A Timeline of Employee Benefits

Employee Benefits Timeline

Employer-sponsored benefits haven’t always been a part of the new hire process. In fact, most of the legally required employee benefits that candidates have come to appreciate as part of their onboarding process, weren’t developed until the early 1900s. Employee benefits, as we now know them, are the accumulation of different programs, research, plans, and policies, that were all put in place deliberately to improve the lives of employees and strengthen the bond between the employer and employee.

Traditional benefits include everything from paid time off and holiday pay, life insurance, retirement benefits, and healthcare, while voluntary benefits can include everything from tuition reimbursement and stock ownership, to child care stipends. Benefits required by law include employer contributions to programs like Social Security, Medicare, and workers’ compensation.

Check out this timeline for a high-level history of how employees went from paying all benefits out-of-pocket to employer-sponsored benefit plans. To learn more about employer-sponsored benefits that meet the changing needs of your employees, click here.

Employee Benefits Timeline

2021 New Year Business Goals and Strategies

Businessman viewing 2021 new year mountain landscape

A new year oftentimes signifies a new chapter, which can be applied to personal and professional goals. As businesses continue recovering and addressing the COVID-19 situation into the new year, many are also strategizing new business goals. Here are a few business goals and strategies to consider in the new year.

  • Revamp Marketing. Perhaps your company underwent some hiccups in response to COVID-19’s impact on the economy. From developing timely, well-written employee and client communications, to pausing marketing efforts not directly impactful to the immediate clients’ needs, businesses likely had to adapt their approach to how they operate and finding a work-life balance. The new year is the time to re-evaluate your marketing efforts. Look at what worked and what didn’t – revamp what works and prepare to integrate it into the new year business strategies. For example, perhaps you sent out a communication that wasn’t effective (i.e., low engagement). Try A/B testing different aspects of the communication, such as subject lines, placement of links and buttons, images, etc. Stay in-tune with the latest social media marketing trends. Experiment with paid ads. Whatever marketing method that could improve your business, now is the time to try.
  • Improving Community Outreach. Even if you’re unable to donate monetary contributions, there are plenty of other ways to give back to your community. Discounts to your products and services that directly assist with a problem the community is facing (i.e., South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance donated face masks to law enforcement and two school districts), creating a volunteer day as a company-wide effort to volunteer at local organizations, and matching employee donations made to qualifying nonprofits are all examples of how you may improve or integrate community outreach.
  • Promoting Professional Development. January is National Mentoring Month, where business leaders and employees focus on collaboration and promoting networking and mentorship to young professionals. A great way to help incentivize employees in the new year is promoting professional development. Consider starting a mentoring program that raises awareness of the value mentoring offers, invests in high-performing workers to promote their roles to young professionals interested, and improve recruiting efforts. If you already have a mentoring program, conduct an audit to see what can be improved, as well as consider additional professional development opportunities, such as webinars, business summits, and tuition assistance.
  • Prioritizing Health and Wellness. Due to the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, prioritizing health and wellness should be incorporated into your business goals and strategies. Across the globe, many countries only allocate 2% of their national health budgets on mental health.[1] Yet, mental health-related issues* have skyrocketed as a direct impact of COVID (i.e., social isolation, financial disparities, and bereavement). Additionally, people cope with stress, anxiety, and other emotions stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic differently. The closure of fitness clubs, restaurants, and remote work have led to unhealthy habits, such as sleep disruption or altered sleep patterns, changes to eating habits, decrease in physical activity, and increased use of substances.[2] Some ways to help combat unhealthy habits may include revamping employee benefit plans to employees’ needs, exploring ancillary benefits (i.e., telehealth, cross-border benefits, and financial wellness), and developing additional resources as needed (i.e., employee assistance program).

If you’re looking for innovative ways to improve your business strategy or need assistance in achieving your business goals, consider partnering with a trusted professional employer organization (PEO) like VensureHR. Our industry experts can provide you best practices, resources, tools, and exceptional support to ensure you boost your success in the new year. Contact us today to learn more!

 

*The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided mental health information and resources.

 

 

Sources:

