Thought Leadership Blog

The HRS Thought Leadership Blog delivers validated findings, visionary perspectives and op/ed commentaries related to HR, Leadership, Organizational Development and Employment Law. To enjoy the full volume of available articles, please enter topic keywords in the search box to explore our body of work. Articles are regularly presented by the HRS team and guest experts.


Social Media: Back to the Future to Improve Your Business?

Social media. It’s different and unique. We’ve never seen anything like it. We’re fascinated by it, yet we’re not sure how it can help most businesses, especially ours. A totally new, modern paradigm, right? Maybe not. 

In the mid-1990s, nearly every business leader had some degree of fascination with the “Worldwide Web.” They suspected it was important to have a “page” on the “Information Superhighway.”  But for what? Well, most weren’t sure, but everyone was doing it and the Internet seemed to have mysterious potential, so everyone jumped in. Thousands and sometimes millions of dollars were spent, often times with very little ROI or alignment to business goals. And some got burned. Yet we learned and the Web proved to be an integral part of the way we do business.
 
Fast forward to today. For many, the feeling about social media is similar. A vague, uneasy, queasy feeling. “Social media might be good,” you say, “but what if it’s too early for my business to embrace it?” Or “What, if anything, can it do for a business like mine?” Or “I want to do something with social media, but I don’t want to look stupid or waste money!”
 
It’s a brave new world, so it’s understandable that the business benefits from social media might seem nebulous. Sure, consumer goods companies and entertainment entities have been embracing social media for several years, but the rest of the B2B and B2C herds are still trying to figure out how to use it, and many are even avoiding it altogether. Sure, you might have personal accounts on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or even Pinterest, and you might even use blogs or mixed content strategies at work, but that doesn’t translate into having a clue about how social media can work for your business, right?
 
Of course, you might delay or hide, but you know social media, like the Internet, is not going away. In fact, depending on your business goals it might already be a necessity for your business—regardless of what your business is or whether it’s B2B or B2C—in the same way the Internet became a necessity in the late 1990s. Don’t believe it? According to an industry survey done in early 2012, 93 percent of B2B companies and over 95 percent of B2C companies use social media to market their businesses. Moreover, over 56 percent of B2B marketers and 45 percent of B2C marketers acquired new business partnerships via social media.
 
While the methods and tools might vary depending on your business, you should at the very least be seriously considering how social media can be an effective part of your strategy. Here are a few tips to help you get up to speed and make your social media efforts successful:
 
Social media will be an evolution for you, but you should already be using it. Social media itself is evolving daily. It will also be an evolutionary tool for your business, just as the Internet was “back in the day.” That said, it is imperative you take it seriously now, else you’ll be well behind your competitors who are already learning and growing with it. And they are learning and growing with it, right now!

Social media will be a continuum for you. Perhaps you are already using Facebook and Twitter as simple announcement forums to post press releases, product or event announcements, or even job openings? Not good enough. Social media is not a PR megaphone—it is first and foremost a listening post! Even if you are savvy enough to post questions in an attempt to elicit a response—“Hey, what do you think of our new product?” —your audience smells when they are being told rather than being asked. You’ll see that in the few responses you get. Once customers are doing the talking, then you should evolve that into using strategy. Strategy then leads to the ultimate goal: client and community engagement. Depending where you are on the listening/strategy/engagement continuum, you will have different social media needs.

It’s not about the number of followers you have. The number of followers you have is merely an outcome of your efforts. What you’re ultimately looking for is highly-engaged customers who actively embrace your social media efforts, help you improve your business, and increase the bottom line, so quality trumps quantity. Social media allows you to engage with your customers at moments when they’re not normally thinking about you. Moreover, the viral nature of social media is the equivalent to an old-school concept every businessperson understands: referrals. Each time a visitor shares your Facebook post, re-tweets a link you posted on Twitter, or re-pins an infographic you posted to a Pinterest board, they are creating new relationships for you.

Your social media messaging needs to align and integrate with your other brand messaging. A business-to-business software company I know, one whose audience is mostly male and over 40, recently posted a link to a positive quarterly earnings announcement. Innocuous enough, except below it they also posted a meme, a picture of a puppy with the caption “Who’s awesome?!” Not so good. Social media can indeed provide a unique way to humanize and personalize your brand, and can give it a softer, friendlier tone. But any humanization must be in sync with your other messaging. Unless you’re targeting a youthful consumer audience, avoid being too cute. In your effort to appear personable and likeable, you erode respect for your business and credibility for your brand. 

