Employers Project Pay Increases of 2.8% for 2012

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The results of the ERC Wage & Salary Adjustment Survey show that Northeast Ohio employers had projected pay increases of 2.8% for 2012. The survey also reports that employers provided actual pay increases of 2.8% in 2011.

Despite no change in the projected average pay increase from 2011, the results of the survey found that more local employers were projecting wage and salary increases than in the years following 2007. Specifically, 89% of the 129 employers surveyed reported projecting pay increases to at least one employee group, up from 55% in 2009 and 82% in 2011.

More employers also projected increases of 3.0% or higher in 2012 when compared to 2011. In the survey, 57% of organizations reported projecting increases of 3.0% or higher in 2012 for clerical, technical, supervisory, management, and professional employees compared to 50% of organizations in 2011. Non-manufacturing employers, in particular, were more likely to project increases of 3.0% or higher for 2012.

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

Steps for plan sponsors in anticipation of 408(b)(2)

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Aiming to curb confusion, misunderstandings and lack of disclosure related to the fees associated with retirement plans, the Department of Labor has enacted a new regulation, Section 408(b)(2), effective Jan. 1, 2012.

To maintain compliance with this new regulation, there are several steps for sponsors to take:

  • Document your review and decision-making process.
  • Assess service providers’ competence by reviewing their references and credentials.
  • Compare providers’ services and compensation with offerings made to plans comparable to yours in terms of size and other characteristics.
  • Analyze vendors’ conflicts of interest.
  • Document the basis for the selection of the service providers.
  • Monitor the service providers.

Information provided by Oswald Financial.

 

5 Things that Top Workplaces Do Differently

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Over the years, we’ve found a few simple, but consistent practices that differentiate average employers from top workplaces. Here are 5 things top workplaces do differently than other organizations to attract and retain the best talent.

They make investments where it matters most.

Like many businesses, top workplaces are forced to make tradeoffs in offerings and programs, but keep investing in the things that are most meaningful to their top performers. They don’t just throw money at programs with little value – they know what matters most to their top people and put cash where it counts. For example, they invest wisely in strategic development programs, aimed at advancing their top performers into future leadership roles and growing talent pipelines; reserve funds for meaningful rewards to show appreciation to their top people for jobs well done; keep their compensation practices updated and competitive; and also don’t skimp on basic benefits.

They keep their people passionate and engaged in their work.

Top workplaces keep their top performers motivated on the job and passionate about their work, and for these reasons, it’s no wonder that these organizations employ individuals that are more engaged, innovative, and successful than other employers. The best places to work have found simple, but creative ways to engage their top performers through the work itself – spending plenty of time on job design, getting employees involved in brainstorming and implementing ideas, encouraging and coordinating personal development, moving employees into new jobs and roles, and giving employees the autonomy they need to do their best work. Instead of spending time rolling out elaborate motivational tools and programs, they focus on keeping the work fresh and exciting.

They talk to and interact with their employees.

Take a walk through any top workplace and you’ll notice a different climate than other organizations, specifically leaders and managers talking to their employees and engaging with top performers and not huddled in meetings all day with their management teams. You may even notice leaders mentoring employees, recognizing them on the spot, working side-by-side with staff, or participating in an on-boarding event. They aren’t leading from the corner office, but rather from their daily examples. The best places to work simply talk to and interact with their top talent more often than other employers, request their feedback and involvement in the business, and as a result understand what makes them tick. Consequently, their top people feel more valued by the highest levels of the organization, and develop strong relationships with their managers.

They respect and support employees’ personal time.

In an age where businesses and employees are faced with greater challenges, demands, and stressors and fewer resources, top workplaces are realizing that employees have greater needs for support in their work/life – whether those are balancing family responsibilities, pursuing personal goals, improving their well-being, or dealing with losses and other personal circumstances. These organizations take steps to ensure that their top people are able to balance their personal and work lives by addressing workload issues, offering flexible scheduling, providing support services and generous leave, and using a supportive approach in the workplace.

They build and sustain a great culture and work environment.

Ask any top performer: a major reason they love their organization is the work culture. It’s the unique work environment and the people inside the organization that keep many top performers happy and satisfied. In fact, culture is perhaps the most frequently cited “reason for staying” at their organizations. Top workplaces are able to create cultures and work environments that their top people grow to cherish and don’t want to leave. Described as positive, fun, supportive, flexible, collaborative, open, and performance-based, top workplaces have cultures that attract the very best talent. These organizations have a knack for sustaining these cultures through the many ups and downs of business and as their workforce changes.

Many employers believe that creating a top workplace means offering all the bells and whistles, and that their quest is out of reach. Yet our research continues to show that these simple strategies can make all the difference when building a great workplace to attract and retain the very best talent.

