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Classroom writing tips that still apply to today's HR business environment

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Wednesday, October 28, 2015

As the 2016 fall school semester comes to a close, I am reminded of the dreaded research papers I was forced to write throughout middle school, high school and college.

But as I look back, I’m thankful as it helped me strengthen my writing, a skill that I continue to perfect today. For those of you that remember what it was like to write a term paper, here are three tips that applied then and still apply today in the human resources business environment.

Research thoroughly and outline completely, before you write.

Most non-fiction writers use extensive outlines to help them track timelines and events before they create the final manuscript. Even when writing a business plan or case study, an extensive and detailed outline makes it easier for the writer to stay focused.

Present information logically, as you write.

Newspapers and magazines are great examples of how to organize information. Articles and editorials lead with the key point and then add details to support it. Journalists call this the “inverted pyramid” in that you put your main points upfront followed by lesser points as the article continues. This structure makes a story easy to follow and even easier to skim. The fairly short sentence and paragraph structure of most periodicals also provides for a more reader-friendly experience.

Vary the verbs and involve your reader.

Weak verbs, especially the overused “to be” verb, bore readers. That’s why writers avoid it. Thrillers focus on action, with few superfluous words or details. Imagine if more business writing focused just on the action and omitted the fluff.

What writing tips have stuck with you through the years? Let us know in the comments section below.

About the Author

Karen Rodriguez is a passionate marketer, designer, and communicator. With over 15 years of experience, Karen Rodriguez currently manage Exec|Comm’s global brand, marketing and design efforts including the online presence, web-based learning center, advertising, PR, classroom materials, and live special events. She recently launched the firm’s blog, The Chat, and lunch & learn series, The Learning Exchange. Additionally, she manages the delivery and expansion of Exec|Comm’s open-enrollment seminars in Chicago, Dallas, New York and San Francisco. Karen holds a BFA from Parsons, The New School for Design in New York City.  She lives in Aberdeen, NJ, with her husband and three sons.

Tags:  blog  blogging  communicating  communication  HR  human resources  leadership  management  NCHRA  writing 

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Five Ways to Prepare for Transgender Employees

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Wednesday, September 30, 2015

...Creating a Safe, Respectful & Compliant Culture


By Jodi Slavik - Vigilant


In recent months, the public has been captivated with news stories about Bruce Jenner’s transformation into Caitlyn Jenner.  Almost 3 million viewers watched the first episode of the reality series “I Am Cait” and other TV shows with transgender leads are receiving broad viewership and critical acclaim. However, transgender isn’t just a Hollywood buzzword, nor is it isolated to urban office environments.  People identify as transgender regardless of where they live or what they do for a living.


According to a report by the Williams Institute in 2011, approximately 700,000 adults in the United States identify as transgender. This number would likely be much higher today, given increasing social acceptance. Although 19 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity, numbers released by the Movement Advancement Project show that 52 percent of the LGBT population live in states that do not have gender identity protections. That means there are thousands upon thousands of individuals who identify as the opposite gender spread across the United States in every type of work environment, regardless of whether there are laws protecting them.


While some businesses have cutting edge diversity practices, including a stand-alone transgender policy and a LGBT committee, others are still struggling to keep sex jokes off the shop floor. However, some of the best practices in response to transitioning employees have come out of businesses where I least expected it, including transport, construction, and manufacturing companies. Even the dirtiest, toughest environments can respond in the most real, caring way.


Here’s what I’ve gleaned from the experiences of some of these businesses:  


#1. Preparation is Better than Reaction

Assume you already have a transgender employee.  How would you like him or her to feel even if he or she never made a transition request? Creating a culture of respect attracts and retains talent and allows you to nimbly respond if a gender transition request occurs.  In 19 states, including Washington, Oregon and California, you have to comply with non-discrimination laws regardless of whether an employee notifies you of his or her decision to re-assign gender. 


#2. Create Compliant Practices

The first step is to review all of your current policies and practices that could implicate or affect a transgender individual or applicant.  These include hiring practices, background checks, internal record-keeping, use of identity documents, dress and grooming standards, harassment training, and medical leave.  Next consider what new procedures and policies you may need to create, including a bullying policy, diversity training, and an internal transition response checklist.


