HR Tips Archives - Harbor America

Confronting Workplace Conflicts

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Workplace conflicts are inevitable and more common than you might think. From differences in personalities and lifestyle choices to stressors at work and time spent with the same people, workplace conflicts are bound to happen. 85% of employees have encountered some sort of workplace conflict, and 49% of workplace conflicts are caused by incompatible personalities and egos.[1] Unresolved, continuous, and explosive workplace conflicts can adversely affect the workplace environment, which in turn can influence employee morale and company culture. The best way to deal with workplace conflicts is to develop a process, involve the appropriate support teams, and address the conflict(s) as soon as it arises.

Here are some frequently asked questions and tips for resolving workplace conflicts.

When should HR get involved? Typically, it is advised to allow employees an opportunity to resolve minor conflicts on their own. However, incidents or conflicts that require immediate HR intervention include a personal attack or general disrespect toward another employee, an employee threatening to quit as a result of a conflict, or the conflict affects employees across departments or the entire organization.

What does a peaceful workplace conflict resolution look like? Determine a time to meet with the conflicting parties and discuss the conflict. The conflict should be addressed as soon as possible to avoid tension build-up and in a neutral space. Set some ground rules for the discussion, such as not talking over one another, and to be respectful of each side. Encourage a healthy dialogue that focuses on “I” statements that avoid accusatory language. One an agreement is established, discuss next steps. The next steps should include how to prevent future conflicts, ensure the resolution is followed through, and any other follow-up necessary. Lastly, try to end the meeting with a positive anecdote to clear the air.

When should I seek additional and/or external help? Most workplace conflicts can be peacefully resolved with the appropriate plan and training in place. However, should the conflict result in aggressive behavior, such as bullying, harassment, discrimination, or workplace violence, or you do not possess the proper training or knowledge to deal with such conflict, seek additional assistance to protect the well being of employees.

If you’re contemplating if you have adequate training and policies in place for workplace conflicts, please consult with Harbor America. We value the safety and well being of employees and have a team of HR experts who can provide HR best practices, strategize effective workplace conflict resolution, and offer human resource services that can better equip your business for future conflicts. Whether you’d like to revamp your employee handbook or simply explore alternative options for improved business solutions, please contact Harbor America today.


[1] HR Insights: Resolving Workplace Conflicts

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

2020 HR Trends to Watch

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The human resources industry has been long-standing and evolving. It is an industry that thrives on its foundation of communication, connection, and managing employee relations. As we enter 2020, there are some new trends that are revitalizing the HR industry’s foundation and ones you, as a business owner, will want to stay on top of.

Human-Centric Interactions

People are looking for more meaningful connections, both as business representatives and individuals. With genuine connection and building lasting relationships with clients, business owners might want to re-evaluate their in-house workforce and ensure their foundation can weather any storm. There are two organizational points that should be well-developed to nourish the human-centric interactions: leadership and company culture. Budding friendships with coworkers, placing an emphasis on gratitude, and collaborating on effective solutions to alleviate pain points are great ways to address company culture issues. Creating a positive, robust company culture starts with leadership. Finding leaders who can motivate, delegate, and integrate diverse personalities, cultures, and individual needs are imperative to successful changes in company culture.

Community Outreach

There is a humanitarian movement that is breaching the workplace. 2020 should see a shift of corporate social responsibility moving toward the forefront of business initiatives. Whether the social pressure has prompted companies to place more emphasis on giving back to the local communities they serve, or genuinely wanting to connect and develop a stronger relationship with the local communities, businesses are pushing social initiatives to new boundaries.

Balancing Accountability

With employee engagement and productivity becoming more vital to the integrity of a business’s vision, balancing employer and employee accountability will be pushed in the coming years. Employers will need to implement creative, innovative means for workplace engagement, whereas employees will need to develop well-rounded work ethics that encompass enthusiasm, ambition, and stamina for the work ahead of them. The focus will be less on employees only and shift to the entirety of a corporation, including leaders.

Flexible Work Arrangements

Remote and other flexible work arrangements are becoming the norm. Nine-to-five and five-day workweeks are being pushed out of normal business practices. As most businesses are revamping their corporate cultures and balancing responsibilities among all levels of their organizations, it should come as no surprise that the structure of such businesses will change as well. Research has shown that flexible schedules and work arrangements improve productivity and overall wellbeing of employees.

