7 Reasons to Implement Stay Interviews in Your Organization

What is a stay interview?  “A stay interview is a structured discussion a leader conducts with an individual employee to learn specific actions the leader can take strengthen the employee’s engagement and retention with the organization.”[i]  What is the value of the stay interview?  The organization hears directly from the employee in a one-on-one discussion (not related to performance), with any issues, concerns and opportunities leadership improvement.  This provides us as leaders the opportunity to engage, communicate and retain the workforce.  The stay interviews should be conducted by the leader of the organization, with HR’s support.  I have used effectively used stay interviews.

Below are the thoughts on implementing stay interviews:

  1. Start at the Top: The leader at the top of the organization should set the tone for the organization and conduct stay interviews with their direct reports.  The process should cascade down throughout the rest of the organization to front-line supervisors and employees.  Employees at every level should take part in a stay interview, to ensure an effective and successful process.
  1. In Person: Stay interviews should not be conducted over the phone or via a video conferencing system, if possible. Remote workers should have the opportunity to sit one-on-one with their supervisor and have a discussion.
  1. Expectations of the Stay Interview: Ensure the employee understands the reason for the stay interview and how these interviews will focus on area’s that the manager can influence.  Not all of us can change company policy, mission statements and strategic goals.  However, if a trend in these interviews is consistent, we might have more say in strategic objectives.
  1. Schedule Time: “Most stay interviews take 20 minutes or less to conduct, but some will carry on longer. Leaders should consider telling employees to allow 20 minutes for their meeting, but even then, leaders should allow thirty minutes on their calendars.”[ii] Treat the employee as you want to be treated during the stay interview.
  1. Leave Performance Out of It: There is a time and place to discuss performance expectations. Stay interviews should remain focused on engagement, retention feedback, communication and concerns.  Scripted open ended questions are necessary.
  1. No Advanced Questions: This can limit the conversation to a list of memorized demands and responses. Open ended discussion with note taking, listening and probing for additional information will add tremendous value to the stay interview.
  1. Opening Script: The pre-drafted script is a great way to open the meeting. This will provide additional information to the employee on what the process will look like and the direction of the interview.  The messages will be consistent throughout the organization.

The Why of Stay Interviews:

  • “Employees hear directly from their supervisor that they care and want them to stay and grow with the company.
  • Supervisors further accept retention and engagement within their sphere of responsibility.
  • Employees are more likely to accept responsibility for staying.
  • Stay interviews build trust.”[iii]

Stay Interview Draft Template:

To open the stay interview, a manager may use the following (or similar) statements:

  • I would like to talk with you about the reasons you stay with ____, so I understand what I might be able to do to make this a great place to work.
  • I’d like to have an informal talk with you to find out how the job is going, how the job will change, so I can do my best to support you as your manager, particularly with issues within my control.
  • I will be taking notes throughout our discussion and might ask you to repeat yourself if I do not capture everything.
  • Do you have any questions before we get started?

Review Job Description and Changing Expectations

  • These are the current changes to the job description
  • These will be the changes to the position and current expectations/accountabilities
  • Discuss the reporting structure
  • Communication expectations
  • System reporting expectations
  • Do you have any questions or concerns?

Questions

The following are questions you may ask during a stay interview. You should have several open-ended questions on hand. It’s important to listen and gather ideas from the employee about how you and your organization can retain him or her.

  • Tell me specifically, what factors cause you to enjoy your current job and work situation (including people, job, rewards, job content, coworkers, management etc.), and as a result, they contribute to your staying at our firm as long as you have?
  • What gets your excited to come to work here every day?
  • What do you look forward to when you come to work each day?
  • What do you like most or least about working here?
  • What keeps you working here?
  • If you could change something about your job, what would that be?
  • What would make your job more satisfying?
  • How do you like to be recognized?
  • What talents are not being used in your current role?
  • What would you like to learn here?
  • What motivates (or demotivates) you?
  • What can I do to best support you?
  • What can I do more of or less of as your manager?
  • What can we be doing differently as a management team?  Communication, meetings, etc.
  •  If you “managed yourself,” what would you do differently (in relation to managing “you”), that I, as your current manager, don’t currently do?
  • What might tempt you to leave?

