Retention Starts Day One

Originally posted May 12, 2014 by Stephen Bruce (PhD, PHR) on http://hrdailyadvisor.blr.com.

Retention’s going to be key for many organizations as the economy improves—your best people are going to be testing the water and your toughest competitors are going to be looking for them.

There’s Nothing I Can Do

Many managers have the attitude “I wish management would do something about retention.” That’s the first thing to correct—it’s every manager’s and supervisor’s job to work on retention. They should realize that it’s for their own good. Turnover (of good people) is their department’s most debilitating disease.

First of all, it eats away at the manager’s personal productivity—job requisitions, postings, interviews, reference checks, and training suck up a lot of valuable time.

Second, turnover is a morale killer. Everyone else has to pitch in and get the job done while the position is vacant. And then there’s the inevitable, “Why are all our good people leaving? What do they know that I don’t know? Should I start putting together my résumé?”

Retention Starts Day One … and Continues Every Day

Managers and supervisors who have great retention rates share several behaviors: They think of their employees as customers; they recruit every day; and they remember that their actions are always on display.

Employees Are Customers

How far would you go to retain a good customer? Make sure you put that level of interest in retaining your employees.

  • What do they care about?
  • Do they understand their contribution and do you show that you value that contribution?
  • What can you do today to make sure you retain them as a customer?

Recruit Every Day

As the saying goes, better recruit your best people every day … your competitors are. Try to avoid that oft-referenced situation where managers and supervisors spend 80 percent of their time on the poorest-performing 20% of their employees.

You Are on Display

Your actions speak louder than any policy or handbook declaration. “Our employees are our most valuable asset” sounds good on paper. Do you live up to that premise in your day to day dealings with employees?

You Have a Road Map

During the interviewing process, you found out about the new employee’s aspirations and expectations. And you probably made a few promises about the future as well. Together, those lists will help you build a retention road map for that employee.

Onboarding

Too many managers think that onboarding is something HR does with new employees the first day to get them signed up for benefits.

Onboarding is the first step in retention—get it right.

To be effective, onboarding is an involved process that lasts weeks or months. There are business methods and approaches to be learned, contacts to be made with key players in different departments, and various assimilation activities that help the new person be comfortable and contributing.

Remember that new employees are often reluctant to ask for help, so keep careful tabs on their work. Consider assigning a “buddy.”

A recent survey conducted by BambooHR shows the following often overlooked factors in an effective onboarding process:

  • Receiving organized, relevant, and well-timed content
  • On-the-job training
  • Assignment of an employee “buddy” or mentor
  • Having the onboarding process extend beyond the first week

When it comes to which aspects truly matter to employees starting a job, free food and perks are not what they crave. They want an onboarding process that helps them reduce the learning curve in becoming an effective, contributing team member.


Employer-Sponsored Health Care Facts of Life

Originally posted May 23, 2014 by Donna Fuscaldo on http://smallbusiness.foxbusiness.com.

High deductible health insurance plans are a fact of life, particularly for the employees of small businesses. But it doesn’t have to hurt morale or loyalty among workers. There are ways small business owners can help defray some of the costs if high deductible insurance plans are all they can offer.

“With the Affordable Care Act there is clearly a movement toward higher deductible plans,” says Barry Sloane, CEO of Newtek, a health insurance agency for small businesses. “Unfortunately higher deductibles are a fact of life whether you live in New York or Nebraska.”

In an effort to keep costs down and incentivize employees to curb some of the unnecessary visits to the doctor or specialists, employers of all sizes are making high deductible plans an option, and in some cases the only one.

That’s particularly true with small business owners who can barely afford to offer health insurance, let alone plans with low deductibles and limited cost sharing. As a result, experts say the era of high deductible health insurance plans and more of the burden being passed on to the employee is here and will likely stay. That change in the way health care is offered to employees can breed resentment and anger among workers, which in turn can have a negative impact on the overall business.

But there are things small business owners can do to reduce the burden. One way, according to Kevin Luss, owner of Luss Group, is to offer employees a medical bridge policy to neutralize the deductible and other out-of-pocket costs employees face.

