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February 28, 2013

Sequestration – Will It Happen?

Filed under: Legal Issues11:28 am

Sequestration seems to be grabbing headlines in every news program this week.  The big question is if it will happen.  We will see tomorrow!  March 1, 2013, is the deadline set by Congress to have reached budget goals and to avoid spending cuts.  So what really is sequestration?  It is a process that automatically cuts the federal budget across all departments and agencies.

If Congress cannot agree on a budget to reduce the deficit by March 1, then sequestration would happen and $85 billion in spending cuts would go into effect.  Click here to read more about why sequestration is looming and what the potential effects will be.



February 27, 2013

Successful Onboarding

Filed under: Hiring & Jobs — Tags: 11:29 am

How do you know if you are successful at onboarding your new employees?  Look around you.  Do you see happy, confident workers?  Do you see employees that are comfortable with their job responsibilities and understand what they need to do to be successful?  If you do, then you need to analyze the key factors that demonstrate how your workforce got where it is today and keep doing it!

Knowledge is power, I’ve heard, and I believe it also brings responsibility.  I remember a new employee that was hired for a bank I used to work for.  She was a very pleasant, talented, and capable individual possessing a background that included extensive work with mortgage loans.  She was hired to assist a senior loan officer with various administrative duties, some of which were quite detailed.  There were several administrative employees on staff all of whom performed the same duties.  However, a disconnect occurred and no one bothered to train her on the processes and procedures to be able to perform the duties of her job effectively.  No one organized her training, and no one followed up with her.  The other admins were far too busy to train her, so the story was.  I wondered if they were just too competitive to share their knowledge, or if they didn”t realize that a front-end investment of time would save them time in the long run and add a valuable team member to the bank.  Needless to say, her tenure there was very short-lived, about two months.  They were probably the longest two months of her life because she was unintentionally set up to fail, but really the bank failed her by not onboarding her properly.

Onboarding is a long-term process of bringing new employees into the company, making sure they know what is expected of them and how to add value.  This process of onboarding can take from six months to a year and a half to achieve the desired result of having employees on board who truly feel comfortable with and valued by the company and their coworkers.  This is a period of time during which employees transition from being considered the “new person” to being a member of the team.

Please share with us your onboarding process and how you have been successful retaining good employees.


February 25, 2013

The EEOC #’s by State – How Does Your State Look?

Filed under: General HR Buzz12:54 pm

The 2012 numbers for EEOC lawsuits are out, indicating an ever-so-slightly downward movement but still the second most ever.  I read the numbers with interest which indicate retaliation claims continuing to be the most filed claim with the EEOC, accounting for 38.1% of all private sector charges.  The runner-ups include race (33.7%), sex (30.5%), disability (26.5%), and age (23.0%).

So how does this compare to your state’s totals?  The EEOC now makes it possible for you to check your state’s information for fiscal years 2009-2012.  This data provides a look at EEOC charge receipts, broken down by the basis of discrimination, as well as the percent of total state and national charges so you get an idea of how much your state is contributing to those.

To access this data, go to  Future blogs will focus on what contributes to each of the categories, including retaliation charges, so stay tuned!


February 22, 2013

Generalist or Specialist – Which is Best?

Filed under: Hiring & Jobs12:38 pm

Earlier this month, President Obama nominated Sally Jewell to fill the post of Secretary of Interior.  There has been much buzz about Jewell’s selection.  The New York Times described her as someone who “would represent a different model, a corporate executive with experience in both resource exploitation and conservation.”  Ms. Jewell has been reported to have a degree in mechanical engineering, worked as an oil field engineer, was a banker for 19 years and most recently was CEO of the outdoor retailer REI.  This broad background appears to appeal to both sides of the political aisle.  Politics aside, it got me thinking, what is the right answer when hiring:  Is it better to hire a generalist or a specialist?

The most obvious answer seems to be, “It depends.”  Here are some considerations:

1.  What does the job require?  Perhaps the job in question is one you have hired for numerous times and the required knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) are apparent; you know, the formula for hiring a successful employee.  If you are creating a new job, the KSAs or the exact list of job duties may not be clear. This ambiguity may lead us to hire more of a generalist.  Some jobs are by nature are specialists:  tax accountant, compensation analyst, database administrator.  Others lend themselves to generalists:  CEO, marketing director, HR generalist, administrative assistant. Do the KSAs need to be broad, deep or both?

2.  What does the organization require?  Where is your organization in terms of size and life-cycle?  If you are smaller or perhaps in a start-up phase, can you afford to hire a specialist?  Specialists may cost more to hire because of specialized education or years on the job.  Or because your intent is to do more with less, do you prefer a staff of generalists?  As your organization grows and becomes more complex and sophisticated, you may require more specialists to ensure expertise and depth of knowledge.  And, what does your culture support?

