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4 Tips for Empowering Employees in the Modern Age

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As I walk down the hallway to get to my office, I read the Tom Peters quote painted in big, bold letters on the wall: “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.” I think about how I can be a leader for my team, for my company and for myself, and I feel empowered.

In this day and age, a company’s success largely depends on employee empowerment. It is important that company leadership take the time to stop and ask, “What makes people feel so empowered that they’re motivated to work toward our common goal?”

  1. Set Clear Expectations

Employees who know exactly what is expected of them are more likely to reach their personal and professional goals. In order to make employees feel empowered, a company must create unquestioningly clear standards and goals for each. This enables companies to keep standards high and unambiguous, which gives employees a clear understanding of what they need to accomplish in order to ensure success and growth.

  1. Trust in Your People

Nothing makes people feel more empowered than to have trust placed in them to accomplish their tasks. This applies not only in the workplace, but personally as well. Good leadership understands that when it sets clear expectations, it can trust employees to successfully achieve their goals without hovering over their shoulders. When employees feel like management trusts them, they are willing to go above and beyond to meet their goals, quotas and expectations. This is an important step in empowering and creating leaders. Employees learn faster, make better decisions, and are more productive when they have ownership over a project and feel trusted by their leader.

  1. Foster Open Communication

Openness and constant communication is critical in creating a culture of positivity and success. Knowing how and when to give appropriate feedback can be the difference between empowering and tearing down an employee. Employees should never have to guess where they stand with their manager. To keep the lines of communication open, consider implementing the following:

  • For some, annual performance reviews are one-way conversations, typically with the manager doing most, if not all, of the talking. Instead, try 360-degree reviews on for size. This approach fosters two-way communication, in which both parties are empowered to share information.
  • Providing opportunities for honest feedback is crucial to successfully empowering employees. Another way to do this is through one-on-ones. They offer a forum-style environment, where ideas and concerns can be expressed in real time between manager and employee. One-on-ones can be held once a week or even once a quarter, but are more frequent than the annual review.
  • Surveys are a great engagement tool, especially for employees who don’t feel comfortable talking with management about an issue. Surveys can keep anonymity intact. However, they are successful only if you hear the responses and act honestly and openly.

Reviews, one-on-ones and surveys are all great ways to keep communication open and empowerment alive within a company. When employees have a voice, managers have the ability to be intentional and facilitate goals that empower their employees.

  1. Turn Mistakes into a Learning Experience

Nobody is perfect. From the bottom of a company to the top, people are going to make mistakes. These moments provide some of the biggest and most impacting opportunities for empowerment if handled correctly. Don’t be afraid to share your mistakes and how you rebounded or what you learned. No one has found success by walking down a perfectly paved street. Tiffany McGowen, Paycom’s director of national recruiting, said, “One thing that makes Paycom special is that we don’t expect perfection, but we expect you to quickly rebound when you do fail.” A company that treats honest mistakes as growth and learning opportunities can better empower their employees to not dwell on the negative, but rather learn and move on from their mistakes.

Fostering a positive company culture is the key to empowering employees. Without employees, there is no company. Without empowered employees, you will see lower performance, quicker turnover and less companywide growth. Take intentional steps to create an open and positive company culture that empowers your employees. This is vital to a company’s success in the modern age.


Heidi Lively

by Heidi Lively


Author Bio: Heidi Lively is the former Paycom Additional Business Manager, where she focused on the compliance and service of additional business products. Previously, she served customers in the Paycom Service Department where she quickly rose through the ranks to earn a team leader position. Having performed in a leadership position for a number of years, Heidi was able to cultivate and influence others through Paycom’s leadership initiatives.

Best Practices for Communicating Anti-Harassment Policy to a Diverse Workforce

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With the current cultural emphasis on preventing workplace harassment, many employers are revising and updating their anti-harassment policies. But no matter how good your policy is, it is valuable only to the extent that you communicate it to your employees and provide them with the necessary training and resources to implement it.

In 2016, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a report about harassment in the workplace. It concluded that while training was an important part of any anti-harassment policy, such training “cannot stand alone but rather must be part of a holistic effort undertaken by the employer to prevent harassment.”

Beyond training sessions, the most effective means of communicating your anti-harassment policy to employees is to demonstrate values and behaviors that embody the principles of said policy. This helps foster a culture of inclusion and respect by modeling what is tolerated and what is not.

What training should – and shouldn’t – be

  • Company trainings remain vital, and should be interactive and frequent.
  • Executives and those in supervisory positions should have their own training sessions separately, both to avoid chilling discussion, as well as to emphasize management’s unique role in enforcing company policies and modeling appropriate behavior.
  • Tailor your training to discuss the behaviors you want to promote, as well as those you want to discourage, even if the latter may not rise to the legal definition of harassment. Avoid freighting these sessions with a large amount of information irrelevant to your workplace or industry; use examples that address everyday situations your employees face in your particular line of business and workplace environment.
  • Make training materials easy to understand. Provide them in each language commonly spoken by members of your workforce, and use everyday wording rather than excessive legalistic jargon.