At Luss Group, brokers work with employers to create a health plan that limits the cost sharing for the least frequent things like hospitalization, surgeries and outpatient procedures and with the savings, a medical bridge policy is taken out to insure employees from high deductibles associated with those expensive but less frequent medical needs. There are numerous ways to design the plan, but one option could be if one of the employees is admitted to the hospital he or she gets a lump sum of $3,000 in addition to a daily amount for the length of the admission.  In that case, an employee who has a $5,000 deductible would only pay part of that out of pocket because the medical bridge policy covers the rest.

“The employer saves money by offering high deductible plans and uses part of the savings for the bridge plan,” says Luss. “These plans aren’t very expensive and in the long rung the employer saves money.”  The rules and what is offered varies state by state.

For many small businesses footing the bill for a medical bridge policy isn’t an option, but they can offer it as a supplemental choice for employees. According to Nancy Thompson, senior vice president and director of sales at CBIZ Benefits and Insurance, employers who are providing high deductible plans can also offer the option of hospital indemnity and critical illness insurance, which will defray some of the costs associated with the high deductible plan. While it will cost employees more money, albeit not a lot, in exchange they’ll get one-on-one counseling with a benefits consultant, so they are making the right choices when it comes to their healthcare.

“Employees are going to experience gaps in coverage that they haven’t in the past,” says Thompson. “The right supplemental product is paramount when you go to a high deductible plan.”

Hand in hand with offering high deductible plans is providing the ability for employees to use pretax dollars for medical costs, which is where health savings accounts come into play. With a health savings account, funds contributed aren’t taxed and the money accumulated can be rolled over to the next year. Some employers who contribute to health savings accounts can increase their contribution to offset any bad feelings from offering a high deductible plan, says Sloane.

Another option, according to Richard Mann, Chief Product Officer at PlanSource, is offering a defined contribution toward benefits. Basically it’s a predetermined amount the employer agrees to contribute to each employee’s benefits spending.

“This helps employers control spending because the amount is fixed, but allows employees to use the amount in whatever way they think is best,” says Mann.

At the end of the day, knowledge may be the best way a small business owner can help their employees with their health-care costs. The whole idea behind these high deductible health plans is to get people to think before they get that test done or have blood drawn.

According to Sloane, arming employees with all the information about the plan, ensuring they know which doctors are in network and out of network, and all the benefits associated with the plan (including preventive care), can go a long way in keeping out of pocket costs down. It’s also a good idea to give employees access to the actual costs of health-care services, adds Mann. Knowing, for example, that the cost of a MRI can vary by as much as $1,000 will make employees more savvy consumers of health care, he says.

“It’s very valuable for the business to make an investment in the HR department and educate their staff as to how to keep claims down,” notes Sloane. “People need to pay more attention to health care. It’s not as simple as it used to be.”


What Laws Relate to Antidiscrimination in the Workplace?

Originally posted May 12, 2014 by Bridget Miller on http://hrdailyadvisor.blr.com.

No employer wants to be accused of discrimination. Employers strive to treat employees fairly and act without improper bias. To do this and also remain in legal compliance, it’s more important than ever to understand the various laws that protect employees from different types of discrimination.

Here are the primary U.S. laws at the federal level that have antidiscrimination components. (Note: This article focuses on the laws that apply to private employers and does not distinguish which also apply to government entities. There are additional laws pertaining to antidiscrimination for government employees.)

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Title VII). This is the first law most people think of when it comes to antidiscrimination. Title VII protects employees and applicants from discrimination based on gender, religion, color, national origin, or race. It also makes it illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who take protected actions. It applies to employers with 15 or more employees.
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The ADEA states that employers cannot discriminate against individuals over 40 years old in employment decisions or in any terms or conditions of employment. It applies to employers with at least 20 employees.
  • Equal Pay Act. The Equal Pay act states that men and women who perform equal work at the same employer should receive equal pay, as long as the jobs they perform are completed under similar conditions and require equal skills, responsibilities, and effort. The job titles do not have to be an exact match for the rules to apply. This act applies to all employers.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) This act states that employers cannot discriminate against qualified individuals who are disabled. It includes those with a history of being disabled or who are perceived as disabled, even if this is an incorrect perception. It applies to employers with 15 or more employees.
  • Pregnancy Discrimination Act. This act is an amendment to the Civil Rights Act. This amendment takes the prohibition of discrimination based on gender a step further and specifically prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or any related medical conditions. As a part of the Civil Rights Act, it also applies to employers with 15 or more employees.
  • Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). GINA prohibits employers from asking employees for genetic information or requiring them to provide it. It also says that any genetic information obtained (even inadvertently) must be kept confidential and cannot be used in employment decisions. It applies to employers with at least 15 employees.
  • Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). This act states that employers cannot discriminate on the basis of citizenship or national origin. It also makes it illegal for employers to knowingly employ workers who are not authorized to work in the United States. It applies to employers with at least 4 employees.

