What your employees really feel about open enrollment

With the amount of time HR pros put into open enrollment season, you’d think the process would result in satisfied employees who have a solid understanding of their benefits, right? Not even close.  

VSP Vision just released a report on how employees view open enrollment, and HR pros aren’t going to like what the rank-and-file had to say.

When asked to describe how they felt about open enrollment, 33% of employees cited “annoyance” or “dread” as their primary emotions. Even worse, just 10% of workers said they were “confident” in the benefits choices they made when the enrollment process was over.

Better than allergy season but …

The VSP report also gave respondents the choice of seven seasons — holiday, bathing-suit, back-to-school, tax, open enrollment, allergy, and cold and flu — and asked them to pick which one they disliked the least.

Just 15% of employees selected open-enrollment season. To put that in perspective, 20% chose tax season, with allergy, and cold and flu season garnering 9% and 8% of the votes, respectively. That means open enrollment only narrowly edged out seasons centered around human illness.

A changing benefits landscape

The good news is that fewer and fewer employers are looking at open enrollment as an isolated event. In fact, employers that don’t focus on year-round benefits communications are becoming the minority. That means there’s less pressure on HR pros to cram everything in at open enrollment.

Of course, that’s because there’s more to do than ever before.

As Sozon Vatikiotis, the CEO of Alltrust Insurance explains:

“What is ‘open enrollment season’? It doesn’t exist for us anymore. Every season is open enrollment season now. Each day seems to be increasingly difficult with many more complexities to manage.”

If you’re looking for additional help as you prepare for this year’s open enrollment season, our affiliated website, HR Benefits Alert, has a number of resources available.

For more HR News, please visit: What your employees really feel about open enrollment

Source: News from HR Morning

Do your employees feel safe in the workplace?

With all of the news coverage of terrible violence in public places, it’s no wonder some businesses are asking: “Could we be vulnerable?”  

Not all businesses and types of facilities face the same level of risk, of course.

But practically every business should take a look at their security measures and address vulnerabilities if necessary.

Here’s proof that investing in security can boost employee satisfaction: A?recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that nearly half (48%) of employees say that “feeling safe” affects their job satisfaction.

Female employees ranked security higher than males. And workers with only high school degrees who work with the public or in traditional blue-collar jobs ranked security and safety higher than those with post-graduate college degrees.

Most firms hit the mark

The good news? Seventy-eight percent of workers say they’re “generally satisfied” with their level of personal safety in their current workplace.

Would you bet that your employees are among that 78% majority?

You may want to find out for sure. Consider surveying people about your facility’s security measures and what kinds of improvements they might want.

For more HR News, please visit: Do your employees feel safe in the workplace?

Source: News from HR Morning

Invisible Employee Syndrome

Is your business suffering from “Invisible Employee Syndrome”? Download this report to learn about Invisible Employee Syndrome including the symptoms, causes and effects that it could be having on your business. Also discover how modern HR systems, in combination with senior leadership commitment, workforce insights and process integration, can help to stem the rising tide of this modern workforce ailment.

Click here to learn more!  

For more HR News, please visit: Invisible Employee Syndrome

Source: News from HR Morning

Shedding good employees who just can’t keep up: A humane, sensible approach

Shedding good employees who just can’t keep up: A humane, sensible approach

parting ways with good employees

Good thing: Many U.S. companies are reinventing themselves, preparing for success in a ever-accelerating business climate. Bad thing: Some of your employees just aren’t going to be able to keep up.  

Pat Wadors, senior VP of global talent organization at LinkedIn, recently explained employers’ dilemma in a post on the Harvard Business Review blog: “In order to grow, they may have to part ways with collegial, talented employees who just aren’t the right fit anymore.”

How can your managers handle what’s bound to be a tricky transition for everybody? Here’s a sampling of Wador’s suggestions.

