How To Not Get Stuck With Other People's Work Over The Holidays

The holidays are a busy season. People are trying to finish up work before leaving for vacation. Continue reading this blog post for three tips that will help you to avoid being overloaded with work.


Few people find themselves happy when they are inundated with work on vacation days that had been planned in advance. The month of December is a busy month. People are trying to finish up projects before the holidays and leaving for vacation. Sometimes, finishing up a project involves dumping it or part of it onto someone else’s work plate, many times a junior employee or someone in a non-management position. You don’t have to feel helpless. Here are three tips that will help you to avoid being overloaded with work:

1. Plan ahead.

When you are approaching a time of year in which you know that many people take off from work, take time to plan ahead. Know when your deadlines are, break the work into chunks and get to work now. If you know that a particular colleague has a tendency to hand off work just before they leave for their vacation, inquire with them ahead of time to give yourself more time to complete the work. Stay on top of your work so that you have some room for projects that arise unexpectedly.

2. Distribute the workload among your teammates.

Just because you receive a work assignment does not always mean only you have to complete it. Work can be shared, and allowing others to take on some of the work is an important management skill. The higher you rise in your career, the more you will depend on others to support you in achieving work goals.

If you are part of a team, ask your manager if the work can be distributed among multiple people. The more you spread out the work, the less work each person has to do and the more efficient and productive each person can be.

3. Prioritize the work.

Not all work has to be completed now. Some tasks can be done later. Look at the work that has been passed on to you, and break the work down into individual tasks. Successful people prioritize. Can the tasks be completed after the holidays? If you are unsure, ask your manager or the person that passed the work along. Make no assumptions. Ask for information to make a decision that ensures the quality of the work product and that your vacation is not compromised.

Prepare yourself at work for the holiday season so you don’t get stuck with other people’s work. Plan ahead, share the load and prioritize. Leaders don’t work harder. Leaders work smarter. Be happy this holiday season. Work smarter, and demonstrate your leadership.

SOURCE: Blank, A. (4 December 2018) "How To Not Get Stuck With Other People's Work Over The Holidays" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/averyblank/2018/12/04/how-to-not-get-stuck-with-other-peoples-work-over-the-holidays/#2ce47b263006


8 Ways to Relate to Time as a Realist

Time optimists tend to get overbooked and overwhelmed when things don't get done in time, according to productivity and time management expert Julie Morgenstern. Read on for tips on how to be a better time realist.


Productivity and time management expert Julie Morgenstern believes people can be grouped two ways when it comes to time management: Time realists and time optimists.

Time realists consider how long things take and what is going on in any given day. Time optimists are guided by what they hope to get done.

Morgenstern argues that time optimists get overbooked and overwhelmed when things don’t, or can’t, get done in time. To help people be better realists, she offers these tips in The New York Times:

  1. Pause before the yes
    Think about how long a task will take and clearly let stakeholders know what’s possible, or what will have to be postponed to make a new priority happen.
  1. Plan for two days
    Look ahead and see how the puzzle of your next few days looks as you consider where critical tasks will fit in.
  1. Batch activities
    Your concentration threshold will help you divide your days by administrative tasks, creative ones, and fit in hobbies and socializing. Then, create mini-deadlines for the most dreaded tasks.
  1. Deal with email
    Set aside time for regular email maintenance. If it takes less than five minutes, reply and deal with it immediately. Drowning in old email? Sort unread emails by date, and simply delete the oldest.
  1. Avoid too many tools
    Pick the four communication platforms—including email, texts, phone and social media messaging tools—you can manage and only manage those.
  1. Set a timer
    Work on things you’d procrastinate on in timed intervals and don’t stop until the timer goes off.
  1. Pick a calendar
    Rather than flip between a paper or electronic calendar, pick one and stick with it. Then, add your to-do list to it.
  1. Carve out ”me time”
    The most productive people claim personal time and make it part of their schedule. Whatever it is you love to do, create time for it the same way you do the things you have to do.

Read More:

The New York Times It’s Time to Become a Time Realist

SOURCE: Olson, B. (6 November 2018) "8 Ways to Relate to Time as a Realist" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from: https://blog.ubabenefits.com/8-ways-to-relate-to-time-as-a-realist


How AI can predict the employees who are about to quit

How can artificial intelligence (AI) predict which employees are going to quit? Employers are now utilizing AI to help predict how likely it is that an employee will stay with their company. Read on to learn more.