Finally, keep in mind that limitations may exist under the National Labor Relations Act on company policies mandating civility, so consult with an attorney to help draft a policy that promotes the behavior you wish to see, while not infringing on employees’ right to collective action.

For more information about communicating to different types of employees, check out How to Use Personality Assessment Tests to Improve Workplace Culture and Communication. When we understand how co-workers and managers prefer to communicate, the workplace becomes a more productive, comfortable environment.

Disclaimer: This blog includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal problems.

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Posted in Blog, Featured

Erin Maxwell

by Erin Maxwell


Author Bio: As a compliance attorney for Paycom, Erin Maxwell monitors legal and regulatory changes at the state and federal level, focusing on health and employee benefits laws, to ensure the Paycom system is updated accordingly. She previously served as assistant general counsel at Asset Servicing Group in Oklahoma City. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Oklahoma and a J.D. from the University of Oklahoma. Outside of work, Maxwell enjoys politics, historical mysteries and spending time with her family.

Sexual Harassment Policy

3 Answers to Questions About Sexual Harassment Policy

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In October 2017, in light of the #MeToo movement, the HR Break Room podcast devoted an episode to workplace sexual harassment policies. Since that conversation, we continued to receive questions on the subject, not only from our listeners, but Paycom blog readers and webinar attendees.

To answer those questions and examine the topic further, HR Break Room assembled a panel of leaders from Paycom’s legal and HR departments for a follow-up episode: Matthew Paque, vice president of legal and compliance; Tiffany Gamblin, HR manager; and Jason Hines, compliance attorney.

That episode, “Experts Answer: Your Sexual Harassment Policy Questions,” tackles 10 such inquiries. Here are takeaways from three of them.

When it comes to taking action on a complaint of sexual harassment, how can HR protect the company and the reporting individual?

It is the duty of HR to write a policy that protects both. Equally important is documenting that policy and consistently applying it to each report; deviations should not exist. This approach gives employees the assurance that, if sexual harassment claims are brought to light, a procedure and a mechanism are in place to handle these unfortunate scenarios.

Once you have a documented process, it is critical to communicate that procedure to employees year-round so they know how to utilize it. Are they supposed to report to a specific HR contact? Do you have a help line they can call? Is a website easily accessible detailing the steps?

How can you ensure an anonymous report is not just someone griping about another employee and is unrelated to harassment?

If your investigative process is unbiased, fair and consistent, it should be able to determine whether a complaint is fraudulent. False claims aren’t common, and your process should be prepared to weed them out. Make sure all investigation details have been reviewed thoroughly before making a decision, including whether to pursue a new direction.

For a sound investigation, never assume any claim to be frivolous; do your due diligence. In case a claim is found to be untrue, you may want to prepare a disciplinary action for the employee who made the false accusation.

How should an organization handle a harassment claim that involves people outside the company?

Listen to the panel discuss anonymous helplines and how to implement them within your organization, in the HR Break Room episode Experts Answer: Your Sexual Harassment Policy Questions.

The best practice for tackling such reports is to treat them as you would any other complaint. It may get tricky if the accused is a client or customer of your business, but strategies do exist. For one, you can report the occurrence to the client’s HR manager, and allow that entity to investigate on your behalf.

It’s also important to ensure an environment that separates the harasser from your employee, because when interaction between the two parties stops, the chances of another incident are greatly minimized. If your client is unwilling to discipline the harasser under its employ, you may wish to consider termination of your business relationship.

Regardless, your employee’s safety comes first. You do not want to give him or her the perception that your sexual harassment policy does not apply to high-paying clients. If your employee perceives he or she is being forced to deal with inappropriate behavior from a customer, that can threaten your organization’s culture and reputation. Your policy should reassure employees they will be safe and that the organization will take steps to remedy complaints.

 Listen to the panel discuss seven more listener questions on sexual harassment policy, in the HR Break Room episode Experts Answer: Your Sexual Harassment Policy Questions.

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Posted in Blog, Featured

caleb.masters

by Caleb Masters


Author Bio: Caleb is the host of The HR Break Room and a Webinar and Podcast Producer at Paycom. With more than 5 years of experience as a published online writer and content producer, Caleb has produced dozens of podcasts and videos for multiple industries both local and online. Caleb continues to assist organizations creatively communicate their ideas and messages through researched talks, blog posts and new media. Outside of work, Caleb enjoys running, discussing movies and trying new local restaurants.

Charge of discrimination

What to Do When a Charge of Discrimination Is Made

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According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), more than 84,000 workplace discrimination charges were filed in 2017. Because these charges can escalate into costly lawsuits, employers must understand what to do if charges are made against them to avoid unnecessary mistakes that could cost time and money. Here is a look at what happens – and what to do – when a charge of discrimination is made against your organization.