  • Don’t wait until the end to say what’s been working and what hasn’t. Although most struggling employees will have a sense they’re not doing as well as they could be, it’s still important for managers to provide continuous feedback. Says Wador: “When you have criticism, start by thanking people for their work and contributions, and highlighting what you do like.  That makes it easier for them to absorb what you’re saying and to ask probing questions when you point to areas for further development. And ask them questions: Do they see the gaps that you see? What are they experiencing?”
    If they continue to struggle, ask them to talk about how they think they’ve been doing. Often, that’ll help people open up about their frustrations and fears. “Seek to understand how people have evolved in their roles and what gets them motivated,” writes Wadors. “It may be that you haven’t tapped their full potential yet because you haven’t provided the right kind of support or meaningful incentives.”
  • Make it as informal as possible. Getting called into the manager’s office brings back memories of being called before the school principal. If managers can talk things over in a neutral setting — like on a walk outside, for instance — it’s a lot easier for workers to relax and be themselves.
  • Plan a graceful exit. If the decision’s finally made — the employee just isn’t the right person for the long term — set the wheels in motion for a smooth departure.
    Many employers find the Performance Improvement Plan a handy tool in this kind of situation: It lays out specific areas that need improvement, provides benchmarks for measuring improvement, and sets up a strict time frame — usually 60 or 90 days. If performance improves, the employee stays. If not …
    Wadors suggests that managers “help people focus on the future. Talk about what works for them. What are their strengths? Where do they get their joy? Help them be more self-aware while not crushing their confidence.
    “Encourage them look outside themselves, too — they’ll need to scan the horizon for their next gig.
    “In what kinds of organizations are they likely to do their best work? Where will they be happiest? Ask these sorts of questions as prompts, and provide guidance where you can.”
  • Allow them to make a dignified departure. After all, these are people who’ve been good and loyal workers for the company. And if you can help them with outplacement services, by all means do so. “Anything [managers] can do to help them land on their feet will further increase the team’s trust in you as a leader and enhance the company’s overall talent brand,” says Wadors.
  • Finally, don’t forget the survivors. People get nervous when their co-workers are fired. It’s a natural reaction. Managers should be as clear as possible — without badmouthing the departed employee, of course — about the reasons for the termination, and “spell out what success looks like going forward so people don’t have to guess,” Wadors says.

For more HR News, please visit: Shedding good employees who just can’t keep up: A humane, sensible approach

Source: News from HR Morning

Employer relied on DOL website and still lost $32K in court

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit just issued a stern warning to employers. 

It was this: Using a government website, like the DOL’s elaws Advisors site, is no substitute for consulting with an attorney or a government official.

As a result, saying you relied on the such a website to guide your employment decisions won’t shield you from damages.

The court recently ruled that using the DOL’s elaws site wasn’t enough to reduce the “willful” penalties a jury levied upon Dallas-based plumber HSC-Hopson Services Co. for failing to pay one of its employees for all of the time he spent at work.

Owner: I acted in good faith

Plumber Donald Miles sued his employer, HSC-Hopson, claiming the company illegally failed to pay him for time he spent at work before and after scheduled appointments with customers.

Specifically, Miles’ wage-and-hour lawsuit said he was forced to arrive 30 minutes before his shifts and wasn’t paid for that time. It also said he wasn’t paid for the time spent driving his truck back to the shop and locking up following his last appointment every workday.

In court, company owner Dannis Hopson admitted to those pay practices, but he testified went to the DOL’s elaws Advisors website and determined on his own that his conduct complied with the FLSA.

As you could probably guess, he was wrong. A jury ruled in favor of Miles and awarded him $16,132.50 in lost wages.

But that wasn’t all. It also said HSC-Hopson must pay Miles and equal amount in damages for its “willful” violation of the FLSA.

An FLSA violation is deemed to be willful “if the employer either knew or showed reckless disregard for … whether its conduct was prohibited by the statue,” said the Fifth Circuit court.

Hopson filed an appeal trying to get the willful damages removed. He claimed they weren’t warranted because “he acted in good faith” by consulting the DOL’s website to determine if his pay practices were legal.

But the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit refused to reduce the damages.

Here’s what it had to say about the matter:

“Hopson testified that he did not consult an attorney or the Department of Labor. Instead, he went to an ‘E-law’ website. There was also testimony that Hopson arbitrarily reduced work time and did not pay for certain time worked. This evidence supports the jury’s verdict that Hopson’s conduct was willful for purposes of an FLSA violation.


