It’s time to deck the halls and prep for those holiday questions that often leave us stumped. From gift exchanges, party etiquette, and PTO, the holidays are full of HR conundrums that leave us wondering, “What Do I Do?!”

Over the next few weeks, we’ll discuss the most common questions surrounding the holidays and how HR can address these issues without (hopefully) stepping on any toes.

Handling Vacation Requests

How should I handle holiday requests? Should we base it on seniority or first come, first served?

handling holiday vacation requests

The holidays are an emotional time and this especially gets tricky when it comes to the coveted week off between Christmas and New Year’s. When planning for holiday vacations, there are a few different ways you can address this.

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. The most important thing to do when it comes to holidays or PTO is to communicate with plenty of notice. Let people know in advance when they are expected to be in office so they can plan accordingly. Setting expectations are the first step to ensuring everyone is on the same page.
  • Ask employees to submit their PTO preferences, including first and second choices. This is a great way to eliminate all or nothing situations when you need to make tough decisions about who stays in the office.
  • Be a human. As frustrating as this time is, remember: your employees are still real people who probably look forward to this time all year long. Be compassionate, empathetic and understanding when denying requests for PTO and ensure them that you’ve done your best to accommodate them.
  • Bring the holidays to the office. If people are forced to work during this time, make it as enjoyable as possible. Shut down early if you can or allow them to work remotely. When you’re stuck in the office, have someone order snacks, lunch or holiday treats to show your appreciation. A little bit goes a long way.

Are you dealing with a PTO crises? Tell us your stories in the comments!

Coupons, deals, discounts! These three words might not be ones you normally think of when it comes to employee happiness… but science says, you might want to look closer.

discount science

The Happiness Factor

According to a study in 2012 by Coupons.com, coupon recipients were 11% happier than those who did not receive a coupon. Scientists measured oxytocin levels in coupon recipients, the same hormone we experience when we kiss or hug someone, and found that consumers who received a coupon had higher levels by 38%. Scientifically, you could say they were in love with the savings!

The Time Factor

Unfortunately, according to media company Valassis, time is (literally) money for many of today’s employees. In their recent survey, 53 percent of respondents said they spend over two hours a week searching for deals and savings, while 25% of millennials and moms invest over four hours into their search.

The Employer Factor

We believe this is where, as an employer, we can make lives a lot easier for our employees. Employee engagement has gone from a hot topic to a make or break for attracting and retaining top talent. In fact, 4 out of 5 employees would rather receive benefits or perks over a pay raise. By providing discounts, you’re not only putting money back in your employees pockets, but you’re saving them valuable time and energy as well.

It’s easy to offer perks, but are you offering the right ones? Providing discounts can improve happiness among your employees while saving them valuable time and money. Contact our team to learn more!

In light of the recent Harvey Weinstein allegations, you may have noticed your social feeds filling up with #metoo. This hashtag movement is raising awareness of sexual harassment, and as usual, we’re left asking the question… what does this mean for HR? What is HR’s response to #MeToo?

HR's response to #metoo

It may not shock us to hear experiences of sexual harassment or abuse in Hollywood. However, if you saw #metoo appearing on your social network, it may have come as a surprise how prevalent sexual harassment is among our social circles and our workplaces.

Sexual harassment is not new to the workforce, nor is HR ignorant to its existence. However, just like any other workplace issue, the fight is continuous and constantly changing.

If you’re a human resources professional, here are a few questions you should be asking yourself about sexual harassment, and some hard truths we found based on a 2016 report from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

How can we create an environment of trust, versus fear, in our workforces so our employees feel free, and safe, to come forward when facing harassment?

Hard Truth: A 2003 study reported 75% of employees who spoke out against workplace mistreatment faced some form of retaliation.

 

How can we redefine what sexual harassment means in 2017 and ensure our employees know their rights?

Hard Truth: One in four women (25%) reported experiencing “sexual harassment” in the workplace when the term was not defined. Whereas, when “sexual harassment” included example scenarios, the rate rose to 50%, and when defined as “unwanted sexual attention or sexual coercion” along with examples, the rate rose to 75%.

 

How can we educate employees on company policies and procedures in response to sexual harassment?

Hard Truth: 90% of workers who have experienced harassment never formally reported it.

 

How can we not just perform preventative measures, but instead foster a culture of respect and civility among employees?

Hard Truth: Both male and female employees who observed hostility directed toward their female coworkers, not even dealing with the harassment directly, were more likely to experience lower psychological well-being.