This list is not intended to be fully comprehensive; it simply contains the laws that are most commonly cited and enforced pertaining to antidiscrimination. Employers should also note that some state laws provide further protection than these federal laws. Always check local laws and confer with employment counsel with questions. (This article does not constitute legal advice.)


How to make wellness work

Originally posted May 29, 2014 by Andy Stonehouse on http://ebn.benefitnews.com.

For all the talk of the benefits of onsite wellness programs – in both the healthier, more productive lives of workers, as well as the presumed employer cost savings as sickness, injury and absenteeism are reduced – are American companies really getting the most out of their wellness dollars?

A new EBN survey, which drew responses from 245 benefits managers, administrators and human resources professionals, finds that wellness programs work best when employee incentives – be they cash or decreases to insurance premiums (or penalties for not achieving goals) – are clearly established. But meeting wellness objectives, be they cutting costs, increasing employee productivity or lowering on-the-job absences, remains a struggle, and companies who’ve implemented wellness programs say they sometimes find it difficult to justify the investment in those costly ventures.

Wellness programs, as a result, are still on the “to do” list of many respondents; only 44% are currently running a wellness initiative, with more than a third either thinking about or almost ready to roll out a program of their own. A lack of benefits/HR managerial resources and the challenging nature of showing the financial justification for wellness’s costs are the biggest factors holding them back, according to the survey.

Among those who’ve actively adopted a wellness program at their workplace, the results are largely positive, but not breathtaking. Just 5% of respondents say they’ve completely met their top objectives – cost savings and cost avoidance – though 53% say they’ve “somewhat” met those goals and a third say they’ve achieved “a little” of that goal. The same goes for other top goals – improving employee health and longevity, and enhancing employee engagement and participation – with respondents reporting only mid-level success, at best.

Respondents said they personally had far less interest in using wellness to increase employee retention and satisfaction, reduce absences or increase overall productivity. “Turnover is an issue in our industry; spending money on wellness for people that leave hurts the ROI on wellness,” one respondent added.

What works

In order to make wellness successful, those who’ve set up and retained a program say that it’s critically important to offer easy-to-use wellness educational tools for employees. This is a much easier task to accomplish, they say, than objectives such as transforming their workplace culture into one centered on wellness, or getting employees engaged in wellness offerings.

But there are still plenty of success stories, and examples of what helps to get workers fully engaged. “A culture of wellness and associate programs requires a long-term commitment,” one respondent noted. “We are beginning to see results after only two years in effect.” Most of those with positive wellness outcomes say they’ve used incentives to help push participation in their programs, with almost half offering cash or gift cards and 40% offering health insurance premium discounts … or penalties, on the other side of the coin, for employees who do not take part.

Survey participants offered their opinions on the vendors that they work with; according to the results, the top five wellness partners include Cigna Behavioral Health, WebMD Health Services, HumanaVitality, OptumHealth Care Solutions and Alere Health Improvement. The various units of Blue Cross/Blue Shield are also important strategic partners for many companies. Interestingly enough, 19% of those respondents with wellness plans in place admitted they did not work with a specific wellness vendor at all, opting to do the heavy lifting of implementing and running a wellness program on their own.

Wellness’ saturation also appears to be directly connected both to the type and the size of business respondents are engaged in. While office-based workplaces such as banking and financial services, plus health care – rife with potential health issues among sedentary workers – make up the largest percentage of those taking the survey, manufacturing and industrial worksites are also important settings for wellness programs. More than 65% of our respondents work with employee populations of 1,000 or fewer, almost a third in companies less than 100.

The survey’s results echo the experiences of benefits managers such as Katie Sens, director of human resources for Chemprene, a small manufacturing firm in New York’s Hudson Valley. Sens oversees the wellbeing of about 115 employees, and says that like many workplaces across the country, those involved in daily physical labor out on the manufacturing floor tend to be in better shape than the company’s desk-bound workers.

