How employees really feel about asking for time off during the holidays

According to a new survey from management and technology consulting firm, West Monroe Partners, more than half of employees feel uneasy about asking employers for time off during the holidays. Continue reading to learn more.


Are employers checking their PTO list? They may want to check it twice, according to new data, workers may be leaving vacation days on the table during the holidays because they feel uncomfortable asking for time off.

More than half of employees (51%) feel uneasy about asking to use their paid time off during the holidays, according to a new survey of more than 2,000 employees from management and technology consulting firm, West Monroe Partners. This discomfort was even more prevalent in smaller companies with smaller staffs, where employees work more closely with their managers and colleagues.

Michael Hughes, managing director at West Monroe Partners, says part of the reason employees are so nervous about asking for time off is the expectation that they have to be available 24/7. An employee may also be concerned they will appear to be slacking if aren’t in the office with many companies being short staffed to begin with, he says.

“With the war for talent, people are being asked to do more and more because either they’re shorthanded or can’t find people,” Hughes says.

Nearly two-thirds of employees working in the banking sector felt uncomfortable asking to use their PTO, according to the survey. Although Monroe Partners did not specifically review why this might be the case for banking, Hughes says he thinks that, like other service industries, bank employees often have to work during the holidays to attend to customers.

Banks were hit hard during the 2007 economic recession, he adds, and some have been cautious about beefing their workforce — forcing current employees to carry heavy workloads. But, he adds, this is fairly common across many industries.

“I think it’s something that impacts industries across the board,” he says. “[But] just based on the study banking is one that sticks out.”

West Monroe Partners recommends companies close the office on days other than just federal holidays and accommodate for remote working or flexible scheduling.

Training managers to fairly process PTO requests may also be necessary, the report notes. Managers can do a better job of having open conversations with employees around PTO and job satisfaction.

Despite worker’s anxieties, employers should communicate the importance of taking time off during the holidays, Hughes says. It’s good for workers to get time to rest, he adds. If employees are unhappy in the office, it will likely trickle down to the customer experience.

“A lot of it is just personal health,” he says. “If you give people the opportunity to recharge, they’re going to be more productive when they’re happy.”

SOURCE: Hroncich, C. (7 December 2018) "How employees really feel about asking for time off during the holidays" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/how-employees-really-feel-about-asking-for-time-off-during-the-holidays?brief=00000152-14a7-d1cc-a5fa-7cffccf00000


The do’s and don’ts of ADA accommodations: 3 new rulings

Are you compliant with ADA accommodation laws? More than 25,000 ADA charges were filed by the EEOC in the past year, despite employers best compliance efforts. Continue reading to learn more.


Employers are facing more disability discrimination lawsuits than ever – despite their best compliance efforts. 
In the past year alone, over 25,000 ADA charges were filed by the EEOC.

The right way to accommodate

One area that’s often a point of contention? The accommodation process. Workers and employers can have a very different idea of how a disability should be accommodated.

And while each disability needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis, several recent court rulings shed further light on employers’ ADA accommodation responsibilities.

1. In Brumley v. United Parcel Service, a court ruled that ADA accommodations don’t necessarily have to be given to employees immediately.

Melissa Brumley delivered packages for UPS when she hurt her back lifting a heavy box from her truck.

She took leave to heal, and her doctor said when she returned to work she could no longer lift packages or drive. Since these were two essential functions of her job, Brumley’s manager put her on leave while waiting on more information from her doctor.

After beginning the interactive process and considering a reassignment, Brumley’s doctor cleared her to go back to her old job, and UPS ended the process.

But Brumley sued the company for failing to accommodate her during those weeks she was on leave, which resulted in loss of pay.

A district court ruled in favor of UPS, and on appeal, the 6th Circuit agreed. It said just because the company didn’t accommodate the employee immediately didn’t mean it violated the ADA.

UPS began the interactive process and only stopped once Brumley was cleared to go back to her old job without an accommodation.

The key things the company did? Beginning the process and requesting additional info from Brumley’s doctor – this showed the court a good faith effort to comply with the ADA.

2. In Sharbono v. Northern States Power, a court ruled a company that failed to find an accommodation didn’t fail to fulfill its ADA duties.

After a foot injury, James Sharbono wasn’t able to wear the steel-toed boots required by his company’s safety procedures.

HR worked with Sharbono and suggested several accommodations, such as altering his boots and getting a custom pair made, but none worked out. Sharbono was forced to retire, and he sued for ADA violation.

