4 Ways to Talk to Employees So They Listen

Original post entrepreneur.com

No one likes to be lectured in the workplace.

As a leader, you need to communicate with your employees to deliver strategic direction, reinforce corporate culture and rally the troops to achieve company goals and objectives. To be effective, you need to deliver these messages in a way that creates energy and enthusiasm, rather than deflating your team.

Here are four tips for talking to employees in a way that energizes them rather than depleting them:

1. Use humor. No matter how big or small your operation may be, there is often tension and emotional distance between the boss and employees. To diffuse that, I regularly use humor, a tactic that makes me more approachable. In my experience, the best kind is self-deprecating humor. When I showed up to meet new employees for the first time at a Midwest location, I started the conversations by poking fun at my pronounced "New Yawk" accent. It got a laugh and made me seem more accessible.

2. Ask open-ended questions. And then be quiet. My favorite question to ask is “Tell me about [insert topic here].” When you ask a new employee about his ideas or a technologist about a new device, you are asking them to do more than give you a pat sentence or two in response. You have the opportunity to access that person’s deep knowledge and passion. Ask a question that opens the conversation wide and then hold still and listen.

3. Bring others into the conversation. A boss-employee conversation may seem casual to the boss but can feel like an interrogation to the employee. To diffuse this situation, I like to bring others into the conversation to even out the experience. I may turn a one-on-one discussion into a larger conversation by inviting people to join us and share their thoughts and experiences. It benefits me, because I get to hear more voices, and it helps put everyone else at ease.

4. Let the little stuff slide. If you are the kind of hands-on person who helped build the business from the ground up, you probably have insight or advice on everything from the capital budget to color of the carpet. But you don’t have to communicate every thought to the staff. If it’s not an important critique, let it go. I visited a flower shop in my company once and noticed the manager was not lining the trashcans with plastic bags. I know from experience that liners make the job easier, but I also know that I don’t need to communicate every idea that comes into my head. It just creates a climate of nitpicking.

Conversations that take place up and down the food chain – between supervisor and staff, people of different departments and the boss and the new employee – are often the source of great new ideas.

As the boss, it’s your job to get those conversations started and keep them going. You have a chance to make that happen (or achieve the opposite) every time you open your mouth.


Top 10 Questions about the Minimum Value Penalty

Original post ubabenefits.com

An employer that offers minimum essential coverage to substantially all of its full-time employees may still owe penalties if the coverage it offers is inadequate because it is not "affordable" or it does not provide "minimum value." It also may owe penalties on the employees it does not offer coverage to who receive a premium subsidy.

Here we answer the top 10 questions related to minimum value penalties based on the IRS's final regulation. More on minimum value can be found in our blogs on ACA Penalties, Taxes and Fees and on Minimum Value. 

Q1: What is "minimum value" coverage?
A1: Coverage is "minimum value" if the coverage is expected to pay at least 60 percent of covered claims costs. It must provide substantial coverage for inpatient hospital and physicians' services.

Fully insured plans provided to small groups must provide coverage at bronze level, or better. Bronze level is an actuarial value of approximately 60 percent, and those plans are automatically considered to provide minimum value.

The government has provided a calculator and several safe harbor plan designs to assist large insured plans and self-funded plans with their minimum value determinations.

Q2: May an employer use wellness incentives when determining minimum value?
A2: The employer may use non-smoking incentives when determining minimum value if non-smoking incentives are used to reduce cost-sharing (deductibles, coinsurance, copays, or the out-of-pocket maximum). If non-smoking incentives are available to reduce cost-sharing, essentially the employer may assume that all employees qualify for the non-smoker incentive. All other wellness incentives must be disregarded.

Q3: May an employer use HRA contributions when determining minimum value?
A3: When determining minimum value, an employer may apply HRA contributions for the current year if those contributions may only be used by employees for cost-sharing. (Cost-sharing generally means deductibles, coinsurance, or copays.)

Q4: May an employer use HSA contributions when determining minimum value?
A4: When determining whether coverage is affordable, an employer's contributions to an HSA may be considered as a first-dollar benefit.

