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How was I supposed to know there was a tool out there to help me? The joke was on me.

23 Oct

When Nothing Really is SomethingLet me share another story with you. Once upon a time, I was responsible for handling the entire open enrollment process (while I was the HR person at a previous employer). Really, I was. If you actually know what you are doing (or at least think you have a good handle on the majority of it), are great at process-oriented tasks, pay strict attention to detail, and have the right resources allocated to you to get the job done, it’s a total walk in the park. This sounds easy enough to anyone you tell about how you handle your open enrollment, right? Are you laughing now? Sure you are. I’m laughing too. We all know there a lot of moving parts to this process and so much can go wrong during it but, as we all know, at the end of the process; there is no getting around those open enrollment election forms submitted by the employee. Of course, more process or more employees, means more paper.

You gather and collect your final open enrollment election forms, maybe even keep track of them on a spreadsheet, send it to your benefits broker or insurance carrier, and it’s all a done deal, and everyone has all the benefits they need, right? I’m laughing again; are you? A mistake on a form here; a change from an employee there, wait, was there a form that should have been included but now isn’t? Sure there is. Wait, what happened? Yikes! Does this sound familiar? How manual is your process? Take it from me, mine was a very manual process but, what did I know? Then, there is that aha moment where find out that there are actually tools that can take you away from these manual processes and slide you easily into a streamlined time-saving process that also saves you money. Okay, I found out there is such a process, but way after the fact. I found out so much after the fact that I don’t even handle HR at my current company but now feel compelled to save you time while you may be still struggling to find a better way to handle your open enrollment process.

Sage has two products that can take a lot of the hassle out of your open enrollment process. Sage Benefits Enrollment and Sage Benefits Messenger can totally change the way you feel about handling your open enrollment process. Take the first step and view these two on demand webcasts. You’ll see for yourself how these products can significantly reduce the time you spend dealing with your open enrollment process. And, to give you a personalized frame of reference on this, the voice that narrates these on demand webcasts is mine.

Been there, done that!

22 Oct

Woman Working From HomeI’ll never forget the day I started with my new company (several years ago). My first project was to canvass for new external talent, track candidate skills, coordinate interviews and then onboard the new hires. Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? It was for a while. Until my job role quickly expanded into other areas of HR, we started hiring like crazy and as we grew in size, I now needed to formulate processes to support the varying federal and state legislation (based on our new company size). Time out! I knew using a spreadsheet to keep track of everything wasn’t going to cut it any longer. Instead of waiting, I decided to dive right into looking for a HR and recruiting solution that would support the company’s growth, fulfill legislative obligations and keep my sanity in check! I knew I needed to do it quickly but at the same time, didn’t want to act hastily. Since I’ve had the opportunity to use many solutions prior to this role, I knew where I needed to look. Hence, my reason for writing this blog piece.Let me save those of you who either are new to the role or the HR/payroll profession or have not had the opportunity to use any automated HR/payroll systems in your past. There are a couple of products that I can specifically recommend to you to help automate your processes. If you are looking to wean yourself off of using spreadsheets to keep track of candidates and/or processes and you use multiple formulas to calculate and report on things, look into Sage HRMS and Sage HRMS Cyber Recruiter. Right away, these products will help you solve these issues (as well as a myriad of others).

Oh, yeah, getting back to my story. Remember, I was telling you about that first project I was tasked with doing in my new job several years ago? The one where I was canvassing for new external talent, tracking their skills, coordinating all interviews, and then onboarding them as they were hired using a spreadsheet: that story. Well, unfortunately, my computer crashed, and I lost everything I had worked on that first month into my new job. Words can’t accurately describe how I felt at that exact point in time. Let’s just say, it wasn’t a pleasant experience at all!

Don’t wait for something like that to happen to you; visit or call 866-271-6050 and have them show you how they can make your life easier, automate your processes, and keep everything centralized so you can create reports without using formulas and linking spreadsheets.

Need a big reason to get a time and attendance system in place? Read on . . .

13 Oct

The Mistakes of Dealing With MistakesOn 10/8/14, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a case that involved time that may or may not be compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). In this case, the Supreme Court reviewed a decision in which the Ninth Circuit court ruled that employers, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Portal-to-Portal Act, must compensate employees for the time spent in security screenings at the end of their shifts.