 
The workplace is ever-evolving and our policies and preventions for Sexual Harassment need to keep up. It’s vital to the life of our businesses, to the bottom line, and to our employees’ well-being.

There are occasional advantages to being more outgoing at work. And while this post doesn’t assume that all extroverts are assertive and all introverts are not, it’s safe to say assertiveness does not often come natural to those of us who tend to keep to ourselves. In fact, research shows that 4 out of 5 introverts believe that having more extroverted traits would help them advance in the workplace.

assertiveness for introverts

Introverts, there is hope for you yet. It’s very possible to stay true to yourself and still assert yourself in the workplace. Here are a few pointers.

1. Listen and prepare.

One super strength of introverts is that they are more likely to listen first, then speak. Take advantage of this strength and prepare for your next meeting or project. Nothing will help your confidence levels like a well-researched plan, so take time (alone! yay!) to think through possible questions that might come up and rehearse your responses.

2. Be mindful.

Have to give a presentation but feel like puking? Take a moment to center yourself and release any doubts that are passing through your mind. Or, do a power pose in front of the mirror before you step into the conference room. Yes, we’re being completely serious. This can boost your confidence levels and give you a rush of adrenaline that you might need to conquer your next task or difficult conversation.

3. Explain your needs.

Whether you’re communicating with a coworker or your boss, learning to explain your needs can seriously impact the efficiency of your communication. Don’t expect them to read your mind. Clearly communicate which needs are not being met and how they can fulfill them. If you’re struggling to get to this step, make a list and think through possible scenarios before you meet with the person. Again, preparation is the key to confidence.

4. Use a communication method that works for you.

Some of us need to look the person in the eye when we’re dealing with a conflict. Others of us would prefer the written word. Whatever your style, just make sure you’re communicating clearly and appropriately. If you’re upset, write it out and wait before you hit SEND. Come back an hour later and revisit your draft. If you decide to meet in person, give the other party a heads up that you need to talk to them about something important. That will give them time to prepare and they’ll appreciate not being bombarded with a conflict.

5. Ask for advice when you need it.

Enjoying alone time doesn’t mean we should work like we’re on an island. This isn’t good for you or your team. Remember that you have resources all around you to tap into. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

For more advice on assertiveness, here’s an awesome read.

The Returnship

Have you seen the movie, “The Intern”? You know the one. Robert DeNiro comes out of retirement to work for a thriving start-up in the fashion industry run by Anne Hathaway. Funny, heart-warming, and inspiring, it’s a film that not only highlights the new “Lean In” culture with corporate feminism at its core, but also focuses on the generational gap that exists between DeNiro and his fellow co-workers. Returning to the workforce after a tech boom caused DeNiro’s character to face many new obstacles he might not have anticipated.

returnship

Don’t worry. We’re not writing a film review here. But “The Intern” got us thinking about this relatively new trend called the “Returnship”.

“Returnship” was a phrase coined by Goldman Sachs in 2008 when they developed an onboarding program specifically designed for people who had taken a break from the workforce, either to raise kids, serve in the military, or just simply, to take a break and reevaluate. Similar to an internship, their purpose in this program was to sharpen skills that they may not realize they need after taking an extended time off and to help these employees land a job, either at their firm or elsewhere.

But Goldman Sachs isn’t the only firm providing this service. In fact, you can find returnships from many other companies such as Deloitte, PwC, Ford, Johnson&Johnson and more!

If you’re thinking about a Returnship or offering the program to your employees, here are a couple of the benefits you can find:

Returnships Provide Tech Training

Technology is constantly changing. Whether you’ve taken 2 years off or 10 years off, chances are you have a few things to catch up on. By participating in a Returnship program, you have an opportunity to sharpen your skills, without neglecting your job responsibilities. Returnships can provide the support and training needed to do the job successfully: a win-win for both employees and employers.

Returnships Provide Equal Opportunity

43% of women take time off to raise families. This fact alone has made it difficult in the past for women to have equal opportunity in the workforce. Returnships are changing that. No matter the reason for taking a break, Returnships provide equal opportunities for men and women to step back into the workforce when they are ready while gaining the necessary skills and growing their network.

Returnships Provide Launching Pads

Many people returning to work may not be 100% sure what type of job they’re looking to fill. For some their previous job may not exist, while others might be considering a career switch. Returnships can be a great launching pad for experimenting with various types of roles and understanding the various nuances and changes of each. After completing a returnship, employees will be better informed and prepared for the role they’re stepping into.

The internet is full of mixed reviews when it comes to returnships. Are you thinking about implementing this program at your company? What are the obstacles you think you’ll face?