Q5: What is the penalty for not offering affordable, minimum value coverage?
A5: The penalty is $250 per month ($3,000 per year, indexed) for each full-time employee who:

  • Is not offered coverage that is both minimum value and affordable coverage, and
  • Purchases coverage through a government Marketplace, and
  • Is eligible for a premium tax credit/subsidy (so his household income must be below 400 percent of federal poverty level).

Example: Jones, Inc. has 55 full-time employees and eight part-time employees. Jones offers coverage that is minimum value for all employees, but which is not affordable for 10 of the full-time employees (nine of whom buy coverage through the Marketplace) and all of the part-time employees (all eight buy through the Marketplace). Seven of the nine full-time employees and six of the eight part-time employees who buy through the Marketplace qualify for a premium tax credit.

Jones owes a penalty on each full-time employee who enrolls in a Marketplace plan and receives a premium tax credit, so Jones owes $21,000 ($250 per month for each of the seven full-time employees who receive a premium credit; the part-time employees are not counted).

Note that the first 30 (or 80) employees do count under this "inadequate coverage" penalty. Also, if the "no offer" penalty would be less expensive than the "inadequate coverage" penalty, the employer would pay the "no offer" penalty.

Q6: Does the employer owe a penalty if the employee declines affordable, minimum value coverage offered by the employer and buys coverage through the Marketplace instead?
A6: No. The employer simply has to offer affordable, minimum value coverage. (Specifically, the least expensive plan that provides minimum value coverage must be affordable based on the cost of self-only coverage.) If the employee chooses to obtain coverage through the Marketplace, he or she can, but the employee will not be eligible for a premium tax credit/subsidy and therefore the employer will not owe a penalty.

Q7: Does the employer owe a penalty if the employer offers minimum essential coverage that is not affordable and minimum value coverage to an employee who would be eligible for a premium tax credit/subsidy, but the employee chooses to enroll in the employer's plan?
A7: No. If the employee chooses to obtain coverage through his or her employer instead of through the Marketplace, the employee can, but he or she will usually not be eligible for a premium tax credit/subsidy and therefore the employer will not owe a penalty.

Q8: Is it possible for an employee to qualify for a premium tax credit/subsidy even though his or her employer offers affordable coverage?
A8: Yes. If the cost of self-only coverage through the Marketplace is more than 9.5 percent (indexed to 9.56 percent in 2015, and 9.66 percent in 2016) of an employee's actual household income, an employee could be eligible for the subsidy even though the coverage offered by his or her employer is affordable under one of the three safe harbors. This will be a fairly unusual occurrence, but could happen because certain deductions are allowed when determining household income.

Q9: Must all plan options provide affordable, minimum value coverage?
A9: No. Only the lowest cost option that provides minimum value coverage needs to be affordable to avoid the penalty. An employer is free to offer other options that do not meet affordability.

Q10: Are there special rules for multiemployer plans?
A10: Yes. If the employer is required to make a contribution to a multiemployer plan with respect to some or all of its employees under a collective bargaining agreement or related participation agreement and the multiemployer plan offers affordable, minimum value coverage to eligible employees, the employer will be considered to have offered affordable, minimum value coverage. In addition to the three affordability safe harbors, coverage under a multiemployer plan is considered affordable if the employee's contribution toward self-only coverage does not exceed 9.5 percent (indexed to 9.56 percent in 2015, and 9.66 percent in 2016) of the wages reported to the multiemployer plan, based on either actual wages or an hourly wage rate under the bargaining agreement.


7 Tips to Get Your Team to Actually Listen to You

Original post entrepreneur.com

Right from the outset, entrepreneurs must pay attention to every communication and opportunity for sharing their passion and vision.  They must communicate effectively, so they can inspire others to come aboard.  They must speak honestly and in ways that reveal their personal character and genuine connection. Yet, this sort of communication style can be difficult and time consuming – especially when demands are huge and time is scarce.

