Month: June 2014

Benefits of Flex Scheduling

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How Offering Flex Scheduling Can Help Your Company Grow

Benefits of Flex SchedulingThere’s been a lot of talk about work-life balance lately. If you’re an employer, offering your employees the flexibility they need to manage the obligations of their personal lives alongside their professional lives can make all the difference when it comes to job satisfaction, happiness and loyalty to the company. But flexible working — including working from home — can help your company’s bottom line, too.

Employees who are able to work flexibly are more productive and more likely to stay in their positions. That means you’ll earn more money when you offer your employees flex working options, and you’ll save money, too, in the form of reduced hiring expenses and other costs associated with turnover. At the end of the day, it’s really the results you’re getting from your employees that matter — not how much time they physically spend in the office or which specific times of day they work.

Flex Working Improves Productivity and Reduces Turnover

A Stanford University study involving employees of the Chinese travel website Ctrip found that, when call center employees were allowed to work entirely from home over a period of nine months, productivity improved by 13.5 percent on average. That’s almost an entire extra day of work per week. Not only that, but the researchers found that the turnover rate among the home workers dropped by half, and sick days plummeted too. Furthermore, Ctrip saved an average of $1,900 per employee over the course of the nine-month study period, due to decreased demand for furniture, supplies and office space.

You’d think that working from home would harm productivity — in fact, the Stanford researchers went into this study expecting to see reduced productivity from the home workers. They were astonished at the results. How is it possible that home workers could be more productive than their peers in the office? The researchers surmise that home workers have fewer distractions, since they’re not surrounded by their co-workers all day. With no commute and no need to run errands during lunch, home workers start earlier and work longer hours with fewer, shorter breaks.

Another study from the University of Minnesota involved 775 employees at Best Buy’s Minnesota headquarters. Rather than having these employees work from home, the researchers had them begin working under a “results-only work environment,” or ROWE. Under this system, emphasis is placed on the quality of the results employees produce, and not on the number of hours they put in or when and where they do their work. Implementing ROWE at the Best Buy headquarters slashed employee turnover by 45 percent. The system even helped reduce stress and ease unhappiness among employees struggling with family-related stress or job insecurity, since it helped them achieve a greater work-life balance.

The Flex Work Benefit Can Help You Attract Great Candidates

Flex work benefits remain scarce on the ground among many companies, who don’t yet realize that offering more scheduling flexibility can benefit both employer and employee. But the best companies are already offering scheduling flexibility, and it’s helping them attract the best candidates. Great candidates want to be able to successfully balance their work and personal lives, and they know they can find a company that will respect their needs. Besides, many of the best candidates have personal obligations that don’t allow them to work a traditional nine-to-five schedule.

Flex Work BenefitWorking parents, for example, may be very well-educated and motivated professionals, but the demands of raising a family mean that they need an employer who can bring flex scheduling to the table. By allowing telecommuting, your company can cast a wider net, drawing in talented candidates who may work too far away to commute to the office every day for a traditional work schedule.

Older workers, too, appreciate flex scheduling that can help them transition into retirement — and even enable them to work part-time in retirement. As the baby boomers approach retirement in a difficult economy, many of them are realizing they’ll need to work at least part-time to make ends meet through their golden years, but they can’t meet the demands of a traditional work schedule either. Companies like Atlantic Health System are accommodating the needs of older employees by implementing flex scheduling plans that allow workers who are retired or approaching retirement to work a part-time schedule during hours that make sense to them.

Flexible scheduling and results-only work environments may very well become the new normal as more workers and employers look for ways to juggle the often conflicting demands of our complicated modern lives. The advent of flex working and telecommuting solutions is a good thing for employers, who can look forward to getting much more out of their happier, more dedicated employees. If your company hasn’t yet implemented a plan to allow flexible scheduling, it’s time to consider it.




5 Steps to Better Hiring Practices

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5 Steps to Better Hiring Practices

Better Hiring PracticesIf your business is to be successful, you must find the best possible people to help you run it. The best candidates can help you implement your business strategies flawlessly, so your company continues to thrive and grow.

