DOL Offers Wage and Hour Compliance Tips in Three Opinion Letters

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently released three new opinion letters providing tips on how to comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) when it comes to wage and hour issues. Continue reading this blog post to learn how the agency would enforce statutes and regulations specific to these situations.


The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued three new opinion letters addressing how to comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) when rounding employee work hours and other wage and hour issues.

Opinion letters describe how the agency would enforce statutes and regulations in specific circumstances presented by an employer, worker or other party who requests the opinion. Opinion letters are not binding, but there may be a safe harbor for employers that show they relied on one.

The DOL Wage and Hour Division's July 1 letters covered:

Here are the key takeaways for employers.

Rounding Practices

One letter reviewed whether an organization's rounding practices are permissible under the Service Contract Act (SCA), which requires government contractors and subcontractors to pay prevailing wages and benefits and applies FLSA principles to calculate hours worked.

The employer's payroll software extended employees' clocked time to six decimal points and then rounded that number to two decimal points. When the third decimal was less than .005, the second decimal was not adjusted, but when the third decimal was .005 or greater, the second decimal was rounded up by 0.01. Then the software calculated daily pay by multiplying the rounded daily hours by the SCA's prevailing wage.

Employers may round workers' time if doing so "will not result, over a period of time, in failure to compensate the employees properly for all the time they have actually worked," according to the FLSA.

"It has been our policy to accept rounding to the nearest five minutes, one-tenth of an hour, one-quarter of an hour, or one-half hour as long as the rounding averages out so that the employees are compensated for all the time they actually work," the opinion letter said.

Based on the facts provided, the DOL concluded that the employer's rounding practice complied with the FLSA and the SCA. The rounding practice was "neutral on its face" and appeared to average out so that employees were paid for all the hours they actually worked.

For employers, the letter provides two significant details, said Marty Heller, an attorney with Fisher Phillips in Atlanta. First, it confirms that the DOL applies the FLSA's rounding practices to the SCA. Second, it confirms the DOL's position that computer rounding is permissible, at least when the rounding involves a practice that appears to be neutral and does not result in the failure to compensate employees fully over a period of time, he said.

Patrick Hulla, an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Kansas City, Mo., noted that the employer's rounding practice in this case differed from many employers' application of the principle. Specifically, the employer was rounding time entries to six decimal places. Most employers round using larger periods of time—in as many as 15-minute increments, he said.

"Employers taking advantage of permissible rounding should periodically confirm that their practices are neutral, which can be a costly and time-consuming exercise," he suggested.

Exempt Paralegals

Another letter analyzed whether a trade organization's paralegals were exempt from the FLSA's minimum wage and overtime requirements. Under the FLSA's white-collar exemptions, employees must earn at least $23,660 and perform certain duties. However, employees whose total compensation is at least $100,000 a year are considered highly compensated employees and are eligible for exempt status if they meet a reduced duties test, as follows:

  • The employee's primary duty must be office or nonmanual work.
  • The employee must "customarily and regularly" perform at least one of the bona fide exempt duties of an executive, administrative or professional employee.

Employers should note that the DOL's proposed changes to the overtime rule would raise the regular salary threshold to $35,308 and the highly compensated salary threshold to $147,414.

Because "a high level of compensation is a strong indicator of an employee's exempt status," the highly compensated employee exemption "eliminates the need for a detailed analysis of the employee's job duties," the opinion letter explained.

The paralegals described in the letter appeared to qualify for the highly compensated employee exemption because all their duties were nonmanual, they were paid at least $100,000 a year, and they "customarily and regularly" perform at least one duty under the administrative exemption.

The letter cited "a litany of the paralegals' job duties and responsibilities—including keeping and maintaining corporate and official records, assisting the finance department with bank account matters, and budgeting—that are directly related to management or general business operations," the DOL said.

The DOL noted that some paralegals don't qualify for the administrative exemption because their primary duties don't include exercising discretion and independent judgment on significant matters. But the "discretion and independent judgment" factor doesn't have to be satisfied under the highly compensated employee exception.

Calculating Bonuses

The third letter discussed whether the FLSA requires an employer to include a nondiscretionary bonus that is a fixed percentage of an employee's straight-time wages received over multiple workweeks in the calculation of the employee's regular rate of pay at the end of each workweek.

Under the FLSA, nonexempt employees must be paid at least 1 1/2 times their regular rate of pay for hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek, unless they are covered by an exemption—but the regular rate is based on more than just the employee's hourly wage. It includes all remuneration for employment unless the compensation falls within one of eight statutory exclusions. Nondiscretionary bonuses count as remuneration and must be included in the calculation.

"An employer may base a nondiscretionary bonus on work performed during multiple workweeks and pay the bonus at the end of the bonus period," according to the opinion letter. "An employer, however, is not required to retrospectively recalculate the regular rate if the employer pays a fixed percentage bonus that simultaneously pays overtime compensation due on the bonus."

