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The Power of Recognition

Imagine a world where you go to work every day with a big smile, knowing that your work is important to the business and that your boss and your peers not only rely on you, but also trust you and show they appreciate your contributions.  Imagine a work environment that is productive and where you are challenged to sharpen and learn new skills continuously.  Instead, you may find yourself working for an organization that lacks a culture of recognition, leaving you in the dark on whether your hard work and contributions are truly valued.

Sadly, the reality for many employees today is a bit dire when it comes to recognition.  Below, you’ll find several staggering statistics* based on extensive research, which reflect just how important the need for recognition is in today’s work environment:

  • Studies show that 80% of employees feel they are motivated to work harder when they are recognized for their work by their superiors.  
  • In contrast, less than 40% felt that a demanding boss or fear of losing their job motivates them to work harder.  
  • In other recent studies, 44% of employees surveyed indicated they were planning to leave their jobs citing lack of recognition as the main reason
  • 69% in that same study said that they would consider staying if they received recognition and reward for their work.

Recognition and acknowledgement may not come easy or naturally for many. In fact, if you are a supervisor that is laser-focused on a task or goal, and things do not go according to plan, you might be inclined to highlight and point out the negatives by default.  That behavior can turn recognition into a task that requires additional hard work and intentional effort. 

That’s where understanding the difference between a “manager” and a “leader” comes into play. According to Harvard Business School, managers pursue goals through coordinated actions and tactical processes or tasks that unfold over stages to reach certain outcomes. On the other hand, leaders are less focused on how to organize people to get the work done and more on finding ways to align and influence them.  Simply put, managers process people almost transactionally whereas leaders inspire and influence their behavior. This contrast makes managers more likely to focus primarily on mistakes and shortcomings rather than on encouragement and recognition.  Of course, one could argue that it’s possible to be both, a leader, and a manager; however, that’s easier said than done and takes years of practice and discipline. Therefore, I venture to say that most of us are inclined to being one or the other.

Does your company have a culture of recognition?  If not, what sorts of things can you do to change that and begin to lead your employees and show them how valuable they are?  I want to share some recommendations, based on common best practices.  As with most initiatives, make sure that whichever recommendation(s) you implement, aligns well within your company values and culture. It’s also important to make sure an employee is comfortable with any recognition you plan on sharing publicly.

  1. Conduct Employee Surveys – If you do not have a recognition program in place, a good starting point is to survey your workforce and use the information you receive to design a recognition program.  Be sure to ask open-ended questions (Who, What, When, Where, How) so they can provide all the information you need to address concerns.  If you have a program in place already, consider recurring surveys (quarterly, annual, etc.), that you can use to measure their level of engagement.
  2. Develop a culture of Positive Reinforcement – This starts with your weekly one-on-one meetings, where you can see how employees are performing and identify successes and growth opportunities. You can then highlight tasks employees have done well and share those in department and all-hands meetings, giving them kudos.  You may also consider a more defined recognition program where employees can nominate one another for exceptional contributions. Remember, if you find yourself having to provide corrective feedback, it should always be done privately and accompanied by positive reinforcement.  Be sure to follow up and follow through on your commitments.  Doing this shows you have their best interest at heart and care enough to bring things to their attention.  Employees will appreciate this in the long-term and will respect you for it and show you their gratitude by trusting you and sticking around. 
  3. Make Some Noise – This is an opportunity to showcase an employee’s exceptional contributions publicly.  You should consider having the C-level or member of your executive team give them a call or writing them an email simply to thank them for their accomplishments, always reiterating how valuable they are to the organization.  You can also write a post on your company’s intranet site, newsletter company social media page highlighting their special accomplishments.
  4. Reward Employees Accordingly – While recognition is not always about money, it is another important way to let employees know they are valued.  In addition, you should consider them for promotions if/when new roles open that align with the employee’s ambitions and career path. Other things include sending flowers/chocolates/gifts with a hand-written thank you card, or a gift card to their favorite store or restaurant.  During your merit cycle, make sure you explicitly point out their accomplishments by listing the reasons why they are receiving a bonus or raise.  Other creative ways to reward them include having employees leave a few hours early on a given Friday, or the day before a long weekend, once their work has been completed.
  5. Celebrate Milestones – Never forget work anniversaries, or anytime they meet or exceed assigned quotas/goals.  In fact, you should always set reminders of all employee anniversaries on your calendar with a notable reminder days ahead so you can prepare accordingly. Other celebrations may include birthdays, weddings, or other special occasion to the employee.  You can take them out to lunch or give them a nice card commemorating the occasion.  Each of these occasions, provide an opportunity to ask them how they are feeling about their jobs, etc.

