How to Manage FMLA Intermittent Leave: 7 Strategies

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How to Better Manage FMLA Intermittent Leave: 7 Strategies

There is probably no task more cumbersome for HR professionals than managing intermittent leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Intermittent leave allows qualified employees to take FMLA leave in small blocks of time (such as one hour) versus one block of 12 weeks.

Although intermittent leave can benefit employees who need time off work for their own health condition or to help with another family member's serious health condition, it can create burdens and adversity for employers if it isn't managed appropriately. The following administrative strategies tend to help employers manage intermittent leave more effectively.

1. Require medical certification.

You have the right to determine that intermittent leave is medically necessary. You can require medical certification to be submitted in order to make this determination and request multiple medical opinions. Doing so gives you some control over the situation and helps you understand the frequency and duration of intermittent leave needed by the employee.

2. Ask for recertification.

Requiring employees to recertify their leave when the condition changes or according to a certain period (such as every 6 months or annually) helps keep employees honest and makes sure you stay knowledgeable about the condition's status and any changes needed for the leave.

3. Have employees use paid leave concurrently with FMLA leave.

Requiring use of concurrent paid leave, disability, etc. curbs the adverse effects of excessive absenteeism. If you don't require use of concurrent leave, you may risk an employee using more than the allotted 12 weeks of leave provided under FMLA.  

4. Use a rolling 12-month period to calculate FMLA leave.

Calculating FMLA leave on a calendar 12-month basis can lead to employees taking back-to-back leave and potentially provides 24 weeks or 6 months of FMLA to an employee. Conversely, calculating FMLA on a rolling 12-month period can prevent back-to-back leave.

5. Accommodate the employee to reduce disruptions.

You may assign an employee to an alternative position with equivalent pay and benefits to better accommodate intermittent leave. You may also work with them to establish an intermittent leave schedule that reduces the leave's disruptions to your business operations. Remember, it's completely legal to request that the employee make a reasonable effort not to disrupt your business operations.

6. Establish guidelines for call-offs.

Call-offs can disrupt business, so provide requirements that employees must call in before they are absent if they are going to be using FMLA leave. You may also request that employees provide notice of unforeseeable leave as soon as practicable.

7. Track leave and absences.

You may request recertification from health care providers when you notice a pattern of absences which could suggest that an employee is abusing intermittent leave. Also, be aware that not tracking FMLA may lead you to provide more than the required amount of leave. Make sure nothing goes uncounted, and if you don't have the time to track it, consider outsourcing FMLA.

While these strategies won't necessarily reduce the number of employees using FMLA leave, they will typically help your organization avoid the costly consequences of mismanaged intermittent FMLA leave.

Please note that by providing you with research information that may be contained in this article, ERC is not providing a qualified legal opinion. As such, research information that ERC provides to its members should not be relied upon or considered a substitute for legal advice. The information that we provide is for general employer use and not necessarily for individual application.

ADA FMLA Compliance Training

ADA & FMLA Compliance Training Course

Participants review the interrelatedness of these two laws including how they impact each other.

Train Your Employees

An Employer’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Device Policies

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As new technology continues to shape the workplace and the use of social media and mobile devices at work becomes more widespread, organizations must create and enforce employment policies to protect themselves from the risks and liabilities associated with these new applications for working. Here's a short guide which contains important tips and guidelines for creating social media and mobile device policies.

Social Media Policies

Social media policies must balance a range of interests. First, they need to protect other employees and the company’s information and reputation without prohibiting employees from engaging in conversation about employment at your organization. Second, social media policies need to be flexible enough to allow your marketing, sales, recruiting, and PR employees to promote your company and network, but restrictive enough so  employees won't excessively use these platforms for non-business related purposes.

Below are several guidelines and best practices for creating social media policies, consistent with recent guidance issued by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and endorsed best practices published by the Society for New Communications Research. Additionally, this 2012 policy was approved by the NLRB and is helpful for employers as they create their own guidelines.