Entrepreneur

Inc.com


[1] World Health Organization

[2] Medical News Today

Prepare for the New Year in a New Normal

2020 has been nothing short of stressful, frustrating, and unpredictable. As businesses approach a new year, it is the perfect time to re-evaluate operational and organizational efficiencies. Preparing for the new normal in 2021 may look a little different than most years as the COVID situation continues to evolve. Some topics that might be worth exploring and addressing include continuing recovery, creating a business strategy for extended remote work and worst-case scenarios, resuming business travel, and year end reviews. Continued Business Recovery Part of survival in any business is adaptability. It is imperative for businesses to be agile in their operational and organizational structure to promptly adjust to unforeseen crises or events that impact such efficiencies, like COVID. One way to continue business recovery is examining areas of improvement. Digital wellness is one area where most businesses can still improve. With a majority of companies shifting to a remote work setting, bridging the gap between IT and HR is one of many ways businesses may boost digital wellness in the virtual workplace. Developing a Business Strategy Developing a business strategy is in the core foundation of business best practices. It helps outline a path and appropriate responses for obstacles along the way. Your business strategy should address remote work, addressing workplace safety, and employee wellness to ensure effective communication is utilized, staffing needs are met, and employee well-being is prioritized. Additionally, developing a crisis management plan – or updating an existing one – to encompass public health crises is integral to effective business strategies. This is where worst-case scenarios should be addressed, such as if an employee receives a positive COVID test result and extensions to remote work policies should the COVID situation continue to evolve in the new year. Resuming Business Travel and Events Some businesses have already resumed business travel, but have restricted employees to travel only for essential business-related events. Additional precautions businesses may implement are self-quarantine periods upon return from business travel, daily employee health screenings, and/or discounts or perks for alternative means of travel (i.e., driving vs flying). A great alternative to attending in-person events is hosting webinars. Webinars are great tools for connecting businesses to a wide range of clients, business owners, and other relevant professionals in their industry. For example, VensureHR has hosted many webinars for various HR topics, such as COVID-related topics, mental health issues in the workplace, and other general HR topics. Year End Reviews As you approach the new year, whether you’ve laid off or furloughed employees since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, end of year reviews are a great opportunity to reward your employees, as well as re-evaluate your business goals for the upcoming year. A year end review template may include four sections, and should be a two-way conversation: 1. Checking in: This can be an opening, casual dialogue discussing general topics (i.e., workflow, holiday plans, etc.) and the overall purpose of this year end review. 2. One-year reflection: This section should include employee progress, addressing obstacles, and areas of improvement. 3. Looking to the future: This part may focus on goal setting, i.e., specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based (SMART) goals. 4. Next steps: To close out the end of year review, recap the goals discussed, as well as any next steps each individual must take. To help prepare you for the New Year in the new normal, partnering with a PEO like VensureHR may be in your best interest. From HR and employee benefits to payroll and risk management, our industry-leading PEO services offer innovative, cost-effective business solutions for companies of all sizes across various industries. Contact us to learn more. Sources: VensureHR: Navigating the Remote Workplace VensureHR: The Power of Webinars VensureHR: Post-COVID Tips for Resuming Business Travel Inc.com

2020 has been nothing short of stressful, frustrating, and unpredictable. As businesses approach a new year, it is the perfect time to re-evaluate operational and organizational efficiencies. Preparing for the new normal in 2021 may look a little different than most years as the COVID situation continues to evolve. Some topics that might be worth exploring and addressing include continuing recovery, creating a business strategy for extended remote work and worst-case scenarios, resuming business travel, and year end reviews.

Continued Business Recovery

Part of survival in any business is adaptability. It is imperative for businesses to be agile in their operational and organizational structure to promptly adjust to unforeseen crises or events that impact such efficiencies, like COVID. One way to continue business recovery is examining areas of improvement. Digital wellness is one area where most businesses can still improve. With a majority of companies shifting to a remote work setting, bridging the gap between IT and HR is one of many ways businesses may boost digital wellness in the virtual workplace.

Developing a Business Strategy

Developing a business strategy is in the core foundation of business best practices. It helps outline a path and appropriate responses for obstacles along the way. Your business strategy should address remote work, addressing workplace safety, and employee wellness to ensure effective communication is utilized, staffing needs are met, and employee well-being is prioritized.

Additionally, developing a crisis management plan – or updating an existing one – to encompass public health crises is integral to effective business strategies. This is where worst-case scenarios should be addressed, such as if an employee receives a positive COVID test result and extensions to remote work policies should the COVID situation continue to evolve in the new year.

Resuming Business Travel and Events

Some businesses have already resumed business travel, but have restricted employees to travel only for essential business-related events. Additional precautions businesses may implement are self-quarantine periods upon return from business travel, daily employee health screenings, and/or discounts or perks for alternative means of travel (i.e., driving vs flying).

A great alternative to attending in-person events is hosting webinars. Webinars are great tools for connecting businesses to a wide range of clients, business owners, and other relevant professionals in their industry. For example, VensureHR has hosted many webinars for various HR topics, such as COVID-related topics, mental health issues in the workplace, and other general HR topics.

Year End Reviews

As you approach the new year, whether you’ve laid off or furloughed employees since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, end of year reviews are a great opportunity to reward your employees, as well as re-evaluate your business goals for the upcoming year.

A year end review template may include four sections, and should be a two-way conversation:

  1. Checking in: This can be an opening, casual dialogue discussing general topics (i.e., workflow, holiday plans, etc.) and the overall purpose of this year end review.
  2. One-year reflection:  This section should include employee progress, addressing obstacles, and areas of improvement.
  3. Looking to the future: This part may focus on goal setting, i.e., specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based (SMART) goals.
  4. Next steps: To close out the end of year review, recap the goals discussed, as well as any next steps each individual must take.

