Archive | March, 2014

Challenges facing HR and Payroll Managers in 2014

24 Mar

Woman Working Using Flex HoursHuman Resources is an ever-changing industry, and HR professionals know they need to remaining constantly alert for new regulations and issues to arise. This year has already shaped up to be a challenging one for many HR departments across the U.S. From keeping key workers at the company to implementing effective payroll management, HR professionals and payroll managers are facing numerous challenges during 2014.

Here are the top three issues HR departments are coming up against this year:

Compliance with the ACA and Its Results
Much has been said about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) within the past few years-especially within the last couple months. This is because the ACA is not only going to impact how companies provide healthcare to employees, but there will be legal compliance standards that will occur as a result. These include employee litigation and audits from the U.S. Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service.

According to the ADP Research Institute, the ACA presents one of the most complex HR compliance challenges of all time. The lack of preparations on the part of employers has escalated the impact the ACA is having on the business community as a whole. For example, ADP wrote one-fifth to one-third of companies did not even have a clue how much of an effect the ACA’s health insurance exchanges would have on their businesses this past January. In addition, more ACA regulations are coming, and employers are just as unprepared for potential penalties and the Excise Tax Assessment as they have been for other aspects of the healthcare reform law. Even though the healthcare landscape continues to shift and evolve, HR and payroll professionals need to get on steady ground when it comes to understanding their compliance requirements and mitigating their own legal risks.

Retaining Top Talent
The recession remains in many people’s minds, but employees are beginning to feel more confident about their employment options. As the labor market shows signs of improvement, many employees who have waited on the sidelines for better career opportunities may decide to jump ship before the year is out. While this is a good sign for the job market, HR professionals are looking to lose some of their best performers this year if they don’t implement new employee engagement ideas.

According to a late 2013 poll by Right Management, 83 percent of 871 surveyed U.S. and Canadian employees said they will look for a new job this year. In 2009, only 6 in 10 employees said they intended to “actively seek a new position” in the coming year, but that number jumped to 84 percent the following year and has stayed about the same ever since. More top workers used to network to feel out their employment opportunities, but now the majority are becoming active job seekers instead. Twenty-one percent of employees said they were networking to keep their options open in 2009, but that number remained at 8 or 9 percent between 2010 and 2013.

Being able to provide competitive compensation is going to be an essential employee engagement strategy for not only 2014 but into the long term, as Right Management’s numbers suggests retaining top talent is going to be a struggle for a while. Human resource planning will be a go-to solution for many in the industry because of this, and more HR professionals will need to seek out additional employee engagement techniques if they want to acquire and keep key performers.

According to Human Resource Executive (HRE) Online, employee engagement may be its own challenge throughout 2014. Offering employees growth opportunities through effective talent management, tracking worker satisfaction, and maintaining collaboration in the workplace are all going to be important strategies to keep employees engaged this year, HRE Online suggested. According to Forbes, it is going to take recognizing where dissatisfaction comes from for HR professionals to entice workers to remain at the company.

Complying with the OFCCP Mandate
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs’ (OFCCP) mandate pertaining to the hiring and employment of individuals with disabilities will be another key challenge this year, specifically Section 503. According to Business and Legal Resource, hiring managers must now reference Section 503 rules that require contractors to invite job seekers to voluntarily self-identify as disabled at the preoffer and postoffer phases of the hiring process.

BLR states “OFCCP’s final regulations implementing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 503), require that employers invite job applicants and employees to self-identify as being an individual with a disability. On Jan. 22, 2014, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approved the final Voluntary Self-Identification of Disability form for use by covered federal contractors, beginning with contractors’ new plan year following the effective date of the final Section 503 regulation on March 24, 2014.”

The OFCCP does have training materials available on its website to help recruiters and HR professionals comply with the mandate.

 

Predicted costs, decisions, implications, and information for health benefits in 2014 (and beyond)

18 Mar

Clock and MoneyThe U.S.’s healthcare system has been rapidly changing, and human resource professionals are tasked with complying with new regulations on health benefits and preparing for upcoming trends. Certain health plans are becoming more popular-such as high-deductible health plans and health savings accounts-and staying informed about the growth of these tax-favored health benefits is to HR professionals’ advantage.

