Author Archives: Marcia G. Rhodes

Marcia G. Rhodes

About Marcia G. Rhodes

Marcia G. Rhodes serves as spokeswoman and PR manager for WorldatWork. She is a columnist for human resources and talent management topics. Previously, Rhodes was a Senior Marketing Manager for Accenture. Rhodes has been quoted in Baltimore Sun, Chicago Sun-Times, San Jose Mercury News, The Houston Chronicle, The Arizona Republic, Career Journal, Phoenix Business Journal, to name a few.

Work-Life Programs, Balancing Work and Family

Work-Life Programs, Balancing Work And Family

I spent several hours this week reviewing nomination forms for the Top Workplaces for Women in the Valley. It was refreshing to read that numerous Valley employers offer work-life programs to help workers (both men and women) minimize work-life conflict.

The programs include standard practices such as flexible work schedules, job sharing, telework, backup childcare, etc. Several programs are innovative and uncommon enough to mention, including a sick child-care service where the employer provides a nanny for the day and one where new mothers are given the opportunity to bring their babies to work until he/she is six months old. Sounds great, yes, but I couldn’t help but wonder how many employees actually take advantage of these programs?

Earlier this year, WorldatWork collaborated (with WFD Consulting) on a global survey  that revealed a growing imbalance between what employers say about work-life balance and what they actually do. We uncovered workplace trends showing employees suffer a variety of job repercussions for participating in work-life programs, even when their employers insist they support them.

“This conundrum can be so oppressive that some employees go underground, resorting to ‘stealth maneuvers’ for managing their personal responsibilities,” says Kathie Lingle, executive director of WorldatWork’s Alliance for Work-Life Progress.

“The good news is that 80 percent of employers avow support for family-friendly workplaces,” says Lingle, a WorldatWork work-life certified professional (WLCP). “The bad news is they are simultaneously penalizing those who actively strive to integrate work with their lives.”

Employee respondents reported repercussions that included:

  • Overtly or subtly discouraged from using flexible work and other work-life programs
  • Received unfavorable job assignments
  • Received negative performance reviews
  • Received negative comments from supervisor
  • Denied a promotion

Many managers still think the ideal employee is one that is available to meet business needs regardless of business hours and don’t have a lot of personal commitments. Clearly, closing the gap between what managers believe and how they behave will make every workplace a better place to work.

I welcome comments from readers who have experienced employer support or encouragement for balancing work and family.

For more information about work-life programs or WorldatWork visit,


WorldatWork 2011-2010 Salary Budget Survey

Salary Budget Survey: Salaries Can’t Keep Up With Inflation

WorldatWork’s 2011-2010 Salary Budget Survey - For the first time since 1980 the U.S. rate of inflation is higher than the average salary budget increase. During the 12-month period ending April 2011, the Consumer Price Index was 3.2%. Average pay increases for the same period? 2.8%.

Why haven’t pay increases kept up with the rate of inflation? A host of factors — particularly high unemployment – are conspiring to keep salary increase budgets low.

With the nation’s unemployment rate averaging 9.4 percent, the law of supply and demand is at play. Salaries may only see significant improvement if unemployment decreases, which would put pressure on employers to raise wages in order to stay competitive.

Successful organizations will not pay more than necessary for any expenditure, and with low risk of losing employees to other organizations, higher increases are not justified at this time,” explained Don Lindner, senior practice leader at WorldatWork, a global HR association headquartered in Arizona.

Skeptics need only look at companies in mining, quarrying, oil and gas. Because these industries are currently experiencing a shortage of skilled labor, their 2012 planned salary budgets are above average, at 4.1%.

U.S. employees in other industries, on the other hand, can expect average pay increases of 2.9% in 2012, though it may be closer to 4.0% for high performers.

About the Salary Budget Survey

The “WorldatWork 2011-2010 Salary Budget Survey” includes data from more than 2,400 participants, representing nearly 15 million U.S. employees. The data, collected in April 2011, represents a wide variety of U.S. companies and industries, distributed across all 50 states.