Don’t believe the smoke and mirrors. There are many firms that claim to be social media experts. Because the genre is evolving so quickly, few are. They are just trying to capitalize on a new service that businesspeople are only now embracing. Find a communications firm that talks first about your business, then about the methods to reach your goals. The firm should talk about aligning your social media efforts to your business goals and desired results. If a firm uses daunting language you don’t understand, they are not the right firm for you. You don’t need a specialty firm or Madison Avenue agency that tries to dazzle you with social media gobbledygook and expertise—you need one that takes a “business-first” approach to your marketing. Social media is a marketing tool, and it needs to work well with all the other tools in your toolbox. Use a firm that understands your overall communications needs and has experience integrating social media as part of your larger goals.

Social media for use in everyday marketing communications is still new and evolving, but it needn’t be scary, and you needn’t have perfect knowledge to use it effectively today. Just make certain to focus on your business goals, define the long-term business results you’re looking for—Building brand or product awareness? Stronger lead generation? Better prospect conversion rate? Being seen as a thought leader?—and use people who are holistically focused on your business and brand rather than just the social part of social media. Because as the Internet era taught us, it’s all about the business.

- By Dar Hackbarth


Dar Hackbarth serves the HRS Education Council as Senior Brand Strategist. Summary Bio
 


The Team At HRS - Thursday, November 15, 2012

 





Unsubscribe Me!!! Too Many Newsletters? A Quiet Separation Beats a Kick to the Curb!

Getting pummeled with newsletters?  Of course you are. We all are.  While many senders are deploying shotgun approach with rapid fire muck and will never notice your unsubscription, many will receive a bold type alert of your action and will be instantly insulted.  
 
Today’s social media and technology often allows the filter of incoming information with discretion and ease, so why send a deliberate insult?  Those who prefer the insult are alive and well and they shall stop reading here. Those seeking diplomacy will continue reading. 

As both example and shameless plug, HRS e-News boasts less than 1% unsubscription rate and a 10% rising subscription rate annually. We accomplish this by distributing only 2-4 newsletters annually, and we use headlines, organization, provocative editorial and concise relevant content to get the reader in and out quickly with appreciated value. Nevertheless, a few will unsubscribe. When approached regarding the unsubscription, the most common answer has postured upon too many newsletters and too little time. Many newsletters are never read. 

As in many organizations, every unsubscription is noticed and monitored by our key team. Some of these unsubscribing geniuses sell to us, enjoy our donations or have subscribed us to their newsletters without our consent. In most mass mailings the link to unsubscribe is typically present only in sender avoidance of the internet “blacklist.” Our team has learned that unsubscribers may lack knowledge of outcomes; however, many recipients of the controversial unsubscription are insulted by the act or consider it buffoonery. Please think it through. 
 
A better time-saving and relationship-saving fix exists. Rather than taking time to open the newsletter and navigating the quagmire of unsubscription clicks which may very well get you negatively noticed, use technologies to vanish the unwanted more quickly.  If you are receiving infrequent correspondence from a sender, the best use of your time is probably to ignore or delete.  If frequent, please be aware that your unsubscription may be ineffective, and deploy your inbox filter rules to reroute the sender to another folder, a clearly labeled folder which distances itself from your normal viewing panes. You may offload the correspondence for future viewing opportunity, or perhaps you may send it to Siberia.  Should you find yourself annoyed by this onslaught of the uninvited, consider your filtering as the letter wrote but never sent.  Take comfort that a well-executed filter will absolutely clean up your inbox and ease your busy workday.

Facebook and other social media platforms can be even easier. Sans a business policy to do so and mutual understanding beforehand, to unfriend someone is quite the middle finger. Facebook allows us 10 levels of unsubscription which the other party may never notice, so why not use them?  There are no “take backs” on the blatant unsubscription or unfriend, so ponder the outcomes of your next move. 

HRS delivers organizational communications with expert guidance in social media practices, conflict management, technology use and internal/external information flow. 