Tim Reilly had a problem: Employees at Benchmark's senior living facilities kept quitting.

Reilly, vice president of human resources at Benchmark, a Massachusetts-based assisted living facility provider with employees throughout the Northeast, was consistently frustrated with the number of employees that were leaving their jobs. Staff turnover was climbing toward 50%, and after many approaches to improve retention, Benchmark turned to Arena, a platform that uses artificial intelligence to predict how likely it is that an employee will stay in their job.

“Our new vision is about human connection,” he says. “With a turnover rate that’s double digits, how do you really transform lives or have that major impact and human connection with people who are changing rapidly?”

Since Benchmark started using Arena, staff turnover has fallen 10%, compared to the same time last year. During the hiring process, Arena looks at third-party data, like labor market statistics, combined with applicants' resume information and an employee assessment that will give them a better sense of how long a candidate is likely to stay in a role.

“The core problem we’re solving is that individuals aren’t always great at hiring,” says Michael Rosenbaum, chairman of Arena. “Job applicants don’t always know where they’re likely to be happiest. By using the predictive power of data, we’re essentially helping to answer that question.”

Arena isn’t interested in how an employee responds to assessment questions, he says. They’re much more interested in how employees approach the questions.

“What you’re really doing is your collecting some information about how people react to stress,” Rosenbaum adds.

For example, if an employee is applying for a housekeeping role, Arena may give them a timed advanced math question to complete — something they may never use in their actual job. Arena then studies how the candidate responds to the question — analyzing key strokes and tracking how the individual tackles the challenge. The software can then get a better sense of how an applicant responds under pressure.

Overtime, Arena’s algorithm learns from the data it collects. The system tracks how long a specific employee stays at the company and can then better predict, moving forward, whether other employees with similar characteristics will stay.

“Overtime they are able to sort of refine that prediction about those that are most likely to stay, or be retained with our organization,” Reilly says. “They may also make a prediction on someone who might not last very long.”

Reilly says he’s been encouraging hiring managers at the facilities to use the data given to them by Arena to take a closer look at the candidates the platform rates as highly likely to stay in their roles. Although it’s ultimately up to the hiring manager who they select.

“Focus your time on the [candidates] that are more likely to stay with us longer,” Reilly says.

For now, Arena exclusively works with healthcare companies. The platform is currently being used by companies like Sunrise Senior Living and the Mount Sinai Health System in New York. Moving forward, Rosenbaum says, they’re hoping to get into other industries, although he would not specify which.

Rosenbaum says Arena is not only focused on improving the quality of life for employees, but also for the patients and seniors that use the facilities. The happiness of patients, he says, is closely tied to those that are caring for them.

“Is someone who is in a senior living community happy? Do they have a positive experience? It is very closely related to who’s caring for them, who’s supporting them,” he says.

SOURCE: Hroncich, C. (15 November 2018) "How AI can predict the employees who are about to quit" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from: https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/how-ai-can-predict-the-employees-who-are-about-to-quit?brief=00000152-1443-d1cc-a5fa-7cfba3c60000


When Companies Should Invest in Training Their Employees — and When They Shouldn’t

A recent industry report revealed that U.S. companies spent over $90 billion on employee training and development activities in 2017. Read this blog post to learn more.


According to one industry report, U.S. companies spent over $90 billion dollars on training and development activities in 2017, a year-over-year increase of 32.5 %. While many experts emphasize the importance and benefits of employee development — a more competitive workforce, increased employee retention, and higher employee engagement — critics point to a painful lack of results from these investments. Ultimately, there is truth in both perspectives. Training is useful at times but often fails, especially when it is used to address problems that it can’t actually solve.

Many well-intended leaders view training as a panacea to obvious learning opportunities or behavioral problems. For example, several months ago, a global financial services company asked me to design a workshop to help their employees be less bureaucratic and more entrepreneurial. Their goal was to train people to stop waiting around for their bosses’ approval, and instead, feel empowered to make decisions on their own. They hoped, as an outcome, decisions would be made faster. Though the company seemed eager to invest, a training program was not the right way to introduce the new behavior they wanted their employees to learn.