So when it comes to the hiring process, don’t slack off. Each new person you hire can either help to build your company up or help to tear it down — and you don’t want to tear it down. From composing a solid job posting to conducting good interviews, testing applicants and checking references, your hiring process is fundamental to your company’s success.

1) Prepare Your Hiring Team

While you might certainly be involved in the hiring process yourself, you shouldn’t be the only one doing the interviewing and hiring. You should put a team of two or three of your best employees on the job – employees who deeply understand what your company is about and what kind of candidates would not only best fit the needs of the open position, but also fit well into the overall company culture. A candidate who looks great on paper might have all the skills, training and experience you require and then some, but he or she won’t thrive or be happy if he or she doesn’t fit in.

Your interview team will need to know what to look for in a resume as well as what to look for during the interview process. Good candidates should do more than simply give the right answers to your interview questions — they should appear open and honest and present themselves confidently through their body language and tone of voice. They should also come prepared to interviews and follow up afterward. Taking the time to train your hiring team will pay dividends in the form of better hires.

2) Write an Excellent Job Posting

A good job posting is more than just a job description, although an accurate description of the job’s duties is an important component. Be clear and specific about what you want and don’t be afraid to be exacting when it comes to your requirements. Describe the job duties and expectations fully, but also be sure to describe the requirements and qualifications you’re looking for. You’ll always get a few resumes that are just way off the mark, but the more specific you are about what you’re looking for, the better your chances of attracting good candidates.

Speaking of attracting good candidates, don’t shy away from mentioning the perks and benefits of working for your company in your job posting. If you have a fun company culture, great benefits or are offering schedule flexibility, say so. Great candidates will be more likely to apply when they can see up front what’s in it for them.

3) Make the Most of Your Interviews

It’s always a good idea to get another person, or even two or three more people,Make the most of your interviews involved in your interview process. A panel of interviewers can help you examine each candidate with an unbiased
perspective and can help you avoid hiring someone just because you liked him or her, regardless of whether or not that candidate is the best fit for the position.

You should base your hiring decision not on a candidate’s resume but how well they interview; structure each interview so that you can get all the information you need from it. Ask open-ended questions and don’t be afraid to conduct long interviews. Let applicants ask questions after the interview and wait until you’ve interviewed everyone before you start discussing the candidates.

4) Make Sure Applicants Have the Skills They Claim

It’s a sad fact of the working world that some candidates exaggerate or completely misrepresent their skills in order to get their foot in the door with a company. You can weed out these candidates by testing applicants as part of the interview process. Just make sure that each applicant is given the same test and keep the test as short and simple as possible while still allowing you to assess the applicant’s skills. If you’re looking for a programmer, have each applicant write a short piece of code; if you want a PR professional, have each applicant write a sample press release. You’ll be surprised how many applicants don’t have the skills they claim on their resumes.

5) Always Check References — But Choose Them Yourself

It probably goes without saying that candidates aren’t going to give out references that will speak poorly of their abilities. You should always check your candidate’s references, but you should also choose a few references of your own to check — former colleagues or employers that aren’t listed, college professors or anyone who knows the applicant well in a professional capacity. Ask the candidate for your chosen references’ contact information and pay attention to their body language and tone of voice when they respond.

You should keep in mind that, to avoid legal trouble, most references will avoid saying anything negative even when they don’t have anything positive to say. When speaking to references, pay attention to their tone of voice and listen for what they’re not saying.

Solid hiring practices are the bedrock on which a successful company is built. Take care to vet candidates carefully before you make an offer and build a loyal team that will help your company grow.


Recruiting & Hiring Millenials

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5 Things to Understand About Recruiting and Hiring Millennials

Hiring Millennials“Millennials are lazy.”

“Millennials are self-centered.”

“Millennials want too much money for too little work.”

When it comes to generation Y, also known as millennials, there are plenty of stereotypes and misconceptions. While it’s true that the generation born between 1980 and 2000 is unlike any that came before it, it’s not true that the entire generation is entitled, spoiled and unwilling to work. In fact, gen-Yers have a lot to offer employers, especially when it comes to their understanding of technology and its place in today’s world.

