Archive | June, 2011

Healthcare Reform & How Automation Can Help

29 Jun

Automating Healthcare ReformMake no mistake, there’s a lot of work ahead for HR professionals and benefits managers in order to comply fully with the Affordable Care Act. An HRMS (Human Resources Management System) can ease the burden of implementing the Affordable Care Act because it is designed to centralize HR and benefits information, so you can easily access the data you need for compliance and decision making. Here are some examples of how automation and HRMS is the HR key to success, especially with Healthcare Reform:

Stay current with compliance requirements. An HRMS receives regular software updates that keep the system updated for legislative changes, such as the Affordable Care Act. This means that you would not have to do all of the research to stay in compliance. Your HRMS solution would include things like employee notifications, revised forms, and more. It would also help keep your company in compliance with EEO-1, EEO-4, I-9 Citizenship Verification, Vets-100, Vets-100A, Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and OSHA record-keeping requirements.

Better track and manage benefits plans. An HRMS allows you to define and set up unlimited benefit plans and carefully track the costs associated with each plan. You can also project future costs.

Simplify record-keeping and improve data accuracy. With all of your data in one central location, it’s easier to determine which of your employees participate in each benefit plan. An HRMS greatly reduces the risk of inaccurate data in your database.

Communicate more effectively with employees. An HRMS enables you to produce employee communications more easily. Announcements can be distributed in an online secure portal using employee self-service. Or you can easily use your employee database to create a letter or email and distribute it.

Perform open enrollment more quickly and with less expense. Online benefits enrollment functionality enables employees to choose the benefits packages they want on a secure website. HR can track the status of enrollment and report on results.

Calculate accurate payroll. Integrated payroll software is also updated to reflect current tax rates and rules. It will be ready to produce the new W-2s with health coverage costs included when you are required to print and deliver them (January 2013).

To learn more about how staying compliant with government regulations can help your organization, download our white paper, the Healthcare Reform Survival Guide.  With it you’ll prepare yourself for hidden surprises, attain clarity on compliance issues, and discover the most common changes facing employers.

The Never Ending To Do List

27 Jun

The Never Ending To Do ListRecently, I have not met many people that aren’t doing more with less in their organizations. I too have been tasked with more responsibility at work due to the effects of the economy and positions being either eliminated or not replaced.

I struggle at times with the growing “To Do List” and attempting to not work every night after the kids go to bed or spend my Saturday mornings at the office just trying to catch up! Each day becomes a bit more difficult to avoid the “reactive only” mode of operation.

Yesterday I was sitting in my office, evaluating my “To Do List” from last week and not a single thing was crossed off! What was I doing? I know I was really busy and most of the time felt like I had become fireman I was putting out so many fires. Oh that’s right; I was busy getting the list completed from 3 weeks ago.

Now some of you may be thinking that I may need a time management course or need to better prioritize my list or need to learn to delegate some of the work. Well, I can say that I am pretty good at managing my time. I have prioritized my list and then prioritized the priority list. I would be happy to delegate some of the work, but there is no one to delegate to, that person was not replaced.

Does this sound familiar?

Now because I am in HR, you may be waiting for some advice on how to fix the problem. I hate to disappoint you, but I don’t have an answer. Doing more with less is the world we live in at this moment in time. However, I do believe there are resources available to help us get more done in the 24 hours we have each day. Identify what those resources are for you and your team. Maybe it is a time management workshop or a software package to help bring your HR department up to speed.

If you have a staff, find out if they are struggling to keep their head above water (even if you think they are fine). You can empathize with them and then help them to find ways to stay afloat. If you don’t take action, there will be a time when you and or your employees will reach “burn-out”. When burn-out is reached, employee’s become less engaged, productivity declines and eventually they will leave the organization.

My action plan is to begin reading Getting Things Done, by David Allen. Hopefully I will discover some new methods that I can share back with you.