Training can be a powerful medium when there is proof that the root cause of the learning need is an undeveloped skill or a knowledge deficit. For those situations, a well-designed program with customized content, relevant case material, skill-building practice, and a final measurement of skill acquisition works great. But, in the case of this organization, a lack of skills had very little to do with their problem. After asking leaders in the organization why they felt the need for training, we discovered the root causes of their problem had more to do with:

  • Ineffective decision-making processes that failed to clarify which leaders and groups owned which decisions
  • Narrowly distributed authority, concentrated at the top of the organization
  • No measurable expectations that employees make decisions
  • No technologies to quickly move information to those who needed it to make decisions

Given these systemic issues, it’s unlikely a training program would have had a productive, or sustainable outcome. Worse, it could have backfired, making management look out of touch.

Learning is a consequence of thinking, not teaching. It happens when people reflect on and choose a new behavior. But if the work environment doesn’t support that behavior, a well-trained employee won’t make a difference. Here are three conditions needed to ensure a training solution sticks.

1. Internal systems support the newly desired behavior. Spotting unwanted behavior is certainly a clue that something needs to change. But the origins of that unwanted behavior may not be a lack of skill. Individual behaviors in an organization are influenced by many factors, like: how clearly managers establish, communicate, and stick to priorities, what the culture values and reinforces, how performance is measured and rewarded, or how many levels of hierarchy there are. These all play a role in shaping employee behaviors. In the case above, people weren’t behaving in a disempowered way because they didn’t know better. The company’s decision-making processes forbid them from behaving any other way. Multiple levels of approval were required for even tactical decisions. Access to basic information was limited to high-ranking managers. The culture reinforced asking permission for everything. Unless those issues were addressed, a workshop would prove useless.

2. There is commitment to change. Any thorough organizational assessment will not only define the skills employees need to develop, it will also reveal the conditions required to reinforce and sustain those skills once a training solution is implemented. Just because an organization recognizes the factors driving unwanted behavior, doesn’t mean they’re open to changing them. When I raised the obvious concerns with the organization above, I got the classic response, “Yes, yes, of course we know those issues aren’t helping, but we think if we can get the workshop going, we’ll build momentum and then get to those later.” This is usually code for, “It’s never going to happen.” If an organization isn’t willing to address the causes of a problem, a training will not yield its intended benefit.

3. The training solution directly serves strategic priorities. When an organization deploys a new strategy — like launching a new market or product — training can play a critical role in equipping people with the skills and knowledge they need to help that strategy succeed. But when a training initiative has no discernible purpose or end goal, the risk of failure is raised. For example, one of my clients rolled out a company-wide mindfulness workshop. When I asked a few employees what they thought, they said, “It was interesting. At least it got me two hours away from my cubicle.” When I asked the sponsoring executive to explain her thought process behind the training, she said, “Our employee engagement data indicated our people are feeling stressed and overworked, so I thought it would be a nice perk to help them focus and reduce tension.” But when I asked her what was causing the stress, her answer was less definitive: “I don’t really know, but most of the negative data came from Millennials and they complain about being overworked. Plus, they like this kind of stuff.” She believed her training solution had strategic relevance because it linked to a vital employee metric. But evaluations indicated that, though employees found the training “interesting,” it didn’t actually reduce their stress. There are a myriad of reasons why the workload could have been causing employees stress. Therefore, this manager’s energy would have been better directed at trying to determine those reasons in her specific department and addressing them accordingly — despite her good intentions.

If you are going to invest millions of dollars into company training, be confident it is addressing a strategic learning need. Further, be sure your organization can and will sustain new skills and knowledge by addressing the broader factors that may threaten their success. If you aren’t confident in these conditions, don’t spend the money.

SOURCE: Carucci, R. (29 October 2018). "When Companies Should Invest in Training Their Employees – and When They Shouldn’t" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2018/10/when-companies-should-invest-in-training-their-employees-and-when-they-shouldnt


Why employee performance management needs an HR tech overhaul

Are you still utilizing annual performance reviews at your organization? According to a recent survey by Adobe, 58 percent of people feel that performance reviews are no longer necessary. Read on to learn more.