The annual bonus, in this case, was not tied to straight-time or overtime hours. Based on the facts provided by an employee, the DOL said that after the employer pays the annual bonus, it must recalculate the regular rate for each workweek in the bonus period and pay any overtime compensation that is due on the annual bonus.

For the quarterly bonuses, the employee received 15 percent of his straight-time and overtime wages so they "simultaneously include all overtime compensation due on the bonus as an arithmetic fact," the DOL said.

SOURCE: Nagele-Piazza, L.(2 July 2019) "DOL Offers Wage and Hour Compliance Tips in Three Opinion Letters" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/Pages/DOL-Offers-Wage-and-Hour-Compliance-Tips-in-Three-Opinion-Letters.aspx


Are your job posts designed to recruit the best talent?

Did you know: There are some 7.6 million unfilled jobs in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Poorly written job postings may be one of the reasons employers are having trouble filling open jobs. Read this blog post for more on job post design.


With job postings, it’s not what you say, but how you say it, which makes all the difference.

There are some 7.6 million unfilled jobs in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Labor, and poorly written job postings are the reason many employers are having trouble filling those open jobs, according to Katrina Kibben, CEO of Three Ears Media, a company that teaches recruiters how to become better writers.

“Most job postings are filled with clichés and B.S.,” Kibben said Thursday at the Greenhouse Open Conference, a gathering of HR professionals in New York City. “The most successful job postings have a heartbeat, and they spell out what’s expected from the candidate.”

Kibben said traditional job postings rely on the same tactics — all of which are ineffective. She said the majority of posts start out with “brand-first tone and jargon” in an attempt to attract talent. For example: “ABC seeks a collaborative, responsive, and dynamic non-profit development professional to lead the RCS community as our Chief Development Officer.” Kibben said this job description won’t engage potential applicants.

“It’s lame, and it doesn’t tell them why they should want to work for you,” Kibben said. “Some companies rely on brand recognizability, like Fortune 500 status, but that’s not enough to get the passionate candidates you want.”

Kibben provided a better example of an engaging job post: “Raising money isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. We’re looking for someone who’s ready to boil the water, sweeten the pot, and share the love of raising money with an enthusiastic team supporting an important cause.”

Bullet points were another typical job post feature Kibben recommended recruiters kill. While they make organizing information simple, Kibben said they don’t provide candidates with enough information about the job, and why they should apply.

“Your competitor likely has the exact same bullet points, so you need to find a way to tell candidates why you’re different from them,” Kibben said.

The way a job title is worded impacts how many applicants will see job postings online; employers who want the best visibility need to use search analytics to decide on a title, Kibben said. She recommended Google Trends because it shows searchers how often people in different regions searched for specific keywords. Sometimes, employers will find that the words they’re using are turning up searches for something entirely different.

“The phrase ‘customer service,’ for example, tends to bring up complaints, not job listings,” Kibben said. “You’ll want to adjust the wording so the candidates with the skills you want can find you.”

SOURCE: Webster, K. (17 June 2019) "Are your job posts designed to recruit the best talent?" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/are-your-job-posts-hiring-the-best-employees


Move over, financial wellness. It’s time for financial flexibility

Despite the fact that Americans have recovered from the Great Recession, most employees today live paycheck-to-paycheck, leaving many employees stressed out about their finances. Read this blog post to learn more about financial flexibility.


It’s somewhat hard to believe that most employees today continue to live paycheck-to-paycheck. Despite the fact that Americans have recovered from the Great Recession a decade ago and that the unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in many years, employees are essentially making the same amount of money they did during the pre-recession “good days” many years ago. Of course, living costs have gone up in this same period.

That means employees are stressed about their finances. They don’t have enough emergency savings for unexpected expenses and struggle to make minimum monthly payments on credit cards and loans. And the problem is bigger than that because their financial stress also distracts them at work. Whether it’s student loans, car payments, mortgage/rent payments, credit card debt, an unexpected expense or some other financial matter that they are worried about, the bottom line is they are spending time at work on these issues rather than doing the job employers are paying them to do.

Thus, employees’ personal financial stress affects employers as well. When employees bring that financial stress to work, it results in low productivity, absenteeism and, in many cases, higher healthcare costs.

Today’s employees want to make their money to do more. Financial flexibility can help them get there.

So what is financial flexibility? It’s the ability to manage expenses and make everyday life affordable. It’s the financial stage beyond living paycheck-to-paycheck. It means being smart about how we use our monthly income and finding ways to make our money do more so that we are able to pay bills on time, take a vacation, have an emergency fund for unexpected expenses and perhaps splurge on something small occasionally. Financial flexibility is the stage between living paycheck-to-paycheck and financial security (a level few employees ever achieve).

Being financially flexible means finding ways to make our money do more by following a monthly budget, being wise shoppers and taking advantage of employer-offered financial wellness tools and voluntary benefits such as financial counseling, student loan refinancing programs, employee purchase programs and payroll-deducted savings programs.

