Federal agencies improving work/life balance, setting precedent for private sector

A number of federal agencies, including the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), are implementing new programs to improve work/life balance issues for the thousands of workers they employ.

Earlier this month, three federal department and agency heads, including OPM Director John Berry, met to discuss how to improve the work environment within each organization.

Berry, who said that he would give the OPM’s current work/life balance programs a “generous” grade of D+, is working with the Interior Department and the General Services Administration (GSA) to create a set of model programs for the 7,000 employees at the agencies’ neighboring headquarters.

“Establishing work/life programs and creating a better work environment is critical, particularly in the public sector, where managers don’t control pay and benefits, Berry says.” (Workforce)

Berry started by setting up “The Wolf Pack,” a group of 12 employees to give insight into what work/life balance issues the OPM workforce is most concerned with.

Among the list of top priorities is providing day care for employees’ parents and expanding the OPM health clinic. OPM has since devoted $300,000 in upgrades to the clinic. He is also working to expand and broaden the organization’s telework program, of which 34% of OPM employees already participate in.

“Experts believe that if Berry’s programs are successful, not only will other federal agencies adopt them, but private employers will as well, as they realize they need such programs to compete for talent.” (Workforce)

Read more about the OPM’s work/life balance initiatives in their recent press release: Four Federal Agencies Combine Forces To Create a Model Federal Work-Life Campus.


More laid-off workers returning to old employers

More laid-off employees are finding new work in their old jobs, according to the latest labor statistics that show almost a fifth of displaced employees return to the company they were laid off from.

About 18% of laid-off workers who found work were rehired by the same employer that issued their pink slip, up 5% from 2005, according to Right Management’s outplacement services. (CNN Money)

"In some instances, organizations are realizing that they may have cut too deep and are bringing people back in consulting roles or for project work," Melvin Scales, senior vice president for global solutions at Right Management, said in a statement.

"Former employees have the organizational knowledge and skills to jump back into roles quickly to get the job done," Scales said.

Scales recommends that employers consider redeploying workers as an alternative to layoffs. "It's a way of leveraging the skills and talents of existing employees and reassigning them to new roles within the organization. It provides an opportunity to retain valued talent, reduce the cost of turnover and leverage knowledge transfers within the company," he said. (CNN Money)

Over the past two years, the U.S. labor market has experienced widespread job cuts. In the first half of this year nearly 3.4 million jobs have been lost, on top of the 3.1 million lost in 2008.

DOL celebrates ADA anniversary with new disability site

Marking the 19th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) the Department of Labor (DOL) yesterday announced the re-name and re-launch of its disability-related informational website,

The improved site, managed by the DOL, is designed to better inform and serve the more than 50 million Americans with disabilities, along with their families and friends, veterans, employers, educators, caregivers and anyone interested in disability-related information.

"The Department of Labor is pleased to be the managing partner of and to help advance the independence and full participation of people with disabilities in the workforce, the classroom and their communities," said Kathleen Martinez, assistant secretary for the Labor Department's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). has pulled together content from 22 federal agencies and utilizes social media tools that enable user interaction. Visitors can sign up for personalized news and updates, participate in online discussions and suggest new resources for the site.

The DOL has also set up a Twitter feed, RSS feeds, a blog, social bookmarking and a user-friendly way to access information on such topics as employment and job accommodation. The Department has plans to add more tools in the coming months.

"Far more than just a directory of federal resources, is a meeting ground for Americans to learn, respond and communicate about a wealth of critically important disability-related topics," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "The new site has been vastly enhanced to provide more information in as efficient and interactive setting as possible."

Read the DOL press release and visit for more information.

Employees just say ‘no’ to management

Preparing the next generation of managers has become one of the leading workplace issues since the recession began, but many employees are lacking preparation and/or interest in taking the next step toward management.

In 2009, 52% of employees surveyed for the annual Randstad World of Work survey felt there are not enough qualified managers in their organizations and 45% see a shortage of qualified managers in the future.

The survey also revealed that a majority of employees don’t want to become managers.