According to a recent survey conducted by Adobe, 58% of people feel that performance reviews “are a needless HR requirement.” Adobe, in fact, no longer has an annual performance review process and instead has adopted an approach involving ongoing discussions between managers and employees that emphasize talent development and future productivity instead of formal ratings and rankings based on past performance.

Still, the vast majority of companies continue to persist with a backward-looking evaluation process that is time-consuming for managers, demotivating for employees and of negligible benefit to the business as a whole. They do this because, as Adobe’s survey respondents suspected, performance reviews are more about “compliance than customer service.”

Focusing on past performance is an industrial-era hangover from when employees were mainly required to hit targets in easily measurable, repetitive tasks. Although most people’s jobs have evolved to be more complex and creative since then, the process and the tools used to manage their efficacy and performance in those roles have not.

In many respects, HR is still a defensive function whose role is to protect the business from its own employees. This is reflected by HR technology that is built for compliance, rather than helping managers and employees become more productive.

HR’s on-premise or enterprise resource planning systems can track performance reviews to prove a dismissal was not unfair, rank employees to justify compensation distribution and demonstrate effective people management to the board or shareholders. What they can’t do is react positively to the ever-changing demands of the modern business world and help employees and managers meaningfully improve their skills to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

Performance management is changing — but HR tech is not

These days, a company’s and individual employee’s goals can change dramatically in the time between end-of-year reviews. Individual roles are more specialized and require frequent skill updates, while cross-functional teams have long since replaced the siloed departments that were standard just 10 years ago. In this environment, HR’s focus on past compliance is detrimental to future development.

Forward-thinking companies are changing the performance process to focus on development and continuous feedback that makes managers and employees more productive and engaged. The success of these trailblazers will encourage other businesses from a wide range of industries to follow suit.

This new model of performance management needs help from technology, but existing HR tech vendors are not keeping up. Their services are so embedded in the world of compliance, they cannot change to support the development needs of managers and employees. Fortunately, the solution already exists.

Creating a connected system of productivity

One of the key issues with performance reviews is that so much of the process involves looking back to gather the data. For managers, it is a huge time investment. For employees, end-of-year feedback about an issue that occurred months beforehand is too late to be useful.

The process seems doubly inefficient when you realize that real-time, instantly-actionable performance data is already available in productivity systems like JIRA and Salesforce that are used by different teams. The problem is HR’s defensive mindset has made it difficult to integrate existing internal or ERP systems with these tools.

For many employees, benefits enrollment can be tedious—sometimes even scary. They don’t want to make a mistake—and who can blame them?

Dedicated performance management services that connect to both HR systems and the departmental productivity tools can take HR technology out of its silo. This will create a connected system of productivity that uses real-time data alongside transparent and flexible goal-tracking to drive ongoing development conversations between managers and employees.

It’s time for HR to evolve from a defensive function to make a positive contribution to key business goals and become what HR analyst Josh Bersin calls the “chief of productivity.” This demands a shift from a performance review process based on compliance to a human-centered, development-focused experience.

Adopting new performance technology that integrates with widely-used productivity tools is a key step to ensuring everyone from employees to managers to HR can work on what matters most in order to meet today’s goals and tomorrow’s challenges.

SOURCE: Dennerline, D. (15 October 2018) "Why employee performance management needs an HR tech overhaul" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/why-employee-performance-management-needs-an-hr-tech-overhaul?brief=00000152-14a7-d1cc-a5fa-7cffccf00000


Shrinking Talent Pools Mean Shifting Hiring Strategies

Are you shifting your hiring strategies to accommodate shrinking talent pools? With a tight labor market, HR departments need to be prepared to win potential workers from company competitors. Read this blog post from UBA to learn more.


The labor market is tighter than ever, so people in hiring capacities need to be ready to win potential workers from competitors.

According to Fast Company, companies focused on hiring recent grads should be prepared to answer questions about flexibility, collaboration, professional development, how success is measured, and opportunities for giving back. A mindset shift from the challenges the tight market creates to the opportunities it provides to attract just the right talent may just help companies make needed innovations to their hiring practices and even company culture.