Providing financial flexibility at work

Financial education benefits can help employees with budgeting and debt reduction needs, and over the past several years, growing numbers of employees have begun using the services their employer provides to assist them with their personal finances.

But it takes more to have financial flexibility. While financial education benefits can help employees with budgeting and debt reduction needs, employers should adopt additional voluntary benefits that provide employees the opportunity to have some financial flexibility.

Among these are:

  • Low-interest installment loans and credit that help employees avoid payday loans and cash advances from credit cards when they have emergency needs such as unexpected out-of-pocket medical expenses.
  • Student loan repayment benefit programs in which employers are making contributions to loan balances or providing methods for employees to refinance their debt.
  • Automated savings programs that encourage employees to start taking control of their financial future by saving money each month from their paycheck. Many employees don’t have $1,000 or more in savings to use for emergencies and saving a little each month can help build that emergency fund.
  • Employee purchase programs that allow workers to purchase consumer products and services through payroll deduction when they are unable or prefer not to use cash or credit. The program is an alternative to high-interest credit cards and other sub-prime financing options for customers desiring to pay for a purchase over time.
  • Bill payment programs that empower employees with debt paydown strategies and the ability to make recurring bill payments on-time each month through payroll deduction

Today’s employees want — and need — their money to do more so they aren’t living paycheck-to-paycheck. Employees who are less financially stressed are happier. That results in more engaged, productive workers and an increased bottom line for employers. The new normal is financial flexibility. And there’s a role for voluntary benefits in helping employees get there.

SOURCE: Halkos, E. (23 April 2019) "Move over, financial wellness. It’s time for financial flexibility" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/use-voluntary-benefits-to-help-employee-financial-wellness


5 Strategies to Motivate Burned-Out Workers

An optimal way to motivate and engage burned-out workers is by rewarding team members for their achievements. Continue reading this post from SHRM for five strategies used to motivate burned-out workers.


Robert is a human resources director in a local community hospital who feels the heaviness of low staff morale. Employees are clearly tired, they feel like they're working at their maximum, and they're having a hard time keeping up with the patient load. In fact, due to leaves of absence from co-workers' disabilities and workers' comp, more employees have been working double shifts over extended periods of time. They are showing the classic signs of burnout. Unfortunately, Robert can't simply backfill positions because employees are on protected leaves of absence, and temp agencies and registries have few candidates to offer due to the tight labor market. In short, Robert doesn't know how to stop this apparently endless cycle of staffing shortages, excessive shift coverage, employee leaves and limited position replacements.

"Unless you've got some kind of magic wand to make these all-too-common challenges disappear, you won't have much success in terms of addressing these issues directly and head on," said Terry Hollingsworth, vice president of education and human resources services for the Hospital Association of Southern California in the greater Los Angeles area. "Yes, tightening up your recruitment cycle and opening your network to more temp agencies and registries may help, but those are Band-Aids. The real value lies in looking at the other side of the equation: employee engagement and self-motivation."

Rewarding people for their achievements, it turns out, is an optimal way to motivate and engage a team that feels like it's treading water. Allowing people to assume greater responsibilities and focus on their career development is better for them and for the organization—even when they may be feeling overwhelmed or burned out at the time you initiate the programs that follow.

1. Create a Career Development Pipeline

If your organization isn't already doing so, look for opportunities to build a succession planning program, especially among your hourly workers where career escalation is relatively easy to accomplish.

In Robert's case, the hospital's key challenge lies in finding certified nursing assistants (CNAs) due to market shortages.

"Hospital food service workers, janitors and others might want to pursue their CNA certification as a first step to formally launch their health care careers," Hollingsworth said. "Setting up onsite training classes and allowing on-the-job shadowing can be a game changer in terms of your culture and creating an environment where workers feel motivated and re-engaged. Ditto for developing a training program where CNAs can apply for their licensure to become licensed vocational nurses, the next rung on the nursing career ladder."

2. Develop a High-Po Program

"High-potential (high-po) programs focus on identifying the top 10 or 20 percent of workers in a given classification and awarding and recognizing them for their achievements, while helping them build out their resumes," said Rita Van Vranken, chief human resources officer at the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plans in Studio City, Calif.

"High-pos may not be ready to promote just yet, but they set themselves apart as top performers, brand ambassadors, and potential leaders who deserve special levels of acknowledgment and development from departmental and senior management. A structured high-po program serves as an effective recognition and development tool and dovetails nicely into formal succession planning."

Identifying one person from each department or unit gives these individuals more than an opportunity to feel special. They also may, for example, attend advanced classes on leadership, communication and teambuilding; enjoy a once-a-quarter lunch with their regional manager; and benefit from individual development plans that, created in tandem with their manager and department head, will single them out for promotion when the opportunity arises.