There is far more to being an effective and authentic communicator than most entrepreneurs believe -- at least when they are starting out. Even if you think you’re good at speaking to your team and motivating them, there’s always more to learn.

Leadership communication is a discipline and a practice: The more time, effort and heart you put in, the more effective you become.  There really are no shortcuts.

That said, here are seven ideas that can help you focus your attention and improve your leadership communication.

1. Be authentic.

When you speak with your employees you must come across to them as real. This means sharing your beliefs and your struggles. Talking about moments of doubt but also explaining how you overcame them with more conviction and confidence than ever. Or perhaps share a story or two about a failure and disappointment in life.

The most convincing talks are when stories are shared about personal weaknesses and what one was doing to overcome them or disappointments and failures and how they were turned around.

2. Know yourself.

Dig deep.  Know your values and what motivates you.  If you don’t know yourself you cannot share or connect with others. People want to know what makes you tick as a human being not just as a leader. Share this and make yourself real.

3. Rely on a good coach or a trusted advisor.

Developing good communication skills takes time -- and in the rush of business, that’s scarce.  Having someone who can push you to examine and reveal your interests and passions is enormously helpful and the value is immeasurable.

4. Read up on leadership communication.

If you can’t hire a coach, read all that you can. This is an inexhaustible resource, and you should never quit learning anyway. Books, articles, the internet; the possibilities are endless.

5. Make values visible.

Effective, empathetic communication and a commitment to culture can provide a solid foundation for your ideas and contribute to making it a reality. Many of today’s most successful companies have gone through dramatic crises.  Their improvements often hinged upon genuine communication from the leaders.

For instance, think of Starbucks and Howard Schultz’s clear and genuine communications about the importance of managers and baristas being personally accountable for future success. Your employees want to know what you and the company stands for. What is the litmus test for everything you do? These are your values. Talk about them but you must always be sure to “walk the talk” and live by them.

6. Engage with stories.

You can't rely on facts and figures alone. It’s stories that people remember. The personal experiences and stories you share with others create emotional engagement, decrease resistance and give meaning. It is meaning that gets employees' hearts and fuels discretionary effort, thinking and desire to actively support the business.

Once someone was implementing a massive pricing cut. He could have presented reams of data about this change and why it needed to be made. Instead he invited in four clients of the firm who had written letters about why after more than 10 years they had decided to leave due to our pricing being noncompetitive. Everyone was engaged and quite horrified to hear this feedback. Getting the team’s support for the change was much easier after that.

7. Be fully present. 

There is no autopilot for leadership communication. You must be fully present to move people to listen and pay attention, rather than simply be in attendance. Any time you are communicating, you need to be prepared -- and to speak from your heart.  Leadership communication is, after all, about how you make others feel. What do you want people to feel, believe and do as a result of your communication?  This absolutely can't happen if you read a speech. No matter how beautifully it is written, it doesn’t come across as authentic or from your heart if you are reading it. Embrace what you want to say and use notes if you must, but never read a speech if you want to be believable and move people to action. (And yes this requires a ton of preparation).

Your speeches are visible and important components of your role as a leader. Successful entrepreneurs are conscious of that role in every communication, interaction and venue within the organization and beyond. They also know that while today’s world provides a wide range of ways to communicate to your organization -- mass email, text, Twitter, instant message and more --connecting is not that simple. Electronic communication is a tool for communicating information -- not for inspiring passion.


The Dish with Pennie Hildebrandt

 

My favortie recipe is Banana Bread

  • 2 Cups Flour
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 2 stick of margarine or butter ( melted)
  • 8 TBL cold water
  • 2 eggs

Mix dry ingredients.  Mix in remaining ingredients except for the eggs.

Mix in egg yolks to batter and beat egg whites.  Fold egg whites.  Place in greased loaf pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for an hour or until toothpick comes out clean.

"This is an all-time favorite that makes everyone smile."

 

 


Client Service Agent Pennie Hildebrant completes continuing education requirement

Congratulations to Client Service Agent Pennie Hildebrant of Hierl Insurance. She successfully completed the annual continuing education requirement of the Society of Certified Insurance Counselors.

