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November 30, 2012

HR Fact Friday: It’s No Wonder – Hostess Asking Approval for $1.8M in Exec Bonuses!

Picked this up off the wire . . . this kind of thing gives compensation consulting professionals an upset stomach and begs the question of what kind of severance package was offered to the 18,000 employees that lost their jobs? I have heard of bonuses to to keep executives on board following a merger to support the integration but a retention bonus after declaring bankruptcy and laying off all the staff is a new one on me. Unless I am missing something, weren’t these same executives  responsible for managing the company while it was failing? Nonetheless, and my opinion aside, we will see how the judge rules on this one.

Hostess Brands Inc. plans to ask for a judge’s approval Thursday to give its top executives bonuses totaling up to $1.8 million as part of its wind-down plans.
The maker of Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Ho Hos says the incentive pay is needed to retain the 19 managers during the liquidation process, which could take about a year. Two of those executives would be eligible for additional rewards depending on how efficiently they carry out the liquidation.

Hostess is also seeking final approval for its wind-down, which was approved on an interim basis last week.

The process includes the quick sale of its brands, which also include Wonder Bread. Hostess says it has received a flood of interest in the brands.

The company’s bankruptcy means loss of about 18,000 jobs.


November 29, 2012

You Got an Interview! Now, What? – What an Interviewer Wants to Hear (Part II of II)

Filed under: General HR Buzz,Hiring & Jobs6:00 am

Interviewers want to see that you have expended some energy in preparation for the interview.  Spend some time thinking about your knowledge, skills, abilities, and experiences.  Behavioral interviewing has become very common and is still used often, so past experiences will be of value to you now, not just the warm fuzzy kind, but the negative ones as well.  Decide how these experiences have served you personally and in your field and what you learned.  Use them to determine ways in which you dealt with co-workers, whether up or down the ladder, how you saved the company money or time and how much, how you managed projects efficiently, and what new skills you acquired.  Try to be specific, but not too wordy.  Answer their questions, and be careful not to stray off topic.  Be prepared to answer why and how you left your previous companies and be ready to explain any gaps in your employment history.

One more thing . . . know what you will ask the interviewer!  When you are asked if you have any questions, be ready!  The interviewer will take note of what you ask and how well thought out your questions are.  This gives them insight as to what is important to you and whether you are looking for a position to grow with or if their company is just a stepping stone in your career path. Now is probably not the time to ask WIIFM (“What’s in it for me?”) questions, but rather try to ask about the company and the job challenges you may face if selected.

Some possible questions that will strike a melodious chord with the interviewer would be:

  • “What challenges do you think the new person in this position would face in the first 30 days?”
  • “How will success in this position be measured?”
  • “What would you say are the characteristics of a top performer in your organization?”
  • “What kind of culture do you foster?”
  • “Does the company support professional growth and education?”
  • “When do you expect to make a hiring decision?”
  • Any other relevant questions you can think of!

And, last but not least, you need to follow-up the interview with a “Thank You” note.  It should express your appreciation for the interviewer’s time and for the information you now have about the position for which you interviewed.  If you are convinced this is the company and position for you, tactfully let them know you are very interested in the job.  This communicates to the interviewer that you would like to be seriously considered for the position.

No matter what your motivation is for looking for a job, good, solid preparation is truly key to a successful interview.  Not only will the company be deciding whether you are a fit for them, you can decide if the company is a fit for you.  Maybe you will soon hear, “Hi!  We’d like to offer you the position!”


November 28, 2012

You Got an Interview! Now, What? – What an Interviewer Wants to Hear (Part I of II)

Filed under: General HR Buzz,Hiring & Jobs6:00 am

Admit it!  Being unemployed is just difficult, no matter whether you were downsized, merged, acquired or fired!  But, being unhappy in a job you don’t like is just as bad.  So you begin the process of constant searching, sending and sighing!  From job boards to online applications to social network sites . . . the fun just never ends!  But then, one day, you get that phone call or e-mail you have been waiting for.  You got an interview!  Now, what?

The first step is to educate yourself on the company.  Research their website and learn as much as you can about the people and the products or services they provide.  If the company mission and vision are accessible, become familiar with those too, since these can tell you what direction the company is desirous of heading and how they plan to get there.  It also lets you know what is important to the organization’s success, so that you can match your skills (if they really do match) to their goals to determine the value you can bring to their table.

The goal of interviewing is not just to determine if you are interested in the job.  That’s important, but also you need to know if this is a company for which you wish to work.  A recent survey released by polled 1,000 United Kingdom workers and found that 70% say that friends at work are extremely important.  The survey cited 55% stated money was most important.  But, for employers who build satisfying work environments, they will be happy to know that productivity is likely to increase.  The survey noted that 65% of the polled individuals said that happiness in their jobs made them more productive.  As you can see, it is crucial for you to find the right fit!

