Today's post comes to us from the executive director of The Workforce Institute, Dr. Chris Mullen, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, SPHR.

I recently had the pleasure of joining longtime Workforce Institute board member and the HR Bartender, Sharlyn Lauby, on her brand new podcast, The HR Bartender Show, to talk about importance of providing employees with effective technology.

Sharlyn is easy to talk to, incredibly thoughtful, and always thinking about how to make working life better for employees, managers and employers. In short: she's the perfect HR podcast host.

We covered a lot of ground in our conversation: from how the COVID-19 pandemic exposed shortcomings in technology strategies for many organizations, to how and when organizations may (or may not) bring those employees back to in-person working environments and how technology can help enable this. We talk about scheduling, attendance, hiring, onboarding, “grey-collar” employees, and trust in the modern workplace. It was a lot of fun.

If you have a half hour to listen, please tune in HERE (you can take us on a walk or in your car) or if reading is more your style, you can read the transcript HERE.

Thanks again to Sharlyn for having me on - I look forward to many more conversations in the future and don't forget to subscribe to The HR Bartender Show wherever you get your podcasts!

scientific_method_wordleToday's guest post is by Sharlyn Lauby, the HR Bartender and a member of the Workforce Institute board of advisors.  Sharlyn writes about how the scientific method of investigation can be applied to solving problems in a business environment.  This topic is near and dear to my heart as I was a scientist and science teacher early in my career.  Sharlyn is right on in her analysis about how this method can help non-scientists to find the right solutions.

Companies face challenges on a regular basis. As such, employees need to know how to problem solve. A tried and true problem-solving process is the scientific method. I know many of us haven't thought about the scientific method since our school days but it does provide a logical way of tackling business problems. As a reminder, here are the steps to the method:

1.  Identify the problem. The first step in the scientific method is to identify and analyze a problem. Data regarding the problem can be collected using a variety of methods. One way we're all accustomed to is the classic: who, what, where, when, how, and to what extent? The scientific method works best when you have a problem that can be measured or quantified in some way.

2. Form a hypothesis. A hypothesis is a statement that provides an educated prediction or proposed solution. A good format for a hypothesis would be, “If we do XX, then YY will happen.” Remember, the hypothesis should be measurable so it can help you solve the business problem identified in step one.

3. Test the hypothesis by conducting an experiment. This is when an activity is created to confirm (or not confirm) the hypothesis. There have been entire books written about conducting experiments. We won't be going into that kind of depth today but it's important to keep in mind a few things when conducting your experiment:

4. Analyze the data. Once the experiment is complete, the results can be analyzed. The results should either confirm the hypothesis as true or false. If by chance, the results aren't confirmed, this doesn't mean the experiment was a failure. In fact, it might give you additional insight to form a new hypothesis. It reminds me of the famous Thomas Edison quote, “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”

5. Communicate the results. Whatever the result, the outcomes from the experiment should be communicated to the organization. This will help stakeholders understand which challenges have been resolved and which need further investigation. It will create buy-in for future experiments. Stakeholders might also be in a position to help develop a more focused hypothesis.

Now let's use the scientific method in a business example:

Step 1 (identification): Human resources has noticed an increase in resignations over the past six months. Operational managers have said that the company isn't paying employees enough. The company needs to figure out why employees are resigning?

Step 2 (hypothesis): If we increase employee pay, then fewer resignations will occur.

Step 3 (test): For the next three months, HR will have a third-party conduct exit interviews to determine the reason employees are resigning.

Step 4 (analysis): The third-party report shows that the primary reason employees are leaving is because health care premiums have increased and coverage has decreased. Employees have found new jobs with better benefits.

Step 5 (communication): After communicating the results, the company is examining their budget to determine if they should:

  1. Increase employee pay to cover the health insurance premium expense or
  2. Re-evaluate their health care benefits package.

