Tag Archives: employee morale

How to Keep Employee Morale Up

How To Keep Employee Morale Up, While Business Costs Are Rising

In July, I shared five tips for providing great customer service. I’d like to focus on another important aspect of customer service that may be attributed to common sense but is often overlooked — happy employees offer better customer service than disgruntled ones.

The cost of doing business is on the rise no matter what industry you’re in. Whether you’re in retail, service or production, the everyday cost of gas, insurance for employees, shipping etc., it’s all on the rise. There is, however, one area business owners do not need to spend more money in order to be effective. Employees want to be happy and feel like they’re part of the team.

Business owners and managers have to put a lot of the day-to-day business management tasks on their employees, but it’s important that we remember not to put all of our burdens on their shoulders. Attitude is essential. If we are positive, friendly, uplifting and welcoming, they are much more likely to do their jobs with a smile and support our needs. How we choose to interact with our employees will carry through to our customers and clients.

We’re all busy. No doubt about that. It’s challenging to keep our employees happy at all times.

But there are things we can do each day to help and keep employee morale up:

It’s all about the “little things” — morning hellos, praise of how great their hair or shoes look, remembering their favorite sports team. The acknowledgement will go a long way for boosting office morale. I’ve had several family members and friends tell me of their experience working for a great small business, but their boss had no idea what their name was or anything about them. This became their catalyst for looking for a new job.

Some companies band their employees from making their workspace personal. I’ve found that this can make them feel as though they don’t belong and are unattached to their work. Employees like to make their space feel special and unique to them. Allowing them to bring items such as photos, individualized mouse pad or a plant will make them feel at home, but not interrupt their work.

As I mentioned before, employees like to feel involved, a great way to make them feel involved and boost morale is an office pot luck for birthdays or special occasions. It allows an opportunity for the entire office to spend time together and break down some of the employee/boss barriers. If you’re feeling adventurous, a great way to make employees feel more engaged is to ask for their help planning the pot luck; give them ownership of the activity.

Develop an employee of the month program. This seemingly ordinary employee engagement gives them an extra incentive to put his/her best foot forward.

Additionally, it doesn’t cost a single cent to say “thank you.” When was the last time you said “thank you” to one of your employees for accomplishing a regular task? I make a concentrated effort to say “thank you” to each of my employees every week for something I catch them doing well. I also write “thank you” on each paycheck and include a smiley face. Once I forgot to include a smiley face, and I had an employee upset with me for a few weeks. I didn’t understand why until another employee told me he thought I was unhappy with his performance because I forgot the smiley face on his paycheck. I have never forgotten a smiley face since this experience. Employees notice the little things.

Employees don’t need special, individualized attention every day, but they do need to feel included. Every now and again, make an extra special effort to make sure they feel heard and understood.

No matter your size or industry, I know there is a way you can make your employees happier and feel special. Just remember, happier employees mean happier customers.

For more information about Benjamin Franking Plumbing, visit benfranklinplumbingaz.com.

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2009 Large Business HR Director Of The Year Finalists

Christine NicholsName: Christine Nichols
Title: Human Resource Manager
Company: Human Capital Strategies

Years with company: 1
Years in current position: 1
Company established: 2007
No. of employees in AZ: 980
No. of employees in HR dept.: 2
www.hcscando.com

Christine Nichols has a take-charge attitude that she applies to all her duties as human resource manager at Human Capital Strategies.

Nichols is thorough in establishing and implementing human resources programs such as employee orientation, and in providing proper training for employees so they can build value in the Mesa-based employment and human-services company. She also monitors staff efficiency by coaching employees on their assigned projects.

Known for her open-door policy, Nichols has established forthright communication that cultivates a sense of trust within the company and allows employees to participate in the firm’s growth. Each employee’s opinion is given respectful attention, and issues, concerns and ideas are appropriately addressed under Nichols’ leadership. In addition to encouraging employees to further their education and professional development through classes, Nichols also makes sure their responsibilities overlap into other departments, so they can carry out the duties of other staff members and are better candidates for promotion.

To encourage quality performance, employee accomplishments are recognized at biweekly staff meetings and quarterly team-building events.

Nichols’ department offers telecommuting and flex time for employees, especially when an illness strikes or the unexpected occurs in employees’ personal lives. These arrangements are particularly convenient for staff with children or elderly parents who need extra attention. Human Capital Strategies has found telecommuting and flex time highly beneficial; missed days are minimal and productivity is high. These arrangements also improve employee retention.