Employer notice

When a charge is filed against your organization, the EEOC will generally notify you within 10 days. The notification will typically include the name and contact information for the investigator assigned to the case, steps to take if you are interested in mediating the charge (see discussion below) as well as a URL for you to log into the EEOC’s Respondent Portal to view and download the charge. This portal also is used to upload your organization’s position statement and responses to any requests for information during the investigation process.

The investigation process

The EEOC generally has a broad scope of authority in conducting investigations of alleged or suspected discriminatory conduct. During this process, your organization will be asked to provide certain information, which may include:

  • Position statement – This is your organization’s statement of its position in regard to the charges. In other words, it is your opportunity to tell your side of the story. Your organization should take advantage of this opportunity and include applicable policies and references to any issues and documents that would render the charges invalid.
  • Responses to Requests for Information (RFI) – These requests may be for copies of personnel policies, personnel files and other relevant information. Failure to respond may result in an administrative subpoena issued and served to your organization.
  • Employee contact information for witness interviews – The employer has the right to have a representative attend interviews of management personnel but the EEOC can generally interview non-management employees outside the employer’s presence.

If you have information that would show that the allegations are false or that your organization did not violate the law, provide this information to the investigator. You may also be asked to permit an on-site visit by the investigator.

After the investigation

Once its investigation is complete, the EEOC will make a determination on the merits of the charge(s). Most often, it will choose not to file a lawsuit and instead issue either a Dismissal and Notice of Rights or a Letter of Determination.

The Dismissal and Notice of Rights indicates its investigation was unable to conclude that the information obtained established unlawful discrimination; however, the employee who made the complaint is free to file a lawsuit in court.

If the EEOC determines discrimination may have occurred, it will send a Letter of Determination and attempt to have the parties settle the matter outside of court. If the parties do not reach a settlement agreement, the EEOC will send the employee a Right to Sue letter, allowing him or her to bring suit in federal court. In rare cases, the EEOC may file a lawsuit on behalf of the employee.

3 Ways to Resolve Charges

In general, three methods exist for successfully resolving charges of discrimination outside of litigation: mediation, settlement and conciliation.

1. Mediation

Mediation is an informal process in which a trained mediator assists the parties to try and reach a negotiated resolution. It generally is initiated before an investigation and is completely voluntary.

This process allows the parties to resolve the matters in dispute in a way that is mutually satisfactory. It is also much faster than the traditional investigation process. The main benefit for mediating is that it allows the parties an opportunity to reach a resolution before incurring the time and expense involved in the traditional investigatory process.

If mediation is successful, the charges filed with the EEOC will be closed. If unsuccessful, the charges will be referred for investigation.

2. Settlement

Settlement of the charges may take place at any time during the investigation. Similar to mediation, settlement is completely voluntary, and the goal is to reach an agreement that satisfies both parties. Settling charges generally occurs with no admission of liability, but if a settlement is reached, those charges are dismissed.

3. Conciliation

The EEOC is required by Title VII to attempt to resolve findings of discrimination through conciliation. However, this process is triggered only after the parties have been notified that, through evidence gathered in the investigation, there was reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred. This process is intended to help the employer and the EEOC negotiate how the employer can change its policies and practices to comply with the laws, and also to determine any amount of damages the employer should pay to the employee.

In some instances, the employer can be at a disadvantage during this process because it may not be entirely aware of the evidentiary basis for the EEOC’s determination that discrimination has occurred. Unlike in litigation, there are no disclosure obligations.

If the conciliation process fails, the EEOC then decides whether to sue the employer in court.

Your organization should not ignore or fail to respond to charges of discrimination. Employers often conduct their own investigation to determine the claim’s merits. In many cases, employers opt to resolve charges early in the process through mediation or settlement to avoid costly litigation. However, you may choose not to engage in these types of voluntary resolutions if you feel the claims have no merit.

To learn more about preventing workplace discrimination, see our related blog posts on “Diversity Training in the Workplace: Helping Managers Understand ‘Cultural Fit’” and “2 Questions You Never Should Ask a Job Candidate … and What You Should Ask Instead.”

Disclaimer: This blog includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal problems.

Posted in Blog, Featured

Kristin Birchell

by Kristin Birchell


Author Bio: As a compliance attorney for Paycom, Kristin Birchell monitors legal and regulatory changes at the state and federal level, with a focus on labor and employment laws, to ensure the Paycom system is updated accordingly. Previously, she served as an attorney at the Oklahoma City law firm Derryberry & Naifeh LLP. Birchell earned a bachelor’s degree and MBA from the University of Central Missouri, and her Juris Doctor from the Oklahoma City University School of Law. Outside of work, she enjoys cooking, hiking, going to the movies and spending time with her husband.

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