“It’s roughly a 50/50 split but it’s still a pretty startling realization. Up until now the assumption has been every employee aspires to become management, to work up the corporate ladder and end up in the corner office with a window. But it seems they don’t. And at this point, the people with the most experience are the least likely to want to become a manager.”

Why not? Increased stress was the number one reason why employees don’t want to enter management. When asked why they don’t want to be managers, employees said:

- Increased level of stress (82%)
- Handling disgruntled employees (74%)
- Increased paperwork (63%)
- Having to terminate or layoff employees (63%)

What can be done to change employees’ perception of management positions? According to the survey results, it may involve a rethinking of management all together.

The desire to become a manager is not driven by money or power, said most survey respondents. Instead, the top two reasons for wanting to become a manager were sharing knowledge with others and having more responsibility for the success of the organization.

“It seems that employees are asking their companies to reconsider and rethink the job of “manager” and how that person relates to the workforce. Just over half of the employees surveyed in 2009 felt the roles of managers need to change. Fifty-two percent saw a difference between the managers of today and the ones of tomorrow. Employees are looking for more than a new generation of managers; they are looking for a new generation of role models.”


Small businesses report steady or improved morale, despite recession

A new workplace survey suggests that efforts by small businesses to maintain employee morale throughout the recession are paying off.

More small businesses believe that employees’ work environment has more impact on job satisfaction than financial factors like benefits or compensation, according to the TriNet quarterly HR Trends Survey.

More than 75% of the 250 small businesses surveyed said employee morale has held steady or improved during the second quarter. Another 41% believed that employee morale in their companies has remained unchanged from a year ago. More than one-third (34%) felt that employee morale in their organizations improved during the past year.

Survey respondents cited company culture and reputation as the top contributor (36%) to employee morale, followed by flexibility and work/life balance (23%) and job security (22%). The bottom of the list included advancement opportunities (4%), benefits (5%), or compensation (9%).

Well over half of employees (60%) said their employer successfully built and maintained a positive employment brand through good communication and quality management practices.

“These results prove that employees are happier and more likely to stay with their companies due to the quality of their management,” said Burton M. Goldfield, president and CEO of TriNet. “Companies that develop the skills of their leaders boost employee morale, which then positively contributes to the company’s overall employment brand.”

How do you think the recession has impacted employee morale at your company? Over the past year, has it improved, remained steady or declined? Please leave a comment and let us know how your organization is handling it.

Social recruiting grows popular among recruiters

We may still be in a recession, but many companies still have open positions to fill and the most preferred method for finding promising candidates is shifting. Instead of spending their time on job boards like Monster and CareerBuilder, many HR pros and recruiters are turning to social networking sites.

Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are quickly becoming top sources for recruiters searching for candidates, according to the results of the second annual Jobvite Social Recruitment Survey.

The survey also found that employers are more satisfied with the quality of candidates from employee referrals and social networks than those from job boards. The majority of those surveyed are planning to invest more in social recruiting in the coming years, according to the Jobvite survey of more than 400 human resource and talent management professionals

You have to complete a quick registration from Jobvite to get the full survey results, but here are some of the highlights:

  • 68% of companies use social networking or social media to support recruitment efforts

  • The most popular social networking sites for recruiting are LinkedIn (95%), Facebook (59%) and Twitter (42%)

  • 66% of companies have successfully hired a candidate through an online social network

  • Companies are investing more in employee referrals (76%), social networks (72%) and corporate career sites (64%)

The New York Times recently covered how both unemployed workers and employers looking for a low-cost recruitment method have found success using social networking sites. From the article:

Gladys Stone, a corporate recruiter in San Francisco, says it’s smart for employers to tap into employees’ social networks. This accelerates the personal referral process and widens the field, as many social network users have hundreds of friends or contacts in their networks, she said.

And while some may be disconcerted that software from an unknown company is searching their profiles, Ms. Stone says that most know that information on the Web can be used in ways that people don’t expect, and that LinkedIn, in particular, is built to make professional information available.

Does your company use social networking sites to recruit new employees? Have you been successful? What advice would you give others who may be thinking about recruiting using social networks?

Develop a worksite obesity prevention program with new, free CDC tool

As a follow-up to our Monday post on how a lack of healthy snacks in the office are putting workers’ waistlines to the test, I wanted to share a new resource for businesses wanting to enhance their wellness program this year.

