Archive | April, 2011

How To Avoid Common FLSA Mistakes

28 Apr

The Fair Labor Standards Act is a tricky law to understand, and according to the U.S. Department of Labor, a majority of employers don’t comply with its rules in some way.

The Society for Human Resource Management outlines a few common FLSA mistakes, and has tips on how you can avoid them.

Worker Classification: Only workers classified as an executives, professional, administrative or outside sales employees who meet the criteria are exempt from FLSA overtime provisions.

Overtime errors: Failing to pay overtime, or just misunderstanding it, is another common mistake. Overtime premiums must be paid out, even for unapproved overtime.

Travel pay: Traveling to and from work is not considered work time, but intercompany travel is and must be compensated. This usually includes travel time requiring an overnight stays when the business travel bridges a nonexempt employee’s normal work schedule. 

On-call pay: Employers usually don’t have to pay employees to be on call, unless the employee is required to stay by the phone and restricted from doing non-work activities.

It is a lot to remember. Human resource management software can also help HR professionals stay up-to-date on employment and payroll compliance laws. 

Do you have any tips for how to ensure FLSA compliance? What are some other FLSA pitfalls that can get HR managers into trouble?

Say Thanks on Administrative Assistant Day

27 Apr

Office SuppliesBring out the flowers, the thank-you cards and the ergonomically correct office supplies. Administrative Assistant’s Day is today and it’s time to express our gratitude for all these employees do.

Whether its ordering your preferred pen brand, greeting you with a smile on Monday morning, making sure you never miss a call or running the business payroll system, administrative assistants and other office professionals play a major roll behind the scenes. In smaller offices especially, many assistants also serve as a one-person human resource department.

Assistants may be quieter about their contribution to the company, but they’re just as important as most of the other positions when it comes to keeping business operations humming.

A rough economy over the last few years has taken a toll on everyone, and it’s likely that a lot of employees have picked up additional work created by downsizing. Don’t forget to thank all your other colleagues who have made sacrifices for the betterment of the team.

Do administrative assistants play a big role in your office? Do you have a special story about a time the office assistant went above and beyond the call of duty? What are some other ways to show your gratitude?

Top Five Best Practices for HR Conferences

25 Apr

HR Conference Tips and TricksWhen it comes to corporate conferences, a less experienced business person may think: This is my chance to break out of the office, and all on the company’s dollar! But you know better. It’s not about the minibar or hotel pool, it’s about getting the chance to network with other professionals in your field, gain insight on new technologies in human resource management and pick up a few more skills.

So we can’t stress enough how important it is to be prepared for the trip. Here’s five tips on how to get the most out of the next conference you attend.

1. Set goals before you depart for the conference.

What do you want to achieve while there? Don’t just skulk along the outskirts of the meeting hall. Decide to collect a certain number of business cards and build meaningful professional relationships with peers. Are you simply going for the free conference bag and ballpoint pen, or will you go to as many roundtable discussions about personnel management and HR software as possible, taking copious notes?

2. Conferences are jam-packed – don’t get overwhelmed.

Most conferences will post the agenda before the event, giving you the chance to highlight the can’t-miss speakers and sessions you should to attend. From there, plan out your schedule accordingly. If you have a chance, do a little research on the featured lecturers so you can jot down a few questions for the Q and A that will likely take place afterwards.

3. Network with other HR professionals.

Conferences are one part education, one part networking, and this is your chance to pick the brains of fellow HR professionals from around the country and expand your base of colleagues.

As much as we warn you about social media abuse in the office, professional websites such as LinkedIn or Gist are great ways to manage contacts and build your own profile, as well as your company’s. Don’t discount the value of these sites – they are playing an increasingly important role in recruiting practices, and also give you the chance to sound off about professional challenges.

4. Interrogate the software vendors.

Is your company currently using a Human Resource Management System, or do you have payroll software? If so, conferences offer a great opportunity to learn more about the services your current vendor offers, and gives you the chance to compare your company’s software with others.

This is also the time to learn about additional functions and tools that can optimize your use of HRMS and payroll software. Some HR professionals wrongly think that these systems are only good for keeping track of hours and benefits, but the technology offers much more – such as running reports on benefits and calculating performance metrics. Ask vendors how you can apply your HR software to managing personnel, and brainstorm about what solutions can help your company achieve maximum return on employee investment.

5. Get home, breathe, follow through and follow up.

After days of listening to HR gurus, it’s time to go back to the office and take your place as the resident management expert. Sort through your notes and write up a review of the conference. Try making a bulleted list of the key points, along with a more detailed packet of innovative techniques or programs you think your company could implement.

From the summary, pick a few initiatives you want to start right away. It could be a wellness program or an incentives system. Brainstorm with your coworkers and start drafting plans for how you can get the ideas rolling.

You may be maxed out and exhausted when you get home from a conference, but it’s vital to reach out to the people you met and solidify those fledgling relationships. Go through the stack of cards you likely collected, and reach out to your new connections. Send a few thank you emails, or pose the questions you wished you had asked back at the conference center.