But the 8th Circuit ruled the company acted in good faith. It worked with Sharbono and suggested several accommodations. It was only after exhausting all options that Sharbono was forced to retire. The court said the company fulfilled its ADA responsibilities, despite finding no accommodation for Sharbono.

3. In Stokes v. Nielsen, a court decided companies can be required to make accommodations that cover more than just essential job functions.

Jacqueline Stokes had impaired vision and received multiple accommodations that allowed her to do her job. Stokes then requested special meeting handouts, printed in large letters, that she could read beforehand.

Despite many promises from HR, Stokes never received her requested handouts. She sued, claiming to be denied a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.

While the company argued it gave Stokes everything she needed to do her job, therefore fulfilling its ADA responsibilities, the Fifth Circuit disagreed.

“Our circuit has explicitly rejected the requirement that requested modifications must be necessary to perform essential job functions to constitute a reasonable accommodation,” it said. And Stokes’ request was deemed reasonable.

This case shows if an employee makes a reasonable request for their job, it’s easier to just grant it.

SOURCE: Mucha, R. (4 January 2019) "The do’s and don’ts of ADA accommodations: 3 new rulings" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://www.hrmorning.com/the-dos-and-donts-of-ada-accommodations-3-new-rulings/


The Importance of Working For A Boss Who Supports You

Having a boss that supports their employees is crucial to company success. Trust and commitment are at the core of any professional relationship. Read on to learn more.


Employers seek loyalty and dedication from their employees but sometimes fail to return their half of the equation, leaving millennial workers feeling left behind and unsupported. Professional relationships are built on trust and commitment, and working for a boss that supports you is vital to professional and company success.

Employees who believe their company cares for them perform better. What value does an employer place on you as an employee? Are you there to get the job done and go home? Are you paid fairly, well-trained and confident in your job security? Do you work under good job conditions? Do you receive constructive feedback, or do you feel demeaned or invisible?

When millennial employees feel supported by their boss, their happiness on the job soars — and so does company success. Building a healthy relationship involves the efforts of both parties — boss and employee — and the result not only improves company success, but also the quality of policies, feedback and work culture.

Investing In A Relationship With Your Boss

When you’re first hired, you should get to know your company’s culture and closely watch your boss as you learn the ropes. It’s best to clarify any questions you have instead of going rogue on a project and ending up with a failed proposal for a valuable client.

Regardless of your boss’s communication style, speaking up on timely matters before consequences are out of your control builds trust and establishes healthy communication. Getting to know your boss begins with knowing how they move through the business day, including their moods, how they prefer to communicate and their style of leadership:

  • Mood: Perhaps your boss needs their cup of coffee to start the day. If you see other employees scurry away before the boss drains that cup of coffee, bide your time, too.
  • Communication: The boss’s communication style is also influenced by their mood. Don’t wait too late to break important news. In-depth topics may be scheduled for a meeting through a phone call or email to check in and show you respect your boss’s time. In return, your time will be respected, too.

Some professionals are more emotionally reinforcing that others. Some might appear cold, but in reality, prefer to use hard data to solidify the endpoint as an analytical style. If you’re more focused on interpersonal relationships, that’s your strength, but you must also learn and respect your boss’s communication style.

  • Leadership: What kind of leader is the boss? Various communication styles best fit an organization depending on its goals and culture, but provide both advantages and disadvantages. Autocratic leaders assume total authority on decision-making without input or challenge from others. Participative leaders value the democratic input of team members, but final decisions remain with the boss.

Autocratic leaders may be best equipped to handle emergency decisions over participative leaders, depending on the situation and information received.

While the boss wields a position of power over employees, it’s important that leaders don’t hold that over their employees’ heads. In the case of dissatisfaction at work, millennial employees don’t carry the sole blame. Respect is mutually earned, and ultimately a healthy relationship between leaders and employees betters the company and the budding careers of millennials.

A Healthy Relationship With Leaders Betters The Company

A Gallup report reveals that millennial career happiness is down while disengagement at work climbs — 71% of millennials aren’t engaged on the job and half of all employed plan on leaving within a year. What is the cause? Bosses carry the responsibility for 70% of employee engagement variances. Meanwhile, engaged bosses are 59% more prone to having and retaining engaged employees.

The supportive behaviors of these managers to engage their employees included being accessible for discussion, motivating by strengths over weaknesses and helping to set goals. According to the Gallup report, the primary determiner of employee retention and engagement are those in leadership positions. The boss is poised to affect employee happiness, satisfaction, productivity and performance directly.