Data-Driven Strategy

Data analyses can drive strategy for predictive behaviors and better position companies for recruiting and retaining top talent. Using data can offer real-time and real-world analyses of what is working and what is not within the ebbs and flows of a corporate structure. Utilizing such data to formulate refined strategies can provide companies the boost they seek in both employee engagement and employee retention.

As the HR industry continues to evolve and trends constantly change, it can be cumbersome for business owners to stay on top of it all. For help managing your HR systems and processes, call Harbor America. We offer extensive HR resources and services that can push your business to the top. From workers’ compensation, payroll administration, safety and risk management, and technology, we value your business demands and provide adequate solutions for your HR issues.


Source: 8 HR Predictions for 2020

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Avoiding Digital HR Disruptions

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The shift in HR departments from manual to automated systems is not slowing down. HR technologies have helped automate online payroll, human capital management, personnel records, recruiting, hiring, and onboarding, and more. If employers are not prepared, it may seem as though this shift comes with a price.

Digital HR disruptions are caused when HR teams fall behind the technology curve when the business does not support their goal to move to the cloud, or the larger team cannot see the immediate value for employees.

Here are our tips for avoiding digital HR disruptions at any cost:

Invest in Resources for Your HR Team

HR is one area of your business in which you can’t afford to under-invest. Many organizations have decided to update bits and pieces of their HR technology (i.e. recruiting tools or learning and development systems) however, it is far more likely that the entire process requires an overhaul, instead. Review your existing budget to ensure your HR team is well equipped with the tools and resources they need to be successful and help drive business.

Use Social Media as a Tool

Social media can and should play an active role in your HR team’s day-to-day, especially in terms of recruiting. HR departments are using these valuable social media platforms to engage employees, improve company culture, and also for recruiting purposes. Boost company social media profile pages with information, images, and post content to help job seekers learn more about your organization. Social media is great for improving your brand, keep the company name in followers’ feeds, and engaging with clients and employees.

Implement a Human Capital Management Solutions

Human capital management solutions (HCM) are cloud-based platforms that provide specific competencies across acquisition and retention, employee management, and workforce operations and administration. These systems employ multiple functionalities in one single solution with role-based permissions. Employers can quickly manage demographics, strategize salary adjustments and requirements, and efficiently onboard new employees. This type of HR administration is what the incoming workforce of Millennials expect for a forward-thinking, technology-driven workplace.

HR cannot transform itself. But the technology that will help advance this industry into the digital age will definitely help get it on the right track. HR teams that are working from old, manual processes will be left behind. A modern HR team, however, can help lead the business toward a modern operations and administration foundation. Contact Harbor America to learn more about how your HR team can lead the digital revolution in your business and have a bigger impact on the bottom line, overall.

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Encouraging a Bond Between HR and IT

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Productivity and efficiency have brought technology to paper-only departments, including human resources. This new technology gives businesses the opportunity and power to take on additional security and responsibility while innovating new and better ways to improve business operations and administration. As more technology is added to the HR team’s available stock of resources and tools, their relationship with the IT department will become even more relevant.

New HR platforms will add an immense amount of power and functionality to the team; however, the security and base integration requirements will have to come from IT. Working closely with IT is one of the only ways to verify the company’s data remains secure and protected.

A lack of mutual understanding can cause issues in HR and IT collaboration. If both teams have independent goals for a project and are not on the same page, the project will not likely meet the timeline or budget. Top-performing companies make this inter-departmental collaboration a focus and goal.

Questions that need to be considered when reviewing a new HR technology platform from an IT perspective include:

  • How will this improve employee productivity?
  • Does this solution have the ability to grow as our company and the demands of our employees and clients grow?
  • Will this new solution help attract and retain top talent?
  • Is the solution a benefit to all employees or only those in a particular role or department?

HR and IT are both high-functioning departments that require budget and engagement to positively impact the organization’s bottom line. For example, HR will evaluate the proper tools needed to encourage a positive swing in employee morale and help keep the workforce motivated by reducing turnover. IT will ensure employees have the right tools to excel at their jobs productively and efficiently. Together, HR and IT are focusing on creating a constructive employee experience.

Identify a liaison to work between the departments. This person would be knowledgeable in both HR needs and IT-speak to make the most of the partnership. From utilizing cross-functional tools such as videos or training materials to help bridge the gap between the departments, a liaison will help make the most of the collaboration and ensure both parties are getting what they need to be successful.

The combination of HR and IT will also optimize the employee experience by keeping all of the business-critical resources on a single platform. Together, both departments can deliver a consistent user experience within the organization, helping to solidify positive employee morale.