Dad working from home

Do Men Care About Work-Life Balance?

In a word, yes! When it comes to work and family, men and women are more alike than different, according to a new research study of employees around the world. This finding conflicts with a widely held assumption that male identity is rooted in work, whereas women place a higher priority on personal and family life.

The Global Study on Men and Work-Life Integration (WorldatWork and WFD Consulting 2011) sought to understand how organizations can remove the stereotypes and barriers that prevent men from utilizing work-life offerings, as well as what prevents leaders and managers, who are often men, from supporting the use of work-life options.

Findings include:

Work-life programs are not as effective as they can be because managers still cling to the notion that the “ideal worker” is an employee with few personal commitments. A majority of managers still believe that the most productive employees are those without a lot of personal commitments.

Financial stress is a top work-life issue across country and gender, and the top issue for most. Employees increasingly spend part of their on-the-job time addressing financial concerns. Employers can ease this stress by increasing employee assistance programs, offering financial counseling programs, and being as transparent as possible about the corporate financial situation and job security.

“Working men and women around the world seek the same holy grail: success in both their work and family lives,” said Kathie Lingle, WLCP, executive director of WorldatWork’s Alliance for Work-Life Progress. “The assumption that male identity is rooted in work and not family is a major impediment to the effective integration of employees’ work and family lives.”

Added Peter Linkow, president of WFD Consulting: “Leaders must give voice to their own stories of work-life integration, warts and all. This would be a powerful step toward reducing employees’ fears that utilizing the benefits they have been given will jeopardize their careers.  This is especially important in a climate where financial stress and job security are top-of-mind for workers.”

Sign-on bonus

Your Next Job Offer May Include A Sign-On Bonus

Despite it being a buyers’ market, employers say they are willing to pay sign-on bonuses to attract the right talent. A new WorldatWork study found that, despite budget cuts, a majority (54 percent) of (mostly large) U.S. employers are still offering sign-on bonuses to new employees, especially key new hires filling critical positions.

A sign-on or signing bonus is a sum of money paid to a new employee by a company as an incentive to join that company. Sign-on bonuses are almost exclusively given to full-time salaried employees of a company, as opposed to a temporary hire or intern. They are often given as a way of making a pay package more attractive to the job candidate.

According to the WorldatWork survey on bonus programs (to be released in early May), sign-on bonuses continue to be fairly prevalent for all employee levels (except clerical) within organizations.  Most employee groups are typically eligible for amounts between $1,000 and $9,999, but many executives have been known to receive more than $10,000.

With today’s unemployment rates, the sign-on bonus may come as a (pleasant) surprise to many job candidates. This is because despite the current economic slump, there remains a shortage of qualified employees in certain hard-to-fill positions.

Sign-on bonuses can help:

To be competitive

If the candidate is considering another comparable job offer, some money up front can be the clincher.

To bridge a gap

If what the candidate is asking for and what the employer is willing to offer is off by a few grand, this is a way to make up the difference.

To replace a lost benefit

When some benefit or perk with the present employer is not part of the offered package, a sign-on bonus might make up for, say, the absence of a car allowance or diminished amount of vacation time with the new employer.

To cover a performance bonus

If a candidate won’t leave their current company until a certain time so they can first collect their annual bonus, a sign-on bonus can sweeten the deal.

Need further proof that companies are using bonuses to attract talent? Sixty percent of the 1,023 surveyed companies have a referral bonus program, whereby cash bonuses are paid to employees who refer new hires.

Japan Disaster

The Japan Disaster Points Out The Need For Business Continuity Plans

I have fond memories of Japan. I have visited the country four times, spent one memorable night sleeping on the floor of a Buddhist temple in Kyoto, and several months studying at Sophia University in Tokyo. In the summer of 1981, I felt an earthquake measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale. As I stood at the train station in Chiba Prefecture, pausing to look around to see if it was appropriate to rush for cover, I witnessed firsthand what the news media has been praising the Japanese people for: discipline, orderliness, relative calm.

