‘Big Data’ Offers Golden Opportunity to HR, Expert Says

By Kathy Gurchiek

LA JOLLA, CALIF.—HR professionals need to apply “big data” to talent acquisition, analytics expert David Bernstein told attendees at the 2014 HRPS Global Conference, because “if you’re not bringing in the right people, then what are you coaching? Are you trying to make do with the best you’ve got?”

Data can drive strategic recruitment marketing and give organizations a competitive advantage, said Bernstein, vice president of the “Big Data for HR” division at job posting provider eQuest. The author of Big Data: HR’s Golden Opportunity Arrives (eQuest, 2013) presented the concurrent session “Moving Beyond Metrics—Using Small, Large and Big Data to Create a Strategic Talent Acquisition Function” at the annual conference for HR People & Strategy, an affiliate of the Society for Human Resource Management.

Typically, if HR uses data, it collects business intelligence on something that has already occurred. Through predictive analysis, however, big data can tell HR professionals why something happened and allows them to “make some incredible forecasts.”

But to make this work, HR has to make the link among the data about the organization’s needs and use that information to implement a predictive analytic strategy.

“Linkage is the key,” Bernstein said. HR has to “be able to answer the ‘so-what’ questions … and be able to tie [the data] to some business situation” in a way that helps the organization.

Talent acquisition and talent management need to dovetail, and hiring should be tied to business results. HR professionals must know the profile of the positions they are hiring for and which employee embodies those attributes so they can point to a current employee as an example—telling the recruiter, for example, to look for another ‘Joe’ or two more ‘Jills.’ ”

And when an organization is more precise in finding the people with the skills it needs, it can reduce its cost-per-applicant and cost-per-hire, Bernstein said.

The sources for acquiring talent have exploded in number. HR can use big data to learn what talent sources have worked best for their organization, he pointed out, citing as an example figures from a 2013 report titled High-Impact Talent Acquisition:

  • 18 percent come from both job boards and internal candidates.
  • 14 percent come via the company’s website and employee referrals.
  • 9 percent come from both professional recruiters and networking sites.
  • 8 percent come from search aggregators.
  • 7 percent come from university recruiting.
  • 3 percent come from print/newspaper advertisements and billboards.

“If you use data to plot your course … [you can] constantly measure the effectiveness of what you’re doing” so you can change course if needed, Bernstein said.

Big data also can be used in ways other than talent acquisition, such as for retention.

Bernstein cited as an example a manufacturer that achieved “fully staffed” status for its hourly workers for the first time ever by determining attrition patterns and adjusting its sourcing strategy accordingly.

Bernstein said big data allows him to “see things happen in motion” instead of six months later.

“It’s all about targeting and results.”

Kathy Gurchiek is the associate editor at HR News.


Contact Syndeo for more information on how recruiting data can help with strategic HR decisions.


Recruiters Turn to Niche Social Sites to Find Talent

By Dave Zielinski

LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus have become familiar hunting grounds for most recruiters. But today, more-enterprising talent professionals are going beyond the “big four” to unearth talented passive candidates who demonstrate their abilities on lesser-known industry niche sites.

Recruiters are using candidates’ social footprints to find information that supplements or even replaces traditional skill assessment techniques. The information may come in the form of work samples posted in online repositories, responses to peers’ questions on industry-specific forums, blogs, tweets and more.

The goal is to use social data to better gauge who’s considered an expert by their peers, to see evidence of candidates’ actual work and to identify people with a passion for their jobs.

Beyond the Mainstream

Recruiters often miss opportunities when they use only mainstream social sites, said Katrina Collier of Winning Impression, a London-based social media recruiting company. “The question people should ask is, ‘Where are my top passive candidates likely to spend most of their time online?’ rather than just going to one of the big networks and expecting them to be there,” Collier said.

For example, despite the popularity of LinkedIn, passive candidates in some professions either don’t use the site or create only bare-bones personal profiles there.

“Most great software developers don’t spend much time marketing themselves; they’re far more interested in their technology,” said Jason Pistulka, director of recruiting for Asurion, a technology protection services company in Nashville, Tenn. “We’ve hired a number of developers who either didn’t have a LinkedIn profile or, if they had a profile, it wouldn’t have warranted a follow-up. These were passive candidates who were very much underground.”

But those software developers do spend time on industry-specific sites like GithubStackoverflow or Bitbucket, where they create and store open-source code and respond to questions from their peers. To find promising candidates frequenting the sites, Pistulka uses the services of Gild, a San Francisco-based company that aggregates social data scattered across the Web.

Gild identifies candidates and sends them to Pistulka in ranked order of potential by requested geography. The ranking is based on the quality of publicly shared, open-source code they store in repositories like Github; how these passive candidates answer peers’ questions on industry-specific sites; their past job roles; and more.

“They use many of the same tools our own quality assurance group does to test the quality of open-source code,” Pistulka said. “Our hiring managers also can look at the actual code to rate it for elegance or efficiency. It helps us unearth hard-to-find developer candidates and match them to needs of the organization.” The process also increases the odds that the candidates he brings in for interviews will pass crucial technical tests, Pistulka said, boosting his interview-to-hire ratio.

Industry experts believe new sourcing strategies can provide a valuable supplement to traditional skill assessment approaches.

“New technologies are allowing companies to index passive candidates that are best-in-class in their respective fields and then find creative ways to connect with them,” said Elaine Orler, president of Talent Function, a recruiting consulting company in San Diego. “Where the social data is peer-to-peer or product-related, and when it’s clear that a candidate’s answers to peer questions in online forums regularly solve challenging problems, that becomes a valid marker on their ability to do the work.

“But, of course,” she cautions, “it’s not a marker on whether they’ll be a good cultural fit.”

Not Just Technical Jobs

Tech jobs aren’t the only ones for which recruiters can use social data to find passive candidates. Experts believe people working in many other professions regularly share their work online, blog or post answers to peers’ questions—and leave valuable evidence of their skill and motivation levels.

Collier said the graphic design field is one example; professionals in that field post their work portfolios online on sites like Behance. “If you are recruiting those types of candidates, they typically won’t be on some of the bigger sites because they’re restricted in the type of the work they can post and how long they can post it,” Collier said. “But on these niche sites, you can review their best work and then try to engage with them.”

About.me can be a good starting point for identifying where passive candidates spend their time online. “What industry forums might they frequent, and what’s the proper way to engage them there?” she said.

Candidates in fields like accounting typically aren’t big on self-promotion, but they might share their knowledge on industry-specific sites, Orler said. “They usually don’t create detailed LinkedIn profiles that highlight all of their successes,” she said. “Because they deal with compliance, there often is more confidentiality involved.”

Predicting Passion

Some recruiters also believe social data can be a good predictor of candidates’ motivation levels. Pistulka said it helps him separate software developers who “will do” the work from those who “can do” jobs, a distinction he uses that measures people’s passion for the work.

“Because of where our social data is pulled from, such as repositories where developers actually create code for fun in their free time, you tend to find people with more passion about development than you might find in your typical developer,” Pistulka said.

Drew Koloski, director of talent acquisition for XO Group Inc., a life stage media and technology company in New York, has used social data aggregator TalentBin as a source for hiring three software engineers in recent months. He used the data to discover information such as how much time candidates invest in the open-source coding community.

“It allows us to get a contextual relevance for engineers via information available across all the social networks they use,” Koloski said. “It also means we don’t have to blanket-message candidates or risk sending a Ruby on Rails engineering job to someone who is a Python language developer.”

The biggest challenge for recruiting leaders can be getting their staffs to buy into these new sourcing strategies. “Recruiters are creatures of habit, and this requires a strategy different than many are used to,” Pistulka said. “You have to be enterprising, since it can mean pulling together information from many different sources on the social Web.”

Dave Zielinski is a freelance business journalist in Minneapolis.


Contact Syndeo today for all your staffing needs.

5 onboarding tactics that get long-term results

by Robert Cordray

Congratulations! You’ve hired the right person for the right job. Now all you have to do is make sure your new hire makes a smooth transition to valued employee. How hard can that be? Actually, this transformative process, called onboarding, is more difficult — and more important — than it may seem, according to guest post author Robert Cordray. According to recent statistics furnished by Monster.com, 30% of external new hires turn over within the first two years of employment. Other organizations, such as the Society for Human Resources Management, report that turnover during the first 18 months of employment can be as much as 50%. As more and more Millennials, who are known to change jobs frequently, enter the workforce, the trend toward shorter employee retention is likely to continue — making the onboarding process more critical than ever. For those organizations looking to boost employee retention through more effective onboarding, here’s a look at some successful and innovative tactics that have long-term results.

Get co-workers involved in the hiring process

Existing employees may see new hires as outsiders who pose potential threats to their own jobs. This can result in new employees feeling alienated and unwelcomed, which is the last thing they should be feeling when starting a new job. A smart way to avoid this scenario is for managers to involve other employees in the hiring process. This not only shows existing employees that management values their opinions and expertise — which in itself is important for boosting engagement and retention — it also helps current employees get better acquainted with candidates who, in the event they are hired, will receive a warmer welcome as new members of the existing team.

Set realistic expectations

New employees constitute a considerable investment for a company and most managers would hope to start seeing results from that investment sooner than later. These expectations, if voiced too early, can cause undue pressure on new employees, who are already pressuring themselves to start delivering right away. A better strategy for managers is to relax expectations, letting new employees know that the first order of business is for them to listen to, observe and learn from existing employees. This tactic allows new hires to build relationships of trust with co-workers that will not only lead to better individual and team results, but higher employee retention rates.

Seek two-way feedback from the get-go

New employees welcome suggestions and feedback to help them do their jobs better. But unsolicited feedback can be viewed as being critical, which can put new hires on the defensive. A smart approach for managers is to ask new employees for permission to provide honest feedback regarding how they’re doing, at the same time soliciting honest feedback from the employee as to how they feel that they—the managers—are doing. This type of two-way feedback, along with helping new employees learn to be more effective sooner, also goes a long way in making new employees feel that they have a voice and that their ideas and opinions are valued and appreciated.

Be the example

When all is said and done, new employees need managers to show them that the traits and virtues the company preaches in the handbook are actually practiced in the workplace. In recognizing that management and co-workers are dedicated to abiding by the company’s high standards, new employees will be much more motivated to model the same behavior.

Leaders need coaching, too

Implementing a successful onboarding process can be challenging for any organization. Enlisting the aid of a qualified leadership coach can be very beneficial in helping management to recognize and effectively utilize onboarding strategies. These kinds of strategies get lasting results — and lead to greater employee retention.

Robert Cordray is a freelance writer and expert in business and finance.


Contact Syndeo here to learn more about how we can help your business.


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Attitudes about Watching NCAA Tourney on company time are changing

By Bill Leonard

Technology has fundamentally changed how we work and completely transformed how we goof off. High-profile sporting events, like the NCAA Men’s Division 1 Basketball Tournament, illustrate this transformation as millions of workers use their employers’ computer networks to participate in office pools and watch games online—all on company time.

The 2014 NCAA basketball tournament will tip off on March 18, and Turner Sports, CBS Sports and the NCAA’s website will stream more than 160 hours of games and sports commentary. These live video streams of tournament games have been known to eat up a vast amount of Internet bandwidth and sometimes slow online connections to a crawl.

Technology analysts estimate that more than 50 percent of the entire bandwidth capacity in the United States is used for video streaming during peak hours of usage—weekends and evenings, when people watch videos streamed through online providers like HuluPlus, Netflix and Apple TV. The NCAA tournament will most likely increase demand for video streaming, and during the tournament’s most hotly contested games, experts predict, video streams could eat up close to 70 percent of U.S. Internet bandwidth capacity.

In past years many employers fretted about the strain on their IT systems and lost productivity from all the basketball fans who would be watching their favorite teams compete, checking game results or chatting online about the event. Some businesses blocked access to certain websites and limited Internet bandwidth, which can make video streaming slow and unresponsive. Employer attitudes are shifting, though, and a growing number of companies are embracing their employees’ passion for sports.

Attitudes Changing

“More of my clients are definitely considering ways to leverage sporting events like March Madness as a way to engage their employees,” said Jonathan Yarbrough, a partner in the Asheville, N.C., law office of Constangy Brooks & Smith LLC. “One of my clients is planning a basketball-and-barbecue day on a Friday during the tournament. It’s fun for everybody, and it brings employees together and strengthens their ties to the organization.”

Although some businesses may choose to prohibit employees from watching games at work, experts say complete bans are virtually impossible to enforce and, in the long run, may end up costing employers more as IT support and supervisors police their online connections.

Chicago-based consulting group Challenger, Gray & Christmas estimated that workers’ interest in the 2014 NCAA basketball tournament could cost U.S. employers up to $1.2 billion for one hour of lost productivity. This figure was based on a Microsoft survey conducted in 2009, which estimated that 50 million U.S. workers participate in NCAA tournament office pools every year. If all those workers spend one hour on the job filling out or updating their pool brackets, then the loss of productivity is 50 million multiplied by $24.31 (the average hourly wage of U.S. workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics), or $1.22 billion.

The consulting group concluded that the productivity lost from workers’ video streaming could total $660 million. This estimate is based on the demand for video streaming during normal work hours for the 2013 NCAA tournament.

Even so, Challenger Gray & Christmas CEO John Challenger  admitted that these losses will have a negligible effect on most businesses’ profits. “Taking a hard line on office pools and online streaming could have a dramatic impact on the bottom line if it leads to increased turnover and leads employees to become disengaged,” he explained.

Productivity is at Risk

“Of course, as any corporate IT manager will attest, increased Internet traffic resulting from just a handful of employees streaming games will dramatically slow Internet speeds for the entire office,” Challenger noted. “So this means that productivity could be hindered even for those workers not caught up in March Madness.”

Despite all of the potential lost productivity, Challenger and other sources recommended that employers refrain from clamping down too hard on March Madness.

“Some of my clients actually set up TVs in break rooms where employees can watch the action, while others might have something like ‘School Spirit Day,’ when employees are encouraged to wear their favorite team colors, jerseys or sweatshirts,” said Yarbrough.

Although many business leaders now realize that sporting events like March Madness offer employee engagement opportunities, improved technology and faster online connections are also among the reasons employers’ attitudes are shifting. Increased broadband capacities, faster processing speeds and the proliferation of hand-held electronic devices have made video streaming pervasive in the workplace and, thus, more widely accepted.

“It’s no longer a novel concept, and access just keeps growing and improving,” Yarbrough observed. “Employers that don’t acknowledge this and aren’t looking to manage it to their advantage are behind the times.”

Software, too, has improved, so companies can prioritize online traffic and ensure that video streaming doesn’t hamper essential business Internet services.

“This same sort of prioritizing can also be used to make it so that streaming won’t kill a company’s bandwidth,” said Marty Smith, manager of support services at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). “In other words, we can set parameters so that streaming protocol x can’t exceed more than 40 percent of the bandwidth capacity.”

Wireless Internet connections (aka Wi-Fi) have become much more popular and prevalent in U.S. workplaces. Most organizations develop their wireless infrastructure to support their business needs, and video streaming typically isn’t considered a critical need. According to sources familiar with the issue, when usage begins to tax the fastest Wi-Fi, network response times can slow significantly and the quality of live video streams will suffer as images freeze while the system buffers the online feed.

Instead of worrying too much about video streaming and broadband capacities, the bigger concern, during events like March Madness, should be communicating the proper use of your organization’s IT infrastructure, said Todd Oosterveen, network and systems operations manager at SHRM.

“If a company wants to allow their staff to stream video on the Internet and have built the infrastructure to do so, that’s great, and they should communicate that policy,” he said. “However, if a company can’t afford the bandwidth or infrastructure to support much more than their day-to-day operations, then that must be communicated, as well.”