#3. Respect Boundaries

Sometimes responding to a transitioning employee makes you feel like you’re walking a tightrope.  Whose needs do you need to take care of first—the transitioning employee or the surprised workmates? Instead of panicking about how to keep from offending either side, focus on helping both sides respond to change.  Because that’s what this really is—something new, not something weird.  Introduce, communicate, and respect boundaries (and communicate some more).


#4. Deal with the Bathroom Issue Now

What people are afraid of more than anything else is the bathroom situation.  A recent 8th Circuit decision rejected a religious discrimination and hostile work environment claim because a transgender employee (previously male) was allowed to use the female restroom.  The courts--and your transitioning employees--will expect you to accommodate restroom needs.  Determine now whether you can create a gender neutral bathroom space.  If you have more than one restroom, can you identify one that is reasonably accessible as gender neutral? 

In addition to looking at your facilities, begin the conversation with your employees about your desire to have restroom space that makes all of your employees, vendors, customers, clients, and their friends and family comfortable.  Also, encourage dialogue about the fear or discomfort about sharing bathrooms.  The more frequent the conversation, the more fears are neutralized. 


#5. Stay in Touch

Even after the paperwork is complete, the restrooms are squared away, and the work mates have been informed, you need to regularly check in with the transitioning employee, his or her supervisor, and the crew. Harassment and bullying can rear its ugly head at any time, and you are legally responsible for maintaining a work environment that allows all an equal opportunity to perform his or her best.  More important is maintaining your culture.  Every business I have worked with has respect as a foundation of its culture.  If you can assure respect for all employees, your legal compliance will fall in place. 



About the Author


Jodi Slavik is an employment attorney and regional director of Vigilanta company dedicated to helping companies in Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho and California solve their most complex employment issues. 

Tags:  blog  bruce  caitlyn  employee  employees  equality  hr  hr west  human resources  jenner  legal  lgbt  nchra  Policies  resources  transgender  Vigilant  workforce  workplace 

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How to keep employees engaged in company meetings?

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Wednesday, September 23, 2015

By Karen RodriguezExec|Comm Partner

As we approach the fourth quarter of the year, many companies are scheduling meetings to plan for 2016. To be successful, these meetings require brainstorming and employee participation. But, sometimes it can be difficult to engage shy or distracted employees.

Here are a few tips to encourage participation in your next business meeting.

Schedule wisely.

Be sure to schedule your meeting at a time when you know employees will be focused. Don’t wait until right before lunch or the end of the day, when employees will be hungry or eager to leave the office.

Encourage discussion.

Pause frequently, giving attendees time to think and an opportunity to speak up. Ask open-ended questions; questions that begin with what, how or why. This ensures you will get more than a “yes” or “no” answer and may give quieter employees the courage to speak up.

Break the monotony.

In brainstorming meetings, allow employees to break up into smaller groups to discuss key topics. This gives everyone a better chance to be heard. It also keeps individual attendees from dominating the meeting.

Summarize key points.

To make sure the meeting stays on track and to keep others engaged, summarize key points throughout the meeting.

Keep it short.

Even the most active participants can get bored after a lengthy meeting. Be sure to limit the length of your meetings and schedule multiple if more time is needed.

What are your tips for keeping employees engaged and participating in meetings? Let us know in the comments below.

About the Author

As the manager of the Exec.Comm brand, marketing and design efforts, Karen Rodriguez oversees the firm’s identity, touching all aspects of the brand (online presence and web site, web-based learning center, advertising, PR, classroom materials, and live special events). She joined Exec-Comm in 1999, and entered the partnership in 2009. Karen introduced and manages the firm’s blog, The Chat, and launched the company's quarterly lunch and learn series: The Learning Exchange manages the company's open-enrollment seminars in New York and San Francisco. Karen holds a B.F.A. from Parsons The New School for Design in New York City, and lives in Aberdeen, NJ, with her husband and three sons.

