5 attributes for employee assistance program

An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a program that an organization implements to ease some of the personal problems faced by its employees. An employee assistance program is largely voluntary, in that it is not mandatory either for organizations to implement it, or for very employee to avail it.

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According to the Employee Assistance Professionals Association, here’s what to look for:

  1. 24/7 phone response. Seek out providers that have trained counselors on duty answering a toll-free phone line at all times. Avoid EAPs that require users to navigate an elaborate phone tree before reaching a counselor.
  2. Confidential services. Licensed, professional counselors should deliver assessments and face-to-face counseling sessions in safe, private and confidential offices. Make sure there are enough counselors in your area to deliver timely services in both urgent and nonurgent cases.
  3. Referral support and follow-up. The EAP should assist employees by providing referrals for long-term or specialized care based on assessed needs, recommended treatment and employees’ financial resources. The EAP should provide follow-up and ongoing support for employees.
  4. Crisis intervention. Will EAP counselors come to your facility if there’s an emergency, such as an incident of workplace violence? Good EAPs can provide counseling for traumatized employees. They can also help management coordinate emergency-response plans.
  5. Substance abuse expertise. Given their disproportionately great impact on the workplace, drug and alcohol abuse problems often represent the bulk of EAP cases.

Can creative persons be good leaders?

Can creative people be good leaders? Leadership can be an art to an extent because it requires intuitive responses to different situations and can thus be creative to an extent. But is a person who is entirely creative, the right choice for a leader? This is a big question for many organizations, and with full justification.

Getting the most creative one to lead

This happens in team sport all too often. We have innumerable instances of very talented players going on to become captains of their teams, only to come a cropper all over, with disastrous results. Usually, the push to make the team’s most talented player the captain comes from the management. It is tempted to equate creative talent with leadership talent. The two are not always on par with each other.

In organizations too, the same temptation sometimes plays on the management. Whether creative persons go on to become successful leaders is always open to question. Many leadership pundits draw a parallel between the two by thinking that if creativity is all about thinking out of the box; so is leadership.

But leadership can be a science too!

This thinking is true, but to a limited extent. For that matter, leadership can be a science too, because it involves going about situations in a logical and process-oriented manner. Does just this much make leadership a science? To an extent, leadership can be both, but to get to the focus of this discussion –that of whether creative people necessarily make good leaders –one perspective we have to take is whether creative people can take logical decisions.

This is a major aspect of the discussion. By its very nature, creativity is bereft of logic. We don’t expect to see any rationality in a Da Vinci or Picasso painting. Do we? Creativity is the free and unrestricted and usually, unstructured flow of ideas. Does this make a person with this at his core suited for leadership? If leadership is all logic and if creativity is the exact lack of it; how does a creative person become an effective leader?

Leadership and creativity are two different boxes

Saying this much does not meant that there is any doubt about the leadership ability of the creative persons, but let us bear one fundamental point in mind: Creative persons can think of not just out of the box, but sometimes even out of the world ideas, but generally ONLY if it concerns their area of work. Leadership is not likely to be, for instance, a musician’s prime area of work. Stretching this example to organizations, we may have an animator who could come up with kickass ideas, but those will usually be design ideas.

Yes indeed, leadership is also a lot of inventiveness and thinking at the drop of a hat. But this is of a different nature altogether. A leader can think about business strategies and other aspects very creatively and differently, but this is creativity of a different type from the one concerning pure creative stuff. This is how it goes: Leaders can be creative, but seldom do creative people become leaders. Make no mistake –leadership does require creativity. But that is the kind of creativity that is confined to leadership skills. In fact, every profession requires a certain level of creativity of the kind and limit it permits.

We are all unique in our own sense

Why is it that creative people usually struggle as leaders? It is because of the human mind’s inability to think in different directions with the same effectiveness. We all come with unique talents. We all have our individual traits. Largely predetermined by genetic and many other factors, these are the very essence of our true selves. This explains why some people are born with the ability to run well, while others cannot. Some others are great singers, while others cannot think of a tune. To do something that goes against the basic grain of our core; it takes a lot. The person may do it out of compulsion or for the challenge, but it will never be accomplished with the ease with which someone born with that talent can.

There are a few leaders from the creative fields, too

There are many examples of creative persons who have gone on to become effective leaders, but they are more the exception than the rule. They are usually people with multifaceted talents that go on to perform these seemingly contradictory roles with ease and aplomb. It is akin to how charismatic actors have gone on to become well-known leaders. Ronald Reagan is perhaps the best example that one can think of. We have had quite a handful of such artistes who have become politicians in the developing world and led their countries for a considerable point of time and with reasonable success.

In the normal course, expecting an utterly creative person to automatically become or do well as a leader is a difficult proposition. One cannot come out with generalized answers. On the whole, if we have to answer the question of whether creative persons can become leaders, we have to judge on a case-to-case basis.

