More Employers Have Space and Policies for Nursing Mothers

The 2010 ERC Health Care Reform Issues Survey shows that the regulations imposed by the health care reform law appear to have influenced Northeast Ohio employers’ practices for nursing mothers. When compared to 2009, nearly all (98%) employers surveyed now have space set aside for nursing mothers, compared to only 79% of employers in 2009. All respondents with fewer than 100 employees and over 500 employees had these spaces.

Similarly, many more employers (28%) have nursing mothers’ policies in place compared to 2009 (6%). Larger organizations (over 500 employees) were more likely to have nursing mother policies compared to smaller organizations (fewer than 100 employees).

The survey’s results show that since the law’s regulations went into place in 2010, which required employers to provide nursing mothers with reasonable break time for nursing activities and functional space to do so, employers have changed many of their practices relative to nursing mothers.

9 Best Practices for Employee Engagement Initiatives

A successful employee engagement initiative can make lasting and effective changes in the workplace.

Here are nine (9) best practices for your employee engagement initiatives. 

Collect data.

Conduct a regular employee engagement survey either every year or every other year. Organizations that consistently measure and track how well they are engaging employees are better able to assess areas of strength and opportunity in their workplaces to impact engagement. Most organizations that evaluate employee engagement survey employees at least every other year. If your organization is smaller, it may consider conducting a more informal benchmark for employee engagement such as interviews or one-on-one meetings.

Seek an external comparison.

Benchmark how well your workplace practices compare to other organizations. An external comparison is as important as an internal benchmark. You’ll need to know how your organization’s practices relative to engaging employees stack up against other organizations, particularly with those you are competing for talent. Market surveys, great workplace programs, and other audits can all provide helpful external benchmark information. Some organizations that conduct employee engagement surveys also provide normative comparisons.

Identify overall drivers.

Know the drivers of employee engagement at your organization. Drivers are simply those aspects that are most commonly and significantly driving employee engagement either up or down at your organization. There are many different facets of the workplace experience that influence engagement to varying degrees, but your resources and time are limited so you need to know which aspects are most important. By identifying the true drivers of engagement for your organization, you can focus your efforts on the things that matter most to your workforce and top people. A good employee engagement strategy is all about targeting the right things – not everything.

Identify individual drivers.

Many engagement initiatives fall short of identifying individual drivers of employee engagement - largely because this responsibility should fall on managers and supervisors. Managers and supervisors need to find out what engages each of their employees, and particularly their top people, through observation and conversations. These insights can be gleaned through day to day interactions, performance management, and communication. However, most managers and supervisors just aren’t attuned or trained to recognize what engagement is and why it matters. Your responsibility is to ensure that they have the right skills and resources to positively impact engagement.

Keep it relatively simple.

Scoring which is difficult to understand or results that includes too many segments or breakouts of data can detract from obtaining value in the process. If you conduct engagement surveys, make sure the scoring can be easily understood by those interpreting the results. Also, keep data segments and breakouts to a minimum so that the initiative does not become about “fixing” certain people, departments, or areas of business, but rather improving the engagement of employees.

Meet and discuss engagement with your leaders.

Once a survey, feedback, and/or benchmarking initiative had been conducted to evaluate employee engagement and how you compare internally and externally, it’s important to meet and discuss the results with your leaders. This ensures that engagement is seen as part of the larger business strategy and receives support. Key tips for creating this dialogue include: create an executive summary to help them digest the information obtained, tie the results back to issues of importance to them (business strategy, etc.), back your points with data and numbers, and provide recommendations for how to improve engagement. Another way you can make the results meaningful to your leaders is by providing segments of information that are important to them – such as engagement scores by the business’ divisions. The most successful engagement projects we’ve seen are those that are conducted with leadership support and participation from initial communications and analysis of the results to action planning.

Set goals aligned with employee engagement.

Having an employee engagement-focused strategy can help you set goals for your department and organization. Common goals that impact employee engagement include increasing employee engagement scores by a certain percentage, reducing voluntary turnover, enhancing communications effectiveness, increasing development opportunities, or even impacting the bottom line. Whatever these goals may be, they should be in line with the drivers of engagement and the areas of need. In turn, you should be able to tie these goals back to the larger business strategy. Be able to address why each goal is important to the business’ direction to gain support.

Create action plans, on-going conversations, forums, and follow-up.

Once you’ve set goals to improve employee engagement, create action plans to impact those goals.  We find that there tends to be a great deal of momentum initially right after an engagement survey that can become lost over time. To ensure that your goals are met and receive the support they need to be successful, create action plans with specific timetables, roles, and accountabilities. Additionally, if employee engagement is truly an important organizational initiative, it should permeate your organization and drive the actions of HR, managers, and leaders. Many organizations have on-going conversations and forums to discuss employee engagement and keep going back to the survey data.