In conclusion, employees that feel valued and recognized are less likely to jump ship, even if the grass seems greener on the other side.  Remember that losing good people is never a good thing.  Often, it can feel like a bad break-up that could have been prevented, stirring regret, resentment and causing all sorts of grief for supervisors and the rest of the team.  Not to mention the financial and productivity losses that will impact your operations, customers, and morale.  In fact, a resignation from a highly influential employee may prompt an avalanche of unexpected resignations, which only exacerbates the problem.  Therefore, as business leaders, we should never underestimate the critical role that recognition plays in a business.  In today’s competitive landscape, recognition can be one of the tools that can help you retain your most valuable employees during the Great Resignation and even take your employee relations and productivity to the next level. 

*Source:  Zippia Research

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Key Elements to Retaining Your Workforce

We all know that finding top talent is difficult, but retaining top performers is proving to be equally as difficult — especially when so many other employers are launching recruiting campaigns designed to aggressively lure the cream of the crop with outrageous salaries, sign-on bonuses, stock options, and so on. As we continue to navigate through unprecedented times and ride the wave of The Great Resignation, many employers sadly continue to struggle finding and implementing initiatives that can effectively retain their valuable talent.

We want to highlight several key elements that can help your business survive (and even thrive) during these turbulent times: Risk Assessment, Compensation, and Engagement and Recognition. So, let’s dive into these!

Risk Assessment

Understanding your workforce and assessing your employees’ flight risk is the very first step in your retention journey. Communication is key to completing an accurate assessment, so you know what your employees want and how to retain them. In an ideal world, every employee should have a flight-risk score. For this, we suggest proactively conducting ongoing surveys that give employees opportunities to voice their concerns and opinions freely, having managers conduct skip-level meetings to give employees exposure and access to senior level managers, and, most importantly, conducting Stay-Interviews to ask probing questions such as:

  • Why did you join the organization?
  • How did you anticipate joining our organization would support your career aspirations?
  • Are you on track to having your career objectives and dreams realized? If not, what is preventing this from occurring?
  • Which aspects of your work do you enjoy the most and find the most fulfilling?
  • Which do you enjoy the least?
  • Are you receiving sufficient challenges in your current role to keep you engaged and fulfilled?
  • Are you receiving sufficient opportunities for your career growth and development?
  • If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?
  • Who inspires you the most within the company and why?
  • What would influence you to look elsewhere for career satisfaction?

You would be surprised at what you discover during this process. First and foremost, in an effective 30-minute Stay-Interview between a manager and employee, the managers ask those standardized questions casually and conversationally, not as a performance evaluation, but rather as a “let me get to know you and your goals” discussion. It is an opportunity to build trust with an employee and a chance to assess the employee’s degrees of satisfaction and engagement. Stay-Interviews are preferable to employee-satisfaction surveys because they provide a two-way conversation and a chance to ask questions, get a more in-depth understanding of that employee’s current motivation, and offers managers the opportunity to quickly reinforce the positives and deal with the employee’s concerns. However, be advised that sometimes topics arise that are unexpected and even uncomfortable. Therefore, it is important for employers to be prepared to address pretty much anything from hostile work environments to harassment and poor managers.

Compensation

While it is not necessarily always about the money, we cannot ignore the fact that compensation plays a very important part in someone’s decision process when it comes to employment. As such, a good practice is to be proactive and conduct ongoing reviews of your employee’s compensation and how it compares to the current market conditions. If you are unable to bridge a gap in base salary, we suggest getting creative with a bonus plan or additional benefits that employees may value even more than money to let the employee know you are taking care of them. After all, if you don’t, you run the risk of another employer enticing the employee away with a greater compensation plan.