The recent devastation in Japan is a grim and frightening reminder of the need for disaster preparedness. For organizations, that means business continuity and disaster recovery plans critical to managing a work force during a disruptive crisis.

The following are a few basic reminders:

Educate Employees

Education may be an employers’ most powerful tool in managing the risks associated with a disaster. Ensure that employees have a basic understanding of what they should do in a possible disaster. Here is a tip health authorities have recommended should a nuclear explosion or fallout occur:

During nuclear fallout, stay indoors. If you’re in an office building when a blast occurs, run to an interior room, preferably one without windows. If you’re in a multi-story building, the safest floors will be the middle floors or underground areas. Do not get in your car and leave. Stay indoors for at least four to eight hours until you receive the all-clear from authorities.

Conduct a Benefits Review

Consider conducting a review of information about insurance, leave policies, working from home, issues related to possible income loss, and when not to come to work.

Establish Telework Programs and Policies

If you don’t have a telework program in place, establish one now before disaster strikes. Decide which jobs can be done remotely and give those employees the tools they need to continue operating.

Establish a Phone Tree

Create a single document that lists all employees’ contact information: home and cell phone numbers, emergency contacts, personal email addresses, perhaps a central voice mailbox or social network for employees to inform their employers of their status.

No one ever knows when disaster — whether nuclear, health-related or natural — will strike. Good business practices require that risks be managed to mitigate the effect of any kind of interruption. That is the essence of business continuity planning:  Ensuring an organization has contingencies in place that allow it to keep running and quickly (and calmly) recover from a disaster.

Flexible Workplaces

How Flexible is Your Workplace?

Employers are more flexible than we sometimes give them credit. A new WorldatWork study, Survey on Workplace Flexibility, revealed that there are 12 types of flexibility programs in use in the workplace today, and while a vast majority – 98 percent — of employers offer at least one, the average number of programs offered at one time is six.

The most prevalent programs are flex-time, or flexible start/stop times; part-time schedules, which are with or without benefits; and teleworking on an ad hoc basis, or working from home to meet a repair person, sick child, etc. Each of these programs is offered to some or all employees in more than 80 percent of surveyed companies. When offered, they are also the most commonly used by employees, with flex-time the highest ranked.

Different flexibility programs are popular in different sectors — part-time schedules are more common among non-profit organizations; ad hoc telework is more frequently offered by publicly traded companies; and compressed workweeks are more prevalent among public sector organizations.

There are two types of compressed workweeks:
1.    4/10: work four 10-hour days each week
2.    9/80: work nine 9-hour days over a two-week period, with one day off every other week

The WorldatWork survey noted that most of these workplace flexibility programs are offered informally, i.e., no written policies or forms, up to manager discretion, no training, etc.

The study also found that companies with a culture of flexibility experience lower voluntary turnover rates, which is not surprising because a majority of employers report flexibility programs have a positive impact on employee satisfaction, motivation and engagement. However, the study did uncover several obstacles to the adoption of flexibility programs including lack of training, top management resistance — more so than middle management, and lack of employee interest in programs such as phased retirement.

“When it comes to workplace flexibility programs, culture trumps policy,” says Rose Stanley, a practice leader for WorldatWork. “It’s not about the quantity or formality of programs offered; it’s about how well-supported and implemented the programs are across the organization.”

Tailoring Jobs

Tailoring In The Workplace May Lead To A Better Fit

A good fit between employer and employee ups the chances that the employee will find his or her job fulfilling and be more productive. This was confirmed by a study sponsored by WorldatWork, “Organizational Culture and Total Rewards: Person-Organization Fit (2010),” which found that employees who share similar values with their organizations tend to be more satisfied with the total rewards packages offered by those organizations. And that kind of employee satisfaction enhances employee engagement.

