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November 30, 2009

Around the States

Filed under: General HR Buzz11:37 am

Effective October 26, 2009 New York employers will be required to inform new hires in writing of their pay rates and pay day. Non-exempt employees must also be informed of  their overtime rates. A written acknowledgement must also be obtained from each new employee.

The New York City Council is also considering a proposal to require all employers, regardless of size, to provide paid sick leave to employees. San Francisco and Washington, D.C. already have such requirements.  Milwaukee passed a similar ordinance which was later declared unconstitutional.

Salt Lake City has passed an ordinance prohibiting private employers (i.e. those with 15 or more employees within the SLC limits) from discriminating in employment matters against “otherwise qualified” persons (both applicants and employees) based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  State entities (except SLC), religious organizations and “expressive organizations” are exempted from the ordinance.


November 27, 2009

HR Fact Friday: Automation, Lower Fees, Advice Becoming Standard in 401(k)s

Filed under: General HR Buzz10:59 am

Excellent article posted on the SHRM website recently tracking 401(k) enrollment trends.
Go to:


The percentage of U.S. employers enrolling employees automatically into the 401(k) plan has risen significantly in just two years, from 34 percent in 2007 to 58 percent in 2009. Of those plans using automatic enrollment, 69 percent now default workers into a target-date fund, up from 50 percent in 2007, according to a study by consultancy Hewitt Associates.

Happy Thanksgiving.


November 25, 2009

Six Simple Rules for Gift-giving at Work

Filed under: General HR Buzz3:43 pm

Navigating the social and professional landscape can be difficult, but there are ways to avoid alienating colleagues with embarrassment or hurt feelings, career experts say. Co-workers who are also friends can exchange gifts off site, for example, and those who want to get the boss a present can go in as a group to be as inclusive as possible.

The first order of business for those looking to play Santa is to check the company handbook or consult its human-resources manager to see if there’s a policy on office gift-giving.

Many employers are erring on the side of caution these days in anything that could be construed as fodder for a lawsuit, and some may extend limits on gifts to and from business associates to the interoffice realm as well, said Deborah Brown-Volkman, a career coach in East Moriches, N.Y., and author of the forthcoming book “How to Feel Great at Work Everyday.”

Mellissa Boggs, vice president of consulting with Professional Staff Management, a human-resources and consulting firm in Indianapolis, said employers also are trying to head off morale problems that can arise inadvertently.

“A lot of employers are going to very narrow policies,” she said. “They’re trying to do more holiday celebrations as whole groups, departments or, if the office is small, the whole office so it kind of takes away from the one-on-one gifting…They don’t want employees to feel bad if they can’t afford to do it.”

Still, larger companies are more likely to have a written policy than smaller ones, she said.

“There are more companies without policies on these issues than there are with policies,” Boggs said. “If there is a policy, it’s probably pretty informal and only discussed when there’s an issue.”

And issues do arise, particularly when workers and employers forget that some don’t celebrate a holiday of any kind during December.

“We have a more diverse work force than we’ve ever had, not only from an ethnicity standpoint but from an age standpoint,” she said. “There are just so many views and viewpoints in the workplace that things just are not the same as they were in years past.”

People who are new to a company especially need to check out what’s customary before springing for well-intentioned gifts, Brown-Volkman said.

“If there’s no policy go by tradition, what’s been done in the past, or go in with others,” she said. “You could be the person who spearheads it.”

Navigating office traditions

Of course, some companies have rituals such as Secret Santa, where workers choose the name of a fellow employee randomly and buy that person a low-cost gift. Other employers throw parties or host departmental lunches meant to reward workers for a productive year, with no expectation of additional gift-giving.

Only 38% of 110 midsize and large companies say their celebrations will include gift-giving this year, according to a survey from Battalia Winston International, an executive search firm based in New York. That’s down significantly from the booming late 1990s, when 51% gave gifts in 1998 and 49% did so in 1999.

“Since 2001, there’s been a different atmosphere both in terms of celebrations and I think in terms of gift-giving and other lavish kinds of behaviors,” said Jo Bennett, a partner with Battalia Winston.

Companies have moved away from giving workers holiday turkeys, Christmas bonuses or fancy pen-and-pencil sets, she said. Now they’re more likely to bestow company-branded promotional items on workers or to forego party gifts altogether.

