Author: Daniel Wangelin

Free Lunch? Just another supplemental benefit to help sweeten the pot in a tight job market

By Tracey Drury
Reporter – Buffalo Business First

With the labor market this tight, offering standard health, vision and dental might not be enough to recruit and retain employees.

So how aobut offering free lunch and snacks every day? Or footing the bill for clubs and athletic activities like softball or golf?

That’s the strategy Nick Kisinski is using to help add another 100 employees to the 150-person workforce at Odoo Inc’s downtown Buffalo offices.

“We thought we would be unique in offering this from an employee benefits perk,” said Kosinski, managing director of the Belgium-based software developer. “You’ve got to be creative. This market is crazy.”

While Odoo is going a bit further than some, lots of companies are adding supplemental and voluntary benefits ranging from pet insurance to identity theft benefits to remain competitive on the hiring front.

According to a 2022 Metlife Employee Benefits Trends study, 73% of employees say they would stay at their current employer longer if they had a wider selection of benefits. That could include making anything from pet insurance to tuition assistance, which are available as optional perks at discounted group rates.

For other companies, that could include concierge-style benefits, like on-site dry cleaning pick-up and delivery, child care or grocery delivery.

Lisa Stefanie, president of TripleTrack HR Partners in Williamsville said employers need to consider more than just higher wages and a broader, more comprehensive benefits package offers lots of choices.

“If employers want them to stick around for a while, they kind of have to pull out all the stops,” she said. “It’s an employees’ market.”

Clients of TripleTrack, which provides outsourced HR for small and mid-sized businesses, are looking at benefits like supplemental short-term and long-term disability that provides 60% of an employees income to supplement state benefits that pay only about $170 per week. And because its a voluntary opt-in benefit, there’s not coast the employer.

“For an individual to buy that out-of-pocket outside of a small group policy is way more expensive,” she said. “But it offers peace of mind.”

Brian Murphy, an employee benefits partner with Lawley, said some employers are also offering home warranty coverage for home appliances like washers, dryers and furnaces for employees working from home.

“We are definitely seeing that increasing…all of those things to try to make it a more robust benefits package in hopes by employers to retain their key employees,” he said.

Another common supplemental benefit: accident plans and hospital plans, which in many cases reimburse the out-of-pocket costs of a health insurance deductible for emergency room visits and other unexpected health care issues like twisting an ankle on an icy sidewalk or having a child get hit in the face with a soccer ball.

Jeremy Higgins, president of Higgins Agency Group, said the cost can be as little as $5 to $10 per month.

“In some cases, the payment from the product might be greater than the cost of your health insurance bill, so you’re almost compensated for time and discomfort too” he said. “That’s a high-reward, low-cost perk an employer can offer.”

At Odoo, plans call for opening the on-site kitchen by summer at the company’s Seneca One office, with an in-h0use chef providing lunch five days a week as well as occasional breakfasts and happy hours.

The sports perk covers the cost for any group of six or more employees who want to participate in a league. So far, groups have taken advantage of the offer, signing up for softball, kickball, broomball and golf. The company provides branded gear, as well as donuts, bagels and coffee for groups that meet to play Dungeons and Dragons or other activities.

“It’s also about camaraderie, which is through the roof,” he said. “Every penny is worth its weight in gold.”

This article originally appeared in Buffalo Business First.

Read the original article here >

How to Upgrade Your Referral Program

By Jeff Wach, SPHR, SHRM-SCP



Does your company have a referral program for new hires?

Does anyone know about it?

Is it being used?

Referrals are by far the preferred source of new hires. Your employees know the culture. They know who will be a good fit. However, having a referral program isn’t enough. It has to be effective, and people need to know about it! How do you do that?

Follow the VIP Referral Program.


First, the program needs to be VALUED. A $20 gift card is not going to cut it. Think hundreds. Or thousands! How much would you normally spend to recruit a quality employee? How much is a headhunter fee? Why not give that money to your employees? A referral program needs to be worth the effort. Use it as another benefit and incentive. And don’t be afraid to increase the amount for more difficult, hard-to-find positions.


Second, your program needs to be INCREMENTAL. You want to reward quality and longevity, not just new hires. Consider starting with $100 upon hiring and $400 after 6 months of employment. Maybe another $500 at the end of a year. Get creative.