But wait, it’s not as simple as it sounds. Surprisingly, the same study found that employees who are more satisfied with their organization’s standard benefits package are less likely to be engaged in their work. That’s because benefits packages, which are uniformly distributed among employees of a similar classification, are perceived differently than other rewards such as bonuses, which are performance based.

“This research has several practical implications for employers,” said Ryan Johnson, vice president of research for WorldatWork. “If organizations want to have engaged employees, it makes sense for them to attract and hire people who share similar values to the organization. It’s also important for them to offer a total rewards package tailored for their employees and not just a standard benefits package.”

Employee engagement is a key ingredient among workers who are committed to the mission and goals of their organization. Employees are more committed to organizations whose values align with their own. If an organization is socially minded, it would do well to hire employees who value corporate social responsibility. If a hospital’s mission is to provide integrated health care, it will have an easier time attracting and retaining physicians who value collaboration. If a company’s goal is to revolutionize digital music, it ought to hire creative people with an appetite for some risk.

Sounds like all one has to do to ensure productivity is to hire employees with similar values to begin with, right?  Not necessarily, says Johnson.

“For innovation-driven companies, hiring like-minded employees could have a negative impact on innovation within the organization. You need to consider all the factors.”

performance reviews

The Do’s And Don’ts Of Evaluating Employees’ Performances

It’s that time of year for annual performance reviews, a necessary evil to managers and employees alike. But, it’s not all that bad if done correctly and thoughtfully. The following are ways managers can optimize the performance review process:

Don’t postpone or reschedule a performance review

Perhaps the most important meeting a manager can schedule is the employee’s performance review. Whether the review is a quarterly or semiannual update, or the all-important annual review, set the date well in advance and keep it at all costs — save an emergency business or personal crisis. Delaying or postponing a performance review can be a sign of poor planning, misguided priorities and lack of preparedness. And while the manager is accountable for keeping the review date, employees can be equally guilty of avoiding a performance review. It reflects poorly on both parties.

Don’t shirk from the tough conversation

In a recent WorldatWork and Sibson Consulting survey, 63 percent of HR practitioners expressed frustration with managers who lack the courage to have difficult performance discussions. Some managers deliver performance reviews to their top performers first and save the dreaded ones for under-performers until the very end. Bad wine doesn’t improve with age and neither does a poor performers’ review discussion. Sub-par performers need to be assessed and given corrective feedback and coaching sooner rather than later.

Don’t combine performance reviews with salary discussions

Refrain from talking about compensation at the same time as performance. Here’s why: the employee will tend to focus more on the size of his/her pay raise, which detracts from the conversation about performance. Ideally, pay increase discussions are held a week or two after the performance review. That way, if the reviewer misses a major achievement and needs to add it to the appraisal document, there is ample time to correct it, as well as adjust the corresponding pay raise before it is communicated.

Do encourage employee self-appraisal

What an employee views as accomplishments is a very important piece of information for a manager to consider. A significant gap between a manager’s and employee’s appraisals is a signal that the manager has some work to do in providing the employee examples of performance that account for the difference in viewpoint. Don’t assume that this performance gap is due to employees inflating or “padding” their rating. On occasion, employees may even undervalue their performance and contribution. Granted, it is a more rare circumstance, but a gap is still a gap that needs to be reconciled with specific examples and feedback.

Do avoid rating biases such as the halo/horn effect

This occurs when an employee is rated (positively or negatively) on one trait or factor that can influence ratings for all the other traits. This problem often occurs with employees who are especially friendly (or unfriendly) toward the supervisor or especially strong (or weak) in one skill. To avoid the halo effect, evaluate all your people on one performance factor before going to another factor. This way the evaluation is based on the factors more than an overall impression of one individual.

Do include a success plan as part of the process

Too many managers use the performance appraisal as a way to provide negative feedback on employee performance instead of approaching it as a success plan for the coming year. A success plan outlines what success looks like, the skills needed to be successful, the organizational support they can expect (training, resources, budget, etc.), and what they’ll be receiving in return for their time, talent and effort.

