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.
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
- Amending three acts: the Illinois Human Rights
Act, the Illinois Equal Pay Act, and the Victims’ Economic Security and Safety
- 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.
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
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.
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:
- Inform a local, state, or federal agency that
enforces discrimination laws of good-faith allegations of unlawful practices
- Inform local, state, or federal officials of
good-faith allegations of criminal conduct
- Contribute to proceedings with any local, state,
or federal government agency that enforces discrimination laws
- State or disclose any truthful information that
is required by law, regulation, or legal process
- Seek out or receive legal advice that is
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.
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
- The employee has documented confidentiality as a
preference, and the obligation is mutual under the contract.
- 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.
- 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).
- No claims of discrimination or harassment are
waived in the agreement that ensue after the agreement execution date.
- 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.
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.
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
The following amendments would apply to the Illinois Equal
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
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.
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
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.
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,
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.
Regarding the prohibition of discrimination and harassment,
the work environment will no longer be limited to an employee’s assigned physical
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
Regulation and Tax Act (Effective January 1, 2020)
Cannabis Act employer
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
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”
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 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.
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.
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
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
- 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
- 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
Diverse and Inclusive
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
- Form I-9
- Form W-4
- Confidentiality agreement
- Emergency contact information
- Benefit forms
- Employee handbook
- Offer letter and job description
- Direct deposit form
- Organizational chart
- Phone list and office map
- Safety instructions
- Personnel action form
- State-required new hire pamphlets
- Other state or local documentation requirements
- Any other material a new hire would find useful on the first day
Orientation/Onboarding Procedure Checklist
- Review and discuss new hire paperwork
- Schedule or conduct safety training
- Provide tour and introductions with manager
- Provide information on company logistics including work station location, break rooms, and restrooms
- Provide instructions for phone and computer access
- Sign agreements for security access and keys
- Explain timekeeping requirements
- Explain organization structure (provide organization chart and job description)
- Discuss company mission, vision, values, and goals
- Describe company products and services
- 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
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
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.
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.
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
- 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
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
- 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
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.
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.