Weeding Out Low Performers

Original post ubabenefits.com

Every workplace has its fair share of slackers and goof-offs, but it’s what an employer does with those employees that solidifies its corporate culture as one of high or low performance.

Employers that ignore low-performing employees risk more than just productivity. In an article titled, “Study: Beware ‘Toxic’ Influence of Low-Performers” on the Society For Human Resource Management’s website, research found that low-performing employees hurt overall morale and increased their co-workers' workload. Furthermore, innovation and motivation are stifled and mediocrity is deemed acceptable.

What may be of most concern is that a mere 60 percent of survey respondents looked at their co-workers and would rehire them. Their motto should have been: we may hire the best, but we keep the rest.

Successful companies know how to weed out their weakest links, while rewarding and retaining high-performing employees. They know that employees who perform poorly can cause high-performing employees to seek jobs elsewhere. Successful companies are able to identify their best employees, then they establish incentives, opportunities, or other ways of ensuring they stay.

So, how do you identify the best, or even the best of the best? It’s not as easy as it may seem. These are the top 10 percent to 15 percent of the organization. A company must first determine a set of guidelines that mark an employee as a high performer. Once the guidelines are in place, observation of these employee traits should be done in order to ensure uniformity and that the guidelines were set correctly.

Now that a company knows what it expects in its employees, it’s time to announce that to everyone so that they either know they’re doing the right things, or can make a plan for improvement. At the same time, employers should conduct surveys on employee satisfaction. Their focus should be on their top performers and what makes them happy.

Plenty of data should be collected regarding the criteria that not only make an employee a top performer at the company, but also what he or she prefers in terms of job satisfaction. Going forward, this data should be matched to potential recruiting candidates for new positions. In addition, surveys that measure the quality of a new hire (i.e., whether the recruiter hired the right candidate) should be completed at predetermined intervals of three, six, nine, or 12 months.

In jobs where there is high demand and lots of attrition, correctly recruiting and retaining the best performers could be the key difference in a company’s success.


Employee Relations: Don't Bring Me Down!

Original post ubabenefits.com

Every workplace has its fair share of slackers and goof-offs, but it’s what an employer does with those employees that solidifies its corporate culture as one of high or low performance.

Employers that ignore low-performing employees risk more than just productivity. In an article titled, “Study: Beware ‘Toxic’ Influence of Low-Performers” on the Society For Human Resource Management’s website, research found that low-performing employees hurt overall morale and increased their co-workers' workload. Furthermore, innovation and motivation are stifled and mediocrity is deemed acceptable.

What may be of most concern is that a mere 60% of survey respondents looked at their co-workers and would rehire them. Their motto should have been: we may hire the best, but we keep the rest.

Successful companies know how to weed out their weakest links, while rewarding and retaining high-performing employees. They know that employees who perform poorly can cause high-performing employees to seek jobs elsewhere. Successful companies are able to identify their best employees, then they establish incentives, opportunities, or other ways of ensuring they stay.

 

So, how do you identify the best, or even the best of the best? It’s not as easy as it may seem. These are the top 10% to 15% of the organization. A company must first determine a set of guidelines that mark an employee as a high performer. Once the guidelines are in place, observation of these employee traits should be done in order to ensure uniformity and that the guidelines were set correctly.

 

Now that a company knows what it expects in its employees, it’s time to announce that to everyone so that they either know they’re doing the right things, or can make a plan for improvement. At the same time, employers should conduct surveys on employee satisfaction. Their focus should be on their top performers and what makes them happy.

 

Plenty of data should be collected regarding the criteria that not only make an employee a top performer at the company, but also what he or she prefers in terms of job satisfaction. Going forward, this data should be matched to potential recruiting candidates for new positions. In addition, surveys that measure the quality of a new hire (i.e., whether the recruiter hired the right candidate) should be completed at predetermined intervals of three, six, nine, or 12 months.

 

In jobs where there is high demand and lots of attrition, correctly recruiting and retaining the best performers could be the key difference in a company’s success.

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.


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.


What employees need to know now to file tax forms for PPACA

Original post benefitspro.com

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) reporting deadlines are rapidly approaching, presenting a major administrative burden for employers who face penalties for failing to report in a timely and accurate manner.

While there has been significant discussion of employer roles and responsibilities, employees have been largely left out of the equation.

