The Affordable Care Act: One year later

16 Jan

It will soon be very important that companies comply with the ACA.

It's been about a year since the Affordable Care Act came into effect. The so-called employer mandate was originally to begin impacting companies in 2014, but was delayed until 2015, according to CNN Money. Now, companies are beginning to become more affected by the ACA than previously. Businesses will face fines if they don't offer coverage that isn't affordable or comprehensive.

Fortunately, there is an easy way to determine if a company will have to pay those fines or not. The first is very simple: If no employee chooses subsidized insurance from the ACA individual exchange and opts instead for either no insurance or a company policy, then the business will not incur the penalty.

After that, if someone chooses an individual plan versus the plan set up by his or her employers, then the company faces two more tests. The first is whether the insurance is affordable. If workers have to spend more than 9.5 percent of their income on insurance, it's not considered affordable.

The second test is comprehensibility. If the policy pays for at least 60 percent of the staff's entire medical expensive, plus offers other health benefits like prescriptions, then the plan is considered comprehensive.

What this comes down to for companies
Ultimately, what this means is that large businesses have all begun to make changes to their existing policies in order to guarantee compliance.

"Almost all large employers are having to tweak their benefits somewhat," said Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Remember that the obligation to provide health care doesn't apply if a company has fewer than 50 people. Businesses with 50 to 99 people will have to start providing health care in 2016.

Some companies are struggling to meet compliance
One business in Tennessee has been having trouble making its way toward complying with the ACA, according to NBC-affiliate WBIR.

"The main way it's affected us is we've seen our rates skyrocket. Over the last three years they've probably gone up 15 percent to 18 percent," said Terry Turner, owner and president of All Occasions Party Rentals in West Knoxville.

One of the issues with the new rule is that more employees are choosing their company's policy than before. Because of the influx of workers in various states of health, different businesses have been experiencing different levels of change in their rules.

Companies that will be affected in 2016 may wish to begin making changes to bring about compliance sooner rather than later. Those in charge of human resources planning have a responsibility to comply with the ACA.

Engaging workers with the job

16 Jan

Keeping workers engaged means focussing on human connections.

Engaging workers and keeping them happy is a full-time job. For human resources management professionals, employee engagement is part of the daily grind. According a study by Gallup cited by the Chicago Tribune, there are costs when employees aren't connected to their work. Only 30 percent of Americans describe their relationship to their jobs as "engaged," and this lack of engagement is costing the U.S. between $450 to $550 billion per year in lost productivity.

The Tribune recommended employers who want to encourage their employees to work hard try to rediscover their purpose as companies. One such business, Medix, faced a great deal of turnover from millennials until its managers put together the slogan "Positively Impacting Lives," and transformed it into a company that helps people find employment.  The important aspect here is finding a way for employees to feel like they are doing something major and purposeful with their lives. Even people who work in administrative support positions need to believe the work they are doing is meaningful to the people they are assisting. Millennials in particular want to be leading lives of meaning through their work. Separate studies cited by the Tribune show that millennials will do jobs for less money if the business they do is perceived as valuable.

Remember to treat employees as human beings
A Forbes article explained that people generally don't respond to a more relaxed work environment by instantly becoming engaged and working harder. Typically, the engagement must come from an interior place created when managers sit down and really communicate with their employees. Employees don't necessarily care if the human resources team installs a foosball or a soda fountain in the employee lounge. What matters is connections between the staff and managers. If people don't feel like their employers care about them, then it won't matter how much focus is placed on engagement because workers will feel that they are not being respected.

Emotional connections
According to Gallup, the emotional connections people have at their jobs are what keep them returning. This doesn't mean having friends at the office, but that people treat each other well and that the job is something treated as important by other people. People have the same needs from their work as they do from every other part of their lives. Although people expect to work, they also want to be treated fairly instead of replaceable staff members.