In 2003, Congress declared October National Work and Family Month. According to Former President Barack Obama’s official White House statement in 2010, “National Work and Family Month serves as a reminder to all of us, especially working caregivers, their families, and their employers, that while we have made great strides as a nation to adopt more flexible policies in the workplace, there’s more we can do.”

national work and family month

Great Strides

Yes, as a nation, we’ve come a long way and that’s worth celebrating. Less than 100 years ago, during World War II, women began to flood into the workforce, increasing from 27 percent of the working population to 37 percent in just five years, meaning one in four women were working outside the home for the first time. Today, 54 percent of the U.S. workforce are women, showing the great strides we’ve made in a relatively short amount of time.

There’s More We Can Do

But, October is off to a rough start. From natural disasters in Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico, to the mass shootings in Las Vegas, now more than ever is the time for employers to remember the humanity their companies were built to serve. This means providing a flexible work environment that understands the needs of parents and their growing families.

1. Provide Better Policies

This is the bare minimum of what companies can do to provide a flexible work environment for employees. While the Family and Medical Leave Act was implemented in 1993, the U.S. still falls way behind when it comes to providing mandatory paternity leave. The first thing an employer should do is provide policies that protect their employees against discrimination and encourage them to take necessary time away when starting their families.

2. Walk the Talk

Plenty of companies boast of their workplace flexibility, but few are actually practicing what they preach. We hear of countless employers providing “unlimited paid time-off” but the reality is without clear expectations or good management, employees are left with guilt and misunderstanding, and often take less days off than before. When thinking about expectations, this seems to incite negative connotations for many of us. But expectations can also mean encouraging an employee to stay home when they’re not feeling well or take a few days off when a big project wraps up. At PerkSpot, we are lucky to have implemented this policy with great success, but not without constant work and re-evaluation. It works because the managers provide clear expectations of when to take time off and when we should be in the office. Plus, they model the benefits by taking off for week-long family vacations or much-needed downtime.

3. Lead by Example

This brings us to our next point. No company policy in and of itself is going to solve problems. That’s where it’s important to hire and train effective managers who not only implement policies, but who can model this behavior to their team. No one feels safe to take time off when the boss is sneezing all day long in their office. Managers, take care of yourselves and take care of your team.

4. Bend the Rules

Even your most flexible policies might stand in the way, so don’t be afraid to bend a little. We’re all human and we all face circumstances out of our control. Think outside the HR box and get creative. There’s a time and a place for every rule so make sure you discuss when a situation might arise that requires a reassessment of company policies. Being flexible means being flexible… even when it comes to your policies.

What are some ways you’re celebrating National Work and Family Month? How has your company made strides to protect families inside the workplace?

coffee addiction Colorful Rocks

We love coffee, so we decided to offer you a little wisdom about this surprisingly healthful beverage. Coffee actually boasts a longer and more diverse list of health benefits than most superfoods, which is great news for the 54% of Americans adults who consume at least one cup a day. Below you will find a rundown of the not-so-obvious ways that coffee is good — one might even say great — for your health.

Below that are some additional tips for the best way to imbibe your caffeine, no matter your preferred source beverage (we didn’t forget you, tea and soda drinkers of the world!). It turns out that a bunch of the ways we normally consume caffeine (e.g. first thing in the morning) are actually the scientifically worst ways to do so, minimizing its effectiveness and increasing the likelihood that you’ll become a bona fide caffeine addict.

We’re the discount specialists here, so it’s important to us that you are getting the biggest bang for your caffeine buck.

coffee addiction Desk Plant

I. Coffee is the Workplace Super-Beverage

All the Antioxidants.

Nothing else comes close” to providing as many antioxidants in the American diet. In terms of antioxidants per serving, coffee “easily outranks” other popular sources like tea, chocolate, and cranberries. Coffee beans are particularly rich in disease-combatting quinines, which actually become more potent after roasting — dark roast fans rejoice!

Technically: Dates trump coffee for antioxidants per serving, but we thought it’d be easier to write a piece about why that drink you love is really awesome, rather than try to convince you to start eating dates on the daily.

Stress-Free Scent.

The simple aroma of coffee is shown to reduce stress stemming from sleep deprivation. An international group of scientists linked exposure to the scent off coffee with the boosted expression of genes and brain proteins that protect nerve cells from stress-related damage. This is a big one considering that 84% of Americans report under sleeping at least once a week.

Best for Your Brain.

People who consume 3-5 cups of coffee a day in adulthood are observed with a 65% decreased risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Coffee may decrease risk of Parkinson’s disease, and now this recent study finds that 2-4 cups of coffee a day can reduce movement-related symptoms in Parkinson’s patients.

