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HR’s Role in Conflict Resolution

Building a corporate environment where employees feel that their feedback is welcome is critical to organizational growth.  When team members feel that they can openly communicate with their managers group-think is avoided and opinions generate ideas and productivity.  This isn’t to say every opinion has to be acted upon but welcoming diverse ideas will certainly push a company forward.

However, when many ideas are generated, so too is conflict and disagreement.  Letting individuals express their feelings and then come to a common ground will satisfy employee needs and help drive ways to push the company forward.  Clearly not all conflict arises out of idea generation and can be built up for various other reasons.  Just a few examples that cause conflict include clashing personalities, bad decisions, poor management and employees not pulling their weight.  So how can HR help an organization resolve conflict?

Below we have provided some helpful tips* to support the overall organization with conflict resolution when it can’t be solved on its own:

  • Acknowledge – Whether or not you agree with whether the conflict that exists is actually a conflict, acknowledging that a situation means something to your employees will provide much needed empathy to their concerns.  Communication is key to resolution.
  • Individual(s) Expression – Whatever the concern is, providing a supportive forum to let those involved with the problem share their feelings is necessary before addressing the issue.
  • Define Problem – Meet with all involved parties for fact finding to learn how the problem started and the negative impact the situation has had on them.
  • Needs vs. Solutions – Don’t jump into proposing solutions just yet, the situation should be mitigated before its resolved to ensure you address any underlying issues.  Conflict resolution is not about who’s right or wrong, its about generating mutual options so that everyone winds up as happy as possible.
  • Common Ground – Bring all parties together and agree on the problem and proposed changes so that a potential win/win option can be identified. A little give and take from both sides may be needed.
  • Solutions – Provide options and alternatives that address the conflict and make sure ALL involved parties agree on them.  Some compromise may be needed but getting clear acceptance from everyone involved in the problem.
  • Follow-up – Remember to check-in after a brief time to make sure that all parties are still satisfied with the solution and that the resolution has been abided by.
  • Back-up Plan – If the conflict remains unresolved you may have to take additional action to resolve the problem. Some suggestions are performance appraisals and coaching sessions.
*UC Berkeley Human Resources, Resolving Conflict Situations

A Multi-Prong Approach to Workplace Wellness

Wellness has become an exhausted word in the workplace. However in the past years we’ve taken a step back to redefine what wellness means for different people.  Historically associated with physical fitness, the scope of services to support well-being programs has expanded to become more encompassing of all facets of  health.  We define this by health, wealth and lifestyle, the latter being the category covering family life, philanthropy and anything that does not have a traditionally defined place in the wellness world.

The first step in building out a wellness program for your organization is identifying the priorities for your company and its team.  Its important to acknowledge that what you believe to be the wellness concerns and goals for your employees may not actually be the same as what they want and need.  To avoid this disconnect get started with an Employee Benefits & Wellness Survey to evaluate what is top of mind for your organization.

Below are 5 Key Steps to Consider when implementing a wellness program:

  • Defining What Wellness Means for Your Organization –
    • Healthcare – physical, mental, exercise, nutrition, holistic, etc.
    • Financial – retirement planning, managing finances, college loan repayment, etc.
    • Lifestyle – family planning, philanthropy, estate planning, legal, pet insurance, other voluntary insurance products, etc.
  • Identify Budgetary Constraints – When it comes to wellness the available programs (and associated costs) can be endless.  Determine how much your budget is for various programs and prioritize what’s most important.  It may be helpful to work backwards once you’ve identified what this number is.  Some of the major health insurance will offer wellness funds for clients.  And with enough research you can find options that are low cost or even no cost.
  • Implementation – Identifying the programs you want to implement is about 25% of the work.  The real challenge starts when you want to roll out a new program.  It can be difficult to drive engagement amongst employees, even when they are interested.  A few suggestions to overcome this is educate employees through communication, without spamming them think about delivering the message 6-7 times to drive real adoption.  Identify internal champions who can generate interest amongst their peers.  Incentives are helpful but they can often be temporary.  Creating a culture that practices what they preach (ie – manager adoption) can really help push an uptick in adoption. Remember to be realistic and recognize that your company may have diverse employee populations that need programs modified for them (eg – corporate vs. field, English speaking vs. Spanish speaking, etc., local vs. national vs. global).
  • Executive buy-in – Don’t be afraid to do an MVP, test.  The best laid plans are evaluated and iterated on.  Use data from a low-cost/no-cost trial to drive interest for executives to put a larger budget and/or support towards more comprehensive programs.
  • Measuring success – First define what you want to measure, what is the goal for your program – happiness, utilization, engagement, retention.  Once this is identified you can also identify the KPIs to evaluate the return on your investment, whether it be your time and/or an actual dollar amount. You may want to do a brief study of the specific program with your organization over a 3-6 month period.  This allows you to follow the program under a magnifying glass to determine progress.  If this is the path you choose:
    • Identify what you’re evaluating (eg – nutrition, fitness, emotional well-being).
    • Implement the program with a set timelines and goals (something you can measure – employee surveys offer a quick way to put data behind your programs).
    • Remember to set a baseline with regular check-ins and results reporting.

