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Updates to What Employers Can Ask about Wage History in Illinois

The Illinois Equal Pay Act of 2003 has been amended, effective September 29, 2019, with updated guidelines on what employers can and cannot base hiring decisions on. Particularly, employers cannot make hiring decisions based on salary history of candidates. So, what does this mean, exactly, and what else did the amendment change?

No More Asking About Wage or Salary History

The amendment has prohibited Illinois employers from doing the following when going through the hiring process:
• They cannot screen candidates or applicants based on their prior wage or salary history, or their current compensation. This includes benefits. They cannot require this information to be disclosed or have minimum and maximum criteria for hiring.
• They cannot request wage or salary history as a condition for employment consideration while an applicant is being interviewed.
• They cannot seek out a candidate’s wage or salary history from their current or former employers. But, if this information is a matter of public record, or if the employee is currently working for the employer in a different job, this rule does not apply.
• They cannot have an employee sign a contract that prohibits the employee from disclosing their salary, wage, benefits, or other compensation.
• They cannot discharge an employee who fails to comply with an inquiry into wage or salary history.

It’s important to note that if an employee voluntarily discloses salary or wage information during the interview or hiring process, employers are not in violation of the new law. The employer is just not allowed to consider this disclosure when making a decision about whether to hire the candidate, the salary to offer them, or future compensation.

What are employers still allowed to do?

While there are several new things that employers cannot do under the amendment, they can still engage in the following activities:
• Ask the candidate about their compensation expectations, but without trying to get any information about the candidate’s current or previous salary
• Offer information about compensation for the position the candidate is interviewing for, but without trying to solicit information about the candidate’s compensation history

Equal Pay Claim Threshold Lowered

Another change the amendment is bringing is a lowering of the threshold for establishing an equal pay claim. This means that employers who have at least four employees are prohibited from paying unequal wages to men and women if they are:
• Doing the same or substantially similar work,
• Doing jobs requiring substantially similar skills, effort, and responsibility, and
• Doing work performed under similar working conditions.

This means that it may be easier for workers to make an equal pay claim.

The numbers: What are the penalties?

Under the new law, an individual can bring a civil action related to the above matters within five years of the occurrence and recover damages incurred and special damages up to $10,000, injunctive relief, and costs and attorney’s fees. Employers are now subject to civil penalties of up to $5,000 for each violation of the new law and each employee impacted by the violation.

How to Prepare

Because there could be serious consequences if employers go over the line with trying to solicit compensation information from candidates, they should take the following steps to revamp their hiring process:
• Go over current applications and ensure there are no past or current salary- or wage-related questions.
• Implement a training process so that employees are aware of these restrictions and they are trained on how to discuss compensation during the interview process.
• Review all employee documents, such as handbooks that list policies and procedures, to make sure they don’t forbid employees from taking about compensation with other employees.

Important Key Takeaways:


• Employers cannot ask or solicit information about a candidate’s previous or current wage or salary, including benefits and other compensation.
• Employers cannot prohibit employees from discussing their compensation with other employees.
• Hiring decisions cannot be made based on salary history.
• The threshold for individuals to make an equal pay claim has been lowered, so employers need to pay more attention to how they approach compensation decisions.

New Laws In Illinois Will Impact Your Business: Find Out How

Several new laws have been passed in the Illinois General Assembly recently that will impact both employers and employees across Illinois. The last step before enactment is for Governor Pritzker to sign off on these bills.

The new laws bring several changes to the table, including:

  • Creating limitations on contract terms and employee handbooks
  • Amending three acts: the Illinois Human Rights Act, the Illinois Equal Pay Act, and the Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act
  • Requiring more anti-harassment trainings for employers
  • Legalizing recreational cannabis use

These changes will impact employer policies. For example, employers will need to update discrimination policies and procedures, or if recreational cannabis is legalized, this could create concerns if an employer still prohibits drug use.

The Workplace Transparency Act (Effective January 1, 2020)

The Workplace Transparency Act (IWTA) aims to prevent workplace harassment and discrimination by improving the security of employees’ rights. Within employer contracts and policies, the IWTA prohibits specific aspects of confidentiality, non-disparagement, and arbitration clauses, unless other statutory requirements are first met.

The IWTA requires Illinois employers to both review and update their contracts, particularly their noncompete, non-solicitation, and confidentiality terms, in addition to separation or severance and arbitration agreements and employee handbooks and policies.

It’s important to note, however, that these new terms don’t apply to collective bargaining agreements, which applies to both private and public employers that have unionized workforces.

All contracts and policies:

The IWTA requires that, without exception, no contracts or agreements can contain language that prohibits employees from reporting “unlawful conduct” to officials, whether local, state, or federal, for investigation. This law is relevant to prospective, current, or former employees, and applies to all types of policy document or employment agreement (formal employment agreements; executive compensation agreements; noncompete, non-solicitation, or confidentiality agreements; or separation agreements).