Tea drinkers: There is some scientific evidence to suggest that tea has similarly favorable effects against cognitive decline, but the results are less consistent and less pronounced.

Your Liver Loves It.

A 22-year longitudinal study found that the risk of developing alcoholic liver cirrhosis decreased by 22% with each cup of coffee subjects drank per day. 1-4 daily cups of coffee are also demonstrated — although with less pronounced results — to help prevent other types of cirrhosis and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

10% Happier.

Coffee fanatics (think 4 cups a day) are 10% less likely to be depressed than those who don’t drink coffee. This finding holds true for both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee. Other studies suggest similar mood boosting effects for a more moderate 2-3 cups.

Take note: Sugary beverages — particularly soft drinks — have a higher risk of depression. For the best coffee-induced mood boost, we recommend drinking it unsweetened. (Your cavity-free teeth will be happier too!)

coffee addiction Colored Pencils

II. Don’t Drink Your Caffeine Like A Rookie

Cortisol Control.

If you’re like most of us, you probably have your first (or second or third) caffeinated beverage within an hour of waking up. This is basically the worst possible time to drink your caffeine. Our bodies run on a 24-hour hormonal cycle called the circadian clock. In the morning, our bodies to naturally release cortisol, a hormone that makes us feel alert and awake. If you typically wake up between 6am and 8am, peak cortisol production lasts until about 9am.

Don’t drink caffeine during peak cortisol production.

Cortisol not only reduces the effects of caffeine, but also spurs your body to build up a caffeine tolerance. The more often you consume caffeine during peak cortisol production, the more likely you are to become dependent on caffeine just to feel awake. So when should you drink it? Science says between 9:30am – 11am and 1:30pm – 5pm.

Slow and Steady.

Research suggests that small, frequent doses are the most effective way to consume caffeine. Caffeine peaks in the body between 30 and 60 minutes after consumption. Harvard Medical School researchers found that an hourly dose of 25-100mg with a daily maximum intake of 400mg is the optimal method for maximizing caffeine’s stimulant effects without experiencing the dreaded 3pm crash. (For reference: one cup of coffee typically contains about 100mg of caffeine.)

Learn more and test your knowledge with this Caffeine Quiz.

A popular book has circulated about relationships entitled “The Five Love Languages”. In his book, the author, Gary Chapman, discusses the different ways we give and receive love. He calls these various styles “Love Languages” as they provide insight into how we should communicate with our partner.

Every person is unique and has their own style (or language). As strange as it sounds, it got us thinking. Do we have workplace “love languages”? Does each individual have a preference for how they give and receive appreciation?

employee appreciation languages

We’ll break down Chapman’s these love languages and how they impact the workplace.

Words of Affirmation

Do you like when people write you a kind note or recognize you in a public forum? This love language goes way beyond romantic relationships. Kind words are incredibly impactful for employees who crave words of affirmation. A quick message on Slack, a short sentence in your weekly stand-up, or a handwritten note gives these employees the fuel they need to stay motivated throughout the week, or even, month.

Acts of Service

On the flip side, for others, actions speak louder than words. Do you feel most appreciated when someone offers to help with an assignment or better yet, finishes a project because they know you don’t have the time or energy to complete it? Acts of service can be big or small, but for many employees, this is the best way to show you appreciate all that they’re doing. Especially during busy season, managers who pitch in make all the difference when it comes to retaining their talent.

Receiving Gifts

This language can get a little tricky in the workplace, depending on your policies around gift giving and receiving. But, we’re not talking about diamond necklaces or new cars. Gifts can be as small as a cup of coffee when your employee comes in early or a non-tangible, like an early release when they’ve been pulling extra hours. Make sure you gauge which employees actually appreciate and desire these types of gestures. The last thing you want is to make them uncomfortable with your good intentions.

Quality Time

This is quite possibly the hardest language to weave into your work culture. That being said, for many employees, it’s also the most meaningful. Spending quality time getting to know your employees can not only show that you care about them, it can also provide powerful insights into their needs. Maybe it’s a quick walk around the block every month just to check-in. Or, you could schedule in time to really dive deep into what’s going on. No matter what your schedule allows, taking time out of your day to spend with them can make the difference between an engaged or a disgruntled employee.

Do you know how your employees prefer to be appreciated? Or better yet, how do you most often communicate your appreciation? Make sure you’re choosing the appropriate channel based on the employee to make the most of your recognition.

