Best Practices Archives - Harbor America

Performance Management Tips

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Because industries are advancing in all sectors, employees and potential candidates will need to seek higher qualifications to stay competitive in the marketplace. Bachelor’s degrees have been the common baseline for most jobs in the marketplace, but as the markets become more competitive, employees should look for master’s degrees becoming the new normal. However, it is not just the degree or type of qualification that matters; it is just as important to ensure that the quality and intensity of such qualifications progress.

Over 20 years, researchers predict that those without qualifications will significantly decrease, and those with higher education degrees will significantly increase. So how can those without bachelor’s degrees or qualifications remain competitive in the candidate pools?

Here are some ways that both employees can seek opportunities to expand their expertise, and employers can set their employees up for success.

Performance Management Tips

Performance management system. Performance management systems allow HR departments to properly track real-time feedback, employee communication, training employees, ongoing progress review, goal setting, and other performance-related tasks.1 Investing in a proper performance management system and HR team to run it can assist with ensuring your employees remain compliant with company policies and procedures, are up-to-par with their skillsets, and provide ample opportunity for your employees to grow in their careers.

Performance improvement plan. Performance improvement plans are typically utilized for poor performers and/or behavioral issues. These plans are to increase productivity, improve quality of work, create a stronger relationship between employers and employees, and employee retention. The general process includes recognizing the good, identifying a specific issue, discussing feedback, setting time frame and expectations, providing the appropriate support, developing a follow-up review process, and discussing consequences.2

Upskilling. Upskilling is becoming more popular in workplaces because the primary purpose is to add value to current employees and create higher employee retention as well as employee fulfillment. Developing soft skills, technical familiarity, and continuing education are all upskilling practices that employers can utilize.

Employer-sponsored tuition assistance. As part of upskilling, continuing education can allow employees to advance in their careers, as well as build their soft skills. Employer-sponsored tuition assistance can provide employees the incentive to continue their education. As you raise the bar, your employees may find it more opportunistic to chase down that master’s degree they’ve always wanted but couldn’t afford with an employer-sponsored tuition assistance. There are many local and online universities that offer certification programs to businesses looking to create an employer-sponsored tuition assistance program.

Internship/Mentorship. Internships allow students to receive guidance from experienced professionals in their field of interest, as well as learn vital skills and insights to the industry they wish to pursue a career. Mentorships allow two advantages to employers: (1) mentorships provide employees the opportunity to step up as a leader, and (2) showcases both senior- and junior-level employees’ enthusiasm and motivation to learn and improve. Employers can save the time and money of training new employees with internships, as well as increase internal promotion and employee retention with mentorships.

Every business has unique pain points and looks for effective, long-lasting solutions. If you’re experiencing the challenge of recruiting and/or retaining quality talent, reach out to our team of HR experts at Harbor America. We understand the value of retaining employees and the time-consuming, frustrating process of seeking candidates to fill vacant positions. Your business is important to us. Harbor America is your partner PEO provider who can streamline your business processes to alleviate your time spent on back-office administrative tasks and focus on growing your business. Contact Harbor America today to explore our suite of full-service HR solutions.


1 What is a performance management system?

2 HR Insights: Performance Improvement Plans

Source: You’ll Need More and Better Qualifications to Get a Job in 2027 Read More

WorkplaceInvestigation x

Workplace Investigation Best Practices

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Workplace investigations are a critical element in establishing a safe work environment. The investigations, however, can involve negotiating several sensitive and personal topics or disputes. Conducted properly, a workplace investigation can actually help to reduce conflict, positively promote inclusion, and reduce the organization’s legal liability.

A workplace investigation can be initiated by suspected substance abuse, discrimination or harassment threats, theft, or outright violations of work policies, or other reasons. All investigations or reasons initiating the investigation will be different, so there is no cut and dry workflow to handle each, but basic procedures should be outlined.

The person(s) chosen to lead investigations should be respected, knowledgeable about company policies, procedures, and employee rights (including employment law), and trained in conducting workplace investigation interviews. When necessary, some situations may require a member of the executive team to be involved. This person should also exhibit these same areas of experience.

Here are some recommended steps for ensuring workplace investigations are executed effectively.