Below are the links for upcoming training’s both in person and online webinars:

Upcoming Compliance Key Trainings

Elmira College: SHRM Certification Exam Prep Course- Fall 2018 & Spring 2019

Upcoming Compliance Online Training

Compliance IQ Webinar

– Matthew Burr, HR Consultant

[i] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/stay-interview-how-to-core-features-and-advantages.aspx

[ii] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/stay-interview-how-to-core-features-and-advantages.aspx

[iii] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/stay-interview-how-to-core-features-and-advantages.aspx

5 Considerations When Giving a Reference

As we all know, when an employee leaves an organization, it isn’t always on a positive note.  Through a resignation or termination, the employment relationship ends, positive or negative, good or bad.  As previous employer’s we are conflicted on what information to provide about the current or former employee during the reference or background checking processes.  Should we tell the new organization the employee was terminated or a poor performer?  Should we tell the new organization that the employee caused conflict and drama or didn’t show up for work on time, missed days, quality issues, etc.?  What if there was a workplace violence issue?  The standard answer for most organizations is; date hired, last position held and last day worked.  What if the new organization questions you, the old employer if the person is eligible for rehire or if you would hire them again?  What do we do then?  In many situations, these are not easy questions to answer.

The five considerations when giving an employment reference:

  1. Applicable state legislation: Many states now have legislation that gives employers “qualified immunity” when we as former employers are providing reference information. “That means you’re protected from civil liability if you’re responding in good faith-in other words, without knowingly providing false or misleading information or acting with malicious intent.”[i]  What does that mean for us in New York State?  “Currently (2005 article), New York employers have a qualified privilege defense available to them when they provide information regarding an employee or former employee’s character…New York has not adopted a reference check immunity law…reference check immunity laws do not protect employers against claims that negative job references were given in retaliation for protected activity under discrimination laws.”[ii]  As of 2005, there were thirty states that had adopted reference check immunity laws, which vary widely throughout the country.  If you have former employees moving to another state, know the state laws prior to providing reference checks or additional information about the employment relationship.

 

  1. Control the Information: The Society of Human Resource Management recommends that we as employer’s limit who can and cannot give references and what information can be provided. It should be the responsibility of the HR professional, manager, general manager, office manager, business owner, etc.  Someone designated with authority that can speak to the employment relationship.  This will ensure consistency in the process throughout the organization.

 

  1. Consistency in the Process: Reference requests should follow the same process for all current or previous employee’s.  “All disclosures should be made only in writing and only upon written request from the prospective employer and with written permission from the employee.”[iii]  Companies are now outsourcing the reference check processes, which ensures consistency.  However, this provides limited information for the future employer.

 

  1. Relevant Facts: Do not give opinions about the employee’s suitability for a prospective job or new position. Even if the employee was an underperformer at your organization, they could be a great fit for the new position.  Use only documented evidence on job performance, when sharing with the prospective employer.  Less said, better defended!

 

  1. Employee Permission: It is recommended that all job candidates complete an application form that includes a release for employers from which they have added as a reference. This form should be consistent across the organization, to ensure equity and avoid discrimination charges.  I recommend obtaining this prior to releasing any information about the current or former employee.

 

As leaders, we need to ensure we are consistent when providing references for all our employee’s; past, current and future workforce.  Updating policies, procedures and processes will provide the foundation on which we can build a consistent process for reference checking and verification.  Documenting work performance and accurate performance reviews will help in providing accurate and relevant work-related information.  Remember that state laws will vary on qualified immunity legislation and these laws like most other’s will continue to evolve through court decisions and the legislative process.  Seek guidance if you are confused or need assistance developing or revising a process.  Be consistent, equitable, stick to the facts and control the information your organization provides during a reference check.

-Matthew W. Burr

[i] https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/0418/Pages/when-giving-references-how-truthful-can-you-be.aspx

[ii] https://nys.shrm.org/sites/nys.shrm.org/files/ReferenceChecking.pdf

[iii] https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/0418/Pages/when-giving-references-how-truthful-can-you-be.aspx

11 Changes to New York State Sexual Harassment Laws

Yes, that does read correctly, 11 upcoming changes.  New York State legislators have passed multiple regulations related to sexual harassment in the workplace; training, policies, reporting, etc.  Many of these new regulations and rules are in the wake of the #MeToo movement and the many issues we have seen with sexual harassment in the workplace in a variety of industries, organizations and professions.  As leader’s we cannot tolerate harassment of any kind.  The new law(s) require employers to provide sexual-harassment training to all workers and much more.