However, many employees will soon be receiving new forms that are critical to their ability to file their tax returns and to their employers’ ability to accurately fulfill their own reporting requirements.  Among these are Forms 1095-A, 1095-B, and 1095-C.

With this in mind, it is important for employers to educate individual taxpayers on what they are required to do and when and how to complete these requirements in the easiest and most efficient manner.

1095-C

The most commonly received form will be the new 1095-C, which millions of Americans will be receiving for the first time this year.

This new government form is used to tell the Internal Revenue Service that you were eligible for insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act and whether you took advantage of or waived this coverage.

This form will be sent by employers no later than March 31 to all eligible full-time employees who worked for a company with a total of 100 or more full-time or full-time equivalent employees in 2015. For the purposes of this form, full-time is any employee working 30 or more hours per week or 130 hours in a calendar month.

According to the IRS guidance, Form 1095-C helps to determine whether both the employer and the employee have complied with the “shared responsibility” clause of the ACA.

The form also determines whether an individual or family qualifies for the Premium Tax Credit, which reduces the burden of purchasing health insurance.

Anyone who does not have coverage elsewhere and chose to decline employer-sponsored health care coverage will be required to pay a penalty for not carrying coverage--this penalty will be assessed on their tax return.

For 2015, the penalty for declining all health care coverage is $325 per uninsured adult and $162.50 per uninsured child or 2 percent of household income, whichever is greater up to a family maximum of $975.

The penalty will increase to $695 per uninsured adult and $347.50 per child or 2.5 percent of household income up to a family maximum of $2,085 in 2016, and will continue to rise with inflation year-over-year.

However, the IRS offers special exemptions based on income, circumstance and membership in certain groups, so those without coverage should research their options or consult a tax professional. (The most common exemption is for those who declined employer-sponsored coverage that would have cost more than 8 percent of their total household income.)

Health care exemptions can be claimed by filing IRS form 8965 with your taxes. As previously noted, the form also determines who may be eligible for premium credits to help defray the expense of coverage.

Employers are required to submit insurance coverage information, along with social security numbers and other identifying employee information to the IRS, and employee failure to disclose a waiver of coverage may result in an audit and penalties greater than the ACA individual mandate penalty.

1095-B

Form 1095-B essentially serves the same purpose as form 1095-c, but is used by and sent to employees of companies with fewer than 100 employees.

It may also be sent directly by an insurer to certify that individuals/families had non-employer sponsored coverage in place in 2015.  This coverage may have come from:

  • Government health care plans such as Medicare Part A, Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program, and Tricare for military members, veterans’ medical benefits and plans for Peace Corps volunteers.
  • Health coverage purchased through the "Marketplace" -- Web-based federal and state insurance markets set up under the Affordable Care Act.
  • Any individual health insurance policy in place before the Affordable Care Act took effect.

Depending on the way a health care plan is structured, some employees may receive both a 1095-B and a 1095-C.

1095-A

Form 1095-A is only applicable to those who purchased their health care coverage through ACA’s health care exchanges.

This form plays a critical role in reconciling the Advanced Premium Tax Credits (also known as APTCs)--a yearly stipend based on modified adjusted gross income designed to help lower-income individuals and families defray the cost of purchasing exchange-based health insurance--for 2015 and in determining future credits for 2016.

Per IRS and ACA requirements, any excess APTC received in the previous year must be repaid through income tax.

What to do with these forms

Like the more familiar W-2 or 1099 forms, the 1095-A, B, and C will be needed to file a 2015 tax return for anyone who receives it.

Those using a tax preparer will need to bring it with them along with their other filing documents, and those doing their own taxes or using tax preparation software will need to keep this document with their tax records in case of any further inquiry /audit by the IRS.

Help is available

Of course, this is just one important factor in gaining a more thorough understanding of the complexities of the ACA.  While the IRS has worked to streamline the process as much as possible, many employers and employees are struggling to understand and keep pace with changing requirements.

However, for quick questions, there are many good resources available to both employers and employees.  One of the best is the IRS website.

As in all tax-related issues, the most important factors in handling ACA reporting for all groups are to know what’s coming, prepare in advance, keep excellent records, take note of deadlines and avail yourself of helpful resources.


Can you hear me now?!

Original post by ubabenefits.com

If your boss has never yelled at you, then either you own your own business, are self-employed, or have a boss who is mute. At some point in your working career, it’s safe to say that you’ve been yelled at by a supervisor. Whether that anger toward you was justified or not is probably up for debate, but what can almost be guaranteed is that you weren’t quite sure how to handle it and respond.