He added that arbitrarily using technology to block access to websites and dictate to employees what they can and can’t do is never a good idea.

“Those directives should come from the leaders and not from the technology behind the scenes,” Oosterveen said.

Bill Leonard is a senior writer for SHRM.



Employee happiness is essential to your business

by Susan Heathfield

Think being happy at work is a nice thing? You’d be very wrong. Happy employees are essential to the well being of your business.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which has been polling over 1,000 adults every day since January 2008, shows that Americans now feel worse about their jobs — and work environments — than ever before. People of all ages, and across income levels, are unhappy with their supervisors, apathetic about their organizations and detached from what they do.

Additionally, Gallup estimates that because workers are not engaged, American businesses lose $300 billion in productivity each year.

What Employees Want

Teresa Amabile, a professor at Harvard Business School, and Steven Kramer, an independent researcher, authors of The Progress Principle (compare prices), studied 12,000 electronic diary entries from 238 professionals in seven companies. They discovered that the most important factor in happiness at work was “making progress in meaningful work.”

The same authors studied managers to determine what managers thought was motivational for employees. 95% of the managers put making progress last. So there is a basic disconnect between what managers think is meaningful for employees and what employees believe creates their happiness at work.

How Managers Can Motivate

The authors conclude that managers who listen to the problems that employees experience, help solve problems, and remove barriers so that the employees feel like they are making meaningful progress, are more likely to have happy employees. And, if Gallup’s studies are to be believed, having happy employees will magnify the success of your business – beyond calculation.

The writings on this website, too, make these points repeatedly. It’s affirming to have these authors saying the same thing. When will managers get it?



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March is Workplace Eye Wellness Month

Time to refocus on eye health and safety

by HR.BLR.com

March is Workplace Eye Wellness Month—a good time to refocus attention on your company’s eye protection program. As the National Safety Council points out, “All it takes is a tiny sliver of metal, particle of dust, or splash of chemical to cause significant and permanent eye damage.”’

OSHA’s eye and face protection standard requires employers to “ensure that each affected employee uses appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids, or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation.”

Share these injury-prevention tips with managers and supervisors:

    • Regularly review and revise your policies, and set a goal of zero eye injuries.
    • Communicate the policy to employees and display a copy of your policy where employees can see it.
    • Make eye safety part of your employee training and new hire orientation.
    • Make sure managers and executives set an example by wearing protective eyewear wherever it’s worn by other employees.
    • Look carefully at plant operations, work areas, access routes, and equipment. Study injury patterns to see where accidents are occurring.
    • Select protective eyewear based on specific duties or hazards.
    • Establish a mandatory eye protection program in all operation areas.
    • Have eyewear fitted by a professional.
    • Establish first-aid procedures for eye injuries, and make eyewash stations available, especially where chemicals are in use.

Conduct regular vision testing, as uncorrected vision can cause accidents.

It’s also a good time to remind employees of off-the-job eye hazards such as cooking accidents, yard work, chemical splashes from cleaners and fertilizers, do-it-yourself work on cars and homes, and sports injuries.


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Sure your 401k would pass an audit? Last year, most did not

by Tim Gould

Employers are well aware that the feds are aggressively looking into company-sponsored 401k plans for compliance issues. So it’s alarming to find out that the vast majority of plans the DOL looked at last year ran afoul of ERISA in some way.

Specifically, 75% of the 401k plans audited by the DOL last year resulted in plan sponsors being fined, penalized or forced to make reimbursements for plan errors.

And those fines and penalties weren’t cheap. In fact, the average fine last year was $600,000 per plan. That’s a jump of nearly $150K from four years ago.

On top on that, 88 individuals — from plan officials to corporate officers to service providers — were criminally indicted for 401k offenses, according to the DOL.

DOL adds nearly 1,000 new enforcers

Firms that aren’t too worried because they believe their chances of being audited are slim may want to rethink that stance. This year, the DOL added nearly 1,000 new enforcement officers and has every intention of doing even more 401k compliance audits.

So that means it’s in every employer’s best interest to take a closer look at their ERISA-covered plans to make sure they’d pass muster in the event of a DOL audit.

To help, here are some of common errors the feds find when looking at 401k plans:

  • Excluding certain compensation. By far, the most common error plan sponsors make is excluding certain types of compensation when determining employee deferrals and employer matches for a certain pay period. The most common comp payments that are improperly excluded are bonus payments, overtime and vacation pay.
  • Giving incorrect asset valuation. Plan sponsors often get in trouble when the total value of the assets in the 401k plan aren’t accurately stated. Having the plan audited by an outside source and getting clear documentation that the plan’s valuation is safe and accurate should help keep you in compliance here.
  • Making prohibited transactions. The DOL’s always on alert for plan sponsor actions that essentially constitute a conflict of interest or misuse of plan assets and often finds “prohibited transactions” when it takes a closer look at a company’s 401k. To make sure you’re firm doesn’t fall victim to this error, the IRS offers this overview on prohibited transactions.

Note: The majority of employers should be having their 401ks audited by an outside source on a yearly basis. The DOL expects the majority of businesses with 100 or more active participants in a 401k to have the plan audited annually by an independent qualified public accountant as part of their Form 5500 filing.

This post originally ran on HRBenefitsAlert.com



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We All Pay For Bad Weather (Part 3): How do you decide if it’s safe?

Travelers Insurance sponsored a survey, conducted in person at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – America’s Small Business Summit, which revealed that 44 percent of small businesses did not have a written continuity plan, or any other type of document that explains what will happen to the business in the event of serious weather.

No matter where your business is located bad weather is inevitable. Advanced planning will help you avoid the last minute uncertainties of managing absences and pay issues when the weather turns sour.

Further developed businesses should be aware of local weather and its seasonal affects on their company and surrounding community. Whether a hurricane, blizzard, tornado or a torrential downpour, employers must have a written policy in place that clearly defines what constitutes bad weather. This will help you manage losses in the event of nasty weather and lessen the risk of your employees developing negative attitudes towards the business.

Younger businesses may consider developing a Learn As You Go approach. This allows the employers and employees to work through the different weather scenarios and address them as they arise. By addressing these issues WITH your employees, employers can build trusted relationships with their employees, where everyone feels safe and accommodated. This often leads to greater productivity among your staff and a more relaxed work environment.

We All Pay For Bad Weather (Part 2): Exempt vs. Nonexempt Employees

In part 1, we discussed how everyone pays for bad weather. Today, we discuss exempt vs. non-exempt employees.

As an employer it is your responsibility to clearly outline what is expected of your employees in the case of inclement weather. As such, the inclement weather policy your business develops must set expectations, present a balanced approach to compensation, and minimize risks for both employers and employees.

Overseen by the Department of Labor (DOL), the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to pay nonexempt (hourly) employees for actual hours worked. Thus, an employer is not required to pay a nonexempt employee, even if the employee was scheduled to work, or sent home early. Simply put, if a nonexempt employee only works for an hour before the decision is made to close, according to federal law that employee is only required to be paid for the single hour worked.

Exempt (salary) employees, on the other hand, are almost always paid for time off due to inclement weather, though employers can require employees to use paid-time-off for such situations. An employer cannot however penalize an employee who has exhausted all paid time off, for time taken during inclement weather. In any case, employees should reference their company handbook for company specific policies and regulations predesigned to guide each company through unforeseen situations like inclement weather.

Come back next week when we discuss decisions on whether or not it weather conditions are safe based on research.

We all pay for bad weather

We All Pay For Bad Weather

During the course of the winter snow season, different types of storms occur, often times disrupting our daily lives in various negative ways. When this inclement weather spawns, students & employees alike turn to the media to determine whether or not transportation is safe.

More often than not, when this weather surfaces schools end up shutting down, while businesses/organizations remain open. But what’s the procedure when this weather occurs? Who is responsible for notifying employees to stay home or come in? Are the employees responsible for contacting their employers? And what happens to parents that are required to be at work, but have no one to tend for their children?

Employees often expect Employers to cover all of the costs in the event of inclement weather (i.e. “I should still get paid because I would have been in today, but could not due to the weather”). This however is impossible. Business owners cannot afford to pay non-working employees, and still have a job available for those employees when the business reopens if paying customers aren’t also walking through the door; which is often the case with consumers during bad weather situations, as roads are typically unsafe for driving.

Employers need to consider in advance the possible emergency events that could affect their ability to open. They need to develop policies, specific to their company, detailing what employees can expect when inclement weather makes it impossible to get to work. More importantly however, employers need to ensure their employees clearly understand these policies and how to react when these situations arise. The policy needs to clearly spell out who is responsible for announcing any closures, and where they will be able to find that information.

Next, we discuss exempt vs. non-exempt employees, and how inclement weather impacts these groups.


What is a Succession Plan for an Aging Workforce?

The average age of our workforce is 48 years. We’d like to develop a strategy to prepare for the aging of our workforce, but what’s really the most effective thing we should do? Who should be involved or giving input? We know we need to do something, but we aren’t sure what’s going to be effective. And we don’t think we can “hire” our way out of it.
Not Getting Any Younger, manager human resources, financial services, Amsterdam, New York

Dear Not Getting Any Younger:

For the first time in U.S. history, four generations are working together side by side. Many companies in the US have employees and managers in every age category from millennials (18-30+), Gen X (age 33-45+) and boomers (age 50-60+) to traditionalists (age 65-75+). The values, interests, skills, experiences and attitudes among these broadly diverse age groups create challenges for teams and managers. Internal competition, real or imagined, between younger workers building careers and older workers attempting to retain theirs is exacerbated by a tough economy in which “retirement” often is not financially feasible. With the explosion of medical, cosmetic and fitness resources, age truly is just a number, not necessarily an indicator of physical or mental impairments typically associated with aging. Legally, age-discrimination complaints continue to be on the rise, along with disability charges often related to health issues.

Boomers and traditionalists contribute proven expertise and decades of experience millennials and some Gen Xers don’t yet have. Companies have real concerns about the knowledge and leadership gaps they face with boomer and traditionalist turnover particularly where older workers hold positions of power, authority and strong customer relationships.

Below are 10 actions to take or consider as you approach this important and challenging work.

· Remove the age factor from your thinking and any internal messages. Focus solely on the talent you need (knowledge, skills, experience) and performance criteria you require (competencies, behaviors, values) today and in the future.

· Refresh job descriptions and create performance profiles that include defined competencies and behaviors required for success… today.

· Engage all employees and managers in“strong>”success planning” – creating work plans and development goals that support individual work-related interests and ambitions.

· Engage managers and employees in supportive career discussions to understand the needs and motivations of older and younger workers at your company. Create transition strategies based on what you learn.

· Make succession planning a requirement for all managers, executives and key contributors. This process will identify your internal “bench strength” and will force discussions about sustainability and pro-active workforce planning.

· Introduce legacy-building, a concept that respects the contributions of long-term employees and engages creative thinking about what they leave behind.

· Create affinity groups (employee resource groups) for all generational groups. Leverage the diverse perspectives of these groups for business objectives, particularly marketing and/or customer experience.

· Identify roles for workers (any age) who may want to reduce their schedules and hours and still contribute.

· Integrate collaboration and knowledge transfer as a fundamental requirement of every job, at every level.

· Develop internal mentoring and coaching roles that team older and younger workers in activities for knowledge sharing, collaboration and relationship building.

These actions will strengthen the engagement of all workers, provide insight for workforce strategies and may change the way you think about and value your “aging workforce”.

SOURCE:Patricia Duarte, founder and principal consultant, Decision Insight, Inc., Boston, Massachusetts, Dec. 16, 2013


Call us at Syndeo for help on the succession plan that your company needs for the next generation.

The most-clicked on HR stories in 2013 – Part 1 of 2

Time to look back on the stories HR pros clicked on most during 2013. Here’s a look at the HR Morning Top Ten.

Docking pay for exempt employees: What’s allowed?
Don’t feel bad if you have trouble understanding the pay-docking rules laid out by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The regs are pretty murky. Read more

You suspect an employee is using drugs: What now?
You can’t prove it, but the signs are there. So how do you deal with suspected drug abuse without violating privacy rights or making false accusations? Read more

A ban on hiring smokers? It’s not that simple
More companies than ever are announcing they won’t hire people who smoke. But is that actually legal — and is it worth it for employers? Read more

FMLA: 13 ways to stop intermittent-leave abuse
Intermittent FMLA leave has rapidly become the No. 1 nightmare for supervisors everywhere. A top employment lawyer offers a multi-step approach that’ll help companies legally discourage abuse. Read more

Health reform employer mandate postponed: What does it mean for you?
Employers can breathe a massive sigh of relief. Perhaps the biggest, and most confusing, requirement under President Obama’s healthcare reform law has been delayed until after the midterm elections. Read more


Come back to Syndeo tomorrow for Part 2!

Employers Should Reevaluate Approach to Workplace Stress

Posted by WeComply on December 6, 2013

Workplace stress is the number one risk to employee health, according to a survey conducted by Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health. Stress can significantly affect an individual’s physical health and emotional well-being, harm workplace performance and hamper overall business performance. Yet even though employers understand the connection between stress and productivity, only 15% make improving the emotional/mental health of employees a top priority of their health and productivity programs.

The survey also found that the factors that cause workplace stress are different for employers and employees. Employers reported that the top three causes of workplace stress are negative work/life balance (86%), inadequate staffing (70%) and contact with employees during non-working hours via technology (63%). Employees, in contrast, identified inadequate staffing — insufficient support or uneven workloads and performance within groups — as the top workplace stress factor, followed by low pay or low pay increases and unclear or conflicting job expectations.

While employers viewed work/life balance as the most significant stress factor, employees ranked it fifth. And whereas employees ranked low pay or low pay increases as second among workplace stressors, employers placed it ninth on the list.

The survey suggests that many employers do little more than pay lip service to efforts to help employees cope with workplace stress. The strongest evidence of this is the misplaced reliance employers place on employee assistance programs (EAPs). Most employers (85%) rely on EAPs as the primary way to address stress — even though only 5% of employees take advantage of EAP resources.

The survey recommends that employers respond to these findings with a more holistic approach to employee stress — for example, by expanding EAPs to include employer-sponsored physical activities and stress-management programs.

Employers’ failure to respond in meaningful ways to employee emotional and physical problems wastes resources and alienates employees. WeComply’s course on Managing Workplace Stress addresses this number one risk factor by helping employees recognize the outer and inner sources of job stress and providing strategies to prevent job burnout.

WeComply is a leading provider of customizable online ethics and compliance training solutions, offering more than 100 courses on such topics as anti-corruption, antitrust, Code of Conduct, preventing discrimination and harassment, data privacy and security, insider trading and whistleblowing.


Looking Ahead to the 2014 Job Market

by Joseph Coombs

Even the most skeptical economic forecasters have to agree that the U.S. labor market has made strides, albeit small ones, in putting more people back to work in 2013.

Preliminary numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that, on average, through October, 186,300 jobs were created each month of this year. That’s up from 172,700 during the January-October time frame in 2012 and an increase from an average of 169,900 during that same period in 2011.

Data from the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) Leading Indicators of National Employment (LINE) report also reveal that 2013 has been a solid year for job creation. In 11 of 12 months of 2013 service-sector hiring was reported to have surpassed the rate of hiring from the previous year, while the manufacturing sector saw year-over-year hiring gains in eight of the past 12 months, according to the LINE report.

So what can we expect in 2014? Here are a few projections.

The National Association of Business Economics’ (NABE) October 2013 Industry Survey report said a net of 27 percent of surveyed U.S. organizations will add jobs in the next six months (37 percent said payrolls will expand; 10 percent said payrolls will shrink, either through attrition or significant layoffs).