Jessica Ollenburg - Friday, September 21, 2012

 





Sequencing Medical and Disability Leave

FMLA, ADA, Disability and PTO (Paid Time Off) leaves require proper sequencing in avoidance of fiscal waste, unlawful activity and costly confusion.  While there are certain acceptable conditions under which paid leave can be substituted for FMLA, HRS recommends sequencing leave with clear consistent policies.  As it is unlawful to penalize an employee in any way based upon his or her proper execution of legal rights or benefits, keep it clean and risk free. Beyond PTO and where permitted by law, leave concurrency should be clearly stated and practiced with consistency.

In terms of medical and disability leave, employers are strictly accountable to FMLA and ADA according to company size, location and unique definition of “undue hardship.”  Employers must create a distinctive policy whereby employee receipt of disability benefits does not necessarily constitute approved disability leave.  Consider the elective disability policies available.  While these may be a smart purchase for employees, employers must be consistent with available leave and need not recognize these private purchases as employer mandates. A few sentences in the employee handbook and a consistent practice accomplish these goals quite nicely.  Workers’ compensation lost time is treated in accordance with FMLA, ADA, DOL, EEOC and company leave policies. 
 
Customize a PTO policy which addresses your company’s unique needs. Consider benefits for using PTO during company preferred times such as periods of less activity. Contemplate blackouts for PTO during bottleneck activities. Take into account the minimum and maximum length of absence preferable, and structure a written policy in advance accordingly. Having created a custom policy that appropriately addresses unique company wishes, many employers will find value in requesting use of PTO prior to any unpaid leaves. Remember that legally entitled leaves require certification. That is, when you have a finite amount of leave certified, this needs not extend the total leave amount, and everyone wins. Most employers will find the following sequence most beneficial: PTO >> FMLA >> ADA Extension (if applicable) >> Company Elected Medical or Disability Leave (if any).  ADA extensions are still being shaped by case precedents, whereby 30 days beyond FMLA was recently determined a maximum.

Any company elected leave not legally mandated should be titled as such, creating clear distinction as to what is legally mandated and monitored and what is not. It is most definitely a lost opportunity to create company elective leave without proudly announcing this generosity of this benefit to treasured team members.  This announcement can optimize engagement and employer brand equity.
 
The legal compliance professionals at HRS are on call for policy establishment and implementation guidance.  Please consider us a valuable resource to any of the topics mentioned herein.  


Jessica Ollenburg - Monday, July 30, 2012

 





Org Comm 101: How to Avoid "I Forgot"

While not biologically correct, "the mind is a muscle" offers some merit, and it is true... "when you don't use it, you lose it." Think tank studies overwhelm us with evidence that memory is contingent upon attention and interest. To a certain extent we can, in fact, hold others accountable for the ability to remember. 

On the flip side, however, the best of us can overwhelm, over-absorb, spread too thinly and/or burn out. 

"I forgot" is not a legitimate excuse.  To that end here is a quick organizational trick to ensuring top efficiency in daily priorities and task handling... 

Use technology wisely.  Use task reminders and event invitations.  Require email correspondence as a paper trail to avoid confusion.  

Create email folders and filters. Use subject lines, keywords and especially senders to automatically sort incoming and outgoing correspondence for quicker future reference. Use technology to automatically attach correspondence to contact records. Consider privacy protection for items of public sensitivity.

Use flags, priority codes and subject line keywords to set expectations of deadlines and urgency. 

If you do not have someone on your team to help you with this, make it a priority to acquire someone, internally or externally to set this up. Give that priority a big red flag on your desktop of "to do's."  For those who do not work at a desk, mobile desktops and PDAs are available. 


Jessica Ollenburg - Tuesday, May 29, 2012

 





P3 Compliance and Constructing Policies That Hold Up in Court

The Department of Labor tells us they are overwhelmed, understaffed and shifting additional burden to employers for employment law compliance. This can be a great deal for the average employer to undertake.  HRS has taken some time to prepare a quick “how to” blueprint for employers.

P3, also called “Plan/Prevent/Protect” or “P Cubed,” will require every entity covered by the FLSA, OSHA, OFCCP, and MSHA to make written plans ("Plan"), create processes ("Prevent"), and test the processes with designated compliance employees ("Protect").

The following guidelines create a simplified and sustainable P3 protocol:

 

1. Stay On Top of Changing Laws.

Review not only government postings, but also secure a 3rd party compliance expert as needed and for annual overview.  Our “overwhelmed” government states outright there is no government responsibility to educate employers.  Enforcement is their responsibility, however, and fundraising is high.  Case precedent law is just as impactful here as statutory law.  While it is necessary to be a member of the Bar to litigate or serve as “officer of the court,” it is not necessary to be a member of the Bar to be a legal compliance expert.  Full-time research commitment is essential for such expertise. 