Yet, HR departments also have to provide workers with training on certain health offerings and how to be proactive when it comes to receiving cost savings. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a complex law to understand, and while HR departments cannot give insight into every aspect of the legislation, informing employees about these benefits should be part of every employee management system.

HR professionals need to know where the health benefits space is in the present, what trends are ahead, and how to successfully prepare for the future of health benefits.

The Shift in Health Benefits
No longer is the employer-sponsored benefits model the standard. There has been movement away from this model to consumer-directed healthcare benefit plans (CDHPs) for some time. According to the Business Group on Health, CDHPs put healthcare decisions into the hands of beneficiaries that is workers-instead of employers, even though businesses still pay for part of care. CDHPs are a way to control healthcare costs more effectively because they are a defined benefit.

According to Healthcare Finance News, CDHPs have been steadily growing in popularity for the past few years. In 2012, 58 percent of companies offered a type of CDHP, with 34 percent providing health savings accounts (HSAs) and 18 percent offering health reimbursement accounts (HRAs).

High-deductible health plans (HDHPs) and flexible spending accounts (FSAs) are other types of CDHPs that are growing in popularity and will continue to be go-to health benefits into the near future.

Because HSAs are tax exempt, it is expected that many employers will turn to these accounts, especially to save money under the ACA, according to Becker’s Hospital Review. HDHPs in particular have already seen increased use within the past few years, and enrollment in these plans have skyrocketed since aspects of the ACA came into effect. According to Business Insurance, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) found 30.3 percent of group healthcare plan participants were enrolled in HDHPs during first quarter 2013, a significant jump from 2008′s 17.1 percent. ACA Watch suggests this number is only going to keep increasing. Use of FSAs is also rising with the NCHS finding 22.8 percent of health plan participants having one in 2013 compared to only 18.7 percent in 2008.

Value of Providing Workers with Education on Health Benefits and ACA
Because CDHPs put more power in the hands of employees, HR professionals need to ensure all workers understand their benefits. Yet, employers can’t stop there-the ACA is going to remain a defining part of the workplace into the future, and workers need to know how the law influences their health benefits. With this knowledge, employees will be better able to be proactive with their healthcare, saving themselves and their employers money. Without it, Becker’s notes employees may not make the correct care choices and see large payment responsibilities that they are unable to pay, negatively impacting not only themselves but their healthcare provider and the industry as a whole.

Employer resources for educating employees about the complexity of their benefits and ACA mandates will be essential this year and coming years. According to ACA Watch, the majority of employers are specifically concerned about employee benefits education, and a survey from the Midwest Business Group on Health found more than 70 percent of employers are taking action to educate workers about health benefits.

HR professionals need to be able to predict and prepare for changes to health benefits. Utilizing human resources solutions can keep HR professionals organized during these changes.

 

The Challenge of 2014: Retaining Talent

10 Mar

It’s no surprise that positive associate relations are necessary to support a safe, happy, and productive workforce. Many organizations pride themselves on their relationships with employees and work hard to ensure workers have a fruitful work/life balance. Yet, how important are these things, really? What are the consequences should an employer choose not to focus on employee satisfaction and talent management? According to recent studies, some employers may have underestimated the importance of keeping their workers happy.

For example, according to career management firm Right Management’s new survey, as many as 83 percent of the 900 employees surveyed reported they would voluntarily leave their jobs in 2014. As active job seekers and established members of the workforce begin to gain higher rates of confidence in the labor market – and as more jobs are becoming available – they are more likely to take employment risks and look for better opportunities.

In fact, in October 2013 more than 2.4 million Americans left their jobs, accounting for 56 percent of all voluntary and involuntary separations that month, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In short, this means employees have the upper hand in making decisions based on their career prospects, and are less dependent on employers. Conditions have vastly changed since 2009 when, according to Right Management’s survey, only 60 percent of employees said they would actively seek new jobs. The upward trend is most likely attributable to economic conditions directly following the 2008 financial crisis, which left many workers dissatisfied and “stuck” in their positions amid financial uncertainty.

Yet now as economic tides turn and workers gain more autonomy, employers must utilize their talent management software to retain top performers and engage their staffs.