  • Require that social media usage is consistent with other workplace rules and policies, including federal laws related to discrimination and harassment.
  • Encourage employees to be respectful and fair to coworkers, customers, vendors, and other individuals affiliated with the company online and when using social media. Promote dealing with conflicts or complaints directly with one another rather than via social media outlets.
  • Educate employees that if online complaints or remarks are construed as disparaging, malicious, or threatening, their postings could be perceived as harassment or contribute to a hostile work environment, and thereby be unlawful.
  • Communicate that social media postings be accurate, factual, and truthful. Clarify how your organization will handle mistakes and edits to content. For example, many organizations require that mistakes be corrected promptly and edits or deletions to online content be communicated.
  • Define specific types of appropriate and inappropriate content to publish online. For example, trade secrets, private or confidential information, and financial disclosure laws/regulations can be reasonable content to protect.
  • Specify how employees should represent themselves online. Make clear that employees are not to represent themselves as spokespeople on behalf of the company and that employees who publish anything online related to their work or subjects associated with your organization should identify who they are and that their views do not represent those of their employer.
  • Specify if and when employees are able to use social media on the job. You may restrict employees from using social media at work if it is not job related or delegated by one’s manager, or if excessive use of social media is affecting job performance.
  • Don’t prohibit employees from talking about your organization online or expressing their personal opinions. The NLRB has been especially critical of employers who are trying to prevent employees from discussing terms and conditions of the workplace.

Bring Your Own Device to Work (BYOD) Policies

In addition to social media policies, every organization should have a Bring Your Own Device to Work Policy (otherwise known as a BYOD or a Mobile Device Policy) because employees are increasingly bringing their own mobile devices to work and accessing company networks through smartphones, tablets, IPADs, and laptops - to name just a few.

Although these devices can be of benefit to employees and employers alike by increasing productivity and providing flexible access points to company information, BYOD creates huge risks for employers in terms of compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), privacy and compliance mandates, etc. if mobile device policies are not in place. Here are some guidelines for developing those policies.

  • Consider the adverse effects of not allowing these devices in the workplace. Bans on mobile devices are usually not feasible because inevitably there is an employee who needs mobile access.
  • If your organization needs to remain compliant with certain regulations (HIPAA, etc.), take special precautions to safeguard this data and restrict employees’ access to it on their own devices. Work with your IT department to design those precautions.
  • Define and provide examples of what is acceptable use and transfer of organizational data on mobile devices.
  • Put into place guidelines regarding confidentiality and data ownership, including a procedure for data retrieval when an employee leaves the organization via voluntary or involuntary termination or when a device is lost or stolen.
  • Require strong or complex passwords in order to login to your company networks on mobile devices.
  • Have employees formally consent to an acceptable mobile device use policy, such as by signing off on your policy.
  • Establish clear rules for non-exempt employees about what they can and can’t do with their mobile devices during non-working hours to protect you in terms of FLSA requirements
  • Suggest that employees not use their phones or mobile devices with driving, in light of Ohio's recent ban on texting while driving
  • Indicate disciplinary consequences for employees who inappropriately use business data on their mobile devices.

Two final pieces of advice when creating these policies. Collaborate with your employees to create a policy. Be sure to include your legal department, your core users of social media for business purposes (for social media policies) and IT department (for BYOD policies). Finally, update these policies on an ongoing basis. With technology constantly changing, these policies need to be revisited at least annually.

Please note that by providing you with research information that may be contained in this article, ERC is not providing a qualified legal opinion. As such, research information that ERC provides to its members should not be relied upon or considered a substitute for legal advice. The information that we provide is for general employer use and not necessarily for individual application.

10 Qualities of Remarkable HR Leaders

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Remarkable HR leaders can emerge at any level. Whether they are an entry-level recruiter with a strong ability to hire unique talent, a tenured training manager who has a knack for building employees' skill sets, or a mid-level employee relations specialist with a unique skill for enhancing employee engagement, remarkable HR leaders impact their workplaces in positive ways.

Every day we witness HR leaders who find great talent in the midst of a skill-set shortage; devise competitive pay strategies to retain their top performers; coach managers to build their leadership effectiveness; create training and development programs that engage and grow their talent; design recognition programs that motivate employees; and so much more.

When we routinely interview HR leaders in the community, we find that many highly effective and respected HR leaders and professionals share certain characteristics. Here are 10 of those qualities.