Gender Pay Gap – Addressing Salary History

Equal pay in the workplace requires commitment and changes to the hiring and management process. Women earn 80.5 cents for every $1.00 that men earn, and this differential is referred to as the “Gender Pay Gap” (US Census Bureau, 2018).  While a pay gap is not unlawful, the causes of a pay gap may be. Paying a female less than a male simply because of her gender is pay discrimination and unlawful.

The Do’s & Don’ts of Salary History

Basing compensation off of salary history (unless voluntarily disclosed) is not allowable and is thought to perpetuate the gender pay gap.  Understanding target earnings is fair to ensure that both the prospective employee and employer are in the same ballpark when it comes to compensation.

Below we’ve provided a summary of some of the Do’s & Don’ts of Salary History:

The Do’s
  • Do educate managers, recruiters, etc. that they may not ask or prompt candidates for prior salary history
  • Do set a salary range prior to interviewing, and document how you came to that range and what benchmarking data you used
  • Do ask about salary “expectations”
  • Do document if negotiations were made to a salary decision prior to hire, and how and why you landed on an agreement. What made you decide this candidate deserves to earn more than another who is already in that role?
  • Do document your organizations promotion process and raise/ bonus process. Document determining criteria for such advancements. Unconscious bias can seep in here and if left unchecked, can lead to discrimination (see our last blog post for more on unconscious bias in the workplace).
  • Do look at at least 2 compensation cycles if your organization decides to do a pay equity analysis

The Don’ts

  • Do not ask for prior pay during the interview process. Remove this question from job applications
  • Do not refuse an interview or refuse to hire someone based on prior pay
  • Do not refuse to interview someone if they refuse to provide prior pay
  • Do not probe for information on prior pay
  • Do not try to “hide” pay differences through a bonus rather than base salary, as a pay analysis is based off of total compensation which includes stock grants, commissions and the the like, not just base salary
  • Do not do a pay equity analysis unless you have buy-in from leadership and have the resources to make any changes needed to remain in legal compliance
  • Providing awareness training: Unconscious bias training can help individuals become aware of what biases they have. It can give them the tools to override and rewire their bias  to make more conscious choices.
  • Establish Policies: Policies can help to ensure that a workplace remains compliant with company-wide values and can help maintain the integrity of D & I efforts. One way to do this is to require that more than one person be involved in hiring decisions, so that dialogue can occur between the two decision-makers who may have different views.
  • Creating structures: This allows for more intentional actions and provide opportunities  for colleagues and peers to identify ways bias may be seeping in.
  • Labeling the types of bias that are likely to occur: This brings the bias to the forefront and the conscious level, allowing leaders and employees to develop an increased level of awareness of them and how they affects decision-making processes on anything from hiring, promotions, compensation, and organizational culture.

Some organizations also compensate based on performance, merit and contribution. While this is allowed, be sure to document why and how one employee outperformed another to earn higher compensation. Document your companies strong performers and what makes them such. If you do base total compensation off of performance, be sure to allocate large projects or accounts that would generate greater revenue equally and fairly so that there is a more even playing field and equal opportunity for earnings so that there is no room for allegations of pay discrimination.

How HR Can Combat Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

We all have unconscious bias and while it’s not intentional, it happens as a result of past experiences with the outcome being that certain people or groups benefit. Unconscious bias is the prejudice or unsupported judgments that are in favor of or against one thing, person, or group as compared to another.

These biases are learned stereotypes that are not only unintentional and automatic, but that are deeply engrained in us which is why unconscious bias creeps into the workplace, undermining diversity and inclusion efforts. These unconscious biases can impact hiring, assignments, promotions, evaluations, dismissals, customer service, sales, revenue, profits and beyond.

Although most people do not want to be unconsciously bias, it is real and our ability to recognize it will help us overcome it. Without awareness, no change can be made. Talent Culture gives some insight into how HR professionals can help organizations uncover and combat unconscious bias and its impact on the workplace.