3. Develop an Active Employee Recognition Program

"Many organizations fail to realize the importance of both formal and informal recognition programs," Van Vranken said. "More important, though, is that companies that have them in place fail to promote and publicize them. If you have [an] Employee of the Month and Employee of the Year award program that barely gets attention, scrap it temporarily." Instead, try a Shining Star or Employee Spotlight program that recognizes employees who go above and beyond their job's expectations.

"[Pilot] a three- or six-month program that generates a buzz and makes the rewards something to brag about," she added.

Just remember that these types of programs are meant to spark up the troops, and, if you're not rewarding the most-needed behaviors (e.g., accepting double shifts or coming in on weekends), you're missing the main benefit of the exercise.

"Make it real; make it pop; and make sure your messages, values, and activities are all aligned," Van Vranken said.

Don't be surprised to learn that the most dramatic and immediate change in your organizational culture stems from praising employees and recognizing their achievements. And that recognition need not be monetary. In fact, many consulting firms that specialize in reward and recognition programs will tell you that research shows public praise and recognition can be more meaningful to workers than a cash card or check in a sealed envelope.

There are plenty of simple and effective ways for leaders to recognize their employees, from employee photos in the lobby to prestigious parking spots. Whatever you decide, make sure to communicate both expectations and celebrations clearly. Encourage your team members to follow your lead in recognizing others for a job well done. Share praise openly, and consider organizing recognition events to honor bigger accomplishments, especially those reached by teams working closely together.

4. Help Employees Fulfill Their Personal Career Goals

Career development is a key driver of employee satisfaction. Your strongest performers will always be resume builders. Providing opportunities for talented individuals to do their best work every day, combined with training and educational opportunities, will go a long way in helping people achieve their career advancement goals.

Become an organization known for its commitment to professional development. Provide networking opportunities for your staffers to meet leaders from other parts of the organization over team lunch meetings. Serve as a mentor and coach to your direct reports by asking them about their longer-term goals and how you could help them get there.

"Show that you're interested in the whole person, not just the one who shows up at work," Van Vranken said. "You'll likely find that people will respond in kind to the heightened dose of positive attention they're garnering,"

More specifically, Hollingsworth said, "Ask your employees to schedule 30 minutes with you once per quarter to review their progress toward their career goals. Invite them to share their resume with you to help them make the best presentation possible and [add] their work-related achievements to their LinkedIn profiles as well. Remember that when you develop an achievement mentality where employees are adding accomplishment bullets to their resume, you'll create a high-performance culture where high-performers are far less inclined to leave."

5. Plan Ahead

All employees want some sense of job security regarding their future with the company. They likewise want to understand how their efforts contribute to the organization's larger goals, mission and vision.

Share information generously. Ensure that people understand the goals and challenges so they can tie their recommended solutions to the broader picture. Help them learn about your organization and build on their knowledge by collecting information in scorecards, dashboards and other forms of data intelligence.

Likewise, honor the annual performance review process—the one hour per year dedicated to each individual worker as the culmination of the previous 12 months (i.e., the 2,080 hours typically worked). Yes, managers and employees at times express frustration with the annual performance review process, but you'd be surprised how many employees complain about not getting formal feedback—sometimes for years at a time.

Finally, turn your team into corporate futurists: Have them research your organization, industry and competitors. Have them scour the Internet for current trends and patterns in your business, especially those that can impact their careers for the better. As an example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes its Occupational Outlook Handbook at www.bls.gov/ooh. Send your employees on research missions to the BLS website to determine what the growth trajectory for their particular position is (currently measured in terms of job growth from 2016-26).

If Robert's employees take on this task, they will find career projections for medical assistants, dietitians, home health aides, nurses, massage therapists, phlebotomists and pharmacy technicians, among others. The BLS site outlines national median pay, educational requirements and the all-important "job outlook."

On the job outlook page, the hospital's workers will find a bar chart showing, for example, medical assistant jobs will grow at a rate of 29 percent per year between 2016 and 2026, relative to average job growth in the U.S. of 7 percent (all job classifications).

That's pretty motivating, but there's also an Excel spreadsheet embedded in the page that maps out job growth in particular medical areas relative to the 24 percent overall growth for the entire classification. Robert's medical assistant employees will learn that 10-year job growth projections line up as follows by specialty area:

Outpatient care centers                       +53 percent

Specialty hospitals                              +38 percent

Nursing/residential care facilities       +32 percent

General hospitals                                +16 percent

Wow! How's that for motivating employees to focus on their career development and construct a longer-term career plan to help them isolate the areas where their skills will be needed most? And who knows—Robert may be helping his front-line operational leaders realize that the ones who shine at extracurricular exercises like these just might distinguish themselves as high-pos ready to build the hospital's leadership bench.

SOURCE: Falcone, P. (12 June 2019) "5 Strategies to Motivate Burned-Out Workers" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/employee-relations/Pages/5-Strategies-to-Motivate-Burned-Out-Workers.aspx


11 critical grilling safety tips for your summer barbecues

With the Fourth of July quickly approaching, outdoor barbecues are sure to be popular. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), July is the peak month for grill fires, followed by June, May and August. Read this post for 11 grilling safety tips to use this summer.


