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BUDGET SEASON: ARE YOU PREPARED?

It’s that time of year again when companies are preparing their budgets for the upcoming year.  For HR professionals, it is probably not one of your favorite tasks, but by embracing the process, it can be an opportunity to reinforce the HR function as a strategic partner.

Budgets are used to monitor progress toward goals, help control spending, and predict cash flow and profit.  The challenge is predicting the future 100% accurately and in turn developing effective budgets.

It is valuable for HR to gain a strong understanding and appreciation for the value of good annual budgeting.  In most companies, employee costs constitute the majority of fixed costs and therefore the HR budget contains key and critical elements of the overall company budget.

Here are a few things you can do to make the budget process a smoother one:

  1. Throughout the year, ensure to include the CFO when reviewing such things as pay increases with the CEO.  This can go a long way in developing a partnership with the CFO.
  2. The credibility of the HR function is significantly improved when you can demonstrate real savings and value for HR projects and processes.
  3. Empower your HR team.  Every HR team member should own their line items in the budget.  For example, recruiting is responsible for their search firm fees, recruiting tools, and relocation.
  4. Link the development of your budget to corporate strategy.  This gives a clearer understanding of strategic goals.  And, in turn, should create greater support for the goals, and, a stronger companywide performance. The key to linking the two is communication.  In order to communicate strategic goals, top management needs information about customers, competitors, technology, etc., and this information must come from support units such as Human Resources.
Budgeting requires the collection of many forms of data. From a human resource   perspective, listed below are some items that would be included in the budget:

Recruiting

  • Advertising & agency fees
  • Employee referral program
  • Background checks/drug testing
  • Recruitment expenses
  • Applicant tracking system costs

Training

  • Training programs
  • Travel expenses
  • Consulting fees

Compensation and Benefits

  • Payroll costs
  • Salaries  & overtime
  • Compensation surveys/benefit surveys
  • Incentive compensation
  • Health and welfare benefits
  • Retirement plan
  • Employee assistance program

Employee and Labor Relations

  • Recognition program/service awards
  • Employee Opinion Survey
  • Performance appraisal software
  • Employment and Labor relations expenses (attorneys, consultants)

Other

  • Strategic planning (data/consultants)
  • HR databases such as HRIS/subscriptions/memberships/books

At WageWatch our compensation consultants can assist with your organization’s compensation needs and help you ensure that your compensation programs are supporting your company’s business strategy and objectives.  WageWatch also offers accurate, up-to-date benefit survey data, market compensation data and salary surveys 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.

 

GET MORE OUT OF YOUR TURNOVER METRIC

Most HR departments miss an opportunity when it comes to measuring and reporting turnover.  The goal of any HR metric is to provide information on how to improve the measured item.  As Peter Drucker said, “what gets measured gets done.”  Reporting turnover as simply a percentage of the workforce can be made more meaningful and more useful by diving down into the detail and adding data and information that quantifies the cost and provides insight on root causes and how to make improvements.  Some examples of this are:

  • Along with your company’s turnover rate, add the turnover rate of competitors, giving a baseline or something to compare against
  • Add the percentage of turnover that was top performers or top salespeople, the percent of turnover in each department and for each manager, the percent in high impact jobs and hard to fill jobs
  • Add the percentage of turnover in the first year of employment, which can be linked to possible employee dissatisfaction
  • Add how long it takes to fill positions, the recruitment cost of filling the positions, and how long before they are up to the minimum productivity level
  • Add exit interview information such as how many went to work for competitors and which competitors. Exit interviews may also indicate whether turnover was preventable, which may, in turn, provide managers with information needed for improvement
  • Add the dollar impact of lost sales where applicable, i.e., sales turnover, which can be directly linked to revenue and economic impact to the company

The involuntary turnover metric is also important.  It can indicate that the company is keeping low performers which can also be costly.  With this additional information, conclusions are now more easily drawn and the cost of turnover is more tangible (i.e., the cost of losing individuals in key positions is likely higher than losing individuals in low-impact positions).  If losing hard to fill jobs, the job market may be tight and replacing these employees could be expensive.   Losing individuals with strong reputations within the industry can impact stock analysts’ assessments of your firm.  It can also send negative signals throughout your firm and the industry, which can, in turn, lead to more turnover.