Reference:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/chunkamui/2011/02/06/are-the-people-in-your-organization-too-smart-to-be-creative/

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Use of psychometric tests by HR

Mature and professional HR in any organization realizes that its most important contribution to the organization is in finding the right people and more importantly, making the organization retain them. People are the most valuable resource in any organization, and nothing is more satisfying for HR than to provide the organization the perfect fit.

Resilience matters more than anything else

So, how does HR size up the “perfect candidate” for any suitable position? Of course, the usual parameters are skill sets, qualifications and experience. But there is something that is of paramount importance, something that is a far better indicator of a person’s suitability than all these, and that is the candidate’s temperament. While qualifications, skills and experience are more obvious, there is no hint in any of these that the candidate has the most important quality the organization looks for –tenacity. This is the defining difference between good and great candidates.

Something like IQ and EQ

We can draw a parallel between this quality and emotional intelligence. In the past, if a person had a good intelligence quotient (IQ), it was considered a hallmark of exceptional ability. But over the years, psychoanalysts came round to the conclusion that intelligence and knowledge in themselves were not a sufficient measure or necessary yardstick of a person’s ability.

They identified one quality that was far superior as a marker of their character, and that was fortitude. This is what is termed as emotional intelligence, or the ability to be intuitive and smart in crunch situations. This requires being able to think on one’s feet and come up with offhand solutions to any unforeseen situation, rather than rely on textbook knowledge, which cannot answer questions beyond a point.

Psychometric tests to gauge the candidate’s ability to withstand pressure

This, in a nutshell, is what smart candidacy is all about. Qualifications and experience do matter, but what is more critical is the ability to solve real-life issues, challenges and difficulties. A good psychometric analysis by HR will help identify these qualities in a candidate.

How does HR do it? One simple method could be to ask tough, or what are called smart questions at the time of the interview. A good candidate may have had a decade’s experience in handling and working on set systems, but the smart candidate is one who has known how to use common sense in resolving challenges. HR could pinpoint and ask for specific situations in which the candidate resolved issues using commonsense rather than application of rote knowledge. It could verify from its sources with the current employer if the claims were true. It could put a number of such posers to the candidate and come to some conclusion about this all-important quality of a great candidate.

Reference:

http://www.1stexecutive.com.au/improve-recruitment-/psych-assessments

 

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The art of retaining good employees

It has been said time and again by management experts that an organization’s greatest asset is its people. Even technological innovation takes a backseat in terms of importance, because technology is after all created by people.

When it is understood that it is people who make or break organizations, organizations should do everything they can to retain people. Retention of this most important resource should be the greatest priority. But why is it that people still keep leaving organizations? A higher pay may be a factor, but there are other reasons for which they leave.

First, understand

The most important element that HR has to understand is the set of reasons for which people leave organizations. Organizations that are serious about growing should realize why this is so, and should do their best to keep talent. Unfortunately, most top brass of organizations don’t realize this, a fact borne out time and again by authoritative surveys and studies.

The most important factor which makes people, especially the senior ones, seek greener pastures, is that there is nothing left for them to achieve. When the senior employees get this feeling, it is a reflection of bad hiring practice, because it follows that the senior managers were not properly apprised of the requirements for their position, or these requirements changed over time. In either case, it speaks poorly of both management and HR.

Poor handling of resources

It is said that people don’t leave organizations; they leave their managers. This fact sums up the entire situation: people who leave generally act more out of frustration and disgruntlement for their managers than for their organization or job. Management and HR have a crucial role in ensuring that this is not the case, because managers may be important for organizations, but the lower rung is as important. It is they who will hold the organization’s reins in the future. They need to be understood and nurtured. If they leave for reasons such as disappointment with the way they are treated by their seniors, it is time for HR and management to haul the seniors up.

Other factors

While lack of recognition for work done and lack of opportunity for growth are the two most important factors for which people leave, followed by pay; organizations need to look at other factors that make people leave organizations and take steps to correct them. In many organizations, favoritism, partiality and nepotism prevail. In others, poor pay and benefits could be a factor. In some others, strict or rigid working conditions could be the reason for which people leave. In yet others, it could be paucity of transparency by the top management. Any organization’s management that is serious about keeping people should assess where it is lacking. Correcting itself is an imperative if it has to be a competent organization.

References:

http://www.gautamblogs.com/2006/05/10-reasons-why-organizations-are-not.html

http://www.zdnet.com/why-do-good-employees-leave-1139225146/

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Handling fraud in the workplace

Fraud of any nature is a serious issue at the workplace. No employee worth his salt is expected to resort to commit fraud, no matter what the provocation. It is a matter of major concern for both the employee and the employer. If the employee shows himself to be someone who cannot be trusted; the organization that is not able to or keen to deal with fraud projects itself poorly to the outside world and will have its reputation dented.

What is fraud and why is it committed?