Implement changes.

Lastly, implementing changes in an employee engagement initiative is crucial. Your organization should follow-up on the areas needing improvement either through direct change or acknowledgement of employees’ feedback, especially prior to surveying them in the future. If you plan to ask employees for their feedback – be prepared to respond because not making changes can lead to negative effects. It’s always a good practice to make any small changes quickly and to save the larger changes for later.

Additional Resources

Employee Engagement Surveys
ERC’s services are used by many local employers to gauge their employees’ engagement, identify drivers of engagement, benchmark scores to other local organizations, and help you translate the data into real, actionable changes. Click here to learn more.

NorthCoast 99
Benchmark how your organization’s workplace practices surrounding the attraction, retention, and engagement of employees compare to other employers by applying for the NorthCoast 99 award. All applicants receive free benchmark reports just for applying. 

Supervisory/Managerial Training
Are your supervisors and managers equipped to engage employees? Give them the right skills and competencies to impact engagement. Click here to learn more.

Interviewing Tips: What to Say and Ask (PDF)

When conducting an interview, employers and their hiring managers need to keep in mind what to say and what not to say and ask in an interview to stay legal, attract great talent, and make good hiring decisions.

We've compiled a list of What to Say, What and What Not to Ask, How to Ask and How to Close. Click below to download the PDF:

Download: Interviewing Tips: What to Say and Ask (PDF)

Additional Resources

Interviewing Skills Training

To learn more about interviewing, including legal issues, effective questions, planning and evaluation strategies, and actual practice in preparing and delivering interviews, consider attending ERC’s upcoming workshop on “Interviewing Skills for Managers & Supervisors.” For more information or to register, please click here. Or, for interviewing training delivered on-site and customized to your organization’s needs, please contact ckutsko@yourerc.com.

 

Most Local Employers Plan to Hire in 2011

According to a recent survey conducted by ERC, nearly all (90%) of the Northeast Ohio employers surveyed plan to hire in 2011. Intent to hire was more likely among larger and for-profit organizations than smaller organizations and non-profits.

The survey shows that the most common positions employers are planning to hire are related to manufacturing, engineering, information technology, sales, customer service, marketing, and office/administrative, suggesting that such jobs are in high demand in Northeast Ohio.

12 Implications of Health Care Reform

In response to the 2011 health reform, insurance carriers increase premiums. As employers start dealing with the law’s new requirements, there is a heightened focus on providing better education and communication to employees, on negotiating and investigating alternative options, making smarter benefits decisions, and enhancing wellness programs. Here are 12 ways in which health care reform impacts how we do business now and in the future.

1. Increased cost-sharing

Cost-sharing between employers and their employees for health insurance continues to increase. This is one of the easiest ways to manage health insurance costs, but naturally has effects on employee engagement and morale that employers need to consider. The average cost-sharing arrangement has steadily increased in the years preceding 2011.

2. Education about health benefits

Education about how employees can be better health care consumers is becoming more imperative. Often employees do not understand how usage affects costs and need to be educated buyers when using their health insurance plans. Ideas for education efforts other employers have initiated include:

  • Explain the costs associated with health care decisions (i.e. going to the emergency room vs. their primary care physician).
  • Show employees the drivers of health care costs at the organization.
  • Communicate what employees can and need to do in order to maintain or reduce their current costs. Specific actions steps are recommended.
  • Expand education to spouses who are also users of the plan.
  • Provide employees with key questions to ask their doctor.
  • Make health insurance an on-going conversation and communication effort with quarterly meetings to discuss trends, employee forums to discuss suggestions, and other media to disseminate wellness and health insurance information.

3. Use of benefit statements

Benefit or total rewards statements are a widespread and important communication tool that show employees how much the organization is investing in their benefits, and particularly their health insurance. Showing employees actual dollar amounts and levels of coverage your organization has been shown to enhance satisfaction and improve understanding.

4. Review of plan design

Reviews of plan design are increasingly occurring. Plan design should be reviewed carefully and different scenarios should be run and analyzed. Raising deductibles or co-pays to offset other costs or providing a health savings account (HSA) or health reimbursement account (HRA) are options to consider. But it’s also important to pay attention to the level of benefits that other employers are providing. Conducting an annual benefits analysis can help determine where employer benefits could be modified without compromising competitiveness.

5. Negotiation of options

Taking responsibility for your health care costs and seeking additional bids from other carriers is a necessity. Inquire about other options from your broker that reduce costs and provide greater wellness resources to help employees better manage their health. Your broker may not freely offer this information, so take initiative and ask.

