End-of-Year HR Budget Spending

It’s been a long, roller coaster of a year…and we still have another month to go!

The HR professional’s December to-do list is usually longer than a kid’s wish list for Santa. However, as with most things in 2020, your list is likely a bit different this year. It may include the same items from years past, but the pandemic has forced organizations to look at these items through a new lens. Take, for instance, end-of-year HR budget spending.

End-of-Year HR Budget Spending

“Use it or lose it” is a typical theme around this time of year. However, with so much volatility in 2020 spending, it is important to remain fiscally responsible with your remaining funds. In fact, fiscal responsibility should be top of mind for the majority  organizations right now. More than ever, spending truly needs to be a cost-savings investment.

To help you effectively invest (not simply spend) your remaining budgetary funds, here are a few key questions to ask initially.

What are my company’s goals for 2021?

When we were celebrating 2020’s arrival at New Year’s, little did we know that our goals and strategies for the year would soon drastically change. Perhaps your 2020 looked something like this:

Pre-COVID goals

    • Increase profits.
    • Be the best known product/service provider in the city, state, region or nation.
    • Reduce turnover.
    • Hire the best talent.

COVID goals

Goals before the pandemic still applied, but new goals likely emerged out of necessity.

    • Reduce time on tasks to maximize cost-savings.
    • Minimize furloughs and layoffs.
    • Stay operational.

With all the curveballs and changes thrown at you this year, what will your goals for 2021 look like? It’s a good idea to take the time and do some internal soul searching here. A SWOT analysis is a reflective strategic process that can help you make sense of 2020 and provide learnings to use in 2021 goal setting. It includes asking yourself questions like:  

  • What worked well?
  • What did not work?
  • What could we modify?

Evaluate your answers carefully and consider the knowledge that you acquired this year, then determine how your end-of-year spending can support strategic goals and operational scenarios for 2021.

What will enhance productivity for my organization?

Our work environment has changed dramatically. And with no clear roadmap ahead, there are many questions to answer:

  • Will all or some of your employees work remotely?
  • Is remote work viable as an option, or will it now be required?
  • How can communication be improved among teams?
  • How can organizations improve the work lives of employees to make it easier to complete tasks?

While these questions may not be easy to answer right now, they are great topics to discuss with your employees. These discussions can help employees feel connected to their work and supervisory teams.

Organize periodic video or phone chats to see how work is going, and to see if outside environmental factors are impacting your employees. Unless you ask and truly listen to their answers, certain work and non-work stresses may go unrecognized.

What can be automated or streamlined to save money?

Employee onboarding is one of the many processes that have been upended by the pandemic. Completing new hire paperwork onsite has not been a viable option for the majority of the year, and so many organizations have had to rely on email, scanning, printing and other workarounds. This is obviously not the most efficient and engaging way to acclimate new employees.

Employee onboarding software offers the ability to create tasks and engage new hires with paperless onboarding. No matter where you or your employees are, tasks can be assigned among your team for completion. OnboardCentric by ExactHire also has the ability to integrate with E-Verify, which is extremely helpful as more states are requiring the use of this federal program.

Similarly, organizations have had to be creative when it comes to the the hiring process. Many have embraced technology, but are struggling to cleanly incorporate new digital tools into traditional hr processes. ExactHire HR Software bundles together several tools that support remote hiring, such as integrated:

    • text recruiting (with no extra fees)
    • email and attachments
    • event scheduling
    • video interviewing

And when it’s time to send an offer letter to an applicant, you can send and receive documents directly from the applicant’s record. Other optional integrations include background checking and assessments. Reduce time to hire and manual labor in the hiring process by posting jobs and communicating with applicants and teammates directly using ExactHire HR Software.

How can we show appreciation for employees?

Do my company’s employees know they are appreciated? How can we reiterate that to them? Unfortunately, social events have been hindered this year due to social distancing and varying local/state capacity orders. However, in-person events are not the only way to show appreciation for your teams.

Supporting each other has never been more crucial than this year. Some employees are juggling remote work (which may be new to them), while others continue to perform tasks onsite with health concerns about COVID. Companies that provide flexibility in work hours and environment will help relieve employee stress and enhance company loyalty.

A flexible work arrangement will go a long way in showing appreciation and empathy for employees. However, when employers also need to find a way to bring everyone together–especially when we’re not physically together. Gifting items to employees is one way to do this. Company logo items are a good approach; your employees can represent your organization with pride. But maybe a deeper look is necessary.

How are your employees doing at home? Are there any resources they need? Do they have the means to provide a meal, particularly on the holidays? If not, consider checking with local farmers or grocery stores to see if discounts could be provided for bulk purchases for certain foods that could be distributed to employees’ families. Support your community while supporting the life of your organization – your employees.

Budget Planning for 2021

If your organization’s funding is already allocated through the end of the year, take the answers to these questions and apply the information when crafting your organization’s 2021 budget proposal. Designate funds in your new budget to invest in resources and software that will yield a fruitful return for your organization and its people.

Here’s a virtual high five and air hug to you. It’s been a rough year, but we are in this together! Cheers to a calmer 2021!

If you would like to learn more about ExactHire HR solutions or discuss your unique hiring needs, please request a demo call. We’ll discuss your needs, answer your questions, and–if it makes sense–provide you with a tour of our software.

6 Considerations for Sharing Bad News

What do you want first: the good news or the bad news? We’ve all faced this question before, and depending on who it came from, we’ve answered with an anxious smile or an indifferent shrug. Our reaction was based on an immediate calculation–just how bad could the news be?

From the perspective of the person delivering the news, the offer of “good news or bad news first” is a way of softening the bad news. It’s a small expression of empathy for those receiving the news. Unfortunately, it’s also a tired cliche that, when used to share bad news, can undercut a leader’s professionalism and integrity–especially when there’s little, if any, good news to be shared.

But while the “good news/bad news” line is best kept on the shelf, organizational leaders should still have a plan for sharing bad news effectively. Here are six considerations for doing just that:

Prepare to Share

Bad news has the tendency to arouse bad feelings. Anger, jealousy, and disappointment are all feelings that can cause individuals to react negatively to bad news–and to those delivering it. Leaders can better manage these reactions by preparing to share bad news, which includes:

  • Having a complete and solid grasp of the facts surrounding the bad news
  • Understanding the scope of the bad news and possible implications for the future
  • Anticipating questions that will be asked, and having the answers to those questions
  • Scripting key thoughts and responses

Take a Step Back

Sharing bad news is never easy. This is true whether it impacts one, several, or hundreds of employees. So while preparing to deliver bad news should be taken seriously, leaders must also keep the news in perspective. Consider the following to help relieve the stress of sharing bad news:

  • It’s unlikely that you are the first person to share this type of news
  • The news must be shared, and it’s your responsibility to share it
  • Sharing the news, rather than hiding it, will produce better outcomes

Stay Detached

With good preparation and the proper perspective, most leaders will be in a position to mitigate conflict that may arise from sharing bad news. Of course, as the great philosopher, Mike Tyson, once said, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Or, to put it in less violent terms: having a plan is always necessary, but not always sufficient.