Employees Desire More
One of the biggest changes to the labor market is the influx of millennial workers and how their attitudes and preferences have begun to shape the work environment. According to a 2012 Forbes infographic, there are more than 80 million millennial adults in the U.S. and 36 percent of the workforce will consist of these workers this year. This number increases to 46 percent by 2020. Millennial employees differ greatly from their baby boomer and Generation X cohorts in that they are much more technology driven, have reached higher levels of educational attainment, and can make companies appear more attractive to shareholders and prospective workers.

But they also drive the need for employers to offer its employees more than simply a paycheck. According to Forbes, millennials also require purpose and a sense of accomplishment to stay loyal to their employers – a trend that is catching on. A Hay Group study that looked at global job outlook, retention and turnover found that in North America, more than 36.7 million workers will have departed from their jobs between 2014-18, with a spike in 2014. Employees who responded to the Hay Group study also reported a supportive workplace, opportunity for career advancement, and competent leadership as the top reasons to stay with an employer.

“With retention a growing concern for organizations – not just for key high performing employees, but also core employees – understanding the factors that drive commitment and loyalty is essential for managing increasing turnover risks in the months and years ahead,” said Mark Royal, a senior consultant with Hay Group. “Now is the time for organizations to understand where they stand on and tackle these influences, to keep employees from taking flight.”

These trends indicate a growing need for companies to hone in on talent management strategies to ensure the business retains its top performers in 2014. As economic confidence influences employees’ decisions to migrate to better jobs, prioritizing talent management strategies will be essential to the company’s long-term success.

Benefits Education Pays Off

3 Mar

human resources creating a happy workforceAs healthcare costs rise, employers have continued to shift a growing percentage of the cost of health benefits to employees. And, as workers shoulder more of their medical costs, they will need to better understand the health benefits they are offered at work and how to effectively use them.

Cost-Shifting Increases Employee Costs and the Need for Education

Workers are contributing almost twice as much today toward the amount of their employee health benefits as they were 10 years ago. To manage their own costs, employers continue to increase workers’ premiums, co-pays and deductibles. This, along with the movement toward consumer directed health plans (CDHPs) which include high deductible policies, leave workers with higher out-of-pocket costs at the time they seek medical care.

And, the movement toward CDHPs is growing.

According to a recent survey by the National Business Group on Health, 72% of employers now offer at least one CDHP. Employers offering only these plans have risen from 19% to 22% in the past year.

A different but related trend just gaining traction is likely to not only increase the cost of health benefits for workers, but also the requirement that they take a more active, and therefore, educated role in selecting and navigating those benefits.

A recent Reuters article reporting on the 2013 annual policy forum sponsored by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) cites “a shift in workplace health insurance akin to the dramatic shift in recent decades from traditional pensions to 401(k)s. Health insurance will move in the same direction in the next five years,” Mark Miller of Reuters writes.

Instead of providing a defined benefit, many employers are increasingly looking to offer a defined contribution, thereby limiting their exposure to rising costs while shifting that risk onto workers who will not only pay more for their health benefits, but will also bear a greater responsibility in understanding how the products work in order to best select and utilize them. Employees have a poor history of managing 401Ks, however, and health insurance in all its confusing details is likely to follow a similar path.

Education Benefits Everyone

Benefits play a critical role in attracting and retaining good employees. Not only is it important for workers to have a good grasp of their benefits, employers also gain by playing a role where possible, in assisting employees in maintaining productivity, and physical and financial stability. A strong health benefits program that is well utilized by employees is one critical tool in meeting those objectives.

The MetLife 2013 study of Employee Benefits Trends highlights the value of employee access to information about how to select and use their benefits.

According to the study, 51% of engaged employees reported that they “appreciate online decision-support tools that help prioritize needs and make clear how decisions will impact their paycheck.”

In addition, clear communications were found to be critical to employees’ ability to understand, appreciate and effectively use their benefits. More than 4 in 10 (43%) engaged employees said that ongoing education about how to use their benefits would be very helpful.

Numerous other studies have found that benefits education tends to enhance employee satisfaction, and that when benefits are clearly communicated, employees show higher levels of engagement and loyalty.

As employers continue to alter the design of their health benefit offerings to manage their own costs, they will be well served to also consider enhancing their employee education program.

Visit:  www.HealthBenefitsExplained.com to learn more


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