The Ultimate Summer Workplace Checklist

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Sweet summertime is right around the corner. Bring on the company picnics, vacation schedules, and little league games!

The HR department is presented with plenty of opportunities and challenges when it comes to the summertime workplace. It can be hard at times to keep employees attention and focus when the sunshine is calling their name.

Here’s the ultimate summer workplace list for organizations working to make their workplace great:

1. Solidify Holiday Schedule

There are 3 national holidays U.S. employers recognize during the summer, Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day. Make sure your employees know what days they will have off due to the holidays, especially the 4th of July. If the 4th of July falls on a weekend, be sure to clarify and communicate to employees what day the office will be closed. Also be sure to communicate that to customers as well.

2. Manage Vacation Schedules

Summer is the ideal time for many people to take a vacation. Unfortunately for the HR department and management team, that means many employees wanting to schedule time off at the same time. This can lead to a shortage of workers or disappointed employees if not handled properly. Require employees to schedule time off in advance, receive approval for time off, coordinate with the their coworkers and implement a fair system specifying criteria of the process and spell out whatever limits your organization may have around taking vacation.

3. Implement a Summer Dress Code

With the weather being warmer, it may be beneficial to implement and communicate a summer dress code throughout the organization.

Be sure to effectively communicate the new summer dress code, preferably in writing. Clarify what summer attire is and what it isn’t. Determine what is allowed in terms of apparel and shoes while providing examples (i.e. sleeveless tops, open-toed shoes, flip flops, shorts, capris, etc.) It may also be beneficial to let employees know to be mindful of their daily agendas and not dress inappropriately when meeting with customers or pitching an idea to corporate, depending on policy.

Also apply your dress code uniformly to all employees, and not to a specific gender or demographic.

4. Plan a Company Outing

Summer is an ideal time to organize a company outing or picnic to show appreciation. Hosting a company outing not only shows appreciation for employees but recognizes their efforts and gives them a time to interact and bond with one another outside of the office.

Many organizations host outings at a local attraction, golf course or park.

If the budget is right, it may be nice to include spouses, significant others, or children too.

5. Wellness Program

The summertime weather also allows for more creative outdoor activities and programs to support and promote wellness throughout the organization. Try setting up a bike-to-work program, walking program, fitness activity, or pick-up game.

In addition, the summer is a great time to emphasize nutrition and healthy eating habits with the increased availability of fruits and vegetables. Several organizations have begun to provide fresh produce whenever possible to their workforce.

6. Flexible Scheduling

Many families tend to need more flexibility in the summer. Kids are out of school with little league games and sick babysitters.

Great workplaces tend to provide a bit more flexibility, such as opportunities to leave early on Fridays, revised or shorter work schedules, compressed work weeks, and longer holiday weekends.

Flexibility options allow employees extra time with their families and help them achieve better work/life balance over the summer.

7. Address Attendance Issues

Having a more flexible schedule may lead to a few bad apples spoiling the bunch. Attendance can become more of an issue in the summertime when employees may call off, take unapproved time off, or be tardy/leave work early more often.

Make sure to have an attendance policy that is clearly communicated to employees and enforce the policy consistently.

Being flexible to employees’ needs to keep attendance issues to a minimum and keep in mind that results are what counts the most at work.

8. Take Advantage of Slow-Time Opportunities

Depending on the industry, summer time can be less busy and employees have a more relaxed workload. This is the perfect time to implement development initiatives that may have been pushed to the side the rest of the year in preference of other obligations.

Training, development, programs, and other HR projects are perfect opportunities to take advantage of in the summer months.

9. Have More Fun

The summer is a great time to have more fun at work, relax, build relationships between team members, and focus on collaboration and team-building.

Team-building activities, contests, socials, and philanthropic events help employees build camaraderie and foster open communication.

Consider setting up a volunteering day in which employees spend the morning or afternoon, as a team, helping out at a local nonprofit organization.

Planting and tending to a garden throughout the summer is another fun (and delicious) activity for the workplace.

10. Mid-Year Meeting

Encourage management to have a mid-year meeting with each of their employees to talk about their progress towards their goals and their performance thus far into the year.

Employees should not be surprised by the feedback they receive or the results of their end of year performance review.

Take steps to change performance now with employees who are not performing up to standard. Conversely, with great performers, let them know they are doing a great job and encourage them to keep up the good work.

It may also be beneficial to hold a company-wide mid-year staff meeting to bring everyone up-to-date on the year’s progress, where things are thriving, where things are falling short, and to boost morale.

10-Step Company Holiday Party Planning Checklist

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Most companies have a holiday party for their employees each year. In our 2012 ERC Holiday Practices Survey, nearly three-quarters (73%) of 186 Northeast Ohio organizations surveyed are planning a holiday party for 2012 and the majority (66%) are budgeting the same or more than in 2011.