I've found using the scientific method to be very helpful in situations like the example where a person or small group have a theory about how to solve a problem. But that theory hasn't completely been bought into by everyone. Offering the option to test the proposed solution, without a full commitment, tells the group that their suggestion is being heard and that the numbers will ultimately provide insight - after the full scientific method has been followed.

Have you ever used the scientific method to solve a business problem? Share your experience in the comments.


sharlynlaubyToday's guest post is courtesy of Sharlyn Lauby, better known as the HR Bartender.

Earlier this summer, Kronos recognized several companies in its annual Innovator Awards. The Kronos Innovator Awards were created to acknowledge partners that have created innovative solutions to effectively manage their workforce. You can read more about this year's winners here.

It got me thinking. What does it take to create an innovative culture? A culture that would be recognized for its unique solutions. Then I read a book that helped me discover the answer. In the book “Innovation Training” by Ruth Ann Hattori and Joyce Wycoff (ASTD Press), the authors discuss what it takes to create an innovative culture. They identify four key components.

Organizational Values - We all know what values are, right? They're the competencies the organization identifies as being essential to fulfilling the mission of the business. Innovative companies have values that are really values. Not just words on a card for show purposes. These companies create values so they can hire employees who can embrace those ideals. They train to those values and evaluate performance based on those values.

Employee Accountability - Hattori and Wycoff call this “people - the source of innovation” but I think it's more than just the existence of employees. It's about holding people accountable for living the organization's values. Being held accountable for organizational values is key to creating an innovative culture.

Leadership Support - Nothing of significance will materialize if company leadership doesn't support it. You can't pressure or micro-manage people to innovate. Leaders must be supportive both of the individual and the values they've established. Then let people do their best work.

Learning Mindset - The book defines this as “innovation values”. Okay, I get their point; but I do sometimes find it challenging to use the word innovation in a definition about innovative culture. Basically, this component is about letting people learn. Because innovation happens when learning happens. Inside formal training. Outside during informal conversations. Innovation occurs when someone asks if they can continue to work on something because “they can't let it go yet”. It takes place over drinks after work. Learning and innovation happen anywhere and everywhere when we let it.

When I thought about this year's Kronos award winners, I thought about the innovative cultures they must have created to achieve great results. Make no mistake, these are companies focused on the bottom-line. But delivering excellent products and services, being profitable and maintaining an innovative culture are not mutually exclusive.

What do you think are the components of an innovative culture? Leave us your thoughts in the comments.

Today's guest post is courtesy of Sharlyn Lauby, better known as the HR Bartender. Sharlyn, William Tincup and I recently published this podcast about the growth of mobile devices in workforce management. In today's post, Sharlyn expands on her recommendations to organizational leaders who are considering the adoption of mobile devices.  Read on and let us know - are there other factors to be considered?

According to mobiThinking, cellular subscriptions worldwide are at 6 billion. Yes, that's billion. Companies are making significant revenue from mobile devices. Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, was quoted saying that “customers around the word have ordered more than $1billion USD of products from Amazon using a mobile device.” eBay has seen people purchase more than $5 billion in goods using their mobile. PayPal - $7 billion.

When that much money is changing hands over mobile devices, marketing departments take notice. And human resources needs to realize that attempts to ban mobile device usage in the workplace could be met with a whole lot of resistance. Perhaps for good reason. So maybe it's time to consider drafting some guidelines on the responsible use of mobile devices in the workplace.  If you do, here are a handful of things to consider:

Ownership: From a company perspective, it sounds wonderful to have employees own their equipment. The concept of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) has its benefits. But it also raises some questions about who is financially responsible for equipment maintenance and what happens if the equipment is lost or stolen. Another consideration if employees are expected to use their own equipment, is what are defined reimbursable and non-reimbursable expenses when it comes to home wireless routers, aircards, apps, etc?

Compatibility: The great part of allowing employees to use their own equipment is they know how to use it. This translates into greater productivity. The challenge internally becomes how to make sure all these different devices are compatible with existing company systems. Businesses might not be gaining any advantages if they have to create lots of workarounds to accommodate different devices.