Once a leader begins to actually share the bad news, any number of things can happen that could derail even the best plan. Leaders need to understand that this is possible. Then, they must be able to detach from an emotionally-charged conversation, and remain calm in the face of conflict.

This leads us to our next consideration, stick to the relevant facts.

Stick to the Relevant Facts

When a conversation becomes charged with emotions, it can very quickly move into an open argument. The best way for leaders to avoid an ugly argument is to maintain a focus and emphasis on the facts, specifically the facts that are relevant to issue at hand.

Once a leader strays away from the facts and begins making emotional appeals, or addressing unrelated issues, all advantage gained from planning is lost. This also largely precludes a leader from gaining closure on the original bad news. In short, a leader who is led into an emotional argument…isn’t really leading.

Provide Vision

It’s not enough for leaders to simply share the facts when conveying bad news. After all, effective leaders should inspire positive action and loyalty in their employees. This can be achieved by providing employees with a vision for the future that moves past the bad news of the present.

Importantly, a leader’s vision shouldn’t ignore realities or downplay potential risks, and it should be flexible enough to provide employees with options. It requires taking an honest look at how the bad news will impact the future of the organization and its employees. Bad news can rattle employees, but a strong vision for the future can provide them with tools to overcome challenges and flourish.

Close with Strength

Finally, a strong closing to the conversation will instill confidence in employees and further support the leader’s vision. It’s common to open the floor to questions at this point if they have not already been asked. As mentioned above–and perhaps more important here–leaders should answer only relevant questions, and the answers should be fact-based. 

The closing should be brief. Leaders must not hesitate to name some questions as being outside the scope of a conversation or decline to answer other questions. Ultimately, if the bad news has been communicated effectively up to this point, there should be very few relevant questions.

Good News or Bad News?

At some point, all organizations will have to share bad news. And although conflict can be almost certain, an organization’s culture and leadership will go a long way in determining whether the news will cause damaging conflict. Organizational leaders who have a plan for sharing bad news can mitigate conflict, calm emotions, and provide a path forward. In this way, bad news can inspire employees to raise their performance to new levels. And that is good news.

 

Transparency in Leadership

Increasingly, people in all areas of society are seeking transparency in leadership. We want to know the “why,” “how,” and “who” of decision-making, especially when those decisions affect us. Furthermore, we want to trust that decision makers are taking our interests into account when arriving at decisions.

The desire for transparency is so strong that many leaders may feel pressure to vet, check, and double-check every decision with every stakeholder. Of course, this is impractical, if not impossible.

We know that there are some decisions that can be made with little input, and others that require extensive discussions and long consideration. However, as is often the case, it’s the area in between those extremes that can create problems. This is where leaders must practice transparency in order to maintain the trust of stakeholders.

Leadership Transparency in the Workplace

Suppose the executive leadership of an organization decides that it is necessary to reduce work hours for its employees. The leadership group has not spoken about this to managers outside of the group, and they anticipate that this change will be a surprise to everyone. Still, the leaders believe that it’s better to implement this decision sooner rather than later.

A Top-down Decision

No matter how the news is communicated, the decision will not be popular with employees. So rather than beat around the bush, one lucky member of the leadership group is asked to simply communicate the decision. This spokesperson for the leadership group anticipates the following questions:

  • Why are we reducing hours?
  • How was this decision made?
  • Who was involved in the decision?

So the leader provides the answers to these questions in her announcement, and she is hopeful that the employees will be understanding and take the bad news in stride. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Blindsided

Managers outside of the decision making process immediately began receiving questions and complaints regarding the reduction in hours. They had no good answers for the employees. This greatly damaged trust and respect between the managers and their reports.

The managers resented leadership for making such a quick decision without their input. They felt blindsided and unfairly set up to fail in managing their teams. Just like the other employees, they lost trust and respect for the executive leadership team.

Very soon, news reaches the leadership group that employee morale is tanking. What happened?

Part-time Transparency

Although the leader built understanding around the context of the decision in her announcement, the managers and other employees felt almost tricked by the sudden reduction in hours. The leadership failed to communicate any information beforehand that would have led the employees to anticipate this change. For many employees, the news was bad, but the sudden announcement and surprise were worse.

Transparency in leadership cannot be part-time, and it cannot only accompany official announcements or appear on the backend of an important decision. It must be proactive, constant, and sincere. It must be part of an organization’s culture.

A Culture of Transparency

A strong, positive organizational culture will not often materialize without the presence of effective leadership. Leaders create a compelling mission and vision, and then determine the organizational values that will advance both. Taken together, these are the foundational elements of organizational culture.

An organization can profess to hold numerous values, but successful ones will whittle these down to 4 or 6 values. The result is a set of core values that inform workplace behaviors. An organization that wants to embrace transparency in leadership, then, must ensure that its core values encourage this behavior.

The behavior of transparency in leadership can be described in many ways, but a helpful description would be: the timely, frequent sharing of information and the invitation to provide feedback or enter discussion in regard to this information.

Timely and Frequent Sharing

As previously mentioned, transparency in leadership is not seeking and considering input on every decision, and it is not sharing every piece of information on every decision. The right frequency of sharing information, then, is a frequency which ensures that employees are kept aware of:

  • the status of ongoing issues, and
  • the possibility of emerging issues.

This can be thought of as simply “keeping people in the loop.”

Timely sharing of information is seeking to achieve the above, while also considering whether there is a need to know the information at a particular time. For example, interrupting work on a time-sensitive project to hold a meeting where the topic is a new snack program….that is not timely sharing.

Feedback and Discussion

Of course, simply sharing information is not enough to create transparency in leadership. A one-way street of top-down sharing  would cause most employees to feel as if they were only receiving a long list of dictates and decrees. An organization that values transparency must go further and give every employee the ability to influence decisions by seeking their feedback.

Feedback can be collected through surveys, but individual or small-group discussions are often the most effective vehicle. This provides an opportunity for all parties to gain clarity in understanding. Additionally, discussions often uncover new perspectives that the decision makers may not have considered previously. 