“Unlawful conduct” can include criminal conduct or unlawful employment practices—for example, behavior that would violate the anti-harassment and discrimination laws outlined by the Illinois Department for Human Rights (IDHR) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The IWTA also prohibits, without exception, any provisions that would prevent an employee to testify in the event of a subpoena, court order, or other written request regarding criminal conduct, discrimination, harassment, or other unlawful employment practice.

Unilateral employment contracts and policies:

Employment contracts and policies—specifically those that are non-negotiated or that must be signed as a condition of employment—are not allowed to prohibit any employee, whether prospective, current, or former, from making disclosures or truthful statements regarding alleged discrimination and harassment or unlawful employment practices.

An example of what this means is that if any provision or clause could be read to indicate that it prevents an employee from truthfully stating or disclosing discrimination or harassment, regardless of how a contract provision was enforced, the clause would then be unenforceable.

If employers wish to keep this kind of provision, they could be required to negotiate agreements that contain confidentiality clauses with employees and include bargained-for consideration and a clear acknowledgment of employees’ right to do the following:

  1. Inform a local, state, or federal agency that enforces discrimination laws of good-faith allegations of unlawful practices
  2. Inform local, state, or federal officials of good-faith allegations of criminal conduct
  3. Contribute to proceedings with any local, state, or federal government agency that enforces discrimination laws
  4. State or disclose any truthful information that is required by law, regulation, or legal process
  5. Seek out or receive legal advice that is confidential

Unilateral arbitration agreements:

Certain agreements may not be enforceable that meet the following criteria: agreements that are non-negotiated and require arbitration of discrimination and harassment claims (as opposed to wage and hour claims) as a condition of employment. Similar to confidentiality agreements, however, arbitration agreements could still be enforceable under the new law if they are negotiated with the employee and include bargained-for consideration and acknowledge the five employee rights listed above.

Under the potentially amended Illinois Uniform Arbitration Act, arbitration agreements may be non-compliant with the IWTA and thus they may be void. It is still unclear whether Illinois arbitration agreement law will be preempted by federal law in some cases. Thus, these agreements must be drafted carefully to ensure that they are enforceable.

Settlement and termination agreements:

Termination agreements (also known as separation or severance agreements) and settlement agreements could include confidentiality promises that relate to discrimination and harassment if these statutory requirements are met:

  1. The employee has documented confidentiality as a preference, and the obligation is mutual under the contract.
  2. It is told to the employee in writing that he or she has a right to an attorney or representative (of his or her choosing) to review the contract before it is signed.
  3. In exchange for the confidentiality, there is a bargained-for consideration that is valid (for example, a severance payment instead of just the payout of final earned compensation).
  4. No claims of discrimination or harassment are waived in the agreement that ensue after the agreement execution date.
  5. The employee has 21 days to consider the agreement before signing it, in addition to 7 days to withdraw acceptance of the agreement. (This is similar to the drafting of waivers of age-related claims at the federal level, with people who are over 40.)

The employee would in no way be precluded from releasing discrimination and harassment claims by the IWTA, except prospective claims.

Enforcement:

If employees are successful when they challenge a violating contract’s enforceability under the IWTA (but not an employment policy), they will have the right to recover attorney fees and costs.

Other exceptions:

However, employers could require the following individuals to maintain confidentiality of discrimination and harassment allegations:

  • Employees who, as part of their job duties (e.g., human resources professionals) receive complaints, investigate allegations, or have access to confidential information regarding personnel
  • A third party or employee who is asked to participate in an open and ongoing investigation (e.g., a witness)
  • A third party or employee who gets attorney work product or communications that are attorney-client privileged, or who is subject to a recognized privilege
  • Any third party that investigates complaints, hired by the employer

Illinois Equal Pay Act Amendments (Effective 60 Days After Signed)

The following amendments would apply to the Illinois Equal Pay Act.

Wage and salary history of job applicants:

The amendments would prohibit employment agencies and employers from requesting the following information or requiring job applicants to disclose it: prior wage, salary, benefit, or other compensation history information as a condition of the application process or of employment. They are also prohibited from otherwise screening job applicants by requiring they meet minimum or maximum compensation criteria.

Both employers and employment agencies will be prohibited from seeking the above information about job applicants from current or prior employers. However, they are not prohibited from talking with applicants about wage, salary, benefits, or other compensation expectations.

If prior compensation history is disclosed voluntarily by the applicant, the information cannot be considered when the employer is deciding whether or not to make a job offer, nor in determining the terms of the job offer. To comply with these amendments, employers will likely need to update their job boards, interviewing processes, recruitment practices, and job applications.