“We’ve tried to create interest by offering gym memberships, but we had problems with our health insurance providing coverage,” she says. “But we’ve been inspired by our boss, who walks every day and has lost about 75 pounds in the process, so we worked out another arrangement with Gold’s Gym – we’ll pay if they go eight times a month.” In addition to standard wellness pushes such as smoking cessation and flu shots, Sens says her company has partnered with online weight loss and nutrition and lifestyle coaching provider Retrofit, paying half of employees’ costs up front and hosting group programs.

“Our boss is aboard, I’m in it, as are several other managers and their sponsors, hoping to lead by example,” she says. “Now I’m getting a lot more questions about the program, and certainly raising awareness.” As for ROI on Chemprene’s wellness efforts, Sens says the company is hoping to achieve a better bottom line for its health insurance costs, which she and management will be keeping a close eye on as the wellness programs develop; their efforts are too early to tell, she admits.

Offerings matter

Employee participation in our survey respondents’ wellness efforts also greatly varies by the complexity of the programs they offered. Overall, the highest participation was experienced in safety and injury prevention programs – more than half of respondents said the majority of their workers took part, followed by health screenings (including biometric tests, flu shots, health risk assessments and on-site health clinics), with at least 50% of employees taking part. Significantly less participation was noted in awareness, education and support programs, stress relief efforts and disease management programs; in workplaces where direct physical activities were offered, the majority of respondents said that less than 50% of their workers took part.

Teisha Haynes, global benefits supervisor for international oilfield service company Halliburton, continues to work to find productive and cost-efficient wellness options for her 35,000 U.S. employees and 75,000 dependents, spread out at 104 worksites across the country. Haynes says that the teamwork atmosphere among the company’s largely laboring workforce can actually be beneficial, when it comes to getting workers more actively engaged in physical activity.

“We realize that our employees like to work in teams and compete, so we have implemented a number of physical activity challenges that allow them to work together and compete against other business units for not only bragging rights, but a donation to the charity their select,” she says. “We have had participation from the executives, all the way down.”

For Halliburton, many larger worksites now include an on-location physical activity coordinator (“wellness champions”) to help provide compatible, healthy exercise, even for those employees not necessarily dragging pipes on an oil rig. Those coordinators are tasked with figuring out what works best in their local environment – and what vendors can provide the best services at annual wellness fairs, be they biometric screenings, heart health clinics, mammograms, or exercise programs (Red Wing Shoes, for instance, has helped with foot health assessments at various locations).

Do the efforts pay off? Haynes says measuring the investment in wellness can be a challenge, though the company is moving to quantify things more clearly by comparing claims numbers and data from health risk assessments. “We get some positive signs, like ‘employees are feeling better,’ but that produces pretty fuzzy numbers, so we’re thinking of working with Truven’s health analytics database to get more solid results,” she says.

Among those companies that are reluctant to implement a wellness program, common impediments emerge: 46% say that wellness is simply not a priority for them now, while 20% of others say that they lack the staff resources and time to help establish a wellness system. More often than not, they admit they are “still questioning whether we need one or not,” as well. As a result, a quarter of those still on the fence about wellness say it will be at least a year, if not two, before they’re able to get underway with a full wellness push.

Those who have yet to start up their own wellness program say they are primarily frustrated by a lack of time and resources to do so, as well as the financial costs involved in both start-up and administration of a wellness offering. “Our company is just a year old so it takes time to find out what employees want and will participate in,” one respondent wrote. Others said that their upper management has yet to be convinced of the merits of a wellness program; quantifiying the potential savings, whether they be direct cost reductions or overall decreases in sick leave, remains the biggest stumbling block.

Those cost-related fears may not be unfounded: 40% of survey participants who formerly had a wellness program but have abandoned those efforts say they did so primarily for financial reasons, as well as out of concerns of issues of employee privacy or anti-discrimination laws. Some changed health care providers or lost a partnership with their wellness vendor, as well.

As a more successful alternative, some survey respondents say they have worked to establish very specific objectives for their wellness programs, working with wellness vendors to find the right fit. Dale Johnson, employee benefits manager for the city of Cary, N.C., says that involved developing an innovative functional movement screening – not unlike those used in professional sports – to better understand the musculoskeletal strains of an aging workforce engaged in medium to heavy physical work, and use exercise and better day-to-day techniques to reduce strain and injuries. Johnson says the holistic program, developed with the input of research from nearby Duke University and initially implemented with the city’s public safety employees, resulted in a tangible negative trend in health care utilization and costs.