  • Ensure the HR team is equipped and prepared to recognize and introduce an investigation when one is needed.
  • Work quickly to identify involved parties and interview them in a specific manner. For example, start with the person who brought forward the complaint, the accused harasser, any witnesses, and then follow up with a second conversation with the complainant.
  • Use your company’s standard tracking and record-keeping system to maintain and establish and maintain secure files pertaining to the investigation.
  • Document everything. Take notes throughout each interview and compose a summary once complete.
  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep. For instance, promising an interviewee that the information they share will be completely confidential. This is untrue. Elements of the investigation will likely be shared with people who are required to understand the full scope of the incident to take appropriate action in response to the pending investigation.

After the investigation concludes, review all of the steps taken in addition to the final report. Make suggestions for essential improvements to increase effectiveness and ensure future investigations will continue to run smoothly. Contact Harbor America to learn more about workplace investigations, developing the proper policies and procedures, or to customize a solution for everything related to the HR functions you’re unable to give your full attention.

GoodAgriculturalPractices x

Implementing a Good Agricultural Practices Program

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Good agricultural practices (GAP) is a voluntary audit used to “verify that fruits and vegetables are produced, packed, handled, and stored as safely as possible to minimize risks of microbial food safety hazards.”[1]

GAP programs are emerging as a standard practice for most agricultural producers. Developing a GAP program will help to increase the chances your products will be safe for consumption while outlining the general policies and procedures that should be used to ensure the safety of the products. Additionally, GAP helps to monitor producers “in terms of their environmental impact, labor practices, and possibly ‘carbon footprint’.”[2]

A great resource for producers is the National Good Agricultural Practices Program website hosted by Cornell University. Here users can access educational materials, research, take GAP-related online courses, or schedule in-person GAP training sessions.

GAP focuses on specific areas of the FDA guide that should be given special consideration including:

  • Water quality
  • Employee health and hygiene
  • Sanitation
  • Transportation
  • Bio-solid treatment
  • Field sanitation
  • Parking facilities

These areas receive special attention due to the “public concern over the safety of produce…due to well-publicized outbreaks of [E. coli], Salmonella, and listeria, among others.”[3]

To ensure your products maintain the highest levels of safety and are free from dangerous microbes, a GAP audit checklist is recommended. The checklist should mirror the USDA checklist, which includes, but is not limited to, the below sections:

  • General farm review
  • Harvesting and packing activities
  • Packinghouse facility
  • Storage
  • Transportation
  • Distribution

Establishing a well-thought-out program to minimize the risk of foodborne illness benefits not only your business but the people consuming your products. To learn more about GAP and how we can assist in promoting workplace safety, contact Harbor America today.

[1] USDA: Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) & Good Handling Practices (GHP)
[2] North Dakota State University: Market Forces—Good Agricultural Practices
[3] University of Nevada Cooperative Extension: Good Agricultural Practices

NewManager x

Overcoming New Manager Challenges

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The candidate pool for quality candidates has shifted, especially when it comes to proper managerial candidates. Employers who are forced to look externally to bring in new management are faced with a different situation that has existed in the last decade, as the unemployment rate is low, and the job market is continuously changing in each industry.

For people transitioning to a managerial role for the first time, there is a lot to consider to ensure that your time in the new role is productive and sets you up for your next move somewhere in the future. Managers, however, tend to have the same struggles. Whether an employer is bringing in a new manager-level person to the company or an employee has recently received a promotion, these managers will face similar issues. Navigating learning opportunities, delegating certain tasks, and getting the feel for long-standing dynamics and unwritten organizational rules.

You can help new managers ensure success on your team by:

  • Relying on your human resource team when it comes to your first hire or fire within the organization. The HR team should be more than willing to jump to help support new managers through the hiring or firing process, address any negative emotions from laying someone off or even suggest some helpful tools or conversations with the new manager’s team.
  • Encouraging any new manager to focus on building inter-departmental trust and relationships. New leaders can many times be harboring a bit of anxiety around their team—trust and relationship building can be a great way to overcome this. With new entry-level employees, many companies assign a buddy, someone who has been with the organization, potentially in a similar role, for a while. This gives the new employee someone to lean on from day one. This same strategy should be applied for new managers, suggesting a managerial-level buddy who can help the new manager navigate the choppy waters of taking on an existing team.
  • Helping the new manager find their “sweet spot” in terms of their managerial style. All teams are different, and therefore should not be managed in typical cookie-cutter fashion. There is a sensitive balance between being too distant or hands-off and micromanaging. The best way to gauge where a new manager’s “sweet spot” should be is to simply ask employees what they prefer, how they handle heavy workloads, and how they think they could better align to meet company goals.