Pennie earned the prestigious designation by attending 5 courses covering all phases of the insurance business and passed 5 comprehensive examinations. Additionally, the National Alliance requires annual attendance in the program to maintain the designation.

Pennie, a 22 year veteran of the industry, has been a CISR and CIC since 2003 and 2006, respectively.

Pennie believes the insurance profession is best served by those who acquire and maintain a high standard of professionalism by meeting the continuing education requirements of the Certified Insurance Counselors Program.


HR Marathon a hit for Hierl at SHRM Conference

Hierl Insurance had a successful week at Wisconsin's SHRM Conference held in Wisconsin Dells.

The theme of the conference at the event was HR's marathon: Settng the Pace for the Future.

As part of their promotion, Hierl Insurance advisors handed out running bibs to attendees. Those spotted wearing the bibs during the conference had a chance to win a prize.

A highlight of the Hierl Insurance booth was the 'Minute to Win It' Contest. Attendees were asked questions related to benefits, wellness and more. The top two with the most correct answers received gift cards to Dick's Sporting Goods.

For more on the conference click here.


Hierl Welcomes Tonya Bahr to the Team

Tonya Bahr has joined Hierl Insurance, Inc. as a Benefits Advisor. She has 15 years experience in human resources and benefits. Throughout her HR career, Tonya has been involved in benefit plan designs, wellness program implementations, and open enrollment facilitation. She has a passion for educating employees and business owners on benefit options, helping them make decisions that best fit their personal and financial objectives. Tonya graduated from the University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh with a B.S. in Journalism and a minor in Human Resource Management. She is currently a national and local member of the Society for Human Resource Management and holds her SPHR certification.

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Cathleen Christensen, CIC, CRM attends James K. Ruble Graduate Seminar

November 10, 2014

Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, October 14, 2014 – Cathleen Christensen, Vice President of Hierl Insurance, Inc. of Fond du Lac, has successfully completed the annual continuing education requirement of the Society of Certified Insurance Counselors and Certified Risk Managers International.

To earn these prestigious designations, Christensen attended ten courses covering all phases of the insurance and risk management business and passed all necessary examinations. Additionally, The National Alliance requires annual attendance in the program to maintain the designations.

Christensen, a 26 year veteran of the industry, has been a CIC since 2009 and a CRM since 2012. Christensen believes the insurance and risk management professions are best served by those who acquire and maintain a high standard of professionalism by meeting the continuing education requirements of the Certified Insurance Counselors and Certified Risk Managers Programs.


Mike Hierl, CIC, CPCU attends James K. Ruble Graduate Seminar

November 10, 2014

Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, October 14, 2014 – Mike Hierl, President of Hierl Insurance, Inc. of Fond du Lac, has successfully completed the annual continuing education requirement of the Society of Certified Insurance Counselors and Certified Risk Managers International.

To earn these prestigious designations, Hierl attended five courses covering all phases of the insurance and business and passed all necessary examinations. Additionally, The National Alliance requires annual attendance in the program to maintain the designations.

Hierl, a 25 year veteran of the industry, has been a CIC and CPCU since 1990. Hierl believes the insurance and risk management professions are best served by those who acquire and maintain a high standard of professionalism by meeting the continuing education requirements of the Certified Insurance Counselors Program.


Preventing Summer Slips, Trips and Falls

Everyone knows to be careful during the winter months when temperatures dip below freezing and there’s snow or ice on the ground.

What people often neglect to consider is that hazards still exist in the summer months, both indoors and outdoors. In fact, it’s the element of surprise that can make summer slips, trips and falls more severe than those that occur in winter.

Slips, trips and falls are the second-leading cause of employee injury nationally, with these types of injuries increasing by 41 percent since 1998. Additionally, slips, trips and falls are also a leading cause of customer injuries.

Taken as a whole, it’s obvious that doing everything possible to prevent slips, trips and falls is not just a priority — it’s a necessity.