With full employment, staffing agencies have to get creative as the pool of qualified talent is limited. Add in changing visa and immigration laws and the pool is even smaller. Companies seeking talent are frustrated, and staffing agencies are working harder to appeal to the remaining talent. Workforce magazine traces one solution: investing in training programs. Helping candidates upskill can mean helping fill hard-to-fill roles with the same pool. Called a “build-your-own-talent” approach, staffing agencies report focusing training on skills proving harder to source with a promise of commitment to work for a company for a set amount of time.

This all helps explain why recruiting is now a major focus for the C-suite, according to HR Dive. For HR, this means ensuring everything from a positive, proactive hiring experience to showcasing a company as an employer of choice in recruitment, and also shifting strategies toward “total talent acquisition,” which means considering full-time employees as well as flexible, contingent, and project-based workers.

Shifting hiring and recruiting strategies will be hallmarks of this tight labor market, so finding ways to win, train, or retain talent will be what makes the difference for some employers.

Fast Company
These are the most common questions that college grads ask employers.

Workforce
Sector Report: Staffing Providers Opt For ‘Create Your Own Talent’

HR Dive
Study: Shrinking talent pool has recruiters shifting strategies

SOURCE: Olson, B. (16 October 2018) "Shrinking Talent Pools Mean Shifting Hiring Strategies" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://blog.ubabenefits.com/shrinking-talent-pools-mean-shifting-hiring-strategies


What employers can do to combat risks of workplace opioid abuse

Workplace opioid abuse is posing a unique challenge for employers. Even appropriate use of prescription opioids can pose grave risks and dangers for companies and their employees. Continue reading to learn more.


The opioid epidemic presents a unique challenge for employers. While opioids can be beneficial for employees suffering from pain, they also pose grave risks and dangers for companies as even appropriate use of the drugs can cause impairment and lead to accidents.

For example, if an employee had an accident and suffers an injury, you may see the physical signs of the injury. However, it’s not as obvious if the employee was prescribed opioids for the pain associated with that injury. If the employee doesn’t disclose the prescription, they could resume their everyday duties, like operating machinery, when they should be restricted while using the drug.

Due to the increasing prevalence of opioid use, employers are likely now challenged with addressing misuse in the workplace. Often, companies may not know the best approach to supporting employees dealing with an opioid addiction. When speaking with employers, it’s important to stress the need for organizations to be well-versed in opioid misuse and ways to proactively identify and address it.

Employers can work to combat opioid use in their organization by providing accommodations and updating their policies, procedures and employee communications. Here are a few ways they can get started.

Short-term accommodations

If an employee is taking prescribed opioids for an injury and has specific limitations or restrictions, an employer can work with a disability carrier to determine potential short-term accommodations that can be made to meet the employee’s needs. Short-term accommodations can help keep an employee comfortable and productive at work during his or her recovery.

Policies and procedures

If an employer hasn’t done so already, it should consider putting a comprehensive drug policy in place to help it address issues that may arise if an employee misuses prescription drugs. The policy should include a description of available assistance options for employees who are struggling with substance abuse and clearly state consequences for employees who violate the policy, empowering supervisors to take appropriate action in response to employee issues.

Destigmatizing use

It’s easier to help someone if they come forward, but right now, stigma surrounding opioids can cause employees to keep their prescription use to themselves. Encouraging open lines of communication can help companies destigmatize prescription drug use so their employees feel comfortable disclosing the medications they’re taking that could limit them at work.

Fostering transparency, combined with short-term accommodations and clear policies, can help employees feel more comfortable coming forward with their condition. Remind employers that their disability carrier can be a great resource to help with education, recommend proactive ways to address misuse at their organization and create accommodation plans for employees in need. With these steps, employers can help support their employees and, ultimately, make the workplace a safer place for all.

SOURCE: Jolivet, D (16 October 2018) "What employers can do to combat risks of workplace opioid abuse" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/what-employers-can-do-to-combat-workplace-opioid-abuse-risk


4 best practices for implementing a gamification-based compliance training system

Are you considering implementing compliance-based training at your organization? With just a third of workers in America reporting that they feel engaged at work, implementing a gamification-based compliance training system can help boost engagement. Continue reading to learn more.


