Your Plans for Hiring Military Personnel

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There's a growing movement to help our nations veterans find work. ERC Preferred Partner CareerCurve is interested in your organization’s plans related to attracting returning military personnel to employment opportunities. 

They are conducting a survey, as a precursor to offering support to those employers seeking to align their hiring process to meet the unique needs of veterans looking for civilian employment. Your response would be appreciated.

Please use the link below to participate in this survey:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CareerCurveMilitaryHiringSurveyYT8JQKV

Healthy Holiday Catering through Food for Thought

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 On December 1st, 2011, Food for Thought was invited to share Holiday decorating tips with Fox 8's Good Company. Food for Thought offers several great holiday catering options, including the ERC Health Approved Menu for healthy catering options!

ERC Member Discount

ERC Members receive discounted delivery fees based upon their Northeast Ohio geographic location. Please identify yourself as an ERC Member when placing your order.

ERC Preferred Partner, Members Awarded with Weatherhead 100 Award

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ERC Preferred Partner CareerCurve was recently awarded a 2011 Weatherhead 100 Award. ERC wishes to congratulate CareerCurve as well as several of our members on this great achievement. The following ERC members were also recently honored with the designation of being among the 100 fastest-growing organizations in Northeast Ohio.

  • TOA Technologies
  • Knotice
  • Findaway World
  • Fathom
  • Cleveland Corporate Services, Inc
  • NineSigma, Inc.
  • PartsSource, Inc.
  • US Endoscopy
  • Vocon
  • Turning Technologies
  • Lexicomp
  • MobilityWorks
  • OEConnection LLC
  • Fleet Response
  • Fredon Corporation
  • Group Transportation Services, Inc. (GTS)  

Northeast Ohio Employers Serve their Communities This Holiday

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According to the 2011 ERC Holiday Practices Survey, many Northeast Ohio employers are using the holidays as a time to give back to their communities and others in need. The survey shows that 40% of Northeast Ohio employers are coordinating community service efforts over the holidays in 2011. Community service efforts are more commonly organized in non-manufacturing and non-profit organizations as well as larger organizations, based on the survey's findings. Sixty percent of non-manufacturing organizations and employers with over 500 employees report coordinating holiday community service efforts.

The most common community service efforts in which employers report participating include Adopt-a-Family, Toys for Tots, food and gift drives, volunteering at a food bank, and monetary donations to local charities.

"Our research consistently shows that Northeast Ohio employers make an impact on their local communities through their generous fundraising efforts, charitable contributions, and active participation in volunteer efforts and community service,” says ERC's Director of Research and Membership. He adds, “Community efforts don't just positively benefit the community. They can also serve as a means of attracting employees, building teams, and adding a sense of meaning to one's work.”

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.

1 in 2 Employers Will Give Employees Holiday Gifts This Year

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According to the 2011 ERC Holiday Practices Survey, half of Northeast Ohio employers say that they plan on giving employees holiday gifts in 2011. Of the organizations that intend to provide gifts, the majority are budgeting the same amount as 2010, while only a few employers are spending more or less on holiday gifts.

Gift cards and cash remain the gifts of choice among employers. In 2011, around 60% of employee holiday gifts will be gift cards and approximately 16% will be cash, based on the survey’s findings. Other gifts employers plan to offer include hams or turkeys, gift baskets, candy/chocolates, clothing, logo items, additional PTO,  entertainment books, and electronics.

How to Create a Positive, Engaging Performance Review Experience

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It’s the end of the year and for most employers, time for performance review conversations.

Have you ever left a performance review discussion feeling more engaged, inspired, and motivated? If you have, you understand that performance reviews can drive positive change and feelings, if done right. The trouble is that most managers don’t know how to facilitate these positive changes within the context of a performance review discussion.

All too often, performance reviews can be a negative experience for employees and managers alike, dreaded by some, avoided by others, and feared by even the best of performers. Managers often dislike providing performance feedback to their employees, and employees don’t like receiving it. Who can blame them? When the process is focused on judging, rating, and criticizing, as it is traditionally, it can lose its purpose and become a negative experience for everyone involved.