While seeking feedback is important, leaders must also convey sincerity in seeking feedback. Employees must feel that their thoughts and perspectives will be taken into consideration by decision makers, and they must see evidence of this when decisions are announced. Few things hurt employee morale more than the constant request for feedback that is never considered. 

Transparency Mitigates Conflict

The leadership group in our workplace scenario created conflict when making the announcement to reduce hours. Specifically, the conflict was between the employees anticipating a certain amount of hours and the leadership’s decision to reduce hours. From the organization’s perspective, the conflict was unavoidable; however, an organization that values transparency understands that while a conflict may be necessary, it doesn’t have to be damaging.

A damaging conflict is most likely to occur when there is unequal access to information that, when revealed, moves one party to resent the other. Transparency in leadership, then, prevents damaging conflicts by ensuring that all employees have access to important information at the right time.

 

Strategic Hiring for a New Normal

To say that business leaders have had to scramble over the past few months, is an understatement. Virtually overnight, the COVID19 pandemic forced leaders to change business models and staffing levels in order to survive. The changes were so abrupt and extreme that employers had little, if any, time to plan. They simply had to act.

HR professionals, in particular, were the ones charged with acting. Among other initiatives, HR had to manage sudden increases or reductions in the workforce, interpret and implement new, murky employment legislation, and coordinate transitions to remote-work models with little guidance. Through it all, HR has fought through the uncertainty and rapid change to blaze a path forward. Now, as the U.S. economy sets to reopen, HR will be asked to enter a more familiar fight–the clichéd and seemingly ever-present war for talent.

A New Kind of War for Talent

There’s a shared hope across our nation that things will return to “normal” over the next six months; however, the effects of the pandemic will likely reach far into the future. And should that be the case, employers will have to keep their guard up as they seek to hire over the next year. A headlong rush into re-hiring, using the same tactics and processes that were effective before the pandemic will not necessarily work this time around. A new kind of war will require a new kind of strategy.

Developing a new talent strategy does not require that employers start from scratch. An existing strategy can be updated to address the current conditions of the job market and to incorporate the tactics and processes developed at the onset of the pandemic. This is not to say that this will be a quick or easy process, but it’s not necessarily a reinvention of the wheel either.

Job Market Conditions

Recruiters and hiring managers will face wildly different hiring conditions compared to early 2020. Over 36 million people are currently unemployed in the United States. Many are experiencing unemployment for the first time. So whereas in early 2020, HR was facing a dearth of qualified candidates, many of whom had multiple employment options, now that dynamic has flipped. Employers emerging from months-long restrictions on business will find talent that is both widely available and hungry for employment.

Although this new job market may sound like a boon for hiring organizations, there is a real danger if employers rush into hiring decisions. Hiring too quickly may result in an organization that is over-staffed, or staffed by too many “bad fit” employees. Either outcome will create a drag on efficiency and cut into profits, especially if the wider economic recovery is long-delayed or erratic.

Hire for the Right Fit, at the Right Time

A smarter approach would be to take advantage of the flush job market by adjusting hiring tactics and placing an emphasis on hiring for the right fit. Many organizations will have the chance–maybe for the first time–at hiring transformational talent over the next six months. However, if employers disregard how well this talent will fit within their organization, they may find themselves forced into an expensive re-hiring process at a time where expensive anything could sink the ship.

Similarly, too much of a good thing can be a problem too. With all the great talent available in the job marketing, it could be tempting to hire more than necessary on a bet that economic conditions will improve sooner than later. However, for a business to survive an economic recession, staff-levels should be optimized in anticipation of little to moderate growth.

If this sounds like a tricky balancing act, it is. Employers need to accurately assess and forecast labor needs, design a hiring process to generate “best-fit” candidates, all while ensuring that the hiring experience engages candidates enough to protect them from competitors. This is no small task.

Make It Personal (and efficient…and effective)

Effectiveness in hiring is when employers achieve the desired outcome of hiring qualified, best-fit candidates. But in order to ensure best-fit, employers cannot simply vet an employee based on application and interview questions. The process must be personal and seek to develop a relationship with the candidate even before an offer is extended. Done this way, your hiring process succeeds in being effective for both adding new talent and promoting a positive employer brand.

Hiring efficiency is when employers achieve desired outcomes through a hiring process that minimizes the waste of time and resources. An employer benefits from efficiency because the sooner qualified candidates are hired and onboarded, the sooner they can contribute to an organization’s bottom line. Candidates benefit from efficiency, too, as they will not have to endure prolonged uncertainty or unemployment–in a time of uncertainty and unemployment.

In looking to keep candidates engaged, employers will want to balance hiring efficiency with hiring effectiveness. The hiring process should not be geared so much toward efficiency that it cuts into effectiveness. Similarly, too fine a focus on finding the best-fit candidate will slow the process and hurt efficiency.

Make big gains in efficiency and effectiveness with a few key tactics, such as:

  • Energizing job postings. These should be exciting and concise. Include compelling information in the first paragraph of your job descriptions, and leave the dry stuff for later–or remove it all together. Now is not the time to talk about your founding. You want excited jobseekers clicking the “apply now” button.

 

  • Optimize job applications. These should be helpful for identifying “best-fit” candidates. Take a long look at your application questions and eliminate the unnecessary or redundant ones. Consider how the questions will generate qualified candidates who fit your organization and will stay for the long-term. Include a few knock-out questions that will screen out unqualified or “bad-fit” applicants.

 

  • Streamline communications. These, like the two examples above, should be characterized by brevity and utility. Consider using text messaging as a faster channel for candidate communications that bypasses “phone tag.” Utilize software that makes it easy for candidates to schedule interviews based on a hiring manager’s real-time availability.

 

  • Personalize the Process. In all messaging, the focus should be on the candidate. Sure, talk about how the organization can benefit the candidates. But don’t lose sight of how the organization can benefit from the candidates–this side is often communicated too late in the process. Ensure that candidates feel uniquely appreciated early and often, so that they maintain excitement throughout the hiring process.

Improve on Your Changes

Finally, as stated at the outset, the pandemic forced employers across the world to make sudden, big changes. Although making these changes was stressful and the outcomes mixed, most employers were likely given the benefit of the doubt. Job seekers and new hires anticipated bumpy hiring and onboarding processes because the whole world was tossed upside down.

However, a big part of getting “back to normal” involves a readjustment of expectations. Job seekers will soon expect employers to offer a paperless hiring process, remote interviews, and perhaps even options for remote work. They will expect a seamless transition from the hiring process to the onboarding process, with clear communication and quality engagement along the way. And importantly, they will expect few, if any, mistakes.