End result: Hopson was ordered to pay Miles a total of $32,265 (or $16,132.5 x 2).

Cite: Miles v. HSC-Hopson Services Co. Inc.

For more HR News, please visit: Employer relied on DOL website and still lost K in court

Source: News from HR Morning

Why fundraising powerhouse killed its unlimited vacation policy

While some major corporations are offering unlimited vacation policies to show their commitment to employees’ work/life balance, one fundraising giant has done an about-face — and not for the reasons you’d think.  

Kickstarter, the largest fundraising platform for creative projects, just announced that it has dropped the most flexible benefit of all: Its unlimited vacation policy. Kickstarter has decided to cap vacation time and, moving forward, it will offer employees a maximum of 25 day of vacation time per year.

No specific parameters

So was workers’ excessive vacation negatively impacting Kickstarter’s bottom-line and ultimately to blame for the death of the stand-out perk? Actually it was quite the opposite.

Giving workers the complete freedom to take as much time off (as long as their work is done) actually caused them to take less time off. Reason: Without clear parameters, employees were unsure just how much time they were supposed to be taking off.

Kickstarter’s spokesperson explained the policy change to BuzzFeed by stating:

“It’s always been important to us to ensure that our team is able to enjoy a quality work/life balance. What we found was that by setting specific parameters around the number of days, there was no question about how much time was appropriate to take from work to engage in personal, creative, and family activities.”

40% fail to take advantage

It makes sense that an unlimited vacation policy would fall flat in today’s work environment. After all, many employees fail to take full advantage of the standard two week’s vacation they’re allotted. In fact, nearly half (40%) of U.S. workers don’t use all of their paid vacation days, according to 2014 Project: Time Off study by GfK Public Affairs and Corporate Communications in conjunction with Oxford Economics.

The study also found there’s been a gradual decrease over the last two decades in the amount of vacation time employees actually used.

If you notice certain workers aren’t using any of their vacation, it may be a good idea to pull that person aside and stress how the company encourages vacations to improve health and job performance.

For more HR News, please visit: Why fundraising powerhouse killed its unlimited vacation policy

Source: News from HR Morning

How many comments did DOL’s overtime proposal generate?

Despite receiving a staggering number of comments in the last week of the comment period alone, the DOL has opted not to extend the comment period for its proposed changes to the FLSA’s “white collar” overtime exemption rules. 

The agency was flooded with comments — roughly a quarter of a million — from employers looking to get their two cents in on the proposed rule changes. In the last week alone, the DOL received 50,000 comments.

But even with that flurry of last-minute activity, the DOL reported to the House and Senate that it would not extend the 60-day public comment period.

It said the standard 60-day period — combined with its outreach efforts prior to the proposal being published — was enough to “produce a quality regulation.”

Disproportionate impact

The problem, as you might expect, is not everyone agrees with that statement. Also not surprising is the fact that a significant number of the comments criticized the proposed rule, particularly the new salary threshold.

One of the top complaints: The increased salary threshold fails to take into account the specific circumstances of different industries and regions — a flaw former DOL administrator-turned-attorney Tammy McCutchen pointed out while testifying before the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections shortly after the proposal was made public.

Under the DOL’s proposed rule changes, employees must earn $970 per week or $50,440 per year, figures based on the 40th percentile of weekly wages for full-time salaried workers, to be exempt from overtime. McCutchen said this would have a disproportionate impact on states with a lower cost of living. She said this would even dwarf the thresholds already established in high-cost-of-living states like California ($37,440) and New York ($34,124).

The current threshold is $455 per week or $23,660 per year.

Based on the DOL’s refusal to extend the comment period, employers should still plan on the new overtime rules taking effect as soon as early 2016.

For more HR News, please visit: How many comments did DOL’s overtime proposal generate?

Source: News from HR Morning

Those boring meetings? They’re also ‘subtle and devastating’ weapons

Those boring meetings? They’re also ‘subtle and devastating’ weapons


Maybe you thought those endless, sleep-inducing, unproductive meetings were simply a symptom of the way American business is conducted in the 21st Century. Turns out they can also be used as weapons of war.  