Engagement

Another key element is keeping employees engaged. This requires a lot of work and clarity when it comes to a company’s vision. You want to make sure that your employees have a clear understanding of the company’s mission and how their work contributes to it. As previously mentioned, skip-level meetings can play an important role in doing so. Making employees aware that they play an integral part of the overall picture is absolutely necessary to develop a culture of engagement. This also requires soliciting their feedback and asking them for their input on your company’s projects, products, and services. After all, an engaged workforce is more passionate about what they do; thus less likely to leave.

Recognition

Last but not least, we can never underestimate the power of recognizing the value of an employee’s contribution. Recognizing, celebrating, and rewarding the positive impact an employee has made at work contributes to their sense of achievement and value to the company, and ultimately retention. Sadly, many companies struggle to do just that, and ultimately end up losing good people who feel undervalued. For this, we suggest developing and implementing a recognition program of some sort that allows managers and employees to recognize one another and be publicly recognized for their achievements. It can be a segment in your quarterly all-hands meeting, or an intranet site or newsletter where you can give kudos to your employees, making a positive impact.

In conclusion, while there is no silver bullet when it comes to employee retention, we believe implementing these practical solutions can make a difference and keep your employees happy and engaged. Remember that recruiters are trained to exploit every possible angle and pain point in order to get employees to consider jumping ship. Therefore, having a solid retention plan in place that includes aforementioned elements is critical to retaining the talent you have and minimizing employee turnover.

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WOTC 3.0 — Coming Soon?

Could WOTC 3.0 be on the horizon?

Since the inception of WOTC back in 1996, the program has gone through several modifications; all geared toward promoting the hiring of individuals that face barriers to secure employment. For instance, what we refer to as the 2.0 version of the program went into effect several years ago. At the time, the most significant enhancement to the program was the long-awaited acceptance of an electronic signature for the time-sensitive Form 8850. Continue reading “WOTC 3.0 — Coming Soon?”

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Legislative Update – July 29, 2020

Legislative Update – July 29,2020

New Stimulus Bill in the Works

Senate Republicans just unveiled the initial draft of a trillion dollar stimulus bill. While the bill will require negotiation with Senate Democrats and is expected to undergo significant modification, there are several components that are positive, particularly for employers. Therefore, we want to share what we know about the bill so far and give you an idea of where things seem to be headed.

New WOTC Target Group

The bill includes a newly created WOTC target group: 2020 Covid-19 Unemployment Recipients. This is defined as someone who was receiving unemployment insurance in the week they were hired or in the previous week. The time period for eligibility is from the enactment date of the bill until January 1, 2021. The credit amount is up to $5,000 per qualified individual (50% of the first $10,000 in wages paid). If approved in the final bill, this additional tax credit would be significant. As of June 18th, there were 20 million people, or about 15% of all wages paid in the US, in this group.

An All New Safe and Healthy Workplace Credit

The proposal bill also calls for the creation of a new tax credit called “The Safe and Healthy Workplace Credit.” The bill creates a temporary tax incentive through the end of 2020 to help businesses defray costs for testing, personal protective equipment (PPE), and reconfiguring workplaces. This would apply to every type of business; from storefront to manufacturing plants; offices to health-care facilities.

This program is designed to promote and enable our employers to take the federal and state recommended steps to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in their workplaces. This helps businesses afford these costs so they can bring back their employees quickly while alleviating the fears of spreading the virus. The refundable tax credit against payroll taxes is for costs incurred by the business for Covid-19 safety costs, such as testing, PPE, reconfiguring, and technology. The credit is limited to $1,000 per employee for the first 500 employees, $750 per employee for the next 500 employees, and $500 for each employee thereafter.

For example, a retail store with 40 workers seeks to resume providing jobs and services to its community — the challenge is how to do so safely…

In order to reconfigure their store to help maintain social distancing, provide adequate sanitation stations, and implement other protocols to ensure their workers are safe at work, they spend $60,000. These dollars go toward PPE, screening/testing, disinfecting, and plexiglass shields. That company would receive a $30,000 tax credit against its federal payroll taxes. If that credit exceeds their payroll tax obligations, the company receives a refund from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

New Workplace Safety Screening Solution – coming soon!