Performance management is a powerful tool. The organizations that benefit from it the most are those that use it as a blueprint for success to drive business results forward, instead of a rear-view mirror look at what could have been.

Just 11 percent of employers award cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) to employees

Age Of The Un-COLA: The Cost Of Living Myth

Just 11 percent of employers award cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) to employees, preferring to award promotional and merit increases, according to a WorldatWork study on compensation practices.

COLA refers to an across-the-board wage and salary increase designed to bring pay in line with increases in the cost of living to maintain real purchasing power. Cost of living still dominates many workers’ perception of their raises, believing that these are given to cover a cost of living increase, rather than to reward them for job performance.

As a best practice, human resources managers don’t mix merit pay with cost of living factors that have no bearing on job worth or performance. An individual’s cost of living is driven by their personal financial choices and cannot be neatly tied back to the CPI.  Example: a choice to take out a five-year loan with 0 percent down for a luxury car versus a compact car has nothing to do with the local cost of labor. How employees have chosen to allocate their finances is a personal choice.  A vast majority of employers and HR managers view pay raises as a tool to motivate employees. How motivating can it be for a top performer to receive the same base pay increase as a low or average performer?

Given the prevalence of tying pay to performance, expect the number of employers awarding COLA to stay flat, if not altogether dwindle in the coming years. This trend actually began way before the  recession, and is not likely to come back even in an economic recovery. The reason is that more and more organizations are requiring increases in pay to be earned. Showing up at work is no longer enough.

No doubt this news will be met with approval by high performers and derided by low performers. Which kind are you?

Time is money

For Employers, Time Is The New Currency

With all the cost cutting employers have had to do during the recent recession to stay afloat, it’s comforting to know that a key employee benefit near and dear to everyone’s heart has survived — paid vacations. According to a WorldatWork research report, Paid Time Off Programs and Practices*, a majority of U.S. employers still offer paid time off. In fact, three out of four survey respondents say it’s necessary to offer paid time off programs and do so in traditional and non-traditional ways.

Three types of paid-time-off programs:

Traditional system — Gives employees separate allotments for vacation, personal and sick days.

PTO banks — Workers receive a pooled number of days off that can be used as needed (generally excluding fixed holidays, jury duty and bereavement).

Unlimited leave – Employees can take as many days off as needed.

The United States is among the minority of countries in the United Nations with no guarantee of paid leave for workers. The WorldatWork study found that a majority of U.S. employers offer it as a key employee benefit even if they are not mandated to do so. With the focus of the Obama Administration and Congress on expanding access to paid leave programs, the research shows that employers recognize the competitive advantage of offering paid time off and believe in continuing these programs, in good times and in bad.

Other key findings:

A vast majority of employers provide paid sick leave.

The average number of paid sick days in a traditional system is nine.

PTO bank systems do not distinguish between vacation and sick time.

Employers offer an average of nine paid holidays each year.

Amidst pay cuts and wage freezes, time is emerging as the new currency, and it’s nice to know employers remain committed to rewarding and motivating employees with paid time off.

*Published in May 2010, data for the WorldatWork Paid Time Off Programs and Practices survey was gathered from Feb. 17-March 5, 2010. Of the 1,036 responses, 37 percent came from companies with 5,000 or more employees.

Three business people standing together with arms around each other

Are You A Kind Boss?

Look in the mirror and ask yourself: What kind of boss are you? Do you resemble Cruella De Vil from “101 Dalmatians” – a heartless, puppy-snatcher who orders her hapless henchmen to carry out her cruel demands? Or are you more like Obi-Wan Kenobi in “Star Wars” — a dedicated, knowledgeable, soft-spoken Jedi Master with a wry sense of humor?