In Part II we will discuss what questions you need to ask during your interview.   Stay tuned tomorrow!


November 26, 2012

The Tricky Task of "Titling"

Filed under: Communication,Compensation — Tags: 9:27 am

One of the challenges in writing and reviewing job descriptions appears in something that, on the surface, seems so simple – assigning a job title.  For many people, however, it seems to weigh higher in importance than the content of the job responsibilities!  When writing job descriptions I often thought functions such as “clean toilets daily” could be incorporated into the job description as long as the title was to the liking of the incumbents in the position.

So why are titles so important?  There are probably a number of reasons, such as:

      • Identification of an individual – what’s the first question someone asks when they meet you?  Generally “what do you do?” which you respond with your job title.
      • Identification within the organization – a title often identifies your level of hierarchy in the organization.  Unfortunately, people tend to place importance on an individual’s ranking based on title.

From a compensation perspective, titles are important when looking at external market.  It’s important that job titles assigned to your positions match or are very similar in nature to those of your peers.  For market competitiveness, a title may indicate a certain level of responsibility which in turn results in a range of pay for someone typically performing the job functions of someone in that “job title”.

Although an external market survey cannot be simply matching job title to job title, if titles are assigned correctly and not over- or under-inflated, it makes the compensation process a lot easier to implement and communicate to employees.

So don’t let the assignment of job titles over complicate the process of writing job descriptions.  Simply stick to one of my favorite mottos:  “if it talks like a duck, walks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”


November 21, 2012

HR Fact Wednesday: Performance Reviews for High Level Employees? YES!

Due to the Thanksgiving holiday I am posting my usual HR Fact Friday update a bit early this week. Now isn’t that something to be thankful for? Seriously, from all of the staff at HRN Performance Solutions to each of our viewers, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. We are truly grateful for the opportunity we have had for the past 23 years to provide our wonderful clients with cost effective HR solutions and consulting services that improve individual and organizational performance. Thank you.

Now for this week’s HR Fact. Does a company need to conduct and document performance reviews for their high-level executive staff? Of course. Any termination, regardless of position needs to be well considered and have supporting documentation. This is never more important than with executive staff who are the highest paid and also the most likely to seek legal representation. The most relevant documentation for any staff action involving disciplinary action including termination is the performance review.  Discharge or possible termination of a high level staff member where there was little or no evidence of any sort of performance review of that employee is walking on shaky ground and leaving the door wide open for costly litigation. These types of employees, usually the highest paid in your company, can be the most attractive to plaintiff-side employment lawyers anyway, but the failure to have any documented track record of discipline or performance review to support a discharge makes them even more attractive as plaintiffs. Employers need to effectively assess, review and document the performance of their top managers, just as much as they need to do so for other employees. Failure to do so exposes an employer to a potentially-significant risk of liability when a fired executive employee chooses not to depart amicably.


November 19, 2012

To Keep or Not to Keep

As the end of the year approaches, it is a good time to think about cleaning out file cabinets, drawers and those notebooks that collect dust on your bookshelf.  That’s one of the items on my checklist to complete before the end of the year.  Although it is sometimes a dreaded process, it always provides me with a sense of accomplishment when completed.

When approaching this project, not only should you consider how long to keep the documents but you also need to make sure you don’t keep them for too long as that could put you at risk of a security breach.  So what should you do?  First of all, it’s a good idea to have a document retention schedule in place for your organization.  Consider both the legal guidelines regarding the lifecycle of specific documents, but your organization should also consider how long you need to retain them for internal reference.

Once the retention schedule is established and the retention period has passed, documents should be discarded appropriately.  Many types of documents require shredding as the method for discarding, which is considered to be best practice.  Additionally a destruction schedule and tracking sheet should be completed as part of your document retention practices.

Below are some of the recommended retention requirements for human resource related documents.  Please keep in mind these recommendations are general guidelines only.  They are not intended to represent legal advice as you should contact your legal expert to provide requirements for your specific requirements based on your type of business and locality.


Years of Retention Recommended

Attendance Records


COBRA Records


Employment Applications – Not Hired




Performance Records – after termination


Withholding Tax Statements



November 16, 2012

HR Fact Friday: The Elections and Employment Law

Filed under: Employment Law,General HR Buzz,Legal Issues6:00 am

With the local, state and national elections now over (thankfully- not sure we all could have endured another few days of election TV ads), the future world of employment law has more clarity. For example, the national health care reform law passed in 2010 will not be repealed. Instead, it will be explained and enforced with more regulatory guidance and interpretation and employers should continue (or begin) implementing steps.

