How Do I Improve Morale? Encourage Employees to Give Back

by Michael Haberman on March 31, 2015 · 1 comment

Helping employees volunteer increases engagement.

Helping employees volunteer increases engagement.

Today’s post is courtesy of

According to the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP), 50 percent of companies offered pro-bono services in 2013 showing an increase of 34 percent from 2010. In addition, 59 percent of companies offered paid-release volunteer programs during the same period, showing a 51 percent increase from 2010.

Fostering a volunteer program can also help boost retention and satisfaction rates. reported higher retntion rates for employees participating in volunteer activities over those who did not. They also discovered increased positive word of mouth from employees about employers with 54 percent saying they would speak highly of the company.

Choose the Right Cause

Not all charitable causes and giving programs are a good fit for a company. Consider workplace culture and interests and how giving back will impact your employees. Look for charities that are relevant to your company’s mission statement or hold similar interests and values. For example, if you sell sporting goods, consider supporting a youth athletic center or after-school program.

Encourage Paid Time Off for Volunteerism

Remember it’s unnecessary to choose a single cause for your entire company to support. Empower your staff to make their own choices about how they want to give. Intuit gives employees the freedom to choose an approved charity near and dear to their hearts and gives them paid time off to support it. Start by organizing group volunteer opportunities for a variety of charities during the holidays. Consider rallying the company to clean up a community park, sending Easter baskets to families in need or volunteering at a soup kitchen.

Once you tweak your office volunteer program, extend it quarterly and offer paid time off to work at their charities of choice. When your team works as group volunteers, it can foster a sense of altruistic teamwork and camaraderie they probably can’t replicate at the office with a boost like volunteering. Fostering that sense of altruism in the workplace can also help recruit and retain millennials looking for a more meaningful work experience.

Develop Matching Grants

There are more ways to encourage employees to volunteer than offering up paid time off and disrupting daily duties. Edison International works to build a culture of giving back, including matching grants. It matches employee donations to accredited education institutions dollar for dollar with a $2,000 limit. It also provides volunteer incentive grants by recognizing employees for their community commitment and letting them choose a local charity worthy of receiving the grant money.

Increase Partnerships and Networking

It’s possible for your business to selflessly offer time and money to a volunteer opportunity and still get something back. Sponsoring a half-marathon event or an entire recreation center can help get the word out about your business and leverage your public perception. Sponsorship is also an organic way to make connections with area businesses and network for new clients.

But it’s not just your company directly benefiting from workplace volunteerism. Employees become more engaged in their community and serve as a unified force representing your business. They learn new career, communication and problem solving skills while volunteering that they can bring back to the office. At the end of the day, your staff is out in the community giving a philanthropic face to your company.

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Caregivers of disabled infants are protected under the ADA from associational discrimination.

Caregivers of disabled infants are protected under the ADA from associational discrimination.

I have written a couple of times about associational discrimination as you can find here and here. What is associational discrimination you ask? Basically it is when and employee suffers some job discrimination because of their association with someone who is protected. This protection is received under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; the Family and Medical Leave Act; and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This last area is the subject of today’s post.

Sick baby equals bad attendance

Everyone knows that a sick child can cause attendance problems. But what if the attendance record looked like this:

During her six months of employment

  • the employee arrived to work late 27 times,
  • left work early 54 times, and
  • was absent 17 days, and
  • worked late 31 days

What would you do with this employee? Most employers would probably terminate the employee. In fact many would not have let her go this long. But what if this attendance problem was caused by a newborn that had a disability that required frequent medical attention and hospitalization? Would this change the way you dealt with this employee? Toss in that she often came to work dressed more casually than required.

According to attorney Carmen Couden of Foley & Lardner, LLP, these are the circumstances that led to the termination of this employee and the filing of a lawsuit for an ADA violation on the part of the company. The ADA violation is associational discrimination. The child had a disability termed reactive airway disease. Although the mother did not have the disability she suffered a job action due to her caregiver responsibilities. The company claimed her “job performance, attendance, attitude and behavior were consistently unsatisfactory.” Naturally the employee did not agree with this. The company claimed they did not know of the disability, but as facts later revealed that was not true.