  1. Caring. Remarkable HR leaders have integrity and instinctively care about people. They always put the needs and interests of their employees first. Their caring nature and emotional intelligence guide smart but compassionate policy making, and establish positive and healthy employee relations.
  2. Forward-thinking. They plan for the future of their workplaces, identifying potential threats and opportunities for attracting and retaining their top talent, as well as ways to make positive changes to their organization's culture. They ensure that they are prepared for challenges to protect their organizations and stay ahead of the curve.
  3. Passionate. Great HR leaders love and are passionate about what they do, where they work, their industry and most importantly about talent - finding it, empowering it, engaging it, and developing it. They truly enjoy what they do, whether it's specializing in a certain area of HR, being a generalist, or managing the function.
  4. Innovative. Remarkable HR leaders design creative approaches to attracting, managing, and developing talent with the understanding that to be competitive, they have to stand out from other employers and use different approaches. They are supporters, promoters, and designers of unique world-class talent initiatives.
  5. Strategic. They don't operate in a vacuum. Instead, outstanding HR leaders understand their organization's strategy, take an interest in its vision, and align their work, projects, and goals with the needs of their business. They know what high performance means and how to elicit it through talent management.
  6. Problem-solver. Remarkable HR leaders are problem solvers and impeccable crisis managers. HR lends itself to a number of unforeseen and complex legal, employee, and management problems. Great HR leaders help prevent those, deal with them, and significantly mitigate adverse effects on the organization.
  7. Communicator. Highly effective HR leaders are strong communicators and influencers. They are able to provide guidance on a range of HR issues and influence new ways of doing things to improve the organization's operations. They communicate with ease to employees and managers, and are also able to effectively facilitate change. They listen to their employees and build relationships with them over time.
  8. Ethical. Because they handle a great deal of confidential information and sensitive issues ranging from employee medical conditions and performance problems to legal matters, great HR leaders are trusted, ethical compasses of their organizations. They don't just do what's standard or required by law - they do what's right for their people - even if a higher cost or greater time investment is attached.
  9. Technology-minded. Great HR leaders vet, leverage, and use new technology to make their departments more efficient and accurate in their day-to-day operations. They aren't afraid to embark on new technology to improve their systems and processes.
  10. Life-long learner. Last, but certainly not least, extraordinary HR leaders never stop learning and networking to build their skill-sets and leadership as well as to gain new ideas. They are always trying to find ways to improve their own effectiveness, and thereby, their organization's success.

These are just some of the many qualities that can make an HR leader successful, but the bottom line is that remarkable HR leaders deliver exceptional achievements and results to their organizations by balancing the needs and interests of employees and the business.

Leadership Development Training Courses

Leadership Development Training Courses

ERC offers a variety of leadership development training programs at all levels of the organization.

Train Your Employees

14 Tips to Drive Revenue in HR

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14 Tips to Drive Revenue in HR

HR may not always be able to directly contribute to the bottom line, but there are a number of impactful ways that it can help drive revenue. Here is a list of 14 things your HR department can do to drive revenue at your organization.

  1. Win over talent from your competitors. Win over the best talent with better compensation, benefits, opportunities, and a more attractive workplace.
  2. Retain your top producers. Figure out what will make top performers stay and create a strategy to keep them at your organization.
  3. Pay for performance. Create an incentive program directly tied to profitability. Whether that's a bonus program or profit sharing program, it should produce performance gains.
  4. Be selective. Be choosy with your benefits offerings. Select benefits that matter most to your top talent. You may administer 20 different benefits when just 5 are used and valued.
  5. Incorporate drivers of revenue into performance management. Understand the drivers of revenue in your organization and make sure those are measured in the performance evaluation process.
  6. Train smarter. Conduct a training needs assessment to prioritize and identify critical training needs across the organization. Use high quality training methods that lead to behavior change.
  7. Track ROI. Link wellness to health insurance usage; training to performance improvement; engagement to profitability gains. Showing ROI helps build a business case for HR and reinforces its value.
  8. Improve medical and leave management. Administering employee leave more efficiently and choosing an effective Managed Care Organization (MCO) are ways that you can help employees get back to work in less time and reduce the drain of medical leave and workers compensation costs.
  9. Measure what matters. Measure HR cost factors (i.e. compensation cost, benefits cost) and revenue per employee. Know what your top HR costs are and how those compare to other organizations.
  10. Implement time-saving systems. Digitize HR data and record retention. Make it easy for employees and managers to access and use the information you collect so that they can focus on producing results.
  11. Identify obstacles to revenue generation. Lead performance improvement efforts, suggestion and feedback programs, and other means to help identify opportunities to increase revenue.
  12. Plan your workforce. Understand your organization's areas of growth and ensure that you are stacking those areas with top talent. Workplace planning prioritizes hiring needs.
  13. Reduce legal fees. By choosing inexpensive legal resources and assistance, obtaining legal knowledge, and keeping your organization compliant, you can significantly reduce legal fees.
  14. Save on staffing. Hiring is arguably one of your most expensive HR areas. Reduce your cost per hire by taking advantage of staffing service discounts and using creative, inexpensive sourcing methods.