Wage differentials:

Employers could also be subject to increased burdens in order to justify imbalances in pay among their employees. This especially applies to employees who have similar jobs but receive different pay rates, and employers could be required to show that the difference in pay is because of job-related reasons that are: 1) consistent with the needs of the business and 2) accounts for the difference in compensation, if there have been allegations against the employer that they underpay certain employees based on their sex or for being African American.

Wage and salary information of employees:

The amendments state that employees cannot be prohibited from being able to disclose or discuss compensation information, including that regarding wage, salary, or benefits. But, if certain positions require access to this information, such as human resources employees, they can be told to keep this information confidential. To be in accordance with these changes, handbooks, policies, and confidentiality agreements may need to be updated.

Penalties:

To enforce these amendments, State court lawsuits may be filed by employees who are seeking “special damages” of a maximum of $10,000, or actual damages more than $10,000, injunctive relief, and costs and reasonable attorney’s fees. If an employee can prove that he or she was underpaid based on their sex could receive the underpayment amount, punitive damages, and injunctive relief, in addition to uncapped compensatory damages if it is also proven that the employer behaved with malice or reckless indifference. Penalties up to $5,000 could also be sought by enforcement actions from the Illinois Department of Labor for each employee that was impacted and for each violation.

Illinois Human Rights Act Amendments (Effective January 1, 2020)

To address the security of employees’ rights to protection from harassment and discrimination, the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) would be amended in the following ways.

Expanded coverage:

The IHRA would be applicable to Illinois employers with one or more employees during 20 or more calendar weeks during the current year or within the year before the alleged violation took place. This amendment is significant because as the IHRA stands now, this applies only to employers with 15 or more employees. The expanded coverage would go into effect on July 1, 2020.

Expanded protected classes:

Discrimination and harassment prohibitions would be expanded so that all actual and perceived protected classes, which include race, sex, age, religion, or sexual orientation, among others, would be covered. Additionally, the amendment further defines harassment as any “unwelcome conduct” with “the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with the individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.” This definition is more broad than federal law.

Clarified work environment:

Regarding the prohibition of discrimination and harassment, the work environment will no longer be limited to an employee’s assigned physical location.

Employer liability:

The IHRA amendment would also update harassment responsibility for the employer. They may be responsible for harassment by employees who are non-managerial and non-supervisory if the employer is made aware of the behavior and does not take appropriate action. In addition, employers would be responsible for harassment of non-employees who are in the workplace to provide services for the employer. This could apply to consultants or contractors, for instance.

Annual training:

Sexual harassment training for all employees would be required from employers, at least once a year. The training materials used will be developed by the IDHR or an equivalent body.

Restaurants, bars, and coffee shops:

A written sexual harassment policy must be made and given to all employees within their first week of employment. This policy has to meet certain statutory requirements, including that the employee must be given notice about the procedures to file a charge with the IDHR and EEOC. Mandatory training programs specific to the bar and restaurant industry will be designed by the IDHR, and this will be in addition to the training program for all employers. These policies and trainings are required to be available in both English and Spanish.

Disclosure requirements:

Every employer that had an adverse judgment or ruling against it that is related to discrimination or harassment must report information about the judgments or rulings to the IDHR, starting July 1, 2020, and recurring by each July 1 thereafter. When charges of discrimination are investigated, the IDHR could request that employers disclose information about settlements that involve discrimination and harassment allegations, though this excludes the names of the alleged victims.

New penalties:

Penalties will apply to employers that do not meet these training and disclosure requirements. The penalties are not to exceed:

  • $500 for the first offense
  • $1,000 for the second offense
  • $3,000 for the third and any following offenses

Union employees:

If the same union represents the victim and the perpetrator of alleged sexual harassment, different representatives from the union must be delegated to represent them in proceedings.

Procedural changes:

Procedures for filing charges and investigation would be included in the amendments. The changes include that either party would now be allowed to ask the IDHR for a pending charge dismissal if a lawsuit at the state or federal level is filed because of the same issues that were raised in the charge. Another update is greater clarity regarding prior amendments in 2018, which allowed the charging party to bypass investigation procedures and go directly to the state court.

The Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act (Effective January 1, 2020)

Another amendment applies to the Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA), which would expand protections for victims of domestic and sexual violence, sexual assault, and stalking to those victims of gender violence.

Gender violence is an act or acts of violence or aggression that would be considered a crime under state law and is committed (at least partially) based on someone’s actual or perceived sex or gender, or based on physical instruction or invasion that is a crime, whether or not criminal charges are brought. The threat of any of these actions would also be included.

If an employee is a victim of domestic, sexual, or gender violence, or has family members who are victims, employers are now required to give them up to 12 weeks of leave within a year, with job protection, or a similar accommodation that could be determined by how large the employer is. The employee victim can take this leave for counseling, legal help, medical services, safety planning, and the like.

Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act (Effective July 1, 2020)

Hotel and casino workers in Illinois will be protected from sexual assault and harassment under the Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act, which requires employers within these industries to give employees assistance in the event of an ongoing crime, sexual harassment or assault, or other emergency. Employers would be required to give them safety devices or other notification tools.

This act also requires relevant employers to incorporate anti-harassment policies that meet statutory requirements. These requirements include things like temporary work assignments, reporting procedures for complaints, or paid leave to testify or file a police report. The act states that lawsuits can be filed by employees in state court and they could recover attorneys’ fees and economic damages of $350 per day and per violation.

Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (Effective January 1, 2020)

Cannabis Act employer obligations:

Recreational cannabis is on the horizon for Illinois if the bill is signed, which would make it the eleventh state to legalize recreational cannabis. The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (also known as the Cannabis Act) will begin on January 1, 2020. This act will allow Illinois adults to both possess and consume cannabis, but it may create issues for Illinois employers. The Cannabis Act does allow employers to implement reasonable and nondiscriminatory policies that support zero-tolerance, drug-free workplaces, which could include drug testing and workplace-use prohibition policies.

The Cannabis Act permits employers to ban cannabis use to meet contract obligations or to comply with state or federal funding or legal requirements. However, employers generally cannot take an adverse action against an employee or an applicant because of their marijuana use outside of the workplace. The Illinois Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act is also amended so that marijuana products are legal and must be treated similarly to tobacco and alcohol. Employment decisions cannot be made based on whether an applicant or employee uses cannabis off-site, during nonworking hours (or non-call hours), whether medically or recreationally, as long as the use is lawful.

Employers should then assess whether or not an employee is actually impaired or under the influence of cannabis during working hours if they are considering disciplinary action against an employee, since they are not allowed to consider the lawful use of cannabis outside of work. Disciplinary action would be allowed if an employer has a “good faith belief” that their employee is under the influence in a situation that is similar to “reasonable suspicion” standards.

If an employer decides to act on this disciplining, they are required to give the employee an opportunity to contest the decision, and drug testing could be used in this case. However, legal challenges could arise because cannabis-related impairment is more difficult to discern when compared to alcohol impairment testing, for example. In addition, employee victims could recover actual damages, costs, attorneys’ fees, and fines, so employers need to make sure that they are taking these new laws into consideration before acting. Practices and procedures should be updated accordingly.

Labor peace agreements:

Labor peace agreements aim to give labor organizations the ability to access and organize the workforce of a business that is licensed to dispense cannabis. Organizations that are applying for a cannabis-dispensing license should thus note that the state government will consider whether they have entered into a labor peace agreement with a labor organization. Because these agreements can be complicated, it’s important to work with an attorney experienced in labor law.

Conclusion

Illinois’ pending legislation means that employers need to update their documents and policies accordingly. This includes reviewing and revising employment agreements, employee handbooks, and non-disclosure and separation agreements. Any other policies or agreements related to employment will also need to be revised accordingly so that employers are in compliance with these amendments.

In many cases, employers struggle to keep up with constantly-changing state legislation. Even one compliance infraction could cost your business hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. Consider working with a compliance partner like Launchways to ensure all your compliance concerns are taken care of proactively.

Why Gen Y and Gen Z Employees Leave and What You Can Do About It

Generations Y and Z will become the largest living generations in 2019, having already have surpassed Generation X in the workplace, and by next year will represent half of all workers globally. With so many working for you, understanding what makes them tick – and stick with you – is essential to attracting and retaining the best available talent to support your business goals.

You’ve got your work cut out for you: the younger generations don’t have a very high opinion of business. The 2019 Deloitte Global Millennial Survey found a decreasing percentage of Gen Y – 55% in 2019 versus 61% in 2018 — believe business has a positive impact on society and that 67% of businesses “have no ambition beyond wanting to make money.” That’s important because Generations Y and Z often put purpose before their paycheck.

But despite their reputation as job hoppers, Generations Y and Z are slightly less likely to leave a job after a short time than Generation X. In 2018 about 50% of Gen Y reported working for their current employer for at least five years, and 80% said they had stayed at their job at least 13 months.

Jobvite noted a 20% drop in workers who say they change jobs every one to three years (16% in 2018 versus 20% in 2017). However, despite job satisfaction at 68%, workers say they’re still open to other opportunities. With unemployment at record lows, these workers have more possibilities if they choose to leave.

What’s driving them away? Gallup’s 2017 “State of the American Workforce” report noted 91% of the thousands surveyed said they left their last job because there wasn’t a compelling reason to stay. And Deloitte found that almost half would quit their current job within two years if they had a choice.

It’s well past the time to rethink your recruiting, hiring, and retention practices to keep Generations Y and Z in your workforce.