With July 4th right around the corner, outdoor barbecues are sure to be a popular item on the agenda.

Before lighting up the grill this summer, take note of a few critical grilling safety tips to keep people and property safe from the dangerous fire hazards that come with outdoor grilling.

From 2013-2017, grills, hibachis and barbecues were involved in 10,200 home fires per year. These fires were responsible for at least 10 deaths, 160 reported injuries, and $123 million in property damage. July (17%) is the peak month for grill fires, followed by June (14%), May (13%) and August (12%), according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

To stay safe this summer, check out 11 grilling safety tips, provided by the NFPA.

  1. The first thing to know about grilling is that propane and charcoal BBQ grills should only be used outdoors.
  2. The grill should be placed well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  3. Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grill area.
  4. Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill.
  5. Never leave your grill unattended.
  6. Always make sure your gas grill lid is open before lighting it.
  7. There are several ways to get the charcoal ready to use. Charcoal chimney starters allow you to start the charcoal using newspaper as a fuel.
  8. If you use a starter fluid, use only charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire.
  9. Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.
  10. There are also electric charcoal starters, which do not use fire. Be sure to use an extension cord for outdoor use.
  11. When you are finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container.

SOURCE: Ling, D. (28 June 2019) "11 critical grilling safety tips for your summer barbecues" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.propertycasualty360.com/2019/06/28/11-critical-grilling-safety-tips-for-your-summer-barbeques/


Essential safety tips for warm-weather work

According to OSHA, dozens of workers die and thousands more become ill every year while working in extreme heat or humid conditions. Read this blog post for essential safety tips for employees who work in warm weather.


Dozens of workers die and thousands more become ill every year while working in extreme heat or humid conditions, according to OSHA. As June marks both the official start of summer and National Safety Month, now is a perfect time for employers to review emergency plans with outdoor workers and provide tips on how to beat the heat and stay safe during lightning storms.

Beating the heat

With temperatures quickly rising, employers should first understand the factors that can lead to heat susceptibility.

Heat susceptibility can be caused by:

  • A combination of high temperature, direct sun and humidity;
  • Intense physical labor during peak hours; or
  • Sudden hot days after cool weather conditions or workers who have not yet acclimated to the heat.

To prevent these factors from causing illness, employees must stay hydrated, drinking plenty of water to ensure fluids are replenished. Ideally, workers should drink water before beginning a job and re-hydrate often. Any caffeinated beverages should be avoided as they increase heat sensitivity.

Workers also should avoid waterproof or tight clothing that doesn’t breathe. To dress for the heat, workers should wear a wide-brimmed hat, light-colored clothes and sunscreen. Fabrics that pull moisture away from the body and provide a cooling effect also are recommended.

Proper attire and hydration can be a big help, but it’s still important to recognize the symptoms of heat exhaustion. Headache, dizziness, weakness, wet skin and fainting are indications that workers must get out of the heat immediately — or at least move to the shade. If an employee experiences confusion, slurred speech, excessive thirst, nausea or vomiting, it’s very possible he/she may be experiencing more severe heat stroke. Immediate medical attention should be sought in these cases.

Employers can also do their part in preventing heat-related illness with smart planning for outdoor work. This includes setting earlier schedules to avoid the hottest part of the day and arranging frequent rest periods and water breaks in shady, cooler areas. Project managers should also increase the number of workers for strenuous tasks on hot days and acclimate employees who haven’t worked in hot conditions lately by gradually increasing workloads and allowing more frequent breaks.

Staying safe when lightning strikes

The chance of being struck by lightning is only about 1 in 500,000, according to the CDC, but the risk increases in states that have frequent storm activity, like Florida, Alabama, North Carolina and Texas. Wherever employees may be doing outdoor work, encourage them not to tempt fate. They should be smart by following these CDC safety guidelines:

  • Look to the skies. If dark clouds form and the winds pick up, do not begin any task that cannot be stopped quickly. If lightning can be seen, follow the 30-30 rule. First, count to 30. If thunder sounds before 30, get inside. Suspend outdoor work or activities for at least 30 minutes after thunder ends.
  • Shelter indoors. Although the best place to be during a lightning storm is inside, indoor spaces aren’t lightning-proof. Avoid sinks and showers since lightning can travel through the building’s plumbing system. Do not use electronic equipment and corded phones. And, of course, stay away from windows and doors, even concrete as lightning can travel through metal bars in concrete walls or floors.
  • Go low. If caught out in the open, find a low spot — like a ditch — and crouch or squat down low so as little of the body is touching the ground as possible. Electrical currents from lightning can travel along the top of the ground.
  • Find refuge in a car. If a hard-topped truck or car is available, hop inside. Although most people think rubber tires are the grounding force, it’s the metal shell that dissipates the electricity and keeps you safe.