The same report reveals that only 21% of millennial employees meet weekly with their boss and 17% receive meaningful feedback. The most positive engagement booster was in managers who focused on employee strengths. In the end, one out of every two employees will leave a job to get away from their boss when unsupported.

Millennials are taking the workforce by storm — one-third of those employed are millennials, and soon those numbers will take the lead. Millennials are important to companies as technology continues to shift and grow, and they are passionate about offering their talents to their employers. It’s vital that millennials have access to bosses who offer support and engage their staff through meaningful feedback, accessibility and help with goal-setting.

In return, millennial happiness and job satisfaction soar, positively impacting productivity, performance, policy and work culture. A healthy relationship between boss and employee is vital to company success and the growth of millennial careers as the workforce continues to age. Bosses shouldn’t be the reason that millennial employees leave. They should be the reason millennials stay and thrive in the workplace, pushing it toward greater success.

SOURCE: Landrum, S. (8 December 2018) "The Importance of Working For A Boss Who Supports You" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/sarahlandrum/2017/12/08/the-importance-of-working-for-a-boss-that-supports-you/1?


Call today, work tomorrow: The future of hiring?

What’s in store for the future of hiring employees? A recent article from the Wall Street Journal states that more and more employees are being hired without a formal face-to-face interview. Continue reading to learn more.


You just called a prospective candidate with a job offer, and they accepted. Pretty standard procedure — except you won’t meet the new hire until their first day of work.

In a hot job market, more workers are being hired without ever doing a formal face-to-face interview, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal. Hiring agencies and HR professionals are hearing more and more about hiring sight unseen, and the reviews are mixed. Agencies say it’s a fast and more efficient way to hire, while some HR professionals argue there’s no substitute for human interaction.

“We basically advertised jobs as call today, work tomorrow,” says Tim Gates, senior regional vice president of Adecco Staffing, which recently filled 15 openings without a formal in-person interview. “It makes it convenient for everybody involved.”

Adecco Staffing uses a digital hiring platform to prescreen candidates before setting up phone interviews. Applicants who ace the 20-minute phone conversation will likely be placed at a job site contracting Adecco. Gates says the practice gives his staffing agency a competitive edge by hiring people before they accept another position. He also believes this fast, straightforward approach is more attractive to job seekers seeking immediate employment.

Adecco hires sight unseen for entry level, manufacturing and specialized positions — like graphic design. They’re not alone. Susan Trettner, founder and director of direct hire placement firm Talent Direct 360, works with industries across the board but often hires workers for engineering, IT, HR, sales and marketing roles. Trettner says hiring without meeting a candidate is becoming more commonplace, especially for retail and e-commerce employers who have to hire large numbers of workers.

“Making a hiring determination over the phone is acceptable, and I think a lot of companies are doing that,” she says.

During the holidays, for example, retailers may not have the time to interview hundreds of candidates for a position, Trettner says. But, she adds, many companies that hire employees without meeting in person often have a “game plan” for onboarding that gets workers quickly up to speed on what they will be doing on the job. Making the hiring process more efficient is better for everyone, she says.

“It all comes down to filling the positions so they can remain productive,” she says.

Trettner says she would consider hiring workers without meeting them, but at the end of the day, it’s up to the employer client. If a client, for example, needs 300 new workers in a short period of time, Trettner says she would suggest they consider expediting the hiring process a bit to help save money and time.

“I open them up to anything I think is efficient,” she adds.

Some organizations would rather take extra time choosing candidates. Kathleen Sheridan, associate director of global staffing for Harvard Business Publishing, says she knows from 20 years of experience that phone interviews can’t tell you everything about a person. She once sat down with three candidates for a sales position; they all performed well during a phone interview, but completely fumbled while answering questions during a sit-down meeting. None of them were hired, Sheridan said.

“You can come across as a completely different person over the phone,” Sheridan says. “As cumbersome as interview process can be, the value of bringing people in and allowing them to see you is worth it.”

As someone who works with people on a daily basis, Sheridan says she would be distrustful of any job offer from someone she’s never met. She says higher-level executives at Harvard Business Publishing will travel out of the country to meet with prospective hires.

“A decision to join a company is emotional as well as very practical. I think you need to give people a chance to check their emotional response and get a feel for the culture and vibe,” Sheridan says. “I would ask myself, ‘what is it about your organization that you would deny me the opportunity to meet the people who are in the headquarters of this company that I’m going to represent?’”

