HR Specialist

Archive for October, 2009|Monthly archive page

Halloween – Celebrate Halloween at Work

In Human Resources on October 30, 2009 at 11:40 am

Traditions are important in companies just as they are in families. And, Halloween is one of the best holiday traditions to establish and to celebrate at work.

Halloween has climbed right up the holiday charts and is now the second most popular holiday, second only to Christmas, so it’s popular with employees, too. Celebrating Halloween at work appeals to the child in each of us and helps create a motivational, team work-oriented work culture.

Halloween is unconnected to any particular religion so diverse employees are rarely offended. The myriad activities associated with Halloween allow you to schedule few or many events while still celebrating Halloween at work. As with any event that is not part of the content of the work, participation in any Halloween festivities is voluntary. No employee should feel pressured to celebrate Halloween at work.

How to Celebrate Halloween at Work

As with any employee event, you will want to form a small, cross-functional committee to plan and execute the Halloween at work events. Rather than all organizational event planning landing in the lap of the Human Resources staff, rotating primary responsibility for holidays from department to department is important.

This rotation allows for team building and leadership development across the company, since planning and executing holiday celebrations builds staff skills. Additionally, when different departments “own” holidays, staff are more likely to participate and fresh ideas are generated. The tradition of the celebration is important, but new and original activities, along with the tried and true, are welcome. Finally, participation on the planning team further develops staff team work skills.

Celebration Ideas for Halloween at Work

These ideas will spark your creative thinking and open up the world of possibilities for celebrating Halloween at work. And, they are all doable since my client companies have done them all.

  • Costume Party or Parade: No Halloween celebration at work would be complete without the opportunity for staff to wear costumes. You can keep the event simple and encourage people to just wear their costume to work for the day. Or, you can make the celebration more elaborate and hold a party or an official parade of costumed employees throughout the company.Staff voting for their favorite costume is often a popularity contest – yup, I’m a realist – so, to counter this, I recommend multiple categories of awards. Try best costume, funniest costume, most sophisticated costume, costume that took the most work to make, scariest costume, and most creative costume. Advertise the awards in advance and provide a nice gift to the winners such as a gift certificate or catalog certificate.
  • Halloween Breakfast: Cider and doughnuts make a popular breakfast treat for Halloween. So might pumpkin and apple breads, pumpkin pie, pumpkin coffee cake, or pumpkin and apple muffins. For healthy eating, assorted fruits top off the meal, and do make the breakfast a team building celebration. Ask employees to spend some time together rather than retreating with their breakfast to their office or cubicle.
  • Halloween Luncheon: You can make a Halloween at work luncheon as seasonal as breakfast. Or, you can order pizza, sandwich wraps, submarines, or any other luncheon menu. Most restaurants will deliver for a large crowd even if they don’t advertise that they do. This enables employees to work until the event is scheduled.
  • Halloween Decorations: Offer prizes for best and most festively decorated work area. You can give awards like the awards suggested above for costumes. Enhance the team building aspects of this competition by encouraging teams of people to work together to decorate their shared work area.
  • Pumpkin Carving Contests: Start at around 4 p.m. so staff can bring their children in for the pumpkin carving contest. TechSmith Corporation makes this an annual event and the company product evangelist takes pumpkin carving pictures to share.
  • Trick or Treating (Without the Tricking): Not just for children, you can encourage all employees to bring treats to share and employees can go cubicle to cubicle or door to door trick or treating. Provide each employee with a Halloween trick or treat bag for fun.–Because trick or treating is for children, too, you can hold a costume party for staff children, schedule trick or treating with the employees, and serve cider and doughnuts for all. The children are amazing in their costumes and your employees will enjoy the event. Many, like me, may live where they don’t see any trick or treaters.

    –To appeal to the philanthropic hearts of your staff, a form of employee team building and staff motivation that is growing in popularity with the new generations of employees, invite children with special needs to trick or treat, too.

