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Archive for May, 2017

HUMAN RESOURCES: THE GATEKEEPER FOR COMPANY ETHICS

Business ethics are important to every business and are often a component of a company’s core values. However, that doesn’t mean that the organization as a whole is ethical. To build an ethical organization, leadership must establish, and model the company’s core values. Ethics must be woven into the fabric of the organization, fully supported by leadership and integrated into the company’s philosophies, values, policies, procedures, and practices. HR departments represent the employees, their concerns, and deal with employee fairness issues. HR’s role in ethics management should be central to ensure real benefits for the organization and the employees. Human resources deal with a variety of ethical challenges that if not handled properly can damage a company’s reputation, lead to serious legal issues, and lead to a potentially high-cost impact to an organization. For example, discrimination issues, sexual harassment, and unfair employment policies can damage a company’s reputation as well as lead to a severe financial impact.

However, HR departments should not be expected to manage ethics initiatives on their own. In order for ethical behavior to become part of an organization, there needs to be a collaborative effort that also includes Legal, Audit, the top management team, and the board of directors. HR should have a primary role in the development and integration of ethics programs into key organizational activities, such as the design of performance appraisal systems, management training, and disciplinary processes.

The first step to include ethics in company policy and strategies is to put ethics on the agenda, make it part of the conversation. This can begin the process for ethics to become part of the organization’s culture, business plan, and goals. HR professionals can help leadership define ethics for the organization. For example, what are the specific types of ethical issues that impact your organization, your competitors, and your industry? This process of defining what ethics means to your organization can help determine safeguards that can be included in policies and processes such as recruiting, on-boarding, and leadership training. Ensure ethics policies are in place for issues such as discrimination, sexual harassment. and employee fair treatment. Establish and communicate expectations for your employees to ensure each employee understands their role. Communications surrounding ethics and other core values should be on-going. And of course, lead by example. HR professionals are in leadership roles and employees look to the leadership to guide their own behavior. Organization leaders need to set the example by engaging in legal and moral behaviors, and by showing their respect for the employees and for the organization. It is critical to creating a supportive environment of trust and transparency. Employees need to see fair treatment across all levels and need to trust in order to come forward regarding ethical concerns. Ethics panels can be created for the review of issues and violations.

Treating employees ethically can bring tremendous benefits to an organization. It can earn long-term employee trust and loyalty. Loyal employees gain more experience, and master processes, and become more vital to the success of the organization. Loyal employees are happier employees and can also translate into increased productivity and efficiency as well as minimize recruiting and training costs. Putting a Code of Ethics in place and encouraging leaders to model desired behaviors are important first steps toward creating an ethical organization. Holding ethics high as a core company value is key to a company’s success and longevity.

Having the appropriate employee fairness policies and processes in place is critical to maintaining an ethical organization. But it is equally important that these policies and processes are supported by fair and competitive compensation practices. For the good of your employees, it is helpful to analyze benefits survey data, compensation surveys, and salary reports. Having this information at hand allows you to plan a budget, including competitive employee salaries and benefits, which will help you to hire and retain a happy, talented team. At WageWatch, our consultants provide businesses with accurate and beneficial benefits survey data, compensation surveys, and salary reports to ensure that payment and benefits plans are on par with those in the industry. For more information on market compensation data, please call WageWatch at 888-330-9243 or contact us online (https://www.wagewatch.com/Contact/ContactUs.aspx).

WAGE AND HOUR POTHOLES

Every company should perform wage and hour audits periodically; minimally once a year and twice a year if possible. It is easier for you to catch and correct errors than to risk discovery from employees or in the event of a DOL audit. To remain compliant with wage and hour regulations it is valuable to have the appropriate checks in place, such as up-to-date written policies and procedures, periodic training for supervisors and managers, the establishment of effective complaint mechanisms, and a regular audit process should be established.

Wage and hour violations are not only costly from the standpoint of back pay and penalties but can also lead to serious employee relations issues if employees feel they are not being fairly compensated. Below are a few of the many wage and hour potholes of which you should beware.

Overtime Pay

Many missteps can occur regarding overtime pay, a few include:
• Misclassifying workers as ‘exempt’ from overtime
• Not paying ‘unapproved’ overtime
• Failing to count all hours worked, including pre and post work activities
• Failing to count certain activities as work time including working through a break
• Checking emails or performing other duties during time off
• Travel time and meeting and training attendance

Bonus or commission payments to nonexempt employees may impact overtime pay. A bonus should be included in the calculation of the regular rate of pay for the weeks which the bonus is earned. This will increase the overtime rate for these weeks. The weeks for which the bonus is earned includes all weeks covered by the bonus period. For example, if it is a quarterly bonus then all weeks in the quarter will apply.

Another consideration for computing overtime pay is when an employee works two or more jobs with different hourly rates at one or more facilities for the same employer in the same workweek. The employer must use the weighted average of the rates to compute the employee’s regular rate of pay for the purpose of calculating overtime pay.

