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Inexpensive Perks You Should Offer Your Employees

Employee turnover costs companies thousands. There’s the cost of lost productivity, recruitment, hiring, and training. But what can a company offer to keep employees from leaving?

Employees stay or go for a variety of reasons, but what benefits a company offers can make a difference. Not all employee perks need to be big or expensive. There are a lot of less expensive benefits that companies can offer to make their employees feel valued. Sometimes a little can go a long way.

Keep Your Employees Nourished

A well-nourished employee is a productive employee. Providing free or at-cost snacks can provide much-needed energy during the workday. If the available snacks are healthy, the company can help employees reach health and nutrition goals.

Celebrate Birthdays

On special occasions like employee birthdays, offering cake to celebrate can show employees that they’re appreciated. The rest of your staff will enjoy the break and camaraderie. The value of providing birthday celebrations far outweighs the actual cost of the cake.

Free Coffee

The world runs on coffee. Some employees don’t function well until they’ve had their first cup in the morning. Providing free coffee can help your employees be productive more quickly. Not charging for the coffee can go a long way towards earning loyalty and motivation from your employees.

A well-caffeinated workforce is a productive and happy workforce. Keep the coffee flowing and your business will benefit in profits.

Help Them Avoid Burnout

Burnout can seriously affect an employee’s productivity. It can also cause up to 50% of staff turnover. Fortunately, many of the benefits that can help employees avoid burnout are inexpensive to offer.

Flexible Hours

Offering flextime allows employees to make their own schedule to best fit their needs. Employees may come in early to leave early, or stay late to make up for having arrived late. Some may take breaks in the middle of the day for appointments or to pick up kids from school.

The key factor is allowing employees to make their own schedules. They’ll feel trusted and valued and their schedules will be optimized to fit their lifestyles.

Working from Home

Allowing employees to telecommute shows that you trust them to work productively from home. Studies show that employees are more productive at home, away from the distractions of coworkers. It costs the company nothing to offer this benefit and video conferencing software means that employees don’t miss anything away from the office.

Telecommuting doesn’t have to be a full-time benefit. Employees could be allowed to work a few days a week from home. Or specific days could be set aside for all employees to work from home. The more employees work from home, the less the company has to spend on office expenses.

Reminder: ACA Information Reporting Deadlines Approaching

Form 1095 Furnishing Deadline is March 4

The IRS deadlines for filing and furnishing Forms 1094 and 1095 are fast approaching. As a reminder:

  • Employers with 50 or more full-time employees (including full-time equivalent employees) generally must furnish a Form 1095-C to all full-time employees no later than March 4, 2019.
  • Self-insured employers with fewer than 50 or more full-time employees (including full-time equivalent employees) generally must furnish a Form 1095-B to all responsible individuals—typically the primary insured, an employee or former employee, or other related person named on the application for insurance—no later than March 4, 2019.  
  • All Forms 1094 and 1095 must be filed with the IRS no later than February 28, 2019 (or April 1, 2019, if filing electronically).
8 Tips for Handling Tough Employee Conversations

We all get cold feet when it comes to addressing difficult issues with colleagues in the workplace. It’s stressful, and you just can’t help but think of all of the ways that a well-meaning conversation could go sideways. You worry about the longer-lasting effects of a damaged work relationship but know that you must correct problematic work performance or behaviors before they get out of control.

Uncomfortable conversations about personal behaviors and poor performance are tough, and putting them off just allows the problems to worsen. Use your knowledge of the situation and put together the right combination of management skills to tackle the talk now.

Imagine these all-too-familiar employee situations that you know you need to address but don’t think you have the wisdom (or can’t muster up the courage) to handle:

  • The “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished” situation. For the past several months, one of your team members has been underperforming, and it has dragged down your business unit’s productivity. The underperforming employee has shared that she has a number of family and financial issues and is trying her hardest to stay focused on work because she needs this job and loves the company. She lives your company values and is well-liked by her co-workers. Everyone feels bad for her situation and has been picking up the slack, but they are growing resentful of the extra work with no end in sight. You’ve been trying to be kind by avoiding the issues as her performance has slid from bad to worse. It is now impacting your company’s overall performance and degrading the employee relations climate.
  • The “Bad Behavior, Great Performer” situation. One of your employees consistently exceeds his production goals at the expense of the company culture. He is highly critical of others, issues demands from other work teams without regard for their other priorities, and employees grudgingly drop everything to deliver on impossible deadlines because they believe that they cannot push back. It’s all about him and his performance. He is regularly recognized by the company leadership for being the top producer, and employee complaints to management about his behavior have not been addressed. While production goals are good, your company culture is sinking and you’re starting to see increased absenteeism and turnover among your staff.