HR departments that drive revenue and results in their organizations take advantage of opportunities to save their organizations money wherever possible, identify opportunities to build up their top revenue producers, and simply manage HR smarter and more efficiently.

HR Project Support: Job Descriptions and Onsite HR Audit

How to Prevent a Retaliation Claim

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Over the past several years, charges of retaliation filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have significantly increased, making retaliation a major legal risk that employers face. Here are several ways that employers can prevent retaliation.

Know what employment actions are considered "adverse."

An employee can sue for retaliation if they suffer a tangible, adverse employment action - such as loss of income or employment as a result of engaging in a protected activity. They must prove that there is a connection between their protected activity and the employment action they received. Examples of adverse employment actions could be a demotion, termination, or pay cut. A negative performance review may or may not be considered adverse depending on the circumstances.

Be aware that perception is reality when it comes to retaliation.

You may not intend to hurt an employee, but an action can still be perceived as retaliatory if an employee sees it as such. For example, reassigning or transferring an employee to another location, shift, or role or even separating employees from one another can be perceived as an adverse action if the action results in an outcome that is less desirable to the employee.

Address complaints promptly and respectfully.

Take complaints seriously and treat them with respect and care - they are indicators of dissatisfaction and usually precursors to a lawsuit. Start by establishing a policy against retaliation which communicates that your organization does not tolerate retaliation and explains the steps employees should take if they have complaints. Research complaints thoroughly and document the actions you take to address them.

Make and maintain a list of protections.

Create and maintain a list of all protections under law and distribute it to decision-makers, including supervisors and managers. These protections should include employees requesting FMLA, reasonable accommodations, and those employees in protected classes (race, national origin, religion, etc.). Make sure that decision-makers are aware of the types of activities which are protected under law.

Time your decisions accordingly.

Timing is one of the most important pieces of evidence that usually supports a retaliation claim. The longer the timeframe between the protected activity and adverse employment action, the more often courts have dismissed such claims. Refrain from taking adverse employment actions close to a complaint or protected activity.

Channel major employment decisions through HR.

Require a trained HR professional to be involved in any employment decisions, particularly those that negatively affect an employee. Conduct a thorough HR review before proceeding with a disciplinary action (i.e. warning, suspension, termination, etc.) for any employee who engages in a protected action and make sure that you have plenty of documentation to back up your decision.

Train and educate supervisors.

Supervisors can be major culprits of retaliatory decisions and it's important to make sure they are not making any decisions that could be unlawful. While they may feel so inclined to "get back" at an employee, the risks of doing so often far outweigh any benefit. Share specific examples of retaliation by supervisors, common scenarios, and procedures they must follow to avoid retaliation.

On a final note, when it comes to preventing retaliation in the workplace, it's best to consult case law, your attorney, and the EEOC's website for more guidance on the subject.

Please note that by providing you with research information that may be contained in this article, ERC is not providing a qualified legal opinion. As such, research information that ERC provides to its members should not be relied upon or considered a substitute for legal advice. The information that we provide is for general employer use and not necessarily for individual application.

Additional Resources

Supervisor & Manager Training: Employment Law

In this series, supervisors and managers learn about potential legal issues such as workplace discrimination and harassment, managing employee leaves of absence, and employee performance issues. Supervisory Series is offered in AM or PM sessions.