But in one corner of professional life, at least in New York, a tradition endures, she said. “Over the years it was always common for bosses to have more of a personal relationship with the executive assistants than with other people. It’s something that sort of stuck from the old days.”

Bennett said she and another partner chipped in for a spa day for the assistant they share.

Overall, though, many workers prefer to sit out what can become a gift-giving guessing game.

“It is a problem because you don’t want to get something that’s rinky-dink,” she said. “You don’t want to get something too extravagant either.”

Six tips

Here are six suggestions for gift-giving at work without putting people on the spot or breaking team camaraderie:

  1. Keep it voluntary. Opting out of office gift-giving games should be free of consequences, Boggs said. “You have to be cognizant of people’s feelings and the holidays they celebrate and be respectful of that. If someone doesn’t want to be involved you shouldn’t make them feel horrible about not being involved.”
  2. Weigh a gift to the boss carefully, since others may perceive it as inappropriate or an attempt to curry favor. “A way around that is to chip in and give a group gift,” Brown-Volkman said. “If it’s a department gift it has to come from the department. It’s an entire group so no one’s left out.” The objective is to strive always to be seen as fair, she said. “From a company standpoint it’s OK for the boss or employer to give you something. But if it’s the other way around, you don’t know how you will be seen. The group covers you and also makes you look good.”
  3. Be mindful of income differences and financial pressures when soliciting group gifts. Let everyone in the working group sign the card, regardless of their ability to contribute to the cost of the gift, Boggs said. “You have to be careful not to be exclusive of the people who can’t afford it,” she said. “It turns a good thing into something potentially bad.” Some in the office may be struggling to pay off student loans or credit-card debt, or may have greater family responsibilities than others. “People who live paycheck to paycheck or feel like people are pitying them or doing it for reasons other than what they’re doing it for, that’s when the issues come up.”
  4. Don’t present a gift to someone you don’t know well just because it’s the holiday season. “Don’t wait until that day or it may come across the wrong way,” Brown-Volkman said. “It’s a celebration of the great working relationship all year.
  5. Gifts among peers are best exchanged off site and after hours to avoid anyone feeling excluded. “Go to lunch with them, have a cup of coffee in the morning with them before work starts,” Boggs said. “Take it off site. Make it a nonwork issue.”
  6. What if you receive an unforeseen gift? Do you reciprocate? “I think you could,” Brown-Volkman said. “It’s OK for your peers. It’s just when you go to the boss — sometimes that could be construed as favoritism.” Also consider power and gender differences, Boggs said. “When you have a female supervisor and a male employee or a male supervisor and a female employee, you always run the risk of things being taken out of context or taken wrong. You have to be really careful.”

Source: Kristen Gerencher MarketWatch


November 24, 2009

DOL Ramping Up for a Busy 2010

U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis recently announced the hiring of an additional 250 wage and hour investigators, as well as plans for a new public awareness campaign on worker rights, expected to launch in 2010.

The hiring effort at the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) represents a staff increase of more than 30%, a move that will likely improve DOL’s top priority of protecting worker rights by allowing faster response to complaints of wage violations and more deliberate enforcement.  Solis’ message is clear: “Failure to comply with these basic labor standards means that workers are not receiving the money they have earned,” and the department “will not rest until the law is followed by every employer, and each worker is treated and compensated fairly.”

Historically, the WHD has announced impressive recovery efforts, claiming that more than $185 million in back wages were restored to workers in the 2008 fiscal year.

Solis also unveiled details of “We Can Help,” a program slated for early 2010 through which the department will work to inform workers of their labor rights.

Of course the best defense against run-ins with the Wage and Hour Division is to establish and follow legal, documented policies regarding payment of wages.  HRN’s HR Suite is an online human resource compliance solution that addresses wage and hour compliance and many other critical areas of human resource management.


November 23, 2009

Tips for Retaining Top Performers in 2010

A recent survey by Robert Half found that 43 percent of chief information officers said retaining existing workers will be their top priority in 2010.

Dave Willmer, executive director of Robert Half Technology, says “Employers need to focus on preventing burnout and keeping their best people engaged at work. This may be a challenge, given that staffing cuts and the reduction or elimination of benefits have left many employees feeling overworked and undervalued.”

Although developed with IT employees in mind, these tips are applicable across all employee segments.