In human resources, we are constantly looking for ways to improve our interview process in order to hire great talent. And by great talent we don’t just mean qualified candidates, but individuals who provide an addition to our culture that we’d either been looking for or didn’t even realize we were missing.

But maybe the reason we’re not succeeding is because we’re conducting interviews like stuffy questionnaires and expecting to understand the intricacies of a prospect’s personality and previous experiences. Perhaps the answer to our interviewing woes comes through approaching the process like a journalist, rather than a hiring manager or recruiter.

storytelling interview tips

When a journalist sits down with their subject, they are trying to find something that makes them stick out. They want to hear what makes their story unique and different from all the other people they’ve researched before. It’s the same way when we interview a candidate. We want to find something that makes them different, whether in their previous careers, education, or just life experience.

The next time you sit down for an interview, consider the power of storytelling. Use these tips to hear their story and consider whether or not they’d be a good fit for your company and the role in question.

There is no right or wrong answer.

Best-selling author, Cal Fussman, puts it this way: “It’s more like you’re casting a movie and you know the part you need to cast for, and you know the traits that person’s going to need to make that job work for you and for that person. And so, it really isn’t a matter of this person’s bad or this person’s good. If you treat it like a casting director in a movie, you would say that’s the perfect person for that role.” Remember that there are multiple ways a candidate can answer your questions, or at least if you’re asking the right questions, that’s how it should be…

Ask the right questions.

We all know the tried and true “What’s your biggest weakness?”. Candidates have most likely pored over different responses trying to find the perfect one. Instead of asking something that they’ll hear in their other 20 interviews, consider asking questions that cut more to the core of your company culture. For example, if you’re hiring for a sports agency, ask them about the best game they ever played or witnessed. This is a great opportunity to not only gauge their passion for the industry, but to get them to tell a story. You’ll learn so much about their personality not only by the content that they share, but the way they share it.

Think outside the box, or at least, the office.

You might think conducting an interview has to happen within the four walls of your office or conference room, but that just isn’t true. If you conduct a lot of meetings at the nearby coffee shop, why not try it in your interview? Of course, find a place that’s still conducive for conversation, but a cup of coffee will definitely put you and your candidate at ease compared to the glare of fluorescent lights. In this way, they’ll feel more comfortable opening up when it’s time to share their story.

How do you get candidates to share their story? What are some questions you would ask?

An article was posted a few days ago that posed the question: “Can You Teach Work Ethic?”. Whether you are a Talent Management Director, a Human Resources Manager, a CEO, or just starting out in your career, you’ve probably come across employees who lack that special something.

Call it work ethic, gumption, motivation, or engagement. There are plenty of words to describe that characteristic that makes good employees, well… good.

motivating unmotivated employees

So is it possible to instill work ethic in the unmotivated? Is it a question of engagement or is it intrinsic?

Here are a few ways you can motivate even the most unmotivated of employees:

Talk it Out

First things first, you might need to get to the root of the problem. There could be many reasons why an employee is not putting their best foot forward: personal reasons, boredom, unclear expectations, etc. Schedule time to chat with the employee and keep an open mind about what they may be experiencing. Maybe they need more work on their plate or maybe they need a vacation. Figure out what they need from you and see how you can make that happen.

Empower Them Through Goal-Setting

After your conversation, make a plan for you and your employee. Set goals that help your employee feel empowered, not micro-managed. You can do this by making the goals a discussion, not a demand. By empowering them to take ownership of these expectations, they are more likely to stay motivated to follow-through.

Give Them Freedom to Make Mistakes

A lot of employees don’t take initiative because they’re afraid of failure. When setting goals, make sure they’re aware that the expectation is not perfection, but completion. As they work to complete a project or achieve a goal, ask questions along the way that let them know you’re in it together. Mistakes are inevitable and while you don’t want to encourage sloppy work, it’s important to create a forgiving environment for employees to take chances and risk failure.

Rinse and Repeat

Keep in mind that engaging employees should be an ongoing process, not a once a year thing. Schedule a monthly touch-base. Walk around the block for five minutes to get out of the office and help your employee feel comfortable opening up about where they’re struggling. Take this opportunity to point out where they succeeded and where they could improve. For particularly troublesome employees, let them know your expectations for the future if they continue to fall short.

Keeping unmotivated employees engaged is not easy, but it’s essential to cultivating the work culture we all desire. Follow these steps and if you don’t see improvement, it may be an issue of poor culture fit or the wrong position. Again, ask questions to get to the root of the issue. In the end, you’re after what’s best for the company and for the employee and sticking around when they’re unhappy isn’t good for either.