Third, to get the most bang for your buck, it should be given in PUBLIC. If possible, IN CASH. I know, the accountants will want it in a check or just added to the person’s paycheck. But that misses the opportunity to communicate and advertise. No one reads. No one pays attention to the hundreds of emails HR has sent out to explain your referral bonus in the past.

Try something different. At a company-wide meeting, after introducing everyone to the new employee, call up the person who referred them and pay out the bonus IN CASH right there in front of the whole team! I guarantee you will get people’s attention! Make it clear to everyone that the program actually pays.

There you have it. The VIP Referral Program. Valued, Incremental, and Public.

How does your program measure up? Contact us today to set up a proper referral program.

Addressing Bias in the Workplace

Addressing bias in workplace

Addressing bias in workplace

Many employers seek the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace, but struggle to overcome challenges such as bias. While most leaders and most employees strive to make fair decisions and avoid unfair judgments, there exists the possibility that bias impacts some workplaces. Employers may be able to help mitigate bias in a number of ways, such as establishing a dialogue with employees, offering educational opportunities and evaluating current practices.


Bias in the Workplace

A study conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that approximately 70% of American adults have experienced some form of discrimination in their lifetime.

Some of the discrimination that occurs in the modern workplace isn’t deliberate—but rather implicit. Micro aggressions, for example, are subtle or even unintentional acts of stereotyping, which can be influenced by unconscious biases. Unfortunately, both explicit and implicit bias can result in discriminatory acts. Such decisions can impact professional opportunities—whether it be a hiring decision, a professional development opportunity or even a day-to-day decision a manager might make regarding an employee’s responsibilities.

Employers should be prepared to respond to and investigate all cases of reported discrimination, but also consider steps to mitigate bias through broader organizational initiatives.

There isn’t an exhaustive list of questions employers should avoid asking, but employers need to be careful that any questions asked cannot be interpreted as discriminatory.

To help avoid discrimination claims, information requested from the applicant should be directly related to the position for which he or she is interviewing. Acceptable topics include previous work experience, education and skills that are necessary for the position.


Acknowledging Societal Issues

Organizations can choose to take stances on broader issues in society, and acknowledge how topics such as bias can impact the workplace. Many employees believe that the first step to addressing bias is to acknowledge that it exists. In particular, employees may appreciate the acknowledgment from their organization that these critical issues still exist today.

Generally speaking, employees seek to be part of an organization where their values are shared—which often can include a commitment to inclusion. Employers that acknowledge current challenges and offer empathy may be able to engage employees and further address bias.


Establishing Open Dialogue

Employers may want to consider how they can open up constructive dialogue—both at an organization wide level and on an individual case-by-case basis.

To engage employees on these topics, consider options such as surveying employees in order to gather feedback. Employers may be able to gather insight as to how receptive employees may be toward learning more about biases and growing awareness—and often, employees appreciate opportunities to have their voices heard.


Promoting Acceptance

As organizations contemplate how to best establish and maintain an accepting environment, leaders may be able to use their influence to impact workplace culture. Every workplace is unique, and employers can consider what efforts might be appropriate to promote acceptance within their work environment. For some employers, these efforts might include considering topics such as inclusion as part of ongoing discussions and planning, and integrating acceptance into day-to-day business.

Leaders often set the tone for culture. By taking steps to build awareness across an organization, employers may find that acceptance may grow—and that some employees may be open to collaborating on efforts within their workplace.


Educating Leaders

Effective and aware managers can often lead to satisfied employees, and organizations can consider engaging management by offering educational opportunities to discuss relevant topics.

For example, employers can consider opt-in educational programs directed at supervisors and managers, with the intent of establishing a dialogue on relevant topics within the workplace and growing awareness. While some employers choose to offer stand-alone training, others include timely topics into routine training and events already taking place in the workplace. Employers can consider what types of efforts might be an appropriate option for their organization. 


Evaluating Current Practices

Bias can take place during day-to-day interactions but may extend to practices such as recruiting, hiring and evaluating talent for development opportunities or promotions. Most leaders mean well—but there always exists the possibility that ongoing practices in your organization may have bias built into policies and procedures.