Peg Buchenroth, HR director of employment agency Addison Group, says most of her clients request in-person interviews for job placements in the IT, engineering, healthcare and finance accounting industries. She says it’s unlikely to change.

“It’s maybe more common in the seasonal retail industry for the holiday season. For our types of positions, there’s no reason not to interview when we have the ability to do Skype interviews,” Buchenroth says.

SOURCE: Webster, K. (5 December 2018) "Call today, work tomorrow: The future of hiring?" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/call-today-work-tomorrow-the-future-of-hiring?brief=00000152-14a7-d1cc-a5fa-7cffccf00000


Poor hiring practices costing employers valuable talent

According to a survey by CareerBuilder and SilkRoad, today's job candidates have higher expectations for communication, technology and onboarding during their job-search process. Read on to learn more.


A growing number of employers say they find it hard to land good talent — but their own complicated or outdated hiring process may be partly to blame.

Job candidates today have higher expectations for communication, technology and onboarding during their job-search process, according to a new survey from job site CareerBuilder and onboarding tech provider SilkRoad. In fact, 68% of employees believe their experience as a job candidate reflects how the company treats its people.

Dissatisfaction with the process can begin as early as step one: Close to half of prospective workers (46%) are only willing to spend up to 15 minutes before giving up on an application, according to the report.

Not only is time of the essence, but the application experience is paramount, too. While potential workers won’t discount a company entirely for not having a mobile application option, employees are searching for jobs on their mobile devices more than ever before.

The fight for talent is only going to become more intense, and employers need to deliver on job seekers’ continuously evolving expectations to attract the best candidates, says CareerBuilder CEO Irina Novoselsky. “This starts with streamlining the entire hiring process, from the first candidate engagement to new-hire onboarding, which can be achieved through technological innovation and a more intuitive, mobile-friendly experience.”

A consistent dialogue remains another big must-have for candidates. Expectations among applicants are changing for when and how they hear from a prospective employer, the study found. Once they’ve applied, job seekers want more — not less — communication.

Many applicants cite a lack of acknowledgment or receipt notification from an employer for a submitted application as a top frustration of the job search. Additionally, 76% of job seekers say they expect to receive a personalized email from an employer acknowledging they received the application. This percentage decreases steadily as the age of the job seeker increases, but it’s consistently the top method of communication expected.

Other top notification methods include phone calls (36%) and text messages (18%).

Regardless of the type of communication, a majority of applicants want — and expect — employers to keep them updated throughout the process when they apply for a job. Candidates want a clear timeline for the hiring process and will begin to discount a company if they are left in the dark. When applying to a job, 55% of employees are willing to wait less than two weeks at the most to hear back from an employer before they give up and move on.

And employers shouldn’t end the engagement once an offer is made, the survey results suggest, because with 51% of potential candidates continuing to look for new opportunities after being extended an offer, the use of personalized, ongoing communication through the onboarding process will remain key.

When nearly one in 10 employees have left a company because of a poor onboarding experience, it’s important to understand the full scope of onboarding that is expected by today’s employees, according to the survey. Successful onboarding for a new hire is critical for their long-term vision of culture and career potential at the new company. However, a focus on the mission and growth factors of the company can’t neglect seemingly basic onboarding elements for the employee’s day-to-day experience and overall integration into operations.

“Technology is playing an increasingly critical role in enabling touchpoints along the recruitment and new-hire journey to facilitate human interactions,” says Robert Dvorak, CEO of SilkRoad. “We realize the customer’s journey doesn't end with a purchase, nor does the employee’s end with an offer. By using technology throughout the entire employment journey, employers can intentionally onboard candidates and employees, keeping them engaged at key points over time.”

SOURCE: Otto, N. (28 November 2018) "Poor hiring practices costing employers valuable talent" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from: https://www.benefitnews.com/news/poor-hiring-practices-costing-employers-valuable-talent


New resource offers guidance on digital tools for diabetes management

Are you considering implementing digital diabetes tools or solutions in your employer-sponsored benefits? Read this blog post for the Northeast Business Group on Health’s updated guide on diabetes management tools.


The Northeast Business Group on Health has updated its “Digital Tools and Solutions for Diabetes: An Employer’s Guide,” to include both enhanced and new solutions—and promising future innovations—to help employers help their workers better manage their diabetes, lower costs and ultimately save more lives.

“Employers are well aware of the costs associated with diabetes in their employee and dependent populations—they continue to indicate this is a top concern and are increasingly aware of the links between diabetes and other chronic and debilitating health conditions, including cardiovascular disease,” says Candice Sherman, CEO of NEBGH.