Don’t Overlook the Signals

In addition to employee resentment and lost productivity, there’s a bottom-line impact for not tackling these tough talks at the right time and in the right manner. The key is to pay attention to the signals and not feed the problem with neglect.

In the first scenario, trying to be a kind and sensitive boss worked in the beginning but is now backfiring. At first the team worked together to help their struggling colleague, but without a plan to fix the problem in the longer term, it created three serious issues for you to fix: employee morale, lack of confidence in your leadership for missing the signals of “team fatigue,” and not having a plan to keep the team on track — all resulting in lost productivity.

The best thing you can do in situations like these is to work with the struggling employee to develop a plan that puts her back on track or helps her consider alternatives if necessary. This type of conversation requires sensitivity along with some firmness because you need to steer the conversation from the personal issues back to actionable work deliverables.

In my experience dealing with circumstances like the second scenario, typically management allows the top performer’s behavior to go unchecked for fear that if the employee is corrected his performance will suffer or he will quit the company. While there may be an element of truth to those concerns if the individual is unwilling to accept constructive feedback, the bigger fear should be for the company’s culture, employee erosion of trust and confidence in the leadership team, and the motivation, performance, and retention of the other company employees if the behavior is not changed.

Often the top performer continues to use the same work patterns that have been successful and isn’t even aware of the impact on others. Addressing the issues sensitively so that he can make personal changes has the potential to create even higher levels of team unity and performance.

What Signals are You Looking For?

For starters, watch your team’s interactions with each other, be sure that each team member understands their key performance objectives, and take the time to “check in” regularly and solicit feedback about the job, work team, and overall company with each employee.

Having direct conversations on a regular basis helps you nip problems in the bud and shows your employees that you care about their concerns. You also learn each other’s communication patterns so that when it comes time to have that awkward or difficult conversation, you both are less uncomfortable.

Groups where team members work remotely increase the chances that signals can be missed. When telecommuting is coupled with the use of instant messaging and other forms of communications in place of direct face-to-face or voice communications, the sender’s well-intentioned messages may get lost in translation. Be sure to follow up any electronic communications with a direct phone call or meeting.

Eight Tips for Tackling These Conversations

Strategies to manage conflicts with subordinates are not fully taught in business classes. More common are courses addressing project conflicts, where the focus is on fixing the “what” of the problem, such as resetting priorities, changing business plans, or repairing broken systems or processes. There are fewer tools focusing on how teams communicate and repairing broken business relationships. Preparation and planning are critical to get what you need from these hard conversations while keeping your relationship with the employee intact.

  1. Focus your own viewpoint first. If you start out thinking the conversation will be really hard, you’re going to be more anxious. Chances are the conversation will be harder. Instead, position this discussion as a means to enhance your relationship while helping your employee develop better skills, understand company priorities better, or work more positively on the team. Think about how you can deliver the difficult talking points with honesty, courage and fairness.
  2. Recognize the emotions you will be feeling. Are you disappointed in this employee? Angry about the problems they’ve caused? Scared that your conversation will damage your work relationship? Put your negative feelings aside and consider how you will frame the problem you need to discuss and how your employee may feel. Try to come at the discussion with consideration and compassion for their feelings and frame the conversation with a desire for the employee’s success. “John, we need to have a hard conversation today, and I’m feeling anxious because I want you to win. Please know that I am invested in your success and will work with you to make that happen.”
  3. Be intentional in planning the conversation, but don’t script it out so that your delivery sounds mechanical. Some consultants suggest drafting a script and considering alternatives based on the employee’s reactions. In my experience, these conversations never go completely according to plan, and scripted conversations feel artificial. Instead, write down key points and plan as if you are just having a simple conversation with a colleague. Be prepared to provide specifics and pace your conversation so that you take time to gauge your employee’s reactions to your comments. Your employee may react defensively if you provide vague statements. Instead of saying, “Sue, people in the company are telling me that you are difficult to work with and have a bad attitude,” frame the issue with examples, such as, “Sue, I am concerned because I’ve noticed in the last four team meetings you arrived late and weren’t prepared with project updates. As a result, both Joe and Sam missed their deliverables, and you didn’t let any of us know in advance that the timeline was slipping.”
  4. Recognize that you own part of the problem, too. Your goal is to have a conversation between adults where each owns some responsibility for the issue and solving the problem. This takes the conversation from finding fault to finding solutions. “Rob, I realize now that you have too many priorities and I didn’t provide you with the resources to deliver on the project. I also realize that I avoided addressing the problem at the beginning of the project and let it go too long without discussing it with you.”
  5. Outline what you want changed. Don’t just discuss the problem; describe the end result you envision. Discuss realistic and achievable outcomes and be willing to offer resources and assistance as appropriate.
  6. Ask the employee for his or her viewpoints. The last thing you want is a one-sided conversation. Slow the pace of the conversation, observe the employee’s reactions to your comments, and ask for feedback and suggestions for solving the problem. You may learn new information about what may have caused the problem, and the employee could offer even better solutions than you thought possible. Throughout the conversation, look for areas of consensus and acknowledge the employee’s feelings and concerns. That shows respect.
  7. End the conversation on a positive note with an action plan. Thank the employee for working with you through the difficult discussion. Acknowledge that it was a tough conversation and express appreciation for the employee’s professionalism as you both work towards a better outcome. Develop a going-forward action plan to solve the problem. “Tom, this was a hard talk, and I know it wasn’t easy for you. You provided some good ideas for fixing the issue, and I appreciate your professionalism. You can do this, and I am here to help you win.”
  8. Close the loop and follow up. Give the employee a little time to reflect on the discussion, but no more than a day or two. Follow up and ask the employee if they would like to have another discussion to cover any additional information or clarification. Put the agreed-upon action plan in writing, schedule regular status meetings, and recognize progress and improved performance. Taking these steps demonstrates your respect for the employee and desire for them to succeed.