Addressing Bias

Bias in the workplace is not an easy topic to address, but by taking proactive steps, employers often can boost employee retention, improve their brand and build an inclusive workplace. For additional resources, contact your TripleTrack HR Consultant.

Source: Zywave, 2020


Benefits of a Mentoring Program

Experienced man mentoring younger man

Experienced man mentoring younger manA mentor is an individual in the workplace who shares his or her knowledge and expertise to help another employee grow professionally. Mentoring programs can benefit not only the mentees, but also the mentors and the company as whole. The following are some of the benefits of a mentoring program.

Benefits for the Mentee

Mentees can achieve the following benefits through a mentoring program: 

Skill development—Mentors teach mentees the skills and qualities they will need to succeed, along with familiarizing them with the company’s protocol and procedures. This, in turn, can teach mentees how to do their jobs more efficiently.

Continual growth—Mentors provide ongoing feedback to their mentees and teach them how to take constructive criticism and apply it to their jobs. This type of feedback can feel less intrusive than regular performance reviews and employees may respond better to it as a result.

Networking—Mentoring allows employees to build a professional relationship over a period of time and teaches them about the value of networking.

Talent development—By providing mentees with the skills and support they need to succeed, mentees will be more prepared to advance to new positions within the company and to take on leadership roles.

Benefits for the Mentor

Mentoring programs can also reap significant benefits for the mentors themselves, including the following:

Giving back—Give mentors the opportunity to help someone else out, which may increase mentors’ self-worth.

Recharge commitment—Helps mentors re-energize their careers, which may increase their commitment to your company.

Sharpens leadership skills—Allows mentors to fine-tune their communication and leadership skills, which can be valuable as they continue to grow in their own careers.

Benefits for the Company

In addition, there are significant benefits that can be realized by your company:

Retention—Mentoring helps employees feel more engaged in their work and more in control of their careers. Employees will feel like the company cares about them and may be more loyal as a result—in turn, reducing turnover-related costs.

Recruitment—Advertising a mentoring program can help recruit qualified candidates and establish yourself as an employer of choice within your industry.

Productivity—Because employees have the skills they need to do their jobs effectively, this can increase productivity and reduce the number of errors made on the job. Employees may also feel more confident in their work and spend less time second-guessing themselves.

Company culture—By encouraging employees to build positive relationships with one another, you can promote a sense of cooperation and teamwork at your company.

Mentoring programs can be a low-cost way to increase retention, attract new talent and improve employee morale—all of which can help protect your bottom line for years to come.


Source: Zywave, 2020


5 Ways to Support Employees’ Mental Health

Supporting employees' mental health

Supporting employees' mental healthAn employee’s mental health includes how they think, feel and act, and includes their emotional and social well-being. While mental health includes mental illness, the two aren’t interchangeable. An employee can go through a period of poor mental health but not necessarily have a clear, diagnosable mental illness. Additionally, an employee’s mental health can change over time, depending on factors such as their workload, stress and work-life balance.

While 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness annually, a recent study by Deloitte revealed that less than half receive treatment. A study from the Mental Health in the Workplace Summit also found that mental illness is the leading cause of disability for U.S. adults aged 15 to 44 and that more workdays are lost to mental health-related absenteeism than any other injury or illness.

Given its prevalence, you can expect that employees at your organization are experiencing mental health challenges or mental illness. That’s why it’s so important that your organization creates a culture that supports employees’ mental health. While this may sound complicated, creating a workplace that is supportive of mental health and illness is easier than it seems. Here are five simple ways that your company can support employees and their mental health.


Promote Mental Health Awareness in the Office

The first step to creating a workplace that is supportive of employees’ mental health is promoting awareness and destigmatizing mental health or illness. Provide resources to help employees learn more about mental health or mental illnesses, and give information about how employees who may be struggling can seek out help. When you openly talk about mental health, employees are more likely to feel comfortable about the concept and reach out to managers or co-workers if they’re struggling.