2. Avoid Copycat or Adaptation of Other Employers’ Handbooks.

Beyond the immediate intellectual property law threats, other employers are not recognized as experts.  “Because Company X Did It” is not a reasonable defense. There are some terribly non-compliant practices circulating out there like “old wives’ tales.” Even policies that actually work for one company may not work for yours.

3. Build Legal Arguments from Day One.

Maintain records to prove either experts consulted on or approved your policies… or if self-constructed… save expert resources and statutory evidence as future “reasonable care” affirmative defense.  Use scenario planning to create and document activities which defend the company against complaint. “Willful violations” pose the greatest threat.  Negligence and lack of attention can be considered “willful” acts.

4. Protect Chain of Information.

Knowing what to keep and for how long as well as what not to keep are essential. Knowing who can have access and how to use this information without breaching privacy laws or risking discriminatory complaint are equally essential. 

5. Follow Policy Outcomes.

With the overuse of “cookie cutter” policies, many companies are unaware that better policy options exist.  Regardless of genesis for your policy, track outcomes to ensure it is working for you and not creating adverse impact or unlawful side effects.  Designate specific individuals with reasonable ongoing access, and empower them with job description authority to monitor policy success.

 

HRS offers extraordinary legal compliance expertise, P3 design services and further information on any topic herein. Consider an HR certification audit as proactive P3 compliance. ROI is exponential.


Jessica Ollenburg - Monday, January 23, 2012

 





Employer Choices Concerning Concealed Carry Act… To Ban or Not to Ban

Private businesses and employers in 12 states to most recently include Wisconsin are faced with the decision to allow concealed weapons carry on company premises. The argument against banning weapons lies largely in the statistics and in the liability. The argument for banning weapons lies largely in perception of safety and in the ability to attract, retain and engage a productive workforce comprised of people unaccustomed to concealed weapons carry and its perceived threats.

Legal counsel and insurance underwriters are largely recommending employer silence on this issue. Silence allows lawful carry without interference. The US Library of Congress reports crime reduction in every state enacting Concealed Carry. Violent crimes are reduced 5-22%. The most popularly referenced FBI report utilizes a 7% reduction statistic.

As a global firm, we have had the opportunity to work with many states across the nation prior to Wisconsin’s recent Concealed Carry enactment. With a second hub in AZ and service to the Scottsdale Chamber’s Public Policy Advisory Council, we are no strangers to public weapons carry and private business rights to “Opt Out.”

Wisconsin employers are inundating us with questions, and we are pleased to provide an extraordinary knowledge base here. At the time of this report, the state of Wisconsin is not protecting employers from liability if choosing “weapon free zones.”  Specifically, if an individual is harmed because he or she was not allowed to carry weapon per lawful right, the company can be held liable. Additionally, it is argued that the posting of “no weapons” signs specifically attracts crime similar to a resident posting a sign “not monitored by security system.”

The argument for banning weapons lies largely in the perception of safety and records of specific incidents. While statistically it is argued that crime is reduced by arming law abiding citizens, the fact remains that with concealed carry acts, individuals who shouldn’t be licensed still manage to get licensed. It is also evident that individuals use poor judgment in what constitutes “self defense,” improperly trained individuals gain access to weapons and accidents happen. What stings in minds are images of Columbine, Virginia Tech, “going postal” and a wealth of related tragedies. For many these images outweigh statistical probabilities and facts. Most are not aware of this report… among 25,000 2009 murders, less than 1% were committed by concealed carry permit holders. 
 
Businesses which allow concealed carry on their property are immune from liability arising from that decision. Employers who choose to allow concealed carry without interference will adapt by removing policies and handbook language which prohibit the carry of weapons on premises.  However, we recommend substituting this language with the requirement that weapons must be lawful and licensed.

Employers who choose to “opt out” will create a “weapon free zone.” Employers may choose to prohibit concealed carry during work activities, and if they do so, then language must be modified and signs must be posted.   The sign must:

• Be at least 5 inches by 7 inches.
• State that concealed or open firearms are prohibited in the building or on the premises.
• Specify the area to which the prohibition applies.
• Be placed in a prominent place near all of the entrances to the part of the building to which the restriction applies or near all probable access points to the grounds or land to which the restriction applies, as applicable, where any individual entering the building, grounds, or land can be reasonably expected to see the sign. 
• Businesses should consider the universal “no” symbol of a circle around a picture of a firearm with a slash across the middle of the circle, indicating that firearms are prohibited.