Some additional information that can be helpful when included with the turnover report, include:

  • Leading causes of preventable turnover
  • Satisfaction or frustration levels of those who left which could impact the company’s external image
  • Lowest turnover rates within the firm which can provide a target for managers to aim
  • The likelihood that the person that left will take others with them.

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 salary survey reports and pay practice 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.

COMPENSABLE TIME

Employers need to ensure they count all worked hours as paid hours for their non-exempt staff.  For example, when an employee eats lunch at their workstation or desk and their lunch is interrupted by work such as answering phones or email, the employee is working and must be paid for that time because the employee has not been completely relieved from duty.

If the employer has a policy that is expressly and clearly communicated to the employee regarding a specific length of time for a break, any unauthorized extensions of that break time do not need to be counted as hours worked.  Bona fide meal periods (typically 30 minutes or more) generally need not be compensated as work time.  However, the employee must be completely relieved from duty for the purpose of eating regular meals.

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), doesn’t require employers to provide meal or rest breaks, though some states do require such breaks and the rules can also be different for younger workers.  You can find a list of state meal and rest break laws at the Department of Labor’s website address: https://www.dol.gov/whd/state/meal.htm  and   https://www.dol.gov/whd/state/rest.htm.

Employers that fall under the federal guidelines do not have to pay for meal or rest breaks unless:

  • The employee works through or during their break, or
  • The break lasts 20 minutes or less, or
  • The break is interrupted by work

Some other compensable time under the federal rules can include waiting time, on-call time, attendance at meetings and training programs, travel time and performing work outside of work hours such as checking emails.

Waiting time may or may not be hours worked depending upon the circumstances.  If an employee needs to wait before a duty can start, such as a firefighter waiting for an alarm, then the employee is ‘engaged to wait’ and this time is considered worked time and must be paid.

On-Call time is paid time if the employee is required to remain on the employer’s premises.  In most cases, the on-call time does not have to be paid when an employee is not required to remain on the employer’s premises.  However additional requirements put on the on-call time that further limits the employee’s freedom could require the time to be compensated.

Attendance at meetings or training programs is paid time when any of the following conditions are true:

  • It is during normal hours,
  • It is mandatory,
    • If the employee feels that they should or need to attend, then it is mandatory
  • It is job-related

Travel time may be paid time or not depending upon the kind of travel involved.  Regular commute time to and from the work site is not paid time.  When the employee works at a different work site location then any commute time that is greater than the employee’s regular commute time to their usual work site needs to be counted as paid time.

Travel that is part of the regular work duties, such as travel from job site to job site during the workday, is work time and must be counted as hours worked.  Overnight travel is work time and must be paid time

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 and that your pay practices are fair, equitable and non-discriminatory. We can provide your business with compensation surveys and salary reports to help you establish a budget for your merit pay program, including bonuses and incentives. Our innovative company is a leader in the collection of data for surveys and salary reports, which allows us to provide services to a wide range of industries in both the private and public sector. To learn more about our compensation surveys, salary reports, and other services, call 480-237-6130 or contact us online.

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 work week.  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 in determining 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 work performed and do not test based on 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 consultants provide businesses, across 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.

KEY OBJECTIVES OF A COMPENSATION PROGRAM

Compensation can be defined as a reward earned by employees in return for their time, skills, effort, and knowledge.  Compensation includes direct financial compensation, such as wages, bonus, and commissions, indirect financial compensation such as health and welfare, retirement and leave benefits, and non-financial compensation such as job training and development, recognition, and advancement opportunities.  A large percentage of the company budget is compensation, and therefore is a key component of the overall strategic human resource management plan.