I won’t get into all of the details of the case, but this case proves that it is evident. Compliance with the FLSA continues to remain a top challenge for HR/payroll professionals. In a recent article, the Society for Human Resources (SHRM) reported that inquiries related to the FLSA exceed those of all other federal employment statues other than the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Until some of the rules of these acts are rewritten to make them clearer and easier to understand for everyone who has a stake in the process, it would be in any employer’s best interest to institute an automated time and attendance solution to properly capture and report time.

A time and attendance system allows you to collect, analyze, and take immediate control of your employees’ attendance and labor data. They are invaluable for ensuring compliance with labor regulations regarding proof of attendance. Plus, there are auditing functions contained within them to guarantee accuracy and compliance for payroll information.

While the outcome of this case is still pending, securing a great time and attendance system, instituting best practices, and keeping an eye on pending legislation should be at the top of every HR and payroll professional’s list.

Check out today to gain control over time and labor data.


Does anyone really care about performance evaluations?

30 Sep

Avoid a Dysfunctional Performance ReviewWhy do manager’s consistently tell human resources that they dread writing and delivering performance evaluations? This is a question that human resource professionals struggle with every time they hear it. Most studies conducted by professional human resource organizations have proven that companies that provide regular feedback to their employees have higher retention rates and see greater improvement in overall performance than those that rely on annual evaluations. So, why do human resource professionals consistently need to prove this fact to their management teams? Why  are managers so fearful?

Perhaps it’s what occurs during the annual performance evaluation meeting with the employee? Let’s look at a typical scenario. The manager delivers the annual feedback; the employee is “surprised” because he or she hasn’t heard any of that feedback all year long and now the employee “challenges” their manager on the evaluation claiming his or her evaluation isn’t “fair.” Aha, there’s the dreaded confrontation associated with the review. Here it is. Face-to-face confrontation. Why would the manager fear this confrontation? Perhaps, it’s the fact that manager is suddenly put into a defensive position? Could it be that the manager failed to provide regular feedback to the employee throughout the year and has no choice but to deal with it now? Is that fair? How would that manager feel if this was done to her? Maybe this has happened to the manager before, and now the manager believes it’s perfectly acceptable to do the same thing to her direct reports? Maybe it’s a new manager who believes he knows what he is doing, but really doesn’t have a clue? Did ego come into play at all? There could be a lot of reasons.

In any case, employees need guidance. They need regular feedback. Whether that feedback is positive or negative, employees need and want to hear it. The manager needs to “manage” and learn to deal with it. How do managers expect to receive positive behavior from their employees without any reinforcement from the manager on the feedback of their behavior? How does an employee know what is expected of him or whether or not he needs to improve upon a certain behavior if he has not been given any direction throughout the year? You can clearly see how these disconnects occur.

Aside from the myriad of legal issues that often arise from continued performance feedback “avoidance,” its helpful (and necessary) for managers to educate themselves on how to deliver feedback. A lot of this is common sense. So, why do many managers feel it’s the responsibility of human resources to educate them on why employee performance feedback is so important? Why do managers tell human resource professionals, “I haven’t received any training on it so I didn’t know I should be doing it”? Why do managers feel they do not have accountability for this aspect of their management function? Like any other skill, performance feedback training needs to be cultivated. Since each and every person and situation is different, it’s impossible for the human resource professional to facilitate definitive training needed to cover every situation. It’s up to human resources to guide and counsel their management teams. What that means is that human resources should be relied upon to guide and counsel management on decisions that affect their people and the overall business. Unless it is a first-time manager, human resources can help to provide the education needed to get the manager up to speed and on the right path. There must be accountability on management’s part to take ownership of their direct reports by providing regular feedback to them, then seek human resource guidance and counsel on issues where the desired outcome of an employee’s performance has not or cannot be achieved through the development plans that the manager has set forth for the employee to follow to get that performance back on track.

Visit to see all of the available solutions to help you manage the total employment lifecycle process.