Ultimately, treating people with the respect they deserve will be better in the long term than making work fun. Doing a survey to see how happy employees are isn't as important as connecting with workers on a deeper level.

"Surveys are fine, but simply having actual conversations and asking employees 'What can we do better?' is much more valuable," said Neil Morrison, group human resources director for Penguin Random House U.K., according to an interview with the Chicago Tribune. "If employees can't sit down with their boss and talk about things, it doesn't matter how many anonymous surveys you run; you have a problem."

In the end, human resources is about connecting people with others in ways that are appropriate, respectful and real. This is what keeps people coming back to work day after day.

Using culture to strengthen HR

16 Jan

HR is in a strong position to positively impact culture.

People often think of human resources as simply a payroll- and compliance-based part of the organization, but it can be much more than that if managers give the department the right tools. HR ideally should drive culture and create an environment where employees can feel confident coming into the office that they will have a great day. According to Forbes, this means treating culture as a "strategic advantage and competitive weapon." The theory is that when the culture is very good, then people who visit the office will feel the energy and want to be part of it by buying the product or service the company sells.

Part of the means for bringing this about is hiring someone or training people for the skills behind a great culture, which are essentially based on emotional intelligence. They have less to do with knowing compliance rules than with understanding when the vibe at the office is negative and figuring out how to quickly turn that around. To do this, management should have the right tools for changing the cultural barometer. This could range from having parties to discussing recent business proceedings with employees to make sure everyone is on board with various transitions happening in the workplace.

Convincing HR to get on board with culture
It may be difficult to convince those involved in human resources planning of their own importance. Perhaps it would help to remind them that as the new year begins, human resources could take on the additional responsibility of ensuring a quality work environment. Business 2 Community cited that last year was called "the year of the employee" by Deloitte. Even so, managing people so they stay in the workplace and function at a high level is something that still challenges HR, B2C reported, primarily because HR doesn't have control of every step in place.

One way to convince human resources to go along with a plan for expanding the scope of the section's operations is to give it more power to hire and fire employees. On one hand, this could be seen by people in different operational groups as infringing on their own rights to hire whoever they want. At the same time, giving HR a little more power isn't the same as ceding responsibilities for the entire company to human resources. It would really come down to having someone sit in on meetings with potential recruits and give feedback about how they might fit into the current culture. This could be a good way to give HR the tools it needs.

The changing world of retirement

13 Jan

Many people are working longer.

Retirement is changing, and it's an essential part of good human resource planning to get ready for it by explaining the available options to those approaching the age when they can stop working full time. For many people, the idea of retirement doesn't come up until middle age when it may be too late to invest properly and have enough money for the future. Getting even the youngest members of the staff involved with planning for their retirement is a good idea.

Begin investing early
The best way to have a good retirement fund is to get started early in someone's career and continue to receive deposits. Many companies will match some of the money going into a retirement fund. HR Morning reported that businesses have begun to change their matching strategies so that employees have to save more money to earn the full benefits. The example cited was companies beginning to match 25 percent of employee contributions up to 12, versus matching 50 percent of contributions up to 6 percent of pay.

The U.S. government is also making it easier to create Roth 401(k)s, which means that employers have begun offering more of these.

Consider a period of semi-retirement
Many workers who don't have enough in savings to retire fully from work have begun working part time on top of living off of their saved earnings. According to a study by the University of Michigan cited by U.S. News and World Report, about 20 percent of 65 to 67 year olds have extra jobs they use to earn money for paying bills. People who leave work early also have a greater incentive to continue working somewhere else because they often earned less money compared with people who retire later. People who work longer tend to earn higher wages. If someone is already earning a high salary, they will likely keep working past the usual retirement age, while people who earn less cash will work in part-time jobs sometimes through the age of 70 in order to earn enough to live.

Educating workers
It is important to make use of early investments, and many who don't do this need to take part-time jobs when they retire. As such, workers ought to receive advice and explanations from people who have experience when it comes to explaining the different retirement options available to those who have worked sufficient hours. Even people just beginning their career often have possibilities they don't know about, and HR needs to inform employees about available investments.