  • Schedule Philanthropic Activities for Volunteers: Use your imagination to find community events, activities, and needs and assist with them. Company employees have visited elder care centers in full costume and passed out treats. They have visited pediatric care facilities at hospitals. And, they have run clothing and food collection drives for local churches, charities, and food banks.
  • Bobbing for Apples and Other Games: Bobbing for apples is a tradition many of your employees will decide to skip, but it’s fun for those who are interested. It’s a laughter generator for those who are not. Team building games and activities, that are active in nature and without the potential to embarrass, work best for Halloween celebrations at work.

Halloween celebrations at work are a popular way to mark the occasion of this increasingly widely celebrated holiday. The Halloween celebration at work is positive for employee morale and team building. Sounds like a real winner to me.


Is Twitter a Recruiting Tool?

In Human Resources on October 28, 2009 at 10:54 am

Once depicted as a trendy social media experiment, Twitter has officially arrived. From cell phone integration to CNN broadcasts, we can no longer escape the fact that Twitter is not a passing fad. The site once criticized for a complete lack of utility has evolved into one of the most flexible tools available in the social media space. HR departments, Corporate Recruiters and Job Seekers have taken notice. Twitter has become an important tool in corporate recruiting.

In the current job market companies are clamoring to hang on to their talent. Blasting out new positions in real-time is an exciting strategy to target quality candidates. The fact of the matter is that there are more job seekers than jobs. This situation results in the limited number of prime candidates being scooped up with greater urgency. Despite the fact that there are less job openings, publicizing your new positions is critical to landing top talent.

Another interesting facet of Twitter’s contribution to the recruiting field is an enhanced ability to find passionate candidates. Companies that actively rely on twitter to publicize new job openings create a channel for passionate supporters and potential future employees to track. For example, A software engineer who thoroughly enjoys the online music service will be more likely to respond to a new job opening if the candidate can track the available positions for Pandora in real-time.

Perhaps Twitter’s most impressive function in the recruiting process is to establish a company’s reputation for hiring quality, renowned talent. Spacex, the growing rocket company founded by Elon Musk, uses Twitter to announce talent acquisition. When Spacex hired former astronaut Ken Bowersox they tweeted out the news. This PR strategy serves to build a reputation around the human capital at a company. The more talented super stars that a candidate perceives to work for your company, the more likely that candidate will want to join your ranks. Ultimately companies want top candidates beating down the doors to get a chance to join the team. Twitter can help make this desire a reality.

A few smart software companies are working to seamlessly integrate Twitter and other social media sites into the recruiting process. These applicant tracking providers allow corporate recruiters to automatically post new positions to Twitter. Whenever a new job goes live the system will tweet out the new position. As more recruiting software packages leverage the Twitter API, Twitter will become more integral to the hiring process.

The recent Twitter revolution in the recruiting field is only a subset of how the social media site is affecting business across the board. With adoption rates soaring and users hunting out innovative applications for the service, Twitter’s inherent flexibility may become its killer feature.

5 Reasons Why It’s a Good Idea to Call in Sick

In Human Resources on October 19, 2009 at 11:45 am

Do you dread calling in sick? Whether it’s the fear of a judgmental boss or just concerns about missing out on important happenings, health experts want to put you at ease. There are times when making the call is a must. Confused about whether staying home is a good idea? Here are five signs that a sick day is in order…

According to a recent poll, only 21 percent of readers say they make a point to stay home when they’re sick. The rest of you do sometimes or not at all.

Guys! The world will not end if you stay home and a.) rest and recover so you can get well again, and b.) prevent the spread of your germs to others.

But, I know it can be confusing about whether a sick day is in order–especially at 6 a.m. Here are five signs, from the experts at WebMD, that you need to make the call to your boss and head back to bed:

1. If you wake up feel pretty icky with a sore throat and the sniffles (which weren’t there yesterday). Health experts say that the first few hours/days of a virus tend to be the most contagious, so spare your co-workers your germs and keep your sneezy self at home until the following day.

2. If you’re taking medications that may (even slightly) impair your ability to do a good job. Whether it’s a prescription medication or just over-the-counter cold meds that makes you feel like a space cadet, if the medicine you’re taking is impairing you in any way, it’s best to stay home.