What are the characteristics of a good boss? While there are far too many traits to mention, here are the top three traits necessary to motivate workers:

A kind boss is someone who solves problems and manages conflict

Studies show that full-time employees spend nearly three hours per week dealing with conflict. Poorly managed conflict can bring serious problems to the workplace, including personal insults and attacks, sickness or absence, and can even lead to someone leaving the company. Instead of avoiding conflict, a good manager uses it as a means to produce a better solution to a workplace problem. Numerous books discuss how to deal with conflict. One that specifically deals with five primary styles of handling conflict is “Introduction to Conflict Management: Improving Performance Using the TKI” by Kenneth Thomas.

A kind boss is someone who practices direct, open communications

In this jobless recovery, employees spend nearly three hours a day worrying about job security. A survey by Lynn Taylor Consulting found that management may be unwittingly fueling this fear by staying behind closed doors: 76 percent of employees said that a closed door triggers thoughts of being laid off. Employees want more communication — whether good news or bad — because it makes them feel like they matter.

A kind boss is someone who invests in employees

A soft economy is the perfect time for managers to think of ways other than money to motivate employees. In a recent survey by SkillSoft, eight out of 10 employees stated they would have higher job satisfaction if they received more on-the-job training. Helping employees acquire new skills and assume greater responsibility to advance professionally is one of the most effective ways managers can promote loyalty, improve performance and build future leaders.

Customized HR: Employees Want A “New Deal” At Work - AZ Business Magazine June 2010

Customized HR: Employees Want A “New Deal” At Work

I’d like the pie heated and I don’t want the ice cream on top, I want it on the side, and I’d like strawberry instead of vanilla, if you have it; if not, then no ice cream, just whipped cream, but only if it’s real; if it’s out of the can then nothing.”
~ Sally Albright, When Harry Met Sally

If consumers can customize everything from their food and beverage orders to their kitchens and closets, why can’t employees customize their needs at work? Typically, if an employee wants a different “deal” at work — perhaps more time with their families and less responsibility and compensation — they have two options: try to negotiate a special arrangement or look for a different employer.

Or do they? Smart managers are waking up to the fact that when it comes to compensating employees, cookie-cutter pay packages are no longer the norm. But the majority of executives and managers resist the idea of customized rewards packages because it’s easier to treat all employees the same. Making “special deals” requires time, positive intention, creative thinking and discussions that many managers and HR practitioners have little experience or comfort with. But that’s exactly what is needed in order to effectively attract, motivate and retain the talent needed for business success, according to a new WorldatWork research report, “Beyond Compensation: How Employees Prioritize Total Rewards at Various Life Stages.” Nearly 700 workers participated in the survey conducted by Next Generation Consulting (NGC) and Dieringer Research through a research grant from WorldatWork.

The survey found that employees value different things at different stages of life. These rewards go beyond their pay check and include benefits, work-life, career development and recognition. The research concludes that:

Work-life balance is significantly more important for women with young children.

Benefits are significantly more important for breadwinners, particularly female breadwinners who are further along in their careers.

Professional development (ex: training) is significantly more important for young employees (under 40) who are not yet supervisors.

Older employees value benefits more; younger employees value work-life balance and career development more.

Men favor money over work-life balance (though recent studies show men experience almost as much work-life conflict as women do).

What does this mean for talent managers? Given the increasing diversity of today’s work force, a one-size-fits-all approach to managing employees no longer works. Smart managers invest the time and energy to understand and create a “new deal” consisting of both cash and non-cash rewards if they want to attract and retain the best and the brightest.

Arizona Business Magazine June 2010

Listen to your employees - AZ Business Magazine June 2010

Listening to Employees

In tough times, the give-and-take relationship between workers and employers needs to be nurtured

U.S. productivity is up. According to the latest reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual measure of labor productivity increased 3.8 percent from 2008 to 2009. While some may view this as a sign of an economic recovery, the fact is more than 15 million Americans are still unemployed, the national unemployment rate is hovering near 10 percent and the economy isn’t creating many jobs. Any near-term growth in business is likely going to come from getting more out of the current work force; and the best way to get more out of workers is to help them be more focused and engaged.