An article on Business Insider’s website titled, “6 ways to respond to your boss yelling at you,” discusses the multiple ways employees can react to their boss yelling at them. Let’s get two important things out of the way first. If your boss isn’t just yelling at you, but is actually bullying you, then you should go to your human resources department immediately. However, if you’re just being yelled at, then never, EVER, for any reason should you yell back. Don’t give your boss a reason to be madder at you. It’s just not worth it.

Do you think you’re right and the boss is wrong? Don’t yell back. Are you the scapegoat for someone else’s mistake? Don’t yell back. Is your boss just venting and you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? Don’t yell back. Yelling never accomplishes anything and if you yell at your boss, you risk the obvious of being fired, or at least being watched like a hawk or having a grudge held against you.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with standing up for yourself and, fortunately, there are many ways to accomplish this without further upsetting the boss. Once things have calmed down, analyze exactly WHY the boss is yelling at you because, you know, you could actually be seriously at fault.

Regardless of fault, the primary reason that your boss is yelling is most likely because he or she has simply reached the breaking point. After you sit there (or stand) and “ride out the storm,” ask to speak with your boss privately at a later day and time. Make it a formal meeting either in the boss’s office or a conference room. Before the meeting, make sure you have a plan for mending the relationship and resolving the issue that made your boss so angry in the first place.

The reason your boss was so angry could have been a misunderstanding. If that’s the case, then say so, but remain composed and keep things as factual as possible without straying off-message. Your boss may then ask questions so as to better understand the situation. Be honest, but remember to stay focused and stick to the point.

If, in fact, the reason your boss was yelling at you was because you screwed up, then take responsibility for your mistake. Don’t place blame with others, make excuses, or be argumentative. Accept blame and tell the boss that you understand why you made the mistake, say that you’re sorry, and that you will work diligently to correct the mistake as quickly as possible. After all, everyone makes mistakes.

Let’s assume that whatever the boss was yelling at you about wasn’t your fault. When you have the follow-up meeting with your boss, try and have a solution developed. By demonstrating initiative and thinking on your feet, you just might be able to turn this around in your favor and show the boss that you’re a team player that can shake off being berated.

Finally, make sure that you’re proactive and stay on top of the resolution. Give your boss regular updates and ask for feedback to ensure that you’re on track and won’t get yelled at again. If all goes well, you should be back on your boss’s good side in no time!


Healthy Workforce

Lowering costs, improving safety, health and productivity

No matter the size of your business, promoting safe and healthy practices can increase profitability and productivity. Learn how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) helps you improve organizational safety, health and productivity; attract and retain a high-performing workforce; and minimize healthcare costs.

Business Changes

Work-related injuries and illnesses, chronic diseases, absenteeism and sick employees who return to work before getting well cost U.S. employers billions of dollars each year. An aging workforce and factors like stress, fatigue and depression all impact employers’ medical costs and employees’ productivity.

Read more here...


Just Say 'No' to Co-Workers' Halloween Candy

Originally posted on  October 14, 2014 by Josh Cable on ehstoday.com.

Workplace leftovers might seem like one of the perks of the job. But when co-workers try to pawn off their Halloween candy on the rest of the department, it's more of a trick than a treat.

Those seemingly generous and thoughtful co-workers often are just trying to keep temptation out of their homes.

"Not only does candy play tricks on your waistline, but it also turns productive workers into zombies," says Emily Tuerk, M.D., adult internal medicine physician at the Loyola University Health System and assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

"A sugar high leads to a few minutes of initial alertness and provides a short burst of energy. But beware of the scary sugar crash. When the sugar high wears off, you'll feel tired, fatigued and hungry."

Tuerk offers a few tips to help you and others on your team avoid being haunted by leftover candy:

  • Make a pact with your co-workers to not bring in leftover candy.
  • Eat breakfast, so you don't come to work hungry.
  • Bring in alternative healthy snacks, such as low-fat yogurt, small low-fat cheese sticks, carrot sticks or cucumber slices. Vegetables are a great healthy snack. You can't overdose on vegetables.
  • Be festive without being unhealthy. Blackberries and cantaloupe are a fun way to celebrate with traditional orange and black fare without packing on the holiday pounds. Bring this to the office instead of candy as a creative and candy-free way to participate in the holiday fun.
  • If you must bring in candy, put it in an out-of-the-way location. Don't put it in people's faces so they mindlessly eat it. An Eastern Illinois University study found that office workers ate an average of nine Hershey's Kisses per week when the candy was conveniently placed on top of the desk, but only six Kisses when placed in a desk drawer and three Kisses when placed 2 feet from the desk.

