Do Your Lunch Breaks Promote Employee Productivity?

November 28th, 2014

Unless your company is exempt from standard rules regarding working hours, your full-time employees are entitled to a 30 minute lunch break for every seven to eight hours they spend on the clock. In most workplaces, employees typically work a 7.5 hour shift each day (or more) and spend about 30 minutes to an hour of that time eating lunch at their desks, going to restaurants, eating food they carried from home, or going out to buy lunch and returning to eat it in the office. Employees may also spend this hour taking care of personal errands.

It may be unwise or intrusive to regulate this hour too aggressively—For example, to require all employees to eat in the company cafeteria, or to prevent employees from leaving the building during this time. But if your team’s lunch hour customs seem to be undermining general workplace productivity, here are a few tips that can keep the practice within bounds.

Pay attention to what your employees are doing during this hour.

You don’t need a sign-in sheet and you don’t need to force employees to report to you regarding their lunch habits, but as a manager, feel free to pay attention to what’s going on during this time. Who’s eating with whom? Who stays in and who goes out? Who are the leaders and who tends to get left behind? Do employees use the break room to eat lunch or do they avoid it?

Discourage those who straggle back to work.

There’s not much difference between a 60 minute break and a 65 minute break. But if that extra five minutes stretches to 30 or more and employees take advantage of this blurry line, feel free to dust off and enforce your neglected lunch hour policy. Many employees who would never dream of showing up later than 9:00 each morning are very casual about when they return from lunch.

Make your break room/ lunch room inviting.

As the parent of any teenager knows, the more welcoming and comfortable your home, the less likely your children are to disappear and congregate elsewhere. If you keep your break room pleasant (clean, roomy, set apart from hallways and foot traffic, no irritating noises or flickering fluorescent lights), then your employees will be more likely to eat lunch on site. This can build workplace comradery and also ease the transition back onto company time.

Eat with them…sometimes.

Managers are wise to avoid crowding their teams during the lunch hour. Don’t follow them, sit down with them uninvited, or join them every single day. But if you eat with your staff now and then, you’ll be keeping communication channels open and informal. By all means, make a practice of ordering sandwiches or pizza for everyone periodically, or taking individual employees out to restaurants and picking up the tab.

For more on how to shape your lunch hour in to a team-building or morale boosting experience (or at the very least, a welcome break), reach out to the staffing and management experts at Personnel Services Unlimited.

How Strong is Your Company Culture?

November 21st, 2014

You’ve probably heard significant talk in recent years about the impact of company culture on overall success. A strong culture means a strong brand presence, higher sales, more positive associations, greater opportunities for growth and expansion into new markets, and most important: a strong culture means more effective staffing. Companies with cultures that work have access to better candidates with higher levels of talent, and once they land these candidates, they have an easier time retaining them over the long term.

So when it comes to culture, where do you stand? Are you already well-respected in your industry, or could your internal atmosphere use some work? If you can answer yes to each of the questions below, you’re doing well. If not, it may be time to make a few changes or get some outside help.

Are your workers happy?

This is the broadest and simplest metric that can help you understand your culture. Do your employees actually like working here, or are they just tolerating this place because they don’t have any other options? If you can simply look around your workplace and see honest evidence that suggests one or the other, don’t ignore this evidence

Are you soliciting feedback?

Other than a simple glance around the workplace, what methods are you using to assess employee attitudes and loyalty? The best companies distribute anonymous surveys at least once a year, and often two or three times. They also maintain open door policies and strong lines of communication between managers and staff, so when something goes wrong, they can fix it quickly.

Do you help your employees resolve their conflicts?

Your management style and your parenting style may be similar: Do you step in when your teams experience conflict? Or do you let your adult staff members solve problems on their own? The approach you choose will be directly reflected in the strength of your culture. Great employees who can’t trust you to make decisions fairly or back them up when they’re challenged by a client will leave. You’ll say goodbye to your team players and you’ll be left with the quiet strugglers, the loners, and the cutthroat competitors.

Do you reward teamwork and performance?

If you aren’t, you should be. Keep in mind that before you reward performance fairly, you’ll need to measure it accurately.

