November 2014 HR Brain Teaser

Brain Teaser Courtesy of EPLI Pro™

Required Flu Shots?

Flu season is upon us and according to the Centers for Disease control, between 5 and 20% of the population get the flu each year, costing U.S. employers some ten billion dollars each year. With peak season in January and February, there is a potential that up to 12% of your workforce could miss two or more days during those months.

With the potential of lost employee productivity, it is easy to see how cost effective a flu vaccination program could be.

So this month our question is:

Can you require your employees to get flu shots?

A.  Of course not, that’s just crazy talk.

B.  Yes.

C.  No, but it is not as crazy as one might think.

Answer:  C   Actually, mandatory vaccination programs are not unheard of in hospitals and other health care settings.  The theory of at-will employment would suggest that an employer may impose such a policy as a condition of employment as long as no anti-discrimination laws are violated and the requirement is not contrary to a collective bargaining agreement or written employment contract.  

Mandatory vaccination requirements run the risk of violating the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) stated that even during a pandemic, an employer covered by the ADA and Title VII may not compel everyone to get a flu vaccination. Anyone with a disability that would preclude getting a flu shot must be granted reasonable accommodation. Accommodation should also be considered for those with sincerely held religious beliefs against vaccinations.

The EEOC also provides some common sense advice: “employers should consider simply encouraging employees to get the influenza vaccine rather than requiring them to take it.” For the average employer, not everyone has to participate for a vaccination program to be effective. Most people, when given a choice between momentary discomfort and two days of porcelain gastrointestinal misery are going to choose the needle. So consider a free vaccination program for your employees or simply facilitating a low cost, workplace flu shot.

Vaccinations do put some people at risk, and some religions find this practice objectionable. You may even have a few who will resist just because they are squeamish.

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Job Posting Power Hints from Online Dating

Kyle, a Human Resources manager, had been single a few months when his friends encouraged him to meet someone online. Laughing his way through Amy Webb’s TedX talk on how she hacked online dating, he decided to jump in without an algorithm. At the end of his self- imposed 90 day “cyber dating probation period,” Kyle was flabbergasted about how similar online dating was to his experience posting jobs for his employer. It proved good fodder for a fun, anecdotal best practice for his local human resources association. The experience made him a better recruiter, more sensitive to the job seeker point of view, and more wise about life in general. Here’s what he shared with his peers:

A match made in the cloud

Online dating is now the second most popular way people meet someone. The most popular way respondents are getting jobs is through online job boards followed by company websites. The cloud is like the hot nightclub in town. It’s a no brainer, if everyone speaks the same language. Key words are imperative to vet candidates that are “your type”: familiar words; easily understood titles; bullet job details and compensation ranges.

Your Profile = Your Brand

Is your posting mundane? That’s what you will attract. You want a rock star online dating profile just like you would a posting for your perfect dream candidate. Ninety-one percent of candidates believe employment brand plays a key role in their decision whether or not to apply. What makes you attractive? Company culture and reputation for treating employees well.

Good first impressions

Employers can sound as desperate in an online job posting and make the same mistakes as a wounded ex-boyfriend or girlfriend. Candidates can be put off and may not give you a chance to go through entire recruitment experience.


Failure to portray yourself in an accurate and positive light online is one of the biggest barriers to a good fit. From ten-year-old profile photos to embellished company achievements, a lack of truth hinders progress. Allow them to evaluate the real you. If they say, “It’s not you, it’s me,” be ok with it and move on.

Playing Hard to Get

Hurt when someone doesn’t act interested and seems aloof? Job candidates are mistreated every day. They apply with no follow up, thank you or simple acknowledgement of their application. The risk you take is that if you are truly interested in them, they may have already run off into the sunset with someone else.

Be worth waiting…er – working for

A good candidate fit is the equivalent to getting married or other long-term relationship commitment. In the end, the effort and the wait pays off in longevity.

Written by Jim Annis, President/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson and Tom Miller, Applied’s division directors, contributed to this article.

The Positive Power of Workplace Politics

The words “office politics” can make you cringe. We’ve all been there. That certain someone (often early in our career) who stabbed us in the back as they were over eager to climb the ladder, happily leaving everyone in their wake. Or, the nepotism enjoyed by the upstart owner’s child with zero experience but ultimate influence.

Is it really all THAT bad?

Not in our book. It is about power – either real or perceived. Think about the people in your life who have been successful office politicians. Who could rally the troops? Who got things done? Who made solid recommendations versus complaining? Most likely those people all had a high emotional intelligence quotient (EQ), were highly engaged, had great networking and negotiating skills, knew the nuts and bolts of the business, and recognized the value of corporate culture. All these traits can be key skills that benefit an employer, fellow employees, and customers.

How can employees positively participate in office politics?

Believe you can make a difference and having confidence that your ideas will be heard is necessary. Be open and communicative, listening to build rapport and shutting down negativity. Give good, quality recommendations to leadership. Show leadership and allow and invite others to work alongside you to get something done. Offer a simple phrase, “Let me help you,” and watch the productivity magic take place. Is it a political move? Yes and that’s ok. Alliances are key, because a lot gets done when hierarchy is not involved.

How do you manage employee politics?

As a leader, you establish expectations of what is/is not acceptable. There are often difficult behavioral situations that may cause you to stick your head in the sand. The degree of the political sensitivity can dictate the action or lack thereof. We have made decisions to minimize damage in our organization because of the games employees were playing. It is hard to address. It is not always clear or black and white. Leadership influences performance but not behavior.

The aspect of office politics that speaks the loudest to me is the positive. There will always be the game players who manipulate the organization intentionally, or consistently contribute to negativity. You deal with it and move on. The great news is that your next generation of leaders may be the ones who wield positive political power. Perhaps your best “informal” leaders do not want to be a leaders at all. Maybe they simply want to be the best glue inside the team, the true servant leaders. We need everyone to make it work…at work.

Written by Jim Annis, President/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson and Tom Miller, Applied’s division directors, contributed to this article.