Exemption Status / Salary Basis Test

Do you examine the duties of your salaried employees and not just their titles or how they are paid to determine whether they are exempt? Your exempt employees must pass one of the FLSA exemption tests in order to be exempt from being paid overtime. These exemption tests are based on actual worked performed and do not test based upon the job title nor what is written in the job description.

For a job to remain exempt it must pass the Salary Basis Test which ensures that improper deductions to exempt employee’s salary are not made. There are very specific rules to follow when making any deductions to an exempt employee’s salary. Also, a job that is exempt can lose exempt status when the duties and responsibilities change due to things such as staff reductions or organizational changes. Therefore it is advisable to retest jobs that are impacted by these types of changes.

Meal and Rest Period Compliance

Many state wage and hour laws require employers to provide their employees with meal and/or rest breaks. These laws specify the circumstances under which such breaks must be compensated. In some cases, state laws impose different requirements than does FLSA.

A few more potholes worth mentioning:

We have mentioned just a few of the many potholes HR professionals need to be aware when classifying jobs as exempt or nonexempt, overtime pay calculation, and rest period compliance. Here are a few more to keep in mind:
• Failing to pay employees on day of termination
• Failure to follow rules for On-Call pay;
• Improper use of ‘Comp Time’
• Unlawful deductions from employee paychecks.

Be sure to consult your federal and state wage and hour resources and/or your wage and hour counsel to ensure a thorough and correct understanding of wage and hour rules.

Remaining compliant with wage and hour regulations is an important task that Human Resources and Compensation department performs for an organization. Another important task performed is to ensure fair and competitive pay practices. For the good of your employees, it is helpful to analyze benefit survey data, compensation surveys, and salary reports. Having this information at hand allows you to plan a budget, including competitive employee salaries and benefits, which will help you hire and retain a happy, talented team.

At WageWatch, our expert evaluators provide businesses in a large range of industries with accurate and beneficial benefits survey data, compensation surveys, and salary reports to ensure that payment and benefits plans are on par with those in the industry. For more information on market compensation data, please call WageWatch at 888-330-WAGE (9243) or contact us online (https://www.wagewatch.com/Contact/ContactUs.aspx).

MINDFULNESS: EMBRACED BY BUSINESS

In a world where multitasking and information overload are the norms, an old idea, ‘mindfulness’, is becoming increasingly appealing to organizations who are effectively applying it to their businesses. Mindfulness is training the mind to focus. Our ability to concentrate is seriously compromised the more we multitask. And technology, though useful to us in so many ways has actually impeded our ability to concentrate or to be mindful of what matters moment by moment. If you would like to investigate further for your organization or for yourself, Psychology Today has an overview of the practice on their website (http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/mindfulness).

Many Fortune 500 and other organizations are embracing and promoting mindfulness for their workforce. Business schools are beginning to teach mindfulness and it is included in many MBA programs. In the workplace, mindfulness is a skill that aids concentration, clarity, and equanimity. Present moment awareness keeps your mind from dwelling on the past or obsessing about the future. Becoming more aware of what is going on around you allows us to be fully focused on the task at hand and more likely to spot opportunities. Mindfulness makes us more conscious of what is going on within us, helping to identify and remove subconscious thinking that can be obstacles to success. Mindfulness also enhances creativity, innovation, and improves the brain’s ability to process information. So it is not surprising that more and more corporations are embracing mindfulness as a business practice.

To be mindful is to be aware, to be conscious, to be aware, and to appreciate the impact of one’s actions. Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly witnessing one’s thoughts and feelings without judgment. Mindfulness is a 2,500-year-old tradition of Eastern cultures that now is considered a science of the mind. Many consider mindfulness to have its origins in Buddhism; however, it can be traced back more than 2,500 years ago, when Hindus practiced a range of meditations, which included mindfulness.

It may be time to consider mindfulness, as a business skill. Extensive research has been done over the last 15 years that show mindfulness is linked to psychological and physical, health. It decreases blood pressure, regulates the heart, increases the immune function, and enhances memory. It essentially rewires our brain. The idea that increasing mindfulness may lead to better decision-making deserves attention.
At WageWatch our compensation consultants are focused on your organization’s compensation needs and ready to help you ensure that your compensation programs are supporting your company’s business strategy and objectives. WageWatch also offers accurate, up-to-date benefit surveys, salary surveys and pay practices data that will allow you to stay current with the times. This information is highly beneficial in creating the best salary and benefits packages that meet or rival the industry standards. For more information on our services, including consulting, salary survey data, benefit survey data and market compensation reports, please call WageWatch at 888-330-9243 or contact us online.