In this post, we will discuss the state of employment in 2019 as well as what the younger generations believe is important at work, what Gen Y and Gen Z don’t value at work, and strategies to keep these employees working for you. We’ll cover:

What’s not important to Millennials at work:

  • Perks such as free food and games
  • Certain benefits, such as 401(k), are less important
  • Being told the company holds their values – without backing it up with action
  • Maintaining the status quo

What’s important to Millennials at work:

  • Company values and transparency
  • Work-life balance, including flexible work hours, working from home
  • Diverse and inclusive culture
  • A variety of benefits

Strategies to keep Millennials working for your organization:

  • Create a company culture with their input
  • Develop their talent

What’s not important to Gen Y and Gen Z at work

Pointless Work Perks

The startup and tech culture of the West Coast perpetuated the idea that free cereal bars and fancy coffee machines in the breakroom, foosball and ping pong tables in the hallways, and artsy open concept office spaces were all that was needed to attract and retain workers. This is not so. Gen Y and X employees know that perks like these don’t equal benefits – or say much about the true nature of a company’s culture.

Lip-Service-Only Values

If your recruiting materials and HR discuss a company culture that embraces diversity and inclusion, but leadership at all levels doesn’t support those ideals, Gen Y and X will figure that out quickly – and they don’t appreciate these inconsistencies. In fact, about two-thirds of those surveyed by Deloitte said business leaders only give lip service to diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Retirement-Focused Benefits

The younger generation saves for retirement and wants you to contribute to their 401(k). However, this cash-strapped generation saddled with student debt also emphasizes other financial benefits available to them now and emphasize financial wellness such as access to financial education platforms, budgeting tools, and financial coaches.

Change-Adverse Workplace

A “this is the way we’ve always done it” philosophy perpetuated by managers and staff resistant to change will turn off younger employees. They want to be heard, and have their suggestions taken seriously. They have spent their lives adapting to ever-changing technologies and expect to use technology to enhance work productivity.

What is important to Gen Y and Gen X at work

Company Values

How they spend their time, who they work for, and what they do is often more important to Gen Y and X than earning a big paycheck. These generations do not only expect their employers to strive for financial success, but also want the organization to make a positive impact on the world. Working for an organization that supports charitable causes and gives back is also important to 75% of job seekers.

They’ll also expect you to maintain transparency by communicating about finances and leadership. Generations Y and X want to learn about challenges and mistakes made by their organization from leadership, not the rumor mill.

Work/Life Balance

Flexible schedules and work-from-home options are no longer benefits offered to favorite employees. Employees from the younger generations understand that technology makes it easy for them to work remotely and they don’t want to commute to the office every day. They expect you to treat them as adults and understand they will be productive from home and outside of the traditional 9 to 5 working hours. This isn’t a new concept: the 2015 AfterCollege Career Insight Survey noted 68% of Gen Y wanted the option to work remotely.

The United States isn’t exactly known for work/life balance: employees are expected to work long hours, take work home, and skip vacations. But the AfterCollege survey noted that 68.78% of entry-level job seekers value work/life balance more than any other factor after salary. A flexible work schedule was No. 4 on the list, with 53.8% noting flexibility as an essential factor.

Diverse and Inclusive Culture

It won’t take employees from Gen Y and X long to learn whether you back up your diversity and inclusion policies with real action. They will review your leadership – C-suite and corporate board – for diversity of race, ethnicity, age, gender identity, and more. In the era of the Me Too Movement, these employees won’t settle for an organization that’s mostly-male with a top-down management style.

Good Benefits

Don’t be mistaken, a focus on values and flexible work schedules does not mean Gen Y and X are willing to forego traditional benefits. Gen Y and X are more cash-strapped than previous generations because of student loan debt, and many entered the workforce during the Great Recession. In addition to flexible work schedules, traditional and non-traditional benefits that are important to Millennials include:

  • Financial wellness and literacy programs
  • Student loan repayment assistance
  • Unlimited PTO plans
  • Opportunities for advancement
  • Health and wellness benefits

What you can do to keep Gen Y and Gen X working for you

Company Culture

Gen Y and X want to work for companies that understand and support their values and understand their differences and the challenges they face. Generally speaking, generations Y and X are better educated than previous generations – and a higher percentage of women have degrees than men. But they also have more student debt. They are more racially and ethnically diverse. Many delay marriages and creating a home longer, often living with their parents. More would rather travel and experience the world than buy a home. And they’re delaying parenthood.

Diversity and Inclusion

There is a correlation between Gen Y and Xers who want to stay with their current employer and their belief that the organization supports diversity and inclusion. How they define diversity and inclusion varies from typical demographics to ideas/ways of thinking, and tolerance, inclusiveness, and openness in the workplace, Deloitte’s global survey noted.