Time Off By Any Other Name Is Just As Sweet

24 Jun

Employee Enjoying Personal Time OffFor the sake of simplicity and accounting purposes, some companies are choosing to do away with the “sick,” “personal” and “vacation” headings under which they categorize paid time off (PTO).

Proponents say it eases the burden of tracking hours and gives employees greater flexibility in how they use their days away from the office.

Some argue that employees’ perception of PTO and the way they use the allotted time may change for the worse if a company does not distinguish between sick day and a vacation day. Some may work even when they are sick to avoid cutting into “vacation time,” while others may end up increasing the amount of PTO they use.  Increased PTO usage could be an issue for some companies because they don’t truly understand just how much money sick leave costs them.

Whatever categories you choose to apply to PTO, if you notice a certain trend – such as employees not using all their sick days but consistently maxing out on on vacation time – you may want to consider reshuffling distribution or doing away with the designations altogether.   

Do you think it matters what a company calls paid time off?

Sitting Down May Cost You More Than Money

22 Jun

Sitting Down May Cost You More Than MoneyIt’s not difficult to understand that healthy employees can lead to a more productive workforce. People who are in shape tend to have more energy and are less expensive to cover through company health insurance.

However, because so many of today’s white collar jobs are essentially sedentary, there is growing concern about how limited mobility can impact workers’ health and productivity.

Just recently, a New York Times article titled, Is Sitting a Lethal Activity, also touched on this subject.  The article explained in great depth how a researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, is conducting “inactivity studies,” studies of people who don’t move as frequently throughout the day and how that inactivity affects the body.  If you really want a shock, take a look at the infographic made using stats from the same article here, Sitting is Killing You; The Truth About Sitting Down.

In order to effectively manage workplace health, managers should consider implementing wellness programs and employee incentives. Even just small things can get employees up and moving, they might even be considered perks of employment.

Start a lunchtime walking club, and encourage workers to make their meetings mobile too. Let staff members know that it’s okay to take quick mini-breaks, which one study found decreased metabolic risks. If there’s an unused office or meeting room, bring in a few yoga mats or exercise balls – having a place to do some brief stretching or marching in place can get workers’ blood pumping again.

If your company makes physical movement a priority, what ways does it incorporate exercise into the daily office routine?

Should Your Company Institute Summer Hours?

20 Jun

Summer hoursWhen the weather starts improving and the days grow longer, human resource managers may start to notice employees staring out their windows, gazing wistfully.

It may be time to float the idea of summer hours, which does not necessarily mean shorter work days, but rather more choice in how and where employees do their work. Even if your company usually does not allow telecommuting or flex scheduling, it may be an easier sell to suggest a seasonal waiver of the policy.

However, before creating a four-day week or letting everyone cut out at 3 p.m. daily, companies must take into consideration what options will best suit operations and the needs of their client base. If the organization chooses to create a summer schedule, draft polices with human resource software that stipulate how hours will be managed, what (if any) effect the program will have on wages, instances when some employees may not participate and terms for revoking the privilege.

Do you think seasonal scheduling practices can help or hinder productivity?

Top 10 Things to Do Before Hiring Independent Contractors

17 Jun

Checklist of Things to Do Before Hiring Independent ContractorsThese days, a lot more companies are using temporary labor and freelancers to pump up their labor force. If the poor economy forced your company to scale back its personnel, you may be facing the challenge of increasing staffing to meet renewed demand.

Temp agencies and independent contractors offer businesses the ability to meet short-term employee needs without the hassle or cost of offering insurance options and other benefits. However, this form of labor comes with its own set of risk and compliance requirements.

Taken from The HR Manager’s Guide to Proper Worker Classification, we recommend requesting to see these 10 things before you decide to hire a new independent contractor.

1. A signed contract and W-9 form. As required by the Internal Revenue Service, the W-9 has to be retained by the employer for four years. (On the company’s part, it will have to fill out the Form 1099-MISC.) Be sure that the contract includes specific terms, including limits on the agreement duration and the rate that will be paid out during that period. Clearly define expectations for when and how work will be delivered – since freelancers typically do not come into the office on a daily basis, it can be harder to manage them remotely. Agree on a payment system; will the contractor be hired on a weekly, biweekly, or monthly basis? Will the company deliver a portion of the payment at the outset of the project, and give the rest in a lump sum once the work is completed?