  1. Re-recruit your best workers. Talk with employees about what might enhance their job satisfaction and remind them of the unique benefits provided by your company. Emphasize what your firm has to offer, whether it’s a great corporate culture, solid financial standing, or strong industry reputation.
  2. Invest in professional development. One in five (21 percent) CIOs polled for the Robert Half survey said they plan to offer more training and professional development for their staff in 2010. Online learning opportunities, mentoring programs and tuition reimbursement are all good options.
  3. Provide opportunities for career advancement. Structure positions so employees can grow their careers without leaving your firm. Offer promotions to workers who have demonstrated they can succeed at the next level.
  4. Recognize excellence. It seems obvious, but a simple “thank you” and public acknowledgement of your staff’s contributions will strengthen their loyalty.
  5. Communicate regularly with staff. Maintain an open-door policy year-round. Workers want to hear about company news, in good times and bad.
  6. Provide project support. Employees who have lost coworkers to layoffs are, in many cases, now doubling down. If hiring is not an option, consider bringing in project professionals to help alleviate workloads.
  7. Encourage more team-building activities. No doubt, many companies have cut back on employee perks, but an occasional group activity, such as a trip to the movies or an offsite lunch, can make them feel more appreciated.
  8. Consider compensation. While not all firms can offer employees increased salaries, there may be potential for spot bonuses at the end of a major project or team accomplishment.
  9. Promote work/life balance. Give staff members the option to follow a flexible schedule or telecommute one day a week. It doesn’t cost anything to implement these changes and workers will appreciate the leeway.
  10. Evaluate workloads. While every project may seem like a priority, there are likely some that can take a backseat to more pressing matters.

November 20, 2009

HR Fact Friday: HR Receives Biggest Raise Among Middle Management

Filed under: Compensation6:00 am

A survey by Watson Wyatt Data Services found that among middle management, HR managers are seeing the biggest increase in average salary. The firm’s Survey Report on Middle Management Compensation for 2009/2010 found that managers in HR are receiving an average salary increase of 3.7 percent, compared with the 3.2-percent raises seen by other positions in middle management. However, managers in the retail management saw the largest increase in average total cash compensation (9.5 percent). The survey included responses from 863 organizations.

Meanwhile, a separate survey reported pay increases among top management. The survey found that top budgeting executives are receiving an average increase in total cash compensation of 13.6 percent, the highest among the positions reported in the firm’s 2009/2010 Survey Report on Top Management Compensation.

The survey found that respondents reported that they had increased top managements’ salaries by an average of 3.6 percent and total cash compensation by an average of 3 percent. However, 8 positions in the overall sample received increases to total cash compensation of at least 7 percent. Those positions are the aforementioned top budgeting executive and:

  • Top international executive
  • Top merchandising executive
  • Top power generation executive
  • Top product development executive
  • Top production and inventory management executive
  • Top program executive
  • Top transmission/distribution executive

More than 1,500 organizations responded to the survey. The highest increases in salaries for were reported by the healthcare sector (4.5 percent). The services sector reported the biggest increase to total cash compensation (5.4 percent).

The survey found that bonus and/or other cash compensation payments averaged 52.4 percent for all salary levels combined.



November 19, 2009

Use a “Spirit at Work” Program to Engage Employees

Filed under: General HR Buzz11:46 am

A study at the University of Alberta showed that people need a sense of purpose in order to feel engaged with their work. A ‘Spirit at Work’ intervention program for a group of long-term health-care workers boosted morale and job retention. This program urged employees to rethink their job, which reduced absenteeism by 60% and turnover by 75%.

“We discovered that people who are able to find meaning and purpose in their work, and can see how they make a difference through that work, are healthier, happier and more productive employees,” said Val Kinjerski, a University of Alberta PhD graduate who co-authored the study.

E-science news gathered this information from the Journal of Gerontological Nursing. By helping your people understand why they do what they do – you can increase happiness and productivity. Here are few ideas that might help your employees/coworkers to connect with their work.

Create Your Own Spirit at Work Intervention Program

1. Talk about positive stories
2. Have people share positive stories to be compiled for other employees
3. Listen to customer feedback
4. Find out what improvements your people would like to implement
5. Ask your employees how they want to celebrate great results

Your organization has an opportunity to create happier and more engaged workers with these easy to apply secrets that everyone should know, but many aren’t willing to try:

1. Talk about positive stories. Your organization has many stories of how employees solved problems, helped others in need, and other ways in which they went above and beyond to make someone happy. However, a lot of us like to play the modesty card. We hesitate to flaunt our achievements. Wrong. So wrong. You need to flaunt your greatness; it’s a must!