It is difficult to define a fraud, because like sin, it is subjective. It is not in the same league as crime, which goes by strictly defined legal parameters. In a broad sense, we can understand fraud as an illegitimate act that causes harm to the organization in one or another way. An act of financial misappropriation is an example of fraud. There could also be a kind of fraud in which, for instance, data is stolen. This could result in indirect financial loss to the organization. There are other ways by which an employee can harm the organization, such as by bringing disrepute to it, but this does not constitute fraud.

Although people with criminal tendencies that have access to finances commit fraud, some others may do it out of a sense of revenge. They may feel like hitting back at the organization as a form of retaliation for any wrong on its part, either real or perceived.

How to organizations handle fraud?

First, the organization has to have a clear definition of which kind of acts by an employee or the management constitutes fraud. It has to enforce this by keeping vigil on its finances. Regular audit is a healthy practice, and it pays, because irregular audits or audits carried on at very infrequent intervals may not help the company detect a fraud.

The investigation into the fraud has to be thorough, objective and professional. Those found guilty should be handed exemplary punishment, but in a suave manner. It should be of such nature that the employee should be given the chance to offer his side of the story. A highhanded approach will not be a good example of the company’s attitude.

If it has some doubt about a person’s integrity, it should make sure that such a person is not kept in a position in which fraud is easy to commit.

Reference:

http://www.managers.org.uk/page/best-practice-workplace-fraud-enemy-within

 

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A general workplace safety plan

The workplace, where most of us spend a good part of our lives, has to be a safe one. Its safety is not something that is to the subjective satisfaction of the owner, but one that has to be compliant with clearly defined safety rules. The federal agency charged with drafting and enforcing safety rules in the workplace is the OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. What does OSHA have to say about the workplace safety plan?

OSHA has myriad regulations about safety in the workplace. While there are different rules, codes and regulations for nearly all areas of the workplace; there is a common, general set of processes that all employers have to implement, and that is the general workplace safety plan.

What is the general workplace safety plan?

Different types of workplace require different safety plans. They vary according to the kind of workplace. For example, a carpenter’s factory may have a safety plan that is different from that of a foundry. But OSHA also has what it considers a general workplace safety plan. What this means is that irrespective of the kind of workplace the organization has and the number of people it hires; it has to implement a few safety rules that have to be part of the establishment. The plans specific to the organization are built in addition to these general rules.

Which are the general workplace safety plans?

OSHA prescribes a detailed general workplace safety plan that has the following elements:

  1. Analysis of the worksite, consisting of:
  • Safety and health surveys, with symbolization of how hazards are corrected;
  • Job Hazard Analysis (JHAs);
  • Reports of hazards from employees, when they notice any;
  • Results of site safety and health inspection with note about how the correction was made;
  • Reports that investigate accidents that have taken place in the workplace, accompanied by a note on what was done to correct them;
  • Results of trended analyses.

 

  1. Prevention and control of hazard at the workplace: this is about the fines and penalties for failing to enforce safety rules, which could invite either of these
  • Issuance of oral warning;
  • Reprimanding in writing;
  • keeping the person off work for three days compulsorily, and
  • Dismissing the employee
  1. Information about the health conditions of employees working in that workplace, and
  2. Training to employees on all these aspects.

Reference:

http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/safetyhealth/mod2_sample_sh_program.html

 

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How important is technology to HR?

We at HR are usually bound by processes, rules and procedures. Our task is largely administrative and rarely developmental. In this scenario, since we are essentially concerned about making sure procedures and protocols are followed; does it make sense to use technology for our work?

This is a slightly dichotomous question, because on the one hand; we have technology seeping into every aspect of our professional and personal lives. On the other, we are in a profession which is not technology-driven. Our job is vastly different from that of say, a software developer, who should be thinking of technology day in and day out.

Never say no to technology!

Agreed, HR is not technology-centric. But think of this –if we could have apps that make our processes simpler; what is the point in shunning them, just because we are averse to using technology? Let us say we have to process leave records, one of our major areas of work. In the olden days, we had to do it manually, moving heaven and earth for simple documents such as this.

Now, we simply don’t have to carry out this function manually. A software application could easily do that for us, in real time. There are a vast number of other applications that help us carry out several of our routine works. The only reservation to using them could be our mindset. If we don’t move with the times and adapt to the latest, we will remain forever backward. It is as simple and natural as that! We need to understand that technology is here to facilitate, and not impede any work. Let us be clear about this much: If technology can eliminate many of our mundane tasks; isn’t that a great thing to have, since we will be able to concentrate on the bigger aspects of work, like strategic planning?

Knowledge helps in other ways, too

On a parallel track, there is another area in which knowledge of the latest technology and its market trends is very useful, and that is in technical recruiting. An HR professional who brings a background of technology can be an inestimable asset; since he helps recruit the best suited technical staff. When the right people man an organization’s technology front; it is but natural that it moves forward.

Adapt, or remain where you are!

Whether we want to adapt technology or remain where we were decades back is a decision we ourselves have to take. If we are stuck with routines and formalities; we are the losers. And with us, we take the organization along.

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