Yes, COVID-19 required HR professionals to “just get it done” amid the chaos. But very soon, organizations will be judged by new standards. Stop-gap solutions will no longer be sufficient, and HR will need to take the time to improve on changes made out of urgent necessity. In short, employers must take advantage of a job market ripe with talent by seeking to raise the bar and preparing to hire strategically in a new normal.

Managing a Furlough

The term and practice of furloughing workers is often associated with industries such as automotive and construction, or, somewhat recently, the federal government–think “government shutdown.” However, in the past few weeks the COVID-19 pandemic has caused companies in other industries to begin the furlough of employees as well. So what is a furlough, and how is it different from a layoff?

Furlough Vs. Layoff

A furlough is a leave of absence without pay or reduction of hours that is usually brought about by an employer’s negative business conditions–current or forecasted. As such, the leave is often indefinite, with the employee either returning to full-time work when conditions improve, or being laid off when conditions have little hope of improvement. Furloughed employees can continue to receive benefits such as healthcare and insurance, but their ability to collect unemployment benefits is determined by individual state law.

A layoff is the termination of the employment relationship due to business conditions–usually negative, but not always. Whereas a furloughed employee can immediately resume employment with their employer once business conditions improve, an employee that is laid off must be rehired. Therefore, layoffs are usually made when it’s highly doubtful that business conditions will improve in the near future. The employer is willing to lose talent in order to save the costs associated with payroll and benefits.

COVID-19 Furloughs

Today, in the face of a pandemic, companies across all industries have or are considering the furlough of their employees. Indeed, with so much economic uncertainty, many companies see a furlough as the best option for proactively responding to the challenges that will come. However, it’s important to realize that while a furlough provides an employer with a degree of relief and control, it also transfers the burden to the employees. And that raises the question: how can HR professionals efficiently manage a furlough with empathy?

The easy answer is that a furlough, like a layoff, is simply a very difficult thing to manage, and you should try to do the best that you can. Some would advise that you “rip the bandaid off” and deliver the hard truth–not own the guilt, as it’s not your fault. This answer and advice can be helpful–for HR–but it’s of little help to the furloughed employee. And while I’m not suggesting that HR allow themselves to be paralyzed by “feelings,” I am saying that in order for a furlough to function in the way it’s intended, it must be managed in a way that ensures the furloughed employee wants to return to the employer when business conditions improve.

Five Considerations for Managing a Furlough

Here are five considerations for managing a furlough with empathy and maximizing the chances that your furloughed employees will return in better times.

Timing

The timing of a furlough is not always in the employer’s control–let alone in the control of HR. With the exception of seasonal businesses, the HR team may only have a few days notice that they will be managing a furlough. Still, with the time that you do have, consider what time would be best for communicating the news. You will want the employees to benefit from hearing:

  • A scheduled time to receive the news, not off-hand or as part of another meeting
  • The news from you (or CEO) first, not through the grapevine
  • The news when necessary for the employees, not expedient for the employer
  • The news as far in advance as possible, not at the last second

Tone

Communicating a furlough requires professionalism and empathy. This is a hard balance to strike, but it’s critical in order to ensure that employees are not needlessly insulted or resentful. In order to achieve this, make sure to consider the following:

  • Your tone should be professional, regardless of your unique relationship with the employee.
  • A professional tone does not require that you ignore the employee’s unique circumstances.
  • Empathy can be expressed by acknowledging an employee’s circumstances, and then addressing how the furlough will impact them (include resources for additional help).
  • Answer employee questions fully and directly–even if it means sharing hard truths.

Expectations

Managing a furlough relies heavily upon effective communication. The timing and tone of communicating a furlough can go a long way toward making the initial interaction positive. However, the explicit goal of a furlough is to protect the employee-employer relationship going forward, so that the employees want to work for the employer when conditions improve. This requires clear and transparent communication of why the furlough is taking place and what the employee should expect. Be sure to include answers to the following:

  • Why is the employee being put on furlough? This should not be explained simply as a “cost-cutting” measure. It’s better to describe the prevailing negative business conditions that require a furlough.
  • How long will the furlough last? Either provide a specific date, or a specific set of conditions, that will mark an end to the furlough. If giving the latter, offer a date for following up.
  • How will the furlough affect employee pay and benefits? Provide the employee’s last pay date, along with the benefits that will remain or go away. Do not simply ask the employee to reference their benefit documentation or the employee handbook.

Resources

Just as you need to manage a furlough for the employer, the employee needs to manage the furlough for their household. Employees will have unique circumstances, as mentioned above. As you communicate news of the furlough to each employee, encourage questions and listen actively for how the employee will be uniquely impacted. Be prepared to offer resources that will help them navigate the challenges that a furlough brings, such as:

Follow Up

Regardless of whether a furlough is indefinite or for a fixed term, employers would do well to check in with employees on furlough. The follow up does not need to be lengthy. In fact, the primary benefit may be in the gesture of reaching out and demonstrating that you care. That being said, a follow up is most helpful when it reinforces or adjusts an employee’s expectations. Look to include the following in your follow communications with employees on furlough:

  • Current business conditions; are there any positive or negative indicators?
  • Furlough timeline update; do you need to adjust the restart date, or do the conditions allow you to confirm a restart date?
  • Help resources; is there anything the employer can help with?

Furlough PR

Managing a furlough is not only about managing the employee-employer relationship, public perception of a furlough must be considered as well. Sites like Glassdoor and the over-sharing that takes place on social media will all carry the news of a furlough–and the employee sentiments that go along with it. This fact has a direct impact on an organization’s employer brand, which heavily influences future hiring. So make sure that the public can easily understand how you are managing the furlough by taking a few proactive steps, such as:

Unless a furlough is part of an organization’s business model, no one expects or wants to utilize one. For an employer, it means that business conditions are deteriorating and profits are at risk. For the employee facing a furlough, it means the loss of income, a period of uncertainty, and all the challenges that come with that. However, when managed well, both the employer and employee can benefit from a furlough that minimizes the effects of poor business conditions and ensures future employment when conditions improve.

Remote Work While Parenting and Teaching Kids

7 Tips for Remote Work Success + Kid Activity Ideas

Can you relate to this remote work scenario?

It was about three o’clock on Tuesday afternoon and I was engaged in another Zoom video conference related to COVID-19 planning for our business. My office is in the back of the house away from the main traffic areas and is usually pretty quiet–ideal for video conferencing.

However, a crouched figure suddenly appeared at the side of my office chair with pleading eyes looking upward. This time it was my daughter, and it was the third time this afternoon that one of my two children had crawled into the office to avoid being seen on webcam, and in an effort to whisper-shout something to me.