To help prepare you for the New Year in the new normal, partnering with a PEO like VensureHR may be in your best interest. From HR and employee benefits to payroll and risk management, our industry-leading PEO services offer innovative, cost-effective business solutions for companies of all sizes across various industries. Contact us to learn more.

 

Sources:
VensureHR: Navigating the Remote Workplace
VensureHR: The Power of Webinars
VensureHR: Post-COVID Tips for Resuming Business Travel
Inc.com

Here’s What Employers Need to Know for 2021 Tax Season

Young businessman preparing 2021 taxes on laptop

It’s that time of year again. With multiple extensions to deadlines, legislation modifying processes, and other related events that can impact taxes, this coming tax season will introduce tax code changes along with new charitable contribution opportunities specific to the Coronavirus relief bill.

2021 Business Tax Preparation

  1. Understand which tax return forms you are responsible for filing. The IRS requires different types of businesses to use specific forms. For example, sole proprietors  may utilize Forms 1040, 1040-SR, 1040-ES, 940, 941, 943, 944, W-2, W-3, and/or Schedules C and SE; whereas corporations may utilize Forms 1120, 1120-W, 940, 941, 943, and/or excise taxes. Make sure you understand what your business is categorized as and determine which tax forms you are responsible for filing.

 

  • Mark your calendar for your tax filing deadline(s). Depending on your business and the extensions the IRS provided for filing income and information returns, be sure to note the following tax deadlines:
  • January 31: Wage statements and independent contractor forms 
  • February 28: 1099-MISC forms (paper) that missing Box 7 amounts
  • March 31: Forms 1097, 1098, 1099, 3921, 3922, and W-2GS (electronic)
  • March 15: Partnerships, multiple limited liability companies (LLCs), and S corporations
  • April 15: Sole proprietorships and single-member LLCs
  • Collect the appropriate records and information needed for filing. To prepare for filing your taxes, you will likely need the following documentation:

 

  • Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • Income statement
  • Balance sheet
  • Receipts
  • Bank and credit card statements
  • Payroll records
  • Previous year’s tax return
  • Estimated tax payments.

Tip: Research potential tax deduction eligibility. For example, a frequently used tax deduction that will likely be applicable for most businesses for tax year 2020 is using your home for business (remote work).

  • Calculate and deduct your estimated tax payments. Most businesses pay quarterly estimated taxes. These amounts should be deducted from the payment total to minimize overpayment during tax season.

Estimating taxes will depend on the type of business you have. For example, estimated taxes for specialized industries like farmers or fisherman will likely differ from that of a white-collar corporation. To explore estimated taxes for different types of businesses, visit the IRS website.

  • Submit your tax return. After you have completed the above steps, you should be ready to file your tax return. Make sure you file by the deadline

Other Business Considerations

  1. Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) refunds. The AMT expands income tax by disallowing deductions under regular taxes. To understand if you owe AMT in addition to regular tax, look at the previous year’s 6251 form. Review lines 2 and 3 for entries to determine if adjustments can be made to the taxable income for AMT. 
  2. Leverage current losses. Net operating losses (NOLs) can be claimed only as a carryback refund if the previous year’s tax return has been completed. The CARES Act restores the five-year NOLs in any taxable year before 2021.
  3. Bonus depreciation. Taxpayers are able to amend 2018 and 2019 tax returns to receive a refund, as the retroactive nature of the CARES Act is favorable for completed qualified expenditures.
  4. Payroll tax deduction timeline. The CARES Act allows the deferral of tax deposit and payments for the employer-paid portion of Social Security tax through December 31, 2020.

From taxes 101, such as distributing W2s or classifying workers (i.e., W2 vs 1099), to finding tax breaks and ensuring timely, accurate filing taxes and tax compliance, contact VensureHR. Our tax management team can provide tips, support, and resources to guide you through a smooth 2021 tax season.

 

Sources:
CPA Practice Advisor

4 Ways to Improve Performance Reviews

Young businesswoman conducting performance review with male professional

Performance reviews are part of the performance management process that requires a supervisor to assess an employee’s performance at work. Here are four ways to improve performance reviews.

  1. Understand the Purpose of Performance Reviews

Performance reviews are valuable tools that:

  • Help identify an employee’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Boost opportunities for professional growth
  • Provide employees and supervisors a chance to offer feedback and set goals
  • Allocate promotions or pay increases properly

2. Performance Review Best Practices

Generally, performance review templates contain the same components, such as frequency, guidelines, and formatting. There are three main components to a successful performance review:

  • Conduct performance reviews on a regular basis. Most companies make the mistake of conducting performance reviews once a year. To provide regular feedback, quarterly meetings are recommended. This allows career development discussions and ensuring adequate support, resources, and tools are in place to help employees reach their goals.
  • Establish clear evaluation guidelines. In preparation and goal setting, it is imperative that clear guidelines are established for measuring an employee’s performance. For example, if an employee wants to move into a supervisory role, layout what types of qualities or tasks they will be evaluated on. This could include general qualities like communication, time management, critical thinking and problem solving, and working under pressure.
  • Communicating performance review format. To prepare your employee for a performance review, layout the format. For example, is this going to be a formal or informal meeting? If it is going to be formal, you could provide the structure of the meeting by explaining what is expected from the employee, what the employee should expect from you, and the goal of the performance review (i.e., annual evaluation, consideration for a raise or promotion).