The history of perks and what to do about them

12 Jan

Perks can help foster community.

Perks are becoming a major part of business for some industries. For example, The tech sector, has created a new job category called workplace coordinator that focuses entirely on managing and delivering new job perks, Human Resource Executive Online reported. People in the technology industry who work at places like Google and Microsoft have become used to having all kinds of things that other businesses couldn't likely afford, such as sleeping pods and a $2,000 espresso machine in the break room.

It wasn't always this way
It hadn't been the case at the beginning that perks would become major parts of business. Twenty years ago, working in the Silicon Valley wasn't too different from other parts of California, but according to historian Michael S. Malone, it changed when Hewlett-Packard began offering donuts in the morning, plus beer on Friday and a large parcel of land for people to enjoy on the weekends. The company added stock options and other benefits as well, Malone added in an interview with HRE Online.

During the dot-com bubble, the perks became more extreme because it was so necessary to get the programing done for much of the business. Companies offered activities such as laser tag, which gave the offices a college-like feel to make the young men at the firms feel comfortable working the long hours.

Things are beginning to change again as those same young people have grown up to be in their thirties and now want more family-oriented perks.

What companies can do to offer perks in their own offices
Although most businesses won't be able to lavish their employees with filet mignon every Friday, there are still some things that they can do to keep people happy with their jobs and retain employees longer.

Forbes reminded its readers that the real value of perks is that they make people feel loyal and boost morale. For companies on a budget, simply letting the office become more relaxed might be enough of an incentive for people to begin to form a community that inspires people to stay longer than they otherwise would. The idea is to make people feel welcome and connected. When people have emotional connections to their job, they are going to stay longer and take the business more personally.

One example Forbes cited was giving a $25 bottle of Whiskey versus a $50 gift card. Gift cards are nice, but they don't reflect the same spirit of knowing someone and what he or she likes that a particular bottle of whiskey does.

In the end, it's really about providing an employee management system that generates a good community that will grow and prosper.

Happy New Year 2015 and beyond for HR

12 Jan

Formal Audit PeopleRobin Rothman, Product Marketing Manager answers an inquiry from Steve Browne’s call to HR Professionals asking for posts around the theme “I’d make HR better by…”. Steve also wanted to know how we could improve HR in 2015 and beyond.

One of the scariest things HR professionals face in their career is when any outside entity challenges the employment practices they’ve either enacted at their company or have inherited as being the new HR people there. Either way, not a good time. This challenge takes on many forms, but let’s just stick with the scariest of them all—compliance issues.

No one likes an audit, and of course . . . NO ONE likes to receive formal notice he will be undergoing an audit, let alone to receive notice of a lawsuit because of some “triggering event” that occurred which prompted one. This is scary stuff for everyone involved! Believe me, I’ve been there, and I’m sure a lot of you have been there too. Again, not a good time.

HR compliance is becoming more of a formal process that affects the management and use of HR resources and assists the business in identifying information about current and potential risks. HR is also becoming more of a strategic partner to the business in identifying risks and/or threats to the organization. They are often being called upon to assist the business with its SWOT analysis.

A SWOT analysis (or sometimes referred to as the SWOT matrix) is a structured planning method used to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats involved in a business. You’ll need to become more familiar with this term. The role of HR is evolving to become more strategic in nature. This is due to the evolving field of the HR/payroll profession. As external threats to the business continue to increase and more audits are being facilitated, HR is being called upon more to assist the business with their expertise to directly deal with these processes.

For HR 2015 and beyond, I would like to see all HR professionals learn to be more strategic by utilizing their HR systems to the fullest extent to facilitate audits appropriately and by carefully inserting themselves into those areas of the business where they will gain the most leverage. This will enable their function to be more proactive. The HR professionals should drive the SWOT analysis using their expertise. Net effect, overall business processes will meet all compliance mandates, litigation will decrease, auditors and employees will be happy, and the HR department will be viewed as a critical, proactive, strategic resource.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discouraging absenteeism

12 Jan

Absenteeism can impact the bottom line.