The performance review process doesn’t need to be perceived this way. It can be a time of re-engaging and re-directing employees towards greater success in the next year and affirming your support for their performance and development, while still meeting your administrative needs (i.e. merit increases, performance documentation, etc.).

Changing the perceptions of the process starts with changing the experience. Here are a few suggestions for your managers to create a more positive performance review experience.

Prepare and be objective.

Throughout the year, it’s important to collect information about your employees, including their specific accomplishments, performance problems, progress in their development, and current skills. This information will help you form a more objective evaluation of your employee. For example, every time your employee does something well, goes to a training, develops a new skill, has a performance issue, or goes above and beyond their duties, log the behavior, result, and cause (if known) in a diary for future reference. This will make completing your employee’s performance review much easier and accurate. Nothing is more frustrating to an employee than a manager who doesn’t have all of his/her facts straight or evaluates them too subjectively.

Deemphasize ratings.

Ratings can serve a purpose in the performance review process, but the focus of a performance review discussion should not be where the employee fell on the Likert scale or how the employee ranks compared to other employees. Employees can often get caught up in how they were rated and miss the bigger picture of the conversation. The performance discussion can quickly become an argument about differing opinions on ratings and this isn’t productive for either party. Additionally, remember that a manager’s core purpose in the performance management process isn’t to judge, but rather coach to improve performance.

Uncover causes of high performance.

A fair performance review should uncover an employee’s areas of high performance throughout the year and the causes of why the employee performed well on those tasks or projects. By identifying an employee’s successes and reasons for their success, you can better understand the factors that lead an employee to perform well, and maximize these factors in the future by recreating conditions that facilitate great performance.

Focus on improvement.

Another core purpose of a performance review is to improve performance. This rarely happens just by criticizing the employee and telling them what they need to improve. In fact, you’ll often find that employees don’t know where to start to improve, so there needs to be additional work, help, coaching, and development to close the performance gap that exists and to enhance and broaden skills. The performance review discussion should explore ways to close those gaps and expand skill sets, and discuss barriers to employees’ success as well as how those can be bridged or alleviated.

Suggest ways employees can learn and develop.

Explore learning and training opportunities and look for ways to align development with employees’ preferred learning styles. For example, some employees respond better to reading material, attending workshops, mentoring, or on-the-job training. The key is to find and suggest effective ways that employees like to learn and use these to encourage skill development. Map out a few learning objectives to ensure that employees are held accountable for building their skills.

Set goals and objectives.

A final step that’s beneficial at the end of a performance review discussion is goal setting. Setting goals towards the end of the conversation helps close the conversation on a motivational note, and get employees excited about new objectives and projects. Goals can strengthen performance and improve skills, and can be helpful in motivating employees to work towards new objectives. Ideally, employees should have input into what these goals are, versus just being arbitrarily assigned objectives.

Close with support.

Finally, it’s important to end a performance review discussion supportively. Express confidence in the employee’s abilities and let them know that you are there to support their success throughout the next year as they work towards their goals. Emphasize what they are doing right, what they can improve upon, and how you’ll help them. Cite specific ways that you will do this, and if possible, create a written action plan. Then, be sure to deliver on those promises. Even when an employee has much to work on, having the support and confidence of their manager can make all the difference between a negative or positive reaction to the discussion and feeling motivated to change their behavior.

In the coming years, make it a goal to have each and every one of your employees leave their performance review discussion motivated and inspired. You may discover that these discussions aren’t so bad after all, and create a more engaged team that’s ready to deliver great results in your organization.

Performance Management Training Courses

Performance Management Training Courses

ERC offers a variety of Performance Management topics based on your needs.

Choose a Course to Get Started

Competition for Top Talent Rises; Proactive Approach is Recommended

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While unemployment across the country might be high, employers around Northeast Ohio might be surprised to learn that isn’t necessarily the case locally.

For example, the city of Mentor reported an unemployment rate of 5.8 percent for September, according to an article published in November of 2011 in The News-Herald.