Holiday parties are ideal for gathering all of your staff, showing appreciation, and celebrating the year's success. Nonetheless, putting on a great party also requires thoughtful coordination and planning. To help you plan your company's next holiday party, we've developed a checklist of critical tasks.

1. Determine the type of event.

Luncheons are generally the most common type of company holiday party (51%), and evening parties are the second most common (38%). The type of holiday party can affect the date you select. For example, evening parties are often hosted on Saturdays nights (83%) while luncheon parties are most commonly hosted on weekdays. Also, luncheons tend to be a budget-friendly alternative for holiday parties, while evening parties tend to be more costly.
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Wrapping Up 2011: A Year-End Checklist for HR

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We've compiled a checklist of common year-end HR tasks spanning compliance, benefits, payroll, salary administration, and general HR planning to prepare for 2012. 

Compliance

  • Review your policies and procedures and make sure they still apply and/or comply with changes to laws and regulations that occurred throughout the year.
  • Conduct an HR audit, preferably with a third-party. Make sure your HR and filing systems are in compliance.
  • Review record retention guidelines and dispose of appropriate records before the new year.
  • Review job titles and revise job descriptions for employees whose jobs, duties, or roles have changed within the course of the year. Be sure to also check FLSA exemption statuses to make sure these are still accurate.
  • Add critical HR filing and reporting deadlines to your calendar. 
  • Prepare for any regulatory updates that go into effect January 1.

Benefits

  • Make sure that new disclosure requirements and summary plan descriptions for retirement and health plans have been incorporated.
  • Revise benefits levels per IRS 2012 limits for defined contribution and benefit plans.
  • Review limitations on deferred compensation and check for excess contributions to qualified plans, especially for your highly compensated employees.
  • Determine which employees have life insurance over $50,000 to report taxable imputed income for taxable group term life insurance.
  • Check social security withheld to determine if an employee exceeded the 2011 limit. If so, make an adjustment or refund.
  • Re-evaluate your benefits package, including disability, life, and health insurance policies and obtain competitive bids.
  • Remind employees to spend the remaining balances on their flexible spending accounts before the end of the year so that their leftover money is not forfeited. You may consider reminding employees of reimbursable expenses. For a list of these, click here.
  • Send COBRA rate increase notifications to COBRA participants, if applicable.

Payroll/Salary Administration

  • Make sure employees review their W4s if they have changed their status during the year or anything else that would change payroll withholding.
  • Review taxable fringe benefits for W2 reporting, as these must be reflected in payroll for W2 reporting.
  • Distribute W2s by the end of January 2012.
  • Update employee address, demographic, and emergency information, including municipal information for local tax filing.
  • Have salary conversations with each of your employees and provide expected 2012 compensation in writing.
  • Issue final year-end paychecks which include year-end bonuses and holiday/overtime pay.
  • Adjust payroll to reflect changes in salary/wage adjustments, merit increases, minimum wage increases (note: Ohio minimum wage will increase January 1), and changes to benefits withholding.
  • Integrate new federal and state withholding tables. Remember that the temporary payroll changes which went into effect in 2011 are set to expire unless the federal government decides otherwise.

Planning

  • Distribute vacation and attendance calendars/planners to your supervisors and managers.
  • Determine your organization's 2012 holiday schedule and post or communicate it to employees. 
  • Plan, update, and post any critical  company activities or events for 2012.
  • Ask supervisors to assess current staffing levels in their departments/teams and submit job requisitions. Also take note of pending retirements, terminations, and expected turnover.
  • Conduct a training needs assessment and establish employee training and development plans for 2012. 
  • Review employee performance reviews and determine which employees...
    • are eligible for promotion
    • need additional training or skill development
    • require a performance improvement plan
    • should be terminated
  • Schedule recently promoted supervisors or managers for new supervisor training.
  • Plan your most critical projects for 2012. If you don't know what you should focus on, consider conducting an employee engagement survey in the first quarter to uncover areas of the workplace your department could improve.

Additional Resources

HR Project Assistance
For assistance conducting HR and FLSA audits, revising and auditing job descriptions, workforce planning, employee engagement surveys, and a variety of other HR projects, please contact consulting@yourerc.com.

Benefit Plan Audit
Do you have 100 or more employees enrolled in your defined contribution plan(s)? Your plan is required to be audited, and must accompany your 5500 filing. Now is the time to save! ERC members receive a No-Cost 2011 Benefit Plan Audit, and can lock in your 2010 rate for the next five years, through our exclusive partnership with Skoda Minotti. Click here for details!

Employee Handbook Service
As you revise your policies and procedures, keep in mind that ERC and Employer Risk Solutions Company (ERSco) offer a unique and innovative service exclusive to ERC members that provides an employee handbook for private employers that is easy, legally compliant, customized and affordable. For more information about this service, click here.

Training
Schedule your employees for training sooner than later! For a list of training topics offered by ERC, which can be customized to your organization's needs, click here. Or, to register your employee(s) or yourself for an upcoming public training event in 2012 offered in our Workplace Center, click here.