Thunderstorms may be thrilling, but lightning can kill. Remind employees to respect the power of nature and observe storms from a safe vantage point inside.

Each season comes with a new set of liabilities. Now that the risks of cold and icy conditions have passed, reeducate employees on how to protect their safety during summer months. It’s far easier to act now than in the heat of the moment.

SOURCE: Arrison, J. (24 June 2019) "Essential safety tips for warm-weather work" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.propertycasualty360.com/2019/06/24/essential-safety-tips-for-warm-weather-work/


A 55-year-old intern? Why older apprentices may be the answer to the talent gap

Internships and apprenticeship programs may not just be for young professionals. The DOL’s Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion recently called for a process that would establish industry-recognized apprenticeship programs (IRAPs). Read this blog post for how older apprentices may be the answer to today's talent gap.


LAS VEGAS — Want to revitalize your workforce? Try hiring a baby boomer as your new intern.

Apprentice programs may not be just for young talents fresh out of college. Employers should study such programs for older workers, said the leader of the world’s largest HR professional society.

“We oftentimes think about apprenticeships for young people, but what about the 55-year-old who needs to work or wants to work an additional 20 years and needs to learn the new coding language?” Johnny Taylor Jr., CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, said Tuesday during a media event at the annual SHRM conference. “So apprenticeship writ large ... it’s a broader idea than just what we all think about young people getting an opportunity.”

The comments come after the DOL’s Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion on Monday called for a process to establish industry-recognized apprenticeship programs (IRAPs).

IRAPs will be customizable apprenticeship models that the DOL calls "a new pathway for the expansion of apprenticeships."

In addition, the proposed rule outlined the process to become a standards recognition entity (SRE), which would set standards for training, structure and curriculum for the IRAPs.

DOL would ensure that SREs have the capacity and quality-assurance processes and procedures needed to monitor IRAPs and recognize that IRAPs are high quality. The department's criteria for high-quality IRAPs include: paid work, work-based learning, mentorship, education and instruction, industry-recognized credentials, safety and supervision and adhering to equal employment opportunity obligations.

"The apprenticeship model of earning while learning has worked well in many American industries, and today we open opportunities for apprenticeships to flourish in new sectors of our economy," Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta said in a statement.

Taylor has addressed expanding apprenticeships before, noting the association has recently renewed its support by studying ways to make programs more inclusive and broaden them beyond high school or college students, he said.

“I was at a meeting the other day and they referred to restoring the dignity of the first job,” Taylor said. “That’s a real aspirational thing.”

Employers also need to do more to tap hidden pools of skilled labor from the disabled to the formerly incarcerated to bridge the workplace talent gap in the United States, he said.

“How do we do that? For example, instead of a four-year college experience, maybe it’s a six-year average college experience because you go knock out your first two years,” and break up subsequent educational experiences between semesters of work, school or a mix of both combined with work internships.

The former labor employment lawyer also said key themes that SHRM is focused on this year include workplace culture, age discrimination, diversity and reskilling the U.S. workforce for the jobs of the future.

“Everyone is talking about work,” Taylor said. “It’s a great time to be in HR.”

Additional reporting by Nick Otto.

SOURCE: Siew, W. (26 June 2019) "A 55-year-old intern? Why older apprentices may be the answer to the talent gap" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/shrm-calls-on-expanding-workforce-apprenticeships


Mentorship Matters

Research shows that having a trusted mentoring relationship can help bolster emotional well-being for mentees. Continue reading this blog post from UBA for more on why mentorship programs matter.


Imagine highly tailored, expert advice for both professional and personal life goals and transitions being readily available. That’s what a skilled mentor can provide. Having an engaged, intentional, and present mentor helps support and build talent. Beyond talent and skill building, research points to a trusted mentoring relationship serving to bolster emotional wellbeing for mentees as well. No wonder people seek out mentors, and that people who seek out mentors are promoted more frequently.

There are benefits to the mentors, too. In some studies, mentors report feeling like their jobs are more meaningful. Mentors also report lower levels of anxiety as well, according to the HarvardBusiness Review. This relationship can be one that both parties learn from and creates a mentor pipeline with current mentees becoming future mentors.

Fortune 500 companies are keyed into the benefits of mentorship, with 70 percent of these large corporations having a program. Such programs can help boost a business' ability to attract and retain talent. This can be for all candidates but also for diversity and inclusion, since women and people of color report having a mentor as a valuable component of their success. This is particularly true for hiring Millennials, who want career direction and work that is meaningful and may benefit from strong mentoring programs.

With an ever-more-mobile workforce, mentorship can ensure your top performers share their knowledge in case they leave, per an article in Feedstuffs. Likewise, newer employees onboard more successfully when they have a strong mentor. Beyond sharing how processes and systems work at a particular company, mentors can also share culture tips that can help a newer employee integrate into an office community more seamlessly.