2. A statement or application listing all fictitious or assumed business names – just as you do when hiring a full-time employee. 

3. Examples of the contractor’s marketing materials, such as advertisements or listings in the Yellow Pages. Looking up a contractor on public review websites, such as Yelp, is also a good way to vet a potential hire. 

4. Website URL, invoice form, a business card or professional letterhead.

5. Literature regarding how the contractor’s business is structured – is it a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a corporation, a LLC? This provides insight about operational organization and can be a good point of reference when communicating with the contractor.

6. References or contact information for other clients. Checking in with other entities that have had a business relationship with the contractor is a good way to make sure you’re making the right hiring decision, and can also flag potential problems that could create a snag in completion of the project or pose logistical issues. 

7. Copies of insurance certificates. Hiring a contractor that has his or her own insurance shows responsibility, and may help protect your company from liability.

8. Having a phone number and address of the business is useful, not just for contact information, but to verify that the company is legitimate.

9. An Unemployment Insurance Number, or if the contractor has employees, ask to see an Employer Identification Number.

10. Copies of business and/or professional licenses. You want to make sure your company is hiring only skilled, and just as importantly, licensed contractors who are legally cleared to perform the work you require.

If you incorrectly classify a worker, you could be subject to penalties by the IRS and by many states.  Some analysts believe that this year, the IRS will perform over 2,000 random employment tax audits and one of the things they are scrutinizing is the classification status of independent contractors.  Be sure to educate and prepare yourself by reading The HR Manager’s Guide to Proper Worker Classification.

Do you have any stories of nightmare independent contractor situations?

What You Do Not Know Is What Hurts You

16 Jun

Business Activity Monitoring Can Help Your HR Data Speak to YouThe author Mark Twain was once asked about his many business ventures – most of which had failed. Twain explained how his ventures had failed not because of bad technology (most of the items he invested in became realities, but under different ownership), but rather had failed because he had not kept an eye on their progress.

He summed up the lesson that he had learned as follows:

“Put all your eggs in one basket – and watch that basket.”

If anything, that phrase is truer today than it was 100 years ago. HR organizations have vast quantities of information that they need to keep watch over; prospective hires, benefits changes, and so on. And with corporate downsizing and fiscal belt-tightening, few – if any – HR organizations have the luxury to turn to an employee and say “Hey you – it’s your job to keep an eye on our HR data and if anything looks wrong, let me know.”

That’s where Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) software comes into play.

Call it what you will – ‘business alerts’, ‘active notifications’, or even ‘exception management’ – the concept is the same. “If there’s information that relates to our HR activities or staff, we need to know about it.” 

This is exactly what Mark Twain was talking about; keeping watch over your investments (in your case, your HR solution). In Twain’s day, the “watcher” had to be himself; in our day, we can automate the “watching process” thru BAM.

But another lesson that we can learn from Twain is that your HR solution is not the only “egg” in your basket. Chances are you’ve got other business applications that also warrant watching. Those might include a sales or CRM system, an accounting or ERP system, or even home-grown solutions tailored for your industry. All of these “eggs” need watching over.

And ideally, that “watching over” should be done by a single, company-wide, monitoring and response technology. A Business Activity Monitoring solution does this through a unique design that combines the following:

  • Focus.  BAM software focuses on doing one thing: identifying and responding to business conditions. It can identify the most sophisticated conditions (such as employees who have changed their benefits) and respond to them in the greatest variety of ways.
  • Delivery.  BAM gets the right information to the right people via the right device. Email, fax, pager, PDA, cell phone, instant message, web browser, and Twitter. Quick one-line alerts, or detailed documents such as review forms or absenteeism analyses. And reports are delivered when they’re needed most – at the time the information warrants it.
  • Independence.  BAM plays no favorites; it works with all business applications. HR, finance, manufacturing, CRM . . . the list goes on. Commercial applications as well as home-grown solutions. And BAM monitors information outside of your applications, including incoming email, web form submissions, and even your operating system.
  • Integration.  BAM solutions realize that sometimes the most critical conditions aren’t always represented by information in just one application – but rather in the combination of data between two or more applications. BAM is uniquely able to combine, analyze, and respond to such disparate data.