INTERN PROGRAM BEST PRACTICES

Is your summer intern program ready to launch? A review of some important information will help to make your program a success. First, ensure your program is compliant with Department of Labor regulations regarding internships. In the last couple of years, both the federal and state governments have been cracking down on the use of unpaid interns. The use of ‘free’ interns has been significantly reduced since 2010 when the Department of Labor issued new criteria for employers using unpaid interns:

• Internship needs to be structured as a training experience, similar to a classroom as opposed to the employer’s actual operations.
• The training given to the interns must benefit of the intern, not the employer.
• Employers should see no immediate benefit from the intern’s work.
• The intern cannot displace regular employees; they should work under close supervision.
• In advance, establish that the internship is for a fixed duration of time and that the intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship.
• There should be a clear understanding by both the employer and the intern that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

If your program includes unpaid interns, consult federal and state wage and hour web sites or legal counsel regarding regulatory compliance. In addition to the regulations, many universities and colleges have specific requirements for the internship program up to and including providing educational credit. If your intern program does not fit the regulatory criteria for unpaid interns, the same wage and hour guidelines that you follow for your hourly (non-tip) workforce will apply. Interns are often paid at rates comparable to entry level positions within the department or discipline in which the intern will work. Local market or industry salary surveys can assist you in setting competitive pay rates for your interns.

In addition to the compliance component of your intern program, below are some best practices to consider integrating into your program:

• Recruit the right candidates by having a clear and thoughtful internship description.
• Designate a program manager and a manager as well as a mentor for each intern.
• Provide structure, even when they aren’t paid.
• Hold orientation sessions for all involved.
• Provide interns with a handbook and/or website.
• Provide interns with real work that is related to their major, that is challenging, that is recognized by the organization as valuable, and that fills the entire work term.
• Consider offering flex time for the interns.
• Host social events and activities for the interns.
• Encourage team involvement.
• Conduct exit interviews.

Today’s world moves fast, and as an employer, you should constantly be monitoring and adjusting your business operations to meet the ever-changing wants and needs of your employees. At WageWatch, we offer accurate, up-to-date benefit survey data, market compensation data and salary reports that will allow you to stay current with the times. This information is highly beneficial in creating the best salary and benefits packages that meet or rival the industry standards. For more information on our services, including market compensation data, benefits survey data and salary reports, please call WageWatch at 888-330-9243 or contact us online.

EFFECTIVE JOB DESCRIPTIONS

Job descriptions describe the major duties and responsibilities of a position or job and are an essential part of hiring and managing employees. They are tools to help your applicants and employees understand their roles and accountabilities. They can be used to establish a training checklist for new incumbents, as guideposts in the performance appraisal process, and as market benchmarks for compensation surveys. Job descriptions are not required by law, however, they can provide evidence of the essential functions of a job for purposes of complying with federal employment laws. They can also be used for disability and worker’s compensation claims. It’s good practice to get legal advice to ensure that your job descriptions are compliant. Below are some of the legal requirements to keep in mind while writing your job descriptions.

• Fair labor standards Act (FLSA): Exempt or Non-exempt classification should be included in all job descriptions.

• Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Working conditions and any required physical activity should be noted in all job descriptions.

• Equal Employment Opportunity: Include, “we are an equal opportunity employer” in all job descriptions.

• Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA): Job descriptions should not indicate age preference.

The first steps in writing job descriptions are the data collection and job analysis processes which begin with questionnaires and/or interviews with both the supervisors and current employee incumbents to gather and determine the key facts about the job. You will need to collect information that will later be summarized in your job description template. Generally, the data will include Job Title, Immediate Supervisor, Department, Pay Grade, Working Hours, and Travel Requirements, FLSA Status, Mission/Summary, Essential and Non-Essential Tasks and Responsibilities, Supervisory Responsibility, Job Requirements (education, skills and experience required for the job), Working Conditions, Physical Demands, Equipment Usage, and Disclaimer for Management Ability to Modify.

A job description should be practical and summarize the key elements of a job in a clear, concise manner. Be specific and avoid using subjective adverbs or adjectives such as “frequently,” “some,” “occasional,” and “several.” It’s important to build flexibility into a job description and ensure that it is dynamic and functional. Flexible job descriptions will allow your employees to evolve within their positions as processes, technology, and organizational changes occur. A well-written job description will require an investment of time and effort to accurately reflect your organization and unique jobs.

The duties list should contain each essential job duty or responsibility that is critical to the successful performance of the job. The list should be prioritized with the most important listed first down to the least significant. Do not include tasks that comprise less than 5 percent of the overall time. Each Essential and Non-Essential Duty should be assigned a percentage of time and all duties together should total 100 percent. Each duty should be described in one to three sentences; the first sentence should begin with an action verb. Generally, there are one or two non-essential duties that total five to ten percent of the total time and are duties such as “Assist in special projects as required” or “Any other task assigned by the supervisor.” This provides flexibility to change duties over time and captures occasional and unforeseen needs that arise.

At WageWatch our experienced compensation consultants can assist with your organization’s compensation needs. We can help you ensure internal equity and compliance with regulations as well as help you structure your compensation programs to support your company’s business strategy and objectives. WageWatch also offers accurate, up-to-date benefit survey data, market compensation data and salary reports that will allow you to stay current with the times. This information is highly beneficial in creating the best salary and benefits packages that meet or rival the industry standards. For more information on our services, including consulting, salary survey data, benefit survey data and market compensation reports, please call WageWatch at 888-330-9243 or contact us online.