Share how your leadership defines diversity and inclusion. To understand what your workforce values under diversity and inclusion, ask them. Then develop policies that support these values and train all levels of employees as these definitions evolve.

Work/Life Balance

These generations often value experiences over financial gain and possession. However, they also want to be paid for the work they do rather than work long hours in salaried positions that cause their work/life balance to suffer.

Because they’re choosing to delay becoming parents, flexible and work-from-home work options help retain Gen Y and Xers who want to keep working for you but still be close to their kids.

These generations also want the flexibility to work a schedule that supports vacation time for travel. And employers are responding: the State of American Vacation 2018 found that employers are beginning to encourage vacation cultures and as a result, employees are feeling more confident about using earned time off. For three years in a row, the amount of vacation time used increased. Still, 52% of American workers didn’t use up all their vacation time in 2017. The younger generations are likely to decrease that number.

Talent Development

Career growth opportunities rank No. 1 on the list of factors most important to job seekers surveyed for a 2019 report by Jobvite. The same survey noted only 17% of those who left their jobs within the previous 12 months did so for more money.

Accurate Job Descriptions

Providing Gen Y and X with clear expectations of their work begins during recruitment and hiring. A Jobvite study found that 43% of new hires who left within their first 90 days did so because their job duties were different than their expectations based on job descriptions and interviews.

Training that Adapts

Nearly two-thirds of employees are concerned about the impact of AI and robotics on the workforce. Although generations Y and X are a tech-savvy generation, many feel unprepared for Industry 4.0. They expect their employer to provide the training they need to be productive and successful.

Just because purpose may be more important to many younger workers than the size of their paycheck, don’t think that means Gen Y and X aren’t ambitious: Deloitte found that more than half strive to be high-earners. They’ll seek out opportunities for training and advancement at work, and if they don’t find what they want, they’ll move on. They are more comfortable than other generations in striving for jobs for which they don’t have all the required skills if training is offered.

Key Takeaways

The great news is that making your workplace more friendly for Gen Y and X will benefit your employees of all ages. Offering flexible work schedules and work-from-home options not only appeal to younger workers but also Baby Boomer caretakers of aging parents and grandchildren. Supporting a variety of community organizations better ensures your employers will feel you value what’s important to them. Developing the talents and strengths of every employee while training them to adapt to ongoing changes in technology increases productivity and adds to your bottom line.

How to Onboard New Hires Successfully

While it is sometimes seen as a compliance chore, onboarding is an incredibly important part of an employee’s journey with your company. It is their introduction to life at your organization and it is important to lay the proper groundwork for a long lasting and productive relationship.

A mishandled orientation can result in employees starting work already looking for the exit. But a thoughtful, thorough onboarding process can get them truly excited about working with you, causing them to be engaged with their work and more likely to stay put for years to come. You’ve already invested a lot of time and energy into bringing the new hire into your business, it’s worth the extra energy to set a strong foundation for the rest of their time at your company.

There are several foundational pillars to cover in a successful onboarding: the employee’s knowledge base and their integration into their new team, the company culture, and the mission/vision. You should provide them with the tools they need to succeed in their new position, and let them know where to go for help. At the same time, it’s important to connect them with the people they will be working with for the foreseeable future, and get them to buy into the mission and culture behind your work.

So you have to cover all of the bases getting a new hire integrated into the company’s systems, setting up their benefits and employment paperwork, giving them the knowledge they need to thrive at your company, AND make sure you get the human side of orientation right? In case that seems overwhelming, we have come up with two checklists to help you streamline and make the most of the onboarding process. Let’s take a look at those lists and then tackle how you can ace the “soft” side of orientation too.

New Hire Document Checklist

  1. Form I-9
  2. Form W-4
  3. Confidentiality agreement
  4. Emergency contact information
  5. Benefit forms
  6. Employee handbook
  7. Offer letter and job description
  8. Direct deposit form
  9. Organizational chart
  10. Phone list and office map
  11. Safety instructions
  12. Personnel action form
  13. State-required new hire pamphlets
  14. Other state or local documentation requirements
  15. Any other material a new hire would find useful on the first day

Orientation/Onboarding Procedure Checklist

  1. Review and discuss new hire paperwork
  2. Schedule or conduct safety training
  3. Provide tour and introductions with manager
  4. Provide information on company logistics including work station location, break rooms, and restrooms
  5. Provide instructions for phone and computer access
  6. Sign agreements for security access and keys
  7. Explain timekeeping requirements
  8. Explain organization structure (provide organization chart and job description)
  9. Discuss company mission, vision, values, and goals
  10. Describe company products and services
  11. Describe benefits of working at the company (employee benefits, job opportunities, etc.)