This time took the cake though. To my chagrin (but also to my glee at her inner resourcefulness), my daughter was holding a small dry erase board with an important question for my consideration:

Remote Work Parenting | ExactHire

“Can I play FIFA Soccer [on Nintendo]?”

I’m sure all of you who are fortunate enough to still be working…and doing so 100% from home…can relate to my story. If you are a stay-at-home parent or caregiver, right about now you are also likely open to new ways to keep kids occupied while sheltering in place during the coronavirus pandemic.

I’m blessed with the opportunity to be safe and spending time with my family in a way that unfortunately has faded in recent years due to over-scheduling. Nevertheless, we all need some creative ways to balance remote work with helping to tutor and care for children at home during the work day.

In this blog, I’ll share seven tips on how to cope with the challenge before us, as well as kid activities I’ve been curating from friends, Facebook groups and word-of-mouth.

1 – Create structure

With so much chaos in the world right now, we all (not just our kids) need some stability in our lives. School-aged kids are used to the assuring rigors of the school day including a predictable schedule of different classes and activities. While e-learning coursework fills some of this gap (when your kids aren’t on a break), it doesn’t mean that they are busy for the equivalent of your eight-hour work day.

Every morning I create a list of activities that my two kids can do during the day. I might assign a time span to some activities, or schedule certain tasks for a specific time of day (e.g. let’s all go outside at noon and play soccer in the yard).

Part of this schedule may instruct them to do specific activities that don’t require my supervision during the times of day that I might need to be on a conference call for work. Having a schedule…or even just a list of to-dos…helps you handle boredom angst with a plan of action before you find yourself in the thick of it!

Ideas:

2 – Empower with control

Our current reality is one in which we have less control over our daily lives than normal. In Indiana, we are currently under “shelter in place” restrictions from our state government and so the freedom we have to travel to certain destinations and connect in-person with others is impeded–even if remote work is now offering more flexibility. A lack of control can be frustrating and isolating.

The same is true for your kids. Help them realize a certain degree of control in their lives by letting them pick from a variety of activity options. For example, with the schedule I mentioned above, let them choose an option from different categories, or ask them to choose any three activities from a list of five.

Another way of offering them more control is to allow them to earn rewards by completing different tasks. On a daily basis, I ask my kids to complete a couple of chores, do some reading, practice their typing and get exercise (just to name a few things) before I allow them to play video games. The Nintendo time slot in the late afternoon is their delayed gratification reward for doing well throughout the day. It also nicely coincides with the time of day I tend to have video calls.

Allow kids to choose from a variety of tasks:

3 – Be flexible

Before you accuse me of talking out of both sides of my mouth, while you should have structure and offer control, you have to be a little flexible, too. But, how?

Consider the schedule a fluid priority list. It’s not critical that some of the tasks happen at a specific time, but perhaps just that they happen that week. If you’re working from home, you already know that flexibility is essential to accommodate feeding your kids lunch during the day and addressing their occasional skirmishes with each other. The good news is that many employers are offering more flexibility and understanding than ever before. So, my co-workers are well aware of my kids sneaking into my office while I’m on a video chat.

Also, don’t forget the physical interpretation of flexibility, too. Make sure you’re creating opportunities for your children (and you!) to exercise and move around.

Get moving:

4 – Be forgiving

It’s not a time for our normal standards; we’re still in transition to a potential new normal. Tensions are high because we’re all under more stress than usual; therefore, grace toward others should be a priority. Don’t judge, support.

That means you shouldn’t stress or have “mom or dad guilt” because your kids are getting more screen time than you’d normally prefer. We’re doing the best we can. Make it work by helping to provide options for “quality” screen time that might teach your kids something worthwhile.

5 – Foster social connection; albeit distantly

For the sake of our sanity, social distancing can’t also mean social disconnection. While we all need to be doing our part to slow the spread of COVID-19, we should absolutely be creative about using technology to connect our kids with friends and loved ones who can help us while we work at home.

My son and a friend have a virtual playdate scheduled for today to play Battleship. They each have the game at home, so it will be easy for them to play via video conference.

Other ideas:

  • Plan a Zoom video call with your baseball team or Brownie troop
  • Shoot a video skit to share with your friends and ask them to return the favor
  • Have a grandparent read a story via video conference

6 – Celebrate iteration

Because the ExactHire team is a software company, one of our internal mindsets is to iterate and improve on initial experiments…whether they be in development, marketing, sales, client service or even remote work. The idea behind iteration is that it doesn’t cause us to delay launching a concept in an effort to make sure it’s 100% perfect first. Instead, we launch a promising idea, product or service, and then constantly improve upon it as we go–after all, we can’t predict the future to know what will work perfectly the first time.

How can you instill that fearlessness to innovate in your own children? Now’s the time to talk to them more regularly about the types of things you do for work since they have a front row stage to your work habits. Additionally, there are activities you can share with them that will help them explore new skills and experiment with unique ways of doing things.

Stretch their imaginations:

7 – Remember mindfulness

Above all else, as challenging as times may get, don’t forget to be grateful for what you still have and mindful of your mental state’s impact on others. If you are anxious, then your kids will be anxious, too.

What can you do together and/or provide to them to promote relaxation, appreciation and a mind-spirit-body connection?

Be mindful together:

There are many things I would change about the current situation and my hearts go out to everyone for this unanticipated hurdle we are banding together to overcome. However, I do recognize now as an opportunity to nurture the resilience of my children, and to be a family with ever stronger values around how we spend our time.

Working and Onboarding Remotely?

If your organization is allowing more remote work than ever, you may need options for remote employee onboarding, too. Contact us for a demo of ExactHire’s employee onboarding software and make remote onboarding seamless.

 

Employer Strategies for Successfully Hiring Justice Involved Job Candidates

My gut tells me that many employers are open to the idea of hiring individuals from the justice involved community, but have historically avoided the opportunity for a variety of reasons. Whether they previously had an abundance of other candidates to consider or were intimidated about the steps involved, many organizations haven’t proactively included this untapped talent pool.

After all, they haven’t been sufficiently motivated to do so. That changes now.

Why you should consider hiring the justice involved population

Today, employers can’t afford NOT to look at every viable employee population. Increased awareness and support for inclusive hiring practices coupled with historically low unemployment suggest that the time is ripe for employers to implement strategies that successfully source and retain justice involved individuals.

Here are a few of the benefits to employers who engage employees who are formerly incarcerated or on work release, parole, or probation.

Better job candidate flow

Low unemployment is especially crippling for industries that traditionally experience high turnover in hourly positions and/or with a contingent workforce. With nearly one in three American adults holding a criminal record (ACLU, 2017), employers who are able to successfully engage this population are poised to win the war on talent.