Starting a new managerial role should be a fun and exciting time in a person’s life. It is important to remember that a manager’s success is built on the backs of their employees’ success. Over time, the manager’s relationship and report with employees will become more comfortable and familiar. Until then, it is okay to be confident as a new manager, while also remaining humble and self-aware.

Harbor America helps clients breed passionate leaders while supporting the profound desire to build a strong business and strong community. Adding a new manager to an existing team can be stressful for the team, the new manager, and the existing leadership. Let Harbor America help get your organization prepared for new hires by upgrading to an electronic onboarding system. Contact us to learn more.


Manufacturing Accident Prevention

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Since 2014 there has been a 14%[1] drop in work-related fatalities in the manufacturing industry. And while a drop in this number is good, there is still work that can be done to help prevent work-related accidents, injuries, and fatalities. As the industry continues to grow, additional precautions may need to be put into place to ensure employee safety.

Here are our top five tips for maintaining a safe and accident-free manufacturing workplace:

  1. Inform management of unsafe or questionable conditions. As an employee of the company, if you see something that is, or could be, a concern or risk, notify a supervisor or manager immediately.
  2. Eye and face protection. While eye and face protection may be a requirement for all employees, the employer is required to provide necessary eye and face protection to employees when they may be exposed to eye or face hazards.
  3. Correct and current protective equipment. Before starting work, the employee should be well trained in how and what equipment to use in regard to the specific job they are doing, and be properly outfitted with the right protective equipment.
  4. Keep all preventive maintenance schedules. Preventive maintenance schedules are put in place to keep the equipment in optimal operation. When service is not completed correctly or on time serious machine complications can occur, including jams, broken gears, or overheating.
  5. Never remove machine guards. Machine guards are put in place by design to prevent operator injury and are critical for maintaining safety. Only trained, authorized personnel should remove guards only in the event of a repair or necessary maintenance.

Employers and employees in the manufacturing industry are responsible for machine operation and safety for themselves and those around them. While these machines are critical to keeping the business running smoothly, the operators of the machines are even more important to the business. From safety development to claims management and online training manuals, Harbor America is your partner in controlling risk in order to continue to invest in the long-term success of your business. Contact us today to learn more.

[1] https://www.bls.gov/iag/tgs/iag31-33.htm

construction site accidents

Prevent Construction Site Accidents: 6 Best Practices

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Construction Site Accidents:

It’s no secret that construction sites are a dangerous place to work. Since 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 4,547 workplace fatalities reported in the US.

In 2010 alone there were 635 fatalities in the construction industry from fatal falls. These accidents can range from falling off of high scaffolding to falling out of building windows or off of other high-up surfaces. This is down 25% from the all-time industry on the construction sites 847 deaths reported in 2007.

The good news, however, is that there are ways to prevent these catastrophic injuries from happening or at least a chance of reducing their frequency. These practices can save many lives and prevent many other catastrophic injuries that happen on job sites around the country each year. In this post, we will cover some of the most effective ways to prevent construction site accidents.

Tips for Keeping Workers Safe on the Construction Site:

  • Train Employees How to Get On & Off of Equipment: If you operate dangerous, large pieces of equipment such as cranes or lifts be sure to train your employees on how to get on and off these pieces of equipment properly when they are first hired. Review training regularly to keep safety first and foremost in their minds while they work.
  • Ensure Scaffolding is Secured Properly: Ensure that the scaffolding workers are climbing up on is secured. Also, ensure that the workers are properly tethered to the scaffolding in case a slip or fall is to occur. This tethering can be the difference between life and death for a worker working many stories up in the sky. Check the equipment each and every day for any signs that it is not in working order. It’s better to delay the construction process and ensure that workers are safe than to see an injury or death occur due to negligence.
  • Ensure All Equipment Works Properly: Perform daily safety checks on the equipment that you will be using to do the construction. Train workers to tell a supervisor or manager if a piece of equipment is not working properly, and discontinue its use. It can be the difference between fixing the equipment or seeing a catastrophic injury occur. The extra time and effort to safety check your equipment can literally save lives.
  • Ensure Safety Features on Equipment Work Properly: Ensure that all of the safety features on the equipment you are using are working properly. A safety feature failing can cause serious worker injury as the machinery is not working properly as it should be. Performing daily safety checks can ensure all equipment is in working order before beginning a day’s work. Make sure employees know that they MUST report any failing safety features to their supervisor or manager immediately.
  • Use Equipment Only For Intended Uses: While most equipment is pretty straightforward in what job it is designed to do, danger comes into play when you are using equipment for unintended purposes. For example, using a backhoe as a crane can end very badly when the load is dropped or the machine is broken. People in the way can get severely injured or worse could even possibly end up dying from their injuries. Taking the time to enforce the idea to employees that equipment is to be used only for the intended uses cannot be overemphasized. Also, be sure to provide all proper machinery for the job so there is no “temptation” to use the equipment for unintended purposes to keep the construction job on schedule.
  • Train Workers to Stay Clear of Equipment: Ensure that workers are standing clear of equipment while it is operating. Serious injuries or death can occur if a worker gets in the way of a powerful piece of equipment. While this equipment is vital to the success of the business, be sure that people know the power of these machines and respect it. Train the operators to ensure that they are clear of all other workers every single time before they use the machine. They can never be too careful. Finally, make it a strict company policy with harsh penalties for anyone running equipment they are not completely trained and certified to operate. This prevents people from operating equipment just to get the job done but using it in the wrong way, which can cause serious repercussions in the form of the lives of other workers. Emphasize the safety of the equipment first over the use of the equipment over the speed of getting work done.