“The jury’s still out on the long-term impacts of the program, but we’re now considering expanding it to our employees in public works and utilities,” Johnson says. If this variation of a wellness program can significantly cut costs, Johnson says it could be a very positive sign that focused wellness efforts pay off.


Employers Improve Bottom Line Through People Power

New white paper explores how employee communications and education save money through talent retention, better productivity and a healthier workforce.

[button color="black" link="http://6.advisoraction.com/l/38202/2014-06-04/bsjh"]Download the FREE Whitepaper[/button]

Fond du Lac and Appleton, Wisconsin, June 4th, 2014 -- For many employers, this scenario is all too familiar: A company starts a wellness program or purchases a stellar benefit in the hopes that they will boost morale, retain top talent and even shrink health insurance costs. Yet the company still ends up with an unhappy and unhealthy workforce that is unproductive and difficult to motivate.

A common reason: Regardless of what rich perk or plan an employer offers, it likely will fizzle if employees either don’t know about it or don’t care. That’s why employee engagement and communication is just as vital as the benefit itself, according to a number of Members of United Benefit Advisors, the nation’s leading alliance of independent employee benefits advisors.

“There’s a direct correlation between employee engagement and a healthier bottom line,” said Scott Smeaton, executive vice president of Hierl Insurance, Inc., of Appleton, Wis. “Employees who are engaged in their work and with their employer tend to be more productive, loyal and reliable. They’re not there to just do a job and go home. They’re genuinely interested and committed to the success of the company they work for and the work they perform.”

In light of the wave of recent layoffs and benefit cuts, strong employee engagement can boost morale now and protect a company’s retention once the economy recovers, according to Bob Recchia, president of California Corporate Benefits in San Diego. “This is an opportunity for employers to begin repairing the relationships and loyalty of employees,” Recchia said. “The employer who recognizes the cost savings and improved productivity that results from higher retention of employees, especially key positions, can potentially avoid the wave of employee exits that are projected as soon as the job market improves.”

To receive the full report, “People Power,” contact Hierl Insurance

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Financial services companies renew focus on talent management

Originally posted May 29, 2014 by Michael Giardina on http://ebn.benefitnews.com.

As the financial services industry recovers from the recession, HR leaders at companies such as BNY Mellon and Invesco are re-examining their talent management programs and putting a new emphasis on corporate culture.

Following the recession, many executives in the financial services HR field began to question the industry’s focus on top-down management. At BNY Mellon, combining the firm’s traditional corporate structure with a new focus on talent management was an important part of its business strategy.

The global investment company has more than 50,000 people in 100 different locations, which makes culture and communication integral to its growth.

“We spend a lot of time thinking about culture,” says Sarah Allen, global director of HR strategy and talent solutions for BNY Mellon. “We really do try and reinforce the values.”

The company is in the process of implementing a year-long rotational development program, also known as a management training program, for interns and current employees.

“We think it’s really important because it gives us a chance to offer a differentiated experience, and gives these new employees a chance to see the company from a completely different perspective, from a 360 [degree] perspective,” says Allen. She notes that BNY Mellon is also rolling out a new employee career center to foster development, networking and coaching for motivated employees looking to grow.

According to Nancy Lupinski, head of people development at Invesco, the company is developing numerous programs with a focus on its more than 6,000 employees.

“We are continuing our focus on robust talent management processes, with enhanced efforts related to leadership development, as well as succession and development planning for key roles,” she says. “We work closely with business leaders to target development solutions that accelerate top talent development.”

Identifying, developing and managing talent in an industry as complex and global as financial services is a constant challenge, says Chris Farbo, global leader of Towers Watson’s talent and rewards financial services practice.

“We’re seeing a difference now,” he says. “We’re seeing organizations challenging what have been the historic norms on the staffing pyramid. Do we really need that many seniors to this many middle managers to this many juniors or should we change the slope of that pyramid?”

In a recent poll, Towers Watson found that approximately 44% of financial services companies said that identifying and developing talent would be the primary focus of their HR department over the next 12 months. Also, manager effectiveness, performance management and career architecture were cited by executives as being part of their 2014 HR roadmap.

“I think the industry has been very good at creating very good vertical executives who know their particular area of expertise incredibly well,” says Farbo. “But, as I speak with executives in the industry and boards of directors, where they want the industry to go is having executives grooming talent with a broader horizontal perspective on the business, so they can see and understand the different pockets of activity that are taking place across what are increasingly global and very diversified business portfolios.”