We are delighted to inform you that the Walton team is collaborating with some of our partners to develop and launch new products geared to help businesses reopen safely and reduce the risks associated with exposure to the Coronavirus. Our solution will monitor temperatures and screen all employees daily prior to entry and deliver detailed contact-tracing intelligence to help companies track and minimize potential exposure risks. Stay tuned for more info…

What’s Next?

Negotiations will begin and continue through the first week of August, so we can expect to see a vote in the Senate by middle of August. As your trusted advisor, we will continue to keep you abreast of critical developments and changes as things progress.

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New Covid-19 Vaccine Tax Credit for Select Employers

On Wednesday, April 21, 2021, President Joe Biden announced a refundable tax credit available for select businesses that pay employees that need to take time off to get vaccinated for Covid-19. This is part of the administration’s effort to involve employers to promote vaccination.

“Today we hit 200 million shots,” Biden said. “It’s an incredible achievement for the nation. I’m calling on every employer, large and small, in every state, to give employees the time off they need with pay to get vaccinated,”
said the President.

Here are the details of the new tax credit:

  • The tax credit will apply to businesses with fewer than 500 employees.
  • The tax credit amount equals up to two weeks (80 hours), limited up to $511 per day for each employee and $5,110 in the aggregate at 100% of the employee’s pay rate.
  • Tax credit is available between April 1 and September 30, 2021.
  • Tax credit is refundable, meaning the employer is entitled to payment of the full amount of the credit if the tax credit amount exceeds the employer’s share of the Medicare tax.
  • Employers can claim the credit using IRS form 941 – Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return.

This tax credit was authorized under The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP) which was signed into law on March 11, 2021.

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Your manager has been trying to reach you, but you left 4 months ago because of disengagement

The Challenges of Managing a Remote Workforce

It’s hard to imagine that already a year has passed and the world is still dealing with a devastating pandemic. The disruptive effects the pandemic has had in the business world continues to take its course seemingly without end. One of the most impactful changes employers are facing is the future of the workplace as we know it, especially for businesses that have had to make the remote working experience a reality over the last year.

It used to be that working from home was not for everyone. However, despite the forced evolution, that remains the case. Nevertheless, even after the world recovers, we must all wonder about what the future of the workplace will look like. Much of the workforce has been forced to evolve rapidly and meet the moment by embracing a home-based work environment, full of its own set of challenges. Speaking of challenges, it’s also important to talk about the challenges (and opportunities) managers face when supervising remote employees. As if it isn’t enough to manage people altogether, now the remote work experience gets added to the fold for an even greater task.

To better explain the challenges, I’d like to share a true story that I recently learned about: An HR Representative from a global company gets a meeting request from [Bob] a manager she supports with a specific employee’s name in the subject line. Here’s a paraphrased script of their conversation:

HR Manager: Hi Bob, how can I help you?

Bob: Hi. It’s been weeks since I last heard from [Employee] Suzie. I’d like to solicit HR’s help at this point.

HR Manager: When was the last time you heard from her?

Bob: Oh, I can’t really remember… it’s been a few months. Unfortunately, I’ve been incredibly busy, but I’ve emailed Suzie several times and have not heard from her. I left her a voicemail message last week, but have not heard back. I am concerned.

HR Manager: Okay, here’s what I’d like to do. I’m going to overnight her a letter to check on her and inform her you have been trying to reach her and are concerned. I’ll ask her to contact us ASAP.

Several days later, the HR Rep and the employee finally connect and their interaction went something like this:

HR Manager: Hi Suzie. Is everything okay? Your manager has been trying to get a hold of you for the last few weeks and hasn’t heard from you, and we are concerned.

Suzie: Really? I left 4 months ago because I felt like the manager was disengaged. I figured someone would eventually reach out.

😀

This obviously is an extreme example, and we used a comic to add humor, but the reality is that this manager’s lack of engagement and oversight kept an employee who walked off the job on the company payroll, costing the company thousands of dollars in wages.

In conclusion, managing a remote workforce will be a new experience for many managers, but just as if they are managed onsite, a manager’s responsibility does not go away simply because the employee works from home. On the contrary, it is far more critical, especially when you consider other elements that may be competing for a remote employee’s attention and can negatively impact their work performance. Things such as sharing a home office with others, loud pets, crying kids, noisy neighborhoods, etc., all while trying to put on their best performance on video conferences throughout the day.

How is your company addressing this? Are you struggling to supervise your remote staff effectively?