“There’s a perception out there that the unemployment rate is so high,” said SueAnn Naso, President of Staffing Solutions Enterprises in Mayfield Heights. “The federal rate is what everybody hears, but when you drill down into different pockets in Northeast Ohio, we’ve got a lot of people back to work, and our rates are much better.”

For employers across the region, a lower unemployment rate means a more competitive market for top talent. Employers looking to hire the right talent for their organizations can no longer afford to sit back and wait for talent to come to them, said Dan Barnett, owner of Integrity Staffing Services in Twinsburg.

“Companies should be very proactive in planning,” Barnett said. “Most companies are reactive when it comes to hiring. Being proactive, understanding the marketplace, knowing what you’re looking for - organizations should take a look at their hourly wages and salary structures, especially in the manufacturing and distribution level with minimum wage going up at the beginning of 2012. Companies need to start reconsidering pay levels, even if they’re above  minimum wage. Otherwise, they’ll miss the opportunity to attract the top talent in the marketplace.”

For employers looking to improve their recruiting efforts, local help is available from such firms as Staffing Solutions and Integrity Staffing, which together comprise the Northeast Ohio Talent Alliance (NEOTA). Staffing Solutions primarily works with organizations to fill positions in the administrative, office, accounting, professional, and human resources sectors, while Integrity’s focus is on manufacturing , distribution and light industrial.

“Recruiting can be a very time-intensive process,” Naso said. “Many companies don’t experience a steady or constant need for recruiting – it goes up and down. Companies tend to staff internally at a certain level, but they need help when they hit those spikes. That cyclicality creates a need to have a solution. Recruiting firms are constantly recruiting because there’s always somebody who has a need. 

“We’re constantly building a database, constantly adding to the pool. That gives organizations a resource to tap into when they have those peaks.”

A local manufacturer recently found itself in that exact position. Having just ended a hiring freeze, the company didn’t have dedicated recruiting support internally and was uncertain about the number of hires it would have in 2011.

“Our client brought Staffing Solutions in to manage all their permanent hiring as an outsourced solution,” Naso said. “We ended up filling more than twice as many positions as originally estimated in half the time it would have taken them to fill the positions on their own.

“They also decided to outsource the management of their temporary staffing to us because it was becoming increasingly more challenging for one agency to fill all their needs. We’re currently managing five agencies to ensure we’re bringing the quality talent needed to meet their fluctuating temporary needs.”

Staffing Solutions and Integrity Staffing are Preferred Partners of ERC. Click here for more information about our partners. 

More Northeast Ohio Employers Planning Holiday Parties This Year

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The 2011 ERC Holiday Practices Survey, which surveyed 152 Northeast Ohio organizations, shows that more employers in Northeast Ohio (73%) are coordinating holiday parties when compared to 2009 and 2010, with most respondents budgeting the same as the preceding year.

Additionally, more organizations are having their holiday parties at an external location and are catering them this year. More employers are also providing alcohol and entertainment at their holiday parties, and inviting employees’ significant others and spouses to the events compared to the past few years.

The percentage of organizations serving alcohol at their holiday parties has significantly increased from 25% in 2009 to 40% in 2011. In this same time period, 29% more Northeast Ohio employers are having their holiday party catered, 32% more organizations plan to hold their party at an external location, and 14% more employers are inviting employees’ significant others or spouses to the parties.

Ways to Thank Employees This Holiday

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For many employers, 2011 culminated in greater success than the preceding years and the holidays are an ideal time to show appreciation to your employees for that success.

Think back on 2011 and hopefully a great deal of achievements, accomplishments, and successes happened at your organization. Many of those would not have been possible without the efforts of your employees, those in the front lines every day servicing your customers and building your products. Each of your employees played a critical role in how your financials play out on December 31.

So whether you hold a celebration or offer time off work, gifts, or other gestures of thanks, it’s critically important to make the time and regard each your employee’s efforts and accomplishments. They are the people who made your success happen in 2011. Here are some ideas.

Coordinate a holiday party or event.

