Help! I need people, now!

5 Jan

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

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

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

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



Legal considerations for 2015

5 Jan

The new health insurance rules are coming up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Employee classification continues to be major issue

31 Dec

It's important to know who is a contractor and who an employee.

Employee classification continues to be a major subject of debate among those tasked with human resource planning. Even a company as large as Google can make this mistake. It is currently being sued for misclassifying someone as an independent contractor. It's the same old argument, having to do with the way the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Labor test to see if a worker is a contractor or an employee.

According to Human Resources Executive Online, the worker in question spent 45 hours per week on his project, but Google did not pay for more than 30 hours of work.  He is suing through the San Francisco office of law firm Hinshaw & Culbertson.

"This issue impacts every employer, both public and private, in any [line of] business," says Amy Jensen, a partner in that law firm.

California, where Google's main office is located, has unique laws protecting employees that go above and beyond what federal laws demand. However, the problem with worker classification is nationwide, and no company is exempt from an investigation by the DOL.

Lee Schreter, who is the co-chair of Littler Mendelson, a law firm dealing with employee classification, says that companies need to prepare for emergencies before they happen.

"Employers can plan ahead for this type of litigation and build the necessary evidence today to defend against these claims in the future," said Schreter.

The rules for employee classification
There are ultimately two tests the government can use to see if a worker is an employee or not. One test, by the IRS, looks at behavior, finances and the type of relationship. If the company treats its worker like an employee, pays the person like one and has a contract that refers to its worker as an employee, then the worker is by default an employee and entitled to benefits.

The DOL test looks at six different areas to see if the worker is a contractor or not, but the guiding principles are the same as for the IRS's test.

The penalties for misclassification are severe and involve at the very least a new taxation for employees formerly classified as independent contractors. The DOL might also fine the company for breaking the law, whether intentionally or not.

Special California rules
As an added challenge, California has its own rules governing meals and rest breaks, according to HRE Online. These are dictated by whether an employee has a salary or gets paid hourly wages. Those with wages must receive regular paid breaks. Simply giving an employee a salary will not be enough to make that employee qualify for not receiving paid breaks any longer. The rules are more complex than that.

"If you have a workforce with a lot of standardization, HR folks or in-house counsel should conduct a review of the various job classifications, especially where they have the most employees and/or the ones in the gray area," said Employment Partner Emma Luevano of Mitch Silberberg & Knupp in Los Angeles. "They should make sure they're being classified properly."

The costs misclassification are high, but due diligence can help to mitigate disasters.

Cloud-based tools coming to the forefront

31 Dec

Cloud software makes companies more efficient.

Cloud-based HR manager software is quickly becoming the normal way that business is conducted, according to Mid-Size Insider. While some question whether cloud-based tools are actually making business more difficult, most people agree that the ability to work from anywhere in the world as long as one has Internet access ultimately benefits a business, so long as the company is still being run efficiently and with the proper regard for its workers.

Cloud-based tools allow employees to check their employee status, their benefits packages, and everything else whenever and wherever they might need this information. For example, a user might access the cloud in order to give proof of employment to someone when he or she is buying a car. Another person may want to double-check to see whether his or her dental coverage extends to oral surgery.

The benefit for those on the HR side of the business is also very large. For example, someone could perform data entry at home, and rather than simply populate an Excel spreadsheet, the information would be sent through the cloud to the actual HR software, which would then span the entire database at once, saving time and letting someone work at their house if he or she chooses.

Cloud-based tools benefit businesses
It is somewhat surprising, given the functionality of the cloud, that some have argued against it. But some people have cited fears that having constant availability to business information may be overwhelming for employees, who might feel compelled to work at all hours, according to the Society for Human Resources Managers. However, according to a study by Softchoice, a technology provider, 74 percent of 1,000 workers who were surveyed said they enjoyed using the cloud and that they were happy with their jobs. Eighty-five percent of those who used six or more cloud apps for work also reported they had an optimal work/life balance.

"The deluge of mobile devices and cloud apps into our personal and professional lives has fueled a common perception that technology leads to overworked, disengaged staff," said Francis Li, vice president of information technology at Softchoice. "On the contrary, our research shows that technology, and cloud apps in particular, have the potential to play key roles in solving long-standing employee engagement challenges."

Having mobile devices allows staff to work whenever they want, as well as any place they choose, even if this means working from home during unconventional business hours. Generally, this gives workers more freedom to choose when and how they want to do their job, which can improve morale at the office.