And so now, almost 100 years after Mark Twain’s passing, we can still take a lesson from him. Success – whether defined as the launch of a new invention, or defined as a productive HR department with well-managed employees – is dependent on your ability to watch over, identify, and respond to changing business conditions.

Keep Cool About Warm Weather Dress Codes

13 Jun

Relaxed Warm Weather Dress CodeAs most of the country is beginning to see the onset of the summer season, uncomfortably warm weather is a fact of life.  Some companies and employees working in those hot climates have adapted their wardrobes to include cool, yet professional outfits.

In other regions, the mercury only hits the high digits for a few months of the year and some workers may forget that wearing lighter clothing does not mean the dress code can be thrown out the window.

If this has become a problem in your office and some staff members have started to complain, there are a few steps you can take. For workplaces with more traditional policies that require men to wear ties or that have rules regarding the length of skirts and shorts, consider taking a poll to get a sense of what changes employees would like to see and would be willing to accept. Encourage a discussion about what is appropriate for work, as generational changes may be shifting people’s attitudes and opinions.

Businesses that ultimately decide to have separate dress codes depending on the season can store both policies on their human resource management system for easy reference in the years to come.

Do you think the dress code should be adjusted depending on the weather? Does a relaxed policy have any impact on productivity or professionalism?

Do You Motivate Your Workforce?

10 Jun

Motivating WorkersMotivating employees can be an uphill battle, but it’s one most human resource departments have to face at some point.

Here are a couple of questions HR managers can ask themselves to drum up enthusiasm at the office:

Do you lead by example? Employees may be more engaged in their work if they see HR managers who are happy, who are also invested in the company and who genuinely care about their colleagues.  

Do you have a vision? Drafting explicit company goals as well as an overall corporate mission will give employees something to work toward, and can make them feel like they’re part of a team effort.

Do you acknowledge employee accomplishments? This is something HR management software can help with, by tracking worker development and letting you decide who deserves praise.

Do you appoint leaders? Many workers will rise to the occasion when given extra responsibility. If an HR manager or another supervisor is willing to invest the time in their skills, the employee may feel an increased sense of loyalty and a desire not to fail the company.

What are some other ways to motivate employees? Do you think HR managers are responsible for engaging their workers?

Bring Your HR Department Up To Speed

8 Jun

HR Technology Can Help Maximize Your Return on Employee InvestmentBetween human resource management software, business analytics programs, social media for professionals and all the other corporate bells and whistles, HR managers may be feeling pretty tech savvy.

But there’s always room for improvement, and a few simple steps can help your HR department stop doing the time warp and start living in 2011.

Go paperless. The healthcare industry is doing it, other businesses can too. Shifting from paper-based payroll solutions and employee files to a direct deposit system and electronic database can smooth operations within the company and increase employee access.

Some businesses utilize built web portals that allow employees to submit time-off requests online, track their own benefits balances, file a grievance or even book a meeting room.

Recruiters now use Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media websites to network with potential new hires.

Automating more mundane HR functions frees up time for managers, allowing them to focus on collecting business information and using that data to devise strategies that can further improve the company. Human resource management systems can run analytic reports in addition to handling payroll solutions and helping you keep abreast of employment law compliance.

There is no time like the present to take advantage of key technological improvements that allow human resource professionals to gain productivity and maximize their return on employee investment.

Is your department plugged in to the latest HR advancements? What are some other ways personnel managers can implement HR innovations and technology to improve employer-employee relations?