3. If you have a bad sinus infection. Experts say that sinus infections can cause yellow or green nasal discharge, jaw pain, facial pain, and headaches–all of which are a major blow to concentration. Your best bet? Stay home and use your neti pot, and maybe venture out, but only to see your doctor.

4. If you have pink eye. The majority of “pink eye” is viral and clears up on its own in about 24 to 48 hours. Other cases are bacterial pink eye, and you need antibiotic eye drops from your doc. Both, however, are extremely contagious, so unless you want dirty looks from your office mates, better stay home!

5. Bad back pain. You may feel like a wimp calling in sick because your back hurts, but don’t! Experts say sitting at a desk all day can actually aggravate your back and make the pain worse. Instead, after a mega back spasm, spend the day at home taking it easy.

Top Twitter Tips

In Human Resources on October 13, 2009 at 11:42 am

Silly time waster? Sure. Powerful business tool? You bet.

You’ve heard about Twitter — that curious, strangely addictive social-networking technology that facilitates torrents of truncated messages among millions of users. You might even know your hashtags from your re-tweets. But how can you make money with it?

Forbes canvassed scads of businesses and pricey social-networking gurus looking for honest answers. Admittedly, we were skeptical. After all, how much can you accomplish in 140 characters or less?

Turns out there are myriad ways Twitter can have an impact, and not just as a marginal marketing tool. Indeed, we found several clever ways to use Twitter, for everything from boosting sales and scouting talent to conducting market research and raising capital. Chances are there will be many more.

Focus groups

Back in the old days (last year), companies actually paid customers to solicit their opinions. There were 3.37 million mentions of Starbucks on Twitter through early May 2009, and all of that information is available for less than the cost of a Frappucino. “There is a major element of Twitter that’s about listening and learning,” says Brad Nelson, the man behind @Starbucks. “Twitter is a leading indicator.” Collecting the information is as simple as searching for references to your company.

Morgan Johnston, manager of corporate communications at JetBlue Airways, abolished a $50 fee for carry-on bikes after hearing complaints via Twitter. “Think of Twitter as the canary in the coal mine,” says Johnston. “We watch for customers’ discussions about amenities we have, and what they’d like to see made better.” For a more formal approach, lob a simple post asking for feedback and provide a hashtag to collect the responses.

Poaching customers

“Twitter is not just a kid story,” says Chris Brogan, president of New Marketing Labs. Brogan should know: He is one of several Twitter experts advising companies on how to spy on their competition and swoop in with a better service or discount.

Freesource’s Egan describes how to do it: Using TweetDeck, set up a permanent search for all permutations of your competitor’s name, as well as words that convey dissatisfaction (“sucks” or “hate”). Public replies to those new prospects are dangerous, as your competition may see them, so the best bet is to follow them and get followed back, allowing you to send direct messages.

Customer expectation management

Bad things happen — it’s how you condition customers to deal with them that counts. JetBlue tweets flight delays. In April, when a Stanley Cup hockey broadcast was interrupted, cable provider Comcast used Twitter to immediately inform its subscribers that the culprit was a lightning storm and that transmission would soon be restored.

Small companies — like United Linen, a linens and uniform company in Bartlesville, Okla. — can manage expectations this way, too. When a major snowstorm hit the area, Marketing Director Scott Townsend used Twitter to let customers know deliveries would be delayed. “It was a great way to send information to everyone,” he says. “They understood we wouldn’t be there, but they wanted to know what our status was and updates as the situation changed.”

Corralling eyeballs

During last year’s NBA Eastern Conference Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Orlando Magic, Turner Broadcasting managed to weave social-media feeds into its home page. Fans accessed the conversation by logging onto Twitter through, and the tweets were also posted on Twitter with links back to Those forums mean more Web traffic — and thus more advertising revenue. “It’s exciting to sell this to an advertiser,” said Liza Hausman, vice president of marketing for Gigya Socialize, the brains behind the integration technology.