The key is for employers to understand what makes these workers tick and create opportunities and working environments that meet their needs and keep them engaged and enthusiastic. There are exceptions to every rule, of course, but if you understand the following facts about millennials, you’ll have a better chance of attracting the top talent from this deep pool.

Career Growth and Opportunities Are as Important as Salary

Employers who want to attract and maintain top talent from any generation need to understand what potential employees value and want from their careers. While obviously money is always a factor, for millennials, salary is not always the most important consideration when deciding on a career path. According to one recent survey, more than half of recent college graduates ranked opportunities for advancement above pay as the deciding factor when it comes to accepting a job, work that is interesting and challenging ranked second, followed by salary in a close third place.

Employers looking to hire high-performing millennials need to understand they value structure and promotion opportunities more than the earning potential. As far as many people in this age group are concerned, a salary must meet their basic needs, but the opportunities for growth and challenges are more important.

Millennials Like Knowing What to Expect

One of the major criticisms of the millennial generation is they are more sheltered than any generation previous. They are used to being dependent and tend to be far more risk averse than any other generation. As a result, they want to know what to expect when they apply for a job or go to work for a company. If you want to attract top talent from these young workers, you need to be willing to tell your brand story and offer a glimpse “behind the curtain.” You can do this by offering internships and job shadowing opportunities for potential recruits or by developing a robust and engaging social media presence that stays true to your brand. Consider asking some current employees to create “Day in the Life” videos to use as recruitment tools or to blog about their jobs, all to give applicants a view into what it’s really like to work at your company.

Knowing what to expect extends to the hiring process as well. Millennials expect communication throughout the hiring process, particularly when the position has been filled. Because millennials value social interaction and relationships, it’s very likely that they will share negative recruiting experiences online — which could hurt your brand.

Social Media Is VitalRecruiting Millennials

Speaking of social media, if you aren’t tapping into social networks to find candidates, you are missing out on a rich pool of qualified and talented individuals. According to a report in Inc. magazine, social media are millennials’ tools of choice for job hunting. Millennials aren’t turning to recruiters or online job boards — and forget newspaper classifieds — but instead relying on their social networks and company profiles on sites like Google Plus, LinkedIn and Facebook. In short, if your company doesn’t have an engaging, up-to-date social media presence, you aren’t going to attract top talent.

Job Descriptions Matter

For decades, the mantra for job hunters was “Show companies what you can do for them.” For millennials, the opposite is true: If you want to hire the best and the brightest, you need to give them a reason to come work for you. Again, millennials want jobs that allow them to feel fulfilled and make an actual contribution, so job descriptions should explain where the open position fits in with the rest of the company and why it’s important. Focus on what makes the job and your company unique: Do you offer unlimited time off? Opportunities to travel? Millennials don’t respond to boring, cookie-cutter job descriptions that imply they will be just another cog in the wheel. Give them something to get excited about.

Employee-Centered Companies Are Desirable

Work-life balance and fun are important to millennials. They want work that fits into their lives and value companies that provide opportunities for building relationships with co-workers and help them enjoy their work. They want to work for companies that put employee needs first, by offering pleasant work environments (no cube farms!) and access to technology. They want the opportunity to pursue their passions and take initiative. While you shouldn’t necessarily change your entire corporate culture, you should find ways to integrate millennials into the existing culture and make them feel valued and welcome.

Finding ways to meet the needs of millennial workers is important — by next year, experts suggest, they will make up more than a third of the entire workforce. Look at your culture and recruiting program, and if necessary, make changes to be more appealing to millennials.

Social Media Policy & Labor Relations

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Is Your Social Media Policy Illegal?

Social Media Policy “Working late again. Can’t believe my boss is such a jerk.”

“Here we go again . . . another round of layoffs! Let’s see how many people are on the chopping block this time!”

Can you guess which one of those social media status updates is illegal? Depending on where it’s posted, they both have the potential to be illegal. On the other hand, based on rulings from the National Labor Relations Board, they could both be perfectly legal.