For more on how to improve teamwork and elevate your company culture, reach out to the staffing professionals at PSU.

 

Keywords that Suggest “Entry Level”

November 14th, 2014

If you’re looking for a position at the entry level, there’s no harm in making this clear. Everyone starts somewhere, and it’s okay to launch your career at the bottom rung of the ladder. Almost every successful corporate career begins with a humble role as an assistant, a junior associate, or even a “trainee”.

Entry level jobs provide a balanced combination of invaluable experience and low responsibility. In an ideal first-rung position, you’ll have plenty of time to watch, listen, and learn about your chosen industry. At the same time, no matter how egregious your newbie mistakes may be, they won’t cause that much damage (and technically they’re your manager’s fault, not yours).

But the best thing about a great entry level job is simple: it ends — hopefully sooner rather than later. You may get a promotion, or find a new position all together. When you’re ready to leave the entry level behind, take these items out of your resume for good.

Your GPA

Your high school GPA should only appear on your resume if your education ended after you received your diploma. And if you went on to graduate from college, both your high school and college GPAs should be long gone from your resume within two years, or by the time you start searching for a job above the entry level. If your mid-level employers want this information, they can ask for it. But otherwise, leave it out; including this number suggests that you haven’t accomplished much since you left school.

Adverbs

Entry level candidates face low expectations. These low expectations include everything from work ethic (this is the last time in your life that you’ll be praised just for showing up) to critical and analytical thinking. And they certainly include writing skill. If you load your writing with adverbs, empty buzzwords, and fluff, you’ll be given a pass at the entry level only (if at all).

Text speak and slang

These things have no place a professional resume, but they sometimes show up in the resumes of first time job seekers simply because these job seekers don’t know any better.

Talk of promise and potential

At the entry level, candidates usually have no track record of experience, so managers need to make hiring decisions based solely on promise, potential, and a roll of the dice. Younger candidates can impress by talking about their brilliant futures. But beyond the entry level, this won’t fly. At this point you’ll need to flip the script and start talking about what you’ve already done.

For more on how to land a great job at the entry level, the mid level, and beyond, reach out to the staffing professionals at PSU.

Drafting or Changing a Workplace Policy

November 7th, 2014

Workplace policies are not whimsical rules, fleeting requirements, or preferred behaviors implicitly submitted by a team or workplace culture. Policies are official, enforceable guidelines that are written down and made available to every relevant employee. And when they’re ignored or disobeyed, the infraction is quantifiable and comes with clear consequences that are applied fairly.  Keep these considerations in mind before you draft a new a policy or change one that’s currently on the books.

First, is this action necessary?

Before you use new or revised policies to solve workplace problems, exhaust every reasonable alternative. Don’t draft a new policy in response to a one-time problem or unique situation. If an employee explodes his cup-o-soup in the break room microwave, don’t appease his irritated coworkers by drafting a new policy forbidding this behavior. Just talk to the employee and make sure he understands the error of his ways.

Include relevant employees in the drafting process.

New policies related to safety, for example, will require the buy-in and approval of employees who are directly affected by this safety hazard. The wording used, the practicality of the new requirement, and ability to fairly enforce the new rule should all be taken into account during the drafting process. And the most valuable contributions will come from the employees who are exposed to both the safety hazard and the proposed solution.

Get buy-in from upper management and legal teams.

Before the new policy goes into the books, HR and legal experts will need to make sure it doesn’t extend into aspects of employee behavior that can’t be legally regulated by their employers. Policies that discriminate against groups or individuals based on protected criteria (such as gender, race, or religion) aren’t acceptable, nor are policies that create unreasonable burdens for employees or violate labor laws. Since these problems aren’t always obvious on the surface, a closer look will be necessary. Executive level managers will also need to provide written approval before the process is finalized.

Publish the policy and provide necessary training.

Make the policy accessible and clear to all relevant employees, and give them an opportunity to ask any questions they may have or obtain the training they’ll need in order to comply. For more on how to draft and edit an effective workplace policy, reach out to the staffing experts at PSU.

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