Some performance review templates vary by company, department, and/or role. For example, “creativity and innovation” may not be as highly appreciated in a workers’ compensation role as a marketing and communications role.

3. Performance Review Template

Performance review templates should include goal setting, feedback from both employee and supervisor, and input from HR.

  • Goal Setting: Typically, performance reviews are intended to provide goal setting opportunities. It is a chance for expectations to be laid out, goals should be developed, and both you and the employee should leave with a strategy for the employee to successfully attain their goal.
  • Seek Feedback: Whether you seek insight from workers who worked closely with the employee or from his or her supervisor, the more feedback you receive, the more performance review information you may provide the employee. Seeking feedback should also be extended to the employee being evaluated. For example, if a supervisor states that the employee needs to work on time management due to missed deadlines, then you may seek feedback from the employee. The employee may provide information that offers feedback or insight for the supervisor. Feedback should always be a two-way discussion.
  • Exercise with HR: If you are uncertain on particular approaches or would like additional feedback, practice with your HR team. Human resource professionals usually have exceptional employee relation experience and can offer you feedback on what works and tips to improve.

Performance reviews are typically are categorized by skills and goals that correlate to each category. The most common performance review examples of skills and goals include:[1]

  1. Creativity and innovation
  2. Adaptability
  3. Communication
  4. Accountability
  5. Attendance and punctuality
  6. Productivity and quality of work
  7. Achievement
  8. Cooperation
  9. Coaching and training
  10. Improvement
  11. Interpersonal skills
  12. Problem solving

4. Invest in a Professional Employer Organization (PEO)

A PEO is a co-employment arrangement where the PEO undertakes employee-related responsibilities allowing the business owner to focus on primary job functions and responsibilities, such as business growth and managing employees. PEOs support core business functions with services, including human resources, payroll, employee benefits, risk management and safety, and workers’ compensation. To ensure proper performance review processes and developing performance review templates, contact VensureHR. Our HR specialists can provide industry best practices, customer support, and the resources and tools to strengthen your business’s performance management practices.

Source:
The Balance Careers


[1] Indeed

Benefits at a Glance: 2021 Employee Benefits

Young female physician consults female patient

COVID-19 has certainly impacted businesses worldwide in more ways than one. From business infrastructure (i.e., remote work) to operations (i.e., virtual processes, reliance on technology, on-premises safety protocols), businesses have had to revamp their processes or close their doors to business. One impact that has certainly changed in the face of COVID is healthcare benefits.

Explore how COVID has changed the trajectory of 2021 benefits, the final rule on healthcare transparency, employee benefits plan limits for 2021, and how the Biden administration may impact overall healthcare benefits.

How COVID Has Changed the Trajectory of 2021 Benefits

From addressing remote workplace policies and worst-case scenarios, such as an employee testing positive for COVID, general well-being of individuals and families alike has been the top priority for most employers. As employers continue to navigate the public health crisis, here are some interesting benefits trends that may be implemented into 2021 benefits healthcare packages.

According to Mercer, the most common changes to employee benefits that companies are considering include:

  • Expanding virtual or telehealth services (32%)
  • Strengthening mental health assistance, such as employee assistance programs or additional services (25%)
  • Boosting cost-sharing programs for medical expenses, such as deductibles, premiums, and co-pays (20%)
  • Increasing or improving voluntary benefits (16.5%)
  • Expanding expensive claims management services, including specialty pharmaceutical claims (13.5%)

2021 Final Rule on Health Care Transparency[1]

The U.S. Department of Labor, Health and Human Services Department, and the Treasury Department issued a final rule requiring transparency on group health plans and health insurers.[2]

The final rule requires plans and insurers to publish:

  • Price and cost-sharing information to participants, beneficiaries, and enrollees upon request:
  • A list of 500 shoppable services made available through the Internet for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2023.
  • All remaining items and services must be available for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2024.
  • In-network provider-negotiated rates and historical out-of-network allotted amounts on their website:
    • Detailed pricing information made public for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2022.

The final rule also allows issuers that share savings with consumers to report the shared savings payments in medical loss ratio calculations.

2021 Employee Benefits Plan Limits

Most healthcare benefits are subject to annual dollar limits that are frequently updated to reflect inflation by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The dollar limits that will apply for the next calendar year are announced well in advance of the beginning of that year to allow employers an opportunity to update their plan designs and ensure compliance. While some plan limits will increase for 2021, most of the limits remain the same.

For plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2021, the following limits have increased:

  •  Health savings account (HSA) contributions:
    • Single coverage—$3,600 (up $50)
    • Family coverage—$7,200 (up $100)
  • High deductible health plan (HDHP) out-of-pocket maximum limit:
    • Single coverage—$7,000 (up $100)
    • Family coverage—$14,000 (up $200)
  • Tax exclusion for adoption assistance benefits—$14,440 (up $140)

The following limits will not change for 2021:

  • Flexible spending account (FSA) salary reduction contribution limit
  • HDHP minimum deductible
  • 401(k) contribution limit
  • Transportation fringe benefits monthly limits

How a New Presidential Administration May Change 2021 Benefits[3]

As with any new presidential administration, new legislation will likely be passed changing current regulations on many benefits-related programs. Here are some of the benefits-related programs that may change 2021 benefits.

  • Affordable Care Act (ACA): Depending on the outcome of a Supreme Court case, President-elect Joe Biden supports utilizing ACA’s infrastructure to expand a public health option similar to Medicare. Under this proposed model, everyone would have access even if employers offer qualified health plans. For small business owners, this may offer a cost-savings opportunity by having employees opt for public health coverage instead of funding it themselves.
  • Medicare: Biden is looking to expand Medicare by proposing a lower eligibility age (60, down from 65). This allows eligible workers to start retiring earlier.
  • Paid Leave: Biden is an advocate for increasing paid family and medical leave to 12 weeks. To expand that effort, the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act would expand the qualified reasons for taking paid leave and extend eligibility to more workers. While Biden supports several elements of this Act, there will likely be some iteration of this legislation early in his administration.
  • Cannabis Legalization: While there may not necessarily be direct support or endorsement for cannabis legalization, Biden has expressed decriminalization. Outside of federal government regulations defining it as illegal, many states have allowed for medical and/or recreational use of cannabis. Recently, five states legalized the use of cannabis: Arizona, Montana, and New Jersey (recreational only), Mississippi (medical only), and South Dakota (both recreational and medical).

Healthcare is a complex topic that requires frequent auditing for compliance and unique language that is oftentimes confusing for members. If you’re looking for a way to adequately educate your employees, find better benefits, and proactively approach 2021 with a benefits plan, contact VensureHR. Our team of benefits specialists can equip you with the latest compliance updates, address any benefits enrollment and administration questions or concerns, and offer industry-leading resources and tools to safeguard your employees’ well-being.

 

Sources:
Society for Human Resource Management
Gusto


[1] Benefits Buzz
[2] CMS 9915-F
[3] HR Insights: How a Biden Administration Might Impact HR and the Workplace

4 Ways to Advocate Change in the Workplace

Young colleagues collaborate on a team project

2020 has certainly changed how businesses operate, from remote work arrangements to addressing a wide variety of social issues.

Here are some tips for effectuating change in the workplace.

  1. Develop a diversity and inclusion committee. A diversity and inclusion committee is a great way to ensure a healthy company culture is maintained by providing insights to employee behaviors, desires, and company shortcomings. Diversity and inclusion committees can help address sensitive topics, such as disability inclusion and social issues (i.e., Black Lives Matter, politics, COVID, LGBTQ+), as well as collect pertinent information regarding the topics.

To ensure success of a diversity and inclusion committee, here are the basic steps:

  • Collect and analyze data to establish necessary changes. It is important to understand your workforce demographics. You can’t make effective changes without understanding to whom you’re advocating changes. Demographic data may include, but is not limited to, age, disability, ethnicity/national origin, gender/gender identity, family status, language, race, religion, veteran status, organizational position, personality type, and more. Be sure to consult your HR department before distributing any sort of employee survey to prevent any compliance issues. Once you have collected the data, you should be able to review trends and identify any areas of concern (i.e., underrepresented populations).
  • Align committee strategies with business objectives. In order to adequately strategize, the goals should align with business objectives. For example, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) made their 2014-2020 goal to “Make VA a Place People Want to Serve.” To achieve this goal, increasing its diversity index scores was one of the VA’s performance indicators. Through improved diversity index scores, the VA is better equipped to serve its diverse population. The best way to build diversity and inclusion strategies, the committee should understand the business objectives.
  • Implement the committee development. Once you have a plan and the appropriate permissions, set your plan into motion. Make sure you have a way to track all the committee’s progress. For example, if you have a mental health initiative, track how many communications are deployed, including to whom, how many recipients opened it, which links or items recipients clicked on, etc. This data collection can help obtain buy-in and support from senior management, shareholders, and communities.
  • Continuously evaluate the committee’s progress. The best way to continuously succeed and improve is through regular auditing of the committee’s efforts. After an initiative is completed, employees should be re-surveyed on the committee’s efforts.
  • Check yourself. If you are a decision-maker in the hiring process, you most certainly should ensure your decision-making is founded on facts. For example, take an implicit association test to understand any unconscious associations or biased opinions you may have (i.e., men are better manager, women are empathetic so they excel in customer service roles). The first step in fixing the problem is figuring out what the problem is.
  • Review job descriptions. Crafting effective job descriptions are complex as is, but what happens when you find out that more than 25,000 problem phrases that trigger gender bias?[1] Try using a platform to check if you’re using any of the problem phrases.
  • Evaluate resumes consistently. In 2020, it’s hard to believe that a 2003 study showed that candidates with names most associated as white received 50% more interviews. To help combat such bias, evaluate every resume the same way. Many application tracking systems provide a feature to hide candidate names to add another way to remove bias.
  • Outline interviews. Most interviewers are great at lightening the mood for candidates during interviews. However, there may be times when you don’t realize you’re not doing this for all candidates. While you don’t necessarily need to stick to a script, ensuring you follow the same format and include similar icebreakers and easy questions can help deter bias from the interview process.
  • Incorporate training company-wide on a regular basis. A great way to advocate change in the workplace is to incorporate company-wide sensitivity training on a regular basis. Most businesses make the mistake of believing that one training per year is enough. Sensitivity training can go beyond establishing a proactive stance towards acceptance; it can enhance your employees’ knowledge around bias and create a more inclusive environment. Sensitivity training is important for employees because:
  1. Evaluate your recruiting processes. It is easy for individuals and businesses to fall into patterns without even realizing it. A common pattern is unconscious/implicit bias, specifically in the recruiting process. To reduce bias, you may follow these steps:
  • Check yourself. If you are a decision-maker in the hiring process, you most certainly should ensure your decision-making is founded on facts. For example, take an implicit association test to understand any unconscious associations or biased opinions you may have (i.e., men are better manager, women are empathetic so they excel in customer service roles). The first step in fixing the problem is figuring out what the problem is.
  • Review job descriptions. Crafting effective job descriptions are complex as is, but what happens when you find out that more than 25,000 problem phrases that trigger gender bias?[1] Try using a platform to check if you’re using any of the problem phrases.
  • Evaluate resumes consistently. In 2020, it’s hard to believe that a 2003 study showed that candidates with names most associated as white received 50% more interviews. To help combat such bias, evaluate every resume the same way. Many application tracking systems provide a feature to hide candidate names to add another way to remove bias.
  • Outline interviews. Most interviewers are great at lightening the mood for candidates during interviews. However, there may be times when you don’t realize you’re not doing this for all candidates. While you don’t necessarily need to stick to a script, ensuring you follow the same format and include similar icebreakers and easy questions can help deter bias from the interview process.
  1. Incorporate training company-wide on a regular basis. A great way to advocate change in the workplace is to incorporate company-wide sensitivity training on a regular basis. Most businesses make the mistake of believing that one training per year is enough. Sensitivity training can go beyond establishing a proactive stance towards acceptance; it can enhance your employees’ knowledge around bias and create a more inclusive environment. Sensitivity training is important for employees because:
  • Employees may gain awareness and acceptance each other’s differences leading to clearer understanding of each other. This understanding can lead to stronger interpersonal relationships between employees, increasing employee happiness and productivity.
  • It provides behavioral education, such as identifying problematic behavior (i.e., reactive behavior, behavior founded in emotion).
  • It can provide managerial insight behavior and how to help employees find greater success in the workplace. It may also raise awareness and encourage critical problem-solving of workplace issues, such as discrimination and harassment.

When developing sensitivity training, here are some topics to consider:

  • Emotional Intelligence (EQ): EQ is the process of understanding, controlling, and utilizing emotions to positively impact everyday situations, such as alleviating stress, clearly communicating, and de-escalating conflicts. Increasing emotional intelligence in the workplace can improve professional relationships and find greater success through four characteristics: self-management, self-awareness, social awareness, and relationship management.
  • Unconscious Bias: Starbucks certainly set an example in their Anti-Bias Training response to a 2018 incident that sparked nationwide backlash. Unconscious bias stems from unconscious associations or feelings integrated into processing information. While it is not a new topic in the workplace, it has certainly been pushed to the forefront of key sensitivity trainings as diversity and inclusion become more prominent in workplace culture.
  • Harassment: Harassment is unsolicited, offensive conduct (defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as “offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or pictures, and interference with work performance”) based on sex, national origin, age, religion, race, disability, or genetic information, and can occur in various circumstances, such as a supervisor or any individual affected by the offensive conduct. Harassment training regulations may vary by state, but harassment is generally defined as employment discrimination that infringes on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
  • Workplace Politics: From social injustice and civil rights, to discrimination, workplace politics has been a long-standing issue for years and affect businesses in some way. Workplace politics can impact employees’ mental health and engagement. Employees often expect employers to publicly take a stance or express support for their employees during these times. However, businesses usually find it difficult to address as it draws a fine line between taking a political stance and supporting all walks of life. Managing workplace politics is a critical component of workplace sensitivity.
  • Understanding Personalities: Because personality differences account for 49% of workplace conflicts,[2] providing training on understanding those differences may lead to successfully navigating workplace conflicts with a positive, mutually beneficial outcome. From DISC and Myers-Briggs to The Big Five, there are countless ways to incorporate personality sensitivity training to help your workforce empathize and identify the many facets to personality.
  • Virtual Interviews: Due to COVID, many employers are shifting to a remote work environment, including recruiting processes. Remote settings can oftentimes lead to miscommunication and other sensitivity issues. To improve virtual interview processes, check out this blog on tips for conducting virtual interviews.
  1. Address mental health. Especially in the wake of COVID-19, mental health and well-being has suffered negative impacts, such as trouble sleeping (36%) or eating (32%), alcohol consumption or substance use increase (12%), and deteriorating chronic conditions (12%).[3] Other mental health issues have included suicide crisis, domestic violence, and depression.[4] Aside from COVID, the recent 2020 presidential election amplified the mental health crisis.