Absenteeism is a major problem among businesses, according to HR Morning. It has a moderate to large effect on about 75 percent of companies responding to a recent study by the Society of Human Resource Management. The amount of money a company loses could total something like 22.1 percent of payroll. The biggest drain on cash comes from unplanned absences, according to the study, and much of the work that has to be done for absences involves finding someone else to do the work for the person who left the company temporarily. Generally, the people who cover for someone who is gone for a day are less productive than they would be if they'd just been doing their own work.

Encouraging workers
All it really takes to get workers in the office is to keep them healthy and motivated, but this isn't always easy if the work is hard and it's the flu season. According to Forbes, there are still some ways to encourage employees to show up every day, ready to work hard and give their all to the company. 

One method that people in charge of human resource planning could include in a program is showing workers the way they impact the bottom line. In other words, get them feeling like what they do matters to the team and to the company. People want to have responsibilities, and if they feel that people are counting on them, then they will work harder.

Salary and perks are also important, Forbes wrote, but not as much as giving people challenging but doable work and having them complete assignments that build skills they can carry with them into the next job. People are generally willing to negotiate their salary, but it would be a bad idea to negotiate too hard for a low one. Give someone a reasonable amount of money, and don't let a desire to be thrifty get in the way of giving workers enough monetary encouragement to stay at a job.

Perks matter if they go along with challenging, interesting work that people would enjoy doing. One way to foster this is to give people work that is different from what they usually do. When they are performing something new, it feels like a change of pace, and this will help them grow more adept in their roles as employees. It will also feel refreshing since they won't be coming into work and doing the same thing every day.

What does SHRM’s new competency test mean for HR professionals?

7 Jan

The new certification by SHRM is still a relative unknown.

The Society for Human Resource Management announced in May that it was introducing its human resources certification. The program will launch on Jan. 5, 2015 with the first testing window opening between May 1 to July 15. The new credential has met controversy because there is already a Human Resource Certification Institute, which establishes the credibility of those in the field of HR. Because the HRCI was already partnered with SHRM, some people are wondering whether the HRCI's program will continue or not, according to Human Resources Executive Online.

In a conversation with HRE Online, Jon Decoteau, the SHRM divisional director of the West region, said that the difference between the new test and previous certification programs is that this one "is about how you practice the craft," while the others only cover what someone might know about the subject.

The difference between the certifications is still considered somewhat tenuous, according to HRE Online, in part because people are not fully aware of how the testing will differ from HRCI's existing program. Melissa Fleischer, founder and president of HR Learning Center, a consulting firm, said more research will likely need to be made before people come to a decision. At any rate, it may be a good idea for those who deal with human resources planning to sign up for the second program.

"It appears that, at least for now, the best course of action for HR professionals is to have both certifications, at least until the dust settles and we figure out whether the HRCI certification will continue to be used by employers to evaluate HR professionals," Fleischer said.

More changes coming to SHRM
According to a blog post on HRE Online, SHRM will be moving away from being the National Standards Institute administrator for the HR standards called ISO/TC 260. It is doing this because it wants to focus more on its new competency tests. SHRM will also leave the American National Standards Institute, where it had been an accredited standards developer.

"We've been actively reaching out to already-accredited standards-developing organizations and we've had some inquiries from folks interested in becoming accredited standards-developing organizations," Deb Cohen, SHRM's senior vice president for knowledge development, said, according to HRE Online. "We're very hopeful we'll find one soon and, frankly, if it takes a little while we're prepared to help in any way."

This is a major change for those in the industry, as SHRM has been the major standards group for HR for a long time.

Help! I need people, now!