Survey Shows National Salary Trends for HR Jobs

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According to the 2012 EAA National Wage & Salary Survey, salaries rose modestly for HR professionals across the U.S. in 2011. The survey reports that HR Generalists showed the highest salary increase of 5% from 2011 and HR Assistants experienced the second highest salary increase of 4% from 2011.

Meanwhile, higher level HR professionals, such as Vice Presidents, Directors, and Managers showed more modest salary increases from 2011 of 1-2%.

The salaries for HR professionals reflected in this survey are consistent with other local and national compensation survey findings. In general, there has been less salary growth for many generalist-type HR functions in the years preceding 2012, as the data shows.  Nonetheless, national and local compensation surveys, including those conducted by ERC, continue to show that there has been more salary growth for specialist HR functions including compensation, training, organizational development, and staffing.

View ERC's Wage & Salary Adjustment Survey Results

The survey reports data from Northeast Ohio organizations regarding their actual and projected wage and salary adjustments.

View the Results

2012 Compliance Guide

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We’ve developed an easy guide summarizing what your organization needs to know to stay compliant in 2012. The guide includes a summary of several regulations that take effect as well as important legal issues on the horizon.

Regulations that Take Effect

Below are several major regulations and initiatives will took effect during the first few months of 2012.

Legal/HR Issue

Description of Regulation

Effective Date

2012 Income Tax Withholding Tables

Provides income tax withholding tables for 2012 here.

Immediately

Unemployment Benefits

Extends unemployment benefits temporarily through February 29, 2012.

Immediately

Tax Cuts

Extends current tax cuts temporarily through February 29, 2012.

Payroll system changes must be made by January 31, 2012

Social Security Withholding

Continues reduction in withholding rate to 4.2% (from 6.2%) temporarily through February 29, 2012. If an employer over-withholds in January, they need to make offsetting adjustments to employees’ pay by March 31, 2012.

January 1, 2012

 

Social Security Wage Base

Increases the Social Security Old Age Survivor's and Disability Insurance (OASDI) taxable wage base for 2012 from $106,800 to $110,100.

January 1, 2012

Minimum Wage

 

Raises minimum wage in Ohio to $7.70 per hour for non-tipped employees and $3.85 per hour for tipped employees.

January 1, 2012

Mileage Rates

Continues standard mileage rate of 55.5 cents per mile for business miles driven and 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations. Raises standard mileage rate to 23 cents per mile for medical or moving purposes.

January 1, 2012

Retirement Plan Limits

Raises the 2012 limit on the exclusion for elective deferrals in 401(k), 403(b), and 457(e) plans to $17,000, up from $16,500. For changes to other pension plan limits, click here.

January 1, 2012

W-2 Benefits Reporting

 

Requires employers who have an employer-sponsored group health plan to report the cost of coverage under their plan. This requirement goes into effect for some employers this year.

January 1, 2012

Health Benefits Summaries

Requires group health plan sponsors to create and distribute a Uniform Summary of Benefits and Coverage and Uniform Glossary.

Extended from March 23, 2012; pending notice of new effective date

NLRB Posting Notice

Extends deadline for posting notice regarding employees rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

April 30, 2012

 

Legal Issues on the Horizon

The following table summarizes several major legal issues that could lead to greater scrutiny and more regulations for employers in 2012.

Legal/HR Issue

Description of Issue

Tax cuts and job creation

Congress will determine whether to extend tax cuts through the rest of 2012 by late February. These cuts, along with the Jobs Bill which has been proposed, will aim to expand job creation and support businesses.

Constitutionality of health care reform

In 2012, the Supreme Court will be ruling on whether the health care reform law is constitutional due to conflicting rulings from lower courts, which could affect a number of provisions that take effect in 2013 and 2014.

Protection of unemployed individuals

Bills have been proposed at both state and federal levels to protect unemployed individuals from discrimination in the hiring process, and may gain ground in 2012.

Protection from retaliation

There has been notable interest in ensuring that employees are protected from employer retaliation when they file a complaint or cooperate with an investigation under federal law.