There are several things that can and should be implemented to help managers address and overcome the challenges of supervising the fast-growing remote workforce, which include:

  1. Ask for help — Reach out to your own manager or HR. Share your challenges and ask for support or additional training.
  2. Establish structure and rules of engagement — Setup recurring 1:1 check-ins as frequently as needed and set expectations from the start. Make sure your employees know how to best reach you during the day.
  3. Provide multiple communication means — Email is simply not enough. Use the phone and video conference more so. These will allow you to get additional context to how you communicate (gestures, tone, body language) which are super useful to eliminate miscommunication and misunderstandings altogether.
  4. Provide opportunities for social interaction — Host trainings, feedback loops, virtual townhall meetings, and even happy hours. Promote activities that promote collaboration and avoid isolation.
  5. Offer encouragement and emotional support — Ask open-ended questions: How are you doing? What’s new? How can I help you? These provoke open dialogue to help you assess situations with your employees. Don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions and be sure to read between the lines.
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Legislative Update October 28, 2020

Will WOTC get renewed?

As we enter the elections and remaining part of Q4, many companies are wondering about the status of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) and its renewal. For those who may not know, the current WOTC program is set to expire on December 31, 2020, and unless congress passes legislation, the program will enter into a state of hiatus. Hiatuses are not uncommon for WOTC. In fact, since WOTC was created in 1996, it has had its share of hiatuses, which generally means that employers continue to screen and file the time-sensitive Form 8850 as usual, but certifications for employees hired after the program expired are not issued until the program in renewed. This leaves us with the question that most employers are wondering about: Will WOTC get renewed?

Possible New Target Group for WOTC

As is generally the case in an election year, legislation becomes more and more difficult as we approach the election. As we have seen, this proved to be true with the hopes for an additional stimulus bill. Everyone has been hopeful that a new economic stimulus bill would pass since there is a good chance the bill would include a new target group for WOTC centered around unemployment driven by the pandemic. With unemployment running very high, this could prove to be a significant group. There is also the possibility of expansion of other credits as well. However, as it turns out, the hope of a new stimulus bill appear to be stalled until after the election, at which point a great deal will depend on what happens in the election results.

Republicans have disagreed among themselves as to what should happen with the next round of stimulus. Senate Republicans wanted no more than $500B in additional aid. They felt there is no need for any additional stimulus. The administration, while somewhat inconsistent in their position, has argued for a much larger package, around $1.8 trillion. If they were successful in negotiating that package, which would probably have been the case with the administration package. Hence, the reason Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was suggesting to the administration to postpone the stimulus bill until after the election.

3 Major Areas of Disagreement

Additionally, there have been disagreements between the administration and the Democrats. There are three major areas of disagreement.

  1. First is the size of the stimulus, with the Democrats wanting a much larger amount.
  2. Second is the issue of state and local aid because it might be perceived as bailing out poorly run cities.
  3. And the third issue relates to liability protections for businesses, with the Democrats opposed to such protections.

While the election will have a significant impact on what will happen with the stimulus bill, there are bills which will need to be passed in a lame-duck session. For instance, the current continuing resolution funding the government expires in early December; therefore, another CR of funding bill will need to be passed soon. As such, we continue to push and lobby for these bills to contain an extension of the expiring tax provisions, including WOTC.

Next Steps

In conclusion, the next steps on the stimulus bill are contingent on the election results.

  1. The first question is who wins the election. If Joe Biden wins, there will likely be pressure to avoid negotiating with the administration in a lame-duck session and just wait until the new administration assumes power. Hence, they would delay the stimulus until February. However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has expressed she would prefer not to wait; however, it is unclear if the bill could pass the senate.
  2. The second question is whether the Republicans maintain control of the senate. If the senate shifts to Democratic control, they will be able to control what bills will be brought to the floor. Therefore, there will likely be pressure to wait for February to enact more stimulus. Regardless of the outcome, we remain optimistic there will be an extension of the expiring provisions, including WOTC, and believe there is also a good chance the program will be expanded. Exactly how all that will unfold will depend on what happens November 3rd.

We hope you find this update useful. As your trusted advisor, Walton remains committed to driving lobbying efforts and keeping you abreast of important updates. As always, should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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