The market for digital diabetes prevention and management solutions continues to mature since the group published its first guide in 2016, Sherman says. The updated guide provides a detailed checklist of the features and functionalities of the digital tools available now to manage diabetes, as well as information on several unique and innovative digital diabetes solutions that are being targeted to employers but were not part of NEBGH’s research, including Proteus Discover, BlueLoop and do-it-yourself programs.

“Proteus Discover is comprised of ingestible sensors, a small wearable sensor patch, an application on a mobile device and a provider portal,” the guide cites the provider. “Once activated, Proteus Discover unlocks never-before-seen insight into patient health patterns and medication treatment effectiveness, leading to more informed healthcare decisions for everyone involved.”

“BlueLoop is the one and only tool that allows kids and their caregivers to log and share diabetes information—both online and with the app—in real time, via instant e-mail and text message, giving peace of mind to parents,more class time for students and fewer phone calls and paper logs for school nurses,” the provider tells NEBGH. “Online, parents can share real-time BG logs with their clinicians, who can see logs (in the format they prefer), current dosages and reports, all in one place.”

The guide also hints at promising future innovations:

“Technology is constantly evolving: by connecting sensors, wearables and apps, it is increasingly possible to pool and leverage data in innovative ways to provide timely interventions so that people with diabetes can be truly independent and effectively self-manage their care,” the authors write.

The guide lists a hypothetical scenario: A person with diabetes enters a restaurant where a GPS sensor identifies the location, reviews the menu and proposes the best choices based on caloric and carbohydrate content. The technology also proposes and delivers a rapidly acting insulin bolus dose based on the person’s exercise level that day and prior experiences when eating similar meals.

Also included are key questions for employers considering implementing digital diabetes tools or solutions, including:

  •  What does the company want to achieve with a digital tool?
  • How much is the company willing to pay?
  • How will success be measured?
  • How will digital solutions and tools be marketed to employees and their families?
  • What privacy issues need to be addressed when tools or solutions are implemented?

“Digital health tools hold the promise of improved health outcomes and reduced health care expenses through improved engagement, better collaboration and sustained behavior change,” says Mark Cunningham-Hill, NEBGH’s medical director. “However, digital diabetes solutions are not a panacea. Employers will need to address several obstacles such as the difficulty of recruitment and enrollment, lack of sustained employee engagement and the cost of deployment of digital solutions. This can be accomplished through careful planning and learning from other employers that have successfully implemented these tools.”

SOURCE: Kuehner-Hebert, K. (4 December 2018) "New resource offers guidance on digital tools for diabetes management" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/12/04/new-resource-digital-tools-for-diabetes-management/


More pay? Nah. Employees prefer benefits

Are you considering raising salary and cutting back on benefits? A new report reveals that workers would choose a job that offers benefits over a job that offers 30 percent more salary but does not offer benefits. Read on to learn more.


Workers across the country say you can't put a price on great benefits, according to a new survey.

By a four-to-one margin (80% to 20%), workers would choose a job with benefits over an identical job that offered 30% more salary with no benefits, according to the American Institute of CPAs, which released the results of its 2018 Employee Benefit Report, a poll this spring of 2,026 U.S. adults (1,115 of whom are employed) about their views on workplace benefits.

“A robust benefits package is often a large chunk of total compensation, but it’s the employees' job to make sure they’re taking advantage of it to improve their financial positions and quality of life,” said Greg Anton, chairman of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. “Beyond the dollar value of having good benefits, employees gain peace of mind knowing that if they can take a vacation without losing a week’s pay or if they need to see a doctor, they won’t be responsible for the entire cost.”

Employed adults estimated that their benefits represented 40% of their total compensation package, according to the study. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, though, states that benefits average 31.7% of a compensation package. Still, workers in the report see benefits as a vital part of their professional lives.

“Despite overestimating the value of their benefits as part of their total compensation, it is concerning that Americans are not taking full advantage of them,” Anton said. “Imagine how employees would react if they were not 100% confident they could get to all the money in their paycheck. Leaving benefits underutilized should be treated the same way. Americans need to take time to truly understand their benefits and make sure they’re not leaving any money on the table.”