To help combat the impact these abnormal circumstances have introduced to individuals, here are some tips to foster a supportive and accepting work environment:

  • Decide what you want to share. Whether you’re the business owner, supervisor, or employee, you have the power to decide what you want to share with others. First, you should decide with whom you wish to talk to about your mental health – from your manager to HR. Then decide how much you want or need to disclose. Lastly, be sure to initiate this conversation at a time you feel calm.
  • Ask more purposeful questions. It is not wrong or detrimental to ask someone, “How are you?” However, it oftentimes does not elicit a detailed response indicating how a person truly feels. Instead, ask questions, such as “How are you coping?” or “How have you been spending your free time?” This can open the door for the recipient to share more, as well as generate a better read on an individual’s emotional stability.
  • Struggling with mental health is not a weakness. Before COVID, approximately one in five U.S. adults has a mental illness.[5] The National Alliance on Mental Health have reported workers who struggle with mental health state that shame and stigma hinder them from seeking help. Mental health does not reflect incompetence and is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you want to disclose your mental health condition, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations.
  • Foster a safe place for others to share. Not everyone likes to share their feelings, let alone in a work setting. Creating a safe place can help promote mental health well-being and foster a more supportive and accepting workplace culture. For example, you could create a private community channel for checking in and sharing mental health resources. Another great resource could be developing an employee assistance program.

Change, especially in the workplace, can be a complex issue that requires a strategic plan, adequate resources, and appropriate support to successfully implement. Partner with VensureHR whose team of human resources experts can provide you industry best practices, resources and tools, and consistent support you need to make the necessary changes for your business to continue growing. Contact us today to learn more!

 

Sources:
Coburg Banks
The Jub
CNBC


[1] NY Times
[2] CPP, Inc.
[3] KFF
[4] Psychiatric News
[5] National Institute of Mental Health

A New Approach to Remote Work Recruitment

Young mother working from home as her son ask about data analysis on her computer screen

In a world where technology has provided innovative business solutions, technology has allowed businesses to shift to remote workplaces, which as a result has changed the trajectory of business strategies to recruit new talent.

Some of the nation’s largest tech hubs, such as New York City, Silicon Valley, and Seattle, have found that employees are willing to accept a salary reduction for the ability to work remotely. However, those who would relocate with a salary reduction also noted that the reduction must not exceed 10% of their salary. Other surveyed employees aren’t afraid to push back on salary reductions for an opportunity to work remote arguing that doing so devalues the employees’ labor.

Benefits to Remote Work

Employees may enjoy:

  • Reduced transportation costs. Because employees do not need to commute, money spent on gas, public transportation, or vehicle repairs and maintenance can be reduced.
  • Tax breaks. IRS Form 8829 provides “Expenses for Business Use of Your Home,” where individuals may deduct business expenses that apply to part of his or her home used exclusively for business on a regular basis. You may review Form 8829 instructions for additional information.
  • Lower day-to-day expenses. From lunch with co-workers or grabbing your morning breakfast from your favorite morning café, to vending machine snacks and drinks, working remote can lower your day-to-day expenses.
  • Decrease price of living. While taking a salary reduction might seem counterintuitive, it doesn’t always have a negative impact. For example, accepting a 10% reduction in salary to reside in an area 15% less expensive may result in an employee’s favor. Additionally, research for the reduced salary may still be higher than the average salary of the area of residence.

Employers may enjoy:

  • More productive workforce. Despite popular belief, some studies show that remote workers are more productive than in-office workspaces. This could result from no commute time, improved focus, less absenteeism, and increased availability for work.
  • Cost savings. There are many areas where employers may enjoy cost savings in offering remote work options. One advantage is reduced commercial property costs. For example, companies headquartered in larger metropolitan areas, such as San Francisco, California and New York City might be able to reduce or completely eliminate physical office space(s) and shift to remote workspaces. This can be a significant cost saving for companies. Another cost-saving advantage of remote work is increased employee retention. Happy employees are more likely to remain loyal to an employer, as well as increase quality of life for remote workers. Lastly, shifting to a remote workforce can offer access to a broader range of talent and typically at a lower cost. By opening job vacancies to remote workers, employers are expanding beyond local candidates. Remote work options oftentimes assist with recruiting efforts as well, especially in times like COVID-19.