Below we’ve provided some suggestions for HR to pave the way for their organizations to address and overcome unconscious bias:

  • Providing awareness training: Unconscious bias training can help individuals become aware of what biases they have. It can give them the tools to override and rewire their bias  to make more conscious choices.
  • Establish Policies: Policies can help to ensure that a workplace remains compliant with company-wide values and can help maintain the integrity of D & I efforts. One way to do this is to require that more than one person be involved in hiring decisions, so that dialogue can occur between the two decision-makers who may have different views.
  • Creating structures: This allows for more intentional actions and provide opportunities  for colleagues and peers to identify ways bias may be seeping in.
  • Labeling the types of bias that are likely to occur: This brings the bias to the forefront and the conscious level, allowing leaders and employees to develop an increased level of awareness of them and how they affects decision-making processes on anything from hiring, promotions, compensation, and organizational culture.

Some of the ways we may not catch our unconscious bias may be while we are addressing a group. Of course, being used as a general greeting and never intending to exclude the women on the team, being mindful and removing the use of “hey guys” to address a group may be something you or others are doing that you don’t even realize is helping to foster gender bias.

Other subtle, and less obvious ways that our unconscious bias may seep into the workplace is through hiring managers who may favor a fellow graduate of their alma mater or individuals choosing to associate with others who dress, talk, act or look like them. Unconscious bias can skew the direction of an organization and if left unchecked, it can turn into discriminatory behavior further fostering inequality.

Gearing Up for Open Enrollment Season

It’s hard to believe the second have of the summer is in full swing.  And of course, just as the sunny season ends it’s once again time to gear up for one of the busiest times of the year for the HR team, specifically benefits, as we prepare for open enrollment season.  Although it is not mandated that your health insurance renew on January 1, over 50% of companies do align their benefits with the calendar year to streamline processes for their organization.

Each year companies strive to optimize employee engagement while adhering to arduous timelines to ensure a successful open enrollment.  But even with the best laid plans “hiccups” will happen.  Aligning your organization with a competent, supportive benefits broker/consultant will help to minimize these “hiccups” and optimize overcoming them when they occur.  And now more than ever it is imperative to make sure that your open enrollment process is inclusive of all employee populations.  In today’s world employers must recognize that not every employee is at a desk job and able to participate in education programs.  Being flexible with your ope enrollment strategy is key.

Below we have provided some tips to help ensure the most successful open enrollment process possible for your organization and its employees:

1. Build an Open Enrollment Timeline – Believe it or not 4-6 months lead time for open enrollment will make sure you are the most prepared.  Figure out a schedule that works best for you and your team.

Some things to think about to incorporate within this timeframe include:  review your insurance renewals (you want to make sure to build in a cushion for your broker to negotiate your rates), select final plans (are you adding in any new supplemental benefits like telehealth, financial wellness tools, etc.), update data on your HRIS or ben admin portal if necessary, schedule benefits meetings to educate your employees (should be at least 2 months prior to election due date via multiple platforms), build out a multi-media communications campaign (strategize a series of messages on multiple channels to “drip” to your employees), design your annual open enrollment materials (a good broker will do this for you), hold benefits meetings, open your enrollment portal, elections deadline, post-enrollment education, plan effective date.

2. Leverage Technology – Technology can be your best friend when it comes to open enrollment.  Having the right benefits administration portal will simplify the enrollment process by streamlining employee elections, carrier feeds and education.  Additionally, there are tools to help employees (and therefore the HR team) understand their benefits and make informed decisions about their elections, such as Alex by Jellyvision, an interactive employee communication software.

3. Multi-Channel Communication – In today’s modern world there are so many technology platforms to be utilized to communicate that it is imperative your enrollment materials are responsive to your employees.  Make sure to exploit all of your available channels whether it be email reminders, slack updates, live meetings or webinars.  Also, if you have the option make the enrollment process accessible via computer and mobile platforms.  Visual content will help raise awareness and call attention to your message.

4. Personalize your Employee Message – As we mentioned earlier, not every employee is in the same role (ie – not necessarily at a desk job) or demographic.  Younger, Gen Z’s may prefer to engage with open enrollment on their mobile app focusing on college loan repayment while Gen X’ers may prefer to enroll through their computer and learn more about retirement strategies your company has.  Whatever the case knowing your audience and address them personally will drive engagement.

5. Incorporate Employee Support Resources – Having a support structure built in to open enrollment will make sure your employees have a place to turn for their questions to help keep the process moving.  It also provides back-up for when the “hiccups” occur, and they will.  Whether you have a dedicated company email, point person and/or benefits broker with support for you and your employees, planning prior will prevent problems and expedite solutions when they occur.