Stop Talking and Listen For a Change

13 Jan

Positive and Constructive CriticismWhat do you look for in a good candidate?  That’s the magic question.  There is an easy answer.  It’s the candidate who is the best qualified candidate to do the job, right?  Well, yes in that respect but, there are other factors to consider.  Aside from the legal-type considerations, and believe me there are plenty, there is something called behavioral interviewing that you should really consider.

So, what is behavioral interviewing?  Long story short, it’s getting the candidate to talk about their previous (work related) experiences and describe past projects, success stories, failures, reflections and how they may have handled their failures differently with a more favorable outcome.  What does all this mean to the interviewer?  It means you need to SHUSHHHHHHH…listen to the candidate talk.  One of the most interesting things that occur during interviews is that the interviewers talk more than the candidates do.

Stop for a minute and think back to every job you’ve ever interviewed for.  How many times has that happened to you?  My guess is that it’s happened a lot of time throughout your career.  Why does this phenomenon occur?  Well, the easy answer is that most people don’t like long gaps of silence. It falls outside of their conversational comfort zone.  They like to “fill up” the dead air space.  Additionally, listening is not the same as hearing.  You can hear a lot of things but, are you really listening?  Have you really honed the skill of being able to filter out all external stimuli thus being able to focus on only one thing solely?  Most people would probably not admit to being able to do that though.  Let’s face it, we are told continuously by our teachers, peers, mentors and supervisors that being able to multi-task adds great value to our job and works well for meeting overall objectives.  In the interview though, not only could your multi-tasking be mis-interpreted by the candidate as being rude (for example looking at your email, sending a quick text or answering a call), you are also missing out on actually listening to the candidate talk about their experiences.

Bottom line, ask your question.  Hopefully, its open ended and behavioral based.  Then, listen to the candidate’s response.  Process their response, and then ask another probing question to their response.  Do this until you are satisfied that you have a good feel for the fit in matching the candidate’s professional experiences to your company’s mission and where you want that candidate to add the most value for you.

After all, you want to feel extremely comfortable that you know this person will grow to be your star top performer!

How Far Do You Reach in Your Outreach Programs?

6 Jan

Have you ever heard someone say, “It’s all cannon-150x150about the journey, not the destination”?  Sure you have.

If you’ve never heard the term “outreach program”, it’s all about seeking to hire qualified women, minorities and veterans into your open positions.  Mostly, government contractors and others doing business with the Federal Government are required to create Affirmative Action Plans as part of their ongoing recruitment efforts.  As part of those plans, there are some components that deal with outreach.  As part of their compliance efforts, that’s how some companies try to fill positions with qualified candidates from specific sectors within the labor market.  So, how does that saying fit into a company’s outreach program?  It’s all about setting out to do what you say you are going to do with respect to informing segmented groups about your company and “reaching out” to them with your job opportunities.  It’s as simple as that.  If you create and follow a comprehensive plan or program that branches out to these specific sectors and you aren’t successful (through no fault of your own) on attaining your goals it may go a long way in assisting you during an audit by demonstrating to the auditor that you put forth your best effort in trying or at the very least, demonstrate how far you were willing to “reach out” to the various groups in your program.  But, how far do you reach?  That’s what’s up for debate currently in the legislation.

If you earnestly go about creating a solid outreach plan, attend diversity job fairs, volunteer to speak at various diversity group meetings and/or training sessions, partner with your local department of labor office and take the time to meet the reps at your local veteran’s office, you should be on track to a great plan.

For more information on how you can track your progress in support of your goals, check out and see how the Sage HRMS system can generate the reports you need to get the job done!

