Month: April 2015

Improving Morale While Lowering Costs.

 Another update from the Jungle…
image031Doug is the plant manager of a factory that makes car parts. His boss transferred him from a nearby facility with instructions to improve operations and lower costs at the factory. It didn’t take Doug long to figure out that the high costs were due to low employee morale and a high incidence of on-the-job injuries.

Some of the worker compensation claims defy common sense. One worker wrenched his ankle after ignoring warning signs and walking across newly laid floor tiles before the glue had set. Another employee lost a finger in a machine because he ignored the safety protocols for using the machine.

Doug hopes to simultaneously increase safety, reduce worker comp claims and improve employee morale. First, he wants to create a new safety training program. Then he wants to implement a drug-free workplace program. This program will have the added benefit of lowering premiums on the worker comp policy through the mandatory discount offered to companies with drug-free workplace programs.

Doug knows that safety training and a zero tolerance for drugs are only the beginning. He believes morale will improve when employees realize they can get bonuses and wage rises by improving safety. But he must also revise the factory’s HR policies to reflect a more enlightened approach of rewarding good behavior rather than punishing bad behavior. All the changes will contribute to a rise in productivity. Doug knows he needs help to accomplish all these ambitious goals.

What should Doug do next?

  1. He should ask his insurance agent what steps he needs to take to implement the new drug-free workplace program. One of those steps must include identifying a company certified to administer the drug-testing.
  2. He should hire an OSHA-certified trainer to teach the new safety classes.
  3. He should outsource the task of revising the HR policies since he lacks the on-site HR staff to handle this responsibility.

The above scenario is based on actual worker comp claims. If your company is struggling with similar issues consider the following resources. USA Mobile Drug Testing of Nashville can help administer a drug-free workplace program. Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help create HR policies and procedures appropriate for your company’s size.

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Flying Solo.

Another update from the Jungle…
image027Doris is the HR director for her company. She’s studied diligently to obtain several certifications from SHRM and she goes to plenty of training seminars, and not just because she needs the HRCI credits. She genuinely wants to learn so that she can help her company avoid employee problems.

But sometimes Doris wishes she had a colleague at her company to help with HR questions, especially when she can’t find answers to her questions. She misses her co-workers from her old job, even the obnoxious self-absorbed ones, because at least there was someone with whom she could share the responsibility for ensuring the company “stayed legal”.

Now when she has HR questions, she has to do all the research herself. She starts with the resources available on the SHRM website. If she can’t find answers to her HR questions in those resources, she uses the on-line HR library provided free by the insurance broker that sold her company a group health plan. Most insurance brokers offer on-line HR resources such as Zywave/MyWave or HR360.

The on-line HR materials provide general information but not always the details to answer her questions. These are the days when Doris wishes that she had a colleague to help her puzzle her way to an answer.

What are Doris’ options?

  1. She can continue going it alone, occasionally asking a question on SHRM’s on-line forum for HR professionals.
  2. She can ask the insurance broker’s staff for assistance, but they look at the same on-line resources as her. Or they may ask the insurer’s compliance staff for help if her question relates to the group health plan.
  3. She can consult an employment law attorney but she’s usually asking questions involving established law; not asking a question that requires legal advice.

The above scenario represents dozens of situations faced by my company. As an HR consultant to an insurance broker, I helped their employer-clients understand established legal issues related to their employees. This often meant helping their HR people dig into the details of employment law regulations. If a question could not be answered based on established law, I referred the client to an employment law attorney. If you’re the solo HR representative for your company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help.

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Once Upon A Time…

Another update from the Jungle…. 
image021Once upon a time there was a diligent manager named Vera who decided she needed an assistant. After an arduous interviewing process, she hired Sandy who showed poise during the interview, enthusiasm for the opportunity, and who had years of experience. They agreed that Sandy’s regularly scheduled hours would begin at 8 am.

Sandy began her new job by organizing Vera’s messy filing system. The paper clutter went away; the electronic files could be navigated easily. Vera was overjoyed. It was like a fairy tale ending to the quest for an assistant. But Vera forgot that bad things happen in fairy tales before the happy ending.

Sandy couldn’t seem to get to work on time. After a week of running at least one hour late, Sandy admitted that she could not get to work by 8 am. She wasn’t a morning person and she was helping her widowed mother who had many health issues. Sandy said she could get to work by 9 am, so Vera agreed to change Sandy’s schedule.