Whether a formal program or a more informal relationship, mentorship is something employees want but may not know how to get, says HR Dive. More than 75 percent say mentorship matters, but only 56 percent have ever had a mentor. Individuals currently being mentored falls to only 37 percent. HR departments of companies of all sizes should be prepared to answer questions about programs during interviews and hiring.

A few keys to building a successful mentorship program include:

Provide opportunities for feedback. For mentors looking to improve and open to constructive criticism, one of the best resources may just be anonymous feedback. It would only be truly anonymous, but also likely most valuable, after mentoring enough people to find trends or notice areas from improvement. Science reports that, while face-to-face conversations are important for mentoring relationships, anonymous feedback is equally important for individuals to improve.

Look beyond direct managers/supervisors for mentors. An article in Forbes points to a manager’s role as one of ensuring projects are successful and business goals met. That can get in the way of working on an individual’s development. Look outside of direct management for an employee’s mentor so the mentor can focus on the individual.

Invest in your mentoring program, and the mentors themselves. Creating a program is exciting and full of potential but taking time to train mentors is essential. Success happens after the launch of the program after all. Be sure you’re spending as much time developing your mentors, says the Association for Talent Development. If they feel like they are expected to just know what to do, they may struggle. Creating guides, training, and direction to mentors helps them feel successful from the start.

Make time for connection and conversation. Nearly half of mentees report that getting time with the mentors proves challenging. As an organization, consider how you can support a successful connection by carving out regular time for both individuals to be available. Trust building, boundary and expectation setting, and more all take time.

Read more:

Mentoring Can Supercharge Your Staff

Most Employees Say a Mentor Is Important, but Few Have One

Want to Become a Better Mentor? Ask for Anonymous Feedback

5 Reasons Mentors Need Help

Stressed at Work? Mentoring a Colleague Could Help

Why You Need A Mentor Who Isn't Your Boss

SOURCE: Olson, B. (18 June 2019) "Mentorship Matters" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/mentorship-matters


Was Your Company Trashed Online? What to Do with Workers’ Negative Reviews

How does a company react after being trashed online by negative employee reviews? A survey from Bayt.com revealed that 76 percent of professionals research a company online before considering a job there. Read this blog post from SHRM to find out how your company should react to workers' negative reviews.


Online reviews proliferate for everything from rent shares to restaurants, and corporate cultures are hardly immune: Sites like Glassdoor, Indeed and Vault give disgruntled employees a platform to expose the underbelly of their organizations' managers and practices--whether fairly or not.

"Job candidates and employees are now empowered to provide instant feedback on employers, at any time, and they can rate a company's culture and management just as they rate a hotel, restaurant or movie," said Jeanne Meister, founding partner of Future Workplace, a New York City-based HR executive network and research firm.

And these reviews can potentially be seen by untold numbers of job candidates.

A survey from Bayt.com—a job board for positions in the Middle East—found that 76 percent of professionals research a company online before considering a job there. An Indeed survey shows that 83 percent of job seekers will probably rely on company reviews to decide if they should apply to a job.

If negative reviews threaten a business's brand, reputation and future hiring prospects, what's a company's recourse? And what if the review is accurate about a negative aspect of working for your company?

What If a Reviewer Lies?

Robin Richards, co-founder of CareerArc, an HR technology company based in Burbank, Calif., suggests two options if a company spots a fraudulent review:

1. Flag it. On its website, Glassdoor says that employers "can flag [a review] directly and our Content team will give it a second look. If we find that we missed something the first time, we'll take it down."

Typically, Glassdoor removes a post if it violates the company's guidelines or terms of use. For instance, if a poster:

  • Misrepresents his or her current or former affiliation with an employer.
  • Posts content that's defamatory, libelous or fraudulent; that the poster knows to be false or misleading; or that does not reflect the poster's honest opinion and experience.
  • Discloses information that violates legally enforceable confidentiality; nondisclosure or other contractual restrictions; or rights of any third party, including any current or former employers or potential employers.

2. Respond to it. "This may be the most effective course of action," Richards said. "Simply being aware of negative comments is not enough. Today, [potential job] candidates expect a reply. Sixty-two percent say reading a response improved their perception of an employer, according to one Glassdoor survey."

The response should be prompt. To that end, companies should create alerts that notify them immediately when they're mentioned publicly in a post or on social media. Leaders should also ask workers to notify them, or HR, if they spot posts that could harm the company.

What If the Review Has Merit?

Responding too swiftly might not be the best course of action, however, if a review makes an allegation that has merit. If reviewers can provide evidence supporting a negative posting, an employer's defensiveness will only reflect poorly on the business.

"Make sure to not be combative and to consult with your legal team before responding to any serious claims, such as harassment or discrimination," Richards said.

Do show appreciation for the feedback.

"Listen to what the review has to say," Richards said. "The worst thing to do is ignore a bad review simply because it's negative. Keep an open mind and investigate if there are merits to the claims. They may represent real opportunities for change that could genuinely improve your company culture."