Yesterday, Ann Bares at Compensation Force spotlighted LEAN Works, a new online resource to help employers determine how much obesity costs their business each year.

LEAN Works is a new web-based resource developed by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) full of completely free interactive tools and evidence-based resources to help any organization develop an effective worksite obesity prevention and control program.

The site features an obesity cost calculator to estimate how much obesity is costing your company and how much you could save by using different workplace interventions.

LEAN Works also includes example presentations to help pitch your wellness program within your organization, tools to help collect employees’ baseline health information, workplace health audits and employee interest surveys.

Visit the CDC’s LEAN Works! Leading Employees to Activity and Nutrition.


ICE announces audits, review Form I-9 best practices

Last week U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) launched a bold audit initiative as a part of the agency’s stepped-up enforcement of employment and immigration laws. ICE issued Notices of Inspection to 652 businesses nationwide to alert employers that ICE will be inspecting their hiring records.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requires employers to verify that all new employees are eligible to work in the U.S. using the employment eligibility verification form (Form I-9). Neglecting to fill out forms or filling out I-9 forms incorrectly can result in fines of up to $1,100 for every incorrect form.

Knowing how to fill out new-hire forms correctly and the rules on how long you must retain those documents will help protect your business in the event of an ICE audit.

Anyone in your organization involved in the hiring process should be trained on the correct way to complete I-9 forms and federal recordkeeping requirements. Training should cover Form I-9 best practices, including, but not limited to:

  • How to properly complete an I-9 form at the time you hire a new employee. Employees must present identity and work authorization documents within three days of the date of hire.

  • Expired documents as proof of identification or work eligibility are not acceptable. Review the list of documents that fall under List A of the List of Acceptable Documents.

  • The importance of keeping I-9 forms separate from employee personnel forms.

  • How using a binder system for storing I-9 forms, one for current employees and one for terminated employees, can help your business stay in compliance.

  • To periodically review current I-9 forms to identify employees who need to update their work eligibility status.

  • Businesses must retain I-9 forms for the duration of a worker’s employment, plus one year, or for a minimum of three years from the date of hire, whichever is longer.

Read more on how to handle I-9 forms and about the most recent changes to the I-9 Form.

ICE announces I-9 inspections at 652 businesses nationwide

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) launched an extensive audit initiative on July 1, 2009, by issuing Notices of Inspection (NOIs) to 652 businesses across the U.S., more notices than ICE issued in fiscal year 2008.

The ICE notices serve as an alert to businesses that the agency will be inspecting their hiring records to determine whether they are in compliance with employment eligibility verification laws and regulations.

This initiative shows ICE’s increased focus on holding employers directly accountable for their hiring practices and efforts to ensure they’re employing a legal workforce.

"ICE is committed to establishing a meaningful I-9 inspection program to promote compliance with the law. This nationwide effort is a first step in ICE's long-term strategy to address and deter illegal employment," said Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for ICE John Morton.

In April 2009, the ICE announced that illegal immigration enforcement would be shifting away from undocumented workers and toward employer compliance in order to target the root cause of illegal immigration.

All new employees, including U.S. citizens, must verify their work eligibility with an I-9 form at the time of hire. Employers must retain the verification forms and re-verify existing employees’ work authorization documents that are nearing expiration.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently instructed employers to continue using the current Form I-9 (Rev. 02/02/09) until further notice.

Employers do not need to submit forms to the government for verification, but must hold on to the forms for three years after the employee’s date of hire or for one year after the date the employee leaves the company (whichever date is later).

Order the current version of the Form I-9, along with detailed tip sheets, to ensure your business stays in compliance with federal recordkeeping requirements. Employers can find more tools and information on I-9 recordkeeping practices and completion in the ComplyRight I-9 Bundle.

Limited healthy snack options test workers’ waistlines

Our days are busy, breaks are short and fitting a well-balanced meal in at work can be a tough job. For many of us, eating at work is typically done on the go and we’ve memorized our favorite vending machine combination that will curb our hunger or give us a quick, sugary boost.