It seems possible that Congress might reach some kind of an agreement on immigration reform, which clearly will impact employers. Federal employment law enforcement agencies like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Department of Labor (DOL) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will continue to be well-funded and probably act more aggressively in favor of employees than you might expect under a Republican president. Because voters in several states recognized the legality of same sex marriage, this likely will impact employee benefits plans in terms of who can be qualified dependents, etc. This trend may also provide momentum for Congressional enactment of the national Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA), a law that would add sexual orientation to the list of federal protected classes.

The fact that Congress is divided between the two major political parties suggests there will not likely be as much chance of legislative action on various other initiatives such as an expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or an increase in the minimum wage. Finally, certain states also legalized the use of marijuana. While federal law still criminalizes this drug use, state law in these states (that have legalized marijuana use) can no longer be used to justify employment decisions.

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November 14, 2012

Workplace Flexibility Toolkit

Filed under: General HR Buzz,Work/Life Balance — Tags: 6:00 am

Workplace flexibility is becoming more and more intriguing to employers.  Many are realizing that flexibility can be mutually beneficial to both the business and the employees. But, just how to go about meeting the needs of each through changes to the time (when), location (where), and the manner (how) in which an employee works has become the challenge.  Through careful planning flexibility can result in superior outcomes for both employer and employee.

In an effort to help meet the need for a strong balance between work and life, the U. S. Department of Labor has introduced a Workplace Flexibility Toolkit developed by The Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and the Women’s Bureau.  This unique toolkit provides useful and valuable workplace flexibility strategy and information to employees, employers, policymakers, and researchers related to time and place, and also around the task involved.  The toolkit provides case studies, fact and tip sheets, issue briefs, reports, articles, websites, other toolkits, and frequently-asked questions.

In this toolkit, the terms Workplace Flexibility, Flexible Work Arrangements, Work-Life Balance, and Flexible Workplace Options are used interchangeably to describe all types of workplace flexibility.

This exceptional toolkit offers links to narrow the number of resources that are relevant to what you need.  Each link includes the number of resources available.  Currently, the toolkit includes 172 resources.  What types of workplace flexibility have you implemented or plan to implement in your workplace?  Please add your comments – we’d love to hear from you!


November 12, 2012

The Election Is Over…What’s Next?

Filed under: General HR Buzz11:35 am

The advertisements have ended (thank goodness!) and the election results are in.  So the speculations have begun for what we may expect in 2013.  Although the President has been named, there are still many unknowns.  However, following are topics that bloggers and other HR experts are suggesting will be on the forefront.

  • Social security tax withholding – currently at 4.2% from employee’s paychecks.  Will it remain at this level or return to the previous 6.2% withholding?
  • Federal unemployment benefits – unless extended, will end December 31, 2012, affecting approximately 2 million jobless Americans.
  • Comprehensive immigration reform is certain to be an item for discussion including providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
  • Job creation was certainly a hot topic during the elections.  Expect to hear more about the President’s plan to create new jobs for business and manufacturing.
  • Health care has to be on the list and is already being addressed by insurance companies and businesses as they assume healthcare reform is full steam ahead.  There are lengthy lists of items of changes that go into effect 2014.

Stay tuned to our blogs as we continue to explore more of the changes that will be affecting human resources.


November 9, 2012

HR Fact Friday: The Ten Commandments of Firing

Follow closely all relevant company policies related to discharge, e.g. re: termination, progressive discipline and EEO. If you do not have any such policies, get some and train all persons who are to use them.

  1. Do not act alone. Two heads are better than one. Two witnesses are better than one. Avoid the “he said/she said scenario” played out in so many cases (remember Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas?).
  2. Never act out of anger. Wait until you are no longer angry and investigate thoroughly before deciding what to do. In an emergency, suspend (with pay for exempt employees).
  3. Do not give assurances of job security, long-term employment. Otherwise you may be creating contracts. If you have a contract, follow it.
  4. Clearly tell people what they need to do (a good job description helps). Honestly and fairly evaluate employees and performance reviews during performance reviews and document the same. In other words, be proactive in trying to avoid problems before it is necessary to terminate.
  5. Act based on job-related factors, not on personality or other factors not related to the job.
  6. Be consistent. Discrimination claims thrive where similar circumstances are not treated similarly.
  7. Be reasonable in establishing expectations of your employees and give clear notice of the same.
  8. Document your decision in writing. Remember that whatever you write will be “Exhibit A” in any lawsuit.
  9. Be humane and professional. Many lawsuits are filed for reasons of revenge.
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