10 Things HR Can Do During Suicide Prevention Week

Banker in DistressChances are good you know someone who has died by suicide or someone whose life has been affected by suicide. In the US, more than 40,000 people died by suicide in 2013, the last year for which data is available, and suicide is the 10th leading cause of death. Worldwide, the number of lives lost each year to suicide exceeds those lost to homicide and war combined. The human tragedy of these lives lost is immeasurable.

Why is this issue important to business leaders and Human Resources departments? Because suicide rates are highest among those in the prime of their working lives—those 25 to 64 years old. The financial and economic burden is estimated at $44 billion annually, driven almost entirely by lost wages and productivity.

Yet, suicide is preventable. More than 90 percent of those who died by suicide had a mental health disorder at the time of death, most commonly depression, alcohol abuse, or both. And mental health disorders are treatable. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the workplace is “… the last crucible of sustained human contact for many of the people who kill themselves each year in the US.” If this is true, then Human Resources is uniquely positioned to provide leadership to suicide prevention efforts in the workplace.

The advantage of the workplace (and HR) in suicide prevention is that communication channels are already established in the workplace to disseminate public health messages and to make referrals for medical treatments. These same channels can be used to raise awareness about mental health and to refer employees with mental disorders to treatment.

September 7–13 has been designated as this year’s National Suicide Prevention Week (NSPW), an annual campaign to inform and engage the general public about suicide prevention. The campaign serves as a call to action to individuals and organizations to help prevent suicide in America. To answer that call in your workplace, consider doing one or more of the following:

10 activities HR could facilitate during Suicide Prevention Week:

  1. Launch a mental health awareness campaign
  2. Promote the company’s mental health benefits
  3. Offer a free online screening for depression
  4. Post the warning signs of suicide
  5. Institute a no tolerance policy for workplace bullies
  6. Distribute leaflets, posters, and other written material
  7. Remind employees of the company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
  8. Organize a team of employees to participate in a local American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s (AFSP) Out of the Darkness fundraising walk
  9. Schedule a Mental Health First Aid training class
  10. Schedule a SafeTalk suicide prevention class

Sources for statistics and additional information and communication toolkits can be found at:

  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)
  • American Association of Suicidology (AAS)
  • WorkingMinds.org
  • International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP)

13 Disappointing Performance Appraisal Facts

This infographic sums up the state of traditional performance reviews perfectly.  It was crafted by the good people at Officevibe, an employee engagement platform.

13 Disappointing Performance Appraisals Facts You Really Need To Know (Infographic)This infographic was crafted with love by Officevibe, the employee engagement platform that helps companies understand the return on investment of organizational culture while making employees happier.

The Truth About Pay and Performance Ratings

Performance EvaluationA trend is emerging as businesses eliminate ratings from their performance management processes.  Adobe Systems and Deloitte are among several major companies to drop ratings as they re-engineer their performance management programs while retaining those components that are more productive, most notably one-on-one feedback and coaching with employees. Firms are abandoning numerical ratings of people and forced distributions because study after study has shown those practices to be detrimental to teamwork.

Performance ratings have long been a factor in compensation, promotion, employee development, and termination decisions, and their elimination creates a challenge for HR professionals.  As this trend gains traction, HR will be called upon to ensure employee-related decisions are delivered in a fair and legally defensible way without the use of traditional performance ratings.

Employee performance will continue to play a role in compensation decisions, but that role will be different. In 2014, my company moved to a comprehensive performance process that focuses more on the future development of employees and less on a rear-view look at past performance. The company has now completed a full year without using performance ratings as a factor in compensation decisions.

Not surprisingly, communicating with employees has been the most critical aspect of the change.  Employees rejoiced about the focus on employee development and their release from pressure to negotiate a rating with their manager to get the largest possible salary increase.  But the most frequent question about the new process has been, “How is my performance going to be factored into my raise if we’re not using ratings?”

business man holding us dollar cash. isolated on white

Traditionally, businesses have linked employees’ performance ratings directly to an annual percentage salary increase.  Over time, this practice led employees to believe their rating was the biggest driver of their pay, but that has never really been the case.  Many other business factors can have as much, if not more, influence on annual pay.  The company’s overall performance during a given year or longer time span is probably the most important contributing factor to employee compensation.  Other factors might include the company’s pay philosophy and performance compared to budget; the local, national, and/or industry job market; or the health of the economy.

In reality, individual employee performance is only one factor determining the amount of compensation distributed within a company annually.  The challenge for HR is to understand what drives compensation within the company and to educate employees on how their performance fits into the equation.  And there are many ways to measure an individual’s performance without relying on subjective performance ratings.

I predict that, freed from the many negative associations with administering disputable performance ratings, HR professionals will create more constructive ways to deliver compensation to employees.

At my company, we’re focusing on company performance, industry-specific job market rates of pay, the employee’s performance and mastery of job skills.  We continue to use traditional delivery channels:  base pay, incentive, bonus payments, and recognition. The new process is being carefully monitored to determine its long-term impact on business results. As employees work toward professional development and achievement of company goals without the unnecessary distraction of competition with co-workers, we expect gains in morale and business results.

I look forward to seeing how other HR professionals create new and better pay practices without the use of performance ratings.

Note: A version of this article was originally posted on Blogging4Jobs on May 28, 2015.

Financial Employment Grows in July: Commercial Banking Continues Downward Trend

Jobs continue to decline in commercial banking.

Jobs continue to decline in commercial banking.

Financial Activities employment rose by 17,000 in July and has risen by 156,000 over the past twelve months.  This compares to an average monthly gain of 13,000 over the prior twelve months.  In July, job gains occurred in Insurance, Securities and Real Estate.  Employment in Commercial Banking continues to trend down.

Insurance carriers and related activities accounted for more than half of the July gain (+10,000) and over the year (+85,000).  This compares to an average monthly gain of 7,000 insurance jobs over the past twelve months.

Real Estate added 6,000 jobs in July and gained a total of 37,000 jobs during the past year.  Employment in the Securities sub-sector rose by 22,000 over the prior twelve months, averaging a gain of 2,600 jobs per month over the period.

Since January, average weekly earnings in Financial Activities have risen by 2.6%.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Situation – July 2015

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