive reinforcement to keep them motivated. Celebrate milestones and daily accomplishments with a shout-out, host virtual competition games or team luncheons, send e-Cards for work anniversaries and birthdays, or host an Employee Appreciation Day.  You’ll want to plan ahead and get creative.

There are many ways to develop better relationships with a remote team that include transparent communication, open doors, and clear expectations to name a few. Micromanaging employees has never been a favorable practice and can cause undue stress for employees—leaving them to feel like they’re not trusted to do their work. While these best practice tips require time, attention, and consistency, they can help to develop healthy habits that allow your team to maintain productivity and achieve goals.

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