3.  Does it really matter?  In addition to KSAs, are there other attributes that are important to an employee’s success in your workplace, such as teamwork, collaboration or honesty?  One study suggests generalists may be more adaptable to changing environments because they are more diversified than specialists.

We will watch with interest over the next several months to see if Sally Jewell, once confirmed, proves that a generalist was right for this job in this organization.  Let us know what you have found to be a successful formula for selecting the right specialist or generalist in your organization.

To learn more about a proven tool that can be used in conjunction with other hiring practices, contact Melanie Webster at .  Melanie can talk with you about Profiles International, an assessment solution we recommend to assist organizations in making good hiring decisions.


HR Fact Friday: EEOC Stats Show Another Big Year for Claims

Filed under: Hiring & Jobs6:00 am

Well, 2012 was not a record year, but it was close, and it was still a lot of charges. Just under 100,000 new charges (not the record level of over 100,000 filed in 2011) were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in its most recent fiscal year. As in past years, the most frequently-filed charges involved race and sex bias/harassment and retaliation (the top charge at 38%). You can read the full charge statistical breakdown here:  The EEOC also won over $365 million in damages/settlements for employees during the same year.


February 20, 2013

Does Your Employment Policy Work Against You?

Filed under: Discipline & Termination9:14 am

It would be nearly impossible for an employer to envision every single scenario that may play out in their workplace in order to write the “perfect” policy to legally protect them and keep their employees safe.  Many things are simply beyond their control, such as their employees’ consciences and morals.  When employers’ policies and employees’ principles meet at the crossroads, who wins?  Consider two cases that will give you pause and cause you to question your workplace policies.

One such instance was when an AutoZone employee in Yorktown, Virginia, ran out the back door of the store while an armed robber was forcing his coworkers into a restroom.  He retrieved his gun from his vehicle and returned, foiling the robbery by confronting the suspect, who then fled the scene.  No one was injured.  Hero?  Maybe.  Two days later he was fired for violating the company’s no-weapons policy.  AutoZone’s decision brought them grief from the media, but they stood firm on their decision.

Another such case was a lifeguard who left his station to save a drowning swimmer in an area of the beach that was out of the lifeguard’s patrolling area.  When he vacated the station to bring the man to safety, another lifeguard repositioned to cover his area.  After saving the man and being considered a hero, he was fired for abandoning his post.  After much public criticism of the employment action, his employer offered him his job back.  He refused to return.

Both of these examples illustrate just how difficult it can be to have policies that are overly strict and don’t allow for an employer to make common sense decisions.  It is important to afford a little wiggle room in our policy wording instead of using absolutes, such as zero-tolerance (with the exception of sexual harassment), by inserting the words, “may be disciplined, up to and including termination.”  This gives an employer an option and helps them maintain the trust and respect of their workforce and their community.  In both examples, the good should have outweighed the bad!  Perhaps a written reprimand and a small hero’s parade would have been more socially acceptable!

Need help with your employment policies?  Check out our – A Complete Human Resources Compliance Solution!

Source:  Bill Leonard, a senior writer for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).


February 15, 2013

HR Fact Friday: Bad Hires Can Be Costly

Filed under: Hiring & Jobs — Tags: , 6:00 am

More than 40 percent of U.S. employers estimated that a bad hiring decision had cost their companies more than $25,000 last year, according to a recent CareerBuilder survey.

One-quarter of the respondents estimated the cost to be more than $50,000.

In total, 69 percent of the 2,494 hiring managers and HR professionals responding to the survey said their companies were negatively affected by a bad hire in 2012.

The costs of a bad hire show up in various ways, including less productivity, cost to hire and train a new worker and lowered employee morale.

Not surprisingly, bad hires display behavioral and performance-related issues. The quality of their work is poor, they don”t get along with co-workers, they display negative attitudes, and they frequently don”t show up for work, the survey respondents reported.

So what”s behind all these bad hires? In many cases, it”s pressure to fill jobs quickly, a factor cited by 43 percent of the respondents. Twenty-two percent said they didn”t know enough about the employees before hiring them, and 9 percent said they didn”t check references. Still, one in four respondents weren”t sure why their hiring choices turned out badly.

The survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of CareerBuilder in August and September 2012.

To help ensure a good fit, HRN has partnered with Profiles International to offer a range of self-administered, online employee assessment products at volume pricing that will improve the selection, development and retention of high quality employees.

Source: SHRM, HR Magazine, 2/2013


February 13, 2013

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses!

Filed under: Performance Management6:00 am

Even the most punctual employee has been late sometimes.  They overslept, their dogs got out, car wouldn’t start, forgot to set the alarm, didn’t hear the alarm, etc.  You get the picture!  The excuses could just go on and on, which is why CareerBuilder collected in their annual survey some of the most memorable excuses for employee tardiness that employers willingly shared.