You can also establish a workplace environment that is supportive of mental health by:

  • Encouraging social support among employees, such as an organized support group that meets regularly
  • Setting up an anonymous portal through which employees can reach out to let HR or managers know that they’re struggling with high stress and need help
  • Providing training on problem solving, effective communication and conflict resolution
  • Promoting your employee assistance program (EAP), if you offer one
  • Offer Flexible Scheduling

Work-life balance, or a lack thereof, can affect an employee’s mental health. To help employees better balance their work and personal lives, employers across the country are embracing workplace flexibility. While this looks different at every company, workplace flexibility can include flextime, telecommuting and paid time off (PTO) policies. Flexible schedules provide employees with job satisfaction, better health, increased work-life balance and less stress.


Address Workplace Stress

Nearly 80% of Americans consider their jobs stressful. Chronic workplace stress can contribute to increased employee fatigue, irritability and health problems. Additionally, workplace stress costs U.S. employers approximately $300 billion in lost productivity annually.

While it may not be possible to eliminate job stress altogether for your employees, you can help them learn how to manage it effectively. Common job stressors include a heavy workload, intense pressure to perform at high levels, job insecurity, long work hours, excessive travel, office politics and conflicts with co-workers.

You can implement various activities to help reduce employee stress, which can improve health and morale—and productivity.

    • Make sure that workloads are appropriate.
    • Have managers meet regularly with employees to facilitate communication.
    • Address negative and illegal actions in the workplace immediately—do not tolerate bullying, discrimination or any other similar behaviors.
    • Recognize and celebrate employees’ successes. This contributes to morale and decreases stress levels.


Evaluate Your Benefits Offerings

Review the benefits you offer to ensure that they support mental well-being, too. Evaluate your current health plan designs. Do they cover mental health services? Reviewing the offerings that your organization provides is essential to creating a culture that supports employee mental health.

In similar fashion, look to see what voluntary benefits you can offer to support mental well-being. Consider offering simple perks like financial planning assistance (as financial stress often contributes to poor mental health), employee discount programs (where employees can receive gym memberships, stress-reducing massages or acupuncture at a lower cost) and EAPs to support your employees.


Provide Mental Health Training for Managers

One of the most significant problems hindering mental health support at work is the stigma that surrounds mental health. Despite the recent moves in society toward destigmatizing mental health, issues still persist. To ensure that no stigma surrounding mental health exists at your organization, it’s important that you properly train management in recognizing the signs of mental illness, excessive workplace stress, workplace bullying and fatigue. Moreover, managers should be trained to handle potentially difficult conversations with employees surrounding their mental health. Ultimately, they should be prepared to speak openly about mental health rather than avoid the topic.

Source: Zywave, 2020


Interview Questions to Avoid

Do's and Don'ts of interviewing

Do's and Don'ts of interviewingThere isn’t an exhaustive list of questions employers should avoid asking, but employers need to be careful that any questions asked cannot be interpreted as discriminatory.

To help avoid discrimination claims, information requested from the applicant should be directly related to the position for which he or she is interviewing. Acceptable topics include previous work experience, education and skills that are necessary for the position.

The following are some suggested subjects to generally avoid in an interview:

    • Asking questions that, if the applicant responded, would reveal whether he or she belongs to a protected group, or how he or she feels about a controversial issue.
    • Inquiries about an applicant’s marital status, the existence of (or probability of having) children or his or her age. Considering age in hiring decisions may violate the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, unless age is a legitimate qualification for the position.
    • Questions about an applicant’s criminal history. Basing a hiring decision on criminal history may violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Also, several states, including New York, limit how and when an employer may use arrest and conviction records to make employment decisions.
    • Inquiries concerning child care arrangements, mode of transportation or home ownership.
    • Rather than asking applicants if they have a car, it is generally better to ask  if an applicant has reliable transportation to report to work.
    • Questions about citizenship or national origin. However, employers can inquire about an applicant’s ability to show authorization to work in the United States, if hired.
    • Any questions related to medical conditions or medical history. However, if you know an applicant has a disability (because it is evident or the applicant has volunteered that information) it may be reasonable to question whether the disability might pose difficulties for the individual in performing essential job functions. If so, the employer may begin a dialogue with the applicant to determine whether he or she would need reasonable accommodations in order to perform any tasks and what the accommodation(s) may be.