Keep the Conversation Going

Great managers keep the conversation going to ensure team members are aligned and supporting each other to create a healthy corporate culture and successful company. When problems arise, they have the tough conversations to get things back on track. Handling these discussions well takes courage as well as empathetic listening and communications skills. Pay attention to the signals, develop your communications plan, and you’ll be more confident in tackling your next tough employee communications challenge.

IRS Extends Deadline for Employers to Furnish Forms 1095-C and 1095-B

On November 29, 2018, the IRS released Notice 2018-94 to extend the due date for employers to furnish 2018 Form 1095-C or 1095-B under the Affordable Care Act’s employer reporting requirement. Employers will have an extra month to prepare and distribute the 2018 form to individuals. The due dates for filing forms with the IRS are not extended.

Background

Applicable large employers (ALEs), who generally are entities that employed 50 or more full-time and full-time-equivalent employees in 2017, are required to report information about the health coverage they offered or did not offer to certain employees in 2018. To meet this reporting requirement, the ALE will furnish Form 1095-C to the employee or former employee and file copies, along with transmittal Form 1094-C, with the IRS.

Employers, regardless of size, that sponsored a self-funded (self-insured) health plan providing minimum essential coverage in 2018 are required to report coverage information about enrollees. To meet this reporting requirement, the employer will furnish Form 1095-B to the primary enrollee and file copies, along with transmittal Form 1094-B, with the IRS. Self-funded employers who also are ALEs may use Forms 1095-C and 1094-C in lieu of Forms 1095-B and 1094-B.

Extended Due Dates

Specifically, Notice 2018-94 extends the following due dates:

  • The deadline for furnishing 2018 Form 1095-C, or Form 1095-B, if applicable, to employees and individuals is March 4, 2019 (extended from January 31, 2019).
  • The deadline for filing copies of the 2018 Forms 1095-C, along with transmittal Form 1094-C (or copies of Forms 1095-B with transmittal Form 1094-B), if applicable, remains unchanged:
    • If filing by paper, February 28, 2019.
    • If filing electronically, April 1, 2019.

The extended due date applies automatically so employers do not need to make individual requests for the extension.

More Information

Notice 2018-94 also extends transitional good-faith relief from certain penalties to the 2018 employer reporting requirements.

Lastly, the IRS encourages employers, insurers, and other reporting entities to furnish forms to individuals and file reports with the IRS as soon as they are ready.

Does My Company Need an Employee Handbook?

In general, having an employee handbook or policy manual is a good business practice, but specifically, there are some good reasons, from a legal standpoint, to create an employee handbook:

Consider this: Even one employee can cause you problems.

And the problems multiply exponentially the more employees you have.

Image this scenario: Your one employee is consistently late for work; sometimes he calls to let you know he will be late, and sometimes he doesn’t. You want to fire him for continued absence, but your attorney says you have no handbook that tells the employee what to expect about what happens in the case of chronic absenteeism.