Other notable findings from the report include:

  • 63% of employed adults believe that being their own boss is worth more than job security with an employer, while 18% added that they will likely start or continue their own businesses next year.
  • Millennials were the most likely generation to believe that being their own boss is worth more than job security. They were also the most likely generation to start their own businesses.
  • 88% of employed adults are confident they understood all the benefits available to them when they were initially hired at their current job. However, only 28% are "very confident" they are currently maximizing all of their benefits.
  • When asked which workplace benefits would help them best reach their financial goals, 56% of adults said a 401(k) match or health insurance, with 33% citing paid time off and 31% citing a pension.
  • Baby boomers favor health insurance and having a 401(k) match more than younger generations, while 54% of baby boomers also prioritized a pension, versus only 16% of millennials.
  • Millennials put the highest priority on work-life balance benefits, such as paid time off, flexible work hours, and remote work.

For the full report, visit the AICPA’s 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy site here.

SOURCE: McCabe, S. (3 December 2018) "More pay? Nah. Employees prefer benefits" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/workers-prefer-benefits-over-more-pay?brief=00000152-1443-d1cc-a5fa-7cfba3c60000


Bolognese with Scott Smeaton

Welcome to our monthly Dish segment. This month, we asked Scott Smeaton to provide us with his favorite Dine In and Dine Out choices. Check them out below and let us know if you give them a try!

A Little Bit About Scott

Scott is Executive Vice President of the business insurance planning firm, Hierl Insurance, Inc.

Since 1988, Scott has been providing Employee Benefit and Business Risk Management services to businesses throughout N.E. Wisconsin. He joined Hierl in 1994, becoming a partner only a few years later. During his time at Hierl, he’s focused on helping businesses manage their risk, whether it be rising costs of healthcare and benefits or workers compensation claims. Read more on his bio.


Pasta Bolognese

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion or 2 small, cut into 1­inch dice
  • 2 large carrots, cut into 1/2­inch dice
  • 3 ribs celery, cut into 1­inch dice
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • Extra­virgin olive oil, for the pan
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 pounds ground chuck, brisket or round or combination
  • 2 cups tomato paste
  • 3 cups hearty red wine
  • Water
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch thyme, tied in a bundle
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano­Reggiano
  • High quality extra­virgin olive oil, for finishing

Directions

  1. In a food processor, puree onion, carrots, celery, and garlic into a coarse paste. In a large pan over medium heat, coat pan with oil. Add the pureed veggies and season generously with salt. Bring the pan to a medium high heat and cook until all the water has evaporated and they become nice and brown, stirring frequently for about 15 to 20 minutes. Be patient, this is where the big flavors develop.
  2. Add the ground beef and season again generously with salt. BROWN THE BEEF! Brown food tastes good. Don’t rush this step. Cook another 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Add the tomato paste and cook until brown about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the red wine. Cook until the wine has reduced by half, another 4 to 5 minutes. Add water to the pan until the water is about 1 inch above the meat. Toss in the bay leaves and the bundle of thyme and stir to combine everything. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally. As the water evaporates you will gradually need to add more, about 2 to 3 cups at a time. Don’t be shy about adding water during the cooking process, you can always cook it out. This is a game of reduce and add more water. This is where big rich flavors develop. If you try to add all the water in the beginning, you will have boiled meat sauce rather than a rich, thick meaty sauce. Stir and TASTE frequently. Season with salt, if needed (you probably will). Simmer for 3 1/2 to 4 hours.
  4. During the last 30 minutes of cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat to cook the spaghetti. Pasta water should ALWAYS be well salted. Salty as the ocean! TASTE IT! If your pasta water is under seasoned it doesn’t matter how good your sauce is, your complete dish will always taste under seasoned. When the water is at a rolling boil add the spaghetti and cook for 1 minute less than it calls for on the package. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.
  5. While the pasta is cooking remove 1/2 of the ragu from the pot and reserve. Drain the pasta and add to the pot with the remaining ragu. Stir or toss the pasta to coat with the sauce. Add some of the reserved sauce, if needed, to make it about an even ratio between pasta and sauce. Add the reserved pasta cooking water and cook the pasta and sauce together over a medium heat until the water has reduced. Turn off the heat and give a big sprinkle of Parmigiano and a generous drizzle of the high-quality finishing olive oil. Toss or stir vigorously. Divide the pasta and sauce into serving bowls or 1 big pasta bowl. Top with remaining grated Parmigiano. Serve immediately.


When It’s a Great Time to Go Out

Scott and his family enjoy eating at the Draft Gastropub in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Learn more about the Draft Gastropub on the restaurant’s website.

Get directions.

View their menu.

The Draft Gastropub is rated 4.5 stars on Trip Advisor.

Thank-you for joining us for this month’s Dish! Don’t forget to come back next month for a new one.