Social Media Policies and Labor Relations

As social media has grown, experts have called upon organizations to develop social media policies to protect themselves against employees who may not understand the harm that a well-placed comment can do to individual and corporate reputations. A simple tweet about layoffs could have a devastating effect on a publicly traded company, for example.

The potential for negative publicity or even legal action has led many companies to develop social media policies prohibiting employees from making certain types of posts online, either on their personal accounts or the company accounts. Such policies might include a general prohibition from saying anything at all about the company, while others might only prohibit those posts that could be viewed as defamatory, negative or offensive.

The problem is that many social media policies go too far, according to the NLRB, and restrict employees’ right to free speech or to engage in activities that have the potential to improve their working conditions. In addition, too many social media policies are vague. For example, they may prohibit the sharing of confidential information without defining what constitutes “confidential,” or fail to provide examples of what’s not allowed.

It’s important, therefore, for business owners and managers involved with the development of social media policies to not only understand the NLRB’s rules but to review existing policies to determine whether they meet the guidelines or whether adjustments are necessary. Ask the following questions, and if you can answer “no” to any of them, revise the policy to bring it into compliance with the law.

  • Does your policy specifically state that it is not intended to infringe on employee rights to free speech?

If not, it needs to, as required by law.  

  • Does the policy specifically define what constitutes confidential information?

Companies cannot enact an across-the-board prohibition on employees revealing any information about their employer, customers or policies. However, you can legally designate certain facts as confidential; for example, it’s reasonable to prohibit employees from disclosing certain salary figures, internal documents or strategic plans.

  • Does the policy define what constitutes negative posts?Problems with social media policy

Calling your boss a jerk is one thing, but making posts that imply bodily or emotional harm, are obscene or malicious and make defamatory statements or amount to harassment or bullying is something entirely different. The policy must specifically define what constitutes unacceptable posts, and provide examples.

  • Does the policy provide guidelines on how an employee may use the company name and/or trademark?

The NLRB discourages employers from broad prohibitions regarding the mention of the company name or trademark, but instead recommends developing guidelines on acceptable use. These guidelines might include a requirement to include disclaimers on personal blogs or posts related to work, and prohibitions against linking to the employer site from personal social media accounts or using corporate email addresses to register for sites.

  • Does the policy prohibit or limit an employee’s right to communicate with the media?

The NLRB prohibits companies from including provisions that prevent employees from talking to the media, as such prohibitions could have a “chilling effect” on employee efforts to improve their working conditions by getting outside help. However, it is acceptable for employers to forbid employees from presenting themselves as a spokesperson for the organization without prior authorization.

  • Does the policy include specific prohibitions on the connections that employees can make on social media, i.e., discouraging employees from “friending” their bosses or clients?

While not specifically illegal, per se, the NLRB discourages companies from including such provisions as it can affect the working environment. However, an employer can encourage employees to be cautious when making connections and when choosing what to share.

  • Does the policy require employees to get permission before posting?

The only time that employers can require permission prior to posting is when an employee is posting to a corporate account as a representative of the company. Otherwise, requiring permission to post is seen as an infringement on a protected activity (speech).

  • Does the policy provide specific examples of prohibited behavior?

The NLRB strongly recommends that social media policies include specific examples of what constitutes prohibited behavior on social media. In court cases, those policies that include vague language have been more likely to be overturned than those that included specific language and examples. Spell out what’s allowed and what’s prohibited as clearly as possible to prevent misinterpretation.

Social media policies should not be designed to prevent employees from connecting with others and sharing information and ideas. While they need to protect your company from harm, they should not infringe on your employees’ right to free speech, especially on their personal pages. Take steps to construct a policy that meets everyone’s interests while still encouraging open and honest communication, and you’ll stay within the boundaries of the law.

Dealing With an Unproductive Employee

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Dealing With an Unproductive Employee

Unproductive EmployeesNo one ever hires an employee expecting that he or she won’t perform up to standards. After going to all of the trouble to find someone who has the ideal mix of experience, skills and personal characteristics, it’s disheartening to say the least to discover that he or she cannot or will not meet your expectations in terms of productivity.

