By: Eric Nazarian
Director of Client Technology Solutions
Most professionals will acknowledge that efficient use of time is a constant challenge in today’s corporate environment. I recently identified my greatest opportunity for improvement in this area: Email Replies. As a starting point, I spent several weeks logging the quantity of email responses and their corresponding time commitment (Note: Incoming emails were excluded as I can only control what I send). It was, at times, a tedious process but I felt strongly that any and all short-term pain would yield long-term gain.
The results were astounding… I was spending, on average, two hours per day replying to emails! Worse yet, I deemed 80% of such replies were ineffective for a variety of reasons, the most common being the infamous re-reply which typically added another layer of complexity not identified in the original message (we technology folks commonly refer to this as “scope creep”). Furthermore, when replying to a distribution group, the outcome can feel like getting singled out during a game of paint ball.
I arrived at a simple yet effective methodology for governing my email responses: “Only reply when my expertise is absolutely required and my emotions are entirely under control”. After two weeks, I had reduced my email responses by 75%. That translated to nearly one full day per week (and one full week per month) of time to redeploy in a more productive manner! The most immediate results I experienced were an overall reduction in stress and a greater desire to interact with my co-workers.
It’s worth mentioning that reducing the number of email replies is not a “magic bullet” to increased time savings nor may it be an area you need or wish to address however I challenge you to personalize the concept: Find the area in which you spend the most unproductive time and address it immediately. You might just unlock a wealth of time you never realized was available.
Finally, the next time you go to reply to an email, pause and ask yourself, “Is my response necessary and are my intentions honorable?”
Human Resources Professionals are faced with the challenge to streamline headcount, improve hiring outcomes and enhance performance management practices in this “do more with less” economy. Developing best practices to ensure that the right people are in the right places doing the right things will ultimately help organizations maximize their Human Capital investment.
A main concept that will maximize Human Capital is a close alignment of the hiring, training, and evaluation practices with company mission, vision and values. These elements make up the “moral compass” of an organization. Just like any relationship, if you are closely aligned with a person’s morals, values and overall outlook on life – you are likely to form a strong bond. We spend a lot of time and energy picking our friends and companions in life. We typically date a few different people before we commit to long-term relationships or marriages. Why would we treat an employment relationship differently? After all, we spend a whole lot of our time in that relationship!
HR Professionals can partner with business leaders to define a clear picture of what the mission, vision and values actually mean and the types of individuals and behaviors that truly personify those elements. Then, by adopting tools and activities in the hiring, training and retention initiatives they can help drive this streamlining and “Top Grading” effort in their organization. Here are a few ideas on how to make this work:
- Competencies – Identify behaviors and attitudes of individuals that are core to the organization’s mission, vision and values in addition to those that are required for job-specific success. Define what those are, why they are important and what they look like in the form of actions and results. These can then be developed into training objectives, evaluation metrics and interview questions.
- Assessment – Select assessments that are aligned with required skills (such as in-box exercises or technical tests) as well as personality and preference-based assessments to test core competencies. Identify some internal, ideal benchmarks for these and consider an activity or scenario exercise to determine how individuals will behave under similar circumstances.
- Interview Process – Insert multiple stages into your interview process and involve multiple viewpoints. For a cultural fit perspective, involve direct team members with whom this individual will be working and encourage them to provide a realistic job profile including how decisions get made and communicated, what career growth looks like, management style and team expectations.
- Performance Evaluations – Performance expectations and metrics that are aligned with company mission, vision, values will drive the behavior of progression and growth within your workforce. Incorporating specific developmental goals that relate to learning and applying concepts of your business models, codes of conduct, business acumen and organizational development will enable focus on the cultivation of professionalism and success.
New Jersey employers awaiting the release of the Pay Equality and Notice will have to wait a little while longer. On January 7th 2013, a notice of proposal containing a proposed version of the new poster was published by the New Jersey Register; but an error was discovered on the notification. The notice is currently undergoing revisions and will be reviewed again later this month.
Recap of the Pay Equality Poster and Notice Requirements
As of November 21st 2012, New Jersey employers with 50 or more employees are required to post and distribute the Pay Equality notice outlining gender equality in pay, compensation, benefits and other conditions of employment. This notice must be posted in English and Spanish as well as in any other languages predominantly spoken by the employee population. Employers must also distribute the notice to each employee along with an acknowledgement form to confirm the receipt of the notification.
The notice can be distributed by email, via printed material or through an internet or intranet platform that can only be accessed by employees. Once the notice is distributed, employees must return the signed acknowledgement within 30 days. Employers are required to provide this information:
(1) to all employees no later than 30 days after it is issued by the New Jersey Department of Labor (NJDOL);
(2) at the time of an employee’s hiring;
(3) to all employees annually on or before December 31st of each year; and
(4) at any time upon the first request of an employee to all employees.