 
An employer may not prohibit an employee, as a condition of employment, from carrying a concealed weapon in the employee’s own motor vehicle, even if the employee uses his or her vehicle in the course of employment or if the motor vehicle is on company grounds. Some employers are creating a policy that vehicles containing weapons on company premises must remain locked at all times.

HRS is active in helping craft and/or review employee handbook policies on this matter.  For those who wish to “opt out,” the sample “Weapons Ban” policy to follow is one of the alternatives available.  Customization may be expected. 

 

Weapons Ban Policy Sample

The company complies fully with all applicable federal, state and local laws to include the Concealed Carry Act. Weapons and firearms of any type are strictly prohibited within company premises at all times.  Company premise includes property owned, leased or controlled by the company.  Company premises also include anywhere that company business is conducted, such as customer locations, vendor/associate locations, trade shows, restaurants or any venue visited for the purpose of business. Weapons include, but are not limited to, guns, knives or swords with blades over four inches in length, explosives, and any chemical whose purpose is to cause harm to another person.
 
Regardless of whether an employee possesses a concealed weapons permit or is allowed by law to possess a weapon, weapons are prohibited on any company property or in any location in which the employee represents the company for business purposes, including those listed above.

Possession of a weapon can only be specifically authorized by a company officer to allow security personnel or a trained employee to have a weapon on company property when this possession is determined necessary to secure the safety and security of company employees. Only a company officer may authorize the carrying of or use of a weapon within company premises. Any violation of this policy or federal, state or local laws which relate to weapons shall also result in immediate discipline up to and including termination.


Jessica Ollenburg - Thursday, December 01, 2011

 





Can Businesses Learn From Tim Tebow?

Tim Tebow is becoming a national phenomenon. No matter which side of the argument you find yourself on, chances are you’ve either found yourself arguing whether he would be the greatest thing or the worst thing to happen to professional sports in some time. There are plenty of people who enjoy watching him succeed, and plenty of people who enjoy witnessing him complete only 2 passes during an entire game. However, there is one thing that cannot be argued: Tim Tebow wins. No matter how pretty (or ugly) his game is, he always finds a way to succeed.
 
Take last night’s game against the Jets for an example. Tim Tebow led an anemic offense through what could be considered some of the worst football you will ever watch, and it lasted for 55 minutes. However, when it became crunch time, and when it mattered the most, Tebow transformed and his Denver Broncos came away with a win. He may not have the decision making of Aaron Rodgers, or the arm strength of Ben Roethlisberger, or the pinpoint accuracy of Drew Brees, but Tim Tebow shares one thing with all of these other quarterbacks; he is winning.
 
Tim Tebow is 4-1 this year as an NFL starter. An ESPN article reported his teammates as saying, “We’ll take the win” and “Would you rather us look good and lose?”  This brings up an excellent point. As a business, would you rather have your team look ugly and win, or look good and lose?
 
“Winning in business” is something that cannot be as explicitly defined as “winning in the NFL”, however we can examine this in a different angle of achieving goals. The ultimate goal of an NFL team is to win, and more specifically to win the Super Bowl. Now think about your business. What is your ultimate goal? What is it that your company sets out to achieve day in and day out? What is it in your business that allows you to feel like a success story when you leave for the day?
 
Is Tebow actually “winning ugly?” Would it really matter to you if you were to achieve your goals through unconventional means, or would you be more proud of it? 
 
So what do these critics mean when they say “winning ugly?” “Winning ugly” in business can imply a lack of ethics. Let’s abandon that argument and define “ugly” as “unconventional” and “breaking normal rules.” Let’s define what others consider “ugly” as “thinking outside of the box.” Let’s define “ugly” as really not even being ugly at all. Entrepreneurial thinking is far from an ugly matter, but it is unconventional by design. Tebow can be defined as unconventionality at its peak. And while no one is likely to follow Tebow’s methods, the truth is that he is winning, and he is winning with what he has and what he knows how to do. We can learn from this directly as business people; you can win with what you have, no matter what you have, if you know it well enough and apply Appreciative Inquiry concepts.
 