Small Employer Tip – Create Structure for Compensation and Performance Programs

5 Dec

The Never Ending To Do ListOne of the things usually missing from the small employer repertoire of offerings is the feedback mechanism it provides to its employees. Often you’ll hear a small employer say “we’re too small for that here” or “our employees already know how we feel about them”. That’s not always the case. There is definitely a distinctive difference between what the employer thinks and how the employee feels when it comes to their job performance and/or standing within the organization. Bottom line, performance feedback to your employees (either good or bad) is necessary and wanted by the employees.
If performance appraisal/salary/bonus formalization is something you are undertaking for the first time at your company, the best thing to do is start by obtaining as many salary surveys you can that outline each of the job positions you have within the organization. It’s a good idea to try to have some type of job description for your positions. Small employers sometimes don’t have the time to do this. At the very least, try to obtain at least a couple of paragraphs from managers outlining what each of their employee’s job function is. You may not know firsthand, but they will (and should). You can formalize the job descriptions later (to include more detail and statements about essential job functions) but in order to make the comparison between salary survey results vs. job functions; you’ll need to have some type of a baseline of job functions to work with. This task can be time consuming so be sure to plan ahead as much as you can and offer as much help to your managers as they need from you. Explain how this will ultimately provide a benefit to them and their employees (and the company overall) and again, offer as much help as they need with the task.
Salary surveys aren’t as easy to obtain as many people think they are. Obtaining meaningful salary surveys will take much leg work on the part of the person handling the HR function within the company. Formalized salary surveys obtained from large reputable organizations can be costly; sometimes too costly for the small company to justify the expense. If that is the case for your company, begin your search for some lower cost alternatives. Start your inquiry with Human Resource professional organizations, try to source through your networks, and then work your way through to speaking with your state and local Departments of Labor. At the very least, they will be able to point you in the right direction. Most state Departments of Labor have placed their statistical data online and even drilled down that geographical salary data to the county level where you can make relative comparisons. You can also perform the obligatory internet search yourself; see where that takes you. Once you start on this path, dedicate at least a few days to the cause. It just takes perseverance and the absolute faith that the time you will be spending on this arduous task will lead you to the ultimate path of getting some really good salary surveys to work with. Try to be patient and keep in mind that each step you take will lead you in the right direction and will eventually yield some very good sources for you at some future point in time.
So, now you have your salary surveys in hand. What’s next? Start to draft the feedback form (sometimes referred to as the Performance Appraisal Form) that you think will work for the type of industry you operate within. Be prepared to get a lot of pushback from others on this within your organization. It’s only natural. It’s new; it requires commitment from the Executive team and ultimately effects the entire organization. It may be like hitting a nerve at first. Continue on your path. Prepare your draft and tweak it based on the comments you receive however, if what they are proposing doesn’t make sense or doesn’t sound right to you, it probably isn’t. Remember, your job in HR is to be that voice of reason and to make sure you guide and counsel in the appropriate manner. Explain to those who are pushing back, your reasons for why you believe that it may not work (in the appropriate manner). If pushback persists, you may have to create a formalized flow chart process to explain how you envision that process from start to finish so they can visually see this process through to the end and where the rough spots may be at points somewhere in the middle.
So, now that you have your salary surveys (and hopefully that perfect employee feedback document that’s ultimately finally been approved), you’ll need to know how much money you will be allocating to the performance appraisal and/or bonus pools. Again, this may be a tough one to nail down. Timing is absolutely “key” on this. Know when to approach the Executive with your request. Take a gauge on how this works for your company. It works differently for every company (small or large) so the point here is “it’s all in the timing”. You’ll have to really give this some thought. If it’s poor timing, just know you’ll learn for next year. If it’s good timing, you’ll know how and when to obtain your funds next year. This is a moving target; no one size fits all here. Again, you are an HR person, you’ve learned at this point in your career how and when to time your initiatives. If you’re new to HR, this is another step on that path of learning how and when to time your initiatives.
Next, you will need to create the mechanism of how you’ll structure your salary surveys, performance appraisal program, and bonus pool against some type of salary grading system. This is an extremely important step for the small employer because it begins to set the baseline for your future payroll expense. I know that sounds huge. It is huge!!! Think about this, if you don’t have any salary grading structure in place now, what do you think will happen year after year with those salaries over time? What happens if you can’t afford to give generous increases you had been giving to your employees if you experience sudden growth and need to use funds that were previously allocated to employee increases to that growth? What happens if your business sees a temporary decline with sales? What happens if business conditions suddenly change outside of your control? These issues will almost certainly escalate to a point where you (and your company) will be dealing with it as a negative Associate Relation issue later if you have to put the brakes on providing increases to the employees that had been above average for your industry. Are you getting it now? This point can’t be emphasized enough. It’s a very real story for a lot of small employers. Start to formalize your processes now before you experience your company’s growth and begin to feel those growing pains. This will be one of those processes that you will be glad you started to formalize while you are still a relatively small company.
Another forgotten area; report generation. How do you do that now? What could it look like once you have all of your formalized processes in place? What tools could you use to help you? There are many parts to consider but one of the most important items is to generate reports against some structured input values. Automated reporting is something you will eventually not be able to do without; especially once you have defined the process. Historical reporting will also help you and your Executives make better business decisions. How can you help them perform “what if” scenarios and be able to drill down to the management direct reporting levels? How can you show them how they handled the performance and/or salary/bonus processes the previous year? How can you collectively show the progression of your program once performance ratings have been included? How can you show the financial impact of management decisions that may need to be refined? There are tools available where you’ll be able to do all of this without searching through spreadsheets or Personnel files. You’ll no longer deal with “sorting accidents”, pivot tables, missing papers and or the possibility of providing inaccurate (or too much) information to your management team. You’ll also find that once your process has been systemically integrated, you’ll feel much more confident about report and documentation requests you need to generate for audits that may arise throughout the year (whether internal or external).
Putting a formalized process in place isn’t as hard as your imaging it is. Sage HRMS products can accommodate this need very easily for you. Even if you don’t have your plans in place, their processes and system setup can help to identify and address the needs within your program. There are many other additional internal resources and learning tools available to assist you with whatever process you need within your company ( Check it out!

