IN THIS ISSUE:

Employee Engagement

Taking Steps to Avoid Those

Unwelcome Surprises

Bring Your Own Device: Privacy Concerns

COVID-19 Prevention & Protocols

Dear POOL/PACT HR: Chronic Attendance Issues

Upcoming HR Event

In Memory of John Bates

Employee Engagement

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, work as we knew it stopped and then evolved like we have never seen before. Throughout this evolution we heard new phrases, such as “The Great Resignation,” “The Great Reshuffle,” and “The Great Reflection." These phrases refer to the great number of resignations that occurred over the last couple of years which made retention and hiring extremely difficult for employers. Experts have said the pandemic caused many of us to examine and reflect on our own working lives. Many of us started asking ourselves questions, such as “Do I like my job?”, “Am I happy at my job?”, “How is my specific job contributing to the organization’s mission and vision?”, “Does my work have meaning and is it fulfilling?”, and “Am I making a difference?”. Many people realized they didn’t like the answers to these questions so they quit their jobs to pursue work they believed would be more satisfying and fulfilling.

 

One phrase that may sum this all up is “employee engagement.” This phrase refers to the level of an employee’s commitment and connection to an organization. According to a recent article by the Association for Talent Development (Robinson, T., Curb the temptation, July, 2022), employee engagement involves three main areas:


  1.  A person’s emotional involvement in their work or the passion someone invests, and the motivation they feel to do their job well.
  2.  A person does work they are good at and is able to connect their work with a higher purpose.
  3. A person is enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.

 

The way employees feel about these three areas can either positively or negatively affect their actions in the workplace. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM, Developing and sustaining employee engagement, n.d.), disengaged workers feel no real connection to their jobs and tend to do the bare minimum. They may also engage in some common negative behaviors, such as a sudden 9-to-5 time clock mentality, tendency to isolate themselves from peers, resentment for their job, tendency to complain to coworkers, and dragging down the office morale. Unfortunately, this seems to be more problematic than we may realize. According to a Gallup study (Gallup, What is employee engagement and how do you improve it, n.d.), only 35% of employees in the United States are engaged at work.

 

SHRM explains that there are six drivers of employee engagement:


  1. Employees feel the leaders of their organization are committed to making it a great place to work.
  2. Employees trust leaders of their organization to set the right course.
  3. Employees believe the organization will be successful in the future.
  4. Employees understand how they fit into the organization’s future plans.
  5. Employees feel the leaders of the organization value people as their most important resource.
  6. Employees feel the organization is invested in their development and success.


It may take some time to change a workplace culture to reflect all six of these drivers of engagement, but there are some things you can do today to help your employees feel more engaged. One thing you can do now is schedule regular one-on-one discussions with your employees. Not only does this help employees feel they matter to the organization, but it helps you identify concerns that need to be addressed before employees become another statistic of “The Great Resignation.” Questions you may want to ask and discuss during your one-on-one meetings include:


  • Do you feel your work contributes to the organization’s mission and vision?
  • How does your work contribute to the organization’s mission and vision?
  • How is your work connected to your larger sense of purpose?
  • How do you like to receive appreciation and recognition?
  • How would you describe your ideal workplace?
  • When are you happiest at work?
  • How do you like to engage with your supervisor/manager?

 

You may come up with other questions relevant to your organization and employees. By having these one-on-one discussions, you have an opportunity to identify employees’ levels of engagement and any areas of disengagement.

 

If employees are having a hard time seeing how they contribute to the bigger purpose or mission of the organization, take the opportunity to explain and even show them in great detail how they do. It may be a good idea to remind them of the purpose, mission, and vision of the organization. Then work backwards showing them how what they do specifically contributes and makes the purpose, mission, and vision possible. This will help give employees a sense of greater purpose, connection, and enthusiasm in their jobs. If possible, you may even delegate meaningful work that directly contributes to the greater organization purpose.

 

These are just a few ideas to help engage your employees. By focusing on employee engagement, you are also focusing on greater employee retention, increased productivity, and greater loyalty to your organization.