And if you decide to surrender to temptation and have a treat, limit yourself to a small, bite-size piece, Tuerk adds. Moderation is key.


Four Simple Tips for Streamlining Open Enrollment

Originally posted by United Benefit Advisors (UBA).

Communicating the value of benefits is an age-old dilemma further complicated now that many employers are making big plan changes to comply with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). As more and more employers move to high deductible health plans, making employees aware of how to use their benefits and take control of their health care consumption will be the key to cost savings. Our white paper, "A Business Case For Benefits Communications,” addresses how best to reach employees, what they need to know, and how they prefer to receive the information. However, once you have educated your workforce, how do you enroll them efficiently and effectively in your plan options? UBA Partner Mike Humphrey, Senior Benefits Advisor at The Wilson Agency, has been guiding employers through the daunting task of enrolling hundreds or thousands of employees and their dependents for years. To keep open enrollment hassle and panic-free, he offers four basic tips for employers:

1.      Enrollment should be automated.
Going through thousands of sheets of paper to get the process done is part of what makes open enrollment a daunting process. Instead, think about your organization’s culture and environment (and your precious time); most likely it will make sense to automate the program. There is an additional expense, but it’s easily justified for larger employers. It will be easier for you, more accurate, and the majority of employees will prefer an online process to filling out paperwork.
2.      Make sure it has a user-friendly interface.
While setting up an online open enrollment system, take the extra time to ensure that it is easy for employees to use. For example:
  • Is everything easy to understand?
  • Does entry of information flow nicely?
  • Can the user save their progress and go back to make modifications at a later time?
  • Does it automatically send the employee a confirmation statement after they have finished enrolling?
 
3.      Consider multi-learning tools.
The choice of an online open enrollment system also depends on how educated your employees are about their benefit programs. However, even for a well-educated group of employees, we suggest a dictionary of applicable terminology (possibly have a definition pop up as you hover over words like deductible, co-pay, co-insurance, etc.). Video tutorials are also a popular way to show employees how to use the online system and to further guide them in their selection of health plan options.
4.      Make the business case.
If you have multiple HR offices and/or sub-companies, make sure that you have their buy-in before implementing the online system. Explain the cost and what you receive in return. If people see how it will benefit them, they’ll be more likely to support the initiative. And once they’re on board, be sure to have plenty of opportunities for training HR staff.

5 root causes of disengagement

Originally posted on http://ebn.benefitnews.com.

The one-size-fits-all communications approach is ending, but employee engagement is still an issue for many employers. Alison Davis, of employee communication firm Davis & Company, identified five root causes of deteriorating engagement, which she shared with attendees at this year’s Benefits Forum & Expo.

The shredded employment contract

Since the recession, employees are losing confidence in the security of their jobs. Workers feel there has been a shift and that employers are holding more of the cards. According to Gallup, the number of actively disengaged workers increased to 24% in organizations that have recently laid off employees. Additionally, Towers Watson notes that 72% of companies have reduced their workforce in response to the recession.

Lack of trust in leaders

According to Towers Watson, fewer than two in five employees have confidence in senior leaders. People are skeptical and often have a wait-and-see attitude to what leaders have to say. Employees are saying “let’s wait and see what really happens,” Davis says.

Demographic attitudes

Another, and probably the biggest, challenge revolves around the different attitudes of the three primary generations in today’s workforce, says Davis. Baby boomers are burnt out and display a negative attitude in their exchanges with co-workers; Gen Xers are balancing work and home life responsibilities; Millennials have an “all about me” attitude and are somewhat impatient about moving up (or across) the corporate ladder. The average length of tenure out one job for a millennial is 2.6 years, and by the age of 27 they will have already worked four different jobs.

Mad men management

Employers are trapped in a 1950s mindset. This can be seen in the organizational charts that show a top-down hierarchy. The decision-making is done at the top, and general access to information is scarce, even as corporate leaders talk about transparency.

The way work gets done

We’re in a 24/7/365 mindset where an employee is always on the job. Employees never feel quite done or that they can ever shut it down, which affects their work-life balance and causes them to feel disengaged.