Tags:  BLOG  business  communication  employee  Exec-Com  HR  Karen Rodriguez  leadershirp  management  meetings  NCHRA 

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Dos and Don’ts of Employment Background Screening

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Thursday, August 20, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Companies are always looking for ways to improve their recruiting process, whether it’s by reducing the time it takes to hire someone for a particular role or creating an efficient background screening for potential employees. 


So, really, recruiting is always an ongoing process. It never really ends--if you want to deliver the best recruiting experience for potential candidates or for your employees.


Being on top of things as well as trends is a must if you want to be sure that you're hiring the best people. However, there are times when the big picture is forgotten, and companies as well as entrepreneurs get lost in procedures and over screening procedures.

Let's look at the dos and don’ts for employment background screening.

The Dos

1.     Expand Your Information Spectrum.


You don't want to lose great candidates by looking only for a specific item such as experience. Instead, take into account a candidate's education, experience, criminal history, social media profiles and any other relevant information. The information gathered will help you have a more accurate idea of a person's capabilities, and if they might be a good fit for your company.


2.     Be Consistent.


Candidates applying for the same position should be subject to the same investigation process. It will ensure coherency in your HR department and avoid discrimination. Training your hiring managers is critical in this process.


3.     Have Written Policies in Place.


Your company’s written policies will ensure that each background screening is conducted under, and within, federal regulations. This also leaves little room for misinterpretation.

4.     Use a Professional Agency.


A professional agency will already have the processes and experience to run thorough background screenings on your potential candidates. An agency can do it faster and more thoroughly (than you might be able to do on your own).


Now, let's take a look at the Don'ts:

1.     Don't Skip or Bend the Law.

Every state has its rules for background checks. There are also federal checks and ones specific to the position you're hiring for. For example, employees that will be around young children, or dealing with sensitive corporate data, may undergo more scrutiny or fingerprinting may be required. Be sure to have your legal team informed before proceeding with background screening. It's better to be safe than sorry.

2.     Don't Limit Your Search.

Social media is so popular that there are usually vast amounts of publicly available information online about a potential candidate. Don't forget to use traditional methods such as calling former employers and colleagues.


3.     Don't Run Background Checks Without Proper Release Forms.


It’s critical to use a legally compliant consent form. The terminology must be in compliance with the law. It's better to be very careful than to face expensive lawsuits later.


4.     Don't Close Communications Channels.

Always look for positive and negative information. When you find something that worries you, talk to the applicant directly and don't let those misconceptions make a decision for you.


Background screenings are paramount when making a hiring decision. Most of the time a screenig is just another thing to do, on your already full plate--most people never have time to cover everything!


There's also the fact that recruiting may not be in your domain of expertise.  That's where a specialized agency, comes into play.


Over to you…what are your dos and don'ts when it comes to your employment screening procedures? We'd like to hear them (comment below!).

About the Author

ARS is a background screening company known for delivering robust and comprehensive background check services. Our clients include local government, healthcare, technology and banking organizations. 


ARS has established integrations with leading HR technologies for a seamless hiring experience.  As a result, clients gain more insight into their applicant's background, eliminate inefficiencies and vastly improve time to hire.


Tags:  ARS  background  blog  employee  employment  HR  human resources  mana  NCHRA  recruiting  screening 

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6 Tips for Creating Amazing Employee Recognition Programs

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Wednesday, August 19, 2015


By Leen Sawalha, HR Consultant - AtmanCo


As HR professionals, we constantly talk about how to make our employees more productive, effective, efficient, and loyal. How do we increase our retention rate? How do we hire the best candidates? How can we better manage our employees?


It’s always me, me, ME! We tend to be a little selfish as organizations, only caring about ourselves. But what about those who make us so great? What about our greatest asset? What about our employees?


Your employees are the heart and soul of your organization, and are the building blocks to your success. Don’t you think it’s time to take a step back and thank them for making your organization what it is today? Isn’t it time to create the best employee recognition programs to show them your appreciation? I think it is! And I’m going to give you 6 tips to help you get started!


Tip #1 – Have clearly defined criteria

This is one of the simplest yet most important elements of any recognition program. All your employees want to be recognized for their performance (whether it seems like it or not), and they want to know what it would take to get that recognition.


Make sure the criteria are clear, precise, attainable, and directly relevant to their performance measures.