Harbor America is committed to helping business owners get back the one commodity they can’t recreate: Time. Our all-in-one human capital management (HCM) software encompasses payroll,
employee benefits, compliance, paperless on-boarding, and robust reporting, all through an easy-to-use, cloud-based application. Contact Harbor America to help close the gap between your HR and IT departments.

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Improving the Payroll Process

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The idea of payroll seems straightforward. A company sells a product or service. The revenue from those sales is distributed between operational costs and payroll. Employees who log hours during the payroll period get paid for their work.

Small and medium-sized companies often feel that this process is better managed if it is done manually. However, the multiple tasks associated with “payroll” can be rather confusing and result in a variety of problems. Especially as the business grows, the once easily managed manual methods may become overwhelming as additional employees are added to the mix.

In addition to simply paying employees, the employer is also required to track time worked, attendance, and have a good handle on reports for annual or quarterly audits. Other issues can arise from properly setting up employees in a payroll application or platform, calculating deductions, direct deposit, and managing the reporting of hourly employees who clock-in or out.

Employees rely on effective and accurate payroll processing from their employers. If the payroll process is delayed or inaccurate, the employee is likely to incur issues in their personal life as it relates to finances. This can cause undue hardship between the employee and the employer.

Whether you are processing payroll manually or using a human capital management (HCM) platform that includes payroll processing, we recommend using these tips to improve your existing payroll process.

Use a Payroll Calendar.

Create a payroll calendar that includes payroll cycle start and end dates and pay dates. The calendar will need to take into account Federal and/or holidays observed by the organization that falls during the regular workweek. Marking these holidays on the calendar will help to reinforce the cycle start and end dates. Post the calendar in a conspicuous place, in addition to making it available on the company intranet. This is also a great piece to include in the new hire packet.

Self-Check with Regular Audits.

Gross wages, benefits, social security and Medicare, and tax withholdings are all factors of your payroll process that need to be evaluated on a regular basis. Develop a regular audit schedule if you are processing payroll manually. This audit should include a verification of all active employees, confirm pay rates match employee records, hours worked match hours paid, time is labeled correctly (i.e. PTO, bereavement, holiday, regular, etc.), compare your general ledger to your bank statement, and check to ensure withholdings and remittance are correct based on each employee’s tax amount.

If you are enlisting the assistance of an HCM, you should still double-check many of these same elements. As the employer, it is your responsibility to know where your business stands in terms of your payroll process. This includes understanding active vs. terminated or inactive employees, hours worked vs hours paid, etc.

Know Your State and Federal Tax Policies.

It is fair to say that most business owners find taxes and bookkeeping to be one of the most difficult or less favored parts of owning a business. This does not minimize, however, the importance of these tasks, especially as they relate to compliance. While using an HCM with a payroll feature can help minimize your compliance concerns, this does not remove your responsibility of also manually maintaining payroll compliance. It is important to keep a close eye on legislative updates on a federal and local level to ensure your business is compliant and policies are current.

Here are some additional resources:

Include a Strong Payroll Policy in Your Handbook.

Employees aren’t required to fully understand the payroll system, but they should be able to access information quickly and easily to help answer any questions they may have. For example, unpaid taxes or employee misclassifications is an item that should be covered in the employee handbook.

Overall, it is better to be as transparent and forthcoming as you can regarding any organizational policies. This will leave little room for interpretation and misunderstanding on the employee’s part. At the very least, your employee handbook should detail employee classification, how salaries are calculated, employee reporting, how promotions are calculated, and how the business handles any payroll mistakes.

Processing payroll can be one of the most time consuming and costly aspects of your business. Harbor America payroll solutions offer businesses peace of mind when it comes to wage garnishments and deduction, direct deposit, reporting, and time and attendance. In addition, we will actually file and distribute your W-2s and manage your State and Federal filings. Contact us to learn how we can eliminate these and other tedious payroll-related tasks.

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Preparing Employees for Change Management

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Change, as they say, is inevitable. This is even more accurate in a business environment. Organizations around the world are becoming more comfortable operating in a constant state of change. From adjustments to process and procedures, workflows, acquisitions, and mergers, or organizational structure—this type of change is no longer a far-fetched concept. And while managers attempt to at least put an optimistic spin on the change, most of these events do come with both positive and negative elements.