The service sector is forecast to have the highest rate of job growth, with a net of 40 percent of respondents expecting to add jobs and have no layoffs. The goods-producing sector is expected to have the lowest job-creation rate, at a net of 5 percent (35 percent adding jobs, 30 percent eliminating them, through attrition or layoffs), according to NABE survey results.

The organization reported that the average U.S. unemployment rate for this year was 7.5 percent. It projects that the annual average rate for 2014 will drop to 7 percent, though this is an improvement from 2012’s 8.1 percent.

September 2013 projections by the U.S. Federal Reserve’s board of governors and bank presidents were slightly more optimistic, with both groups reporting that the average annual unemployment rate varied between 6.9 percent and 7.3 percent in 2013. As for 2014, members of those groups estimated that the average jobless rate would be between 6.2 percent and 6.9 percent.

However, next year may be better for college graduates entering the workforce. Employers will hire approximately 8 percent more new college graduates for U.S. operations in 2013-14 than they did in 2012-13, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ NACE 2014 Job Outlook Survey, conducted Aug. 5 through Sept. 13, 2013, among its college-recruiting professional members. The results from the 208 returned surveys revealed that companies overall will hire 12 percent more new college graduates for U.S. and international locations combined.

Mobile applications and software developers will have plenty of job opportunities in 2014, according to an annual salary guides published by staffing services company Robert Half International (RHI). Overall, base compensation for information-technology professionals in the United States is expected to increase 5.6 percent in 2014, primarily because of the higher demand for workers who can fill IT positions, RHI reported in an Oct. 14, 2013, press statement.

The next highest average starting salaries in the U.S. are forecast to rise approximately 3 percent in 2014 for newly hired accounting and finance professionals as well as for creative and marketing professionals, according to RHI.

Perhaps buoyed by improving conditions in the labor market, many workers will be looking for other opportunities in the new year, according to a survey by Right Management, a subsidiary of staffing management firm Manpower. Of the 871 U.S. and Canadian employees polled online from Oct. 16 to Nov. 15, 2013, 83 percent admitted they will look for a job in 2014. In addition, 12 percent were unsure but admitted to networking and updating their resume; only 5 percent plan to stay in their current position.

“These numbers should signal a wake-up call for top management, when four out of five employees say they intend to look for employment elsewhere,” said Right Management’s Global Practice Leader for Employee Engagement Scott Ahlstrand. “Employers must act now to engage top talent and prevent them from leaving for the competition.”

For more information, visit SHRM’s Labor Market and Economic Data page.

Joseph Coombs is a senior analyst for workforce trends at SHRM.


‘Diamonds in the rough’: Offbeat and effective approach to hiring the best people

By Tim Gould

Every company’s looking to make that perfect hire — and that seems to be getting harder and harder to do these days. So here’s an idea — why not start considering candidates on the basis of personality, smarts and enthusiasm instead of past experience?

After all, you can teach smart people what they need to know. But there’s no guarantee that the applicant with the perfect experience is going to be a great fit in your culture.

One company that’s taken the “diamond in the rough” search approach is Software Advice, an Austin, TX firm that helps businesses find software to fit specific business needs. We recently sat down with SA’s HR director, Bethany Perkins — herself a “diamond in the rough” — to explore how this innovative procedure works.

How did you get hired at SA?

I was working as a bartender and running my own theatre production company. To be honest, working in my passion wasn’t keeping the lights on, so I knew it was time to start looking for a “real job” — a professional job that offered great benefits and pay.

Coming from the service-industry, it was a challenge deciding what kind of job I would both enjoy and excel at. I knew I had the ability to be good in several career fields, but I also knew my resume didn’t exactly tell my whole story.

I saw that Software Advice was hiring a Client Success Coordinator, and thought customer service was right up my alley. I went through the entire interview process, but they ended up offering the job to another candidate. Later that day, I got a call from our CEO, Don Fornes, who said they liked me and would work to find me a home at Software Advice.

A couple of weeks later, I got another call saying they were now looking for a new in-house HR manager, and would like me to join their team. That’s how I went from being a “diamond in the rough” to hunting for them.

How did SA come up with the ‘diamond in the rough’ strategy?

It didn’t begin until several years after the company was founded. When the Client Success Coordinator position was created, it occurred to management that hiring someone with a service-industry background for a client support position wasn’t a big stretch. We ended up hiring a former restaurant manager for the new role.

The first “diamonds in the rough” worked out well, so we started considering other positions we could use this hiring strategy to find quality talent. After evaluating our open positions, we noticed that several of our sales and client success positions were a great fit for people who don’t have previous work experience but demonstrate intelligence, passion, a desire to work hard and an ability to embrace challenges. Because of the early success we had with DITR, we worked to refine the tactic and formalize it into one of our hiring strategies. We haven’t looked back since.

What kind of characteristics do you look for in a candidate?

I look for a history of hard work and achievement. I hunt for candidates who understand that success is the result of hard work. I also look for candidates that demonstrate a passion in some area of their life, whether personal or professional.

We think that the ambition and drive required to pursue your life’s passions are qualities that transfer nicely to our workplace. Another key characteristic I look for is if the candidate takes pride in their work. We don’t care whether they were a bartender or barista, what piques our interest is if they see the value of a job well done.

We also keep an eye out for candidates that are optimistic, have a positive attitude and are looking for a job that is both challenging and rewarding. These natural talents and personality traits can’t be taught.

What role does past experience play?

It’s not always about having specific past work experience. I’ve trained myself to look beyond the resume and read between the lines. I focus less on what company they’re currently working for and instead look for signs of achievement. When we are looking to hire a diamond in the rough, we care more about the skills that can’t be taught — we can always teach the role-specific skills.

OK. So just where do you mine these ‘diamonds’?

It’s difficult to proactively source DITRs in the traditional ways. Resume databases and applicant tracking systems are designed to make it easier to find candidates with specific skills and experience.

One thing we’ve begun to do at Software Advice is hand out referral cards. It’s basically a small card that advertises the fact that we’re hiring. It has a space to write your email and name so that when the person applies they can let us know who sent them. We also pay out a $500 referral bonus to anyone who sends us a candidate we end up hiring.

The referral cards are meant to be given out to strangers who impress you while you’re out and about. Does the barista at your local coffee shop remember your special order and your name every morning? Hand her a card and encourage her to apply. While you can’t search for this kind of talent online, it’s all around you every time you leave the house. You just have to pay attention.

What have you learned?

While looking for DITRs, I’ve learned that there is great talent everywhere — you just have to know how to recognize it. Also, these hires are called diamonds in the rough for a reason. They’re very rare and you’ll miss them every time if you don’t train your eyes to look for them.


Using Social Media to Boost Ethics and Compliance

By Pamela Babcock

Even though employees may misuse social media—and need to be trained on what is and is not acceptable—it is a powerful tool that companies can use to promote ethical practices and culture, a recent study found.

To more effectively engage employees, enhance ethics and compliance programs, and positively affect workplace culture, businesses should tap their employees’ expertise and encourage workers to use social media, according to a July 17, 2103, report from the Ethics Resource Center (ERC) in Arlington, Va. The key is seizing the opportunity of having tech-savvy employees who are invested in the company while mitigating the risk of inappropriate postings.

“If you can’t beat them, leverage them,” quipped ERC President Patricia J. Harned, Ph.D., adding that active social networkers “have a really strong interest in the culture of the workplace. They are more likely to be responsive if you’re making use of social networks to address company culture and employee concerns.”

The report, National Business Ethics Survey of Social Networkers: New Risks and Opportunities at Work, is based on responses to a September 2012 online poll from 2,089 workers at U.S.-based companies. Respondents to the survey, sponsored by PwC and NAVEX Global, said they were active on at least one social networking site.

Andrea Falcione, J.D., PwC’s managing director of risk assurance in Boston, said companies are missing a tremendous opportunity “to show that their organizations take this stuff seriously and that it’s in the blood of the organization.”

Social networkers can help business leaders, HR and ethics professionals improve workplace culture. But companies first need a policy that’s “very clear about what’s acceptable and not acceptable behavior,” Harned stressed.

Not Just Younger Workers

Perhaps not surprisingly, active social networkers (those spending 30 percent or more of their day online) air company linen in public. Six out of 10 said they’d comment on their personal sites about their company if it were in the news; 53 percent share information about work projects at least once a week; and more than a third often comment on personal sites about managers, co-workers and even clients, the study found.

But some findings may come as a surprise. Among them:

  • Almost three out of four (72 percent) social networkers spend at least some of their workday on social networking sites, and 28 percent said it’s an hour or more. One-third of the 28 percent also admit that none of the activity is work-related.
  • Social networking isn’t just for the young. Forty-seven percent of active social networkers are under 30, but 40 percent are between the ages of 30 and 44.
  • More active social networkers (those who spend 30 percent or more of their day online) are more likely to see and report misconduct (77 percent) than other U.S. workers (66 percent) and are more likely to experience retaliation when reporting it. The study did not indicate why, but Falcione said it’s something compliance and ethics professionals “should consider and continue to monitor.”
  • Training Is Key

    Having a solid social media policy and training employees can change behaviors while improving compliance and reducing risk.

    CPR (communicate, prepare and respond) is essential, according to Steve Miranda, SPHR, GPHR, managing director of Cornell University’s Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies and the Society for Human Resource Management’s former chief HR and content integration officer.

    Communicate: Have a clearly documented policy. Employees need to know if it’s OK to post the company logo on Facebook or whether they’re authorized to post something online about the company’s downsizing.

    Prepare: Train and educate staff. If a contractor offers tickets to a major sporting event, can you accept? Raytheon depicts such scenarios using humorous videos so that “it’s not like you’re slapping employees on the back of the wrist with a ruler and saying ‘Obey!’” Miranda explained.

    Review: Use surveys or Internet/security monitoring to gauge whether the policy is working. Is inappropriate or sensitive client information being posted online? Consider highlighting examples of employees (names can be removed) who were dismissed for breaching social media protocol.

    Zappos offers Twitter training during new-hire orientation and has hundreds of employees on Twitter, noted Sharlyn Lauby, SPHR, president of ITM Group Inc., a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based HR training consulting firm, and a member of SHRM’s Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility special expertise panel.

    Even if a company decides not to be active on social media, employees should be trained to use the tools—especially privacy settings, she added.

    “Training is an effective way to engage employees and demonstrate commitment to the ethical use of the tool,” Lauby said in an e-mail to SHRM Online.

    Steps Companies Can Take

    Generally, Falcione said, companies in the United Kingdom and Europe use social media to communicate compliance and ethics issues more than their U.S. counterparts.

    Some organizations offer texting for employees to report actual or potential misconduct. Ultimately, the text might go to the company hotline or a third-party administrator. Others provide Web-based platforms where workers can report misconduct.

    Ingrid Fredeen, vice president of NAVEX’s ethical leadership group, said companies should think broadly about social media. Setting up a “full-blown” Facebook or LinkedIn page for ethics isn’t necessary. She said companies should consider doing the following:

  • Hosting moderated intranet conversation groups. Compliance professionals can post content, questions and stories in a format that allows employees to comment.
  • Providing video podcasting to share positive stories. Organizations can invite employees and even business partners to nominate people whose behaviors and actions demonstrate high levels of integrity.
  • Creating a company blog. The blog can contain commentary about organizational values and ethical performance, like Best Buy’s featuring Chief Ethics Officer Kathleen Edmond.
  • Hosting internal webinars. Through these employees can ask senior leaders ethics compliance questions. It’s also good to have an intranet site where managers can download materials to help talk about ethics and compliance with staff, Fredeen said.
    Using sites like Facebook and YouTube to share positive stories externally. Many large organizations regularly promote good deeds and their commitment to ethics and compliance.
  • How Much Is Too Much?

    What about the ethics of employees using social media for personal benefit while on the company dime?

    Fredeen said many organizations allow “reasonable use” of social media and have found that permitting employees some personal use of networking sites helps keep them engaged and is more realistic from a policy-enforcement perspective.

    “Having a policy that bans personal use is really untenable today,” and fair and consistent enforcement is virtually impossible, Fredeen wrote in an e-mail to SHRM Online. Although the report study said monitoring can help, it’s “a thorny legal area,” and companies should get legal advice before implementing such a program, she suggested.

    “Personal use of social media should not interfere with employees’ jobs nor hinder productivity,” added Falcione. “As with anything, there is a fine line, and it behooves companies to stay ahead of any negative trends.”

    Pamela Babcock is a freelance writer based in the New York City area.


    Having HR ‘at the table’ improves profitability: Study

    by Tim Gould

    A recent Fortune 500 research study by SuccessFactors took a look at the role of Chief HR Officers (CHROs) on companies’ executive boards. The conclusion: An effective CHRO — with a strong overall plan for talent management — has a measurable positive effect on the organization’s bottom line.

    Here’s what SuccessFactors had to say about the research in a recent press release:

    [SuccessFactors'] audit of Fortune 500 companies identifies companies with an HR executive in their C-suite as high performers. In fact, these companies are on average 105 percent more profitable than their industry peers, who don’t have HR representation in the executive board. By exploring how CHROs impact an organization’s bottom line, this study uncovers the value of HR in strategic decision making. The research also presents the need for businesses to create robust HR functions and invest in effective technology solutions.

    According to SuccessFactors’ customer analysis, proactive talent management is one of the best practices embraced by CHROs. Notable tactics that correlated to superior performance included exposing HR risks, such as the need to retain key talent in annual reports and instituting ongoing reviews of goals and performance throughout the year. Specifically:

  • Companies that identify HR risks in their annual reports outperform their industry peers without risk identified in key financial and market metrics, such as return on assets (by 55%), operating profit (by 95%) and earnings per share (by 54%).
  • Companies that review employee performance throughout the year more consistently meet quarterly financial estimates and experience a better average compound annual growth rate (CAGR) compared to their industry peers that only review performance on an annual basis.
  • Companies with a higher percentage of goals aligned and completed do better than their industry peers in key financial metrics – including quarterly financial estimates, operating profit, earnings per share, and price-earnings ratio.
  • “We found having a CHRO is correlated to a company’s bottom line, demonstrating the important connection between effective talent management and business performance. But simply having a CHRO is not enough,” said SuccessFactors president Shawn Price. “Today companies equally benefit from leveraging the insights that only come from advanced, connected HCM solutions that manage the entire employee lifecycle – from recruit to retire – taking the role from transactional to strategic and even predictive. The true value of our applications is in how they support HR in understanding tomorrow’s needs before it’s too late to proactively address them.”

    Traditionally, human resource professionals were aligned with administration and finance – bogged down in paperwork and removed from C-level leaders. Today, organizations are acknowledging the value of employees as their key resource and are calling on HR to become a strategic partner with the leaders of the business.

    This shift in HR’s role is driving a need for companies to invest in advanced technologies that enable them to effectively manage the workforce while allowing HR to spend more time focusing on making valuable contributions.


    Employers Boost 401(k) Match Contributions, Relax Eligibility Rules

    by Stephen Miller, CEBS

    Employers are increasingly taking bolder actions to help ensure that participants achieve greater financial security through 401(k) and other defined contribution retirement plans, according to a 2013 survey by consultancy Aon Hewitt. The survey report, 2013 Trends & Experience in Defined Contribution Plans, reveals that organizations are doing the following:

  • Boosting the employer match. For the first time in the study’s 20-year history, the most common 401(k) match by employers increased. The most common match is now $1 per $1 on the first 6 percent of employee deferrals, with 19 percent of employers reporting this formula, up from 10 percent in 2011. Previously, a match of $0.50 per $1 on the first 6 percent was the most popular.
  • Overall, nearly all businesses (98 percent) provide some sort of employer contribution to the plan. Almost three-quarters of employees save at a level equal to or above the company-match threshold. “Increasing the amount employers are willing to contribute may help encourage those employees to save at more robust rates,” according to the report’s analysis.