What do you think, did we miss any great ideas on how to maximize time spent at HR conferences?

Earth Day Can Be Every Day At Your Workplace

22 Apr

Earth Day Can Be Everyday At Your WorkplaceNo question, an eco-friendly office is a successful one. Financially, emotionally and environmentally, these businesses thrive. Staff members feel better about working for a “green” company, business owners can save money by reusing supplies and conserving energy, and Mother Nature always appreciates a little relief.

But how does a company go from wanting to be eco-conscious to actually putting these ideas in motion? There are a few easy steps that can help.

1. Establish a green team. Put together a committee of employees who are interested in making the business more environmentally friendly. This team will organize meetings to discuss workplace practices and analyze the green efforts already in place.

2. Monitor the thermostat. Keeping the room temperature at 68 degrees in the winter and 55 degrees at night will keep employees comfortable while saving money on energy costs.
3. Provide dishware. Employees should have access to reusable dishes, silverware and glasses in their break room, instead of throw-away goods.

4. See the light. Replace incandescent lighting with energy-efficient light bulbs.

5. Adjust computer settings. Plug computers into surge protectors and make sure they are shut off every night. Laptops use approximately 70 percent less electricity than desktops, so these devices might be a helpful upgrade.

How does your office go green? Do you have any tricks of the trade?

Is Your HR Toolbox an Investment?

20 Apr

Are You Investing In Employees?I’m back with our regular feature about the Return on Employee Investment (ROEI).  Throughout the series I’ll speak directly to what ROEI is, how organizations can maximize it and how they can calculate it.

Each and every employee costs money. Organizations pay their employees’ wages and benefits. There is also infrastructure cost, including office space, tools and equipment, administration and other employee-related costs. Those are necessary costs, but are not always investments. An investment is a cost that creates future value and pays out over time. In other words, an investment in the workforce should help employees achieve their full potential, improve their motivation and strengthen engagement.

When a carpenter needs a saw, he has the option to purchase the cheapest one. Or he can achieve better results and get more years of use out of the saw if he invests in a more expensive, professional grade tool.

Similarly, the HR professional has his or her own ‘toolbox’ where it comes to optimizing the company’s workforce. Strategic investments in the organization and its employees can make a huge contribution to the bottom line. The right investments can both prevent unnecessary expenses, such as high employee turn-over, and boost the productivity and of workforce by better engaging the employees.

You know the saying, when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. 

Are the tools you’ve invested in fit for the job at hand?

A New Twist on Continuing Education

18 Apr

Human Resources Management Helping With a Job Shadowing ProgramMoney is tight at companies around the country, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that workers have to suffer.

It may be difficult in today’s economy to provide your employees with the continuing education they desire. Many workers enjoy furthering their knowledge of their professions throughout their careers, and these opportunities are often a welcome perk for job seekers.

However, investing in the education of workers can be an expensive arrangement. But some companies are looking internally for job training opportunities.

On-the-job training, or job shadowing, can be a very powerful tool for employee development and, in many cases, can provide a more in-depth leaning experience. Employees who aspire to higher-up roles within a company can learn more from watching a mentor in action than from a classroom, an exam, an online forum or a textbook.

Job shadowing doesn’t just have to be reserved for hands-on skilled trades as previously thought. Any employee development plan can benefit from on-the-job experience. Mentorships are beneficial for all involved. More seasoned employees get to connect with younger staff members while teaching them the ins and outs of the company and the job itself, and businesses can save money while watching their employees connect professionally and socially.

Does your company have an on-the-job training program in place? What benefits have you seen from job shadow programs?

Can You “Hear” Your HR Data? Give it a Voice!

15 Apr

HR Data Needs to Talk To You - Are You Listening?Do you know when your HR data is trying to tell you something important, such as: 

  • “Hey – this employee’s review is due . . . “
  • “Ahem – the new benefits plan for Sam Smith is effective today . . . “
  • “Did you know that Don Jones has more than 20 hours of OT this month . . . ?”

Enabling your HR data to speak to you – instead of you going to it – enables you to become a more “data-driven” HR organization and be more responsive to the needs of your employees.

Giving your HR data a voice starts with identifying what you want your HR data to speak with you about. For example, you might not need your data to tell you when an employee’s review is upcoming, but you might want it to tell you if that review becomes overdue.

There are eight conditions under which your HR data should speak to you:

1)     Date-sensitive conditions.  E.g., new hires or certifications about to expire.

2)     Approaching thresholds.  E.g., employees with excessive overtime or training classes with too few attendees.

3)     Exceptions to normal processing.  E.g., excessive pay rate increases or employees who have failed drug tests.

4)     Things that have not happened – but should have.  E.g., potential hires who have not been interviewed or visas that have not been renewed.

5)     Data Integrity.  E.g., checking to see if phone numbers have the correct number of digits, or that reviews have been fully completed.

6)     Trend Analysis.  E.g., an employee whose absenteeism has increased or decreased by ‘x’ percent over a certain time period.