Text Recruiting | Hourly Workers | ExactHire

Giving justice involved individuals another chance is the right thing to do

The formerly incarcerated combat a pervasive social stigma in many facets of their life, and it often impedes their ability to find work. In fact, according to the same ACLU study, 75% of formerly incarcerated people will remain unemployed a year after release. When someone has served his/her time, society should give them a second chance–not a re-sentence once they are released.

Reducing recidivism pays for itself

According to a 2018 special report from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, across 30 states 5 out of 6 (a staggering 83%) of state prisoners released in 2005 were arrested at least once during the 9 years following their release. Recidivism, or the “tendency for a convicted criminal to reoffend,” is on the rise.

And, it’s no surprise when we consider the absence of sufficient resources to support transitioning justice involved individuals back into society. This makes it hard for the formerly incarcerated to get over what some call the “three hots and a cot” mentality.

Consider that the Gross National Product (GNP) is losing an estimated $78 billion to $87 billion annually as the justice involved remain unemployed, according to the aforementioned ACLU report.

Employer tax incentives

Companies who hire the formerly incarcerated may be eligible for hidden hiring incentives such as the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. WOTC is a federal tax credit available to employers that hire individuals from specific targeted groups that have consistently faced significant employment barriers. Among these targeted groups are “qualified ex-felons” who are defined as individuals who are hired within a year of being convicted of a felony, or being released from prison from the felony.

Create a supportive network to succeed with the justice involved

It’s one thing for companies to be compelled to act based on the benefits mentioned above; however, in order to realize success in hiring and retaining the justice involved job candidate population, your organization must implement an internal infrastructure that can accommodate their unique needs. Additionally, it should utilize established external resources that may already be available in your area to help transition the justice involved back to work.

This is easier said than done, as there is not an abundance of model employers showing the rest of us how to do it. And, perhaps that deficiency is part of the explanation for the slow adoption of hiring this population.

The best intentions are only a fraction of what’s required for success in employing the justice involved. Employers must put systems and services in place to get this source of talent back to work. According to SHRM’s Getting Talent Back to Work Toolkit, employers should focus on

  • Reliable Checks – working with reputable background checking agencies to make sure the data you use to make decisions about a candidate’s suitability for employment is sound.
  • Relevant Assessment – ensuring your organization’s methods for assessing criminal records on an individual basis are relevant.
  • Reasonable Risk – comprehending and assessing the reasonable risks associated with hiring this population so that you can proceed confidently.

Within these three categories, there are many steps organizations may take to set themselves up for a higher percentage of success in employing the justice involved population. Here are some ideas for consideration.

Make connections during the pre-release period

Consider offering a candidate training program for incarcerated individuals six months prior to their release. Just as you would approach tuition reimbursement for an in-demand nursing student, ask pre-release individuals who have been identified as good candidates for a commitment to work for your organization for a period of time so that they may receive important life skills and a starter wage. This type of arrangement can go far in building employee loyalty in a tough employee retention market.

Develop relationships in your community

Employing the justice involved is a careful undertaking, and can be enhanced by positive and close relationships with local sheriff departments and other representatives at the Department of Corrections (DOC), staffing agencies and other transitional support agencies.

Set expectations with internal staff

For success in employing the justice-involved population, you need to dedicate internal resources to properly setting expectations and training existing staff members on how to undergo this initiative in a productive way. Be realistic and transparent around challenges that may surface, and develop strategies about how your company will address those challenges before you find yourselves in the moment.

Make sure that your organizational structure models success for justice involved individuals. For example, don’t have a single working area or department where justice involved employees represent a majority of the unit. This is their time to transition back into the workforce and recognize positive habits and behavior from others who have succeeded in the organization. If you offset that balance, then negative habits can be perpetuated with poor outcomes.

Invest in offering on-site services for justice involved employees

Some justice involved individuals fall circumstance to rising recidivism rates because they don’t have reasonable access to the services and support they need to get a foothold in the world after release. If your organization is serious about successfully employing this population, then consider offering some of these services:

  • Reentry resources – Links to and documentation about existing public reentry services in your community. For example, Orange County, California has a robust post-incarceration resource toolkit on its website.
  • Basic food needs – Make information available about local food pantries and agencies that make sure people don’t go hungry. Help employees apply for food stamp benefits.
  • Spiritual support – Consider on-site chaplain services so employees can nurture any of their spiritual goals and confide in a third party.
  • Medical care – Make sure that employees are afforded time to take care of medical needs and given information about how to obtain access to prescription drugs, including mental health care when applicable.
  • Basic paperwork – Remember that your justice involved hires may need important documents either located and/or reproduced such as birth certificate, Social Security card, personal ID card and/or driver’s license.
  • Substance abuse support – Recognize that some of your justice involved hires may struggle with substance abuse and therefore create an environment that is supportive of substance abuse counseling and rehabilitation so that destructive habits that often lead to crime aren’t repeated.
  • Ride planning – In order to promptly arrive to your workplace, your employees may need ride sharing programs, access to information about convenient public transportation options, and/or an employer-provided bus to transport employees to and from their current residence or halfway house to your job site.
  • Flexibility for required meetings – A common challenge for recently released individuals is maintaining availability for a shift job while also showing up for required probation or parole officer meetings that might happen in the middle of the day. With proper communication, offer these workers flexibility to attend the meetings that are critical for their post-release success.
  • Soft skills training – In some cases, justice involved individuals may have never learned about or been exposed to positive models for appropriate communication, social behavior, or even cleanliness/hygiene. Understand that services around these soft skills may be critical for employing this population with success.

Communicate your intentions clearly

Because much of employers’ hesitancy to hire justice involve populations is attributable to the stigma often associated with the formerly incarcerated as well as the company’s tendency toward compliance and protectiveness, clear communication is a driver of employment success for this talent group.

Clear communication includes both adjustments in traditional employment policy as well as external job advertisements, company culture content and screening and interview process design.

Remember that it is a violation of Title VII to reject applicants because of criminal records unless it is job related and consistent with business necessity. Employers have an obligation to clearly define what is job related and consistent with business necessity. They should reevaluate the role and scope of background checks in the hiring process, and use effective job evaluation to identify which criminal offenses will not work with which jobs.

Set realistic expectations with your justice involved candidates

Not every employer is going to be able to employ every justice involved employee. However, there is power and respect in being transparent about the opportunities and potential path available with your organization. I recently attended an event (more on that below) where they talked about the “ABC Jobs” trajectory for the justice involved:

  • Any job
  • Better job
  • Career

Which of those types of jobs can you offer this population? And, if it is just any job that has a low wage, how can you prepare that individual to succeed in that job and then move on to another organization (maybe one with which you partner on these programs) where they can achieve the next step?