Vendor selection

Twitter can snag customers, but how about suppliers? Crowdspring, an online marketplace that marries businesses with graphic designers (see “The Creativity of Crowds“), used Twitter to build up its stable of contributors — now 12,000 strong globally.

Business travelers can apply this same logic: Tweeting that you’re about to visit a city can scare up discount offers from hotels, bus companies and other travel-services providers.

Conflict resolution

Wiggly Wigglers, a Herfordshire, U.K.-based marketer of gardening and farming supplies, was recently overcharged $10,500 by British Telecom. Five months passed without restitution.

Finally, Wiggly owner Heather Gorringe hit the Twitter-sphere, asking if anyone else had had problems with BT. @BTCare sent Gorringe a message within 30 minutes promising help; two days later, the bill was amended. “When I phone them up, I’m an isolated call to deal with, so I’m less important,” says Gorringe. “But if I tweet, and 1,193 people re-tweet, 100,000 people see it within 30 seconds.”

Employee recruitment

Sodexo, a food services and facilities management company, trains its recruiters on Twitter and other social media. An automated program sends prospects a direct message whenever a position opens up, and the messages are opened 30 percent of the time.

The trick, says Arie Ball, vice president of talent acquisition at Sodexo, is to be as personal and engaging as possible: “People get an insider’s view, a sense if this is a company they want to work for.” The company says that using Twitter as a recruitment tool has helped cut its investment in online job boards by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Raising capital

As in the physical world, no one likes to be solicited for contributions online. A better Twitter tack: Don’t ask, just inform.

Last Thanksgiving, Epic Change, a nonprofit that encourages people to tell their stories to transform communities, launched the Tweetsgiving Web site, with the help of theKbuzz, a word-of-mouth marketing firm. Tweetsgiving asked people to tweet what they were grateful for, and compiled the responses at #tweetsgiving, with a link back to the Tweetsgiving site, where users had the option of contributing money to build classrooms in Tanzania.

Over the 48-hour campaign, 15,000 people came to the Tweetsgiving site; 360 donated, for a total of $11,000. “We never asked people to give,” says Stacey Monk, founder of Epic Change. “We got people invested in their own, personalized way.”

Employee Retention: 7 Tactics to Retain Your Most Valuable Asset

In Human Resources on October 12, 2009 at 9:12 am

A survey developed by Robert Half International and independently conducted with 100 Canadian senior executives between September 15 and October 15, 2008 stated that 35% of the senior executives had employee retention as their greatest staffing concern. Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International, states “Companies that lose top performers may not only experience declines in productivity but also incur significant costs in replacing these professionals.”

Furthermore, two additional recent studies have shown that smart organizations are investing in employee retention and engagement to weather the current recession. According to Douglas Matthews, President and CEO of Right Management, one-third of North American companies are planning to reduce their employees this year but the other two-thirds are planning to “develop the employees they have to meet current and future needs so they can respond quickly to changing market demands and remain competitive.” These forward-thinking employers are seeking ways to keep their employees engaged so they don’t become disengaged workers.

The other report, Hewitt Associates’ annual 50 Best Employers, states that “Businesses that invest in employees and have high employee engagement have a competitive advantage in their ability to make it through a recession.” These companies will emerge from the recession stronger and healthier unlike the companies whose workforce has been decimated.

Here are 7 tactics for retaining your employees through these times of confusion and uncertainty:

1. Communicate effectively with your employees. This is the most critical tactic of all. Assumptions and speculations are deadly to employee morale and the health of the organization. Nip rumors in the bud by being honest with your employees about what is happening in the organization. Encourage your workers to share their concerns with you and in turn share your concerns with them. This fosters openness and trust between all parties involved.

2. Search for ways to redeploy employees. It doesn’t make sense, financially or otherwise, to get rid of valuable employees during an economic downturn. When the recession is over you will need to replace these workers and at what cost? Instead, shift these workers to other areas that are still performing well. You will demonstrate your loyalty to them, garner their loyalty to you, and retain valuable company assets. Employees that leave companies take valuable knowledge with them.