Initiating change management isn’t easy, but it can be done in a constructive and thoughtful manner that softens the blow for employees. Here are our tips for preparing employees to handle upcoming change management:

Map Out the Process

Taking the time early in the project to map out the change management process is not only a great way to keep project members on track and on task, but this will also become an integral aspect of the go-forward communication to employees. Create a detailed action plan that can substitute as a step-by-step guide for the project team. The map can be adjusted slightly as you work through the process, but by the time communication reaches employees, the map should be considered a static document.


Be Clear About the Why

Employees don’t love surprises when they pertain to throwing a proverbial wrench in their everyday life. Take the time to craft open, honest messages to the staff to explain why these changes are taking place. If you’re uncertain or not comfortable discussing the change management, it may be time to slow down or take a step back to make sure that you and your leadership team are clear on why the change is being initiated in the first place. Making sure the team leading the project fully understands (and is enthusiastic about) the why will be crucial to being able to confidently speak about the change.

Include Training When Necessary

While the notion of training in a change management process may not always be necessary, it is safe to assume that most change management will involve a process adjustment or tweak that could include a training segment of some sort, regardless of the length. Employees will see the training as an opportunity to further their professional skills and fill them with confidence as the project nears the conclusion. Ideally, these training sessions will help the employee’s transition to the new process and save management time on the back end answering questions or going back over the new workflow with independent employees, instead of in a group-learning situation.

Experts at Harbor America can help your teams manage evolving areas of the business, including change management and organizational documentation updates, including the employee handbook. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you keep your employees happy and help prepare for upcoming change management.

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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.

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Simplifying an Employee’s Technology Experience

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It’s no secret that employees don’t love change but are looking for ways to simplify their day, at the same time. Employers react by implementing new technology platforms that address one or a handful of tasks or responsibilities. However, these new platforms many times are not replacing existing tools, but are rather in addition to the existing technology stack. The new platforms are likely chosen for their ability to integrate with the existing tools, because they are self-proclaiming the “user-friendly” aspect, or employees will shave XX% off their day-to-day routine.

For the employees, though, the desired effect may never be achieved as the overwhelming sense of relief brought about by the new technology is overshadowed by frustration and confusion. In fact, employee stress levels have steadily increased by 20% over the last 30 years.[1]

As the introduction of new technology fails from poor implementation or miscalculated integrations, employees become increasingly frustrated by the new required platform and the addition of added, unnecessary stress and time spent ironing out issues that, in hindsight, were not that big of a deal in the first place.

Instead of attempting to introduce new technologies to help employees become more efficient, work faster, or manage their work better, consider looking at the work itself and adjusting procedures or workflow to highlight built-in efficiency options. New technology platforms should be introduced to new teams or departments assigned to tasks and responsibilities that give the organization a more technical competitive edge in the eye of the consumer.

When looking at existing departments who are using more than one software to accomplish a single activity, payroll, for example, employers should consider the upgrade (moving to the cloud, a larger multi-purpose platform, etc.) from all angles. The primary goal of the business should be to remain focused on their competitive edge, all while creating value and reducing the employee workload, many times through automation. Keep the focus on the needs of the employees rather than increasing the speed of their work.

Here are some tips for taking steps toward modernizing the technology platforms at your company:

  • Be honest with what is needed to succeed and weigh your decisions carefully in this area. Just because something is cheap and checks most of the boxes doesn’t mean it’s the right choice. What processes does the technology improve? What manual steps are eliminated? What is the real value that will be added?
  • Understand from the perspective of all users what the outcome of embracing a simplified architecture will be. Is your team focused on functionality, flexibility, or design? What is the most hindering aspect of the existing technology for your users?
  • Compile a transition or implementation team to lead the user-facing aspect of the upgrade. This team will be the go-to people for employees who are experiencing issues on the floor. The team should include developers, project managers, an IT representative, and a client or customer-facing representative, also. This group will serve as your cheerleaders and influencers for the roll-out.
  • Once the new technology is rolled out, make it routine and mandatory. Keeping the old technology around will only reopen old wounds. In addition to the implementation plan, there should be a sun-setting plan to phase out and eventually eliminate the old technology.

Ensure a positive employee experience by prioritizing the implementation of a technology that is easy, convenient, and allows employees to access the platform anywhere, anytime. Employees will be able to tell if you put their needs ahead of the needs of the business—maximize the employee experience without adding work or over-complicating existing processes. Contact us to learn more about our cloud-based solution designed with end-users in mind. From HR and payroll to benefits administration with online reporting options and paperless onboarding. It’s time to empower your employees.

[1] Forbes: Workplace Trend: Stress Is On The Rise