A compensation package can include more than salary and bonus.  It can include health and welfare benefits, retirement plan, leave benefits, and various other benefits, and perks.  Companies that offer a mix of salary and incentives have the highest employee morale and productivity.  It is most effective to pay incentives as soon after goals are met as feasible such as monthly or quarterly incentive payments, rather than annual payments.  A good incentive plan should be easily understood by the employees including no more than two to four performance factors.  How you train, develop, and manage your employees will also drive retention and performance.

When developing your compensation program, primary objectives to consider are:

  • To attract the best people for the job
  • Retain high performers and lower turnover
  • Reward performance on specific objectives by compensating desired behaviors
  • Motivate employees to perform their best
  • Improve morale, job satisfaction, and company loyalty
  • Align with overall company strategy, goals and philosophy
  • Achieve internal and external equity
  • Comply with all pay and non-discrimination regulations

While compensation is not the only thing that motivates people, compensation that is too low will demotivate employees.  Studies have found a direct correlation between top performing companies and employees that are satisfied with their pay and benefits package.  Competitive and appropriate pay can positively impact customer service.  Employees receiving fair and competitive compensation packages are generally happier with their jobs and are more motivated to perform at their peak.  Motivated employees can add to the bottom line of the organization and contribute to growth and expansion. Studies show that motivated employees take fewer sick days and have fewer disability claims.

While there are many objectives to a successful compensation program, two key objectives are ensuring internal equity and ensuring external competitiveness.  Salary surveys provide the necessary market data to build competitive pay structures.  Good salary survey data provides you with the information needed to ensure your compensation package is competitive.  Salary surveys are an invaluable tool for the setting right compensation strategy and for following and monitoring the desired pay market.  It is important that you select the right salary and benefits surveys and market data for your employees based on where you are competing for talent in your industry and outside your industry as well as geographic location.

WageWatch 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.  The PeerMark™ Wage Survey is the only Web-based custom survey tool that allows individual survey participants to select their competitive set for comparison purposes.  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.  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.

ARE YOU ATTRACTING TOP TALENT?

Organizations are finding it to be a huge challenge to attract and retain a group of talented and hardworking employees that are loyal to the company and its mission.  Finding high caliber employees with advanced skills to perform important jobs within a company is a challenge, especially as unemployment continues to decline.  Everyone is looking for top talent, and those companies that excel in attracting and retaining this talent are the ones that will reap the rewards.

To retain talent, it is essential that loyalty is established.  In order to do this, the employee must feel that their job is instrumental in achieving the goals of the company, making them excited to come into work each day and give it they’re all.  It is also important that the work the employee puts in is acknowledged, affirming their place within the company, and offering them opportunities for growth.

While compensation and benefits packages are one of the largest factors considered by employees, it isn’t enough to make the top talent stay.  The following are a few ways that you can attract and retain the best employees at your company:

  • Promote Open Communication
    When a company is completely open with employees, everyone will feel respected. Instead of allowing rumors to spread, let your employees know as soon as possible about anything that is going on in regards to the company. When possible, let your employees be a part of the decision making process. A culture of open communication is very attractive to employees.
  • Provide Opportunities for Team Building
    Most employees enjoy interacting with their coworkers.  By encouraging teamwork, employees are able to build great working relationships and establish a trusting, open environment for the company.  When working together toward a common goal, employees are more motivated and excited about their jobs, often producing excellent results.
  • Cater to Individual Work Style
    Each employee has a different way that they prefer to work, learn and be managed.  When you as an employer take the time and effort to make adjustments for each employee’s needs, they will respect the company more and loyalty will, once again, be built.  This will also help you to establish teams that will work best together based on their work styles.
  • Acknowledge Your Talent
    When an employee does a good job, it is important that you recognize them for their efforts, so they feel that they are a valued member of the team.  A majority of employees leaving a company do so because they feel unappreciated.  Employees want to feel that the work they are doing is making a difference, so acknowledging their work often is essential.  Also, review surveys for 2013 healthcare compensation, 2013 casino compensation and other market compensation data surveys for your industry to determine what benefits and bonuses you should be rewarding your employees with.