Some of these questions are permitted after a job offer is made, but should only be asked if there is a business necessity. When in doubt, it’s better to err on the side of caution than to ask a problematic question and risk a discrimination claim. Train anyone who will be interviewing candidates, and create standard interview templates to avoid accidentally asking discriminatory questions. 

Source: Zywave, 2020.

For more hints on interview do’s and don’ts contact us today.

Pros and Cons of Telecommuting

Pros and Cons of Telecommuting

Telecommuting is the term for working from a remote location, usually an employee’s residence. Workers are connected to employers and company servers via the internet and are able to communicate regularly in real time using email, instant messaging, webcams and conference calls. Telecommuting can range from working exclusively from a home office to only working at home a few hours every week.

Pro and Cons

Telecommuting brings advantages and disadvantages to the way companies do business.


Here’s a look at some of the advantages:

Increased productivity. While it’s easy to imagine workers shirking their duties at home more readily than in the office, numerous studies show that workers who telecommute are 15 to 55 percent more productive. Two-thirds of employers report increased productivity among their telecommuters.

  • Additionally, AT&T reports that employees work an extra five hours per week when telecommuting versus when they are at the office, and Sun Microsystems’ data shows that employees spend 60 percent of the time they would have used commuting working for the company.

Fewer costs. Over half of all employers reported cost savings as a significant benefit to telecommuting. By allowing workers to telecommute, companies reported big savings on real estate, absenteeism and relocation costs. In many areas there are also grants and other financial incentives for companies that offer telecommuting.

Increased employer flexibility. Telecommuting gives employers the option to hire from across the country without worrying about relocating workers to a central location. Employers can also more readily hire part-time, semi-retired, disabled or homebound workers.

Healthier employees. Telecommuting relieves the stress caused by commuting and other issues related to the workplace or being away from home. Telecommuters eat healthier and exercise more than their office-bound counterparts, and are less likely to get sick from contagious germs.


Potential disadvantages of telecommuting:

Disengagement. Many employers say that telecommuting interferes negatively with the relationship between workers and management, and can foster jealousy and rivalries between telecommuters and non-telecommuters.  Staying connected and supervising employees who work from home can also be a challenge for managers.

Lack of collaboration. Innovation can be stifled when workers are not physically interacting with each other. This is the main reason cited by Mayer for the discontinuation of Yahoo’s telecommuting policy.

Technology and security concerns. Not all employees are tech-savvy, and there can be problems trying to remotely access an office network or set up remote meetings. Sensitive company information carries the potential for greater risk of being compromised through unsecure home computers. Additionally, 59 percent of telecommuters do not use their company’s data backup system, risking the loss of hard work and valuable information.


In Summary

Telecommuting is not the right fit for every company, but it has a decades-old record of being positive for many organizations. As the business world becomes more ensconced online than ever before, and a younger, more internet-connected generation moves up the ranks of the workforce, telecommuting may become far more common than it is today. 

Before your company decides to embrace telecommuting, you should carefully weigh the risks and benefits of instituting a telecommuting policy to ensure it will be an asset to your organization. 

Preventing Employee Burnout

Employee burnout

Employee burnoutThe World Health Organization (WHO) now considers burnout to be a syndrome. In previous editions of the WHO’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), burnout wasn’t considered a serious condition, and its only listed symptom was exhaustion. 

The WHO’s decision to upgrade burnout to a syndrome and provide a detailed set of symptoms communicates its serious stance on the dangers of burnout. Additionally, the WHO clarified in a public statement that burnout is an “occupational phenomenon” resulting “from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” 

What is Burnout?

According to the WHO’s ICD-11, doctors can diagnose an employee with burnout if they exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Exhaustion or energy depletion
  • Decreased engagement at work, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
  • Reduced productivity or efficacy

For some employees, the negative effects of burnout extend beyond their work life and into their home and social life. Moreover, burnout can increase an employee’s risk for getting sick or developing a chronic condition. 


How to Prevent Burnout at Your Organization

Since burnout is the result of prolonged and chronic workplace stress, it’s important to know how to recognize the signs of workplace stress.

 While it may not be possible to eliminate job stress altogether for your employees, you can help them learn how to manage it effectively. Common job stressors include a heavy workload, intense pressure to perform at high levels, job insecurity, long work hours, excessive travel, office politics and conflicts with co-workers.