College students getting hired more often

31 Dec

College students are being hired more frequently this year.

Employers are hiring college students again, according to Human Resources Executive Online. This is ultimately good for college students, but even better for companies because they can choose whoever they want from a list of many good candidates. In a climate like this, it makes sense for a business to take its time and look at multiple people. In other words, the employer's market of the recession has returned when it comes to hiring recent grads.

A recent study by Michigan State cited by HRE Online showed that college hiring has increased year-over-year by 16 percent. The study also indicated that businesses planning to hire college students were choosing those with backgrounds in business, engineering and computer science.

"As the economy continues to strengthen, employers are clearly much more confident about hiring college graduates," said Philip Gardner, director of MSU's College Employment Research Institute, according to HRE Online.

How to hire new employees
With so many people to choose from, the question becomes a matter of how to properly conduct all of the interviews and find the right candidates.

According to Talent Circles, the best recruiting policies are ones that simultaneously break new ground and at the same time don't necessarily go overboard at being different for difference's sake. A good example of this would be the examination process of the candidates. Companies should avoid using Facebook to see what a candidate is like because information could be found that isn't supposed to impact a job applicant's chances of employment. At the same time, don't hesitate to create a compelling online presence and accept applications through LinkedIn or another similar site.

Remember also that even though it's OK to pick and choose from a list of candidates, a company must also make an effort to differentiate itself from the competition because there are a large number of businesses that cover similar ground. At the send of the day, a job candidate might choose one position simply because it's close to his or her house and pays well, while someone else will go to another state for work because that person wants a specific industry that isn't available where he or she is living.

The interview process is one many people use to base their opinions of a candidate on, but remember not everyone interviews well, and not every job will necessarily require someone with perfect interview skills. While sales personnel will be expected to sell themselves, an engineer might not have that same pressure.

On the subject of interviews, those charged with human resource planning must remember to avoid asking illegal questions. This doesn't mean an interviewer can't find out the relevant information to the job, but it means people have to be careful. Instead of asking someone, "How long have you lived in the U.S.?" to someone with a foreign accent, which is illegal, it may be better to ask, "How familiar are you with our customer base." This, according to Rikka Brandon is the proper way to get the information someone really wants to know without positioning a company for a lawsuit.

Managing companies while eschewing the manager label

31 Dec

New types of bosses have come into prominence.

For a long time now, there have been a variety of management styles in the workplace. These range from the task-focused manager to the one who emphasizes learning on the job and guiding people toward doing better with each new assignment. Everyone benefits differently under an appropriate style. A new way of managing people has recently come under attention. It's called the "managerless business" because it is a style of running a company without managers at all.

According to a story by Mike Haberman of Blogging 4 Jobs, these businesses are organized by teams of associates who decide things together by group consensus. Haberman said that his studies on managerless companies left him with a few questions, mostly centered on legal issues, such as FMLA or reasonable accommodation requests, and other such business matters that are usually confidential. For example, how would a company that decides everything as a group handle a harassment complaint?

Easier ways of handling companies with reduced managerial responsibilities
Fast Company reported that many managers have taken on mentor roles, which is more suitable for millennials and Gen-X employees, who eschew traditional management. While a mentor continues to have the power to hire and fire, this person can also be tasked with helping employees to reach a greater level of potential. Such managers are always concerned with how much further an employee could go down his or her career path and what skills this person needs to do his or her best.

Millennials are leading the way with much softer approaches to managing people. This is the so-called best friend style of leading groups, which means taking the managerial role and putting it into a social setting.

"The team might work all day, for example, and then grab dinner together," says Thomas Moran CEO of staffing firm Addison Group. "This is a softer leadership style that motivates through communication."

The difference can often mean that managers are liked rather than disliked, as had sometimes been the case with boomer leadership. However, it leads to its own problems because sometimes the personal and the professional don't go well together, and when the personal breaks down, then the person causing the social faux pas may begin to feel uncomfortable and leave the office.

Best practices for leadership without being too dominant
In the end, it may be that with the different kinds of leadership available, the idea of getting rid of any managers at all might become a more extreme notion than it already is. In the meanwhile, many people are doing fine just mentoring, according to Moran, and this lets people stay as bosses without sacrificing too much in the way of being overly authoritative.

According to Leaders in Heels, it doesn't necessarily matter what kind of boss people are in general, as what kind of boss they are in a given situation. During times of intense stress, it may be better to be the strong leader people can follow orders from, and when things are more relaxed, to pull back and become a mentor for people.