The 11 changes to sexual harassment legislation (for now):

  1. October 9, 2018: As of now, and by October 9, 2018, employers in New York State must implement annual sexual-harassment training. The state is developing a model program, which can be used by employers.  Any training implemented must meet or exceed the minimal state requirements.  More to come on this area of change.

Training Requirements:

  1. “An explanation of sexual harassment and specific examples of inappropriate conduct.
  2. Detailed information concerning federal, state and local laws and the remedies available to victims of harassment.
  3. An explanation of employees’ external rights of redress and the available administrative and judicial forums for bringing complaints.”[i]

Sexual-Harassment Prevention Policy

The state is requiring organizations to adopt a sexual-harassment prevention policy and distribute to employees (yes now you must have a handbook of sorts), the expectations of the new requirements could vary from what your organization is currently using.  The state has strict requirements for organizations policies and procedures.  Be aware of expectations and implement accordingly.  The policy is required to include (for now):

  1. “A statement prohibiting sexual harassment and providing examples of what constitutes sexual harassment.
  2. Information about federal and state sexual-harassment laws and the remedies that are available to victims—and a statement that there may be additional local laws on the matter.
  3. A standard complaint form.
  4. Procedures for a timely and confidential investigation of complaints that ensures due process for all parties.
  5. An explanation of employees’ external rights of redress and the available administrative and judicial forums for bringing complaints.
  6. A statement that sexual harassment is a form of employee misconduct and that sanctions will be enforced against those who engage in sexual harassment and against supervisors who knowingly allow such behavior to continue.
  7. A statement that it is unlawful to retaliate against employees who report sexual harassment or who testify or assist in related proceedings.”[ii]

Senate Passes Comprehensive Strengthening of New York’s Sexual Harassment Laws

The Senate Bill

Guidance on Sexual Harassment for All Employers in New York State

These changes are significant across the state.  As leaders, we need to begin planning for training needs throughout the organization and updating policies and procedures.  The training should have a sign in and sign out sheet to ensure employees did attend and stayed to complete the training.  Recording the training to verify all were in attendance was a suggestion I recently heard at a training, but to also show new employees during the new hire orientation process.  Remember this is an annual training.  However, new hires need training as well.  Policies that are modified need to have signatures and witness signatures to verify receipt and understanding.  We are all learning about these changes together.  We need to be proactive and seek guidance, as these laws continue to change and evolve.  New York City has laws above and beyond state requirements (more to be written on this).  Continue to monitor for new updates coming out of Albany.  There are many legal seminars throughout the state on this topic, which will be helpful to organizations of all sizes.  More to be written on these new requirements in upcoming articles!

 

 

– Matthew Burr, HR Consultant

[i] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/state-and-local-updates/pages/new-york-sexual-harassment-training.aspx

[ii] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/state-and-local-updates/pages/new-york-sexual-harassment-training.aspx

Are You Due for a Sabbatical?

Introduction Contributed by Kara Whittaker, Ghergich & Co. https://ghergich.com/   Kara@Ghergich.com

There’s a crisis in the American workplace, but it’s probably not what you think it is. We’re not taking our vacation time, and it’s leading to all sorts of unproductive, cranky, stressed-out employees. And that, we all know, isn’t good for business.
Employees not taking vacation time is not a small problem, either. In fact, the trend keeps going up—we keep taking less and less of what we’re owed—to the tune of over 660 million days left on the table, every year. If you’re one of those employees that keeps ignoring your vacation (or even if you’re not), then you might want to consider a radical approach to hitting that reset button: a sabbatical.
Many people are familiar with a sabbatical in the academic world; it’s a chance for academics to pursue a rigorous research idea and do so without having to teach class. But the same notion can be used in the workplace, even if it’s just for a few weeks or months. Here’s what to know about it – https://www.discover.com/personal-loans/resources/major-expenses/sabbatical/

you_may_be_due_for_a_sabbatical_and_not_even_know_it

7 Factor Test for Internship Programs Under FLSA Determinative Changes in 2018

In January of 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) adopted a new primary beneficiary test for determining internships of for-profit employers.  Defining internships under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  Under the old and new primary beneficiary test, interns and students might not be defined as employees.  Non-employee cases, organizations would not have to compensate these students and interns for work performed, during their time at the internship or for projects they complete.  The new test as defined by the courts, is a flexible test, with no single, determining factor.  Each case will be reviewed on its unique basis and duties.