Mistakes were made

With the attendance record listed above many employers might have made a similar decision and might have made similar mistakes. According to Couden, the biggest mistake made was by the employee’s supervisor who made the comment to the employee that he needed an employee “without children to work at the front desk at all scheduled times.” Couden writes “When the employee asked for another chance, her supervisor asked her how she could guarantee that her child was not going to be sick again, and said ‘so, what is it, your job or your daughter?’” I am sure many of you in HR cringed with that statement, but it shows that the employer, in the form of her boss, knew about the child’s condition.

The employer also made the mistake of not documenting her performance. They claimed, according to Couden, “that the employee’s performance had been unsatisfactory, had not improved despite repeated counseling, and ultimately, resulted in her termination.”  However, they could not provide the documentation to back up their claim.

So with those facts a judge has signed an order allowing the case to proceed to trial on the basis of associational discrimination.

Lessons learned

There are several lessons learned from this example.

  1. Associational discrimination is a real thing. Go back and read my post called Association Is Not A Protected Category or Is It? in order to get a better understanding. The EEOC has a document called Family Responsibility Discrimination to inform employers of just such situations.
  2. As Couden points out, the lack of documentation is a significant roadblock to a company successfully defending itself. If you counsel an employee there had better be some record of it. If you have the required interactive discussion with an employee make sure there is some record of it. Some record of reasonable accommodation and inability to perform the essential functions of the job might have saved this company a trial.
  3. It is absolutely necessary to train supervisors in what can and cannot be said. This supervisor doomed the company with his choose between your job or your child statement. Even companies with large HR departments don’t do a good job of training supervisors. Small companies with a part-time HR function certainly don’t do any training.

As Couden suggests seeking the help of your legal counsel before you step into “pile” would be helpful. I would also suggest seeking the help of a good HR consultant before you have to go to your legal counsel would also be a good solution.

Thanks to Carmen Couden, Esq. for her blog post that inspired me to revisit this topic.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at


Is it more important to be educated or to be smart?

Is it more important to be educated or to be smart?

When you think of your future workforce you need to think beyond just next year. In yesterday’s post featuring The Herman Trend Report it was revealed that educational trends are showing the decline of the numbers of boys going to college. Obviously this will have a future effect on having educated male employees. Or will it?

What is being taught?

In a presentation to the National School Boards Association Futurist David Zach questioned whether children, our future workforce, are being taught the right things. Zach feels that to be successful in the future we need to be teaching kids to be more collaborative. We need to be teaching them to learn to fail small and soon rather than fail big, later. In his presentation he likened this to thinking like a pirate, where “what works now” was the most successful method because generally it was creative.

Is higher education the way to go?

Zach also questions the primary importance being put on higher education. As he was quoted in a report on the NSBA conference “The big lie (is that) to get a good job, you need a good education. I’m all for education but I‘m also for being very smart,” … “When they assume massive debt, they become politically susceptible and they don’t take risks. They don’t start families, they don’t buy homes. If you are participating in this, you are bordering on criminal behavior. We will pay a huge price for this.”

So if we combine what Zach is saying and what the Herman Trend Report we are starting to burden more women with large amounts of debt that will have a negative effect on their ability to be productive.

What is an employer to do?

In an age where there is an increasing emphasis on the importance of a degree an employer is faced with a world where the majority of the degree holders will be women. Men will be less educated. Somehow we will have to figure out what will work for us as employers. Will candidates need to be educated or will they have to be smart? Will they have collaboration skills? Will they be creative and adaptive?

As employers we will be tasked with the challenge of assessing “smart” and not just education. For if we don’t change the emphasis on what is important we will also be contributing to the problem Zach warned the educators about and we too will pay a huge price in the future problems of our workforce.


Understanding your future workforce today

by Michael Haberman on March 26, 2015 · 1 comment

girls in school 1Today’s post is a reprint of the Herman Trend Report. I am publishing it because it is important information for all of us as employers, parents and educators.

Girls Excelling in Schools

Though educators have been working hard for decades to reduce the gaps in performance, boys and girls continue to make gender-based career choices. According to a recent global report from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), those career decisions have been mademuch earlier than previously believed. That timing is important, because “early gender gaps drive career choices and employment opportunities”.