Sandy never made it to work a single day by 9 am. She’d show up at 9:30 or 10 am. Vera scheduled another meeting to discuss attendance and told Sandy to pick a time between 8 am and 9 am as a start time. Sandy said she wanted to start at 9:30 am. Vera refused because company policy required employees to begin their work day at any time between 7 am and 9 am. During the entire conversation, Sandy rolled her eyes, heaved indignant sighs, and checked her smart phone. Sandy finally agreed to 9 am. The next day, Sandy was a no-show at 9 am.

What are Vera’s options?

  1. She can put a fairy tale witch’s hex on Sandy so that the woman never works again.
  2. She can instruct the HR department to terminate Sandy’s employment immediately based on insubordination and chronic tardiness. She can still personally do the hex thing.
  3. She can ask the HR department to confirm the progressive discipline steps that must be followed before firing an employee.

In the actual incident, the employee quit before she could be fired for cause. (No hexes were invoked.) If your company is struggling with similar issues but lacks the HR staff to assist managers, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help. Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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I’m In Over My Head.

Another update from the Jungle…
image017Cindy is the HR director for her company because she is a good listener and she can handle obnoxious people. She got the job because the owner hates conflict (and he’s one of the obnoxious people, although no one likes to mention this). Cindy listens patiently to her distressed co-workers, dispenses Kleenex and aspirin as needed, and generally puts an optimistic spin on the worst calamities.

The company is a manufacturing facility that is still fairly low tech. Most of the employees are God-fearing, gun-toting, self-described “rednecks”. They are good people but the stress of living paycheck to paycheck means there are often conflicts. As the company has grown, employee conflicts have multiplied.

Just this morning, Cindy rushed to the women’s bathroom to break up a fight between two employees. The women were fighting over the shift mechanic who has been trysting with both of them. Cindy arrived in time to see one of the women flashing a pocket knife at the other woman. The employee who pulled a knife has to go immediately. Cindy and the shift supervisor escort her off the premises. The other employee must be suspended for fighting at work.

Cindy feels overwhelmed. She has no formal training for her HR duties and she worries that she may violate employment laws due to lack of training.

What are Cindy’s options?

  1. She can continue to worry about her lack of HR training and hope for the best. After all, she’s good at putting a positive spin on dire circumstances.
  2. She can ask the owner to reimburse her costs to take HR training classes so that she has the appropriate certifications to do her job. The training will be beneficial in the long run but have no effect on her immediate concerns.
  3. She can ask the owner to hire an HR consultant to review their existing policies and practices to identify areas that need to be improved to avoid violating the law. This will fix the short term concerns she has.

The above scenario is a composite of actual situations I faced while working at several former employers. If your company is struggling with similar issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help. Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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The ACA is DOA.

Another update from the Jungle….

April Fools!

kicking-clipart-11949865171205221945blueman_306_01.svg.medThe ACA is alive and kicking. That means employers must comply with the ACA when offering a group health plan to their employees.  Unfortunately, about 30% of employers have no idea what is required of them, according to a recent insurance industry survey. Consider Tony’s situation.

Tony runs a company with about 30 full-time employees who work in the office. His company also has 80 part-time employees who work at various jobsites as needed. Tony has never offered health coverage to the part-timers because it was not financially feasible. Besides many of his part-timers wanted cash and not health coverage while others had health coverage from another source, often a spouse’s employer’s coverage.

Tony recently woke up to the fact that he must include his part-time employees in the headcount to decide if his company is a large employer subject to the employer penalty.  A quick estimate that two part-timers equal one full-time employee means that Tony’s workforce is clearly over the 50 employee line at which the employer penalty begins to apply.

What should Tony do next?

  1. He can decide to continue his current practice of not offering coverage to the part-timers. He may calculate that any penalty he owes for not offering them coverage is less than the cost of covering them in the group health plan.
  2. He can decide to offer coverage to his part-timers. If they reject his company’s group health plan, he will not owe the employer penalty.
  3. Before he chooses either of the above options, he can talk to a consultant who can explain the steps his company needs to take to comply with the ACA. Armed with this information, he can make a business decision on what is financially best for his company.

The above scenario is a composite of actual situations faced by clients. In those situations, the clients chose to offer health coverage to their part-timers because it was financially feasible and it boosted employee morale (after employees learned there is an individual penalty for not having health insurance). If you’re confused by the ACA, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help your company understand its obligations and make informed decisions on ACA compliance.

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