This job pathing model can improve your community by creating work that improves individuals, makes your company productive and advances the public good through reduced spending due to rampant recidivism.

Anticipate potential setbacks

There will be ups and downs in any endeavor to create an infrastructure for employing justice involved populations…as there is with any other talent population, too. However, being aware of setbacks through conversation with other employers, local law enforcement, state agencies, etc. will bring to light things you can plan to address:

  • “Ban the box” legislation – Do you have work sites in geographic areas that are NOT subject to “ban the box”? If so, then take another look at your employment application and consider whether any questions about a candidate’s criminal history are potentially deterring qualified, but justice involved individuals from considering employment with your organization.
  • Shift challenges – Is your work shift schedule such that it makes it impossible to accommodate the needs of justice involved individuals who must attend parole meetings? As previously mentioned, take measures now to consider alternative strategies for meeting transportation needs and addressing shift requirements.
  • Recognize bias toward unexplained issues – I recently met someone who is employed with the city government and who was previously justice involved. She explained that it is not uncommon for little, unexpected things to happen that can adversely impact the positive trajectory of a justice involved individual. She encourages others to get the facts before jumping to negative conclusions. For example, she has seen malfunctioning ankle bracelets cause productive employees who have done nothing wrong to be hauled away by police on the job in front of co-workers. Without sensitivity to the root cause of such problems, bias and gossip could lead to a lack of support, or even wrongful termination.

The time is now

Is your organization ready to get serious about considering this untapped talent population? I hope the considerations outlined in this blog inspire exploration of this talent pool and fine-tuning of any of your existing initiatives.

Author’s Note: I recently attended a remarkable “Second Chance Staffing Visioning Event” held in January 2020 at Butler University and in conjunction with Allegiance Staffing. This interactive session was a kick-off to a joint research project between these partners and others to explore the job performance of those with criminal backgrounds while on the job. There is not yet much (or current) research in this specific area and the event brought together individuals from social service agencies, businesses, and the government–including thriving employees who have been justice involved. I’m excited about the direction of this research as it perfectly aligns with making a positive impact and with the challenging job landscape. Given the lack of formal studies in this area, their goal is to conduct a more detailed empirical analysis of the relative workplace performance of justice-involved citizens, as well as identify factors affecting this performance. Such a study requires the assistance of local employer(s) willing to share data regarding employees’ attendance, aptitude, and attitude, and they are currently in the process of securing these partners.

 

Reignite Your Leadership Skills

The world is full of leaders. Some are easy to identify; they may hold political office, run successful businesses, minister at churches, command troops, or quarterback their teams to victory. Surprisingly, however, these highly visible leaders are but a tiny fraction of the women and men who lead. The vast majority of leaders are leading without title or wide-spread popularity.

In fact, title and popularity are not reliable indicators of effective leadership. This is because leadership is a skill and, like any skill, improves over time with practice–or withers without it. Everyone, regardless of title, has the ability to grow as a leader if they choose to practice the skill consistently over time. But sometimes we lose the choice to practice.

Losing the Leadership Path

It can be difficult to practice leadership consistently when dealing with unexpected life events. This is especially true for individuals who mainly exercise leadership through their profession. Changing jobs, unemployment, starting families, illness, or the death of a loved one can all suddenly and swiftly interrupt the practice of leadership.

A few days or weeks of not practicing leadership is harmless; however, when weeks become months, the effects become more apparent. Confidence levels decrease, decisiveness weakens, and work knowledge may slip. This can all lead to confusion and negative outcomes. For those already in a leadership role, this could even mean losing their position. 

Reignite Your Leadership Skills

The negative effects of failing to practice leadership are not character defects. Confidence, decisiveness, knowledge, and clarity will all increase upon returning to practice. The problem for many, though, is that they don’t know how to begin practicing leadership again. This is especially true for someone who has lost a leadership position or taken an extended leave of absence.

Getting back on the leadership path is not always easy, and it’s not something achieved overnight. It requires disciplined action and an open mind. The goal should be to get back into the practice of setting and achieving goals, teaching and learning from peers, and experiencing success. And rather than making a snap decision to jump back into a leadership role, it’s helpful to first consider what opportunities currently exist. 

Finding The Right Leadership Opportunity

To begin practicing leadership after a long hiatus, the first step is to find the right leadership opportunity. Since this might be outside a chosen profession, the opportunity could be *gasp* uncompensated. However, by taking the perspective that the end (improved leadership skills) is worth the means (uncompensated work), motivation and progress can be maintained.

Often times there are leadership opportunities at our churches, our child’s school or sports leagues, or at our favorite non-profits. When an open leadership role exists where we already spend time, taking on the role becomes easier, and the expectations are clearer. Here are a few areas where leaders can grow their skills outside their primary profession.

Volunteer Leadership

Volunteering often involves manual, monotonous tasks. In fact, many institutions need volunteers to free up the time of full-time professionals so that they can focus on more strategic, value-added tasks. But even the most mundane volunteer role can offer an opportunity to practice leadership skills.

For instance, leaders often look for ways to improve outcomes by optimizing processes. So when a volunteer role is tied to an inefficient process, suggesting process improvements to the volunteer leader can be helpful. This could help the organization become more efficient and, ultimately, more successful.

Part-time Leadership

Part-time jobs that may not offer a career path or much prestige, can provide structure and valuable challenges. Professional titles help orient an organization’s employees and customers, but these titles are not the only sources of leadership. Those in part-time roles can lead too.

Just as a volunteer can suggest improvements, so too can a part-time employee. Furthermore, a part-time employee will have enough experience and knowledge of an organization to provide ideas for improving work culture, hiring, and training. If the fit is right, a part-time employee might have an interest and opportunity to move into a full-time leadership role.

Contract Leadership

For those looking to practice leadership on a flexible schedule and with compensation, contract work might be the right leadership opportunity. Of course, this often requires that the individual has a specific skill set to offer a client. Contracts usually arise because an organization lacks the internal expertise or bandwidth to complete a project.

One of the benefits of working as a contractor is that you are given ownership of a project and a degree of autonomy in its completion. Successful contract work can lead to full-time employment with the contracting organization or help build an impressive resume that highlights leadership qualities such as adaptability.

Mentor Leadership

One of the best ways to practice leadership is by sharing what we know. It’s not uncommon for leaders to undervalue their past experiences as they look ahead to new opportunities and challenges. However, it’s likely that there is someone one out there–an aspiring leader, perhaps–who could learn from those experiences.