3. Make wiser choices when hiring employees and managers. Consider the corporate culture that this prospective employee or manager must fit into and determine if there is a match. Utilize various personality assessments that are available to you. Doing so will ensure that not only will the employee/manager match the company’s expectations but the company will match the employee’s or manager’s expectations. After all, a square peg doesn’t fit easily into a round hole.

4. Be an effective, ethical leader. A well-known study published by Florida State University in Fall 2007 issue of The Leadership Quarterly stated that:

* 39% of workers said their supervisor failed to keep promises * 37% indicated their supervisor failed to give credit when due * 31% said their supervisor gave them the “silent treatment” during the past year * 27% report their supervisor made negative comments about them to other employees or managers * 24% indicated their boss invaded their privacy * 23% said their supervisor blamed other to cover up personal mistakes or minimize embarrassment

In essence, employees don’t leave bad companies – they leave bad bosses. Make sure you are not one of them!

5. Be a great motivator, innovator, and leader. Inspire your employees to achieve great things. Believe in their capabilities. Encourage them often to stretch out of their comfort zones. Listen to their ideas and implement them. In a nutshell, champion them and they will champion you and the company.

6. Treat employees fairly and respectfully. Your employees are your company’s best asset and you must protect and nurture them. Whether you know it or not, you are in the business of growing people. Let them know how valuable their contributions are to the company. Honor your commitments to them. Create a learning environment for them where they, and you, can achieve the highest potential.

7. Provide alternate work schedules. Some companies have implemented programs for flexible hours, telecommuting, job sharing, four-day work weeks, and transportation subsidies. This allows employees to gain greater control over how, where, and when they work which leads to better work/life balance and helps to retain them.

Employers who are able to minimize their employee turnover during this recession period are going to emerge from it stronger and healthier than those companies whose employees have defected. Do everything you can to make sure that you keep your employees happy, engaged, and productive. Your company depends on it.

10 fibs we all tell and how to stop

In Human Resources on October 6, 2009 at 10:47 am

 After reading the title of this article, your first thought was hopefully, “No, I shouldn’t lie at work.” Upon further reading, however, you’ll realize that try as you might; everyone lies in the workplace.

Remember when you told your boss you liked his tie, which was obviously hideous? Or when you told your co-worker you were working late, when you really just didn’t want to ride the train with her? Both are lies.

Clearly, these minor fibs aren’t hurting anyone, but they aren’t helping, either. So why lie in the first place?

“While some people actually intend to be deceptive, many lies [are told with the] intention to do well or to avoid rocking the boat,” says Marsha Egan, president of The Egan Group, a professional coaching firm. “Others occur when people try to avoid the boss noticing a mistake in performance, or covering for some other behavior that could hurt their career. Many workers have the mistaken impression that a small white lie can’t hurt.”

They’re wrong.

Timothy Keiningham and Lerzan Aksoy, co-authors of “Why Loyalty Matters,” say although it’s tempting to lie, even just a little, you run the risk of losing peoples’ trust, or even your job.

“It’s easy to say, ‘Everyone else is doing it, so I’ll do it, too.’ It’s much harder to take an ethical stand and insist on honesty. Lying, however, is almost never in anyone’s interest and should be avoided,” Keiningham and Aksoy say.

To lie or not to lie

The occasional white lie is usually harmless, but most experts say it’s easier to be honest from the get-go.

B.J. Gallagher, a workplace consultant and author of “It’s Never Too Late to be What You Might Have Been,” says almost everyone lies at work at one time or another, usually in situations where they fear consequences for telling the truth.

“Is this lying OK? It depends on the context. In general, honesty is the best policy. If you tell the truth you don’t have to worry about being caught in a lie, you won’t have to tell more lies to cover up the first one and you won’t have to carry the burden of deception,” Gallagher says.

10 common fibs 

Here are 10 little white lies that we often tell in the workplace, why we tell them and what we should say instead.