When you discover a productivity issue on your team, it’s important to address the issue quickly and effectively. Ignoring it, making assumptions or threatening the employee is only going to make the problem worse. Instead, take these steps to get everyone back up to speed and working toward your shared goals.

Do: Find the Root Cause

The first step to solving any productivity problems is to find the cause. Schedule a meeting with the employee to discuss the productivity issues, and be prepared to offer specific examples. Simply announcing, “You aren’t working hard enough” will only put the employee on the defensive and lead to excuses and finger pointing.

Instead, offer specific examples of performance issues, and ask questions to pinpoint the cause. The issue might be personal: Perhaps the employee is having trouble with a spouse, children or illness, in which case a referral to EAP might be in order. Other times, it could be an equipment or resource issue, or a personality conflict that’s affecting performance. In any case, it’s best to approach the conversation from a helpful, not accusatory, stance. You will get a more honest response and be more likely to develop an effective solution.

Do: Evaluate the Employee’s Fit in the Job and Your Organization

In some cases, there is no immediately assignable cause to the low productivity, and it appears that the reason is simply a lack of individual motivation. It may be that the employee simply isn’t a good fit with the job or your organization. While many managers are reluctant to let qualified employees go, sometimes the only solution to a productivity problem is for the employee to move on.

However, if the employee has a lot to offer your organization, evaluate whether a reassignment or adjustment could help improve productivity. Assess whether the employee is actually doing the job as described in the job description or something entirely different, and look for ways to restructure the job or working environment. If you make the work meaningful, the employee is likely to re-engage and improve.

Do: Set Goals

Simply telling an employee to “shape up or ship out” is probably not going to garner the results you want. For lasting improvement, set achievable and measurable goals and a timeframe for meeting them. Schedule periodic check-ins to evaluate progress and make adjustments as necessary. Don’t forget to define the consequences should there be little to no progress toward the goals; in some cases, the consequences could be as severe as job loss, or you may decide to enact less drastic measures, such as job shadowing, retraining or closer supervision.

Do: Offer Incentives

Humans, by nature, need a reason to work hard and achieve goals. While some might argue that the opportunity to keep one’s job is incentive enough to improve, it’s not always that simple. If you want to improve employee productivity, you need to provide a compelling reward for it. Monetary rewards are always welcome, but if that’s not in the budget, you can provide incentive in other ways. Employee recognition programs that publicly acknowledge top performers, paid time off, employee celebration or even small gifts can all provide the boost an employee needs to do better. Avoid resorting to negativity — “Improve or else!” — and keep incentives positive, not punitive.

Do: Provide Encouragement

Employees often struggle because they feel that their efforts don’t matter, or that no one cares whether they succeed or not. Don’t just send an unproductive employee back out into the trenches with a plan and expect him or her to turn around in a few days or weeks. Offer support and encouragement, offer resources and training when necessary, and make it clear that you’re invested in his or her success.

Don’t: Immediately Fire SomeoneDealing with unproductive employees

Few offenses warrant immediate termination, and unproductivity isn’t one of them. You might be frustrated with an employee’s performance, but don’t cut the cord without first getting to the bottom of the problem. You could unnecessarily lose a good employee, and if the problem is organizational, the problem will most likely recur.

Don’t: Embarrass the Employee

Calling out an unproductive employee on his or her issues in a public forum is likely to backfire. You might think that making an example of someone will keep everyone in line, but it will only make you look like a tyrant. Because low productivity may be related to personal issues, it’s best to keep the discussions private and work with employees one-on-one.

Don’t: Ignore the problem

Above all, if your team has a productivity issue, don’t ignore it. Gone unchecked, low productivity hurts the bottom line and damages morale.

Maintaining employee productivity should be every manager’s priority. Promptly addressing the issue and making changes keeps everyone on track toward your goals. And in the case that performance doesn’t improve, you can let an employee go, knowing you did everything you could to keep him or her on board.

Improving Office Morale

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5 Ways a PEO Can Improve Office Morale

Improving Office Morale“The beatings will continue until morale improves!”