6. Implementation of restrictions or penalties

Increasingly, organizations are implementing more restrictions in their health insurance plans such as spousal carve-out provisions and higher premiums for smokers. Shifting additional costs or penalties to unhealthy workers, although not widespread, is becoming more popular and may help reduce or manage health care costs.

7. Offering of incentives

Incentive use for wellness program participation is expanding. A chief reason that wellness programs may not reduce your organization’s health care costs is lack of participation. Studies continue to show, however, that employees are more likely to participate in programs when meaningful incentives are offered, such as discounts on health insurance premiums.

8. Health risk assessments

Usage of these assessments is becoming very common as they can be valuable data-gathering tools for both organizations and employees. Employees can attain greater insight into health risk areas and organizations can receive an aggregate report of areas where employees need wellness assistance. Wellness programs can then be targeted to those needs. 

9. Free prevention services

Services like flu shots, health screenings, cholesterol and blood pressure checks, vaccinations, and other yearly screenings are increasingly offered in the workplace.  By providing free wellness services on-site, you can decrease usage thereby managing costs better. Also, educate employees to take advantage of the new provision of health care reform which provides free annual preventative services.

10. Wellness initiatives tied to health insurance costs

Wellness initiatives are obviously one of the best ways to reduce health care costs and the majority of employers either have one in place or are planning on initiating one. When planning wellness initiatives, be sure to not only emphasize how your organization is supporting employees’ well-being, but also how these programs are intended to assist employees in better managing and maintaining their health care costs. Employees need to see the connection.

11. Promotion of healthy habits

Recently, we’ve found that more organizations are promoting healthy habits to deal with increasing health care costs through internal nutritional standards, on-site fitness activities, and educational efforts like seminars, paper materials, and online information. Create the “norm” of healthy behavior in your workplace to manage health care costs.

12. Make it a team effort

Involving employees in solving health insurance problems can be effective. Encourage them to get involved in suggesting or implementing wellness activities and to provide their feedback on health insurance options. Collaborating and creating a conversation with your staff can help generate greater buy-in about health care decisions and limit negative perceptions of change.

Navigating health care reform and its effects won’t be easy, but we’re seeing many employers taking a proactive approach and implementing a variety of initiatives to cope, educate, and manage the law’s changes and effects on their businesses. 

Additional Resources

ERC Health
Visit www.erchealth.com to learn about our health insurance offerings for small and mid-sized businesses.

HR Help Desk
For more information and guidance pertaining to any of the content in this article, please contact hrhelp@yourerc.com.

Employees Sharing More of Health Insurance Costs

According to ERC’s 2011/2012 Policies & Benefits Survey, the average health insurance deductible paid by employees (as reported by Northeast Ohio employers) increased significantly from 2009. Employees' co-pay amounts and contributions to health insurance premiums also showed slight increases from 2009.

The results of the survey, which provided detailed information on a variety of health plans and health insurance practices, appeared to suggest that organizations continued to increase cost-sharing with employees to cope with rises in costs.

Specifically, the survey provided detailed information about eligibility for coverage, medical plan options, and detailed practices for HMO, PPO/POS, Indemnity, and High Deductible Plans including percent of medical premium paid; average amounts of co-pays, lifetime maximums, and annual deductibles; and in-network and out-of-network amounts. It also covered information about Health Savings Accounts in terms of average annual contributions, services covered, and out-of-pocket expense limitations, as well as Health Reimbursement Accounts, Prescription Drug Plans, and much more.

 

Employers' Use of On-Site Sales Training Rises from 2010

A 2011 survey shows that U.S. employers increased their use of on-site sales training from the previous year. The percentage of employers using on-site classroom training also slightly increased from 2010.

“Although the survey shows that employers are continuing to teach sales skills and techniques on-the job, we’re also seeing increased usage of outside training for sales professionals, including on-site classroom instruction and seminars,” says an ERC Sales Trainer & Consultant.

The Trainer & Consultant adds, “These methods of training are invaluable in helping sales professionals learn and practice different sales techniques like identifying needs, closing sales, and building relationships, and also support and compliment on-the-job sales training programs. In addition, skills coaching, delivered either one-on-one or in small groups, is another effective avenue for sales professionals to refine their skills and help ensure that on-the-job training translates into results.”

For more information on ERC On-Site Sales Training or Skills Coaching, please contact ckutsko@yourerc.com

Preliminary Findings - Hiring & Selection Practices Survey

The preliminary findings of ERC’s 2011 Hiring & Selection Practices Survey, which explored practices including background and drug screening, references, testing, and other hiring practices (including local hiring metrics), showed several clear trends in local employers’ hiring and selection practices.