And if companies do make improvements, he said, share those actions on the site where the bad review appeared.

Finally, companies may want to ask current employees to respond to a critical review by posting positive reviews.

"Encourage employees to share why they love working at your company," Richards said.

But, Glassdoor warns, "we do not allow employers to incentivize or coerce employees to leave positive reviews."

If a review is especially nasty, or is starting to receive media attention, consider issuing a press statement to address and, if applicable, refute the issues that the post raised.

Legal Considerations

If a company isn't satisfied with how a review website responds to its complaints, it may want to pursue legal action, such as a cease-and-desist order.

But be aware that the courts have ruled that employees' complaining about their company to try to improve working conditions is protected speech. And posting personnel file details about a current or former worker could violate privacy.

Also, many websites allow reviewers to discuss companies' senior leaders by name, though not anyone below that level.

Glassdoor notes that the law protects such websites from responsibility for the content that users submit, and "If you sue our users and ask us to tell you who they are, we object and often fight in court to protect their anonymity."

Richards also recommends that employers:

  • Analyze comments on employer rating sites to inform HR strategy.
  • Listen carefully to current employees so you know what makes them happy and what doesn't.
  • Assign a team to analyze and respond to positive and negative feedback on employee satisfaction surveys.

"In much the same way that marketing departments have become customer-centric, human resource departments must treat their employees as customers and continuously use listening platforms to better understand employees needs and wants," Meister said.

"This means ending the once-a-year employee survey and replacing it with continuous, monthly or weekly surveys. It means a relentless focus on transparency and responsiveness in the workplace. As more employees use an expanding set of these employer rating sites," she said, "power is shifting from the employer to the employee."

SOURCE: Wilkie, D. (13 June 2019) "Was Your Company Trashed Online? What to Do with Workers’ Negative Reviews" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from: https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/employee-relations/Pages/negative-workplace-reviews-.aspx


Tips and tricks to help you stress less

We all feel and complain about stress. While stress can be unavoidable, it's important to learn how to deal with stress in healthy ways. Read this blog post from UBA to learn more about stress management.


Stress. We all feel it. We all complain about it. And we probably just accept it as being the price we pay for living in today's hectic world.

While it's true that stress is probably unavoidable – whether it's caused by a traffic jam or a bigger challenge like a job loss or a chronic illness – it's also true that you can learn to deal with stress in a more healthy way. And that's important, because stress can wreak havoc on your health. The longer you're under stress, the worse it is for your physical well-being. Here are some things to try to help you manage stress.

  • One of the first things you should do to manage stress is figure out what it is that stresses you out. Then, reflect on how your own behaviors or attitudes might be contributing to your stress. It might help to keep track of your stressors, how they make you feel, and what you did about them. You might begin to see patterns.
  • Look at your stressors and ask yourself which of them you might be able to do away with. Is there constantly too much on your plate because you can't say no?Do you stay at a job that's eating away at you instead of looking for something new? If you have media overload, can you hit the “off” button?
  • Take care of yourself. Try to stick with a healthy diet, get some exercise, and get enough sleep.
  • Listen to yourself. If you tend to be negative, try to reframe your thoughts to be more positive. For instance, instead of “I'm so stupid! I can't believe I'm over drawn at the bank,” say “I made a mistake. I'll keep better track next time.”
  • Don't try to be perfect. Setting yourself up to meet unrealistic expectations does you no good.

Some stress quick fixes

Dealing with stress as a big-picture life issue is one thing. Making the kinds of changes listed above will take time. But on a day-to-day basis, you can learn to focus on some of life's simple pleasures and give yourself a little time to enjoy them. Some ideas:

  • Take deep breaths in and out. Feel your body start to relax.
  • Get up and walk around—even if it's just moving from one room to another, it'll give you a needed break.
  • Ask for a hug from a friend or loved one when you need it. Or pet a dog or cat. Small moments of connection can help.
  • Listen to some favorite music, sing, or play an instrument.
  • Take a bath. Don't forget the bubbles and soothing essential oils.
  • Spend some time in nature.
  • Consider taking up yoga or meditation.
  • Laugh! Whether you're laughing at a comedian on TV, your cat's antics, or even yourself, laughter is a natural stress-buster.

Do a little experimenting. See what methods work for you. And then practice them. You may be surprised how these strategies can lessen the grip stress has on your life.

Sources:

American Psychological Association. Managing stress for a healthy family. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/managing-stress.aspx Accessed 6/11/18

American Psychological Association. How stress affects your health. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress.aspx
Accessed 6/11/18

American Heart Association.Three tips to manage stress. https://healthyforgood.heart.org/be-well/articles/3-tips-to-manage-stress Accessed 6/11/18

SOURCE: Olson, B. (11 June 2019) "Tips and tricks to help you stress less" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/tips-and-tricks-to-help-you-stress-less