Implementing the above suggestions will help your company to build a culture that encourages retention of employees, which in turn will attract top talent.  In addition to providing a great work environment that respects employees and provides opportunities for learning and growth, it is also important that they receive a solid benefits package.  At WageWatch, we provide accurate data for 2013 healthcare compensation, 2013 casino compensation and compensation information for a wide variety of other industries.  To learn more about our up-to-date market compensation data, such as 2013 healthcare compensation surveys or university benefits surveys, call 888-330-9243 or contact us online.

STRATEGIC ISSUES AND THE PAY MODEL

Perceptions of compensation vary.  It is seen as a measure of equity and justice.  Stockholders are focused on executive compensation.  Legislators may view average annual pay changes as a guide to adjusting eligibility for social services.  Employees see compensation as a reward for their services and a job well done.  Managers will view compensation from the perspective of a labor cost, but also from a competitive perspective that enables them to recruit, engage and retain employees.  The four basic compensation policy decisions that an employer must consider in managing compensation are: 1) internal consistency, 2) external competitiveness, 3) employee contributions, and 4) administration of the pay system.  The balance between the four policies becomes the employer’s compensation strategy.

It is important that compensation is linked to an organization’s overall goals and strategies and aligned with the Human Resource strategy.  Not doing so, can lead to serious issues of employee retention, engagement, and productivity that can be laborious and expensive to repair.  Compensation for many organizations is the single largest business expense and is visible and important to employees, managers, and stockholders.  Therefore it is important to strategically plan and regularly evaluate compensation systems.  Working with your company’s executives is key to ensuring your compensation philosophy is supporting business objectives.  Strategic objectives will include significant challenges and priorities now and over the next two to five years.  Some examples are business growth plans, key talent and training objectives, market competition, and whether or not you are in a union environment.  Some other key considerations for your compensation program are:

  • Attracting the appropriate skill sets and types of employees when needed
  • Rewarding employees for their efforts, such as increasing workloads, taking on new tasks and projects
  • Employee morale and perceived value of company’s benefits, incentives, and work environment
  • A mix of base pay, incentive pay, work environment and benefits that makes the most sense for the organization
  • The link between base and incentive pay with performance
  • Legal issues such as wage and hour

An example of a compensation strategy that aligns with other Human Resource initiatives is matching pay ranges to the desired outcome.  If quality, experience, and a sophisticated skill set are a strategic advantage to an organization, then it will not be successful hiring employees significantly below the market rate.  Determining whether the organization wants to lead, lag or match the market is a key decision.  A ‘mixed market position’ approach has become more common as employers realize that a one-size-fits-all strategy does not fit the entire workforce.  For example, location and market competitiveness will impact your pay levels and certain key or hard to fill or retain positions may require pay well above the market, while other positions may be ok with a lag approach.

A successful compensation program will focus on top priorities, guide employees to where their effort can create the most value, create financial and non-financial consequences for success and failure, drive and reward the development of skills and encourage teamwork and collaboration.  Many organizations today keep an eye toward aligning workers’ interests with company goals through innovative types of rewards in the workplace, including skill-based pay and goal sharing.  The right total rewards system is a blend of monetary and nonmonetary rewards offered to employees and can generate valuable business results.  These results range from enhanced individual and organizational performance to improved job satisfaction, employee loyalty, and workforce morale.

Maintaining a competitive advantage and being able to retain key employees is increasingly important.  At WageWatch, our compensation consultants can assist with your organization’s compensation needs and help you ensure that your compensation programs are supporting 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 .

 

HOW ABOUT A SIX-HOUR WORKDAY?

Can a move to a six-hour workday increase productivity and the happiness quotient of employees and their families and at the same time increase productivity and company profits?   In the U.S., more than 60 years after workers, through their unions, began organizing for an eight-hour day in the 1860s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938 for all workers to see limits on working hours — initially 44 hours a week, then phased to 42 and eventually 40 by 1940.