Taking Steps to Avoid Those

Unwelcome Surprises

There is no better feeling than to be able to lean back in our HR chairs, take a deep breath, and then slowly exhale as we smile to ourselves (or even aloud) knowing we are on top of “it.” “It,” meaning anything that if left unattended or ignored over time would result in unexpected claims of non-compliance, unfair labor practices, hostile work environments, breaches of confidentiality, and just about any allegations that a union representative, an employment attorney, or a governmental oversight agency can produce. To reduce the chances of these unexpected surprises, we at POOL/PACT HR encourage our members to participate in our two HR Compliance Assessment Programs: Phase I: General HR Compliance & Phase II: Comp and Benefits. Both programs are standalone assessments with the only requisite being the Phase I needs to be successfully completed before the member organization can participate in a Phase II assessment. This newsletter’s article will focus on the Phase I program. The Phase II program will be a topic of the next newsletter.


The Phase I assessment consists of one of our HR Business Partners (BP) working closely with the member organization’s HR manager, or whomever conducts the HR functions. The BP will conduct an on-site review. The BP will review the member’s personnel policies, looking to ensure that the policies are up-to-date and comply with related employment laws. Job descriptions are reviewed to ensure they reflect the current essential job functions and accurately list the required knowledge, skills, and abilities for the position, as well as to ensure compliance with applicable ADA and EEO requirements. The recruitment process is reviewed to ensure it complies with the member’s internal policies and anti-discrimination statutes. Randomly selected employee personnel files are reviewed to ensure the proper maintaining of documents. After all reviews are completed, a report is drafted listing the findings found during the on-site review. The report will list suggested recommendations that the member organization may elect to undertake to remediate the items identified in the findings section of the report. A review meeting is then held with the member’s HR representative, the BP conducting the Phase I, and the member’s assigned POOL/PACT HR BP. During the meeting, the member organization identifies the recommendations they wish to undertake and a timeline for the completion of each recommendation is established. All agreed upon recommendations need to be completed within the timeframe of two years from the date of the review meeting. Upon successful completion of all recommendations, the member organization, as well as the individual who completed the recommendations are eligible to apply for excellence award grants.


If your organization is interested in having a Phase I assessment conducted, please contact your POOL/PACT HR Business Partner.

Bring Your Own Device: Privacy Concerns

Sometimes employers allow employees and/or public officials to use their personal devices such as minicomputers, tablets, laptops, and smartphones to access the employer’s network or programs/software. This allowance is known as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).


PROTECTING CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION


Employers must diligently protect the organization's confidential information when employees access the network. Employers may seek guidance from their IT department and legal counsel to address the type of protection programs or Mobile Device Management (MDM) software that would be most helpful. MDM software allows employers to manage, secure, and protect the user's devices remotely while connected to the organization's network.


Similarly, employers are responsible for protecting their employees' confidential information on their personal devices.


What personal information could the employer potentially access from BYOD? Some examples of accessible personal information are:

  • Device information (i.e., make, model, and wireless carrier)
  • Phone number
  • Location
  • Apps on the device (both personal and work-related)


IS EVERYTHING PRIVATE? 


Employees may believe confidential information on their devices is protected from public disclosure or that the information the public can access is limited to the extent the device was used for official public business. However, the devices' contents may be subject to disclosure if the employer is exposed to an investigation, litigation, or other legal reasons. In fact, the employee's device may be confiscated, and the content of the entire device may be examined during an investigation if it contains information involving the employer or if there are other legitimate reasons. 


Employers who consider allowing employees to use personal devices for work, should adopt BYOD practices with caution and be thorough in addressing any potential points of risk. For further information or policy samples, please view the POOL/PACT HR Briefing "Bring your Own Device (BYOD)" available in the Resources Library at www.poolpact.com to registered users.


Please contact your POOL/PACT HR Business Partner for more information regarding BYOD.

COVID-19 PREVENTION AND PROTOCOLS

Although Nevada’s Declaration of Emergency for COVID-19 was terminated by the governor back in May, that does not mean employers can let their guard down when it comes to infectious disease protocols in the workplace. So, what should Nevada employers be doing when it comes to COVID-19 prevention and protocols?


Although many requirements surrounding COVID-19 have ended, there are still a few lingering mandates with which employers must comply:

  1. Maintain and update your COVID-19 prevention plan as required by NV OSHA to reflect current conditions. Does it reflect the latest CDC and state guidance related to face coverings, isolation protocols, and testing?
  2. If any of your employees voluntarily choose to wear N-95 or KN-95 masks at work, continue to comply with OSHA’s mandate to provide information from Appendix D to 29 CFR 1910.134 educating these employees on use of respirators.
  3. For those facilities servicing vulnerable populations, such as hospitals, continue to abide by the most current state and federal requirements regarding face coverings, vaccinations, and other COVID-19 protocols.