Anne Fisher, writing on the Fortune magazine website, highlights a new book, Simple Sabotage: A Modern Field Manual for Detecting and Rooting Out Everyday Behaviors That Undermine Your Workplace, by Bob Frisch, Robert M. Galford and Cary Greene.

And in the book, the authors reveal the existence of the â€œSimple Sabotage Field Manual,” published in 1944 by the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (predecessor to the CIA).

It was a guide for European spies on how to undermine the Axis powers from within, writes Fisher.

The overall idea seems to be that the more time Axis bureaucrats and officials wasted in fruitless meetings, the less they’d be able to accomplish,

Ring any bells?

Here’s the blueprint

Fisher excerpted the eight tactics the OSS recommended for tripping up an Axis agency from the inside:

  1. Insist on doing everything through channels. Never permit short-cuts to be taken to expedite decisions. 
  2. Make speeches. Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your ‘points’ by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences. 
  3. When possible, refer all matters to committees, for ‘further study and consideration.’ Attempt to make the committees as large as possible — never less than five. 
  4. Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible. 
  5. Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes and resolutions. 
  6. Refer back to a matter decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision. 
  7. Advocate ‘caution.’ Be ‘reasonable’ and urge your fellow conferees to be ‘reasonable’ and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on. 
  8. Be worried about the propriety of any decision. Raise the question of whether [it] lies within the jurisdiction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.

“These tactics proved “incredibly subtle, and devastatingly destructive,” say the authors.

“We’re not suggesting that enemies are lurking in your midst,” the authors say in the book. â€œBut the odds are great that some individuals have unwittingly taken a page from (the OSS manual). Left unchecked, their behaviors will undermine your group or organization, slowing down its — and your â€” best efforts.”

Tough to argue with that.

For more HR News, please visit: Those boring meetings? They’re also ‘subtle and devastating’ weapons

Source: News from HR Morning

Yet another contractor classification test you need to know

Just when we all thought the argument over which test to use to determine if someone’s an independent contractor or not was settled by the DOL, two more tests (one old, one new) enter the fray. 

Earlier this summer, we reported that the DOL had published an Administrator’s Interpretation letter aimed at settling once and for all which test employers should use to distinguish who’s an independent contractor and who’s an employee. The DOL said it wanted employers to use its six-factor economic realities test.

Then, within a matter of weeks, the IRS posted a fact sheet on its website entitled Payments to Independent Contractors. Here’s our report. This action subtly reminded employers to use it’s existing three “Common Law Rules” to determine whether someone’s an independent contractor.

NLRB has its say, too

And now employers have a real mess on their hands, as the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has created its own test for determining who’s an independent contractor and who isn’t.

The test was revealed in a board-issued decision involving the nonprofit organization Sisters Camelot, in which a group of canvassers filed an unfair labor practice charge against the nonprofit.

In the case, the board was tasked with determining whether the canvassers were employees who could attempt to organize into a labor union.

In it’s decision that the canvassers were, in fact, employees, the NLRB unveiled an 11-factor test it will use to determine employee/contractor status in future cases.

Here are the 11 factors:

  1. Extent of control by employer.
  2. Whether the individual is engaged in a distinct occupation or business.
  3. Whether the work is usually done under the direction of the employer or by a specialist without supervision.
  4. The skill required in the occupation.
  5. Whether the employer or individual supplies the instruments, tools and place of work.
  6. The length of time for which individual is employed.
  7. The method of payment.
  8. Whether the work is part of the regular business of the employer.
  9. Whether the parties believe they are creating an independent-contractor relationship.
  10. Whether the principal is or is not in the business.
  11. Whether the evidence shows the individual is rendering services as an independent business.

As you can imagine, the test isn’t wholly different from the two issued by the DOL and the IRS. In fact, the NLRB’s test is actually very similar to the IRS’s test in that both hinge on how much control the employer has over the work being performed by an individual.

So what’s an employer to do with these three tests? Here’s the safest course of action: Run your classifications through each test. If they easily pass must with all three, there’s nothing that needs to be done. If they don’t, change work relationships so they do — or simply reclassify the workers in question as employees and compensate them as employees (with tax deductions, benefits, etc.).

For more HR News, please visit: Yet another contractor classification test you need to know

Source: News from HR Morning