  • Relaxing eligibility rules. Employers have drastically relaxed their eligibility requirements for 401(k)s and similar plans over the past decade. Seventy-six percent of defined contribution plans now allow workers to begin making pretax contributions immediately after being hired, up from 71 percent in 2011. Just 45 percent of organizations allowed for day-one contributions in 2001.
  • In addition, 53 percent of plans have corresponding immediate eligibility for employer-matching contributions, while 50 percent of plans that offer a nonmatching employer contribution allow immediate eligibility.

  • Broadening Roth availability. Over the past six years the percentage of employers that allow Roth contributions has increased from 11 percent to 50 percent, recognizing that individuals have different tax situations. When a Roth option is available, 27 percent of plans also permit in-plan Roth rollovers/conversions. Another 16 percent of companies are planning to add the feature within the next 12 months.
  • Simplifying investment choices. Two-thirds of all plans use a tiered structure to communicate investment options to their participants. The number of investment options offered has leveled out, with relatively few sponsors expressing interest in further expanding the fund lineup.
  • Target-date funds, which automatically shift assets toward more conservative holdings as the specified retirement year nears, are now offered by 86 percent of plan sponsors.

  • Improving plan default elections. Solutions that automate the savings process for participants continue to be broadly adopted, but there remains opportunity for improvement. For example, 59 percent of plans use automatic enrollment—however, more than half of these plan sponsors set the default savings rate below the plan’s match threshold. Such an approach tends to result in higher participation levels, but lower overall savings levels.
  • Offering savings education and advice. More employers are offering outside investment help to employees. Three out of four plan sponsors now offer access to one or more of the following: one-on-one financial counseling (59 percent of respondents), online guidance and tools (55 percent), and/or professionally managed accounts (52 percent).
  • The largest increase came in the number of employers providing professionally managed accounts; just 29 percent did so in 2011.

    “Different segments of the workforce prefer various forms of help,” said Rob Austin, director of retirement research at Aon Hewitt, in media release. “Some prefer to simply hand over the keys to their retirement savings to someone else—hence, the growing popularity of managed accounts—but a large percentage of employees prefer to take a more hands-on approach to directing their investments.”

    The consultancy surveyed more than 400 U.S. plan sponsors, representing 10 million-plus employees, in plans that total $500 billion in retirement assets. For 77 percent of employers surveyed, defined contribution plans are the primary source of retirement income for their employees. When asked how they measure the success of their plans, employers’ top responses were “facilitates adequate retirement income” (18 percent) and “high participation rate” (17 percent).

    Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.


    Does your employee review process actually improve performance?

    by Tim Gould

    Performance reviews: The most-dreaded procedure in every workplace, painful for workers and managers alike. Here are some thoughts about why they’re often not effective, and how HR can help managers understand just how reviews should be useful to both employer and employee.

    First, some thoughts about why they don’t work.

    The main reason performance reviews fail is because the manager fails to properly prepare.

    Often, it’s because the manager has failed to engage the employee, day to day, throughout the time leading up the review.

    Then, the manager fails to think through how a review can be created that sets attainable goals for the employee and makes the job meaningful.

    That leaves the manager to fumble through the review, creating confusion and sending the message that the review isn’t that important to the manager, either.

    There are other reasons reviews fail. They include:

  • The manager and employee are friends and cannot separate friendship outside of work with manager/employee relationship.
  • The employee is hearing negative feedback for the first time during the review. Employees should never be “surprised” by the information they’re given during the review process.
  • Reviews are scheduled only when employees are struggling and facing possible firing. The employee already sees the review as the “enemy.”
  • The review is sugar-coated for whatever reasons and doesn’t truly reflect the employees work/position/abilities.
  • Some employees get reviews and others never do.
  • Goals and expectations are not clear, or not realistic.
  • Managers try to measure performance in abstract terms, such as attitude, motivation or dependability, and ignore concrete measures.
  • Lack of ongoing feedback

    Performance reviews should not be seen as a substitute for ongoing and productive verbal feedback that managers and supervisors should engage in with subordinates on a daily basis.

    It is more effective if managers do not “save up” criticism during the year to hit an employee with at performance review time. Otherwise, employees will feel “ambushed.”

    Performance reviews are not PIPs

    Common manager mistake: Blurring the lines between a performance review and a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP).
    The PIP is a tool used in many organizations to address specific performance problems if they are serious enough and seem to be recurring in a such a way that the employee’s job may be in jeopardy unless the problem starts showing significant signs of being remedied in short order.

    A review’s a tool for helping employees overcome difficulties and continue to improve job performance.

    What an effective review actually accomplishes

    Two important things to hammer home to managers concerning performance reviews:

  • they focus on a single individual’s role and performance of that role, and
  • they look toward the future.
  • The first rule of thumb: Avoid comparisons to other people.

    Instead, the review should laser in on the individual, giving an honest assessment of what went right for that person, and what you think were the most important areas that could have been done better during the period being reviewed.

    For instance, managers should avoid such statements as: “You only do six of these a day, and Beth does 10.”

    Instead: “You do six of these a day. I’d like to find a way to build you up to 8, or even 10! What would you think of that? How do you think we could help you get to that?”

    Give thought to focusing on what should happen for the employee to have success and for that success to make a significant contribution to the growth of the individual and the organization.

    Granted, it’s always challenging for managers and supervisors to find the time and energy to conduct such individualized reviews.

    Just remember: The payoff comes in terms of employee motivation, retention, better communication and attainment of personal and company goals throughout the year.

    Establishes accountability and responsibility

    This section of the review should cover the area(s) where the employee did not do so well.

    But how these points are put forward is extremely important.

    Properly phrasing shortcomings can mean the difference between an employee accepting responsibility and accountability for his or her work, and agreeing to embark on a campaign to improve, or an employee becoming defensive.

    Remember: There is little to be gained from a mere enumeration of failures. This will depress the employee, may provoke defensiveness and hostility and may even engender further failures.Focus on outcomes

    A good review is always focused on what the manager wants the employee to take away from it.

    The review should make employees feel good about their service to the organization. An employee should also believe he or she has a good possibility of achieving success – even when that includes the correction of past problems.

    The written review should lay out a clear career path and let people know that their work is appreciated by their colleagues, their manager(s) and the organization.

    Managers may want to use some of these exact words (when they are true) to make employees feel good about themselves, their work and their employer.

    It’s good to characterize the review by saying something like “This is a mostly positive review …” or “You’ve had a very good year … .”

    Remember: Be careful with superlatives – since managers want people to have an even better year next year. For instance, it can never be the “the best ever …” since that’s always yet to come.

    Fosters a ‘can-do’ attitude

    Managers should focus on specific actions that are the most likely to correct a past situation, whether it involves behavior or performance.

    The aim is to have the employee walking away from the review with a sense of responsibility for past shortcomings, but at the same time with a newly energized feeling that he or she can and will do better in the future. They should also see clearly that help will be available.

    For example, managers shouldn’t write (or say), “Your production fell 10% last year and you need to raise that this year.”

    This will merely put the employee in touch with the negative feelings he or she is no doubt feeling already.

    Further, this kind of general criticism gives people no ideas on how to improve.

    Instead, managers can try something like: “We all agree that raising production 10% will be the main priority for the coming year. At times like this, it’s best to fall back on all tried-and-true quality control methods, including” (then list those methods specific to your organization and that particular task or area.)

    Establishing accountability in a positive way is the difference between creating hope or despair.

    It is important that the effort to insert positive language into the review not be confused with sugarcoating the review.

    Good managers do not gloss over deficiencies. Instead, deficiencies must be faced head-on, as long as the manager can help point to the way for the employee to get out of the situation.


    What to Tell Workers During Open Enrollment for 2014

    By Stephen Miller, CEBS

    Workers will be confronting a changed benefit landscape in 2014. For one thing, all Americans will be required to have health care coverage or face a penalty. By Oct. 1, 2013, employees should have received a required notice about their options under federal- or state-run health care exchanges (marketplaces), notices that many will find more confusing than enlightening. Employers also may be making changes to rules that determine which employees are eligible for health coverage, perhaps excluding part-time workers who previously received coverage. But the recent Supreme Court decision that resulted in federal recognition of same-sex marriages may mean more spouses and dependents are eligible for benefits.

    “Employees typically spend very little time choosing their health benefits each year,” Craig Rosenberg, leader of consultancy Aon Hewitt’s health and welfare benefits administration practice, said in a news release. “This year that can be a risky, and potentially costly, strategy. In some cases, not making an active decision during enrollment means employees could get defaulted into a health care plan that doesn’t meet their needs.”

    To ensure workers make the best benefits choices for themselves and their families, organizations should send or post the following tips during enrollment season, Rosenberg suggests.

    Participate in the enrollment process. Make sure you understand what’s changing, when you need to make your choices and what your employer is requiring of you. Use the information and tools provided to get educated about your options and to make your decisions.

    Review coverage that your employer offers before making a decision about purchasing health insurance through a state marketplace. You will hear a lot about these new marketplaces, including the availability of federal subsidies based on your income. In most cases, if your employer offers coverage that meets certain minimum coverage and cost levels, you will not be eligible for a subsidy in the marketplace. Make sure you take the time to understand the health plans your employer offers before declining coverage to purchase insurance through the marketplace. It is important to note that most employers subsidize coverage they offer and allow you to pay for it on a pretax basis, which saves you money by lowering your taxable income. Coverage purchased through the marketplace, however, is not pretax. You can visit healthcare.gov to learn more about the marketplaces.

    Reassess your and your dependents’ health care needs. Reserve time before open enrollment begins to take a fresh look at your health care needs for the year ahead and how you and your family have used health care in the past year. Consider how much you’ve spent out of pocket (e.g., deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance), the number of doctor visits you typically make and the cost of regular prescription drugs. Online tools can help you calculate your past expenses and estimate your future health care needs.

    If you are enrolled in a health care flexible spending account (FSA), evaluate whether your contribution is right based on your actual and expected expenses. Remember: You must use any money in an FSA within the current year (sometimes with an extra grace period through mid-February) or you’ll lose it.

    Evaluate whether a CDHP is right for you. Consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs) often have lower premiums but higher deductibles, coupled with employer-funded health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) or health savings accounts (HSAs) that can be used to pay for eligible out-of-pocket costs. You can save money with an HSA by contributing dollars on a pretax basis—up to $3,300 in 2014 or $6,550 if you have family coverage, with no use-it-or-lose-it rule.

    When evaluating CDHPs, you should figure out how much you are likely to spend out of pocket before you meet your deductible. Also factor in how much your employer will put into your HRA or whether your company will make contributions to your HSA. If you plan to enroll in a CDHP with an HSA, make sure you understand that any additional FSA would be limited to dental and vision care coverage. (For more about these accounts, see the SHRM Online article “Consumer-Driven Decision: Weighing HSAs vs. HRAs.”)

    Take advantage of wellness program opportunities. Most employers offer wellness-promoting tools and programs, such as health-risk questionnaires and biometric screenings (e.g., blood pressure and cholesterol testing). And you may even receive a financial incentive from your employer for participating in these programs. By learning more about your health risks, you can take action earlier.

    Understand supplemental benefits and their costs. As you assess your health plan options for 2014, look holistically at your health and financial well-being, including health care, life and disability insurance, and retirement planning. Many employers include voluntary supplemental coverage, such as income-replacement insurance or extra critical-illness coverage, as part of their annual enrollment process. Be sure to carefully review the available options and their costs, and then determine if certain voluntary coverage meets your needs.

    Your Health Plans vs. the Marketplace ‘Metals’

    Health care reform’s individual mandate under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) takes effect in 2014, and starting Oct. 1, government-run health care exchanges (marketplaces) will be beckoning your employees, according to Jennifer Benz, founder and CEO of Benz Communications, an HR and benefits communication strategy firm.

    “The high-visibility advertising and marketing efforts insurance exchanges are using to attract enrollees give employers a terrific opportunity to show workers the real value of the plans they offer,” said Benz. “Based on the ACA plan levels—Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum—plans offered by the majority of large employers are equivalent to the Platinum and Gold plans being offered by the exchanges.”

    Moreover, “While the ACA and the health insurance marketplaces are throwing up a lot of hurdles for you to scale, they also offer you a chance to back up the value statements you’ve broadcasted for years about your generous benefits plans,” Benz noted.

    The Allure of Exchange Subsidies

    Employees may be tempted by publicity about government subsidies for exchange-based plans. Benz advises employers to directly address the issue and inform workers they most probably aren’t eligible for them.

    “Without a subsidy, employees will be paying more for less coverage. Let them know that the coverage they are getting from your company is fuller and provides better value than anything they will get on an exchange. Show them—using detailed comparisons of your plan vs. exchange plans—that they are getting a Gold or Platinum plan for the price of a Bronze plan,” she recommends.

    Employers considering this tactic should be aware that there isn’t a national example of a Platinum plan—nor one for a Bronze, Silver or Gold plan—since the Department of Health and Human Services is allowing states choose their own benchmark plans and what services will be included in addition to those deemed essential. With so many states defaulting to the federal exchange, however, there may be a de facto national standard for the majority of Americans.

    Still, “It will be very difficult for employees to make a pure apples-to-apples comparison of an employer’s plan and an exchange-offered Platinum plan—even with a new Summary of Benefits and Coverage,” Benz observed. She recommends including the following to help employees navigate the exchanges.

  • Define your plan in marketplace terms. Talk to your actuaries about the value of your plans in terms of the four plan levels. Do you offer all Platinum-plus plans? Or a mix of Gold and Platinum?
  • Do the math. Once you’ve categorized your plans, compare the price tags. You’ll get employees on board much more quickly if they know exactly how the employer contribution offsets their total costs. And you can show them what a similar plan would cost if they purchased it on their own.
  • Draw a picture. This isn’t a message that’s easily delivered with words alone. Using infographics, simple charts and videos will help make your message stick.
  • Address What the ACA Does, and Doesn’t, Change

    Along similar lines, the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans has posted online “Explaining the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to Your Workers: A How-To Guide,” with tips for educating employees, a glossary of ACA-specific terms, a timeline detailing the implementation of the law and a fact sheet about what the ACA means for employees. Here is a sample from the Top-10 list:

  • Explain ACA simply and concisely. The law and its regulatory guidance are far-reaching, complicated and lengthy. Stick to the basics when communicating with your participants.
  • Focus on the most immediate changes. Cover what is happening during open enrollment and what changes are coming in 2014.
  • Clarify that your workers do NOT need to purchase health insurance through the public exchanges. Most employers are maintaining their coverage. If you are dropping coverage for some or all of your employees, be explicit in the steps they need to take.
  • Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.


    The nuts and bolts of how the government shutdown affects you

    By Tim Gould

    You may have heard: The federal government’s in shutdown mode. Does this mean employers won’t have to worry about being hounded by EEOC and DOL investigators for awhile?

    The answer, as usual: It depends. First off, it’s possible Congress will get its act together within a couple of days. Secondly, if your firm is already deep into a complaint investigation with a federal agency, that process will likely continue — although things may unfold more slowly due to the EEOC, DOL and NLRB staff shortages.

    Our friends at Littler Mendelson were kind enough to provide an overview of all three agencies’ shutdown contingency plans. Here’s a rundown of what attorneys Michael J. Lotito and Ilyse Wolens Schuman had to say.