You can implement various activities to help reduce employee stress, which can improve health and morale—and productivity.

    • Make sure that workloads are appropriate.
    • Have managers meet regularly with employees to facilitate communication.
    • Address negative and illegal actions in the workplace immediately. Do not tolerate bullying, discrimination or any other similar behaviors.
    • Recognize and celebrate employees’ successes. This contributes to morale and decreases stress levels.
    • Encourage a positive work-life balance. 
    • Promote exercise at your organization, as it’s a proven stress reliever.
    • Encourage employees to utilize their paid time off. 
    • Incorporate company-sponsored activities to give employees a reason to leave their desks and take a break.
  • Train managers on how to keep employees engaged and motivated at work, and how to address burnout with employees. 


For More Information

Burnout is a serious syndrome that may be affecting your employees. As such, it’s important that you recognize the signs of burnout and take steps to prevent it at your workplace. 

For more information on stress reduction resources for employees, contact TripleTrack HR Partners today.

Recruiting for Soft Skills

Businesswoman with soft skills

Businesswoman with soft skills

There’s a lot more that goes into finding the right candidate for your company’s opening than just a block of text. That’s why the interview process exists and why, as an HR professional, learning how to recognize soft skills is so important.

What Are Soft Skills?

The term “soft skills” refers to the attributes that an applicant can bring to your company that might not show up on a resume, such as:

  • Communication 
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Conflict resolution
  • Creativity
  • Critical thinking
  • Dependability
  • Flexibility
  • Problem-solving
  • Leadership
  • Accountability

These soft skills can demonstrate a candidate’s ability to be a positive presence in the workplace outside of, or alongside, their official job description. For example, communication, conflict resolution and problem-solving are integral to helping your workplace function smoothly. Critical thinking and creativity are important for contributing new ideas and solutions that other employees might not think of.

But while all of these soft skills are great to have in your employees, you won’t be the only one looking for those candidates. 

Candidates in High Demand

According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends report, 92% of talent professionals reported that soft skills are equally, or even more important, than hard skills.

A report from the International Association of Administrative Professionals, OfficeTeam and noted that 67% of HR managers said that they would hire an applicant with strong soft skills even if they were lacking in technical skills. Meanwhile, only 9% of those same responders said that they would extend an offer to a candidate with strong technical skills but weak soft skills.

Many business schools, including Harvard, Yale and Columbia, are now offering courses that focus specifically on soft skills.

Finding the Skills Your Company Needs

Most job postings will include language fishing for certain soft skills, but similarly, most applicants will claim to have them. Request that candidates include specific examples of the skills that you’re seeking in their cover letters and resumes. You can gain some indications based on how they respond. For example, do they give themselves all the credit, or do they cite things like teamwork?

Some companies use online services in order to help filter out candidates before beginning the interview process. Applicants are required to go through an online assessment using software programmed to analyze, among other things, soft skills.

Regardless of the steps you and your company might choose to take, it’s easiest to assess these kinds of qualifications in person. The interview process is when it becomes more apparent which candidates have the soft skills you’re looking for, but there are still steps that your company should take in order to assess interviewees.

  • Structure interviews—Use standard questions for all candidates interviewing for a position in order to eliminate unconscious bias.
  • Dig deeper—Many applicants arrive at interviews with rehearsed answers, so try to ask situational questions that apply to real-world scenarios.
  • Test problem-solving—Ask candidates for a plan for a project they might undertake at your company, and then have them adjust it based on certain constraints, such as a budget cut.
  • Avoid similarity bias—You might be naturally drawn to a candidate who is similar to you and therefore think they have certain soft skills. Ask for feedback from other members of your team who have met the candidate to get their opinions.
  • Ask the hard questions—Have a candidate tell you about a time that they have had to admit a fault or communicate bad news at work. Their responses to difficult questions about stressful times can provide insight into their soft skills. 

Of course, not every soft skill is of equal importance for every position. For example, communication skills might be more important for a client-facing position, while problem solving and conflict resolution are necessary for those in management.

For more information and help finding the right candidates for your company, contact TripleTrack HR Partners today.