5 Jan

Negative WorkplaceWhen you start out as a relatively small company, do you really have a dedicated resource for recruiting top talent for your organization? My guess is … probably not. A portion of your day is spent doing a plethora of other tasks. After your hectic day doing those other HR/benefit/payroll- related tasks, you probably find that a majority of your time is also spent speaking with candidates at night when it’s convenient for them (even when it may not always be convenient for you). You do the obligatory phone screens, take your detailed notes: then what? What do you do with them? If you are working for a small company, you might be using spreadsheets to keep track of everything. If you are lucky enough to know about database structure and have a resource at your company to assist you, maybe you’ve even gone the route of creating a database using a slick database program. But, every time you need to make a change to that database, you need to ask for external assistance. Now, you need to wait until it fits into their schedule to help you. Helpful, maybe so, but you eventually become frustrated; especially if you are used to being very self-sufficient at your HR, benefits, or payroll role. Sound familiar? Housing all of this information can be done in any number of ways, but what happens when you have the need to create reports after you’ve entered your data into those spreadsheets or other “applications”?

That’s a tough one for sure. How about if you have responsibility for providing data in support of Affirmative Action plans? Hmm, looks like your frustration level has just kicked it up a notch and your job got even tougher. How about if you need to create a report for an audit or external source that requests drilled-down data on your candidates? Harder … Tougher? Well, almost impossible; especially if you don’t have the skill or expertise in performing systemic data metric calculations or creating and formatting customized reports using your data. After all, you’re not really a system expert, so, what do you do now?

Stop spinning your wheels, that’s what you need to do! Invest your time into evaluating a really great applicant tracking system that can do all that work for you. Selecting the right tool to get this job done isn’t as hard as you think it is. Let me point you in the right direction … Sage HRMS Cyber Recruiter by Visibility Software should be the first place you look. Why?

Simply put, this software can automate and streamline your recruiting and hiring processes from start to finish. You’ll eventually find yourself spending less time on paperwork and more time finding fantastic candidates. Really! Take the first step and start here … Visit our website: www.sagehrms or call Sage at 866-271-6050 and learn more about how you can make this product work for you.

 

 

Legal considerations for 2015

5 Jan

The new health insurance rules are coming up.

New laws could mean major changes for those charged with human resources planning. For one thing, the Affordable Care Act's play-or-pay mandate will officially begin Jan. 1, 2015. The Society for Human Resources Management cited this as being part of section 4980H of the Internal Revenue Code, and means that employers must offer appropriate health care coverage to their employees for an affordable value that covers enough to be considered meeting a "minimum value." That means the insurance can not be a token provider – actually providing benefits if someone is injured or becomes sick. The section marked 4980H in the code means that companies must offer this insurance to 70 percent of their employees in 2015 or pay a penalty if anyone received subsidies to buy insurance for a health exchange.

If no one uses a subsidy to buy health care via the online ACA portal, then companies are not obligated to pay the penalty – even if they do not offer 70 percent of their employees insurance.

In 2015, the first 80 employees who buy insurance will activate a $2,000 company fine for their employer. Anyone in excess of the first 80 will create an additional $3,000 penalty per person.

Other reforms to look out for
An additional consideration is the shift in wage laws. Minimum wages are rising, and the government is taking a closer look to ensure people are getting their fair share of money for work performed. Wal-Mart was recently sued for $151 million because of wage law violations, HR Morning reported. According to the employee who began the suit in 2002, Michelle Braun, Wal-Mart forced its employees to work through breaks as well as off the clock in order to avoid paying the extra money.

Wal-Mart is protesting the lawsuit, saying that because the individual people didn't have to testify one at a time, that the trial is not technically a class action suit. However, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which oversaw the ruling, says that while the different employees in the suit did not testify individually, each of their pay records were looked at to ensure the veracity of their claims.

Wal-Mart plans to continue pushing the lawsuit up to the next highest court, as well as to make revisions to its timekeeping systems. It continues to state it is paying its employees their fair share of money.

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