    Department of Labor

    According to the DOL’s 63-page contingency plan, of the agency’s 16,304 employees, only 2,954 will stay on the job:

  • Only one of the Office of Labor Management Standards’ (OLMS) 216 employees will remain working during the shutdown
  • 230 of the 2,235 Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) employees will remain active
  • Six of the 1,829 Wage and Hour Division (WHD) employees will continue working
  • none of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) employees will remain
  • 28 of the 1,107 Employment and Training Administration (ETA) personnel won’t be furloughed, and
  • 46 of the 986 members of the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) will stay on the job.
  • And what will — and won’t — these folks be doing? Lotito and Schuman run it down:

  • No foreign labor certifications will be processed, and no Trade Adjustment Assistance determinations will be made by the ETA.
  • The OLMS will suspend all activities, except for “conducting investigations in criminal cases under the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act that have statutory deadlines; carrying out election investigations under the LMRDA where the 60-day statutory limit for filing a complaint cannot be waived or extended; and supervising elections where postponement of the election would cause a violation of labor law or a court-ordered deadline.”
  • OSHA will suspend all operations except for the functions relating to “emergencies involving the safety of human life or protection of property.” According to the agency, “OSHA employees should be able to respond to safety and health complaints or other information when employees are potentially exposed to hazardous conditions that present a high risk of death or serious physical harm.”
  • The WHD will keep enough staff on board to be able to “conduct an immediate investigation of any incidents involving serious injury or death of a minor while employed or any transportation accident or any housing safety violation involving serious injury or death of a farm worker.”
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

    Just over 100 of the EEOC’s 2,164 staffers remain on the job, according to the agency’s contingency plan. The EEOC will continue to take in new discrimination charges and federal sector appeals, as well as litigate lawsuits where a continuance hasn’t been granted. The agency will also file motions to seek injunctive relief if doing so is necessary “to protect life or property,” or to “maintain the integrity and viability of EEOC’s information systems; maintain the security of our offices and property; and perform necessary administrative support to carry out those excepted functions.”

    Here’s what EEOC’s skeleton crew won’t do during the shutdown, according to Lotito and Schuman:

  • Answer questions from the public, or respond to correspondence from the public
  • investigate charges of discrimination
  • litigate in federal courts if granted an extension of time
  • conduct mediations
  • conduct federal sector hearings, or rule on federal employees’ appeals of discrimination complaints
  • conduct outreach and education, or
  • process Freedom of Information Act requests.
  • http://www.hrmorning.com/the-nuts-and-bolts-of-how-the-government-shutdown-affects-you/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+hrmorning+%28HRMorning.com%29

    Littler Mendelson Article

    Department of Labor Contingency Plan

    EEOC Contingency PLan

    Defining the two most important challenges HR faces today

    by Tim Gould

    Onboarding and engagement. What do those words really mean?

    Here’s the long view of both concepts:

    Onboarding is the buzzword used to describe what should naturally happen with new hires at all companies – a planned, integrated process that not only gets the newbie familiar with his or her specific duties, but gives the person an understanding of the company’s overall culture and goals.
    It’s not orientation. That’s the mechanical process of showing new hires where their cubicle is, meeting the employees seated near them and completing the required HR paperwork. It involves a couple of days of training, perhaps, on how an organization works, its structure and policies, and its mission.

    Onboarding’s a lot more extensive than that.

    After a successful onboarding experience, new employees should:
    Experience a strong feeling of being welcomed to the company
    Feel like they made the right job choice
    Feel comfortable with where they fit into the organization, and
    Be ready for long-term relationship building – a key factor in engagement.

    So what should an onboarding program look like?

    It should offer a structure in which new employees can gather information about the organization, and become familiar with its culture, mission and goals.

    It should provide a mentor for the new person – a veteran employee who can help steer the new employee through the ins and outs of joining a new workplace.

    And it should offer a set schedule of face-to-face conversations with co-workers, managers and business leaders/executives during the first few months.

    There are all sorts of ways you can go to get your new people on board. And onboarding can start before the employee arrives on her first day of work.

    Here are just two examples we’ve heard of:

    An electronics company sent a new hire a packet of information about the company – which included a “family tree” of the firm’s personnel – along with staff photos and a map of the office.

    A new hire at a PR firm got a phone call from her new boss and a package of information – including a book written by the company’s chief executive officer.

    Other companies bolster their onboarding efforts through the use of social media.

    No matter what form it takes, onboarding has one overriding objective: To make sure the employee feels welcome and supported, and is poised to be successful.


    Pretty much everybody agrees — engaged employees are the key to every organization’s success. But engaging today’s employees is no easy task.

    Just how bad has employees’ lack of engagement become? In a Towers Watson Global Workforce study last year, 63% of U.S. employees said they weren’t engaged in their jobs. That means that less than four in 10 U.S. workers were highly engaged.

    A word about the term “engaged”– Gallup defines the categories like this:
    Engaged employees are passionate about their work. They’ve got a genuine connection with their employers and their co-workers. They’re the engine that pulls the company train.
    Non-engaged employees show up – but that’s about all. They go through the motions, but they really have no investment in what they do or what it means to the company. The job’s just a paycheck to them.
    Actively disengaged employees haven’t simply checked out of their jobs – they’re actively working to undermine company success.

    A commonly accepted Top 10 list of things that make people want to stay with their current employer:
    1. Interesting, challenging work
    2. Opportunities for advancement and learning
    3. Collegial workforce
    4. Fair compensation
    5. A respected manager
    6. Recognition for accomplishment
    7. Feeling like a valued member of a team
    8. A substantial benefits package
    9. The feeling their work “makes a difference,” and
    10. Overall pride in the company’s mission and its products.

    So what can HR and company managers do to help foster a greater level of engagement among workers?

    Here’s a rundown of the things the experts say resonate most with employees – and make them want to stick around:

    Clear expectations. Pretty simple: Workers want to know exactly what they’re responsible for and what they’ll be judged on.
    A sense of control. Employees aren’t robots. They need to feel they have the power to decide how their jobs can be completed – and the freedom to suggest how tasks can be simplified or streamlined.
    Feeling they’re “in the loop.” Employees not only wish to know – and have input on – what’s going on in their department, but what’s happening in the business as a whole. And they want to be secure in their understanding of how what they do on a day-to-day basis fits into the overall operation – today and in the future.
    Room to grow. These include potential promotions, extra training, learning new skills and the possibility of using those new skills in a different area of the company.
    Recognition. Everyone wants to believe their extra effort won’t go unnoticed – or unrewarded.
    Leadership. Employees want to be led by people they trust. And the people they trust are those who value workers’ contributions, recognize and accept differences in people, and act with employees’ best interests in mind.


    Personality Does Not Determine Leadership Ability


    I’ve learned a lot about leadership lately. Back in my heyday as a middle manager in corporate America, and before that as a manager for a small start-up, I found my introverted personality worked against me most of the time.

    Back then, I’d rather sit and read a book in a coffeeshop than kick back with employees after work. I shunned the spotlight and chose introspection instead.

    Introversion as the Enemy

    I once had a pivotal meeting with an employee. She was a project manager on my team (I had somehow worked up to a director position). Long story short: she told me I was the worst boss ever and she hated my guts. She asked how I ever got into this role. She wanted to quit, but I talked her off the ledge–mostly by apologizing to her.

    At the time, I viewed this exchange as mostly my fault. I was just not social enough; I didn’t check in with her often enough to see how things were going. Sure, I had budgets to manage and meetings to attend. But my introverted personality got the best of me.

    I’m not alone. After writing my story about carving out a management career as an introvert, I received dozens and dozens of supportive messages. It was in influx of people who have felt my pain. In most cases, the message was–”I’m also an introvert who struggles with managing people.”

    The good news is, your personality may not dictate how well you manage people as much as you think. Both extroverts and introverts can do it. The skills can be learned, adjusted, tweaked, and augmented.

    A Learned Skill

    This study is a useful tool for understanding how your specific personality can help you lead in a small business, and that leadership is a skill, not a talent. To get a summary, I spoke with Jim Kouzes, the co-author of the report. Kouzes and Barry Posner wrote “The Leadership Challenge” book and conduct the Leadership Practices Inventory.

    “Leadership is a set of skills and abilities that are learnable by anyone who has the desire to improve and the willingness to practice,” Kouzes says. “That’s true for extroverts and introverts alike. They each have particular preferences for how they energize themselves, take in information, make decisions, and organize themselves, but both are equally capable of providing exemplary leadership.”

    Kouzes told me every personality type has to lead by example. This hit home for me: I used to think I had to be big and blustery with team members when talking about my vision. In reality, I could have accomplished the same goal in my own way. I didn’t need to try and be animated or social–I needed to improve my skills. The reason that employee thought I was a terrible boss was mostly due to my lack of communication, which didn’t have to be blustery at all–it just had to be consistent.

    “Extroverts tend to express their passion about principles with great vigor, while introverts would be more likely to engage in quiet conversation about expectations,” explained Kouzes. For me, that would have meant more in-person mentoring with employees, learning about their needs and desires–something I’ve become very good at subsequently as a journalist over the past 12 years interviewing people.

    Interestingly, I was exceptionally good at “visioneering” in the workplace. When I started in one corporate job with three people, it grew to almost 50 in only five years. We took on projects in every part of the organization, and I was good at selling our services. Many of these meetings involved one-on-ones with higher-level executives.

    Kouzes says any personality type can learn the skill of communicating vision.

    “Extroverts tend to demonstrate this practice by brainstorming opportunities or directly appealing to the desires of others,” he says. “Introverts, on the other hand, are more inclined to imagine what could be in their minds or exchanging ideas in one-on-one conversations. Extroverts have to work a bit harder at giving space to others to share their hopes, dreams and aspirations, while introverts are very mindful of the need to be inclusive,” he says.

    It’s still a journey for me.

    JOHN BRANDON is a contributing editor at Inc. magazine covering technology. He writes the Tech Report column for Inc.com.


    3 Simple Ways to Hire Better

    By Suzanne Lucas

    It’s a great American tradition: people dress up in their best clothing, parade in front of a judge and answer questions, hoping to sound intelligent yet totally inoffensive. A beauty pageant? No, I’m talking about a job interview.

    But it shouldn’t be that way. A pageant judge never sees the contestants again, but a hiring manager has to work with the new employee every day. So stop treating the hiring process like a pageant and, instead, act like it’s a date.

    Yes, a date. What’s the goal in dating? To find someone to spend the rest of your life with. What’s the goal in an interview? To find someone to spend 40 to 60 hours a week with. Here’s how you can bring the dating process into your office with fabulous (and completely platonic) results.

    Don’t talk (entirely) about the past.

    Of course, you want to know something about a person’s history. That’s called the resume. But many interviews spend too much time on the past when they should be focusing on the organization’s needs.

    Headhunter Nick Corcodilos gives an example of how ridiculous focusing on the past can be. Imagine, he says, if you went out on a date and your date said, “So, the last three women I dated really liked me, and I bought them flowers now and then, and took them out for dinner, and listened to them tell me their problems. I’m a great guy. You can ask them. So, will you marry me?” You’d run long before the check even arrived.

    So instead of saying, “Tell me about a time where…,” give candidates a real task to complete or ask them to prepare a presentation. Throw them problems and see how they solve them. It will give you a better idea of what they really will bring to your organization.

    Introduce the family.

    When hiring, it’s not uncommon for the boss to do all the interviewing and decision-making, then drop the new employee into everyone’s lap. She’ll announce, “Here’s Bob!,” then walk out and expect everyone else to love and cherish Bob the way she does.

    Mimecast founder Peter Bauer learned this lesson. “During high growth phases, I’d hire lots of new people and somehow mistakenly imagine that they all knew each other as well as I got to know them during the interview process,” he says. “It took me a while before realizing how important it was to help employees integrate and get to know each other in order to develop a positive team culture.”

    Just like you wouldn’t drop your new boyfriend off to spend the weekend solo at your mom’s house, when you bring someone new on board, it’s your responsibility to integrate. And if you can involve your current staff in the hiring process, even better. That way, you’re more likely to find an employee that benefits the whole “family.”

    Let opposites attract.

    The ideal employee loves your business the way you do, so naturally the person most likely to do that is one who is just like you. Right? Unfortunatelly, that doesn’t work in your business’s best interests. EZ-PR founder Ed Zitron started out looking for employees who could do exactly what he could do. “I thought I needed to clone myself. I thought I needed to just do more of what I do, getting results to make up for less-than-passionate press releases or slowly-delivered blogs.”

    When he finally realized that he needed assistants who had strengths where he had weaknesses, he got results. Perfect ones, actually, because these hires had skills that Zitron didn’t have. When you stop looking for mini-me and instead look for someone who completes you (or your department), you’ll get a perfect match.

    Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers. Follow her at Twitter, connect with her at LinkedIn, read her blog, or send her an email.


    5 Secrets for Rewarding Employees

    by Peter Economy

    According to recognition expert Dr. Bob Nelson, the most effective employee rewards are also the least expensive. You don’t need to send employees on pricey vacations to Hawaii or present elaborate trophies. In the vast majority of cases, a simple and heartfelt verbal or written thank-you will ensure your people feel appreciated. And you can shake things up by handing out inexpensive rewards such as gift cards for Amazon.com, discount restaurant coupons, gas cards or a paid afternoon away from the office.

    The trick to giving your people rewards that make a real difference is to personalize them — this is a case where one size definitely does not fit all. Find out what kinds of rewards are most motivating to your employees, and then tailor your recognition accordingly. In addition, keep the following secrets in mind when you’re recognizing and rewarding good work:

    1. Be Quick

    For recognition to be effective, it needs to be closely linked to the behavior being rewarded. This means rewarding an employee immediately when, for example, she goes above and beyond the call of duty on a customer service initiative. Don’t wait a month or two after the fact. By that time, the employee may have already forgotten what it was that she did to earn the recognition.

    2. Be Specific

    Generalities have no place when you’re rewarding your employees. Point out the specific behavior that you are recognizing, and explain to the employee why you appreciate it: “You did a remarkable job pulling together the data for that marketing survey. Because of your excellent work, we were able to deliver our report to a key client ahead of schedule!”

    3. Be Personal

    Effective management is all about building relationships and trust with your people. It’s always best to convey your praise in person and publicly, in front of the employee’s peers, whenever possible. If you can’t arrange for a personal, face-to-face praising in a timely way, then use the telephone or Skype, or send an email, text message or handwritten note.

    4. Be Sincere

    Be sure your thanks are sincere and from your heart. The easiest way to do this is to offer thanks when you really are appreciative. Don’t fake it when it comes to recognizing employees. Your people will see right through your lukewarm praise, and they will discount the recognition that you give them.

    5. Be Positive

    We’ve all experienced what it feels like to be thanked by a boss for doing something right … and then immediately cut down a notch for doing something wrong. When you thank someone and then immediately follow it with a “but,” everything before the “but” is discounted by the employee and everything after is amplified. Focus on the positives, and save the negative feedback for another occasion.

    Recognizing and rewarding employees can be a remarkably powerful part of any manager’s toolbox. Take time to do it the right way, and you will be rewarded in kind.

    Peter Economy is the bestselling author of Managing For Dummies, The Management Bible, Leading Through Uncertainty, and more than 60 other books. He has also served as Associate Editor for Leader to Leader for more than 10 years.


    Yet Another White House Obamacare Delay: Out-Of-Pocket Caps Waived Until 2015

    By Avik Roy

    First, there was the delay of Obamacare’s Medicare cuts until after the election. Then there was the delay of the law’s employer mandate. Then there was the announcement, buried in the Federal Register, that the administration would delay enforcement of a number of key eligibility requirements for the law’s health insurance subsidies, relying on the “honor system” instead. Now comes word that another costly provision of the health law—its caps on out-of-pocket insurance costs—will be delayed for one more year.