Lie No.1: I’d be happy to
Truth: This is the last thing I want to do.
Say this instead: “Tell your boss that you would be happy to help him/her with the task, but you need to find out more about what the task entails. At this point, share your concern,” Keiningham and Aksoy say. If you need more time, ask for an extended deadline; if you need resources, figure out what you need and be prepared to ask if it would be possible to acquire these.

Lie No. 2: My alarm didn’t go off
Truth: I was out late last night and didn’t actually hear my alarm go off.
Say this instead: “Lies about tardiness only work once or twice. If you repeatedly use the alarm clock excuse, or the traffic excuse, then your boss and others will catch on and you’ll lose credibility — or worse,” Gallagher says. “If you are generally a punctual person and happen be late once in awhile, it’s best to fess up, apologize and promise not to do it again. ‘I’m so sorry. I didn’t allow enough time to get here this morning. I apologize. I’ll make sure I allow plenty of time from here on out.'” 

Lie No.3: I don’t have any questions
Truth: I totally don’t understand what I’m doing, but don’t want to look stupid.
Say this instead: “When you are totally confused about something, saying that you have no questions will not gain you points with the boss,” Egan says. “Most times, the boss can see right through this. Be honest and admit that you may be confused, and that you will get your questions together, or spend some time reading the material so that you can answer your own questions.”

Lie No.4: Everything is under control
Truth: Everything is not under control.
Say this instead: “An alternative to this might be: ‘We seem to have hit a rough patch — can I get your advice?'” Gallagher suggests. “If you can enlist your boss’s help in solving whatever problem you’re having, you can actually strengthen your relationship with him or her. Sometimes, admitting weakness and asking for help is actually a sign of maturity and strength.”

Lie No.5: I just got your voice mail
Truth: I got your voice mail a week ago; I’ve just been avoiding getting back to you.
Say this instead: “Many voice mail and e-mail systems have the capability of disclosing when items are heard or viewed, therefore this behavior is risky,” Egan warns. It is much better to not say when you received it, but just, “I am responding to your voice mail,” or “I received your voice mail Friday and am just now able to respond to it,” she says.

Lie No.6: Let’s get together soon!
Truth: I have no intention of getting together with you … ever.
Say this instead: “Why people say [this] to someone they never really intend to meet or who they don’t like is beyond me. Not only do they set off false hope, but by not meeting with the person, they have not delivered on a promise,” Egan says. “Say, ‘I’m glad we had a chance to meet,’ or ‘thanks for your views on this subject.'”

Lie No.7: I was thinking the exact same thing
Truth: I was thinking something totally different, but I want to seem agreeable.
Say this instead: “What makes breakthroughs and change happen is creativity in thinking and helping others see a viable different perspective,” Keiningham and Aksoy say. “If you have a valid reason for disagreeing, then collect the evidence and make your point heard. Sure this is a risk, but as the saying goes, nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

Lie No.8: Oh yeah, I’ve done that before
Truth: I have no idea what this project is, or how to do it.
Say this instead:  “Can you honestly learn the skills to complete the task in time for the deadline? If so, then go ahead and acquire the skills or ask someone for help to get the job done,” Keiningham and Aksoy say. “If there is no way to learn everything you need in a reasonable timeframe, then you need to be honest and either ask for an extension or transfer the task onto someone else.”  

Lie No.9: I’m sick
Truth: I need a day off.
Say this instead: “There are two primary reasons that employees abuse sick time and lie to avoid work: They have a lousy relationship with their immediate boss, or their work is repetitive, boring, unchallenging and mind-numbing,” Gallagher says. “If employees are calling in sick when they’re well, the boss needs to take responsibility and do something to address the real reason that employees are lying.” If you want a day off, request one.

Lie No.10: This will only take a minute
Truth: This will take forever.
Say this instead: “While it may be wishful thinking on the boss’s or co-worker’s part, discussions rarely take only a minute. Make a truthful assessment of about how much time you think the discussion will take,” Egan says. “It is better to say, ‘I’d like to discuss ABC — I think it should take only about 10 to 15 minutes; can we set a time to discuss this?'”