What follows here are not necessarily requirements but would be considered good practice for employers.


  • Maintain a stock of COVID-19 test kits to be available to employees as needed and encourage employees to order their own free at-home tests at https://www.covid.gov/tests. Also, check the expiration dates of the test kits you already have in stock. Make sure that soon-to-be-expired kits are used first, and any expired kits are discarded. 
  • Provide information to employees on where they can receive vaccinations and boosters for COVID-19 and the seasonal flu. 
  • Continue to make disposable face coverings available for employees or members of the public.
  • Continue to remind employees to monitor their own health, stay home if they develop flu-like symptoms, and follow the established protocol in your organization’s COVID-19 prevention plan.
  • Monitor your community’s COVID-19 positivity rate at https://nvhealthresponse.nv.gov/ and consider whether high spikes in infection rates should trigger additional prevention strategies in your workplace. 


Your practices may look different depending on your organization’s individual circumstances and needs; the most important thing is to stay informed on any changes in risk levels and associated requirements and best practices. 

Dear POOL/PACT HR,


One of my employees has chronic attendance issues. If he's not calling in, he's either late or leaving early. However, he has a disability and one of his approved accommodations is intermittent leave to deal with the erratic symptoms he experiences. It was hard enough when he was using sick leave every week, but now the employee has used up all of his accrued leave and is using leave without pay when he calls in sick or has to work a partial day due to his symptoms or doctor's appointments. I have no doubt that his reasons for calling in are legitimate, as he has always provided a doctor's note when requested, and otherwise he's a great employee (when he's here)... But this just can't go on. We only have 40 employees, and his chronic absences are negatively impacting our operations. What do I do?


Signed,

All Out Of Leave

___________________


Dear All Out, 


We empathize with your situation; it can be tough to balance operational requirements with employee needs, especially when the employee has medical problems which affect his ability to perform the essential functions of the job. It seems like your organization is doing the right thing and has provided the employee with leave as a reasonable accommodation in compliance with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) (as required for employers with 15 or more employees). The question then becomes is the accommodation still “reasonable”?


While the ADA does require employers to provide “reasonable” accommodations to qualified individuals, sometimes an accommodation that was considered reasonable at the time becomes unreasonable later on. This change could be due to a difference in the employer’s operational needs, or the employee’s medical needs. For example, an employer that approved an accommodation of “no on-call shifts” for an employee who was restricted from working more than eight hours in a workday, later has turnover in the department and no longer has enough qualified employees to work the on-call shifts; thus, they determined that continuing the accommodation had become unreasonable. 


So, in your current situation, it may be advisable to first determine whether the employee’s needs have changed: Was the amount of leave being used anticipated when the accommodation was approved? If the answer is no, and the employee has in fact needed more time off than expected, it may be time to reassess and determine whether leave (paid or unpaid) is still the best accommodation, or whether the leave is now causing an undue hardship for the organization. If the leave is determined to be unreasonable, the employer would need to consider alternative accommodations to assist the employee in performing the essential functions of his position. In making this assessment, the employer should ensure the job description is accurate and up-to-date and consider attaining an updated medical certification. The employer may also access the Job Accommodation Network for accommodation suggestions (see askjan.org). If it is determined no other reasonable accommodations existed, open vacant positions for which the employee is qualified would need to be considered, prior to termination. 


In all cases involving medical leave, it is important to work with HR and/or legal counsel as the ADA can be tricky to implement and there are several employment laws that may overlap including applicable anti-discrimination statutes, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the Fair Labor Standards Act. 


For more information on this or other HR topics, feel free to contact your POOL/PACT HR Business Partner.


Do you have an HR question for this newsletter?

Submit it to hrtraining@poolpact.com.

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In Memory of John Bates

On Saturday, August 6, 2022, our very own John Bates passed away suddenly. 


Many of you worked with John either as one of his assigned members benefiting from his decades of HR knowledge, or took one of the many, many classes he conducted over the 17 years he worked with us, including the FRISK program, which he was very passionate about. 


While he retired from HR last April, he was still part of our POOL/PACT family and will be missed.


His beloved daughter, Cassidie, is hosting a Celebration of Life on September 10, 2022, at 11:30 a.m. at the Club at Arrowcreek in Reno. She has asked us to share the invitation with those who would like to attend. 


For more details, click here.



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