Today some businesses in Sweden are trying out a six-hour workday hoping to get more done in a shorter amount of time and ensure people have the energy to enjoy their private lives.   This change is purely experimental and a voluntary one that has not been mandated by law nor implemented nationwide.

A Toyota vehicle service center in Sweden’s second largest city Gothenburg moved to shorter days thirteen years ago.  The service center reported a happier staff, a lower turnover rate, and an increase in profits during that time.  The new system keeps the garages open longer and generates new business.  Employees are doing the same amount in the six-hour workday, often more than they did in the eight-hour day.  The service center reports that employees have more stamina to do this heavy work, and they have seen greater profits and customers because cars are getting fixed faster.

The most high-profile case in recent months is the publicly funded Svartedalens nursing home in west Sweden which started a trial of a six-hour day in February 2015 to continue until the end of 2016 when they will determine whether the cost of hiring new staff members to cover the hours lost is worth the improvements to patient care and boost of employees’ morale.  The nursing home has 80 nurses working six-hour shifts maintaining their eight-hour salaries while 80 staffers at another nursing home work their standard hours.  At halfway through 2016, the nursing home trying the six-hour workday has half the average sick leave, the nurses are happier and the care is better.  The study, however, equates productivity with the quality of care, which doesn’t necessarily translate to white-collar work.

Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska University Hospital’s orthopedics unit switched 89 nurses and doctors to a six-hour day last year, hiring 15 staffers to ensure the hospital work got done.  The test was expensive, costing the hospital $123,000 a month, but no one has called in sick since it began and the nurses and doctors have been found to be more efficient.

A number of startup companies have announced that they are also testing the concept.  These include Background AB, a creative communication agency in Falun, Dalarna and Filimundus, an app developer based in Stockholm.  Linus Feldt, Filimundus CEO believes that staying focused on a specific work task for eight hours is a huge challenge.  During an eight or more hour workday, employees take frequent breaks and look for distractions and diversions such as social media to make the workday more endurable.  With the six-hour workday, staff members at Filimundus are not allowed on social media, meetings are kept to a minimum, and the company does it’s best to eliminate other unproductive distractions.

Most of the companies who have made the shift to the six-hour workday have reported a positive impact, from increased efficiency to better communication and fewer staff sick days.  A 2014 Stanford University research paper found a “non-linear” relationship between hours worked and productivity, as well as too much work, can actually impinge productivity.  According to a study by the Families and Work Institute, overworked employees make more mistakes.  Research has shown that condensing work into more efficient hours is very unlikely to hurt productivity.  There is no need to lower pay and in fact, companies are likely to save money through less sick and personal leave, less stress leading to better health, and lower turnover costs.

Opponents of the six-hour workday feel that if Sweden were to adopt this standard, the economy would suffer from reduced competitiveness and strained finances.  The six-hour day has not been embraced by larger Swedish companies and other towns in Sweden that previously tested shorter workdays ultimately abandoned them.  In the northern city of Kiruna, officials scrapped a six-hour day for 250 municipal employees after 16 years, citing high expenses and resentment among workers who were not part of the program.

The six-hour work day would be less accepted in the U.S. because the eight+ hour workday ethic is so deeply embedded in our culture.  According to Gallup’s 2014 poll, full-time employees in the U.S. work an average of 47 hours per week.  It will be interesting to watch how the six-hour workday plays out in Sweden.  However, even with encouraging results, it’s unlikely that the U.S. will shift to shorter days anytime soon.  The rest of the world (outside of Europe) a 40-hour work week would be a very nice improvement as well.

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.

INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR OR EMPLOYEE?

If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s a duck.  In other words, if you are treating the ‘independent contractor’ like an employee by doing things such as providing work materials and office space, designating working hours, providing training and direction regarding how and when to perform the work, then the ‘independent contractor’ is most likely an employee.  Independent contractor is defined by the Fair Labor Standards Act, IRS regulations, and the decisions of some courts.  Many states also have specific independent contractor regulations.  The IRS and many states have adopted common law principles to define an independent contractor. These rules focus primarily on the level of control an employer has over a service or product. For independent contractors, the company can direct or control only the result of the work done, and not the means and methods in getting to the result.