    According to the Congressional Research Service, as of November 2011, the Obama administration had missed as many as one-third of the deadlines, specified by law, under the Affordable Care Act. Here are the details on the latest one.

    Obamacare contains a blizzard of mandates and regulations that will make health insurance more costly. One of the most significant is its caps on out-of-pocket insurance costs, such as co-pays and deductibles. Section 2707(b) of the Public Health Service Act, as added by Obamacare, requires that “a group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage may not establish lifetime limits on the dollar value of benefits for the any participant or beneficiary.” Annual limits on cost-sharing are specified by Section 1302(c) of the Affordable Care Act; in addition, starting in 2014, deductibles are limited to $2,000 per year for individual plans, and $4,000 per year for family plans.
    Out-of-pocket caps drive premiums upward

    There’s no such thing as a free lunch. If you ban lifetime limits, and mandate lower deductibles, and cap out-of-pocket costs, premiums have to go up to reflect these changes. And unlike a lot of the “rate shock” problems we’ve been discussing, these limits apply not only to individually-purchased health insurance, but also to employer-sponsored coverage. (Self-insured employers are exempted.)

    These mandates have already had drastic effects on a number of colleges and universities, which offer inexpensive, defined-cap plans to their healthy, youthful students. Premiums at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, N.C., for example, rose from $245 per student in 2011-2012 to between $2,507 in 2012-2013, forcing the school to drop its coverage requirements. The University of Puget Sound paid $165 per student in 2011-2012; their rates rose to between $1,500 and $2,000 for 2012-2013.

    According to the law, the limits on out-of-pocket costs for 2014 were $6,350 for individual policies and $12,700 for family ones. But in February, the Department of Labor published a little-noticed rule delaying the cap until 2015. The delay was described yesterday by Robert Pear in the New York Times.

    Delay needed to align ‘separate computer systems’

    Notes Pear, “Under the [one-year delay], many group health plans will be able to maintain separate out-of-pocket limits for benefits in 2014. As a result, a consumer may be required to pay $6,350 for doctors’ services and hospital care, and an additional $6,350 for prescription drugs under a plan administered by a pharmacy benefit manager.”

    The reason for the delay? “Federal officials said that many insurers and employers needed more time to comply because they used separate companies to help administer major medical coverage and drug benefits, with separate limits on out-of-pocket costs. In many cases, the companies have separate computer systems that cannot communicate with one another.”

    The best part in Pear’s story is when a “senior administration official” said that “we had to balance the interests of consumers with the concerns of health plan sponsors and carriers…They asked for more time to comply.” Exactly how is it in consumers’ interests to pay far more for health insurance than they do already?

    It’s not. Unless you have a serious, chronic condition, in which case you may benefit from the fact that law forces healthy people to subsidize your care. To progressives, this is the holy grail. But for economically rational individuals, it’s yet another reason to drop out of the insurance market altogether. For economically rational businesses, it’s a reason to self-insure, in order to get out from under these costly mandates.

    Patient groups upset

    While insurers and premium-payers will be happy with the delay—whose legal justification is dubious once again—there are groups that grumbled. Specifically, groups representing those with chronic diseases, and the pharmaceutical companies whose costly drugs they will use. “The American Cancer Society shares the concern” about the delay, says Pear, “and noted that some new cancer drugs cost $100,000 a year or more.” But a big part of the reason those drugs cost so much is because manufacturers know that government-run insurers will pay up.

    “The promise of out-of-pocket limits was one of the main reasons we supported health reform,” says Theodore M. Thompson of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society . “We have wonderful new drugs, the biologics, to treat rheumatoid arthritis,” said Patience H. White of the Arthritis Foundation. “But they are extremely expensive.”

    The progressive solution to expensive problems? More subsidies. But subsidies don’t reduce the underlying cost of care. They only excuse the high prices that manufacturers and service providers already charge.

    It’s one of the many aspects of Obamacare that should be repealed, if we are to combat the rate shock that the health law imposes on tens of millions of Americans. But that will require Republicans to come up with a smarter strategy than shutting down the government.


    The Future of Work

    By Gary Swart

    In the last decade, we’ve seen massive disruption in the world of work — in fact, I would argue that we haven’t seen changes of this scale since the Industrial Revolution. This has generated lots of discussion, with everyone from economists and futurists to university deans and thought leaders and of course professional themselves weighing in.

    What’s more, our discussions are threaded with emotion. Change can be anxiety-provoking, especially when we’re still in the midst of it. But this is not a solitary concern — we are all in this together as we figure out how to adapt.

    As a result, there are three main discussions that need to happen. We need to better understand:

    What the future of work will look like

    How companies should respond

    How professionals should respond as well

    The last question — how professionals can position themselves to be successful in the future — warrants a post of its own (coming up soon).

    But I’d like to dive into the first two questions here. In fact, last week I had the honor of really digging into what this future will look like, along with Maynard Webb, R Ray Wang, Gene Zaino and Devin Fidler, while on a panel, “The Future of Work: Evolve or Go Extinct,” at SXSW V2V.

    What does the future of work look like?

    Combining our perspectives, we identified 3 changes that are reshaping work:

    1. The organization now serves a different purpose

    When Ronald Coase wrote “The Nature of the Firm” in 1937, the business landscape looked very different. It made sense to organize operations into a company structure, to maximize efficiencies and minimize transaction costs by sharing resources across the firm. Today, we no longer need to access resources in an ‘all-or-nothing’ way, with on-demand services quickly becoming the de facto way to access resources. As Devin Fidler of Institute for the Future noted, “traditional organizations can be thought of as a legacy technology for getting things done. Now, we have more and more new alternatives to this way of organizing things.”

    2. The structure of the workforce is shifting due to new career expectations

    Along with the rethinking of what a typical company should look like, we’re also seeing a change in what the workforce — and the typical career — looks like. A growing number of people are not only requesting flexibility, autonomy and impact in their careers, but prioritizing it — leading to a surge in freelancing and entrepreneurship. This is only going to get more pronounced, as freedom-seeking Millennials start to represent more and more of the workforce (75% of the workforce by the year 2025). MBO Partners CEO Gene Zaino pointed out on the panel that four-fifths of the millions of independent professionals in the U.S. right now quit their day jobs to work independently, and 83% say they won’t go back. An oDesk study from this spring found a similar trend — 72% of freelancers surveyed who are still at “regular” jobs want to quit entirely, and 61% said they are likely to quit within two years. These statistics show that independent careers are a choice people are moving towards. For more context on why, this recent post from fellow LinkedIn Influencer Shane Snow provides six reasons why “half of us may soon be freelancers.”

    3. This is only possible because of the transparency the Internet has unlocked

    The monumental shifts in the world of work are largely because points #1 and #2 dovetail so well. But the only way this phenomenon has been made possible is because of advances in Internet technology, and particularly the transparency and trust that Internet-based services have unlocked. Peer ratings, social media profiles, online work portfolios, private feedback systems, etc. are providing more information than ever before to guide our choices — whether it’s deciding to hire a freelancer or feeling confident about an Uber driver.

    As Constellation Research CEO R. Ray Wang noted on the panel:

    How should companies respond?

    Given these changes, companies need to evolve in order to thrive in this new environment. In particular, the panel discussed two areas in which companies need to evolve:

    1. Rethink how to create effective organizations

    With the shifting structure of the workforce and even of companies, it’s more important than ever to think about engagement, company culture and retention of the many resources being pulled in from beyond traditional corporate offices (including not only remote employees, but also agency teams, freelancers, partner organizations, etc.). Culture and motivation become more difficult to manage when team members aren’t in one location, and considering that many of these resources have multiple different work relationships at once, the stakes are high for keeping your star players happy and on board. So how do you replicate the water-cooler culture and positive impact of spontaneous collaboration when you have virtual team members? That will be one of the biggest questions of the next few years.

    2. Reinvent what it means to be a great manager

    Similarly, effective management of tomorrow’s teams will require a different skill set than we’ve seen before. Managers will need to be adept at integrating team members — whether they’re in the office or across the world, full time or freelancing, serving as a niche consultant or in a more general role. In many ways the new management style will just amplify existing skills (most notably, clear and frequent communication and expectation-setting), but in some cases there will be new skills — like building camaraderie among people who have never met face to face and effectively assembling teams of specialized experts.

    What changes have you seen in the world of work?

    Gary Swart is the CEO of oDesk, the world’s largest online workplace.


    Why you need to put ‘age bias’ on your list of critical concerns

    By Tim Gould

    Two recent reports indicate that it’s time to be increasingly sensitive to the issue of age discrimination in the workplace.

    A recent study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research indicates that employers may have been somewhat shielded from age bias suits during the recession.

    Professor David Neumark and Ph.D candidate Patrick Button from the University of California–Irvine recently published a working paper entitled, Did Age Discrimination Protections Help Older Workers Weather the Great Recession?

    And the answer appears to be: No.

    Here’s the money paragraph in Neumark’s and Button’s paper:
    ” … We find very little evidence that stronger age discrimination protections helped older workers weather the Great Recession, relative to younger workers. Indeed when there is evidence that stronger state age discrimination protections mediated the effects of the Great Recession, they appear to have made things relatively worse for older workers. We suggest that this may be because stronger age discrimination laws protect older workers in normal times – of which we find some evidence – but during an experience like the Great Recession severe labor market disruptions make it difficult to discern discrimination.”

    In other words, the general unsettled economic atmosphere — with its resulting downsizing — made it tougher for employees to make the case that they were let go on account of age.

    The study looked at 30 jurisdictions (29 states and the District of Columbia) that have tougher anti-age bias laws than the federal regs.
    “There is rather clear evidence that relative unemployment rates for older workers were higher in states with the stronger age discrimination protection – especially the first 18 months or so after the Great Recession ended,” the paper said. “For women this negative conclusion is even stronger.”

    Age bias is likely more difficult to prove during periods when employers are laying off a significant number of people, Neumark and Button said. “It is even possible that because stronger state age discrimination laws impose constraints on employers,” they said, “there could be ‘pent-up demand for age discrimination’ that firms act on during a sharp downturn – with more of this occurring in states with stronger age discrimination laws.”

    ‘Microaggressions’ in your workplace?

    So what’s that mean for HR now?
    Dan Kadlec, writing on the Time magazine website, says older workers are increasingly experiencing classic age discrimination. He cites a recent AARP study that says one in five workers between 45 and 74 say they have been turned down for a job because of age. About one in 10 say they were passed up for a promotion, laid off or denied access to career development because of their age.
    The subtlest — and perhaps most damaging — phenomenon affecting older workers, Kadlec says, is a pattern of “microaggressions,” which are “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative racial slights and insults to the target person or group,” according to research out of Columbia University.
    It’s pretty clear that if this sort of thing is happening in your workplace, the situation could turn into a truly ugly legal problem. Might be time to do a little refresher training on workplace diversity.


    Strong August Hiring Expected; Recruiting Difficulty Rising, Too

    By Theresa Minton-Eversole

    Half of manufacturers and more than one-third of service-sector companies surveyed reported they will be hiring in August, according to the latest Leading Indicators of National Employment (LINE) survey, released by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Aug. 1, 2013.
    The LINE report examines four areas: employers’ hiring expectations, job vacancies, difficulty in recruiting top-level talent, and new-hire compensation. It is based on a monthly survey of private-sector human resource professionals at more than 500 manufacturing and 500 service-sector companies.

    Employment Expectations

    Hiring will rise moderately in the manufacturing sector. A net of 49.9 percent of manufacturers will add jobs in August (56.2 percent will hire; 6.3 percent will cut jobs)—a four-year high for the month of August. The sector’s hiring index will rise by 9.3 points from a year ago.

    A net of 35.1 percent of service-sector companies will expand payrolls in August (41.2 percent will hire; 6.1 percent will cut jobs), representing a three-year high for sector hiring in August, and the index will rise by 6.5 points from a year ago. August also marks the 13th consecutive month that the hiring rate rose in the service sector.

    The LINE employment-expectations index compares favorably with reports from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For example, several service industries have posted sizable job gains as of late, according to the BLS. LINE also provides an early indication of the BLS Employment Situation report, which covers the same monthly period but is released approximately one month after each LINE.

    Exempt, Nonexempt Vacancies

    Salaried-job openings fell slightly in both sectors in July compared with a year ago, while hourly vacancies increased in both sectors for the month.

    In the manufacturing sector a net total of 18.9 percent of respondents reported increases in exempt vacancies in July (31.3 percent reported increases; 12.4 percent reported decreases), representing a 4.2-point decrease from July 2012. However, a net total of 19.2 percent of responding manufacturers said nonexempt vacancies increased in July (34.6 percent increased; 15.4 percent decreased), a 4.1-point jump from July 2012.

    In the service sector a net total of 8.8 percent of respondents reported increases in exempt vacancies in July (25.4 percent reported increases; 16.6 percent reported decreases), marking a 1.8-point decrease from July 2012. For nonexempt service positions, a net total of 15.9 percent of respondents reported more vacancies for the month (32.6 percent increased; 16.7 percent decreased), resulting in a 1.5-point increase from July 2012.

    Monthly nonexempt openings have not followed a specific trend lately when compared with the previous year. For every month since September 2009 (shortly after the end of the Great Recession), the manufacturing and service sectors have reported a net increase in nonexempt vacancies.

    Recruiting Difficulty

    LINE’s recruiting-difficulty index measures how hard it is for firms to recruit candidates to fill the positions of greatest strategic importance to their companies.

    A net of 20.2 percent of responding manufacturers found it more challenging to recruit in July, an increase of 4.3 points from July 2012. A net of 17.3 percent of service-sector HR professionals also had more difficulty recruiting during that month, representing an increase of 12.2 points from a year ago.

    “With employment expectations following a solid trend in both sectors, it follows that recruiting difficulty also increased in July,” said Jennifer Schramm, GPHR, SHRM’s manager of workplace trends and forecasting. “In fact, difficulty in recruiting candidates for key jobs was at a four-year high for the month of July in both sectors.”

    Other recent SHRM findings show that many HR professionals are having a tough time with talent management and recruitment. A March 2013 SHRM survey revealed that two-thirds (66 percent) of organizations that are currently hiring are having a recruitment challenge, up from 52 percent in 2011. A November 2012 SHRM poll also found that 34 percent of respondents said “remaining competitive in the talent marketplace” would be a top challenge during the next 10 years.

    New-Hire Compensation

    New-hire compensation for July, however, was relatively unchanged in both sectors from a year ago. In manufacturing a net total of 6.1 percent of respondents reported increasing new-hire compensation in July—down 0.4 points from July 2012. In the service sector a net total of 8.3 percent of companies increased new-hire compensation in July, representing a 2.1-point increase from a year ago.

    Overall, the index’s data show that most organizations are still keeping new-hire compensation rates flat. This is consistent with recent BLS findings on real average hourly earnings, which rose just 0.4 percent in June 2013, compared with June 2012.

    It is also consistent with the current economic conditions reported July 17, 2013, by the Federal Reserve in what is widely known as the beige book. All 12 federal districts surveyed reported that “overall economic activity continued to increase at a modest to moderate pace since the previous survey.” And while hiring held steady or increased at a measured pace in most districts, “wage pressures generally remained contained, although some Districts reported modest or moderate wage growth in some sectors.”

    Theresa Minton-Eversole is an online editor/manager for SHRM. She can be reached at teversole@shrm.org.

    6 ways (besides health savings) wellness plans benefit employers

    Most employers start a wellness program for the potential healthcare cost savings. But new research has shown they’re great for more than just padding the bottom line.

    In addition to the healthcare cost savings employer-sponsored wellness programs can generate (anywhere from $2.71 for every dollar spent to $3.27), the 2013 Aflac WorkForces Report revealed that employers also benefit from wellness plans via increases in these six areas:

    1. Employee knowledge about health care

    Employees enrolled in wellness programs are much more likely to be in-the-know about health care in general.

