Sick EEWe’ve all been there. You open your eyes, and know you’re sick. The headache, stuffy nose, body aches.  You knew you’d eventually catch the “bug” that’s been going around.   But you’re a dedicated employee, so you take some colds meds and head into the office.  You’ve got work to do, that project deadline is looming, and you don’t want to leave your coworkers to carry the load. However well intentioned, this is a huge mistake.

Flu season generally starts in October and peaks in February, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and somewhere between 5 and 20 percent of Americans get the flu every year, with hundreds of thousands hospitalized. During this time of year, many Americans with fevers, aches, and runny noses will face a question: Should they go into work?

When it comes to the workplace, the office environment is the ideal conduit for germs to spread, even when only a single person is sick. Consider the routine of office activity, commonly touched surfaces like door knobs, microwaves, phones, and the coffee pot.

Best health practices include:

  1. Avoiding contact with sick people
  2. Staying home when sick, and encouraging employees to do so
  3. Covering coughs and sneezes
  4. Proper hand-washing hygiene
  5. Disinfecting common surfaces.

As an employer or manager, you play an important role in encouraging your employees to adhere to these guidelines. You can reinforce good habits by prominently posting the CDC guidelines in common areas; providing supplies such as tissues, disinfecting wipes; and hand sanitizer; and even offering free or low-cost flu shots for those employees who wish to get vaccinated. Finally, encourage sick employees to remain at home until they are symptom free for at least 24 hours.

Note that many states and cities may require employers to provide a certain amount of sick leave, either with or without pay, to their employees. Make sure that your sick leave policy complies with any applicable state or federal laws and is clear in specifying the eligibility rules, whether sick leave is paid or not, how many days are provided each year, and any carryover provisions. Regardless of what is required and what you decide with your sick leave policy, you should include the policy in your employee handbook if you distribute one.

Remember: while it may be tempting to allow a sick employee to come to work in the name of productivity, an outbreak of influenza or other communicable disease can thwart the productivity of your entire workforce for days or even weeks-and that’s a cost no business can afford.

Perf Review 1Several high-profile companies like General Electric (GE), are getting rid of annual performance reviews.  This development has sparked a debate among HR professionals and business owners about the usefulness of performance appraisals, and the alternatives for deciding who gets pay raises, bonuses and promotions.

Many managers dread the performance review, and will tell you they are dissatisfied with how their companies conduct annual performance reviews.  Many HR professionals say the process doesn’t yield accurate information. The reviews are time consuming, and often the results don’t accurately reflect the employee’s contributions throughout the year.

There are other methods of reviewing your employees’ performance that yield more accurate results.  Many managers agree that more frequent informal “check-ins” allow you to keep a better pulse on your employees’ performance, and are more meaningful conversations.  Instead of basing performance in one sitting, reviewing an entire year, with rankings and ratings, these “check ins” allow for a collaborative discussion on strengths and development areas.

5 Tips to “Rethink” the Evaluation

  1. Performance is more complex than check boxes and numeric scales. A good system needs to highlight significant incidents, provide clear examples of positive and negative behaviors, and include specifics. Just because we assign a number doesn’t make it objective.  Turning performance into a number blinds us to how people are actually performing.
  2. Provide feedback on things the employee can change. Avoid talking about personality traits or characteristics they can't change.
  3. When giving negative feedback, focus on specific incidents and examples. Talk about your impressions and feelings, and never make judgments about what's going on in the employee's head.
  4. Focus on strengths more than weaknesses. Focusing on weakness sends the wrong message. Focusing on strength gets people excited and motivated to grow. A focus on weakness really says that your strengths don't matter.
  5. Don’t forget about intangible behaviors. Reviews need to be more holistic and find ways to take into account nonobvious team-building behaviors. The person who helps keep everyone else's mood up when things are tough is appreciated, but not really noticed, until they’re gone.

Need guidance on performance reviews? Call your HR Advisor today! (844) 4HR-PROS

It is finally holiday! Marked and written holiday in a calendar.

Paid time off policies (PTO), managing absenteeism, and administering holidays are common issues for employers. Here are 5 answers to common questions about PTO and holidays to help your organization navigate these challenges and create a competitive PTO plan.

  1. Are employers required to provide paid federal holidays or PTO?

No employer is required to pay for time off on holidays, but there are many holidays that employers choose to observe and pay employees. There is no requirement that employers must provide PTO, but it's generally a great perk to attract and retain good employees.

  1. What is the average number of paid holidays provided?

The average number of paid holidays offered by employers is usually 6-10. Usually organizations provide at least 5 paid holidays, however some organizations provide as many as 15.

  1. Should we credit paid holidays that occur over a vacation?

Generally-speaking, yes. It's a good practice to credit PTO if a paid holiday occurs over a vacation. For example, if employees take July 2nd through July 6th off work and July 4th is a paid holiday observed by your organization, this day would be credited back to the employee's vacation or PTO bank.

  1. How should we handle employees who take off unscheduled days before or after holidays?

A common way that employers deal with this problem is to state in their attendance or paid time off policy that patterned absences such as before or after holidays or weekends are considered unexcused absences and may be subject to discipline. Employers can also require time off to be approved. The best way to prevent this from happening is to cover it in your policy and enforce it consistently.