The survey noted that 31% said traffic is the most common culprit.  I can accept that, it’s believable!  However, what follows are what CareerBuilder reported as some of the excuses actually offered up for being late to work:

  • Employee dropped her purse into a coin-operated newspaper box and couldn’t retrieve it without change (which was in the purse)
  • Employee accidentally left the apartment with his roommate’s girlfriend’s shoes on and had to go back to change
  • Employee’s angry wife had frozen his truck keys in a glass of water in the freezer
  • Employee’s car wouldn’t start because the breathalyzer showed he was intoxicated
  • Employee drove to her previous employer by mistake

Click here to read the rest!

The point is employers have to weigh each of these excuses/reasons, whatever you wish to call them, and make some sense of its truthfulness.  Things happen that we could never imagine, so when you hear a story like one of these, it’s difficult to process.  However, an employer needs to be cautious and make sure the reason for the tardiness isn’t a legally protected reason, such as protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Family and Medical Leave Act.  It would be unlawful to take a corrective action or give a negative mark on a performance appraisal for an employee with an absence or tardiness that may be legally protected.  Make sure your policies and practices are thorough and up-to-date.  We can help you!  Check out our website  – A Complete Human Resources Compliance Solution!


February 11, 2013

The FMLA Turns 20!!

Filed under: General HR Buzz6:30 am

Twenty years ago, I had a few years under my belt in my HR career so I thought I was a fairly seasoned HR professional.  Then along came the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993 which brought along its benefits in granting job-protected leave, but also challenges for HR professionals to sort out how to administer and manage.

Although there are struggles for HR in understanding and interpreting the law, it has had a positive effect on the lives of millions of workers and their families.  The Department of Labor (DOL) issued results of a survey on its use and impact, which gives some valuable statistics and data supporting this.  “The Family and Medical Leave Act codified a simple and fundamental principle:  Workers should not have to choose between the job they have and the family members they love and who need their care,” said acting Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris.

Results from the study indicate that complying with the FMLA has either no noticeable effect or a positive effect on business operations such as employee absenteeism, turnover, and morale.  And what percentage of workers return to their employer after FMLA leave?  Ninety percent, indicating little risk to businesses that investment in a worker will be lost as a result of leave granted under the act.

We have learned, through the years, the FMLA is often part of what is considered the Bermuda Triangle adding the elements of Workers Compensation and the Americans with Disabilities Act.  In some cases, all three may pertain to an employee”s leave, which can provide challenges for HR to sort out and ensure they are being compliant.  The minimum basics that need to be in place include:

* Eligibility of the employee

* Policy in employee handbook

* Timely documentation and follow-up on all steps of the process

Fortunately, there are many resources available to assist, including publications from the DOL and products such as our HR Suite which includes forms, tools, and sample policies.  Let”s celebrate this law which has benefited workers and their families throughout the last 20 years!


February 8, 2013

HR Fact Friday: The NLRB and Employee Handbooks – An Update

Filed under: Discipline & Termination — Tags: 6:00 am

Recently HRN has published information in its monthly HR Legal Update online newsletter on the issue of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and employee handbooks. Specifically, we discussed at-will employment and contract disclaimer sections of handbooks and noted a recommendation about adding language that indicated contracts could also be created by collective bargaining agreements (CBA). This recommendation resulted from NLRB decisions indicating that National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) would be violated if employees were required to agree that at-will status could never be changed (even, implicitly, by a CBA). It was also noted this is an evolving area of law. And it has now evolved. The NLRB General Counsel recently clarified this ruling and approved handbook language like those options below. According to another legal commentator who has published on this point, “The NLRB found that while the [employers’] disclaimers reaffirmed the at-will relationship, neither provision extracted a personal promise from employees to refrain from seeking to change their at-will status or to agree that their at-will status could not be changed in any way…[these] provisions simply prohibited the employer”s own representatives from entering into employment agreements that provide for other than at-will employment.” Here are the NLRB-approved options:

Option 1: “Employment with the Company is employment at-will. Employment at-will may be terminated with or without cause and with or without notice at any time by the employee or the Company. Nothing in this handbook or in any document or statement shall limit the right to terminate employment at-will. No manager, supervisor or employee of the Company has any authority to enter into an agreement for employment for any specified period of time or to make an agreement for employment other than at-will. Only the president of the Company has the authority to make any such agreement and then only in writing.”

Option 2: “The relationship between you and the Company is referred to as “employment at-will.” This means that your employment can be terminated at any time for any reason, with or without cause, with or without notice, by you or the Company. No representative of the Company has authority to enter into any agreement contrary to the foregoing “employment at-will” relationship. Nothing contained in this handbook creates an express or implied contract of employment.”

If you find this confusing, let HRN take away the legal and compliance uncertainty from your employee handbook and company policy manual. Check out HR Suite at:

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