    Example: The study found that 34% of employees not offered access to a wellness program understood the total cost of an injury or illness at least “very well” compared to 44% of those enrolled in a wellness program. In addition, 54% of those not offered access to a wellness plan understood their employer’s contribution to their health benefits compared to 66% of those in a wellness program.

    2. Benefits engagement

    Those engaged in a wellness program are more likely to be engaged in their benefits plans and prepared for changes to their coverage, found Aflac, which polled 1,884 benefits decision-makers and 5,299 employees to detect benefits trends for its report.

    Example: Only 35% of those not offered access to a wellness program agreed they’re taking full advantage of their benefits plan, compared to 54% of those who are active in a wellness program. Plus, 57% of those not offered wellness activities said they’re not prepared for changes to their coverage, while 48% of those in a wellness plan aren’t prepared.

    3. Satisfaction with benefits

    Those enrolled in a wellness program are more likely to be “very” or “extremely” satisfied with their employer-sponsored benefits program overall (66% versus just 44% of those not offered access to a wellness program).

    4. Satisfaction with jobs

    Two-thirds (66%) of employees enrolled in a wellness program were “very” or “extremely satisfied” with their job compared to 53% of employees in jobs that don’t offer a wellness program.

    In addition, wellness participants were less likely to look for a new job than non-participants (19% versus 30%, respectively).

    5. Confidence in company

    Employees in a wellness program were much more likely to label their employer as being one that takes care of its employees (56%) compared to those not offered access to a wellness program (42%).

    In addition, more wellness program participants (67%) believe their HR department is knowledgeable about benefits than those not offered access to wellness activities (48%).

    6. Employee financial well-being

    Lastly, Aflac discovered that wellness plan participants are also much more likely to feel financially secure.

    The stats:

    • 40% of those enrolled in a wellness plan agreed they’re fully protected by their current insurance coverage (compared to 25% of non-wellness participants)
    • 40% of wellness participants felt confident in their financial future (compared to 26% of non-participants), and
    • 54% of wellness participants have a financial plan designed to achieve financial goals and prepare them for unexpected challenges (compared to 37% of non-participants).

    Article by: Christian Schappel


    A Break For More Work

    As the economy struggles to regain its strength, employers continue to squeeze as many hours as they can out of their employees. Sometimes this includes double, or even triple-hatting people. While this may seem like a good idea, you may have just made the same costly mistake as Henry Ford did in his early days.

    Ford discovered that by increasing his employees’ schedules to 60 hours a week, he could suck more productivity out of them. But that burst of productivity lasted only about four weeks. Before long, the workers putting in 60 hours a week began producing less than their counterparts who worked 40 hours.

    Tony Schwartz, a recognized expert on the subject says, “Many of us are so busy and so barraged by information that we’re reaching a point of saturation. There’s just not much room left in our working memories to deeply absorb anything truly new or complex.”

    So what can we draw from all of this? It’s simple. Don’t overwhelm your employees, and sometimes maybe help protect them from themselves. We understand tight deadlines and frantic schedules are required from time to time if not frequently. The challenge is to not let this become the norm. This may mean an occasional intervention and perhaps a cultural mindset reset.

    5 things to know about the delayed PPACA mandate

    1.  The law is still on the books; it’s just that the penalties associated with that part of the legislation that impacts employers with 50 or more employees won’t be enforced until 2015 – unless there’s another delay, of course. Technically, though, employers with 50 employers or more are still supposed to provide coverage for full-time workers beginning Jan 1, 2014.

    2.  Many observers believe the delay was largely political, not technical as the government claims. There was considerable pushback from employers over the penalty clause and, with mid-term elections next year, the thinking is that Obama wanted to postpone the implementation until after the elections. So, benefits managers, it would be prudent to stay up-to-date on the politics around the reform measure in order to be prepared to respond.

    3.  If you manage benefits programs for a company with 50 or more employees, you’ll want to use the extra time to get in step with other large employers in their planning. Assume that the penalty portions will be implemented following the 2014 elections, and take steps to minimize the impact of those sanctions for your employer. Your company culture will guide your planning. Develop a strategy that serves your employer well whether this portion of the reform act is implemented or discarded.

    4.  One clear consequence of the delay will be to push more individuals into the insurance exchanges. The exchanges are still scheduled to go online Oct. 1. Small businesses can use the exchanges to find coverage for themselves and their employees. Large businesses can be seen as helpful to employees by offering workers information about obtaining coverage through the exchanges. Businesses that do this now stand to benefit in the long run by a) being viewed as employee-friendly and b) off-loading people they may need to cover later to exchanges now.

    5. Conservative critics of the law assert that moving most Americans to the insurance exchanges is the long-term goal of health care reform. That could be nonsense … or not. So, while companies need to continue to have Plan A for compliance, they might also consider a Plan B, on the off chance the administration decides to do away with the employer coverage requirement altogether.



    To Comply with PPACA, Employers Must Identify Full-Time Workers (Part 2)

    Who Is Considered a Full-Time Employee?

    As an employer, the determination of who is a full-time employee will be crucial in evaluating your options for complying with the employer shared responsibility rules, and equally important, designing your group health plan’s eligibility and participation requirements.

    Because there can be various ways of assessing what constitutes a full-time employee eligible for coverage under the PPACA, the IRS has issued guidance in the form of several notices, as well as temporary regulations. These guidelines set out criteria and standards that can help employers make accurate determinations when hiring new employees, including:

    *Initial measurement period – A designated period of not less than three months or more than 12 months used in determining whether a newly hired variable or seasonal employee is full-time.

    *Standard measurement period – An annual designated period of not less than three months or more than 12 months used to determine whether an ongoing variable or seasonal employee is full-time.

    *Administrative period – A period of up to 90 days for making full-time determinations and offering/implementing full-time employee coverage.

    *Stability period – An annual designated period of not less than six months (and not less than the corresponding measurement period) during which the employer must offer affordable minimum essential health coverage to all full-time employees, or face financial penalties for not doing so.

    *Full-time employees – If a new employee is reasonably expected to average at least 30 hours per week at the time of hire, the employee must automatically be treated as full-time and offered group health coverage within three months of hire.

    *Variable hour and seasonal employees – A variable hour employee is someone whom the employer cannot reasonably determine will average at least 30 hours per week at the time of hire. No definition is provided for a seasonal employee, but presumably it would include anyone who works on a seasonal basis. Employers may use the initial measurement period to determine whether a newly hired variable or seasonal employee actually averages at least 30 hours per week, and the standard measurement period to determine whether an ongoing variable or seasonable employee actually averages at least 30 hours per week.  If the employee does average at least 30 hours per week during the initial measurement period or standard measurement period, the employer must offer affordable minimum essential health coverage during the stability period, or face financial penalties for not doing so.

    *Transition from new to ongoing employee status – Once a new employee has completed an initial measurement period and has been employed for a full standard measurement period, the employee must be tested for full-time status under the ongoing employee rules for that standard measurement period, regardless of whether the employee was full-time during the initial measurement period.

    L. Scott Austin is a partner with Hunton & Williams in Atlanta, and David Mustone is a partner with Hunton & Williams in McLean, Va.  Both specialize in employee benefits, executive compensation and ERISA issues, and lead Hunton & Williams’ health care reform initiative.

    By L. Scott Austin and David Mustone

    Source: http://www.shrm.org/LegalIssues/FederalResources/Pages/PPACA-Full-Time-Workers.aspx

    Avoid Common Pension Oversight Mistakes

    By Richard Todd and Martin Walsh

    Sponsors of defined benefit pension plans face an increasingly difficult task: honoring their fiduciary duties in an era of record-low interest rates and record-high regulations. Adding to this complexity is that most corporate boards and their investment committees, which are charged with overseeing the pension plan, tend to consist of noninvestment professionals. A new committee member confronts significant challenges in learning both the investment details of a pension portfolio and their own fiduciary obligations.

    Pension plan sponsors make mistakes in two areas: managing investments and exercising fiduciary responsibilities. Identifying the most common errors investment committees commit can help prevent potential damage—and instill best practices.

    Investment Mistakes

    The single most important investment decision that investment committees make is the asset allocation of a portfolio. An asset class is a group of securities or investments that have similar characteristics and behave similarly in the marketplace. The three most common asset classes are equities (stocks), fixed income (bonds) and cash equivalents (money market and stable value funds). Another class, often referred to as alternative investments, includes a broad range of nontraditional products such as private equity in companies that are not publically traded, natural resource holdings and even hedge funds.

    The asset-allocation mix, not the underlying fund managers selected within each asset class, drives the majority of the risk and return in the portfolio. According to some well-known studies, more than 90 percent of the variability of a typical plan sponsor’s performance over time is attributable to asset allocation.

    A good process for constructing a pension plan’s portfolio follows these steps:

    • Determine the time horizon.
    • Evaluate which asset classes to include.
    • Choose the percentage of each asset class based on risk and reward.
    • Select fund managers within each asset class.

    Many plan sponsors start at the end of the process by asking, “Which managers should we hire?” Based on historical research, asset allocation is literally 18 times more important than fund manager selection.

    Here are other common portfolio construction errors:

    Not focusing on plan liabilities. Plan sponsors often create an investment policy without considering their outstanding pension liabilities. To the extent possible, sponsors need to clearly understand their future liabilities and match these to an investment portfolio that is reasonably projected to meet these returns. For instance, a typical 60/40 stock/bond portfolio constructed without regard to a company’s estimated future distributions can be a fatal long-term mistake if the organization’s pension liabilities are higher than the portfolio can reasonably deliver.

    A diversified investment portfolio could include a healthy allocation to growth-oriented stock funds and alternative investments. Although short-term results will be more volatile when riskier asset classes are included, these assets help deliver superior long-term results in an era of historically low bond yields.

    Backward-looking bias. Unfortunately, investment committees are subject to the same biases as retail investors, such as a tendency to look in the rear-view mirror when making decisions, which causes them to increase their investments in asset classes that have performed well recently. This backward-looking approach is dangerous. Instead, plan sponsors need to be forward-looking by asking, “Based on current valuations, what can each asset class (and the whole portfolio) reasonably expect to return on a forward basis?”

    The classic investment mantra is “Buy low and sell high.” To that end, it is a prudent discipline for fiduciaries to rebalance the portfolio’s asset classes to a targeted percentage when the portfolio receives contributions or makes distributions. Moreover, value is added when the asset classes are rebalanced after market fluctuations cause them to stray from their targeted allocations by 3 percent to 5 percent. But often, plans lack an automatic rebalancing process.

    By periodically trimming investments that have appreciated and buying investments that have depreciated, rebalancing encourages a value approach to investing. Meanwhile, rebalancing allows a plan to keep the portfolio’s risk/reward within its targeted limits.

    Fiduciary Mistakes

    Fiduciary errors are common because of the extent and complexity of retirement plan regulations. Below are some causes of fiduciary missteps.

    Lack of an investment policy statement (IPS). An IPS defines an investment committee’s duties in clear and actionable language. It outlines the process and guidelines around the investment process by addressing the question, “How should the board evaluate the existing investment portfolio, and what are the guiding risk and return principles of the defined benefit plan?” Creating an IPS and following it are a best practice that plan sponsors ignore at their peril.

    Dysfunctional investment committees. Although committees of this type are all too common, the reasons for dysfunction vary. However, there are a few common themes among bad investment committees. For instance:

    • A “bully” member may exert an inordinate amount of influence on a committee’s investment decisions. The role of the committee’s chair is to build consensus from the group, not drive a specific agenda.
    • The committee should have members from a variety of backgrounds and corporate positions. Nondiverse committees typically fall victim to groupthink and do not properly evaluate their decisions.
    • Committees require some experience. A totally inexperienced committee often has difficulty evaluating investment decisions.

    Failure to exercise the duty of loyalty. As fiduciaries, board and investment committee members have a duty of loyalty that applies solely to the plan and its participants; therefore, any conflicts of interest must be disclosed. Committee members sometimes ignore these conflicts by failing to address the question, “As a result of the committee’s decisions, are there economic benefits to any person on the board/committee or an indirect benefit to a board/committee member’s family, friends or employer?”

    Conflicted advisor. Using a conflicted investment advisor is another common pitfall. Committees must have policies in place to address advisor conflicts of interest and ensure that all investment decisions are made in the plan’s best interest. An advisor who gets commissions from an investment recommendation certainly has a conflict.

    Richard Todd is CEO, and Martin Walsh is vice president, of Innovest Portfolio Solutions LLC, a Denver-based investment management consultancy.

    To Comply with PPACA, Employers Must Identify Full-Time Workers (Part 1)

    With a substantial portion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) set to go into effect in 2014, employers are working to determine how the law will impact them, their business and their employees. Because the law will require most employers to provide affordable minimum essential health insurance coverage to full-time employees or face financial penalties, employers must understand how the law defines full-time workers, as well as the penalties that businesses can face for failing to comply or choosing not to provide coverage.

    Under provisions called the employer shared responsibility rules, the PPACA requires large employers (generally those with 50 or more full-time employees) to provide affordable group health coverage with sufficient value to full-time employees and their dependents. Full-time employees are generally defined as those who work on average at least 30 hours per week. Employers that fail to comply with these rules can face penalties.

    What Are the Potential Penalties?

    The failure to offer coverage penalty applies if at least one full-time employee obtains subsidized coverage on an exchange where the employer does not offer coverage to at least 95 percent of its full-time employees and their dependents. This penalty – which can be up to $2,000 per year for each full-time employee (in excess of 30) – will be based on the total number of full-time employees an employer has, regardless of how many employees have government-subsidized exchange coverage.

    The insufficient coverage penalty applies if the employer offers full-time employees coverage, but the coverage is either unaffordable (individual premium cost exceeds 9.5 percent of the employee’s household income) or does not provide minimum value (pays less than 60 percent of the covered costs). Proposed regulations released by the IRS provide guidance and alternative safe harbors for calculating whether health coverage is unaffordable, including use of an employee’s W-2 earnings. The potential penalty for insufficient coverage is $3,000 per year for each employee who obtains government-subsidized coverage on an exchange.

    Employers should also note that in determining whether an employer is subject to these provisions (i.e. is a “large employer”), the IRS controlled group rules are applied – meaning that all affiliated employers for which there is 80 percent or greater common ownership will be treated as a single employer.  However, compliance with the employer shared responsibility rules – and any associated penalties- will generally be assessed on an employer-by-employer basis.

    By L. Scott Austin and David Mustone

    Check back tomorrow for part 2 of this article.

    Source: http://www.shrm.org/LegalIssues/FederalResources/Pages/PPACA-Full-Time-Workers.aspx

    What your employees need to know about health reform. (Part 3)

    Keep it simple

    Although health care reform represents considerable changes to the way employees have come to understand their benefits, you don’t need to write a book on the subject.

    In fact, issuing longer communications is a sure-fire way to ensure confusion. Besides, nothing turns people off like long, dense passages about insurance rules and legal requirements.

    Instead of getting bogged down in details, present what you have to say in digestible bites. There’s nothing wrong with a message that’s a paragraph or so in length. In fact, there’s everything right about that.

    And if your company’s plan details are going to stay mostly the same for now, say so for goodness’ sake! If a plan or plans might change because of cost considerations or other reasons, be sure to explain why — again, in simple terms — so everyone grasps the details.

    Don’t worry about exceptions, what-if scenarios, or fine print right off the bat. Focus on what will actually affect the greatest number of employees. As long as you address the top things that your employees care about, you should be fine.

    Justyn Harkin is a communications specialist for ALEX®, a virtual counselor that helps employees better understand and appreciate their benefits.