Trust me; If you don’t have something in writing about this situation, the employee can charge that he didn’t know he could be fired for not showing up on time. And this could lead to a lawsuit.

The Purpose of an Employee Handbook

  • Employees like to know what is expected of them and they want to know that they are being treated the same way as other employees. The perception of unfair treatment can lead to disgruntled employees and, ultimately, to lawsuits. For example, if all employees know how many vacation days they receive, they won’t be wondering if other employees are getting more days.
  • Having the same rules for all employees makes running the business easier. There’s no need to think about what to do in a specific situation. Sure, there are times when there’s no written policy on an issue, but having some general guidelines can help deal with specific situations.
  • Written policies show employees that your business wants to be fair. That intent goes a long way towards good morale in general and in dealing with individual employees who are discontented.
  • Finally, written policies and procedures can help you deal with lawsuits. The policy manual can be used as evidence in a discrimination lawsuit; in fact, such a manual might even prevent a lawsuit.

Why an Employee Handbook isn’t Enough

After you have prepared that employee handbook for your business, there are several more things you should do:

Attorney Review
Have an attorney review the handbook for language, for conflicting or confusing language, and for legal issues. For example, your attorney can help you craft language that won’t make employees think they have a job for life.

Communication
Make sure all current employees know about the handbook and that it is available to them. Give each employee a copy (make sure you get a signature so you can show that all employees have received their copy).

Put a copy up on the company website. Remind employees about specific policies. In other words, make sure there’s no way an employee can plead ignorance of the policies and procedures in the manual.

Implement
Follow the handbook. Take action when you need to. Using the handbook to deal quickly with employee issues reinforces your intent to be fair and your intent to follow the handbook.

Revise
Re-visit the handbook periodically. Update policies that have changed (make sure you communicate the changes immediately!) and consider other changes to address issues that have come up. If you change a policy and you don’t change the handbook, you’re inviting legal issues.

No matter how many employees you have, an employee manual or employee handbook is an essential tool for running your business.

So have you created an employee handbook yet?  If not, we can help create one to fit your business needs.

6 Steps to Determine What to Pay an Employee

As a small business owner responsible for paying your own salary, you are most likely sensitive to the importance of satisfactory pay for a hard day’s work. You know that compensating your employees fairly and competitively is important to a positive and productive work environment, but how do you go about setting a pay scale?

For most small business owners, it’s not simply a matter of starting an employee at minimum wage. According to small business owners surveyed 81 percent pay above minimum wage and 66 percent support an increase in federal minimum wage.

What to pay an employee is generally based on a candidate’s experience, training and past salary. Use these six steps to determine a pay rate for new employees.

1. Write a job description

A job title isn’t enough. There are a wide range of jobs with the same title, and your small business environment likely requires specific talents and entails certain responsibilities. A clear idea of exactly what the position encompasses is necessary for determining pay. List all of the duties of the job, starting with the most important and moving down to less significant tasks.

2. Consider experience and training

Determine the minimum experience and education necessary for the position. If the job calls for prior training, note how many months/years are required. Also consider education. Does the position require an advanced degree or certification? Generally, the more training and education an employee has, the higher the pay.

3. Check out industry rates

Use your job description to compare industry rates. Do an online search on employment sites and compare pay rates of similar job descriptions in your geographic area. Ask an HR Consultant to benchmark your jobs in the same industry. Note the bottom of the pay scale, the top and the average.

4. Factor in benefits and perks

As best you can, determine the value in dollars of any healthcare coverage and retirement plans you offer, as well as opportunities like flextime, working from home, reduced workweeks and the use of company vehicles.

5. Set a salary range

Using all of the facts you’ve gathered regarding the position, determine a payment range. Start with the lowest salary you discovered for the position and offset that figure by the dollar value of benefits you offer. Then define that category with the lowest required education and training. Repeat the process for the next level.

A resulting starting salary pay scale might look like this:

  • $30,000 salary for 1-3 years of experience and no or limited education
  • $35,000 salary for 4-5 years of experience and a degree
  • $42,000 salary for 5+ years of experience and an advanced degree

6. Be flexible

Be willing to tweak your salary range, if necessary. For instance, if you find an employee who made $2,000 more a year than you’re offering, but the candidate looks especially promising, consider matching that pay, if your budget allows.

Offering potential employees a fair wage sets the stage for a happy work environment that’s bound to inspire productivity and encourage creativity.

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