2. Have people share positive stories to be compiled for other employees. So now that you have all these positive stories, you should compile them in a central location. That means keeping emails from customers/clients and that also means writing down stories from employees. The more stories an organization can compile the more powerful it becomes. If your organization is huge, then break it down into departments. Even departments such as marketing and accounting need to compile stories. These stories may be more internal, but it’s still important to document what is happening so you can link to why you do what you do.

3. Listen to Customer Feedback. In order to stay engaged in our work, we have to recognize our mistakes and understand how to fix them. By listening to customer feedback, an organization is taking the time to understand their mistakes and correct them.

4. Find out what improvements your people would like to implement, If you can listen to customers’ needs then it’s time to listen to employees’ needs. Your employees are at their most creative when they are trying to fix problems. Your organization employs smart people, otherwise they probably wouldn’t hold the positions that they do. They just need a chance to unleash that creativity and wow the customer.

5. Ask your employees how they want to celebrate great results. Every company is capable of achieving great results, especially if they’ve been around for more than a few years. If your organization is ho hum about the results that do occur, your people may stop trying. People want to know that what they do matters. That means celebrating all the good things.
This should be done in large and small groups. The larger gatherings can occur about 1-4 times a year, while the smaller groups (celebrations by department) should be done more often.

After implementing these secrets for about a year, assess how these changes affect your organization. You will probably notice that people are more engaged and willing to try a little harder to meet each other’s needs as well as the needs of the customer.

These techniques will work for most companies. The companies that do fail usually do so because they don’t make this practice a habit. It needs to become part of the culture, so when something difficult happens there are techniques to fall back on. And when something great happens everyone dances on their desks, feeling proud of their effort.



November 16, 2009

$1.3 Million Religious Discrimination Case

Filed under: Employment Law3:11 pm

In a religious discrimination case, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission has announced a judgment of $1.3 million against communications giant AT&T. The Arkansas case was brought by the EEOC on behalf of two customer service reps who were suspended and fired after attending a Jehovah’s Witness convention. Both men had requested a day of leave to attend the convention, something they had done annually.

While you aren’t likely to find yourself in a million dollar religious discrimination lawsuit, the case serves as a reminder to ensure that managers understand the surrounding issues and that appropriate policies and procedures are in place to prevent any such discrimination.   Increasing workforce diversity makes this increasingly important.  In fact, the number of religious discrimination charges filed with the EEOC has risen significantly in recent years.


November 13, 2009

HR Fact Friday: Worker Engagement and Expectations Dropping

Cost cutting actions made by U.S. employers in 2009 to deal with the economic downturn have contributed to a sharp decline in the morale and commitment of their workers, especially top performers, according to an annual survey by consultancy Watson Wyatt and WorldatWork, an association of HR professionals.

The 2009/2010 U.S. Strategic Rewards Survey found that employee engagement levels among all employers dropped 9% since 2008 and have plunged close to 25% among top performers.  Additionally, 36% of top performers say their employer’s situation worsened over the past year; the number who would recommend others take jobs at their company has declined by nearly 20%.

“The fallout from the actions employers have taken in response to the recession is now coming to light, and it is significant,” said Laura Sejen, global director of strategic rewards consulting for Watson Wyatt. “Having less engaged and committed workers is a major concern for employers. This could have a long-lasting and detrimental impact on productivity, quality, and customer service, as well as an increase in the risk of companies losing their best employees.”

The survey was conducted in May and based on responses from 1,300 full-time workers at large U.S. employers.

Source: HR Magazine, Stephen Miller, November, 2009 pg. 16


November 11, 2009

Which States Had the Highest and Lowest Median Household Income Level in 2008?

Filed under: Salaries & Pay2:59 pm

If you guessed Maryland ($70,545) and Mississippi ($37,790) you’d be right…

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the states with the highest income levels are found in the far west and northeast.

The four highest states after Maryland are New Jersey ($70,348), Connecticut ($68,595), Alaska ($68,460) and Hawaii ($67,214). After Mississippi the lowest paying states are West Virginia ($37,989), Arkansas ($38,815), Kentucky ($41,538), and Alabama ($42,538).

If you’re considering moving to one of the high paying states you may want to factor in the cost of living.  Housing costs and living expenses eat up much of the pay difference.

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