Whether you already have employees working remote and are looking for additional benefits, or would like to allow employees to work remotely but not sure where to start, VensureHR can assist you. Our HR experts can provide employers tips for remote work best practices, update employee handbooks to include remote work policies, and ensure all human resource management needs are addressed. Contact us today learn more about our full-service HR solutions.

 

Sources:

Dice

Outsite

Global Approach to Small Business

Young businesswoman preparing to ship packages from her small business around the world

Small business owners oftentimes face the barrier of going outside of traditional business borders. As a result, small business growth may be limited by serving local customers and hindered by local competitors. There is some myth to the popular belief that in order to conduct international business, business owners must have deep pockets. If done with adequate effort and strategy, engaging in international business can be incredibly rewarding, especially for small business owners.

Here are some tips to consider expanding into a larger, international level.

Understand product and service deliverability.

If you are a product manufacturer, creating and distributing products internationally or at a larger quantity can quickly eat your budget. However, investing in a foreign distributor can help offset your costs. Additionally, establishing foreign connections can create opportunities to expand your business into international territories.

Leverage website and social media for marketing.

Thanks to social media and the power of the Internet, international marketing has become much easier for businesses. The secret to building a successful website is focusing on user experience through easy navigation and clear, concise language. It would also be beneficial to understand social media platforms used by audiences in different countries and build your presence there.

Establish a target audience.

Here’s where strategic thinking is most critical. Understanding the audience for your product or service is critical to your business’s success. For example, your product or service may fall into a niche industry. To effectively market to that niche, you need to understand where your target audience is located, what types of products or services they seek, and through which medium they prefer to communicate.

While expanding business to a larger scale may be frightening, stressful, and overwhelming, most benefits of expanding outweigh the negative. To learn how to successfully expand your business, reach out to VensureHR. Our team of business development specialists can provide you the support you need to continue your business’s success, including engaging in mergers and acquisitions. We can assist with managing employee and client relations, integrating industry-leading technology to streamline business efficiencies, and the resources, tools, and expertise to support your efforts.

Source: Business Matters Magazine

 

Workers’ Compensation and Telecommuting

Cheerful remote worker calling on her mobile device getting it done

When businesses shifted to remote workplaces, one consideration they may have overlooked are telecommuting policies. A common question among workers’ compensation policies and coverage is: “Are telecommute employees covered under workers’ compensation?”

The short answer is yes.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, “an employee injury or illness is compensable under workers’ compensation if it arises out of and in the course of employment, regardless of the location the injury occurs.”

The burden of proof for the work-related injury is on the employee. Employers and employees should understand that “arising out of” is defined as the activity for which the employee was involved in at the time of injury, whereas “in the course of” is defined as the time for which the injury occurred. For an employee to successfully claim workers’ compensation benefits, the employee is required to demonstrate that the activity by which they were injured or fallen ill was in the employer’s interest.

Because telecommuting employees’ residence may serve as the work premises for which he or she conducts employer work, home hazards are considered hazards of his or her place of employment. Therefore, employers are responsible for safe, remote workspaces as in-office employees.

To help reduce workers’ compensation liability fortelecommute employees, employers should develop remote work policies summarizing employer expectations for remote employees. These policies should address:

  • Objective. This section should provide a high-level overview of remote work, such as the purpose, the company’s vision, and general expectations for employees.
  • Procedures. Procedures should include the proper process by which an employee is to request remote work (i.e., do they have to fill a form and submit to their supervisor?). This should detail any other processes for remote workers, such as expected timeline of remote work allotted, personal issues (i.e., childcare) that may impact remote work, and other similar processes.
  • Eligibility. This should highlight which individuals are eligible for remote work, the length for which the individuals may work remote, and proper recordkeeping to ensure successful evaluation for remote work opportunities.
  • Equipment. While this section should focus on who will be responsible for providing proper equipment to perform remote work, employee wellness should be taken under consideration. For example, ergonomic equipment is highly recommended to prevent chronic pains or injuries from sedentary positions.
  • Security. There should be training on cybersecurity best practices (i.e., password changes, Internet policies, phishing, spams, etc.), as well as oversight by an IT specialist or department to ensure remote employees are following proper security standards. Additional consideration may be needed for employees who handle sensitive personal information, such as protecting file cabinets and desk drawers, regular password maintenance, and home security (i.e., liability protection from burglary).
  • Safety. A great way to ensure home or remote work safety is to provide a safety checklist to employees to evaluate their remote workspace. This section should highlight employer expectations with regard to workers’ compensation claims.
  • Schedules. All hours worked should be accurately recorded and in compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act.
  • Additional Ad Hoc Arrangements. This section may include temporary, short-term, or other ad hoc arrangement details between employer and employee.

If you already have a remote work policy, but would like an HR specialist to review and offer industry best practice tips, please contact VensureHR. Our human resource services are provided by seasoned industry experts who are equipped with resources and tools to customize HR solutions for your business needs. Partnering with a PEO like VensureHR offers you more competitive workers’ compensation policies, as well as access to a suite of HR services.

 

Source:

Society for Human Resource Management

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