Have you ever seen that expression on a plaque in a manager’s office? It’s meant to be funny, but in some companies, it might ring a little truer than anyone would like. When morale is low — due to a recent round of layoffs, an ineffective manager, a toxic work environment or one of many other reasons — taking a beating might sound more pleasurable than going to work.

Managers who sense that morale isn’t where it could or should be often don’t do a lot to help the situation. They might not correctly determine the cause of the low morale and implement changes or programs that either serve as a temporary fix or don’t address the problem at all, which only further discourages employees. Managers could also get defensive and start resorting to blame, coercion or fear tactics (the proverbial beatings we spoke of earlier) to try to turn things around and improve the office environment.

The problem is that those solutions almost never work. Eventually, productivity suffers, employee turnover increases and it becomes harder to attract and retain top talent. Eventually, maybe, morale will improve (often when the offending manager moves on or is fired) but until then, the organization suffers.

While it may be impossible to avoid all of the factors that lead to low morale, you can reduce the likelihood of a depressed and dysfunctional staff — or get the company back on track — by engaging the services of a professional employer organization, or PEO. A PEO is essentially human resources for hire, and can handle all of your HR functions, including payroll, benefits administration, staff recruitment and training and more. But what many managers and business owners fail to see is that outsourcing these functions can actually significantly improve employee morale in several important ways.

PEOs Offer Better Employee Benefits

Many small businesses would like to be able to offer their employees a comprehensive benefits package that includes health coverage (including dental and vision), disability insurance coverage, retirement plans, tuition assistance and more. However, the costs of such benefits add up, and most small businesses cannot afford to offer everything or subsidize more than a small portion of the costs. In some cases, even larger companies can struggle to develop a benefits package that attracts top talent. As a result, employee morale can suffer, as workers may feel shortchanged by their employers or feel frustrated that they work hard only to spend a large portion of their salaries on benefits.

A PEO can help ease this burden because they manage a large number of employees — often several thousand — and have access to better rates and programs. A PEO can leverage the group purchasing power to buy health insurance coverage at a reduced rate, for example, or access additional benefits such as travel or gym membership discounts. These benefits can often go a long way toward keeping employees happy and engaged.

PEOs Offer Improved Training

Remember that manager who had no idea how to improve morale? A PEO can provide him or her with training in more effective techniques that would not only improve morale, but also prevent it from falling in the first place. Most PEOs offer a wide range of training programs for managers and employees alike, which not only help everyone do their jobs better, but also serve as a benefit to employees. When a team has access to training in topics such as conflict resolution, time management or communication, for example, they may feel as if their employer cares about their development and will be more likely to stay positive.

PEOs Improve Job Descriptions

One common reason for low morale is that employees accept positions believing that they will be doing one thing, only to discover that the actual job is much different. Another common problem is the tendency for job descriptions to be vague or focused on minimum requirements instead of establishing the parameters for excellence. As a result, teams might not gel; there could be unmet performance expectations or frustration among employees. When a PEO assists with the development of dynamic and accurate job descriptions, everyone starts on the right foot and there’s little room for the misunderstanding or disappointment that leads to low morale.

PEOs Improve Employee Handbooks

An important aspect of keeping morale high is the establishment of clear expectations and consistent policy enforcement. When the employee handbook is vague — or non-existent — it’s impossible to do either. A PEO will assist with the development of a clear and comprehensive employee handbook that leaves no room for interpretation. It puts everyone on the same page, so to speak, and in the event there is an issue, helps prevent misunderstandings or inequitable solutions.

PEOs Provide Incentive ProgramsOffice Incentive Programs

Employees want recognition, and when they feel ignored or unnoticed, morale falls. However, many small businesses do not have the resources to develop comprehensive incentive programs. PEOS can assist in developing incentives such as birthday or anniversary celebrations, employee recognition programs and gift programs to help employees feel valued and appreciated.

A PEO may not be able to fix everything that ails your company, but the services can help improve employee morale and as a result, improve performance. If your company is struggling to keep employees happy, consider working with a PEO first — before you resort to beatings.