Not all of us can have the top level of resources, so we need to win with what we have. This may directly lead to “winning ugly”. If you are a supervisor, learn about your employees, individual and team strengths, and how to maximize that potential. If you are a CFO, learn what your company has in financial assets and learn to make the most of it. If you are a Product Manager, know what makes your product unique and find the best way to allow that product to “win”. We can’t all be the Aaron Rodgers or the Tom Brady of the world, but we can beat them if we learn to succeed with what we’ve got.





Matthew Bare - Friday, November 18, 2011

 





Writing Job Descriptions for Legal Compliance and Organizational Development Results

Templates exist for best practices job descriptions.  Some templates hit the mark and others fall short.  Our article outlines the minimum goals to be attained by job description creation as well as some helpful guidelines to writing a custom description.  Rarely can an organization pull a job description "off the shelf" from another organization and apply it without essential modification.  Consider a job description model only a starting point and invest the effort into customizing the instrument to your organization and your unique job.  The exercise of doing so offers value in itself. 

For starters, let us explore the goals.  A strong job description will...

  • Serve as an effective tool for employee selection and orientation to specific position duties and evaluation criteria.
  • Establish a training checklist for new hires or incumbent job changes.
  • Provide a point-by-point quality of work itemization for performance appraisals and ongoing performance management.
  • Document position goals and performance standards.
  • Protect the firm from legal risks through written documentation of position requirements.  Establish ADA, FLSA and EEOC compliance.
  • Benchmark the position for accurate compensation scale review.
  • Facilitate a merit-based compensation system by clearly identifying distinguishing characteristics between positions and position levels.
  • Communicate recruitment parameters to safeguard the hiring process.
  • Effectively distribute workload among team members to ensure organizational “right sizing.”
  • Manage legal risks in employment law by comprehensively documenting the position requirements and performance requirements.
  • Allow team members to measure their own performances between formal performance appraisals.
  • Establish individual accountability.
  • Internally market the position to each relevant team member through controlled terminology and quick communication of the “keys to success” in the position.
  • Enhance training and thereby minimize relevant turnover.
  • Validate the need for pre-employment testing/screening toward legal risk management.
  • Protect team members not selected for promotion from failure to understand selection decisions.  Protect the company from challenged decisions.
  • Assist supervisors with the performance appraisal system by providing written reminders of the goals and expectations actually communicated to the team members.

 

Job Analysis should involve both incumbent employees and their supervisors.  Not only should the tasks and position goals be documented, but in crafting and weighting such considerations, the keys to success and risks of failure should also be considered.  The consideration and the documentation of facts are two different things.  The final product will be edited and filtered for content and purpose. As an example, we document what an employee is responsible to do to avert problems, but we do not necessarily document the potential problems themselves.

Typical categories of information include Job Title, Immediate Supervisor, FLSA Status, Mission/Summary, Essential Tasks & Responsibilities, Supervisory Responsibility, Job Requirements, Working Conditions, Physical Demands, Skills & Learning Goals, and Disclaimer of Management Ability to Modify.  Some descriptions may include Department, Pay Grade, Work Hours, Location/Site Travel and more.

When crafting language, measurable benchmarks must be present to ensure the standards are meaningful and reliable.  Legally compliant language is essential to ensure compliance and perception of compliance at every stage of employment.  Desirable behaviors should be documented in detailed description.  While some label behaviors as"soft skills," successful leadership recognizes that behaviors drive results often more than skills do.  Behaviors need to be measured both on the job and at pre-employment assessment.  The HRS Assessment Center supports just that! Owning a characteristic is not as important at appropriately deploying that characteristic when it counts.  In order to pay a bill, one needs not only to have the money but also to write the check.

Job analysis questionnaires, sample job descriptions, outsource assistance and more information are available from HRS.  We wish you great success with your project!

 

  

 


Jessica Ollenburg - Monday, September 26, 2011

 





Disability Leave: How Much is Too Much?

Fueled by ADA, FMLA and countless ever-changing statutory concerns, employer confusion has sparked over-generosity.  Employers are giving against their will and caving in beyond necessity.  While competitive offerings remain critical to attracting, engaging and retaining the right talent, benefits that reach the greatest number of top performers are most valuable.  Disability benefits may or may not be integral to that mix, specific to the overall company offerings and keys to success. Disability leave, disability law and disability insurance are each distinctively different topics.  Accordingly, we have taken time to debunk the myths and blueprint the actual requirements.