The NJDOL has not released the Pay Equality poster or a template of the acknowledgement form. It would only be upon publication of the notice that the posting and distribution requirements become effective.
Although the Federal minimum wage will remain at $7.25 in 2013, the minimum wage in the followings States will increase for tipped and non-tipped employees, effective January 1st.
According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers in States with both Federal and State minimum wage laws must pay the higher minimum wage rate. Information related to minimum wage rate increases can be found on the Department of Labor’s (DOL) website: http://www.dol.gov/whd/minwage/america.htm, Federal Wage and Labor Law Institute (FWLLI) or through BNA – the Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. Employers can also access: http://www.dol.gov/whd/state/tipped.htm for resources related to tipped employees.
*The DOL will produce updated minimum wage tables approximately two to four weeks after the increases become effective in the respective states.
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The induction of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act brings forth new guidelines for employers including those participating in a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) relationship. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires certain employers to report the aggregate value of employer-sponsored eligible health plans on Form W-2 (in Box 12, Code DD) starting January 2013. The aggregate value of an employer-sponsored plan includes both employer and employee contributions made during the year. Costs incurred by Long – Term Care, Stand-alone Dental and Vision Plans and Archer Medical Savings Accounts are excluded from the new reporting requirement.
Why is this Information Reported?
The intent for implementing reporting rules is to provide employees with information about the cost of their healthcare expenses. According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the data is displayed for informational purposes only to illustrate the value of healthcare coverage. This information allows employees to easily compare healthcare pricing and understand costs.
What is recorded?
The reporting requirement includes both employer and employee contributions paid to healthcare vendors in 2012. The types of plans covered include:
- Medical plans
- Prescription drug plans
- Executive Physicals
- Onsite clinics (that provide more than superficial care)
- Medicare Supplemental Plans
The IRS provides a detailed list of coverage options required for W-2 reporting along with exceptions on http://www.irs.gov/uac/Form-W-2-Reporting-of-Employer-Sponsored-Health-Coverage.
Type of Employers
The reporting requirement applies to all private sector employers, federal, state, and local government entities, third-party employers (i.e. PEO), churches, and other religious organizations. Employers with 250 employees or more are required to report health care costs. The employee count per employer is based on the number of W-2s issued in the prior year. Thus if an employer issued 250 W-2s in 2011, the employer must report costs on 2012 Form W-2s in 2013. Small businesses who filed fewer than 250 W- 2s for the proceeding calendar year have until January 2014 to seek compliance. Furthermore, Indian Tribal governments and Tribally Chartered Corporations are also not subjected to the new reporting requirement until further guidelines are issued.
Employers in a PEO Agreement
Although there is no direct answer for reporting requirements for PEOs, the current application of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Title VII suggests how this requirement may be enforced. Both FMLA and Title VII are applied on a client - level instead of a PEO level. FMLA guidelines do not apply to PEO clients that employ fewer than 50 employees in a 75-mile radius in the calendar year, even if the PEO has more than 50 employees (at different clients) in the same 75- mile radius. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) implements a similar structure in regards to Title VII. The EEOC does not have jurisdiction over a PEO client with fewer than 15 employees. Both of these legislations use the employer’s population as the deciding factor instead of viewing the PEO as a whole. If the reporting requirement follows this structure, employers with a small employee population will not have to report healthcare costs even if they belong to a PEO.
Another factor to consider is if the employer is involved in a single – employer plan or a multi -employer plan. A single employer plan is a type of pension plan that is sponsored by one employer or a group of employers under a common controlled structure. This means employee benefit plans are maintained by one employer. In a single – employer plan, employers that provide applicable – employer sponsored coverage during the calendar year are subjected to the reporting requirement. In contrast, a multi – employer plan is a pension plan structured by several employers, thus if an employee moves to another employer in the plan, the employee’s benefits are still covered. Employers who only contribute to multi – employer plans are excluded from the reporting requirement.
According to the IRS, failure to report the costs on Form W-2 for the 2012 tax year may result in a penalty of $200 per Form W-2, up to a maximum of $3 million. Liability may also arise for inaccurately reporting data on Form W-2, including but not limited to IRS penalties of $100.00 for each form containing incorrect information.
Best Practices for Employers
- Identify the employer-sponsored health coverage benefits subjected to the reporting requirement.
- Calculate the aggregate cost of employer –sponsored plan for all applicable employees who received health insurance during 2012.
- If an employee worked for a portion of the year, report the total premium paid for that applicable timeframe only.
- Consult your healthcare vendor to understand how preparations for compliance will be handled.