Workplace Trends to Understand

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5 Workplace Trends You Definitely Need to Understand

Workplace TrendsManaging a nimble and high-performing organization requires understanding the outside factors that affect the operation of the organization. You cannot expect to be successful if you ignore current trends and try to maintain the status quo in the face of significant changes in the marketplace, employee expectations and management trends.

Now that we’re almost halfway through 2014, it’s time to look at the trends that are having the greatest impact on how companies operate and what they mean for you. These trends are bound to touch almost every company in some way, and preparing for them now will keep you moving forward into the future.

Reputation Matters

Your mother always warned you about developing a bad reputation — and her advice holds true still, whether you are looking for a job or you’re a company looking for employees. Companies are looking for employees with a strong, proven track record of success and a solid reputation. Jobseekers want to work for companies with positive associations; in fact, one survey indicated that about three-quarters of workers want to work for a company with a positive brand, even if it means taking a lower salary.

What this means in more practical terms is that it’s more important than ever for jobseekers to pay close attention to their images, especially online, as employers are turning to social media and online searches as a means to evaluate job candidates. Applications need to be tailored to specific roles, and focus on demonstrating measurable results rather than generic descriptions. For companies, the emphasis on reputation means that public relations, especially in the realm of social media, can no longer be put on the back-burner. Not only is it more important than ever to develop a solid brand identity and corporate message, companies need to monitor what others are saying about them and react accordingly.

Demographics Are Changing

Mom may have been right about the importance of reputation, but it’s also important to understand that it’s not your father’s workplace anymore. As the population ages, experienced workers will be retiring; in fact, by some estimates almost one-fifth of the current workforce will retire within the next five years. At the same time, by 2015, the millennial generation (those born roughly between 1980 and 2000) will make up 36 percent of the workforce. The gap between baby boomers and millennials in terms of work expectations, work ethic and abilities has been researched at length, with the major takeaway being that the changing face of the American workforce means that companies need to find new ways to attract, manage and maintain top talent.

The Definition of “Workplace” Is Changing

The definition of "workplace"When the economy crashed in 2008, many experienced professionals floundered in a challenging job market — but took matters into their own hands and created jobs by turning to freelance, contract or consulting work. Today, more than 17 million people fall into the category of freelance or contract worker, and experts predict that number will only grow in the coming years. It’s not just the dearth of jobs that contribute to the growth in self-employment. Many companies are opting to employ outside contractors in order to cut costs, especially in the face of the Affordable Care Act and new requirements for employers. Others see contract workers as a way to tap into the most experienced and qualified staff necessary to complete projects without incurring the costs of hiring a full-time employee. In any case, the market for independent contractors is growing — and employers need to understand the intricacies of managing those workers.

Health and Wellness Is a Priority

The ACA is not only affecting the way companies approach the hiring of employees, but also how existing employees are managed and retained. With employers now expected to bear higher health coverage costs, many are renewing their focus on employee wellness and health management programs. Not to mention, multiple studies show that when an employer invests in employee health — both physical and mental — not only are the employees healthier, they are more satisfied, engaged and productive. As we move forward with the full implementation of the ACA, expect to see more companies developing comprehensive wellness programs and providing incentives for employees to participate, especially in the realm of insurance coverage discounts.

A Greater Emphasis on Standards and Performance

Most employees expect to have an annual performance review. However, research shows that employees who receive more frequent and focused feedback tend to be more satisfied and productive in their jobs — and have a higher retention rate. Consider a sports coach: He or she doesn’t provide guidance only after the season is done. A coach works with the team before, during and after each game, all with an eye toward maximizing performance. Many companies are shifting toward a continuous monitoring and feedback process, in which employees are evaluated regularly. Evaluation criteria are also becoming more specific and data-driven, with employee performance rated on an objective scale of actual, measurable results rather than just employer perception.

All of these trends will affect all organizations to some degree, with some seeing more significant changes than others do. Still, it’s important to recognize and prepare for the changes happening in today’s workplaces if you want to attract top talent and meet your organizational goals.