For more information about Northeast Ohio’s top workplaces, the 2011 NorthCoast 99 winners, please visit www.northcoast99.com. In addition, for more information about the NorthCoast 99 winners’ best practices, please click here

Employers Continue to Be Challenged with Attracting & Retaining Employees

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According to the results of the 2011 ERC/Smart Business Workplace Practices Survey, hiring and retaining employees is the most prominent challenge faced by Northeast Ohio organizations. 

Results of the survey, conducted by ERC in collaboration with Smart Business Magazine, show a trend regarding the recruitment, hiring, and retention of qualified candidates as the top organizational challenge faced by organizations for nearly a decade.  While the poor economy was cited as a primary challenge for employers the from 2009, hiring and retention has emerged once again as the top challenge for local businesses.

Additionally, the survey results show that organizations are investing more in hiring and retaining talent, as a result of this challenge. Specifically, employers reported spending a higher percentage of their recruiting budget on online advertisements (33.7%) and are increasingly using internet job boards to find candidates (77.8%). Also, more employers are providing financial assistance for training and development (90.7%) than in past years.

In recent years ERC has seen an increase in both the use of our member-based resources and our fee-for-service areas related to hiring and retaining employees.  Despite the economy, employers continue to be focused on retention-boosting programs like training, employee development, and employee engagement initiatives.

To access more information about the ERC/Smart Business Workplace Practices Survey, please click here.

3 Tips to Help Workers Beat the Heat

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The August heat presents challenges for employees who don’t have the luxury of working in comfortable office settings – such as manufacturing workers and outdoor employees. Specifically, heat can impair mental alertness, physical performance, and safety, and may also lead to more conflict. Here are three ways you can help employees “beat the heat” to stay productive and safe.

Break up the day.

Breaks are one of the best ways to help employees beat the heat. Offer employees a few extra breaks during extreme heat conditions and allow them to take a break whenever they feel extremely overheated. Additionally, use earlier or later shifts (if possible) to minimize working during the heat of mid-day.

While employees are on breaks, consider finding useful opportunities for them. For example, some local companies set up learning opportunities for employees to access when they are on break, or when they get too fatigued or hot to work. Organizations create learning rooms where employees can access self-directed learning on topics that would be useful for them – either work-related or pertaining to stress management, fatigue, and wellness. These breaks are an ideal time for employees to train.

Help them stay cool.

Consider providing water and other cold beverages to help your workforce cool off during their breaks. Many employers stock coolers or refrigerators with water, Gatorade (or drinks with electrolytes), and other fluids for employees to freely access. This ensures that workers stay hydrated, thereby minimizing their risk of illness or injury on the job. Some employers also offer “cool treats” on occasion to employees. This can be a great morale booster and shows special appreciation for employees working amidst hot conditions. 

There are several other ways to help employees stay cool. Use recovery areas, such as air-conditioned rooms and enclosures. Add as much ventilation, air-cooling, and insulation as possible to the work environment. Additionally, invest in thermally conditioned clothing for employees such as ice vests, water-cooled garments, and apparel with self-contained air-conditioning.

Be aware that you may also have to help employees “cool off” not only physically, but also in an emotional sense. The discomfort heat causes can enhance irritability and anger, creating more conflict. Employees may fight more with their coworkers or lose patience easily, as a result of the intense physical conditions in which they are working. 

Minimize heat risks.

Educate employees on the signs of heat exhaustion and other heat related injuries and illnesses.  Make them aware of the symptoms to look for when on the job during hot conditions. Additionally, be aware of any employees that are more at risk of heat related issues (i.e. employees with health issues, older employees, pregnant women, etc.) and monitor them a bit more closely on the job or make special arrangements to reduce risks. Also, consider assigning more workers or using relief staff to help reduce heat stress.

Additionally, be aware of potential safety issues that arise during hot weather. Safety procedures have a tendency to be overlooked when heat persists. Personal protective equipment may become uncomfortable to wear; sweat may cause hands to slip; among other issues.  Find ways to maintain safety and reduce risks of work injuries.

Recently, OSHA created an application for SmartPhones which allows employees and supervisors to monitor the heat index at their work sites to prevent heat-related illnesses and injuries.  The application provides users with information about specific precautions they can take to reduce their risks. This application is part of OSHA’s on-going efforts to deal with the dangers of extreme heat, and can be downloaded here.

While all of these precautions and actions are beneficial to help employees “beat the heat,” most importantly, be sympathetic and understanding with employees who work in uncomfortable conditions. Make sure to ask them how they are doing throughout the day and express consideration for the challenges they are experiencing. Do everything you can as an HR professional or manager to support these employees on the job.