  • Over three-quarters of employers plan to hire in 2011.
  • Over half of employers say that a job candidate’s current or previous salary (as reported on application) influences their decision to not hire an applicant.
  • About a quarter of employers report that a job candidate’s indication or request to not call a past or current employer influences their decision to not hire an applicant.
  • Over 70% of employers conduct reference checks, typically in-house versus using a vendor.
  • Employers most commonly use employment tests to evaluate administrative/clerical and management positions.

15 Ways to Reduce Hiring & Termination Liability

Issues involving hiring and termination liability are two of employers’ most common questions and concerns. Here are 15 ways that you and your managers can reduce liability when hiring and terminating employees. 

  1. Conduct a thorough and documented job analysis to determine the essential functions of each position in your organization and provide a foundation for selection and hiring practices. This analysis yields information about which duties are essential and also identifies the knowledge, skills, and abilities required. Documentation of the essential functions for each position is necessary to comply with the American Disabilities Act (ADA).
  2. Identify the actual qualification requirements needed for the position. Studies show that employers tend to overestimate degree and experience requirements, in particular, which may not truly be necessary for the position and could screen out potential candidates. This can lead to discriminatory practices.
  3. Ensure that you know the types of disabilities covered under the ADA. These have expanded over time and include a range of conditions that many employers often do not consider (i.e. depression, allergies, obesity, etc.). Current or prospective employees with the following disabilities may be covered by this law.
  4. Know your accommodation options. The Job Accommodation Network provides a great deal of information to employers on the types of possible accommodations that are appropriate to provide for certain disabilities. The sample accommodations cited on this website are useful and practical for many organizations to employ in order to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.
  5. Make sure that employment applications do not request certain demographic information including graduation dates (or other information that would yield data about the candidate’s age), questions about physical appearance and characteristics (such as height and weight), credit history, sex, gender, religion, national origin, marital/family status, schedules, and disabilities.
  6. Create a selection plan for each job you plan to hire for using the same selection procedures or consistently apply the same selection practices for all positions if standardized practices are necessary (i.e. if you use a background check for one applicant, use it for all applicants). All job applicants for a position need to be evaluated using the same criteria.
  7. Design structured and objective tools or processes to score applicants on job-related criteria, such as rating scales or interview forms. These can help prevent personal and non-job-related information from being used in the selection process.
  8. Pre-determine hiring questions so that hiring managers do not ask or consider inappropriate personal information. Training hiring managers in interviewing is also beneficial so that they are aware of appropriate and inappropriate questions and interview protocol.
  9. Avoid using non-job-related criteria to make selection decisions. Specifically, avoid using unemployment status or age (young or old) as factors when hiring employees. The EEOC is currently exploring these discriminatory practices in greater depth.
  10. Evaluate employment tests for validity, job-relatedness, and adverse impact. Selection tests need to be evaluated in terms of whether they are causing adverse impact for protected groups.  In addition, usage of certain cut scores can also cause liabilities, if it results in adverse impact. Selection tests also need to be validated and directly related to the job. The Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures is a helpful set of guidelines on the use of testing in the workplace.
  11. Do not use genetic information for hiring purposes. GINA (Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act) prohibits the use of genetic information, such as family medical history, for hiring. 
  12. Protect against negligent hiring. Employers should consider using screening practices such as background and reference checks and credential verifications (such as education, licenses, past work, etc.). Credit checks and motor vehicle reports may also be necessary for some jobs.
  13. Monitor pay practices, per the Equal Pay Act, which prohibits unequal pay for equal work. Per the law, all employees should be paid equal pay for equal work on jobs which require substantially equal skill, effort, and responsibility and is performed under similar working conditions. Pay comparisons and statistical tests should be conducted for employees completing equal work to ensure fair and equal pay practices.
  14. Document performance and non-compliance with policies. All incidents of performance (including conversations about the performance incidents, non-compliance with policies, corrective action taken, etc.) need to be documented in the event that your organization needs to terminate an employee. It helps to have an established performance management system to support supervisors and managers in documenting employees’ behaviors. Should your organization need to terminate an individual, it will need to have verifiable facts to back up its decision.
  15. Keep processes transparent. By providing job applicants or employees with fact-based reasons for your hiring and termination decisions, they are less likely to believe that other personal factors played a role in the decision (such as their race or gender). Oral or written feedback is advised.

We often find that liability problems emerge when employment decisions are not based on job-related and objective criteria, when practices lack consistency and equity, and when documentation is not being used. It’s important for HR and managers alike to be educated about how to prevent these liabilities.

Should your organization need more information or education on this topic, consider accessing our resources, training programs, and services below.

Additional Resources

Job Descriptions & Selection Assessments
For more information about how ERC can help your organization with job description projects or selection assessments, please contact consulting@yourerc.com.

HR Help Desk
For more information and guidance pertaining to any of the content in this article, please contact hrhelp@yourerc.com.

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