Get the Human Part of Onboarding Right

With so many technical details to cover during onboarding, it can be easy to forget the interpersonal aspect of orientation. The first day, and even the first few weeks, can be a stressful time for a new hire. They’ve made a serious commitment, and they want to be sure that they made the right choice. Since the onboarding process may well set the tone for the rest of their time with the company, it’s important to do as much as you can to set their minds at rest by showing what an awesome, supportive workplace they’re joining.

The great news is that there is a reason why they chose to work at your company, so you don’t have to do anything particularly different to make their first weeks go smoothly. Instead, you can just build on the energy that you developed during the hiring process. You have already convinced the new hire that your business is special, now show them what that means for their day to day life at your company and how they will fit into your mission and your culture.

The best way to ensure that a new hire has a rewarding, productive onboarding is to get buy-in from the rest of their team. Get all of the team members involved in equipping the new hire with the information they need to flourish in their new job and making them feel as welcome as possible. There is no better way to show a new employee that they matter than to get the people they will be working with for the next several years deeply involved in their onbarding. It will make them feel welcomed and appreciated, connect them to the people they will need to help them hit the ground running in their new position, and jump-start their integration into your company culture.

Perhaps the most important people to get involved in the new hire’s orientation are their direct managers and team leaders. These are the people who will be guiding the new employee once orientation is over, so it’s important to start with a strong foundation of trust. Don’t treat an introductory lunch with the manager as a mere formality; encourage your management team to take orientation seriously and really try to get to know the new hire. As much as possible, make managers responsible for onboarding and orientation to get them engaged in the process of integrating the new employee into their team.

Finally, make sure that both HR and managers check in on new hires regularly during orientation and the first weeks of work. You want to identify any issues, fears, or misgivings as quickly as possible to ensure a smooth onboarding process. Plus, it’s important to set the precedent of communication and transparency, and to show employees that you care about what they think, from day one.

Key Takeaways

Onboarding is your opportunity to show a new hire what makes your company special and make sure that you start the relationship on the right foot. Use our easy checklists to make covering your compliance bases easier so that you can focus on the human side of onboarding. Just make sure to:

  • Provide a consistent experience from the first interview through the first months of employment
  • Equip new hires with the information they need to flourish in their new position
  • Show new employees how they fit into the company culture and how they will contribute to the mission/vision
  • Get managers and team members involved in orientation to build effective, productive teams

Like many parts of assembling your workforce and developing your culture, onboarding and orientation can be a very personal experience. You should tailor the onboarding process to your needs and priorities. But hopefully these checklists and key takeaways will help you get started on perfecting the experience for your new hires.

How to Make the Most of National Employee Appreciation Day

How to Make the Most of National Employee Appreciation Day

Whether you are looking to solve a retention problem or just want to pump up your already effective team, do not pass up the opportunity to show your employees what they mean to you on National Employee Appreciation Day, March 1st. There are many ways to make your team members feel genuinely appreciated, both on the day itself and through the rest of the year.

In this article we will explore why employee appreciation is important and how you can make the most of Employee Appreciation Day this year, as well as ideas you can implement for next year:

  • Why You Should Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day
  • Think Outside of the Box
  • Follow Your Culture
  • Think Long Term
  • Pitfalls to Avoid

Why You Should Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day

Your employees are what makes your company run; they are ultimately responsible for every success, every goal accomplished and every product or service. That’s something that is worth some appreciation. Beyond deserving it, your employees also need recognition in order to perform at their best so that you can achieve future successes. No one likes to feel like they are a cog in a machine, being used for their labor and not appreciated for the contributions that they are making. Even simple gestures can make a huge difference in employee satisfaction, performance, and retention.

The fact of the matter is that about half of all employees would leave their jobs for a company that gives employees more recognition for their accomplishments, while eight out of ten employees say that being recognized motivates them at their jobs.

At a time in which companies are struggling to provide meaningful work and retain top talent, showing appreciation can be a cheap and rewarding path to a more effective, sustainable team. That is why you should use this National Employee Appreciation Day as an opportunity to take concrete steps to building a happier more effective workforce. But how should you go about showing your employees that you appreciate them?

Get Creative and Personal

Especially since March 1st is rapidly approaching, do not be afraid to get a bit creative with your celebrations. You do not have to do anything too major or complicated to celebrate National Employee Appreciation Day, so long as it seems genuine and personal. Office pizza is always nice, but it doesn’t really show that you care. At the risk of sounding seriously cheesy (no pun intended), you want to fill your employees’ hearts and not just their stomachs. But don’t be too serious – the more fun you have planning the celebrations, the more enjoyable and rewarding they will be for your employees.

Your employees will feel significantly more appreciated and valued the more personal and unexpected your methods are. If they are surprised by the celebrations, your message will seem much more genuine. And the more directly the appreciation comes from the company leadership or employees’ managers, the more heartfelt and effective it will be. You shouldn’t just implement an idea that you find online in this or any other article – take time to make it your own and your employees will appreciate the extra effort.