Additional Resources

Preferred Partners ERC partners with a number of organizations that can provide support to employers in the areas of OSHA safety training and compliance, health and safety training, workers compensation, and even workplace water solutions. 

e-Learning Center
ERC’s e-Learning Center provides thousands of self-directed courses for employees to access at an affordable cost. These courses are ideal for employers looking to provide learning opportunities for employees to access on breaks. In addition, to learn more about other training and learning opportunities offered by ERC, please click here.

Workers Compensation and FMLA - Are You Confused?

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FMLA

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 provides job protection benefits to eligible employees who need time away from work for their own serious health condition or to care for covered family members with a serious health condition. The law applies to employers with 50 or more employees and allows an eligible employee to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12 month period of time.

WORKERS COMPENSATION

Almost every state has a workers compensation law which guarantees income or wage replacement to an employee who is injured on the job.  In Ohio lost wages can come from a self insured employer, or the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.  Ohio is monopolistic state fund which provides the injured worker who has lost eight or more days of work to be compensated for their lost wages as a percentage of their actual wages with limitations.

The Relationship between the Two… 

So how does workers compensation interact with FMLA, since workers’ compensation is not necessarily considered a leave law?    For FMLA purposes employers must remember injuries occurring on the job or which are considered ‘workers compensation claims’ are not precluded as being serious health conditions under FMLA.  On the job injuries requiring inpatient or ongoing treatment and/or determined to be a “serious health condition” under the DOL FMLA regulations should be considered as FMLA.   The circumstances and medical information for each case must be carefully reviewed to determine if the definition of serious health condition is met under the DOL guidelines. 

If the definition of serious health condition is met, it is imperative the employer check the employee’s eligibility for FMLA.  To be eligible for FMLA, the employee must have worked 1250 hours in the 12 months from the date preceding the leave; AND worked at least 12 months with the employer in past 7 years; AND have available FMLA hours.  If the employee meets the eligibility criteria the employer is required to notify the employee in writing the leave will be designated as FMLA and will be counted toward the employee’s 12 week FMLA entitlement.

One of the most common mistakes employers make is failing to run the workers’ compensation and FMLA concurrently. 

Visit http://www.careworksabsence.com/ for questions or additional information.

Is Your FMLA Program putting you at Risk?

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Employers are increasingly faced with significant challenges in effectively managing FML and state leave related absences. Inappropriate administration and mismanagement of absences can cost an employer millions of dollars in revenue, production and legal fees. Today’s employees are becoming more knowledgeable on the use of FML and state leave benefits. As their knowledge and use of these benefits increase, so too will your associated administrative and personnel costs. To combat increasing costs associated with employee absences, it is both financially and administratively critical to have a solid, well governed absence management program in place.

FMLA Non-Compliance Costs of 2011

  • According to the Society for Human Resource Management, the average cost to defend a FMLA lawsuit is $78,000 , regardless of the outcome.
  • Employees who successfully sued for wrongful termination based on FMLA Absence received on average between $87,500 - $450,000 in damages (Source: EEOC.)
  • According to the U.S. Department of Labor, managers and supervisors can be sued directly and held personally liable for paying damages (Shultz v. Advocate Health & Hospitals Corp.)

Are you in Violation?

Among the most frequent FMLA violations is the failure on the part of the employer to notify the employee of his or her FMLA rights.  Failure to notify the employee that the leave counted toward the employee’s 12-week entitlement is the second most common violation.   Violations like these can be cost employers significant dollars in litigation alone. Other common violations include:

  • Taking disciplinary action against an employee for using FMLA
  • Failure to grant leave to provide physical care or psychological comfort to a seriously ill parent or child
  • Failure to reinstate employees to the same or an equivalent position, including same shift
  • Terminating an employee during or at the conclusion of FMLA leave
  • Failure to grant FMLA leave because of misunderstanding of what qualifies as a serious health condition
  • Failure to request medical certification in writing and not giving an employee at least 15 days to obtain medical certification

(Source: United States Department of Labor)

Contact CareWorks USA at myfmla@careworks.com for assistance with FMLA or visit http://www.careworksabsence.com/.  

More Employers Invest in Training, Survey Says

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According to the results of the 2011 ERC/Smart Business Workplace Practices Survey, the percentage of organizations providing employees with financial assistance for employees to upgrade their skills increased from 2008. In 2011, 91% of organizations report providing such assistance – the highest it has been since 2007. 2010 showed that the percentage of employers paying for training and development decreased, but now appears to be rising again.

While employers continue to use classroom training, tuition assistance, and other traditional avenues to develop their employees’ skills, they are increasingly leveraging web-based methods and e-learning for training. Specifically, 71% of respondents indicated that they used web-based training for employee development, a significant increase of 39% from 2007 and 43% since 2004.