The rules are not always clear-cut to determine the correct status, but generally characteristics of an Independent Contractor include:

  • The work assignment is temporary and typically for a specific project
  • The work assignment is not an integral part of the business and is not something typically done by employees.

The Independent Contractor will:

  • Supply his or her own equipment, materials and tools
  • Pay for their own expenses
  • Control the hours worked
  • Determine how and when to perform the work
  • Retain a degree of control and independence
  • Operate under a business name and has his/her own employees
  • Advertise his/her business’ services and has more than one client

Some courts and federal agencies use an “economic realities test” which looks at the dependence of the worker on the business.  If a large portion of a worker’s salary is from one specific company, this may qualify the as an employee. Other factors considered are level of skill, integral nature of the work, intent of the parties and payment of social security taxes and benefits.

Misclassification of an individual as an independent contractor may have a number of costly legal consequences such as reimbursement of all wages including overtime, taxes and penalties for federal and state income taxes, social security, Medicare and unemployment, providing employee benefits and workers compensation for any injuries.

There is no set number of factors that makes the worker an employee or an independent contractor.  Also, factors which are relevant in one situation may not be relevant in another.  The best approach is to look at the entire relationship, consider the degree or extent of the right to direct and control the work, and be sure to document all factors used in your determination process.

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.

INCENTIVE PLAN ESSENTIALS

Well-designed and well-implemented incentive plans can be an important tool for overall company success, but they also have the potential to be ineffective and even damaging if not carefully thought out.  Poorly designed incentives can have too much discretion, too much complexity or just too many measures that can undermine their power and advantage, and they can become just another way to distribute pay.

Before you even consider incentives, make sure you know the company’s strategy and the critical measurements of success.  You will need to know the specifics regarding what you want to achieve, what kinds of improvements, behaviors and outcomes do you want; why aren’t these improvements happening now and what’s preventing them from taking place; what obstacles to the outcomes will employees face, how will employees respond to and try to overcome these obstacles, and is this what you want; Do employees have the skills, experience, systems and support they need to overcome these obstacles and if not, what is lacking?

The potential incentive must be big enough to get the employees’ attention.  Incentives can create a focus on results, but you have to first get the employee’s attention.  Because the opportunity for financial rewards motivates some more than others, your incentive plan will have a greater chance of success if you carefully define what the size of the opportunity must be in order to get the majority of your employees’ focus.

The performance or results required to earn the incentive must be within the employees’ control or significant influence and should be perceived as achievable with some extra effort or stretch.  It should be easy to see and understand the relationship between one’s effort, the results of that effort and the reward.   The incented performance needs to be perceived as a desirable, stretch goal to get and keep the employee’s attention. The payout must be worth the effort required to “stretch.”  The actual payout after the final measurement is made needs to justify the attempt that was made to achieve the full objective.

Develop robust tools for performance reporting so that the employee participants always know where they stand in relation to their goals and payouts.  The payout should be forecast as the performance period proceeds in order to keep the employees’ focus on the desired outcome.   Too much subjectivity in the measurements will turn a Plan into a surprise bonus.   The sources of the measurements should be available to every participant on a regular basis and calculations for determining payouts must be simple and easy to understand.

Incentive plans will also be more valued and accepted by employees when they are a compliment to an already competitive base salary plan.  Incentive plans are not meant to remedy non-competitive pay issues.  Finally, critical factors for a plans success lie in keeping it simple and ensuring good plan communications.

Incentive plans, or any other reward vehicles, cannot drive the performance-improvement bus alone. Unless you identify and remove the barriers to performance, and create the setting in which performance improvement is possible and even likely, throwing incentive money at the problem will likely have little positive impact and could produce some very real negative consequences.

WageWatch offers accurate, up-to-date HR metrics, 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. The PeerMark™ Wage Survey is the only Web-based custom survey tool that allows individual survey participants to select their competitive set for comparison purposes.  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.   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.