For most employees, compliance training is the Brussels sprouts on the kid’s plate of working life. Everyone knows it’s good for you — one mistake could lead to violations, accidents, reputation issues and maybe a not-so-friendly visit from regulatory body officials — but most workers turn up their noses and disengage when it’s time to dig in.

Considering that merely a third of American workers report feeling engaged at work as it stands, anything that makes matters worse is dangerous. Why risk inflaming indifference — not to mention spending money for on-site instructors — with dull-as-dry-toast workshops?

A far better bet is to embrace technology and go virtual. Of course, online-based compliance training won’t guarantee heightened participation or enthusiasm unless they have one specific aspect: gamification.

Gaming elements can turn any virtual compliance training learning management system (LMS) into an immersive experience. ELearning compliance training participants can enjoy customization and flexibility while getting up to speed on the latest rules, guidelines and protocols. With LMS gamification, HR managers and chief learning officers can cultivate and retain top talent. Best of all, it’s far easier to get buy-in for a robust LMS system with badges, bells and whistles than it is to make a pile of Brussels sprouts disappear from a toddler’s tray.

What exactly is so exciting about game-based learning? In essence, the process prompts active and immediate participation because of extra motivation in the form of rewards. Whether it’s badges or points, these features make eLearning interesting and enjoyable.

In one study, workers who enjoyed themselves retained concepts 40% better than those who weren’t having fun. As you might guess, this is what game-based learning is all about. Engaged employees who rapidly earn rewards are less likely to make errors, so they naturally increase a company’s bottom line and lower the likelihood of compliance fees and penalties. Plus, according to research from TalentLMS, 87% of employees report that gamification makes them more productive.

Merging gamification with training makes plenty of sense. It’s also easy to build a gamification-based compliance training LMS by following a straightforward LMS implementation checklist.

1. Identify your training goals and gaps. Before you can find the best LMS for your needs and move forward with an implementation project plan, you need to spot the inefficiencies of your existing compliance training program. For example, your strategy might not facilitate real-world applications. Knowing this, you would want a compliance training LMS that bridges gaps and imparts practical experience.

2. Discover what motivates and drives employees. Employee gamification only works when employees are properly incentivized, so find out what motivates your team based on their backgrounds and experience levels. Whether a task is challenging or boring, people respond better when they are internally driven to succeed.

Do you need an intuitive LMS with a personalized dashboard? Are the introverts on your team more driven by badges and points than by a sense of competition? Conduct surveys to gauge expectations, and try to follow a 70:20:10 model of training amplified by gaming to foster experimentation and collaboration.

3. Choose the right rewards for desired outcomes. With the plethora of LMS choices on the market, you can select from rewards and mechanics that lead to the exact behaviors and criteria you desire. Want employees to achieve safety online training certifications? Reward “graduates” with points after they have displayed their proficiency. Reinforce favorable behaviors without punishing workers who lag behind. Carrots are far more effective than sticks.

4. Invest in a feature-rich, gamification-supported LMS. Your LMS should not only be user-friendly, but it should also be a portal to game-based learning support and an online asset library. Ideally, your gamified learning platform should include themes and templates that allow you to design visually appealing rewards without reinventing the wheel. Just make sure you have game-based reporting on your side, which makes it simple to track employee performance, completion rates, and other LMS metrics.

Implementing a gamification-based compliance training strategy requires careful budgeting, planning, and analysis. Once you find an LMS platform that delivers the features you need within your price range, you’ll be on your way to mitigating risks and retaining superstar employees. And thanks to gamification, everyone can have a little fun along the way.

SOURCE: Pappas, C. (10 October 2018) "4 best practices for implementing a gamification-based compliance training system" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/4-best-practices-for-implementing-a-gamification-based-compliance-training-system?brief=00000152-14a5-d1cc-a5fa-7cff48fe0001


Severance plans: How savvy employers can stay ERISA compliant

There are significant benefits associated with severance arrangements that are also ERISA plans. Read this blog post to find out how you can stay ERISA compliant with your severance plans.


An employer’s promise to provide severance benefits may be written or oral, formal or informal, and individual or group. Determining whether an ERISA plan already exists, or whether an employer wants its severance arrangement to be subject to ERISA, is an important consideration in determining an employer’s obligation and liabilities associated with a severance arrangement.