7)     Data Inconsistencies.  E.g., an employee on vacation next week who’s also scheduled for an appointment during that same time.

8)     Data Changes.  E.g., changes to pay rates or benefits.

Once you identify such conditions, you’ll require a technology that gives a voice to your HR data, and one such technology is Business Activity Monitoring (BAM). BAM solutions monitor your HR data for important conditions and then trigger one or more automated responses. In this way your HR data is the initiator of intelligent actions across your organization.

BAM is a unique combination of four underlying technologies.

First is a Business Intelligence component. BAM is very sophisticated in terms of the types of conditions it monitors within an underlying HR application. And, unlike traditional BI solutions, BAM monitors in an automated manner; it automatically scans HR data for the information that your organization is interested in.

Once a BAM solution identifies the conditions that you’re interested in, the second component — Alerts – takes over. Typically, alerts are delivered via a wide variety of devices, including instant message, email, fax, cell phone, dashboard, Twitter™ and so on.

The third BAM component is Reporting – and is an extension of alerts. In some cases, alert data may be no more than a short text message sent to your cell phone; in other cases, it may be an  analytical report (e.g., “Overtime Analysis”), an employee review form, or even the employee handbook.

And finally there is the Workflow component of BAM. This technology enables a data-driven environment in which the HR data itself not only initiates an awareness within an organization’s HR staff, but goes even further to actually act on that HR data.

For example, a BAM solution that detects that an employee is accruing an unacceptably high amount of overtime could not only notify the employee (and their manager), but could also update the corresponding HR application to disallow OT for that employee.

How has your company’s HR business processes evolved to give a “voice” to your HR data?

Want to learn more about giving your data a voice? Register for our upcoming webcast, “The Data Driven HR Organization: How to Acheive It and How to Benefit from It” to learn more. 

Forget What You Know About Costs Immediately

13 Apr

ROEI - Return on Employee Investment

In this first Episode of a multi-part series, I’m here to present on the idea of Return on Employee Investment (ROEI).  Throughout the series I’ll speak directly to what ROEI is, how organizations can maximize it and how they can calculate it.

 A company is as good as its employees. We are used to talking about a company as if the organization itself is a person. But an organization does not generate ideas, does not give service, and by itself is neither efficient nor productive. People make all of those things happen, people define a company.

Companies are accustomed to paying competitive wages and good benefits to attract talented managers and professionals. Yet often relatively little attention is paid to creating the best circumstances for each individual in the organization to perform at his or her best potential.

The effectiveness of HR-related technology or programs is regularly assessed in an isolated manner. Human Resource Management Systems (HRMS) are judged by how much more efficient the HR worker becomes and how the software helps the HR department accomplish daily tasks. To calculate the Return on Investment (ROI) of that HRMS system you’d measure the result of the total costs saved or efficiency gained, divided by the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

But this approach is old fashioned and doesn’t do justice to the real value modern human resource management brings to finding and retaining talented employees. From recruiting to on-boarding, from motivating and developing talent to supporting people managers and creating an engaged workforce, the effectiveness of employee management has a direct impact on business results and competitiveness.

The cost of employee management technology is actually an investment in employees. These investments will reward the company with a healthy return on employee investment, ROEI, that will impress any CFO.

ROEI – Have You Heard?

11 Apr

ROEI - Return on Employee InvestmentI often receive questions from HR professionals and human resource management teams about how companies consistently stay relevant and succeed.  They’re often in the form like these, “why are some companies thriving while others struggle to stay in business” and “what is the distinctive difference between a good company and a truly great company?”

The answers to these questions can only be found when looking at what defines the company: its people. The people that make up a company are that organization’s unique and biggest asset. For most businesses, the workforce is also its largest expense, or better put, its largest investment.

I believe that employees are the most important component in the quest to improve business results. It makes sense to treat employee related expenses as an investment in the workforce. Like any other investment, this critical company investment must yield a healthy return. We call that the Return on Employee Investment or ROEI. 

Stay tuned to our blog for more on ROEI.  We’ve got some great stuff cooking.

Take the Guesswork Out of HR Management

8 Apr

Taking The Guesswork Out of HR ManagementWhen it comes to laying out goals and best practices for human resources executives and the HR department, some CEOs may feel a little lost, wishing there were a group of HR gods to pray to for guidance. What role should HR professionals play? Is there a code of ethics?

In a recent article for Human Resource Executive Online, Susan Meisinger, formerly the Society for Human Resource Management’s CEO, makes the case for adopting national standards for the duties of an HR department.

The society is a “standards developing organization,” she writes, and in 2009 started developing HR rules that companies can voluntarily adopt and adapt to certain professions and industries.

Though context is still the most important factor in how any HR department makes decisions, Meisinger writes, these standards could help non-HR executives understand how to measure cost-per-hire, calculate performance and ensure diversity and inclusion.

For the HR manager being able to quote widely accepted standards when explaining things such as your company’s human capital metrics could make your next presentation to investors a whole lot easier.

Have you adopted some of the society’s HR standards? Do you have any ideas on how to improve how HR functions within a company?