Improving hiring of disabled workers

The government will continue proactive efforts and attempts to improve the hiring of disabled workers and reduce discrimination against the disabled.

Clarification on FLSA and classification

The government will seek revisions to the FLSA for certain jobs, most notably workers who provide in-home services to the elderly and infirm. It will also continue to regulate misclassification of employees.

Retirement plan reform

The government is interested in ensuring that employees are saving adequately for their retirement and are exploring a number of options including additional disclosures, making investment advice more available, implementing automatic contributions, and restructuring tax deductions.

Regulating use of cell phone while driving

This past fall, OSHA and the Department of Transportation began an initiative to combat the leading cause of worker fatalities – motor vehicle crashes – and reduce distracted driving. Condoning/incenting texting while driving is in violation of OSHA, and use of a cell phone while driving may soon be as well.

User-friendly applications

The Department of Labor is leading a number of efforts to create user-friendly applications, interfaces, and tools for employers, job seekers, and other users to more easily use the information it provides.

E-Verify

In 2012, more states will likely require the use of E-Verify to determine employment eligibility.

If your organization needs more assistance, guidance, or detail with regard to these or other compliance-related issues, here are several additional resources and services, provided by ERC, which you can consult:

  • HR University: A series of workshops for HR professionals which includes a session on Employment Law Fundamentals and compliance best practices.
  • Supervisory Series: A series of workshops for supervisors which includes a session on Employment Law that provides supervisors with tools to help them maintain compliance.
  • HR Help Desk: Contact hrhelp@yourerc.com to ask any HR or compliance-related question and receive answers, guidance, and research. Service offered to ERC members only.

12 Tips for the 2012 Workplace

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The new year is just a few short days away, and it brings with it a number of challenges and opportunities to enhance your workplace. Here are 12 things to consider as your business heads into 2012.

1. Proactively manage the legal landscape

The legal landscape is becoming more complicated to navigate and employers are increasingly being hit hard with expensive fines and discrimination charges, per a recent report which noted a record number of discrimination charges and fines filed by the EEOC. Discrimination against the unemployed and disabled as well age discrimination are just a few pressing issues the government will be targeting in 2012 that employers should note.

2. Change your hiring strategies

Can’t find the talent you need? The current skills shortage is not expected to change anytime soon, so consider rethinking how you’re hiring. Perhaps your skill and experience requirements may be inadvertently screening out potentially great top performers that fit your culture and have growth potential. Or, you may need to explore different sourcing and branding tactics to attract the talent you need.

3. Focus on top performance

Make creating a better performance management system and approach one of your strategic priorities in 2012. Additionally, build your managers’ abilities to execute results and manage/support employees’ performance. A solid approach to performance management will increase the likelihood that your organization has a successful year.

4. Develop leaders

2011 was a year in which many organizations focused their efforts on leadership and management development and 2012 will be no exception. Organizations are increasingly growing their internal talent, preparing them for their next roles, and ensuring that their businesses have appropriate succession in place.

5. Keep a watchful eye on employee benefits

Employee benefits regulations are changing – and not just surrounding health insurance. Changes to retirement plans, family leave, and sick time are all issues the government has explored in the past year and will continue to target in 2012. Make sure your organization is prepared for the trends that will affect employee benefits in the coming year.

6. Create a long-term wellness strategy

Health care costs will remain a major challenge for employers in 2012. One-off wellness initiatives or activities will not suffice in managing costs effectively, so it’s advisable to create a long-term wellness strategy, based on the needs of your workforce, that will help your organization better manage health care costs and usage for years down the road.

7. Leverage social media

In 2011, the use of social media rapidly rose in the workplace. If your HR department hasn’t started to leverage the power of social media tools yet, it may be missing out on opportunities to find exceptional talent and boost learning and development – not to mention help your own career. Mastery of social media is, without question, an HR competency you’ll need for future success.

8. Manage the effects of change

During the past few years, many organizations have moved towards leaner workforces and processes, but few have managed how those changes have adversely affected employees and their cultures. Use 2012 to deal with the effects that these changes have caused on the workforce, redefine your culture, and re-establish your organization’s direction.