There are significant advantages associated with a severance arrangement that is an ERISA plan as discussed in detail below. An employer, however, cannot unilaterally decide that the severance arrangement is an ERISA plan. Instead, an employer, when designing and administering a severance arrangement, can take definitive steps to ensure that the arrangement is treated as an ERISA plan.

Employers may assume that the first step to ensure the existence of an ERISA plan is to have a written plan document, which is required by ERISA. Surprisingly, this is not necessarily determinative as to whether an ERISA plan exists. Courts have held that ERISA plans can exist without a written plan document and vice versa.

Case law has provided the broad outlines of the nature of an ERISA-governed severance plan. An essential characteristic of ERISA severance plans is that, by their nature, they necessitate “an ongoing administrative scheme.” Courts have looked at the following indicators when determining what constitutes an ongoing administrative scheme:

  • The employer’s discretion in determining (1) eligibility for benefits or (2) available plan benefits
  • The form of payment such as lump sums versus periodic payments
  • Any ongoing demand on the employer’s assets such that there is an ongoing scheme to coordinate and control the distribution of benefits
  • Calculations based on certain factors such as job performance, length of service, reemployment prospects, and so forth.

Severance plans or arrangements that normally do not require an ongoing administrative scheme, and therefore, do not implicate ERISA, are plans that have lump-sum payments that are calculated under a formula and are mechanically triggered by a single event (such as termination). Where severance payments are made over time (through payroll, for example) and/or additional benefits (such as continuation of benefits or outplacement services) are provided, the severance arrangement is likely subject to ERISA.

As a practical matter, whether severance arrangements are ad hoc or recognized in a formal plan document, they may end up providing ERISA-covered benefits. In a dispute, an employer generally prefers that ERISA applies because of ERISA’s preemption of state laws. Preemption protects employers from state laws that may favor employees and generally limits the dispute to an ERISA claim for benefits, thereby avoiding the potential exposure to punitive, extra-contractual or special damages under state laws. In addition, ERISA’s claim procedure, which provides a pre-litigation administrative process for dispute resolution, will apply if proper plan language is provided. If employees with a severance claim fail to faithfully follow the ERISA claims procedure, their lawsuits may be dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.

Typically, the plan document gives the employer, in its capacity as plan administrator, the discretionary authority to interpret the plan’s language and make decisions about the plan. If the employee follows the claim procedures and the claim is denied, the decision-making process of the employer (or its designee) if done properly, is given deferential treatment by a reviewing court. Moreover, in many cases, judicial review is limited to only those matters addressed in the administrative record of the claim. In other words, many federal courts would decline to consider factual matters that were not raised by the employee in the claim procedure process.

Another consideration for the savvy employer is that severance benefits are almost always considered to be “welfare” benefits. Welfare benefits, as opposed to pension benefits, are afforded an extremely low level of protection under ERISA. Essentially, the employer’s exposure as to promised severance benefits is only as broad as its express contractual commitment to them. By appropriately documenting the benefits with “best practices” language (such as specifying that the amendment or termination of benefits may be done with or without advance notice), employers can take advantage of the opportunity afforded by the relatively thin protections provided by ERISA. On the other hand, poor or no documentation of a severance arrangement may leave an employer with difficult-to-prove assertions as to what severance commitments were actually made.

In summary, an ERISA-governed plan provides an employer with significant advantages in litigation. In addition, a severance arrangement subject to ERISA will enjoy the powerful benefits of ERISA preemption and the ERISA claims procedures.

SOURCE: Rothman, J.; Ninneman, S. (3 October 2018) "Severance plans, Part 1: How savvy employers can stay ERISA compliant" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/how-employers-can-stay-erisa-compliant-with-severance-plans


6 Books on the Future of Work That Every HR Professional Should Read

What are you doing to prepare strategically for the future of work? Organizations have seen tremendous changes in the global economy and technological innovation in the past 50 years. Read on for six books on the future of work that every HR professional should read.