Elements of a Good Employee Handbook

4 Nov

HR Technology Can Help Maximize Your Return on Employee InvestmentThe employee handbook can be a terrific resource for the employer and the employee. There are several elements that should be contained within that relate to the company’s history/mission, values, policies, procedures and benefits. The handbook is often viewed as a means of protecting the company against discrimination and unfair employment practice claims and will provide an outline of the general expectation that the employer has for its employees.

The handbook is not a policy and procedure book. A policy is a written statement that reflects the employer’s standards and objectives relating to the various employee activities and employment related issues. There is clearly a difference. Using legal counsel will help you craft an employee handbook that is generic enough for the employees to know what is expected of them but, provide enough guidance leading them to where they can go for the actual written policies of the company (which may exist in other department specific documents and/or Standard Operating Procedure guides).

Employers should ensure the handbook is distributed to every employee within the organization (regardless of specific levels or job titles). You should always secure a written acknowledgement of the employees receiving the handbook, thus ensuring that they have read and understood the contents contained within. Once the employer receives the acknowledgment, it should be secured in each employee’s personnel file. This is a very important step. A checklist should be developed and cross-referenced to ensure that every employee’s acknowledgment (complete with signature) is received. Written returned employee handbook acknowledgments should be readily available for you but, completely secured in a location with limited access.

Handbooks should never be construed as an employment agreement; which could affect the employer’s at-will status with the employee. Handbooks should always be reviewed by legal counsel before distribution to the employees. Consult professional legal guidance for clarity in defining the differences between state and federal laws.

What if an Employee Handbook Already Exists at a Company?

If your job now includes responsibility for employee handbooks, all the employer’s policies and procedures should be re-reviewed to ensure they contain all of the provisions that the employer wants contained within as well as ensuring all applicable state and/or federal provisions have been included (or updated to comply with applicable laws). No assumptions should be made. Begin your review from scratch and cross-reference the handbook that already exists. If the policies in the current handbook don’t make sense to you, they more than likely won’t make sense to an employee once re-issued (or may be misunderstood by your current employees). Re-write the policy and provide your draft to legal counsel for review. If a policy doesn’t exist, write one; partner up with the department head to which any policy affects, have them review it first, and then partner in your legal counsel. Prepare as much of the draft as you can as this will save cost. Example: If it’s a policy that supports the payment of Paid Time Off and the Payroll Department within the organization will be the department that supports and ultimately administers the policy on a daily basis, have that department head review it to ensure it clearly conveys the intent of the policy and that it can be administered by that department in the manner in which it is written and intended to be administered. Again, the emphasis will be to ensure that your legal counsel has had the opportunity to review prior to any policy issuance to the employees.