The seven factors of primary beneficiary test for unpaid interns and students:

  1. “The extent to which the intern and the employer clearly understand that there is no expectation of compensation. Any promise of compensation, express or implied, suggests that the intern is an employee—and vice versa.
  2. The extent to which the internship provides training that would be similar to that which would be given in an educational environment, including the clinical and other hands-on training provided by educational institutions.
  3. The extent to which the internship is tied to the intern’s formal education program by integrated coursework or the receipt of academic credit.
  4. The extent to which the internship accommodates the intern’s academic commitments by corresponding to the academic calendar.
  5. The extent to which the internship’s duration is limited to the period in which the internship provides the intern with beneficial learning.
  6. The extent to which the intern’s work complements, rather than displaces, the work of paid employees while providing significant educational benefits to the intern.
  7. The extent to which the intern and the employer understand that the internship is conducted without entitlement to a paid job at the conclusion of the internship.”[i]

Fact Sheet #71: Internship Programs Under The Fair Labor Standards Act

Old Six Factor Test

SHRM Recommendations for Unpaid Internship:

  1. “We recommend employers get something in writing, preferably with the school as well, that lays out everybody’s expectations,” Orr said. “You’d want to consider having something in writing that says there will be no expectation of compensation, that the internship will be limited to a period of beneficial learning and that there is no promise of a job at the end. If you get acknowledgment of those three things in writing and you follow through on them, you will be in good shape.
  2. If they are in a formal education program, find out if they can get credit for the internship,” Olson agreed. “If the person will get academic credit for the internship, that is very supportive of the internship being to the primary benefit of the intern.”[ii]
  3. Knowledge of local and state legislation is necessary for any HR professional or business owner. Many states follow the old six factor test or have another test, similar to the old six factor test.  This means organizations can fall under both federal and state jurisdiction on FLSA legislation and pay vs. unpaid internship obligations.  “In those cases, employers must typically follow whichever law is most generous to workers.”[iii]

NY State Wage Requirements for Interns in For-Profit Businesses

Wage Requirements for Interns in Not-For-Profit Businesses

My research shows Pennsylvania using the old 6-factor test

These changes can impact your organization.  Many colleges and universities offer credit for internships, work with the career services office prior to hiring an intern and fully the process.  Ensure a contract is in place, agreed upon and expectations are clearly communicated from both the school and workplace.  If your organization does hire an intern, provide feedback throughout to both the intern and academic institution.  In my experience, there is a feedback evaluation form to complete at the end of the internship, as part of the credit approval process.  Students can also be required to write a paper or keep a journal of experiences.  If you are confused on the new requirements, seek guidance.  Ensure that your organization is compliant under all laws.  If you can afford to pay an intern, great.  We all see the amounts of debt students are saddled with upon completion graduation and non-completion.  However, experience paid or unpaid will add value to both academic and professional opportunities for any student.

[i] https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs71.htm

[ii] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/unpaid-internships-new-dol-intern-test.aspx

[iii] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/unpaid-internships-new-dol-intern-test.aspx

4 Need to Knows on Inclement Weather and W-2 Scams Updates

The weather, throughout the country during this time of year can be extreme, causing delays, and at times we will need to shut down operations because of inclement and unpredictable weather.  As most of us know, a few weeks ago the extreme cold was a perfect example of weather causing operations to close.  As leaders, we need ensure safety of our workforce and to fully understand the laws and regulations related to pay for both exempt and nonexempt workers, if the organization closes due to inclement weather.  