Snacking at work is almost a fact of life. It’s going to happen, but unfortunately the most popular snacks at work tend to be unhealthy – full of sugar, fat, salt and oil.

Even for those watching their waistlines, unhealthy office snacks can derail even the strictest diet, according to a recent survey on workplace eating habits.

About two out of three employees find it challenging to eat healthy at work, reveals the Peapod Biz Bites Survey sponsored by Peapod Business Delivery. Only 7% of respondents claimed to eat healthier in the office than at home.

"One of the best ways to support healthy lifestyles in the workplace is also one of the easiest," said Cathy Leman, a Chicago-area registered dietitian and certified personal trainer. "When you control the environment that you spend eight-plus hours per day in, you automatically set yourself up for success. That means stocking the break room with healthy, accessible snack foods.” (Press release)

Almost half of employees (47%) surveyed cite having too many tempting unhealthy snack options at work as the top reason they’re not eating healthy at work. Less than one-third (28%) of employees said their workplaces offer enough healthy snack options to keep them satisfied.

What employees want most in the office – fresh produce. However, only 36% of companies provide fresh fruit and vegetables for their employees on a regular basis.

Top nutritionists at WebMD warn against “desktop dining” and unhealthy snacking habits because they hold potentially disastrous health effects. Nutritionists advise putting aside work if possible and take a few minutes to enjoy your food and choose healthy workplace snacks.

“Katherine Tallmadge, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, tells her clients to snack up to three times a day but to limit calories to 100-200 calories for each snack.

"I like to recommend snacks that provide a little carbohydrate, protein, and a small amount of fat, if any," she says. (WebMD)

Tallmadge suggests creating a snacking strategy and to have a plan. Keep healthy snack foods at your desk for times when you need a nutritional boost, but may not have the time to eat a full meal.

Keep some of these healthy snack foods handy:
  • Trail mix and/or dried fruit and nuts
  • Instant oatmeal packets (low sugar)
  • Tuna salad kits
  • Higher-fiber, lower-fat crackers
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Reduced-fat cheese

How do you ensure you’re snacking healthy at work? Does your office provide fresh produce or healthy vending machine snacks? Leave a comment and let us know how well you’re able to snack healthy in your workplace.

Sexual orientation, gender identity discrimination protections gaining legal ground

On Monday, President Obama recognized a 40-year milestone for the gay civil rights movement in the U.S. at a reception for LGBT Pride Month at the White House.

Obama has been criticized by the LGBT community because he has been slow to act on many of the promises he made during his campaign. However, he told the audience at the reception that his administration has taken steps to ensure equal rights for gay Americans and plans to do more.

From CBS News:

"We seek an America in which no one feels the pain of discrimination based on who you are or who you love," he said.

The president noted that he has signed a memorandum extending some federal benefits to LGBT families and is urging Congress to pass the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act, which would mean the extension of health care benefits.

He also said his administration is working to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination bill and a hate crimes bill named after Matthew Shepard.

"There are unjust laws to overturn and unfair practices to stop," the president said.

Just 10 days before the White House reception for LGBT Pride Month, Rep. Barney Frank re-introduced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act or “EDNA” (H.R. 2981). The bill makes it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

EDNA would extend federal employment laws, which already protect individuals on the basis of race, religion, gender, national origin, age and disability, to also include sexual orientation and gender identity.

While lawmakers discuss the fate of the legislation, it may be a good time to take a look at your company’s employee handbook. Until now, most have not been written to include how to address harassment or discrimination based on an employee’s sexual identity or orientation.

Though many are late to get started, some of the biggest U.S. companies are ahead of the game. As of February 2009, 423 (85%) of the Fortune 500 companies had implemented non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation, and more than one-third had policies that address gender identity.

Preventing sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace starts with understanding current laws, examining your policies and procedures, and training employees to abide by those policies. But that’s just the beginning.

For more information on creating gender orientation policies and procedures, read our new free whitepaper Creating a Gender Orientation Policy for Your Workplace (pdf).

Advice for HR in the new economy

How will you handle HR in the new economy? Outsourcing, secret identities, improved strategies, joining the circus?

Here's some advice from some of the most promising human resource professionals of the future:


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