ADA Leave: Recent legal precedents validate that employers need not provide “indefinite leave” nor any disability leave that produces “undue hardship.” According to circumstance, four weeks beyond FMLA entitlements has been a typical benchmark for ADA leave.

Employee Paid Disability Premiums: Where the company does not pay premiums or administer benefits, such disability insurance plans may be exempt from company benefit rules.  While it is unlawful to penalize employees for the allowable use of company benefits, benefits not provided by the company may be carved out.  Written distinction is mandated through a well-crafted policy.

Advance Notice:  Wage, hour and employment laws are quite clear that while an employer may be granted certain latitude in practice, advance notice to employees is critical to legal compliance.  Burden rests upon the employer to provide clear advanced notification of policies.  Again, a well-crafted proactive policy satisfies this requirement.

Benefits During Leave:  The company needs not pay benefits during leave not legally mandated.  In fact, the same is true during certain legally mandated leave.  Employers may craft policies that stipulate leave to be employment separation.  Such leave can then have its own consistently applied definition, eligibility for rehire and seniority recaptured, if so desired, upon rehire. Employees are eligible for COBRA as of the employment separation date, which becomes the qualifying event.

As with most employee handbook policies, one size does not fit all here and legal compliance can be complex.  HRS is available to weigh situations on their own merit and customize policies to unique company practices.

 

 


Jessica Ollenburg - Monday, August 29, 2011

 





2011’s Most Important Organizational Communication Lessons

2011 finds employers in eclectic places, damaged by recent economic impact, confused by new legal mandates, often acclimating to corporate restructure, balancing technology’s influence and typically cautiously optimistic in a mode of strategic change… some finding great new opportunity as the dust settles. Organizational communication, both internal and external, is substantially impacted by these adjustments. The keys to success are keen skill sets in organizational communications, companywide, often at employer burden of training. The following are the 5 most commonly missed opportunities to succeed and a brief resolution theory.

1. Compliant Communications:

Anti-Harassment, HIPAA, social media and intellectual property are just a few critical learning topics of employer responsibility.  While it is true employers are not always responsible to actually control human behavior, reasonable care in training, policy establishment and enforcement are essential to company success, affirmative defense and risk management.
 

2. Cost-Benefit Analysis:

Employers are found over-communicating and under-communicating change to the point that the cost of communication is disproportionate, upward or downward, to the actual benefit of the change.  Consider the costs of employee communication including preparation, costs of miscommunication and time away from work when developing the communication rollout plan.  Calculate the anticipated benefits, and weigh accordingly for your blueprint.
 

3. Lopsided Sales Cycles:

In the effort to find the best price point or value, employers are demanding staunch sales cycles from prospective providers.  More than ever we see 3+ proposals sought for a 3 or small 4 figure acquisition…too much.  If you want to find the best value, treat your “vendors” as “partners,” keeping in mind their costs become your costs.   Find ways to help your providers keep their costs down.  Don’t sloppily force information repeats, listen carefully, streamline correspondence and be creative.  Prices are prices. Bullying is not negotiating. Together you can build collaborative strength.
 

4. E-mail Versus Traditional Communication:

Rules exist for communication media choice.  Know them and train them.  E-mail is the least invasive, most easily queued at convenient times and facilitates immediate documentation. Live discussion with or without body language, however, can be more efficient for transactional type exchange. Videoconference is a growing option.  Without proper training as to when each should be deployed, debates emerge as to the media choice, further contaminating topic discussion.
  

5. Blameshifting:

With fear of job security alive and well, elaborate schemes are being plotted and deployed to “save one’s skin.” Sadly, the individual who best plots and conceals usually wins, and here the company loses.  The blameshifting target was usually too busy actually working and owning workplace integrity to have won this nasty unproductive game.  When a team member “blames” a vendor or another employee, please investigate and monitor.  Your team members should be rewarded to help company stakeholders do a better job.  Those willing to throw another “under a bus” are far less valuable to you than those working toward greater good.
 

Communication is the means of knowledge transfer and collaboration toward unified goal.   When it is compromised, so are profit, growth, risk management and sustainability. Further detailed analysis and solutions on any topic herein are available through HRS.


Jessica Ollenburg - Tuesday, June 14, 2011