Neurodiversity: Bringing those on the autism spectrum deeper into the workplace

31 Dec

When people with different ways of thinking come together, diversity can produce better decisions overall.

Workplace diversity now includes people on the autism spectrum and employees with ADHD and dyslexia, according to Fortune magazine. In other words, the differences now include categories having to do with someone's brain. The new civil rights movement is calling for neurodiversity as a way to help people think differently at the workplace, and companies as large as Freddie Mac are taking notice and hiring more people whose brains operate in ways previously considered outside the norm.

Diversity in areas like this are important because people who want to work for companies typically cite diversity as something they care about, according to a study by Glassdoor, cited by Human Resources Executive Online. Fully two-thirds of 1,081 respondents said they consider diversity important, and the number increases when examining minority groups, such as women, African-Americans, Asians and Latinos. Even so, the majority of white respondents said they were concerned about diversity, as well.

The bottom line is that it's becoming increasingly important that those charged with human resource planning care about who they hire, whether this means hiring people from groups considered to be racial or ethnic minorities or people who are on the autism spectrum. The ultimate goal of a diversity program is to create a workplace where people can get along and think differently by virtue of having different backgrounds and perspectives. When everyone has a unique way of thinking, then the ideas that groups come up with will be stronger because of the joint effort of people getting involved. This is up-to and including people who are on the autism spectrum or have ADHD.

"We see differences in physical, cognitive, and mental health as differences in the human condition," said Lori Golden, abilities strategy leader for EY. "The most relevant challenge for business is to bring in the very best talent for the work we do and create an environment that can unleash the full abilities of every person."

The neurodiversity movement is just one of a continuing progression of movements designed to get everyone in the workplace operating together cooperatively. According to the study by Glassdoor reported by Human Resources Executive Online, people respond very positively to this way of doing things, choosing to work where they can enjoy working with a large number of different people, rather than cookie-cutter molds of the same sort of person.

Starting a diversity program
The best way to begin a diversity program is to start internally, according to HRE Online. The second way to work is by targeting specific talent pools or groups of people. The most important thing is really for everyone in the company to actually care about the project, however.

"It is very, very difficult for any important initiative to get traction if the head of the firm isn't behind it," said Corbette Doyle, a lecturer in organizational leadership at Vanderbilt University.

The benefits that come from things such as neurodiversity include a stronger workplace overall and a more attractive one to applicants.

The new immigration policy’s effect on HR

30 Dec

The process for getting green cards has changed.

President Barack Obama recently made changes to the U.S. immigration policy that may have effects on the way human resources hires people. The change has to do with the way green cards are processed. Under the old method, immigrants under a temporary visa would be hired by a company, and then begin filing paperwork for permanent resident status. It could take upwards of nine years, according to the Society for Human Resources Management. During that time, workers would stay at the same job, and if they quit that job or were fired, they would have to start the application for residence over again.

Under the new frame work, workers can switch jobs after 180 days, so long as the two occupations are "similar," although the meaning of similar has not yet been clarified from any court precedents.

What this means for HR
The most typical hires for immigration are through the H1-B visa or through OPT-STEM. The H1-B visa is for technical jobs, such as computer programming, and can be extended for up to six years – or longer if the visa holder has an approved permanent resident petition. OPT stands for optional practical training and is for students who have come to the U.S. to study. Students with the right visa can do OPT work for one year after they finish school. Students whose college degree is related to science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) can stay longer. OPT-STEM students might see their immigration rights extend for another two to four more years under the new laws, SHRM reported.

Those who have H-1B visas who are filing for permanent residency will soon be able to change jobs more easily, which could affect retention. Meanwhile, students under OPT will have more time to work in the U.S., which means they can be kept longer. Previously, if an employer wanted to keep an OPT student, then the company would have to sponsor him or her for an H-1B visa and enter the visa lottery. Much of this work would have to be tracked by human resources management.

The Washington Post reported that the laws are unlikely to be affected by politics in the future because the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services budget derives from processing fees, which means that it operates relatively independently of government funding programs. Unless the current government changes to one that opposes the new rules, there is little that can alter the laws from the way they are now.