What Else Should Be in There?

Most employee handbooks include a message from the owner of the business and/or CEO/President etc. It’s usually a welcome message and contains something about the company’s mission, purpose or intent. It’s also a great way to set and establish positive associate relations.
Of course, other important statements should be in there as well which may include, EEO, Employment At-will, FMLA, COBRA, EEOC, Anti-discrimination laws, ADA, FLSA etc. There are many other important considerations and legal mandates that could apply in certain states so it would be advantageous for you to have legal counsel review the entire handbook draft prior to issuance. Use all of the sources available to you; inclusive of any professional Human Resources organizations. If you’re not a member of any professional organization, join one that you are comfortable with. Ask other professionals within your field, they will be able to help you select an organization that you can contact for introductory information. Professional Human Resource organizations will be able to assist you with tasks that are common to professionals within your field or industry. They may also be able to provide samples, templates, toolkits or checklists of items that you may have forgotten or recommend topics and/or items you weren’t even aware of because you are new to the field or performing this particular task.

Considerations for Distribution to Employees

Posting to your company intranet is a great way to communicate the handbook however, you need to be sure that there has been a mechanism created to obtain the employee signed written acknowledgement. You’ll also need to consider how you will distribute the handbook to new employees. Create a checklist to cross reference the written acknowledgments you receive. You should receive an acknowledgement from every person (within all levels) of your organization. These should be easily accessible if you need them at a future point in time but, secured with very limited access.

Updating the Handbook in Between Cycles

So, you’ve just finished updating your employee handbook, distributed it to the employees and you have now been made aware of a new major policy—simple, create an addendum. Once you have had legal counsel review it, post the update to your intranet, re-circulate the policy to the employees and be sure to include the addendum in your next major handbook update. Check with your legal counsel to inquire if you need to obtain any written acknowledgments from the employees. Be sure to clearly reference any previous policy that is being updated; clearly conveying that the new policy replaces any other versions that may be in circulation. Make sure the addendum contains a date or current revision schematic (if you use one). It should be extremely clear which policy governs and be easily cross-referenced with the new policy.


-Partner in with department heads that are responsible for administering a particular policy. Ensure you take their feedback into consideration and have them approve any and all final drafts of policies.
-Review any and all drafts for clarity, consistency and typos.
-Use current revision schematics or calendar dates where necessary.
-Ensure a draft of the final employee handbook is provided to the Executive that you report to so they have the opportunity to ask questions or provide their feedback.
-Obtain signed written employee handbook acknowledgements from every person and level within the organization.
-File all signed written acknowledgements in a secure area; limiting access to only those who will absolutely need it.
-Consult Professional Human Resource Organizations for guidance in preparation or for best practices.
-Always obtain legal review; this is extremely important.

HRIS Data Integrity

9 Oct

Recruiting in Today's Job Market

This guest blog post is courtesy of Robin Rothman, Sage Product Marketing Manager.  She has over 25 years in Human Resources Management and Director roles.  She is an expert in the areas of: Associate Relations, Compensation, Affirmative Action, Recruitment, Legal Compliance, Training and Development, HRIS and Employee Benefits. 

Data integrity refers to maintaining and assuring the accuracy and consistency of data and is a critical aspect to the design, implementation and usage of any system which stores, processes or retrieves data. The term data integrity may have widely different meanings depending on the specific context but for our purpose, we’ll discuss how it pertains to the implications of your HR and Payroll data.

The overall intent of data integrity is to ensure data is recorded exactly as intended to your HRIS system or database. When you are ready to retrieve the data at some later point in time, maintaining an accurate internal record of your data ensures that the intended data is the same as it was when it was originally provided to you and recorded to your database.

For the HR and Payroll professional, producing reports is one of the essential functions of the job. Inputs can (and probably are) received from various sources. You probably produce a lot of reports for various areas within your business. Different departments within your organization may also have access to your central repository. The individual responsible for data reporting should feel some level of comfort knowing that the reports they eventually produce, contain the intended data.