Diversity at Human Capital Strategies is based on the belief that quality people are not exclusive to a specific background.


Patti SorourName: Patti Sorour
Title: Director of Human Resources
Company: Westin Kierland Resort & Spa

Years with company: 1+
Years in current position: 1+
Company established: 2002
No. of employees in AZ: 1,000
No. of employees in HR dept.: 5
www.westin.com

Patti Sorour is putting her 25 years of human resources experience to good use at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa. Using a variety of programs, including those for employee development, incentives and recognition, Sorour works to keep employee morale and retention at a high level.

As director of human resources, Sorour looks for ways to help the Scottsdale resort’s employees follow the Westin philosophy of living and working well. Her department has disseminated tips on how to stay healthy during the flu season. The resort’s “Live Well. Be Well.” electronic newsletter also provides suggestions for healthy eating and fitness.

Sorour helps maintain a strong level of internal communication for both management and staff through daily and monthly newsletters. Employees are recognized for their hard work and dedication on a daily, monthly and yearly basis. Management also receives similar recognition quarterly.

Through Westin Kierland University, employees participate in classes that not only help them on the job, but also in their everyday lives. Classes have been offered for CPR, retirement planning and behavioral interviewing. The Phoenix Police Department’s “Don’t Be A Victim” program also has been incorporated into the classes.

Under Sorour’s guidance, the resort offers a six-month employee development program in which staff members are schooled on operational and leadership skills through hands-on experience and shadowing department heads. The aim of the program is to help participants prepare for leadership positions.

To help promote diversity at Kierland, Sorour recruits seasonal employees from other countries who work in a variety of departments, including culinary, dining and recreation.

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Business Owners Should Weigh Legal Concerns When Considering Furloughs

Call it what you want — the best of both worlds or making the best out of a bad situation — but many employees confronted with the choice of losing a valued job or agreeing to a reduction in hours or wages, choose the latter. As the conventional wisdom goes, the employees are just happy to be working.

Many employees taking unpaid, mandatory furloughs are tightening their belts and then spending their free time working around their homes and apartments, taking a much needed rest or spending one-on-one time with their families.

Employers are also looking at the bright side of furloughs and turning to them in lieu of layoffs. Furloughs can be structured in many different ways, but the basic furlough requires employees to take a mandatory, unpaid break from work for a specified amount of time. The benefits of work furloughs are many:

  • The company reduces labor costs.
  • The company saves utility and other operational costs (depending on the scheduling of the furlough).
  • The majority of a company’s employees, along with their skills and institutional knowledge, remain in place, thereby saving the company the substantial costs of recruiting, hiring and re-training new employees when the work picks back up.
  • The company remains agile because it can adjust the furloughs to meet changing market demands.
  • The company may preserve employee morale and company culture.

However, the risks are also many. Because of the complexity of the laws and the many business and legal considerations that come with furloughs, employers should consult closely with their counsel before implementing a furlough program. The following is a broad overview of some of the legal risks to be considered.

Wage and hour claims — Furlough programs must be designed by first considering whether an employee is exempt or non-exempt from the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201, et seq. Under the FLSA, these categories of employee must be treated differently with respect to furloughs.

Considerations for non-exempt (hourly) employees — There are fewer FLSA complications when implementing furloughs for employees who are paid based solely on the hours worked. If an employee is paid at an hourly rate for the hours she works, and she works fewer hours, her pay is automatically reduced. It doesn’t matter whether the hours are reduced across the board, for one day a week or for an entire week. So long as the applicable minimum wage and overtime provisions are followed, there are few complications to consider — at least in theory.

It is critical in this situation, though, that all managers be reminded that hourly workers must be paid for all time “suffered or permitted” to be worked, using the language of the FLSA. Sometimes furloughs are chosen because there is less work to be done. Other times, the workloads are not reduced, but the furlough is simply an effort to reduce labor costs. In those situations, managers may feel increased pressure to produce the same amount of work in less time. If employers are not careful, managers may ask subordinates to work “off the clock” — a classic FLSA violation that could lead to substantial damages and government scrutiny, not to mention employee morale and other cultural problems.