Immigrants and paperwork
The bottom line is that it may become easier to hire immigrants, but it will be harder to retain them. Additionally, some workers might come forward and self-report they have been using falsified documents, according to SHRM. In such a case, depending on the state and depending on if the immigrant has new documents that are authentic, they must either be fired to avoid expensive fines by the government, or they cannot be fired because the authentic documents stand even if the previous ones had been faked. Those for whom this is a concern should check with immigration lawyers to find out the local laws.

Big data and HR

26 Dec

Big data is useful for making long-term strategies.

Human resources analytics has become a major tool for many in the industry, but some people are still debating its cost effectiveness. In fact, its usefulness to an organization only goes as far as how much the organization incorporates big data into its long-term strategies. Business 2 Community called this a difference between strategic thinking and tactical thinking. Tactical thinking involves coming up with solutions on the fly to problems as they arise, but strategic thinking considers plans that stretch into the longer term, such as an overall strategy for expanding its business or running things at a certain office. An additional consideration is the choice behind who is using HR analytics. According to Forbes, it should really be a data scientist who looks at that HR information, rather than HR professionals themselves. The information that comes through is complex enough that it may be a good idea for companies planning to include HR in their strategizing to hire a scientist.

Coming up with new strategies is one of the major strengths behind big data. By looking at a great deal of information very carefully, a company can effectively create a "big picture" approach to its planning, so that it can take correlations between the way an office is structured in one department and the output at that office, along with its employee management system, and make that into a long-term approach for hiring people who are highly functional in certain environments. Tactical thinking, in contrast, is a short-term fixing strategy that may not fully use the more forward-looking scope of data analytics.

According to Forbes, it can take between five and eight years to fully realize the potential of big data by completely incorporating it into the way a company works. This means that those who plan on working with data analytics will need to think in the long term.

Hiring a professional data scientist
Companies that plan to make big data a major part of their future calculations for running a company would be making the right choice to hire a data scientist. As an alternative to this approach, which involves hiring someone whose only job would be crunching numbers, they might consider someone who has both a scientific and HR background. The goal is to find a person with the appropriate talent for looking at the information and correlations found through the use of data analytics software. According to Forbes, only about 15 percent of organizations believe they are capable of fully realizing the potential of data analytics. In order to better incorporate big data into a company, the kind of people that enter the HR field will have to change. Schools will begin teaching big data to human resources students, and professionals who are already in the field will begin training so they can understand data sets and how big data actually works. It is likely that big data will become more common in such a future, but until that time, finding people with the right background in analytics along with HR experience may prove challenging.

ADA something to be vigilant about

16 Dec

Reasonable accommodation should be foremost in the minds of employers.

The Americans with Disabilities Act can be tricky to understand. Companies that recognize the way it works can use it when determining whether to give someone reasonable accommodation as part of the company's overall human resource solutions or not. Meanwhile, other businesses that don't understand the policies can run into problems because they fail to comply with the ADA.

The Erie County Department of Social Services is an example of a company that did not implement the rules correctly, according to HR Morning. A worker there, Margaret Pascale, had an amputated leg and needed a dedicated printer so she wouldn't have to leave the desk as often to get the printouts she required to do her job.

She requested the printer under the ADA and received a certification from her doctor saying she was disabled. However, the doctor's letter did not include anything about needing reasonable accommodation. As such, she was not given the printer.

She sued and won. The reason is that the managers should have determined for themselves if a reasonable accommodation was necessary for helping her do her job, and as such, ought to have recognized that she needed her own printer.

Another example of a company that didn't understand ADA
One more company that failed to provide ADA accommodation when it should have known better was the Metropolitan Detroit Center for Independent Living, reported in a separate HR Morning article. The organization denied a deaf employee reasonable accommodation and eventually fired him for being unable to hear. The former employee sued and the company paid a settlement of $38,500.

One would have expected a business that helps disabled people for a living to understand ADA rules, but this was not the case.

Another company failed to accommodate a worker who was undergoing cancer treatments. The Angel Medical Center in North Carolina paid a settlement of $85,000 to its former employee who worked satisfactorily from December 2009 to December 2011 when she had to begin chemotherapy. She requested to return to work with reasonable accommodation, but was fired instead.

As part of the settlement, the hospital must now revise its ADA application process so that people are not denied reasonable accommodation ever again.

What businesses can do
Companies that want to avoid the dangers of failed compliance can talk to a lawyer about whether reasonable accommodation is appropriate or not, but when in doubt if the accommodation is just providing an extra printer, it may be wise to avoid the expense of a lawyer along with possible litigation and just make the accommodation.

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