Mentoring is a form of leadership that takes place on a one-to-one basis. This is ideal for those looking to get back on the leadership path because it removes the complexity of leading multiple personalities, skill sets, and needs. Additionally, the mentor-mentee relationship creates a tighter feedback loop, which can help accelerate the practice of leadership for both.

Take Action

Again, leadership is a skill that must be practiced. It cannot live by itself in thoughts and good intentions, or in title and popularity; it must be put into action. After deciding which leadership opportunity to pursue, the next step is simple: act.

Leadership in action is proactively securing the opportunity, learning the expectations, setting goals, and organizing resources to execute and succeed. Depending on the leadership opportunity, the impact of the work will vary; however, the main concern should be the effective practice of leadership toward ultimate success. With each instance of leadership practice and success, momentum will build and reignite dormant leadership skills.

 

9 Ways to Show Empathy When Employees Take a Leave of Absence

This is an easy time of year to remember to give thanks. With all the festivities of the holiday season, we don’t have to try that hard to show gratitude and be empathetic to others’ situations when things are going well. However, have you paused to reflect on how you demonstrate empathy during other times of the year?

The privilege to always show empathy and gratitude to others has never been more clear for me…as over the past couple of weeks I have cared for a close family member recovering from a challenging life event. I’ve been humbled and overwhelmed by the numerous demonstrations of support received from family and friends…and co-workers.

Empathy in the workplace is worth serious conversation, as the degree to which it is championed varies significantly from one organization to the next. However, because we spend so much of our lives in the workplace, our organizations are one of the best venues to grow our empathy practices. One of the most practical applications of this opportunity is when employees must take a leave of absence due to their own health condition or to care for a family member.

In this blog, I’ll cover nine ways that employers may demonstrate empathy when employees take a leave of absence from work.

1 – Embrace a growth mindset

If your organization hasn’t traditionally gone above and beyond to empathize with employees who require leave, don’t fret. Your organizational capacity for empathy can improve if you and your company can create the space for that practice.

I believe most people want to be compassionate, but often things unintentionally get in the way. People become distracted with being busy to the point that they are not attuned to opportunities to align with others’ needs and make a meaningful impact. Create time to intentionally focus on empathy toward others throughout the month.

2 – Be reassuring and consistent

When an employee takes a leave of absence, it can be based on circumstances that were unanticipated. The potentially unknown duration for a leave of absence may create stress for an employee. Nevertheless, the situation does offer an opportunity for your organization to be reassuring as well as consistent with communication about leave benefits. This helps to build a foundation for trust and emotional safety from the perspective of the employee.

3 – Be specific with your offer

I’m the type of person that never wants to appear as if I am taking advantage of others by saying “yes” to non-specific offers of help. For example, I politely thank someone who says “let me know if you need anything” without ever seeking his assistance…because it may be too overwhelming to think about what that assistance would be…and whether it would be too big of an ask for that individual.

However, lately I’ve learned to say “yes,” and it’s been easier when people offer specific ways they can help. A gesture may be as simple as offering to clear a co-worker’s calendar on his behalf when he is called away to care for a loved one; or, offering to deliver a care package to get a teammate through hard times.

By articulating a tangible offer, I think it is easier for the beneficiary of the help to say “yes” because you take away a potentially distracting decision from him–that is, the decision of what type of help to seek. These gestures cut through the stress and anxiety experienced by your impacted co-worker and help him persevere. They are a partial roadmap in an uncertain time and help alleviate the burden of yet another decision.

4 – Utilize communication templates for efficiency

Have a template ready to quickly send leave administration paperwork to an affected employee when the need arises. Use technology (everything from an HRIS to a free Trello board) to create and manage leave-related touchpoints…think of it as employee onboarding for the leave process.

Make your content consistent, yet approachable, and answer questions like those recommended by Jellyvision:

  • How much time can I take off?
  • Will I be paid, and if so, how much?
  • Is my job safe…or should I worry?

Also, match and mirror the employee in terms of her preferred communication mode (e.g. email, phone, text, etc.). Be mindful of employee preferences when it comes to in-person communications during a difficult stretch. For example, know whether she would be comforted by a friendly hug or view it as an encroachment on her personal space.

5 – Designate a single point of contact

Have your HR representative ask the employee if he wishes for any updates to be shared with concerned co-workers. With the employee’s consent, ask him if he prefers a single point of contact for updates or if he is okay with other teammates reaching out to check in. Otherwise, he may find himself struggling to keep up with 50 text messages from concerned co-workers all at once.

Even if a person is active on social media with what is happening in his life, and connected to co-workers on that network, he may still appreciate a single person for communication in the workplace.

6 – Make it easy for others to help

As long as the employee has consented to the employer allowing others within the organization to help, the company can organize outreach efforts on behalf of the employee taking leave. For example, consider

  • allowing other employees to donate PTO or sick time,
  • using a site such as takethemameal.com to set up a meal sign-up sheet, or
  • organizing a sign-up sheet to ensure that a periodic visitor helps to keep the employee’s spirits up.

7 – Choose empathy rather than sympathy

While empathy and sympathy are closely related, empathy goes a bit further to put yourself in the shoes of a person experiencing an event. Conversely, sympathetic gestures often begin with a statement such as “at least you don’t have X going on.” While the intent of sympathy may be to put rose-colored glasses on a tough situation, it may not do anything to help someone through a rough spot. However, finding common ground through a similar shared experience and letting an employee know you that you’re available to provide support may prove more effective.

Truly listen to what an employee needs in a challenging moment. And, if you don’t have amazing advice, just tell her you hear her and are there to help. Active listening means you don’t think about your next statement before the other person is finished speaking. Rather, you pause and then restate what she said, and ask questions to hone in on how you can be of assistance.

8 – Train your managers

Not only is it good form for your managers to be sensitive to the emotional, physical and social stresses an employee may experience related to a leave of absence, but it’s also sound business practice to make sure your managers have undergone training to handle leave administration appropriately.

Without training, employers leave themselves open to liability resulting from “foolish” statements by uninformed managers, according to Jeff Nowak in this SHRM article.

9 – Be available for the long haul

It’s easy for an organization to be helpful in the early days of an employee’s challenge, but make sure you create triggers to check in with the employee when the initial shock has worn off, too. Recovery from challenging life events takes time and an employee’s communication and tangible needs may evolve throughout that process. For example, make it easy for an employee to understand what is necessary to extend a short term disability claim, or to see what accommodations are needed in order to return to work more quickly.

When was the last time you considered how “human” your company’s human resources efforts are when it comes to assisting teammates with challenging circumstances? In this season of Thanksgiving, let’s re-examine what we’re doing in the workplace to empathize with our employees’ life situations and lift them up when they need support.