For example, there are times when pieces of data are input incorrectly. Fields such as first name, last name and social security number are one of those easily overlooked items. At the onset, it may seem insignificant and/or have an easy fix. However, if not corrected timely could have far stretching implications aside from just having the wrong name appear on a report. No big deal, right? Well, not so much…

For example, here’s what can happen…”last name” field is input into a database incorrectly. Someone generates a report that retrieves that particular field from your database. That piece of data may be used for presentation at a meeting where that particular employee may be in attendance. For example, some staff or other Execute level meeting where new employees may be introduced. So, someone who is not familiar with that person introduces them at the meeting. But…their name is spelled incorrectly (or confused with another name). Here’s how it goes…Good afternoon everyone, I’d like to introduce you to our new employee Tim Jones. Tim Jones will be working with our Merchandising Department. Ok, but, Tim Jones’ name is really Jim Jones. Better yet, he uses the name James. Where did Tim come from? Is he Jim or James? Confusing, isn’t it? Think for a minute how that person being introduced may feel. They may have felt the company doesn’t even care enough about their employees to get their name correct. They may also have felt that the company they just accepted employment with isn’t professional enough to get their employee’s name correct. What about his email address? Has it been set up in the system as Tim.Jones @ There are so many areas that need to be corrected. It’s like branches of a tree that grew out everywhere, but even quicker. I’m sure you see the point by now.

This just talks to the employee relations side of the error. Wrong names input into a database cross referenced with incorrect social security numbers yields errors for both Social Security Administrative reporting for the employee as well as incorrectly stated year end W-2 reporting for both the employee and your Payroll department. Information input into E-Verify is inaccurate causing unnecessary time for the HR or Payroll Professional as well as an inconvenience to the employee in trying to resolve the discrepancy. Hmmm, what a mess!!!
Does this happen? You bet!

Here’s another example. Salary information is provided to you from one source or external process. Data input then occurs through another source. Failure to verify/cross reference the data could result in inaccurate reporting, cause major financial implication and simply put, cause the department providing the data to lose credibility within their role and/or functional area of responsibility. This is one of the easiest, most controllable but overlooked area from an administrative perspective. So what can you do if you don’t have the time to check your data? Enlist the assistance of another area within your organization to help. Taking the time to ensure that your data is correct could save you many hours of lost productivity at a future point in time.

Carefully, taking the time to check the work entered/input into any system ensures that when you produce a report for yourself (or another entity), credible information is produced. Maintaining your credibility; it’s impossible to put a price on that!

Open Enrollment Part II – Plan Selection

4 Oct

Health Benefits Can Be CostlyThis guest blog post is courtesy of Robin Rothman, Sage Product Marketing Manager.  She has over 25 years in Human Resources Management and Director roles.  She is an expert in the areas of: Associate Relations, Compensation, Affirmative Action, Recruitment, Legal Compliance, Training and Development, HRIS and Employee Benefits. 

Once  you’ve decided on how you will handle the Administrative pieces of your Open Enrollment process, you’ll want to carefully take time to consider what options you have in selecting your plan. There will be plenty of choices for sure. Selecting options that work best for you and your employees will also necessitate consideration of your budget. You may ask yourself some questions such as, Can this plan work for us? Is it affordable to the employees? Will it be enough to attract and retain the talent we need for the business? There are many other questions you are more than likely to think about. We hope to support your thought process by providing additional information for you to consider when incorporating them into your existing processes (or if you are new to the process, some areas for you to initially consider).

What You Can Do
Obtain forecast renewals from your carrier and/or your broker. At this time, it would be advisable to obtain the quotes you need to ensure a broad range benefit offering. Once you begin the selection process, it would be helpful to partner in your Finance department by providing them with numeric spreadsheets that contain basic information to ensure you have remained within your budget. Sometimes, unforeseen business conditions necessitate last minute budget revisions. It is beneficial to incorporate them early in your process as opposed to having to redo the entire benefit selection/offering process.

Prepare an overview document for your Executive and/or the Executive to whom you directly report so they can have the chance to ask you questions. Obtaining Executive support also ensures they will share the information with other executives and garner higher level support for this important company-wide initiative. In some cases, you may need to communicate information that is not as favorable as in previous years, so having that additional Executive support helps.