While the recession has brought higher productivity per employee, it also has lowered employee satisfaction. Employees are distracted and unable to focus on the job at hand. The Tell It Now poll by ComPsych, an employee assistance provider based in Chicago, found that about three in every four employees are somewhat to very worried about job stress and workload.

Based on the latest research, here are five ways employers can strengthen the exchange relationship in which the employer provides monetary and non-monetary rewards to employees in return for their time and talent.

Communicate more, even if it’s negative
Conceptually, most employers know that communication impacts employee motivation and commitment. Unfortunately, this conceptual understanding does not always translate into action. In fact, the New York-based human resources consulting firm Watson Wyatt’s (now Towers Watson) 2009/2010 Communication ROI Study of 328 employers found that many companies plan to scale down their communication to workers. A 2009 Gallup study of 1,000 employees found that 25 percent feel ignored; that is, they receive neither positive nor negative feedback from their bosses. Neglecting employees is far worse for morale than negative feedback, which at least lets people know they matter. It seems employees crave communication, even if it’s negative.

Pay particular attention to the sales force
In the early stages of economic recovery, many organizations rely heavily on their sales forces to recoup lost revenue. During this critical time, organizations need to ensure they properly motivate their sales force in order to achieve positive results. The best place to start is to simplify the sales compensation plan, such that it can be discerned and executed easily. Joseph DiMisa of Sibson Consulting, a human resources consulting firm with offices in Phoenix, is the author of “Sales Compensation Made Simple.” He says, “There’s a difference between being complex and being complicated. You do not need to have numerous measures, mechanics and linkages to ensure good performance.”

Create career development opportunities
According to the association of human resource professionals WorldatWork’s 2009-10 Salary Budget Survey updated in January, at least 50 percent of employers froze pay for some or all employees in the 2009 recession, while 13 percent cut pay. Cash-strapped organizations are turning to intangible ways to reward and motivate employees, such as career development opportunities (33 percent), non-cash rewards and recognition (28 percent), leadership training on employee motivation (21 percent), and flexibility options (20 percent). Career development opportunities can come in many forms: working on important projects, helping in another department or branch, volunteerism, or training and certification. While training and certification do entail some costs, several associations are offering scholarships to help those who are unemployed, underemployed or underfunded.

Expand programs to include hourly workers
Employers tend to exclude nonexempt workers from flexible work arrangements based on traditional limitations, such as work hours and safety requirements. A recent study by WorldatWork and the Work Design Collaborative, Flexible Work Arrangements for Nonexempt Employees, found that the three biggest industrial sectors allowing hourly employees to telework were manufacturing, education and business services. Manufacturing came as a surprise, as it is traditionally dominated by nonexempt employees working on-site. The study concludes that allowing hourly employees to take part in flexible work programs is becoming more of a business imperative. As such, employers need to have a process in place to determine eligibility. They must also utilize formal employer-employee contracts regarding alternative work arrangements.

Add value by offering voluntary benefits
With the rising cost of employee benefits, how can employers enhance the value of benefit offerings without adding to overhead costs? The answer may lie in voluntary benefits. A 2009 study by the insurance company Unum finds that employee satisfaction with benefits plans is 19 percent higher among employers that offer voluntary benefits than those that don’t. What’s more, these benefits do not cost the employer anything and help employees afford a plan because rates are based on the group rather than the individual. Examples of voluntary benefits include ID theft insurance, pre-paid legal plans, pet or vision insurance, hospital confinement indemnity plans, and other types of supplemental insurance. Finding ways to keep workers happy without impacting the bottom line is a definite advantage in today’s competitive environment.

The economy has certainly dealt a hard blow to today’s work force, but employers still have options to help their employees. If nothing else, the downturn has served as a catalyst for ways to enhance the employee-employer exchange relationship.

Arizona Business Magazine June 2010