Providing a holiday party or gathering for your employees is a special way to show appreciation to your staff around the holidays. Nearly three-quarters of local employers coordinate a holiday party for their employees. These events are usually luncheons or evening parties held on a Thursday or Friday, and typically use external locations and caterers to host the parties – such as local restaurants, country clubs, or hotels. Some employers even invite employees’ spouses, significant others, and/or children.

Host a pre-holiday team-building activity.

This could be a departmental or team luncheon, fun activity, retreat, or a community service event. The end of the year is a great time to bring departments and teams together to discuss the past year, celebrate accomplishments, and/or continue to build the team. Encourage each of your managers to spend time with their team as a whole. It doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming, but should strengthen team dynamics and relationships to get the New Year started on the right foot.

Start a holiday tradition.

Traditions are an important part of your organization’s culture that makes your organization unique. If your organization doesn’t already have a holiday tradition, it may consider starting one. Perhaps it’s a family holiday party, a Secret Santa exchange, an annual breakfast, or an office decorating day.

Recognize and reward this year’s best.

There’s no question that some of your employees contributed in greater ways to your organization’s success than others, and if your organization hasn’t done so already, it should plan to recognize and reward those top performers. Perhaps these individuals include employees who have worked especially hard on a strategic project, those that exceeded their goals or contributed most to the organization’s profitability, or those that introduced a new innovation or initiative to the organization. Make a short list of your top contributors and provide them a special reward this holiday, preferably publicly.

Provide an extra day off (or two).

One of the best gifts you can give your employees is extra time with family and friends and a bit more work/life balance. Provide the opportunity for some time off work, either through extra paid holidays provided by the company, additional paid time off, early-releases, holiday breaks, reduced schedules, or more flexible work. Also keep in mind that the majority of employers plan to provide paid days off for the days surrounding the holidays.

Make a personal gesture of thanks.

Encourage managers (and ideally your CEO or top management team) to write notes to employees, provide personalized telephone calls, or meet with them individually to thank them for their contributions. These personal gestures can go a long way in showing gratitude to employees for their efforts and accomplishments.

Give a gift.

Small gifts or cash/gift cards are a great way to show you appreciate employees. About half of employers provide holiday gifts to their employees. The most common gift given to employees is a general gift card. Some employers, however, provide hams/turkeys, gift baskets, logo items, clothing items, and candy. You may choose to get even more creative with your gifts and vary them from year to year. Be sure that immediate supervisors or top managers distribute these gifts.

…or gifts that keep giving.

By these we mean the things that many employees are looking for this year – beyond just a gift card. Perhaps it’s a new opportunity, a raise, or a promotion. Survey after survey shows that compensation, advancement, and career development rank high on employees’ “wish lists” this year. You’ll find that these “gifts” truly will keep on giving when they improve your employees’ motivation, engagement, and happiness at work in the new year.

Provide a few perks to help save them money.

Finally, the holidays can stretch employees’ wallets, so any way your organization can save its employees money will be appreciated. Discount programs, convenience services, and free benefits are all perks you can introduce to your employees this holiday season. Plus, ERC offers several employee discounts that are available to your employees through your membership. Click here to learn more.

This holiday, remember to thank the people that made your organization successful this past year by showing a few gestures of appreciation.

Additional Resources

Holiday Benchmarking Surveys 

Benchmark your holiday practices and paid holidays your organization offers by downloading our holidays surveys: the ERC Holiday Practices Survey and ERC Paid Holiday Survey.

Discounts on Catering
Need a caterer for your upcoming holiday party? Consider using ERC’s Preferred Partner, Food for Thought, which provides discounted delivery fees on catering services to ERC members within certain geographical areas.

Team-Building
Build your team this holiday season! The end of the year or beginning of the next is a common and great time to gather your team together for a team-building event, activity, or training to ensure that your team is ready to execute for the New Year.

View ERC's Holiday Practices and Paid Holiday Survey Results

These surveys report on which holidays Northeast Ohio organizations plan to observe as well as holiday parties, gift giving, and more ideas for the holiday season.

View the Results