Network Access: Employees need to know what information they can access and from where. There will be information that's acceptable to access on public WiFi and other data that should not. Define the protocols for proper WiFi access.

Security: Training should be conducted to remind employees about confidential and proprietary information. Maybe certain types of work cannot be done in public places, such as coffee shops.  Along with basic technology security like how to create good passwords.

Terms and Agreements: Outlining the procedure for an employee resignation, termination or layoff on the front end can avoid confusion and misunderstandings later. Discuss the consequences when an employee violates the mobile guidelines. Is the company prepared to revoke the privilege if the policy is abused multiple times? Would the organization ever fire someone over egregious abuse of using a mobile device for work?

Keep in mind that any policy should be driven by your corporate culture and organizational goals. There are lots of right answers when it comes to using mobile devices at work. Discussing the options will create a better outcome. Be prepared to think of everything - even if you hope it won't happen.

I know in human resources we're often accused of creating too many policies. But giving employees some valuable guidance on the best way to use their mobile devices will help both the employee and the company. This is one of those times when it's best to share what “should be done” versus “what not to do”.

Should organizations give employees mobile device guidelines?  If so, is there anything else you would add to the list?

Today's guest post is courtesy of Sharlyn Lauby, The HR Bartender.  I met Sharlyn at KronosWorks last week in Las Vegas, where we had the opportunity to get to know each other a bit.  As Sharlyn notes below, and we've written about before, absenteeism is a significant and costly business issue around the globe.

During last week's KronosWorks2012 event, I had the opportunity to hear the latest data on absenteeism in the government and education sectors.  The data, presented by the Governing Institute and Center for Digital Education, puts the cost of public sector absenteeism in the billions (yes, that's billions with a “b”).

And part of that cost isn't just the benefits paid or the lost productivity. It's the cost of actually keeping track of employee absences. The Governing Institute and Center for Digital Education says that 52% of organizations rely upon a manual time and attendance system. They figure the average manager spends 1.5 hours per week focused on managing time and attendance.

Using that 1.5 number, let's say the average manager makes $20/hour. That means the estimated national annual cost for managing absenteeism (just the managing part) comes to over $880 million in the government sector and close to $2 billion in the education sector. I don't need to tell anyone that's a lot of money.

But as I was listening to the session, it occurred to me that the challenges with absenteeism in the public sector aren't exclusive to their industry. They're evident in every industry. For example, take my background in hospitality…managers were always dealing with an employee absenteeism issue. Now magnify that to the ten or twenty managers in the company. We'd have ten or twenty absenteeism issues. All costing the company money.

To illustrate my point, I wanted to do some more digging on the subject and ran across The Kronos Global Absence survey. If you haven't seen it, I hope you'll check it out. It confirmed that absenteeism is a global issue and shared the extent we're all in this together.

For example, the country with the largest percentage of employees calling in sick when they're really not is, of course, China at 71%. It only makes sense since the population is so large. But that really doesn't explain Australia with 58%, Canada with 52% and the United Kingdom with 43%. BTW - the United States came in at 52%. The best country? France at 16%.

Why do employees call in sick when they're not? Top reasons include stress and too much work.

What would prevent them for calling in sick?! You guessed it - flexible work schedules.

So we can see the direct path between flexible work, engagement and productivity. The absenteeism challenge extends far beyond one industry and one country. And the solutions are consistent between industries and countries as well.

If you're wondering about the time spent tracking time and attendance, the numbers appear consistent. Only half of employers are using an automated system. That means managers spend a lot of time manually monitoring their employee's time.

It makes me wonder. If companies are having challenges with employee absenteeism. And the answer is creating a more engaged workforce to increase productivity. Then it only seems logical to make sure that managers spend their time on activities that will create engagement (not on administrative tasks).

Fixing absenteeism is a manager's problem. But they can't fix it if they're bogged down in administrivia. Free up managers time so they can do what brings the most value to the organization.

What do managers do at your organization to manage unplanned absenteeism?

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