Also get personal when it comes to your employees; if your team is small enough, tailor your messages, programming, and giveaways to individual team members’ interests. If you are a larger company, get managers involved so that they can come up with special ways to celebrate their teams. Time might be short for this year, but even just getting managers to write a personalized note to each of their team members, and letting managers choose their team’s treat and activity for March 1st, is a quick and easy way to make your employees feel truly appreciated.

Above all, remember that there is no right answer so feel free to celebrate your employees in the way that works best for your company. Just make sure that you come across as genuine, and that your celebrations are in line with your company’s values.

Follow Your Culture

Speaking of company values, the best way to make sure that your appreciation comes across as genuine is to express it in a way that aligns with your company culture, mission, and vision. Sending a message that conflicts with your company culture would be jarring and dishearten rather than engage your employees.

The reason why you should follow your company culture is that you will reinforce what already makes employees dedicated to their jobs. If your employees buy into your company culture, then that means that they share your values and care about their work largely because of the company’s mission and vision. Celebrating those values when showing your appreciation for your employees will create a grounded, consistent message that makes your employees more confident in their choice to work at your company.

Similarly, it is important to avoid showing your appreciation by just making your employees work less, or in any other way that downplays the importance of what the company is doing. You want the focus to be on the good work that your employees do, and your appreciation for that work, not on making your employees happy by just giving them a break. It is important for all companies not to downplay work on National Employee Appreciation Day. Consider using the day to provide insight into what the company is doing, why it is doing it, and how the team members contribute to those goals.

If, on the other hand, you have a robust company culture and engaged workforce, your team members will already be proud of what they are doing and will want their managers and company leadership to be proud of it too. They will not want to work less, but be recognized for their work. Use the Employee Appreciation Day to acknowledge and praise employee contributions towards the company mission/vision, steps they have taken to safeguard the company culture, and other meaningful contributions that they have made.

Think Long Term

No matter how much you celebrate your employees on March 1st, long term engagement and satisfaction can only come from long term appreciation. That is why you should take the opportunity to announce new policies or programs that will engage and reward your employees year round.

If you already have a change in policies in the works that might benefit employees, consider rolling the change out as part of the your Employee Appreciation Day celebrations. This will help frame the policies as being meant to benefit and reward employees. Even if you are not ready to implement changes, consider announcing them accompanied with a rough roll-out schedule.

Even if you do not have any changes in mind yet, consider simple policies that you can announce on Employee Appreciation Day. Weekly “props” at team meetings, other informal peer recognition policies, and monthly appreciation events do not take much to set up and can be announced this year. You can also start planning for other long term changes to introduce next Employee Appreciation Day. Some examples of larger projects to start planning include:

  • Employee Gamification: allow team members to earn points for various perks in exchange for accomplishments
  • Competitions: reward top performing individuals or teams for accomplishing specific goals
  • New Benefits: gym memberships, zoo or museum passes, and other quality-of-life perks
  • Work Structure: introduce flexible work hours, telecommuting options, or Summer Fridays

Avoid These Common Pitfalls

While the best way to show your employees how much you appreciate them depends on your company and there are no “right” answers, there are some common mistakes that you should absolutely avoid. Two in particular are sure to make your employees angry instead of making them feel valued:

First, don’t just send a card or email and fail to show your appreciation in any more concrete or active way. While it is important to say thank you, a form message from HR or the CEO never makes employees feel warm and fuzzy about their jobs. That is not to say that you shouldn’t have the CEO send a message about the company’s recent accomplishments and future plans, and thanking employees for their contributions to both. Just make sure that the content is meaningful and that it is accompanied by some form of action that further makes your employees feel valued, listened to, and appreciated.

Second, do not roll out programs that are just obvious, and insufficient, work incentives. Contests and gamification can be great ways to engage your employees and reward them for hard work. Just make sure that they are clearly intended to make employees’ jobs more fun and rewarding not to encourage them to work harder and sacrifice more than they already are. People can generally tell what your real motivation is so make sure that any incentive programs come from a desire to make the company a more rewarding place to work.

Key Takeaways

National Employee Appreciation Day is your chance to have fun, show your employees how much they mean to you, and launch programs to make your employees feel valued year round. Get as creative and personal as you can, emphasize your company culture, and genuinely thank your employees for their contributions to the company mission and vision and you will reap the rewards of employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention. Just remember to:

  • Be creative and personal
  • Align your celebrations with the company culture
  • Celebrate employee accomplishments and contributions to the company mission/vision
  • Implement long-term programs to show appreciation for your employees

And most of all, don’t forget to have fun. Share your favorite, wackiest employee appreciation ideas in the comments section below.