“This survey shows that a growing number of organizations recognize the value of providing financial assistance for employees to upgrade their skills. Employee training programs are a vital part of developing and retaining top talent at all levels of an organization,” says Kelly Keefe, President of ERC.

ERC provides customized training courses for organizations across the nation.

Train Your Employees

4 Ways to Manage Employees’ Needs

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We often define quality of managers by how they make us feel – how they energize and move us through encouragement, support, and inspiration. As a manager, your role is similar to an essential energy source – feeding employees’ needs and sustaining your team’s motivation. Knowing how to energize and motivate your employees requires addressing (4) of their most basic needs.

1. Am I supporting my employees’ physical well-being?

At the most fundamental level, employees need to feel that their managers care about their well-being. Employees’ most basic physical needs, such as rest, fitness, and proper nutrition, support physical health and the energy employees need to perform well. These are all needs which a manager can support through reasonable working conditions, adequate concern for well-being, and an appropriate level of consideration for work/life issues. Managers aren’t always cognizant of unmet physical needs. Additionally, they may be unaware of their coercive style’s affect on the physical well-being of employees. Numerous studies now document the correlation between negative management relations and coronary heart disease, poor mental health, among other health conditions.

2. Am I creating and contributing to a positive atmosphere?

Employees work best when there is positive energy in the work environment to meet their emotional and social needs. Employees have a need to belong, be accepted, and feel part of a team. They need a sense of security and to feel supported and respected. What this means for a manager is cultivating an environment that encourages collaboration, teamwork, and support; and striving for minimal conflict and productive working relationships, both with subordinates and among coworkers. It also means understanding that employees need acceptance and acknowledgement from others, and providing recognition. Creating positive energy doesn’t mean not addressing problems, but does mean that these problems are dealt with in a courteous, respectful, and constructive manner.

3. Am I providing enough challenge and mental stimulation?

Next, there are mental needs, which deal with challenge, personal development, and mental stimulation. Employees have needs for continuous intellectual development and cognitive stimulation. When these needs aren’t met, employees tend to become stagnant, bored, and eventually dissatisfied. Managers can support mental needs by providing intellectual challenge and opportunities for employees to expand current knowledge and thought processes; increasing employees’ ability to work creatively and independently; and offering continuous opportunities to grow new skills. Managers who energize and stretch the minds of their employees foster higher levels of engagement.

4. Do my employees understand that their work matters?

Finally, beyond mental needs, are self-actualized needs. These needs including finding meaning in our work, feeling fulfilled and that we’re making a difference, taking pride in our work and what we do, and being able to see how it impacts others and those we serve. Sometimes employees can’t see the big picture or lose sight of the mission. For these reasons, managers need to define purpose, show employees’ how their work matters, illustrate how it makes an impact, and connect individual goals and contributions to the department and organization. Employees have a basic need to understand that their work matters and is important. This purpose fuels their motivation.

There are many well-documented adverse effects that can occur when these needs go unfulfilled in the workplace. Because these needs directly impact on the energy and motivation of our workforce, as managers, we need to understand the importance of helping employees’ meet these basic needs to energize and motivate our teams.

Additional Resources

Supervisory Series
In the series, participants will gain an understanding of their role as a supervisor as well as employment law as it relates to common supervisory issues. They will also learn how to apply basic managerial and interpersonal skills including dealing with the everyday challenges of being a supervisor, communicating effectively with others, resolving workplace conflict, managing performance, and coaching.

Management & Leadership DevelopmentERC offers several courses in management and leadership development on topics related to communication, conflict management, performance management, project management, problem solving and general leadership. These courses can also be customized to your organization’s unique needs. For more information, please contact ckutsko@yourerc.com.

Employers Increasingly Offering Health Savings Plans

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According to the results of the 2011 ERC/Smart Business Workplace Practices Survey, the percentage of Northeast Ohio employers offering health savings plans continued to increase from its current 35% – the highest percentage reported by the survey since 2003. The survey, conducted in partnership with Smart Business Magazine, showed a steady increase in the percentage of Northeast Ohio employers offering health savings plans over the years, indicating that this benefit is increasing in popularity.

The results of the survey also showed that health insurance premiums were continuing to rise, and more employers said that health insurance costs are a growing challenge for their businesses. Specifically, organizations report a 10% increase in health insurance premiums from 2010, an increase of 1% from 2010, and the highest increase from 2007 based on the survey results. Employers appeared to be turning to alternative health care options, such as health savings plans, to manage rising costs.

 “The increase in Health Savings Plans (HSA’s) is not surprising as more employers are seeking ways to balance providing competitive benefits with gaining more control over rising health insurance costs,” says Patrick Perry, President of ERC.

To download the free results of this survey, please click here