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By Terry R. Bacon and David G. Pugh
List price: $29.95, 352 pages, ISBN: 0-8144-7163-3
How do successful companies set themselves apart from competitors? Having the best products or the lowest prices or top-notch service alone is not a guarantee of success, write Terry R. Bacon and David G. Pugh in
Winning Behavior. What matters most is how those companies behave at all levels, from customer service to product development to packaging to bids and proposals.
Behavioral differentiation is Bacon and Pugh’s term for unique, valued behaviors that can make customers choose one firm over another.
Businesses can differentiate themselves in several ways, including having unique products; distributing their products differently from their competitors, as do Dell Computer and Mary Kay cosmetics; serving a niche market such as pet owners (PETsMART) or coffee drinkers (Starbucks); or becoming one-stop shops selling everything the customer needs, such as Home Depot.
Behavioral differentiation, the focus here, is most obvious in customer service, but there are other differentiating behaviors. Companies can create differences in four areas of behavior:
The book delves into specific companies’ successful behaviors. A sampling: The Ritz-Carlton chain of hotels authorizes employees to spend up to $2,000 per guest to solve problems on the spot and Men’s Wearhouse, a clothing chain, treats (and pays) its employees as consultants rather than salespeople and encourages them to go out of their way for customers.
The Naked Employee
By Frederick S. Lane III
288 pages, List price: $24.95, ISBN: 0-8144-7149-8
Employers increasingly monitor workers by using surveillance and identification technologies, from tried-and-true videotaping and ID cards to newer—and more troubling—means such as medical tests and systems that keep tabs on employees’ locations, Frederick S. Lane III writes in
The Naked Employee.
Lane argues that some employers reach too far into applicants’ and employees’ personal lives. He reviews available technologies, gives examples of employer surveillance and ends with a plea for legal limits to what employers can dig up.
Employers have their reasons for workplace surveillance, Lane notes. Some want to reduce theft: Employees stole an estimated $15.2 billion in inventory from U.S. firms in 2001. Others monitor phone and computer use to maintain productivity. To reduce chances of litigation, employers comb e-mail for sexist jokes and watch web-surfing for sex sites. Attempting to prevent workplace violence, they increase background checks and use more psychological testing, Lane says.
Lane outlines ways employers can monitor employees and the potential impacts of monitoring:
Lane wants Congress to curb employers’ data collection and he advocates requiring employers to disclose surveillance methods.
Getting the Most from Online Learning
George M. Piskurich, Editor
Pfeiffer 2004, List price: $30
170 pages, ISBN: 0-7879-6504-9
Fast, flexible, economical. The promises of online learning are great. But so are the potential pitfalls, warns Huey B. Long, the retired professor who kicks off this collection of essays.
“E-learning,” or any learning conducted over a network such as the Internet or an employer’s local area network, can fail if you wrongly assume that it takes less time than conventional training or doesn’t require advance preparation.
Getting the Most from Online Learning offers brief essays on how to avoid pitfalls, beat distractions and communicate effectively to get the best from online courses, whether they’re independent studies or instructor-led live classes.
Before hitting a single key, students should assess whether they are self-directed learners with the initiative and independence to succeed in online learning, one essay recommends.
Other essays cover how to:
Health and Safety in Organizations
Edited by David A. Hofmann and Lois E. Tetrick
427 pages, List price: $49, ISBN: 0-7879-5846-8
Health and Safety in Organizations, written for industrial and organizational psychologists, covers programs overseen by or of interest to HR professionals, from work and family programs to workers’ compensation policies.
Various authors examine such programs’ impact on individual employees’ and organizations’ health, asking not only whether programs simply can prevent ill health but also whether they can more actively promote good health.
One essay looks at how work design that gives employees more responsibility can affect “active mental health” by creating greater job satisfaction and better performance.
Other chapters focus on the impact of antisocial work behavior such as harassing or undermining other employees, the effects that leaders have on the organization’s safety climate, and the effectiveness of health and safety training.
A chapter devoted to strategic HR management says that strategic HR research usually focuses on employers’ financial and organizational health. The authors argue that organizational health also can cover “safety, productivity, efficiency and...employee health and well-being.”
The book outlines how working arrangements such as shiftwork and flextime affect employee health. Shiftwork is blamed for the “walking fatigue” that drives 20 percent to 50 percent of new shiftworkers to leave such jobs.
The interface between work and family roles also affects health, with employees who have more control over their schedules feeling lower levels of stress about work-family conflicts. Authors show how employees with work-family conflicts withdraw from work, have trouble performing and suffer declining satisfaction with both work and home.
Workplace health promotion programs, typified by smoking cessation programs, often are seen by HR as a way to reduce health care costs, but a chapter notes that such programs also can decrease absences, reduce turnover and increase production. Authors suggest ideas for evaluating these programs’ effectiveness and add that they may need to be integrated with changes in working conditions.
HR also underuses workers’ compensation as a way to promote health at work, another chapter says. Because workers’ compensation involves external stakeholders, including insurance companies and medical professionals, employers consider it tough to control. The chapter looks at “return-to-work” programs that get employees back to a job quickly and cites studies that say good working relationships before an accident can mean fewer instances of workers’ compensation claims after an accident.
Inclusion of a book does not imply endorsement by SHRM or HR Magazine.
Compiled by Leigh Rivenbark, a freelance writer and editor in Vienna, Va.
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