9. Use HR analytics and technology

HR metrics, analytics, and technology have become the gateways to creating a more efficient and effective HR department. Relook at what your department is tracking and the systems it is using. Chances are that you can leverage open-source systems, cloud technology, and other tools to automate processes and improve internal customer service.

10. Enhance global competencies

Global competencies are a sought-after skill by employers as they expand their markets globally. Whether its managing expatriates and bilingual employees, identifying legal risks abroad, or determining what to pay your global employees, as your organization expands globally, it will be critical for HR to enhance its organization’s capacity to manage global talent in 2012.

11. Make retention and engagement of top people a priority

Hopefully your organization emerged from 2011 with its top talent intact and engaged. If not, use the beginning of 2012 to create a strategy to retain your workforce and ignite engagement. Nip the problem in the bud quickly, otherwise, you could face unintended consequences of disengaged employees and high turnover throughout the next year.

12. Do your part for the region

Whether it’s hiring an intern or a recent college grad from a local university, providing an opportunity to an unemployed individual, or giving back to one of our community’s non-profits, do your part to improve economic development in our region and support our local communities.

 

Additional Resources

Leadership & Management Development Training
ERC offers a variety of training programs for leaders at all levels of the organization, from executive to mid-level manager to first time managers and supervisors. Our leadership development programs help move leaders from the traditional command and control role of judging and evaluating, to one of ensuring accountability through creating a supportive and motivating work environment.

HR Consulting
For assistance with various HR projects in 2012, including but not limited to, performance management system design, organizational design and development, HR metrics, employee engagement surveys, succession planning, and more, please contact consulting@yourerc.com.

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.

Win Trust & Influence: 6 Tips for Improving Employee Relations

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In HR, how you approach everyday employee relations can make a difference in whether or not your employees and managers view you as a trusted advisor. Here are ways that you can improve your relationships with managers and employees at your organization to win their trust, respect, and confidence.

Interact and communicate with employees on a daily basis

Make regular interaction a priority and it will help you do your job better. Walk the plant floor or the office. You’ll get to know employees personally, understand their concerns, and better identify work problems that you can fix. Meet with employees regularly, either one-on-one or in small groups. The best HR professionals have won the respect and trust of their employees by taking an interest in their day-to-day lives and creating an open dialogue.

Maintain their trust and confidentiality

Be a trusted resource that employees can turn to discuss problems, conflicts, or other issues. Handle employees’ concerns with integrity and professionalism. Refrain from discussing confidential issues with other members of your team or outside your department, or gossiping about employee matters. If you gather employees’ feedback on any topic, always protect their confidentiality and anonymity. Don’t try to pinpoint who said what.

Advocate for your employees

Know what drives retention and engagement for your employees. Advocate for and champion programs that enhance employees’ work experience and those that are important to your workforce.  Over time, these improvements will be noticed by your employees and they will value your contributions. We have seen many HR professionals gain the respect of the employees’ and leadership teams by creating great places to work.

Gain the respect of your managers

Develop strong relationships with your supervisors and managers. Learn about them and their departments and ask them how you can be of better assistance to their needs. Understand their demands and make their jobs easier, not harder. Create tools and systems and offer training to help them do their jobs better and more efficiently.  In doing so, you will have more luck collaborating with them to manage employees.

Make an impression from the start

Use on-boarding as a way to build your reputation with employees as a trusted advisor. Build a positive rapport prior to them coming on-board by staying in contact, being responsive and accessible, and providing them with all of the information they need for their first day. In addition to facilitating orientation, describe your role to employees in ways that you want to be perceived. Reach out to new-hires multiple times within the first 6 months to gather feedback, provide support, and solidify a positive relationship.

Be objective and balance interests

Execute and enforce policies and procedures consistently and fairly, with no exceptions. Additionally, balance serving all of your internal customers – leaders, managers, and employees. Learn to look at issues objectively from all sides of your business and balance these three interests. Be collaborative in developing and implementing policies. Don’t develop policies without considering their perspectives. 

 If you want to broaden your influence, achieve better results, and improve relationships with your internal customers, consider using these approaches. We have witnessed many HR professionals win the trust and confidence of their managers and employees by adopting these positive employee relations practices.