    Source: http://www.hrmorning.com/guide-to-health-plans-reform-changes/

    What your employees need to know about health reform. (Part 2)

    Public healthcare exchanges

    Any health care reform information you share with employees should include a simple-to-understand explanation about public health care exchanges.

    For one thing, the United States Department of Labor requires all employers to do so, so you’re definitely on the hook for that. For another, some of your employees might be eligible for subsidies, and they’d probably appreciate you letting them know how they might qualify.

    First, explain what the health exchanges are—a place where individuals can easily purchase health insurance coverage for themselves and their families—and be sure to include information about where employees can go to get additional assistance.

    Finally, be prepared to include information on health care exchanges when you have COBRA discussions with employees who might be leaving the company. Although COBRA will allow departing employees to keep their medical plans for 18 months, they might find the offerings of a health exchange better suited to their needs.

    Check this page tomorrow for the final part of what your employees need to know about health reform.

    Source: http://www.hrmorning.com/guide-to-health-plans-reform-changes/

    A quick guide to telling your people what they need to know about health reform. (Part 1)

    It’s not easy to explain the ins-and-outs of healthcare reform to confused employees. Here’s a clearly written, usable guide to key parts of the Affordable Care Act, courtesy of benefits expert Justyn Harkin.

    As an HR professional, you want to make sure employees are prepared for the changing benefits landscape. It’s a challenging task, no doubt about it.

    New Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) concepts and jargon can sound especially exotic and confusing to folks who aren’t all that familiar with benefits plans, and if you’re not careful, your communication about the topic can result in even more confusion.

    In order to avoid employee freak-outs, tantrums, gnashing of teeth, or just plain confusion in general, you should focus health care reform education or communication on the things that are most likely to affect employees and their families.

    Here’s a quick rundown:

    ‘Cadillac’ plans

    If none of your current health plans will trigger the 40% excise tax when it goes into effect in 2018, then you simply need to assure employees that the “Cadillac Tax” won’t apply to any of the benefits your company offers.
    If any of your plans will trigger the tax, however, you should use simple, jargon-free language to describe what that will mean for employees.
    If your company plans to adjust the structure of its “Cadillac” plans to avoid the tax (and save them money in the long run), then say so. Identify the plans by name and provide a timeline for when these changes will occur.

    Grandfathered plans

    Like with “Cadillac” plans, start your communication about grandfathered plans by identifying these plans by name. Don’t have any grandfathered health plans? Then skip ahead to a different topic. There’s no need to talk about things that won’t affect your employees, or at least not in any great detail.
    If you do have grandfathered plans, however, know that the word “grandfathered” can be terribly misleading. The key message: Grandfathered plans aren’t exempt from the requirements of health care reform. Explain in simple language what will be some of the things about these plans that will change.
    You don’t need to get into the finer details of these changes, though. Avoid getting into the weeds by explaining whether your company plans to keep these plans beyond 2013 and reminding employees that such plans aren’t closed to future enrollment. Help employees understand that they can add additional members to grandfathered plans in the future, and new hires can select plans with grandfathered status if they desire.

    Minimum Essential Coverage

    “Minimum essential coverage” is exactly what it sounds like—the minimum amount of medical insurance an individual needs in accordance to the law. Starting in 2014, the law requires most people without health insurance to pay a penalty. The good news is that the law also makes health insurance more accessible than ever before.

    Start the minimum essential coverage discussion by letting eligible employees know that enrolling in one of the company’s plans (or in a plan offered through a spouse’s employer) automatically satisfies the requirement.

    You can then arrange interest-specific meetings or communications for employees who want to learn more about adding new family members to their plans, or what to do in case the employee decides to separate from the company.

    Also, if your workforce includes employees who aren’t eligible for your medical insurance benefits or whose income levels would qualify them for tax subsidies, you’ll definitely want to arrange targeted communications that emphasize the importance and availability of public health care exchanges.

    Check back tomorrow for part 2: Public Healthcare Exchanges

    Source: http://www.hrmorning.com/guide-to-health-plans-reform-changes/

    Seven Ways to Reduce Workplace Stress

    According to U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, employees experiencing high stress levels have nearly 50 percent higher healthcare costs than employees able to manage stress better. A recent World Labor Report by the United Nation’s International Organization even refers to workplace stress as “an epidemic.” The American Psychological Association estimates that workplace stress costs businesses approximately $300 billion a year in lost productivity due to stressed out employees. These are just some of the reasons why reducing stress in the workplace should be a human resourcing priority.

    Seven Ways to Reduce Workplace Stress

    1. Get Active

    While you may not be able to jog in place at your workspace, you should be able to get in some type of activity either on your lunch break or after work. Some companies even had a fitness center on site or offer gym memberships to employees. If you don’t get those work perks, consider taking a brisk walk instead.

    2. Personalize Your Workspace

    Not every workplace allows employees to customize their workplace. If you have an employer that does allow some personalization, however, consider a few potted plants along side photos of your family. Studies show plants actually do help reduce stress. The same isn’t always true for your family, so gauge that one accordingly.

    3. Yoga at Your Desk

    You may not be able to bend yourself into a pretzel shape and still get that report done by noon, but there are some simple yoga moves you can do right at your desk. You’ll easily find a handful of yoga moves you can do with minimal disruption to anybody around you.

    4. Meditate

    After you get done responding to those emails, take a few minutes to close your eyes and go to a happy place. You can do this as a quick escape during an especially stressful period and easily snap back to reality and get your work done. If you’re not well versed in meditation, you can find some basic info online or even sign up for a course in your community.

    5. Keep a Journal

    Writing down your frustrations can be a good way to safely vent your frustrations. Plus, there is something to be said for getting all your feelings out. It’s probably a Freud thing. Regardless, it is an easy way get those pent up frustrations out. You can take a few minutes on your break or before you go to bed to jot down your thoughts. Just avoid the temptation to post your journal online as a blog or on your Facebook page.

    6. Have a Laugh

    Take a moment to share a joke with your co-workers – just make sure its workplace appropriate if you’re not at the bar – or watch a few funny YouTube clips. Laughing is a great way to lighten the mood and instantly take away some of your stress.

    7. Plan Something with Co-workers

    Sometimes, just the fact that the weekend is coming isn’t enough. Consider planning something with co-workers for after work. Even just a gathering of a few friends to get something to eat or hang out at the local bar can take away the stress of a hectic day or week. This also gives you a chance to vent away from the prying eyes and ears of the office.

    Sign up online for our newsletter and a free consultation, where you can learn more helpful tips!

    3 Steps for Dealing with Difficult Employees

    As a small business owner in Kansas, problem employees can cause low morale for your team, absolute dysfunction and worse-yet, cause you to lose customers. All these problems certainly lead to lost profits. Not good in this economy.

    The first step is crucial to dealing with problem employees; you need to handle this NOW. Waiting for any amount of time creates more dysfunction among your other employees and can cause you to lose customers faster than you know.

    Step two is a no-brainer, but remember to document everything. Each performance review should be in writing, with specific changes and steps that need to be taken to ensure continued performance. If the issue is a cause for immediate termination, you’ll need to be able to back up your reasoning to avoid any wrongful termination lawsuits.

    Provide a specific policy when it comes to employee problems. Do you write employees up? How many times? What could a person be fired for doing? All these questions being answered in an employee orientation period or in an employee manual could be important and give you a leg to stand on when dealing with a troubled employee.

    If you think the problems that the employee is creating are solvable (by them) take these steps to right the course.

    Step 1: Clearly explain their expectations and where their performance is lacking. Clear communication may help you actually build rapport with the employee. Maybe they really want to succeed, they may just not know how.

    Step 2: Ask the employee to participate in finding a solution. How can both of you work together to solve the problem. Maybe there are external factors (like family or health) that are contributing to the problem. Can you get them help? Maybe it’s the work environment (lack to resources, a problem with a co-worker) that you can discuss. What other changes could you make to help them. Finally, maybe the problem is simply with them. Lay out a plan to fix the problem and how they are going to fix it.

    Step 3: Communicate a turnaround strategy and timeline. Tell them their expected timeline for turning around the problem. If they can’t fix the problem in a certain time, maybe this isn’t the place for them. Be fair but firm in your decision. Check in with them to make sure you are helping them through this time. Again, track everything.

    Problem employees can actually help you manage your entire team better. Who knows, maybe the problem isn’t them, but a system that you put into place to help profitability but crushes morale. Only you can decide if it works for them.

    Organizations and employment laws

    Employment laws are constantly changing with the times and it is no surprise that often businesses can fall behind the current trends and, without knowing it, organizations can often abuse employment laws. Take a look at the Fair Labor Standards Act, just to give you an idea of what you’re up against.

    The Fair Labor Standards Act – The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which prescribes standards for the basic minimum wage and overtime pay, affects most private and public employment. It requires employers to pay employees the federal minimum wage and overtime pay of one-and-one-half-times the regular rate of pay when they exceed 40 hours a week. It also restricts the hours that children under age 16 can work and forbids the employment of children under age 18 in certain jobs deemed too dangerous. It prohibits the employment of children under age 16 during school hours and in certain jobs deemed too dangerous. The Act is administered by the Employment Standards Administration’s Wage and Hour Division within the U.S. Department of Labor. Every employer covered by FLSA must keep certain records for each worker. There is no required form for the records, but the records must include accurate information about the employee and data about the hours worked and the wages earned.

    At Syndeo we specialize in things just like this. Our experts are knowledgeable in employment regulations and manage all new laws and regulations facing business owners. Our employees are up to date on dealing with the implications of theses laws and how they affect your company. And, for a small business it can be very economical to outsource your HR needs to specialists like us.

    We offer a variety of HR outsourcing solutions, including payroll services, staffing services, worker’s compensation, and much more. Beyond that, we’re always interested in finding the next “great idea.” So let’s talk.

    Source: United States Department of Labor

    Expertise and service are main reasons to outsource

    To John Q. Public, outsourcing is generally considered a dirty word. Many laymen believe that the only reason that companies outsource is to save money…to the detriment of their employees. But in the world of small businesses, human resources outsourcing is a lifeline and an increasingly common tactic.

    Contrary to popular belief, about half of companies that outsource their human resources do so for reasons other than the “Almighty Dollar.” In fact, the top three reasons employers give for HR outsourcing are:

    1) Gaining expertise from outside their company- This is a no-brainer. It is much easier, less time consuming and more efficient (and, coincidentally, less costly) to outsource a job to a qualified professional than having to search for, hire and train a new-hire to do the job. Outsourcing also affords companies the opportunity to benefit from the perspective of an outsider who also happens to be an expert.

    2) Improving the quality of service- Companies outsource their human resources in order to give their employees the best service possible. In many cases, small businesses don’t have the ability to perform human resources duties effectively. Outsourcing allows them to bring in professionals that know exactly how to take care of the companies HR needs.

    3) The ability to focus on the core of their business-
    When small business owners must take on many facets of their business at once, more often than not they stretch themselves too thin and their business suffers. HR Outsourcing allows some of the weight to be lifted off their shoulders so they can focus on the reason they started the business in the first place.

    At Syndeo, we offer HR outsourcing solutions, including payroll services, staffing services, worker’s compensation, and much more. But beyond that, we’re always interested in finding the next “great idea.” It’s become our mantra. So let’s talk.

    Top 5 reasons why companies choose to outsource HR

    Show us a successful businessperson, and we’ll show you an independent thinker. Knowing the value of hard work, they’re not afraid to take on every aspect of their organization.

    Most people that have founded a successful business pride themselves on being independent. They know the value of hard work and they aren’t afraid to take on every aspect to make their organization thrive. But, truth be told, they can’t possibly handle everything. When they become willing to accept this fact, many turn to outsourcing certain aspects of their business, from basic labor to human resources.

    So, why do they outsource? What are the top reasons they did (and that you’re thinking about)? Here’s the top five:

    1. Reducing Cost (a penny saved is a penny that falls right to the bottom line) – Outsourcing has the potential to save you money without sacrificing the integrity of your operations.
    This can sometimes be hard to swallow, or even believe, especially for the entrepreneurial business owner. But it’s true, and it happens – often. The savings can be rolled into the bottom line, or a process that can only be performed internally. It makes sense (and that adds up to dollars).

    2. Improve Business Focus (more time to do what you came here to do) – One of the biggest obstacles that entrepreneurs face is handling the essential aspects of running a business. Counterintuitive? Maybe, but having to do these things takes them away from the work that will help their business grow (and what led them into the business in the first place: their passion). Outsourcing lets others handle the block-and-tackle stuff, while you grow the business.

    3. Unfulfilled Needs (getting what you need without spending a fortune) – You can’t always find what you need in your local market. If you can find a supplier or service elsewhere that allows you to save money, why not take advantage of the opportunity? For many, outsourcing is the simple answer.

    4. Risk Management (take the pressure off yourself; let someone else handle it) – If you do your own paperwork, it’s your responsibility if anything goes wrong. For instance, if you handle your own payroll, you’ll be hearing from the IRS if anything goes awry. (Syndeo not only understands accountability, but lives it, so you can sleep at night.)

    5. Better Employees (a qualified employee that you don’t have to train) – It’s frustrating to search for qualified applicants for critical positions, especially when no one seems to be a truly qualified. Outsourcing allows you to get the job done without the time and expense of finding, and training, a new employee (let alone sustaining them with employment benefits services). Companies who outsource human resources and other important areas employ highly skilled and qualified people ready to do the job quickly and efficiently.

    Syndeo Human Resources offers the highest caliber outsourcing you’ll find in the state of Kansas and the Midwest. We’re locally-based professionals (yes, our corporate office is in Wichita, Kansas) in HR outsourcing, employee benefits, payroll, workers’ compensation and staffing.

    There are “unknowns” in your business. At Syndeo, we are in the business of removing them. We mitigate risk, alleviate fear of change, and help our clients sleep better. We’re always on the lookout for new and better ways to help our clients. If that sounds like what you’re looking for, let’s talk.

    Bring Your HR Services to Syndeo

    We are the ones who actually like this stuff

    Remember career day when all the firefighters, helicopter pilots, marketing professionals and even accountants spoke about why they were passionate about their jobs?

    Did you ever hear one of them brag about how neat it is to be an employer or human resources (HR) services provider?

    At Syndeo, the human resources services, staffing and payroll services leader in Kansas, our job is to handle all the 10,000+ rules and regulations, and tiny little details that come with being an employer so you can focus on the real important issues, like making money. Since 2002, we’ve been handling Human Resources Services, Payroll Services, Benefits Administration, Workmens’ Compensation and Staffing Services (including outsourcing) for our clients in Wichita, Kansas City and the surrounding region. If your eyes have already glazed over because of those big, scary words, then we definitely need to talk.

    “I remember walking into a company once and seeing this really large helicopter in the lobby,” recalls Syndeo CEO Bill Maness. “The caption underneath read ‘We rent helicopters.’ As legend would have it, a man on a mountain needed a part and a shipping company employee rented a helicopter to get it there. A true testament to incredible service and taking care of the client’s need.”

    At Syndeo, we’re not above renting a helicopter from time to time. We’d even teleport your needs if we had the technology figured out (we’re working on it). Our commitment to a culture of service while solving your employer needs makes us your business ally.

    As a matter of fact, it’s our name. Syndeo (sin-dee-oh) Greek; verb; to ally, link to, attach, or connect with.

    We’re an “all of the above” kind of company.

    Feel free to visit our Services page to see how we can help you get a better night sleep. If you wish to contact us, please do so. We also blog quite a bit, so find out what makes us tick. Finally, Like us on Facebook to see how we operate day-to-day.

    Syndeo, Your Business Ally for Success

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