Another problem can occur when a great deal of overflow work is directed to the lowest-paid exempt workers to avoid overtime pay. Whether a position is exempted from the FLSA is determined on the basis of job duties, not on titles, so it is quite possible a low-level manager suddenly overburdened with leftover work and making the same (or less) money as before, might take a closer look at whether he is improperly classified as exempt and should actually be paid overtime. If his job duties have changed significantly because of the furloughs and he is now doing a higher percentage of manual labor and exercising less and less independent judgment and discretion, he may be right.

FLSA considerations for exempt employees — To maintain an exemption from federal minimum wage and overtime rules, exempt employees must be paid a minimum of $455 per week, along with other additional requirements in relation to their job duties. With certain exceptions, an employee’s salary cannot be reduced for the quantity or quality of his daily work. That typically means that if the employee works any part of the work day, for FLSA purposes he is entitled to his full week’s salary. This requirement presents a problem for furlough programs that are randomly scheduled for less than a week’s time or that allow exempt employees to work part of the week, such as a program that allows an employee to work Monday through Thursday, but asks her not to work on Friday and subsequently reduces her pay by 20 percent.

While it is not impossible to create a compliant furlough program that allows for scheduling flexibility, one of the safest courses of action from an FLSA perspective is to require exempt workers to take weeklong unpaid furloughs. Even with this course, though, there are dangers. Work done remotely still constitutes “work,” so exempt employees should be prohibited during their furlough week from drafting documents, participating in conference calls or from checking or responding to e-mails, Blackberry devices or voice messages. If an employee is so important that she must be on a conference call on Wednesday at 10 a.m. during her furlough week, then the safest course is to either reschedule her unpaid furlough or reconsider whether she should be on the furlough list in the first place.

Another option is to make a long-term prospective change to exempt employees’ salaries. For example, if an exempt employee was making $1,000 a week, her salary could be prospectively reduced on a going-forward basis to $800 a week. So long as the decrease does not make the weekly salary fall below the minimum of $455 per week, this option could be a viable alternative for some employers.

To maintain morale and prevent the risk of losing or alienating key employees, some employers have coupled long-term prospective salary decreases with a comparable increase in paid time off. So, for example, the employee now making 20 percent less in pay, may be given a 20 percent increase in paid time off to compensate. That paid time off might be required to be taken at certain times, or employees may be given flexibility in their scheduling.

This option, if properly executed, has the same effect as a furlough because employees are working less and receiving less income.

This scenario allows the exempt employee to work part of the week, and still receive his full pay for the entire workweek, albeit at a reduced rate. In contrast, in the earlier example, the employee worked part of the week but was not paid for the entire work week, which runs afoul of the FLSA.

Other legal concerns include:
Workplace injuries — When work hours have decreased but workloads have not, employees might rush to complete projects and meet customer deadlines. This can lead to accidents and increased worker’s compensation, FMLA or even disability claims, especially in industries that rely on manual labor.

Express contract claims
— Companies cannot afford to overlook the negotiated contracts they may have with some employees, especially key employees. If furlough requests alter the terms of those contracts, the employer could end up paying damages instead of saving labor costs. Naturally, if a company’s work force is unionized, the collective bargaining agreement must be followed.

Implied contract claims
— Hopefully, all employers already know their employee handbooks may be considered enforceable contracts. Most handbooks that have been reviewed by legal counsel include disclaimers stating the handbook is not a contract and the policies can be unilaterally changed by the employer at any time, with or without notice. Regardless, before making a furlough decision, employers would be wise to review the sections of their current and past handbooks that deal specifically with any of the proposed changes — particularly changes in hours and compensation — to determine whether there is any problematic language.

Employers should also review employee offer letters, which sometimes include language that could be read to imply a contract for a guaranteed salary or schedule.

Notice
— Some states have laws requiring employers to notify employees before significantly reducing their hours or salary. Arizona is not among them, but employers with operations in multiple states should ensure they are in compliance with these notice provisions.

Though some recent economic indicators predict the recession has bottomed out, the need for corporate cost cutting is likely to continue for some time. It is easy to decide to scale down the company picnic, but implementing a furlough program is much more complicated. Companies must be sure to work closely with counsel to ensure their programs meet both their business needs and are compliant with the law. While employees might be doing their best to take job changes in stride, some employees may just decide to spend their furloughs researching their employment law rights.