Allen says BNY Mellon is launching a manager feedback component to its employee review process this year, which will allow employees to rate the effectiveness of their managers.

“The manager will use that as input into their professional development plan, but it’s something that our employees have asked for that we think will be pretty powerful,” Allen says. “It just ensures that greater two-way communication.”

Forty-two percent of respondents to the Towers Watson survey said both manager effectiveness and performance management would be the talent initiatives receiving the most attention over the next 12 months.


Survey: Diverse structures point to a more tailored approach in family benefits packages

Originally posted May 22, 2014 by Nick Otto on http://ebn.benefitnews.com.

Even against the backdrop of a stronger economy, modern families are still feeling the pinch of financial security, pointing toward the need to tailor products to the needs of specific family structures that are considerably different than the traditional nuclear family.

As a result, the increased diversity will require more comprehensive offerings on the part of benefits managers hoping to provide the best to an increasingly diverse workplace.

Traditional families — or those married to someone of the opposite gender with at least one child younger than 21 — were found to have fewer struggles with financial security than their modern blended, multi-generational or same-sex counterparts. Nearly 36% of modern families were reported to have collected unemployment versus 21% of traditional families, according to a recent report from Allianz.

The LoveFamilyMoney Study analyzed the financial security of a more diverse household landscape. According to the report, only 19.6% of today’s households constitute a “traditional” family, a drop from 40.3% in 1970.

The study included:

▪       Multi-Generational Families — Three or more generations living in the same household.

▪       Single Parent Families — One unmarried adult with at least one child younger than 18.

▪       Same-Sex Couple Families — Married or unmarried couples living together with a member of the same gender.

▪       Blended Families — Parents who are married or living together with a stepchild and/or child from a previous relationship.

▪       Older Parent with Young Children Families — Parents age 40+ with at least one child younger than 5 in the household.

▪       Boomerang Families — Parents with an adult child (21-35) who left and later returned to rejoin the family.

Each structure brings different dynamics to the inner workings of the family, Allianz says. For example, while traditional families provide hierarchy, collaboration and structure; boomerang families, while closely traditional, view their adult children more as friends.

Additionally, the study notes, only 30% of modern families feel financial secure, unlike 41% of traditional families. For example, twice as many modern families say they have declared bankruptcy — 22% compared with 11% of traditional families.

“New family structures have a direct impact on a family’s relationship with money and finances—and we found that, while modern families have similar strong emotional ties, they often feel financially less secure than their traditional counterparts," said Katie Libbe, Allianz Life vice president of Consumer Insights.

"While family structure plays a prominent role, our study of these different modern family cohorts uncovered a number of unique insights into each group’s attitudes, perceptions and beliefs around money and financial planning," she adds.

Although most employees understand the need for medical and dental insurance, the value of voluntary benefits is less understood and can open doors to the modern family structures seen in today’s society. Voluntary products are changing the employee benefits game and can help employers meet objectives while providing more choices for employees.


Is Facebook "Liked" For Job Searching?

Originally posted by United Benefits Advisors (UBA)

"I haven't had an orthodox career, and I've wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time I didn't feel it, but this time I feel it, and I can't deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!" -- Sally Field, Academy Award acceptance speech for Best Actress in 1984's Places in the Heart.

It's nice to be liked and it seems as though everyone is on Facebook these days, but is that the best social media website when it comes to finding a job?  The answer depends on whom you ask, but based on an article in Human Resource Executive Online it appears that LinkedIn is still king when it comes to job seekers as well as recruiters.

As social media becomes more popular, the line between personal life and professional life is starting to fade. However, at least for now, people still use various websites for specific objectives. Facebook, which is arguably the dominant social media site, is almost never used as the primary method for finding a job. According to the article, there are 1.3 billion users on Facebook and only 277 million users on LinkedIn, yet the latter is preferred with 94% of recruiters citing it as their go-to social network for finding talent, according to a Jobvite poll.

Furthermore, according to a recent Link Humans poll, nearly 70% of employees surveyed say they have never turned to Facebook in search of employment opportunities, with almost 95% indicating they've never found an opening and subsequently been hired via Facebook.