Tip #2  Be consistent with your organization’s values

There is nothing more confusing and discouraging to employees than having recognition programs that contradict, or are not directly related to the organization’s mission and values. After all, the mission and values of your company are what makes you who you are and what drives the organization forward every day.


If your mission and values are based on excellent customer service and caring, then you should do the same for your employees. Provide them with excellent customer service and show them you care by simply asking them what they want as part of your employee recognition programs!

If your values are based on the importance of personal development, then offer developmental opportunities. If your mission is innovation, then a standard “employee-of-the-month” award just won’t do; you’ll need to be more creative than that!


Tip #3 – Use these programs to encourage desired behaviors


This tip can be thought of as a combination of the previously two, but is still so important that it needed a heading of its own! Your employee recognition programs should always encourage desired behaviors, whether directly or indirectly.


How? By rewarding these desired behaviors! If you want your salespeople to make more money, then reward them with good compensation plans. If you want to encourage teamwork, then recognize team achievements and reward them with a fun, creative team activity.


Which leads me to my next tip.


Tip #4 – Deliver on your promise ...every time!

There’s nothing worse than a recognition plan that doesn’t actually recognize! If you’re asking your employees to display certain behaviors to advance your organization’s mission and goals, then you should always fulfill your end of the bargain.


Before you even administer employee recognition programs, determine how you’re going to identify those who deserve recognition and who would be the best person for the job.

Sure, recognition programs are an HR function, but it’s not the HR department who is around to evaluate employees’ work. So, make sure that managers and immediate supervisors understand the importance of recognition programs, and ensure that they have an active role in its success.


Tip #5 – Know your employees

Okay, so we now know the basic structure of good employee recognition programs, but now what? What should your recognition program look like?


We are all people, after all, and we all have different wants, desires, and motivating factors, and no one knows more about your employees than you do. So, if you were looking for a straight answer or examples of recognition programs, I’m afraid you’re going to get neither. But I will tell you how to get the information you seek!

Communication, communication, communication...

Communicate with your employees! Ask them what they want and how they would like to be recognized. Easy-peasy! Not only will this method allow you to get the answers you’re looking for, but it will also allow your employees to see that they’re cared for and that they matter. Now that’s what I call a win-win!

Employee assessments

We all know those quiet individuals who have a hard time communicating, or don’t feel comfortable directly asking for what they want. How are you going to know what they want if they won’t tell you?

One thing you certainly shouldn’t do in this situation is hound them for an answer! Don’t make them do something they aren’t comfortable with. After all, it might be those specific traits that make them such great employees.


Take another route and have them complete a psychometric test. Not only will the results allow you to understand what makes them who they are, but it will also shed light on their motivating factors and help you determine the best employee recognition programs for them (if you choose the right test, of course!)


Tip #6 – Get everyone involved!

A final little tip; get everyone involved. From the top, to the bottom, and from side-to-side, everyone should be involved in employee recognition programs. Not only does it give the program the credibility it deserves after all the hard work you put into it, but it will also ensure the program is solid and effective.


And there you have it; the basic building blocks to creating the best employee recognition programs. Recognizing your employees and rewarding their accomplishments is crucial for any organization’s success. Not only does it make your employees more engaged and motivated, but it can also lead to better performance and great working environments. Just make sure you have clearly defined criteria that are related to your organization’s mission and values, encourage desired behaviors, deliver on your promise, and give your employees what they want by getting to know them.


That’s all folks! Do you have any other tips to creating the best employee recognition programs? Do share in the comments below!


This article originally appeared on AtmanCo’s Business Happiness blog.


About the Author 

Leen Sawalha is an HR Consultant at AtmanCo, a company whose mission is to identify and develop talent based on their true potential for optimum organizational success. Her interest in the effects of motivation and behaviour on businesses has led her to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Bachelor of Commerce specializing in Human Resources Management.


Leen’s expertise lie in the integration of both disciplines to enhance the effectiveness of an organization’s workforce.

Tags:  AtmanCo  blog  employee  HR  Leen Sawalha  NCHRA  programs  recognition  retention  rewards  tips  workplace 

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