Remember, being safe helps you be productive and will benefit your business in the long-run!

For more information on workplace safety on the construction site and to keep your workers safe as possible please contact us at Harbor America for more information!

The 5 Best Practices to Retain Your Star Employees

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Technology is rapidly changing the way we interact with our world: the way we shop, the way we play, the way we socialize, and most importantly, the way we work.

It’s not just about who pays the most anymore. Money means nothing when working conditions are less than optimal. People will leave a high-paying job they’re unhappy with to go work at a company that does make them happy even if it means they’re getting paid less. With so many options and opportunities available now, why shouldn’t they?

With this in mind, a question at the forefront of your mind should be how to retain your star employees.

1. Find out what they really want– besides money

People want to work smarter, not harder. They want flexibility and options. In fact, upwards of 90% of employees feel that flexibility in their work contributes to both their success — and their quality of life — quite a bit. They want to know that you care about their success, work-life balance, health, family, and that you’re listening.

Whether it’s a flexible schedule, a better break room, a redesigned and more functional office space, the ability to work from home, or something else entirely — talk to your employees to find what they want and need. This information will then allow you to create options for your employees that not only make their work easier but feel like a bonus as well. We all know everyone loves a bonus!

2. Outsource your HR to professionals

Using a PEO, or Professional Employer Organization, can go a long way in keeping your employees happy. A PEO will ensure that your payroll, benefits, HR, compliance, and other issues are taken care of both promptly, and properly. Your employees will see that their financial well-being is important to you and that you’re dedicated to making sure any issues that do arise are addressed promptly and accurately.

3. Communication is everything

One of the most important things you can do with your employees is simply talking to them. Tell them everything! Okay, well not EVERY single thing, but most definitely all the things that matter. The good, the bad, the ugly — whatever it is they need to know, say it. Praise their hard work and any wins you notice! Knowing you’ve done something right and someone else sees it? That feeling goes a long way toward making someone happy, and willing to stay with your company in the long-term. Foster a spirit of open, respectful communication and dialogue.

The opposite direction is also true here — if an employee is struggling, coaching them on their weaknesses and ensuring that they know what they’re supposed to be doing and how they should be doing it, shows them that they matter as a person instead of feeling like just a number. You want them to succeed at their job — and they want to stay with someone who cares.  The same can go for successes and failures in the business itself. Knowing where you stand in the company, where you’re winning, and where you can help the company grow makes an employee feel like an integral part of the team.

4. Help them grow

Almost no one wants to be stuck in an entry-level job their entire career, especially not your best and brightest. They want to rise, grow, and learn! Give them the tools they need to become the best employee — and person — they can be. Seminars, training classes, ongoing coaching, conferences, creating goals and helping them achieve them, allowing room for them to advance upwards in one department — or even outwards to another department — these resources will show them that you’re interested in making sure they have everything they need. Not only will they work harder, smarter, and more efficiently, but they’ll also be willing to go the extra mile for you.

5. Create something they can be proud of

Make sure you’re a company that your employees will feel good about working for. Have good business practices. Treat your customers right. Ensure your products and services are as promised. Work with local charities. Hold fundraisers. Be environmentally responsible. Whatever works best for your company, create a brand and culture that your employees will feel good to be a part of.

In the end, it really boils down to showing your employees that they matter, and their work matters. Money may pay the bills, but having an employer who cares will make an employee want to remain loyal to you and your business — even during the hard times. By following these key best practices, you will find that it is easier to retain your star employees.