Reserve any resources you need for presentation (conference rooms, conference calls, virtual presentation vendors). It’s helpful to send calendar invites so your audience can plan their time accordingly well in advance. Last minute invites could leave your audience guessing whether or not you have accurately prepared and/or selected their benefit offerings.

Create an invite memo for the meeting. Although you can’t include your benefit offerings in the invite memo, you can create excitement for the process. Don’t miss your chance to create and promote positive morale. Be sure to include your insurance broker and/or carrier representative. Since you have been working with them throughout your process, it’s easy to overlook their invitation to your final rollout.

Calculate participant costs and company costs. Create an easy to understand document that employees can share with their families. It’s ok to be creative but, remember; sometimes the decision maker for benefit selection may not be the employee. It may be a significant other who was not in attendance at your meeting. Identify COBRA participants that need timely notifications. If you use a third party vendor, ensure you are aware of their deadlines for any new information to be input into their systems. Ensure your documents contain the necessary information for compliance. Visit all applicable Department of Labor websites for any changes. If the information doesn’t seem clear to you, obtain the advice or your legal counsel. There are often hefty penalties associated with non-compliance. Obtaining legal guidance ensures you are in compliance with federal and state laws.

Once benefit plans have been selected, you will need to obtain (or create) the legally required Summary Plan Descriptions. Recent legislation has made this easier to read since all carriers are required to format their documentation in a uniform manner. If you are self-insured, be sure to have your legal team review the Summary Plan description to ensure compliance with applicable federal and/or state laws.

Prepare attendance sheets and/or a tracking mechanism for your meeting(s). This will help avoid mailing duplication. It’s also helpful to capture a record of attendance or external mailing for compliance with applicable compliances that involve time sensitive dates of receipt.

If your meeting requires physical presence, enlist the help of Administrative Departments with room setup, material dissemination, attendance tracking, meal planning, etc. Be sure to thank and acknowledge them both before and after your meeting. Remember, this is a team effort. They will appreciate the recognition.

Once your documents have been created, some areas you may consider include: Do you have a company intranet where documents need to be replaced? Will your Recruitment Department need the new materials for prospective employees, for candidates? Will Payroll require information on benefit cost changes? Can you think of anyone else inside and outside your organization that will you need to communicate your benefit changes and costs to? If you have any out of state and/or remote employees, if they are not located in close proximity to your main office or do not have easy access to a dedicated Human Resource representative, will they require any additional meeting time for questions and answers? If your organization is large, is there a place where the employees can come for assistance with benefit selection? Have you communicated to them where they can turn to for questions and/or assistance? If you provide an opt-out allocation for your employees, will they need any documentation from your company to support proof of your open enrollment changes?

Once you have selected your plan, finalize the new costs with your brokers, insurance carrier and/or third party vendors. This will ensure accurate billing. Communicate effective date for all plans. Ensure required plan testing and/or Section 125 documents (if applicable) have been completed. Prepare any forms/mechanisms for benefit selection/capture. Test this process carefully. Have someone familiar with your process review these forms for accuracy. You want your documents to be free from errors, typos etc. These are the items you can absolutely control, so take the time to review and re-review.

Meet with your Payroll department to review the process. Provide them with draft documents and collaborate with them on their needs. As you know, this will affect employee paychecks. Oftentimes, Payroll is on the front line. Partnering in with your Payroll Department ensures that processes will flow smoothly. Plus, you’ll gain another advocate in the process.

Once your meeting is complete, send an email to the associate’s thanking them for their participation in the process, meeting deadlines and for showing their support. Never underestimate the power of simply saying thank you.

Relax, Reflect. It’s Almost Over. Review your process. What went wrong, what went right? Did you receive any feedback for improvement? Have you solicited feedback from the employees and/or your Executive Team? Take the time to reflect on the process. Re-adjust, and then tweak the process.

In closing, recognize that the Open Enrollment process is an evolutionary process. It will change every year. Strive to make the process better. Have you asked yourself, how can we make this process better? When you have made the necessary adjustments to your process, be sure to schedule a follow-up meeting with your Executive to review the process and to demonstrate that you have taken the time to make the necessary adjustments toward improving the process next year.

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