Why girls excel

According to this study of 15 year olds in Reading, Mathematics, and Science, girls excel, in part because they read more and they spend more time doing homework. As we have previously reported, there appears to be an unfortunate tendency on the part of boys to live up to expectations of bad behavior. Once in the classroom, boys want to be elsewhere. They are twice as likely as girls to say that school is a ‘waste of time’, and turn up late more often.

In spite these attitudes and behaviors and the fact that boys spend more time playing video games and trawling the Internet, teachers and employers alike have higher expectations of boys than girls. These behaviors worked better for men, when there were unskilled jobs available for uneducated men. But with automation, those jobs are fast disappearing.

What teachers can do

The study also outlined that “teachers could do more to boost the performance of both boys and girls in math, a subject where boys do better in around half of participating countries”. Asking students to explain how they solved a math problem, to apply what they have learned outside of the classroom, and work more independently, improves results across the board and particularly for girls.

What employers must do

Interestingly, employers also showed favoritism towards boys, perhaps because boys are more likely to get hands-on experience working as interns, visiting a job fair, or speaking to careers advisors outside of school. Employers need to do more to engage with girls to help them learn more about potential careers.

Moving into the future

It is now clear that girls’ educational superiority continues after secondary school. Not long ago, men made up a clear majority in university populations almost everywhere, but particularly in advanced degree programs and in science and engineering. However, as higher education has expanded globally, the enrollment of women has increased almost twice as fast as that of men. In the OECD countries, women now make up 56 percent of students enrolled, up from 46 percent in 1985. By 2025, that number is expected to rise to 58 percent. Already in many colleges and universities throughout the United States, young women comprise 60 percent and more of student bodies.

The implications are clear: unless all stakeholders (parents, teachers, and employers) take decisive action to engage young men in ways that work, we will continue to see these trends increase. Already in the near term, we believe that women will lead the corporation of the future. The attitudes of girls towards education and numbers of them are undeniable. ###

Special thanks to The Economist Magazine and OECD for the information leading to these insights.

Reprinted with permission From “The Herman Trend Alert,” by Joyce Gioia, Strategic Business Futurist. 336-210-3547 or The Herman Trend Alert is a trademark of The Herman Group, Inc.”

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From the archive- Seven Tips on the Value of Vacations

by Michael Haberman March 25, 2015

Tweet I am on vacation. I will return tomorrow, assuming I have not won the lottery. In the meantime I have reached back into the archives to find a post on the value of vacations. This, now edited version, originally appeared on July 4, 2012. We are coming into the vacation season. I am a big […]

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From the Archives- Future Friday: Five Future Facts You Need to Know

by Michael Haberman March 24, 2015

Tweet I am on vacation therefore I have reached back into the archives to bring you an interesting post with important information. This was originally posted on May 23, 2014. Here are some interesting projections into the future that I ran across. Some of these are projections for the year 2030. The year 2030 is […]

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From the Archives- Future Friday: Nine Critical Skills for the Future of HR

by Michael Haberman March 23, 2015

Tweet I am on vacation, therefore I am reaching back into the archives and reposting some popular posts. This one was originally posted on September 19, 2014. In 2011 Thomas Frey wrote an article about Eight Critical Skills for the Future. He applied these to the world in general. It was an interesting article and […]

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From the Archives- Future Friday: Get Ready Employers here comes a Generation of Entrepreneurs

by Michael Haberman March 20, 2015

Tweet I am on vacation and I am reposting previous posts that were popular. This one was originally posted on August 23, 2013.  How about a couple of facts to shake you up? In a scant 11 years from now 75% of the workforce will be Millennials. To date only 7% of them have worked […]

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From the archive- Future Friday: 6 Signs you are an HR Futurist

by Michael Haberman March 19, 2015

Tweet I am on vacation this week so I am dipping into the archives and reposting some popular posts. This one hit a note with readers and was heavily retweeted. Do you recognize yourself here at all? It was originally posted on September 6, 2013. I borrowed the inspiration for this post from a post […]

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From the Archive – Future Friday: Why the future of HR is so grim!

by Michael Haberman March 18, 2015

Tweet I am on vacation so I have reached back to repost some of my favorite posts. Originally posted on March 21, 2014 it was heavily retweeted and even prompted a couple of comments. Please feel free to continue the discussion.  It never makes for a pleasant day to read how your profession is stumbling around […]

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