Below are 4 need to knows on inclement weather and pay:

  1. Exempt Employees: Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, exempt employees almost always must be paid during inclement weather and/or a natural disaster.  The Department of Labor has a list of instances in which an employer can dock an exempt employees pay, inclement weather and/or a natural disaster does not fall into pay docking.  The exempt employee must be paid for the entire day.  If the organization plans to close for an entire week due to weather or a disaster, at this time, an organization would not have to pay an exempt employee.
  2. Nonexempt Employees: Under the FLSA (federal law), employers are only required to pay hourly, nonexempt employees hours worked.  Certain states have report-in or call-in pay laws that can require employers to pay nonexempt employees if they show up to work as scheduled.
  3. New York State Nonexempt Laws: The New York Labor Law “Call-In Pay” provisions state, “that an employee who, by request or permission, reports to work on any day shall be paid at least the lesser of: a) four hours at the basic minimum wage rate; or (b) the number of hours in the employee’s “regularly scheduled shift” at the basic minimum hourly rate.”[i]  In inclement weather or a natural disaster, call-in pay will be due regardless of whether or not an employee was called in or showed up for work during their regularly scheduled shift and is informed  at that time, the organization is closed.

NYS DOL Minimum Wage Order Language

  1. Federal versus State Laws: In this situation, state law will supersede the federal laws related to inclement weather and nonexempt employee pay.  State laws on this subject will vary, this is just an example from New York State.  Be aware of legal requirements during this season of unpredictable weather.  If a nonexempt employee is working from home (emails, phone calls, etc.) during the inclement weather, this would also constitute payment for hours worked.  

Communication is critical in situations involving inclement weather or natural disasters.  We need to be proactive with our communication, while ensuring our employees know about closures prior to showing up for work.  Communication should be the normal communication process in the organization (phone, email, text, etc.)

W-2 Scams:

I wrote about this topic last year as well.  Cyber thieves continue to file fake tax returns and claim refunds.  Recently the thieves have posed as company executives and have obtained protected information from organizations about the employees.

Below are links to helpful resources regarding these scams:

Form W-2/SSN Data Theft: Information for Businesses and Payroll Service Providers

How to Handle W-2 Phishing Scams

Report Phishing and Online Scams

[i] http://www.hodgsonruss.com/newsroom-publications-inclement-weather.html

 

 

5 Suggestions on Work-Life Balance

Many of us have vacation and time off scheduled throughout the holiday season.  Now as we enter into the mid-point of January, we strive to continue thinking about 2018 goals and objectives.  For many, finding the balance between our professional and personal commitments is an ongoing struggle. A few weeks ago, I discussed work-life balance in a leadership development training and reinforced the importance of prioritizing the balance.

Consider these 5 thoughts on work-life balance:

  1. Keep Non-Work Commitments: This is an important piece of prioritization and self-accountability.  Continue to keep non-work commitments and take the time to enjoy the events.  It is not always easy to do so.  However, it is necessary to avoid burnout from work and not enjoying friends, family, volunteering, etc.
  2. Take Vacation Time: Vacation is a perk that most organizations offer to employees.  It is there for a reason, to ensure all of us have time off and take the necessary time to refresh and reset from the stresses of work.  As leaders, we don’t always see the value in taking vacation or time off.  Set the example for your workforce and scheduled time off and avoid working during the vacation.  If possible, leave the electronics at home or avoid answering emails.  I’m the last person to give advice on this, but shutting it down is mentally refreshing.
  3. Learn to Shut It Off: This is reflecting the advice in thought #2, shut off the electronics but also shut down the thought(s) of work.  I know this isn’t easy for any of us to do. Leave work at work and focus on having fun and relaxing while you are on vacation or taking a few days off.
  4. Use Your Calendar: We all have hectic schedules, filled with meetings and commitments. Block time on your calendar to ensure you have the necessary work-life balance.  I have found in my schedule, if it is written down or on my calendar, the more likely I will commit to the balance.  Learning to prioritize plays a major role in blocking time and committing to the balance.
  5. Mental and Physical Fitness: Stress is all around us. Ensuring we are taking care of ourselves mentally and physically is necessary.  Schedule time to go to the gym, take a walk at lunch or meditate.  I workout early in the morning, I’ve found that it’s the best way to start the day.  When I don’t workout it does have an impact on my day.  Find the formula and routine that works for best for you.  Change is hard, but necessary.

As I explained to the the leadership group I met with those weeks ago; I am the last person that should be giving advice on work-life balance.  However, I recognize the importance of work-life balance and am making the necessary changes to ensure there is a balance and time to shut it down.  Commit to making the change(s) in 2018 and make it a priority.  Goal setting is a great start.  Let’s all meet our goals in 2018-one step at a time!