  1. What are some reasons for considering PTO plans versus vacation and sick time?

PTO plans lump all time off into one bucket, versus separate buckets of time off for different types of leave like vacation, sick leave, and personal time (and typically excluding holidays, bereavement leave, jury duty, etc.). PTO plans allow employees to use days off for any reason and as a result tend to make the administrative process of managing and tracking time off easier. The focus of PTO is not on managing the reasons for the absence, but rather giving employees the freedom to use their time as they see fit. More employers are moving to PTO plans for these reasons.

Remember that states will generally enforce an employer's written policy regarding holiday pay, so it's important to follow company policy and to apply the rules consistently and fairly to all employees. For questions about the specific requirements in your state, contact your state labor department or a knowledgeable employment law attorney.

office_holiday_party__behaviorCompany holiday parties can be an opportunity to celebrate and bond with your employees, but the combination of gift giving, religious celebration, and alcohol can leave employers open to problems if the festivities aren’t planned carefully.

  1. Be Inclusive!– Companies should attempt to create a holiday party that all employees feel comfortable attending. It’s good practice to put less emphasis on the religious significance of the holidays and more on good cheer.
  2. Providing Alcohol– If serving alcohol is a must, consider holding the party off company property, perhaps at a bar or restaurant. Limit the amount of alcohol served with a drink ticket system or assign a designated person to look out for visibly intoxicated employees. If the party is on company property, consider hiring a caterer or professional bartender, who is trained at serving drinks and recognizing visibly intoxicated individuals.

Note: In many states, like Pennsylvania and New Jersey, an employer acting as a “social host” can be liable for injuries to a third party if the employer serves alcohol to a visibly intoxicated individual. Make sure that all liability insurance for the company is up to date and find out if the caterer, restaurant, or bartender carries its own liability insurance.

  1. Attendance– Inform your employees that attendance at the party is voluntary. Also consider allowing employees to bring guests to the party. Employees are less likely to get drunk and unruly when their spouses and significant others are with them.
  2. Sexual Harassment Policy–Employees should be reminded that harassment, jokes, and sexual advances are not tolerated, and that alcohol does not provide an excuse to engage in these prohibited behaviors.
  3. Secret Santa and Gift Giving in the Workplace– Just like holiday parties, Secret Santa, and other forms of gift exchange surface during the holiday season. It’s important to set parameters for appropriateness, inclusivity, and price. And like any other workplace holiday activities, holiday gift giving should be voluntary. No employee should be forced to participate in secret Santa.

Getting into the spirit of the holidays should be a positive experience that the entire workplace can enjoy. By proactively planning ahead, employers can create a holiday party that is safe, inclusive, and fun. Happy Holidays!

OnboardingThe buzz about onboarding seems to have slowed down a bit. Perhaps it’s because HR professionals are getting tired of reading about it; perhaps it’s because there are other things that are catching our interests; or perhaps it’s because we are all already executing highly successful onboarding programs.

I don’t think it’s the latter.


Modern Survey recently identified that 92% of HR professionals think that onboarding is important to their company’s success, but only 55% of them think they are doing it well.

It’s time to take onboarding off the shelf, dust it off, and give it another look. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate for September 2015 is 5.1%, which is the lowest it’s been since May 2008. The Department of Labor reports that 1 in every 4 employees leaves their position in the first year. CBS News reports that the cost an organization incurs when an employee leaves is somewhere between 20-213% of that employee’s salary. With numbers like this, companies can’t afford to lose high potential employees.

To see how a strong onboarding program can aid your company’s retention efforts, let’s look at what employees want. According to SHRM’s 2015 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Report, 72% feel that “respectful treatment of all employees at all levels” is very important, and 64% feel that “trust between employees and senior management” is very important. So to keep employees sticking around, companies need to ensure they do these two things well.

Onboarding, which we will define as the employee’s first 90 days at a new company (although it could be longer), helps retention because it: • Acclimates the employee to the new organization, making them feel valued and respected. • Introduces the employee to key peers and stakeholders, sparking friendships with colleagues. • Trains the employee how to successfully complete job duties, establishing expectations at the onset and therefore building trust.

To do onboarding well, it needs to be well organized, reliable, and customized for each individual.

Organized – A company’s onboarding program should follow a plan, or guideline. For example, a plan could include having a supervisor sit down with a new employee to establish three 90-day goals. HR can create forms, timelines, and checkpoints for supervisors.

Reliable – Sometimes – especially with new initiatives – supervisors begin with the best intentions, but fail to follow through for various reasons. In order to build trust, the company (and supervisor) must do what it says it is going to do. So in that 90-day plan, it’s important for the supervisor to have periodic check-ins with the employee.

Customized – Not all companies are created equal, and neither are all employees. Some employees may want to write their own 90-day goals and present them to the supervisor to discuss; others may want to sit down with the supervisor and create them together; while still others might prefer the supervisor just present them with goals to achieve. If your company conducts behavioral assessments as part of the selection process, they can be used again here. If not, the company should be open to flexibility within the plan so that each new employee gets the most out of his or her onboarding experience.

To learn more about creating a powerful onboarding program and other HR hot topics, visit HR Tampa’s Expo on October 21, 2015. Go to to register.

Jen bio pic2


Jennifer Currence, MBA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is president of OnCore Management Solutions. She is an HR consultant, corporate trainer, and business coach based in Tampa, Florida.