That doesn't mean that Facebook is completely useless when it comes to the job search, especially if the job is specific to marketing, social media, or relevant technology. Facebook has several advantages when it comes to building a corporate brand in which top talent would want to work, and also for potential job candidates to do research and familiarize themselves with an organization before their interview.  Many Human Resource professionals already use social media to research potential job prospects, so it's only natural that these prospects use social media to examine companies and their C-level executives.

It could be only a matter of time before all those people who grew up using Facebook as a way to connect will become senior executives who will then use Facebook to expand the corporate culture. The bottom line is that both job seekers and recruiters need to be aware of all social media avenues as their online personal and professional lives may soon converge into one.

Measuring leaves of absence in concert with the ACA

Originally posted May 7, 2014 by Ed Bray, J.D. on http://ebn.benefitnews.com

I can unequivocally say that administering employee leaves of absence has been the most challenging responsibility of my HR career. Why? For every employee leave you must ensure that an orchestra of different people, laws, and systems play in perfect concert with each other.  Not an easy task when you consider the following:  trying to determine who and when employees are on leave; often abiding by multiple, complex leave laws; and dealing with HRIS tracking shortcomings (if you even have a tracking system).

OK, so what’s my point?  Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, many organizations’ leave of absence orchestras are going to need to start sounding like the London Symphony Orchestra in the next few months.

Organizations that are required to follow the shared responsibility (play or pay) rules that use the look-back measurement period to determine whether variable hour, seasonal, or part-time employees are eligible for employer health insurance benefits must ensure each employee’s average hours of service are calculated accurately for the initial and standard measurement periods.   A key component of the average hours of service calculation is the impact of any employee special unpaid leave (FMLA, leave under USERRA, and jury duty) during the respective measurement period.

The final regulations for the employer shared responsibility rules state that “special unpaid leave” may be defined as unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, or jury duty.  When calculating hours of service for a look-back measurement period, the employer must treat special unpaid leave in one of two ways:

▪       Determine the employee's average hours of service by excluding any periods of special unpaid leave during the measurement period and applying that average for the entire measurement period, or

▪       Impute hours of service during the periods of special unpaid leave at a rate equal to the average weekly hours of service for weeks that are not part of a period of special unpaid leave.

That said, it is critical that each employee’s average hours of service calculation accurately reflects any “special unpaid leave” as any employees that average under 30 hours of service per week or 130 hours of service per calendar month for the respective measurement period do not need to be offered employer-sponsored benefits.  Many employees not offered benefits will be significantly affected as they will be required to enroll in some form of minimum essential coverage or else face a penalty under the ACA individual mandate. In addition, they may feel their hours of service calculation is incorrect and call the Department of Labor to express their concerns.

I recommend organizations focus on making three key business decisions as they prepare for the shared responsibility rules, effective in 2015 for employers with 100 or more full-time employees, including full-time equivalents (FTEs), and in 2016 for some employers with 50-99 full-time employees, including FTEs (certain conditions apply):

▪       How to accurately track employee leaves of absence.

▪       How to handle unpaid state and company leaves of absence for purposes of the measurement period calculations.

▪       Determine which ACA “special unpaid leave” process to use.

Ensure accurate leave of absence tracking

First meet with executive management to make them aware of the shared responsibility rules and noncompliance penalties plus gain support for doing what is necessary to ensure accurate leave of absence tracking. This includes the following (at a minimum):

▪       Making managers and employees aware of the importance of communicating employee leaves of absence to the HR department as soon as they learn about or need them;

▪       Meeting with the IT department to see if they can: 1) accurately track leaves of absence; 2) track different types of leaves; and 3) provide reporting of such leaves during the initial and standard administrative periods. If not, develop a leave of absence tracking mechanism within the HR department.

Handling unpaid state and company leaves of absence for purposes of the measurement period calculations

The federal government has stated its position with regards to three special unpaid leaves, but what about state or company unpaid leaves of absence? How should they be treated under the look-back measurement period calculations?

Given the fact that there is legal uncertainty regarding the answer to this question and handling such a situation incorrectly could have significant ramifications for your organization, I recommend consulting legal counsel to determine the answer for your organization.

Determine which ACA special unpaid leave process to use

I recommend selecting the ACA special unpaid leave process that is going to be the least administratively challenging given all of the new responsibilities associated with the leave of absence tracking process. To date, I have seen more employers select the exclusion method.

So, start tuning up your leave-of-absence orchestra because the effective dates for the shared responsibility rules are right around the corner.