As HR professionals and organizational leaders, it seems we are increasingly bombarded with messages about disruptive innovations and the changing nature of work. While calls to prepare strategically for the "future of work" might sometimes seem over-the-top, it doesn't change the fact that we've seen tremendous shifts in the global economy (including the labor economy) and technological innovation over the past 50 years that have had significant implications for the nature of work.

So what do the next 50 years have in store for organizations and workers? How will disruptive technologies like robotics, artificial intelligence/machine learning, pharmacogenetics, quantum entanglement, virtual presence/augmented reality, 3-D printing, and blockchain (among many others) influence future labor markets?

Here are six books I believe every HR professional and organizational leader should read to better understand these trends and the drivers influencing the shifting trajectories in the future of work.

1.  The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts(Oxford University Press, 2017) by Richard Susskind and Daniel Susskind

The Future of the Professions closely examines the intersection of rapidly advancing innovative technologies and the shifting nature and transformation of work and the professions, providing theoretically grounding and ample examples of emerging technologies, organizations and work arrangements. It is intended for organizational leaders and policy practitioners of all stripes who are interested in the effects of disruptive technologies on the future of work.

2. The Future of Work: Robots, AI, and Automation (Brookings Institution Press, 2018) by Darrell M. West

In The Future of Work, West sees the U.S. and the world at a "major inflection point" where we have to grapple with the likely impact of an increasingly automated and technologically advanced society on work, education and public policy. The insights provided will be useful to those who manage others and to those who are managed in the workplace of the future.

3. Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future (Basic Books, 2016) by Martin Ford

Rise of the Robots is a somewhat unsettling vision of a future world dominated by artificial intelligence, machine learning and highly automated industries, where most members of the current workforce find themselves replaced by technology and machines; in other words, a jobless future. Based on recent economic and innovation trends, Ford argues that the rapid technological advancement will ultimately result in a fundamental restructuring of corporations, governments and even entire societies as middle-class jobs gradually disappear, economic mobility evaporates and wealth is increasingly concentrated among the elite super-rich.

4. Gigged: The End of the Job and the Future of Work (St. Martin's Press, 2018) by Sarah Kessler

Gigged examines the shifting psychological contract between organizations and workers, discusses trends in the organization of work, and documents the movement in recent decades away from traditional employment models and toward part-time work and contingent employment arrangements such as independent contracting and project-based "gig" work. While such work has always been a part of informal economies around the world, the trend is increasingly common in traditional organizations as well, bolstered by the success of companies like Uber and Airbnb.

5. The Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders, and Create a Competitive Organization (Wiley, 2014) by Jacob Morgan

In The Future of Work, Morgan continues the argument that the world is changing at an accelerated pace. He demonstrates that the way we work today is fundamentally different from how previous generations worked (due to globalization, technological innovation and shifts in the composition of national economies) and suggests that the future of work will be drastically different from what we experience today (a shift from knowledge workers to learning workers), where employees can work anytime and anywhere and can use any devices.

6. Shaping the Future of Work: A Handbook for Action and a New Social Contract (MITxPress, 2017) by Thomas A. Kochan

Probably the most academic book on this list, Shaping the Future of Work acknowledges an increasingly digitized economy and examines the resulting shift in social contract with regard to work and the professions. Kochan provides a road map for what leaders across contexts need to do to create high-quality jobs and develop strong and successful businesses.

What Does All This Mean?

In the next 50 years, we will likely see:

  • A continually shifting geopolitical landscape.

  • Continued movement from linear organizations to a more latticed/connected framework.

  • The displacement of jobs and the hunt for talent in a more automated economy.

  • An increasingly mobile and flexible labor force, and a push toward a reskilling agenda within organizations to continually leverage human capital value.

  • Technological advancements that continue to disrupt traditional organizational models and shift the very nature of work and professions.

So what does this all mean for HR professionals and organizational leaders? What are the core competencies of organizations that are prepared for these technological disruptions? How does the shifting nature of work influence needed HR competencies?

Regardless of what the future holds, these are questions we need to be asking and discussions we need to be having so that we are prepared for the future of work.

SOURCE: Westover, J. (5 September 2018) "6 Books on the Future of Work That Every HR Professional Should Read" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/book-blog/pages/6-books-on-the-future-of-work-that-every-hr-professional-should-read.aspx/