The Majority of Americans Believe Their Workspace Negatively Impacts Their Well-being. Here’s How To Fix It.

From the worsening obesity epidemic to stress levels continuing to rise, American employees are struggling with their wellbeing. New research shows that a shocking 64% of American workers believe that their employer and workplace are having a negative or very negative impact on their wellbeing. But what’s behind this alarming statistic? And what can businesses do about it?

When it comes to employee wellness and the employee experience, we found that forward-thinking organizations are recognizing their employees’ needs and addressing them through dynamic benefits programs that support them in and outside of the workplace. Research shows that they’re reaping rewards for this. Bersin by Deloitte finds that organizations focused on creating a flexible and empowering workplace experience are five times more effective at improving employee engagement and retention than their peers. Meanwhile, businesses that do not tailor the employee experience to support their workers will find themselves left behind. Companies that do want to gain a competitive advantage should focus on establishing a wellness program, looking for ways to go beyond traditional benefits, and digitizing the HR process.

Establish a wellness program

Wellbeing initiatives can take many forms, but flexible wellness pots, which enable employees to spend a wellbeing allowance in a way that suits them, are gaining in popularity. In a world where employees increasingly wish to be recognized as individuals, this approach enables organizations to cater for their personal preferences, be they for a diet program or meditation class. Surveying employees can also help to determine which wellness benefits they would value most, gym memberships for example, or counseling services to support them in times of need.

Nick Lawry, Reward Manager at Virgin Management, believes that benefits have never been more vital in ensuring the wellbeing and peace of mind of employees, notably as part of offering a fantastic employee experience. From offering financial education through to super flexible working and unlimited annual leave, they try to give people the benefits and the flexibility that allow them to take control and make the choices that are best for them.

Go beyond traditional

Promoting holistic employee wellness demands going beyond just health and fitness benefits. Financial concerns can have a significant negative impact on the mental health of employees – one Harris poll found that 82% of employees are under financial stress. Our research also indicates that they would appreciate having personal goals in this area of their lives supported by their employers. Outside of salary and retirement plans, employees would like employers to support broader financial needs, such as saving to buy a home or debt management. When we consider that over half of US employees aspire to buy a home, but less than one in twenty benefits programs cater for this life goal, the opportunity for employers to seize the initiative and support this need is clear.

Having flexible benefits that are customized to employee life goals sets companies apart and transforms them into great places to work. Pharmaceutical innovators Mundipharma recognized this, and in addition to its core benefits, launched a new range aligned to its employees’ lifestyles and designed to give them more choice. This additional selection ‘pot’ of benefits, called “Flex”, achieved staggering results. Since the rollout of Flex, 96% of employees have ‘flexed’ their benefits and employee turnover has reduced by 45% within 18 months. Meanwhile, the time to fill job openings has reduced from 50-days on average to just 28. Perhaps most importantly, engagement also improved and 90% of those who flexed their benefits regularly said they’d still “be working here in a year’s time.”

Digitize the benefits process

Employees are looking for an employer who will make a positive impact on their day-to-day lives. For companies to accomplish this, HR departments need to spend more time on transformational activities that focus on culture, engagement and employer brand. HR can free up time for this by automating and digitizing more processes. This is one of the reasons adoption of global and regional shared service centers as well as global human capital management (HCM) and global benefits technology are all on the rise. Working with top companies around the globe, I’ve seen firsthand what having a more digitized, globally-driven strategy that’s better aligned with people and business strategy can do. Achieve this, and organizations won’t just reduce admin and improve compliance – they’ll see an increase in benefits engagement, which will domino into workplace engagement, and have a positive impact on how employees feel about their organizations.

Companies with an established global benefits strategy and technology that supports the implementation of this are three times more likely to see a reduction in administration errors and twice as likely to see a reduction in benefits overcharges. The implementation of those benefits further help the company’s bottom line by creating a positive, supportive working environment that reduces the current disconnect between employers and employees around the workplace experience, attracting and retaining staff for the long haul.

Ultimately, the best companies are creating amazing global strategies and have the technology in place to deliver these so that employees really feel the benefits. They’re happier and healthier and they enjoy being at work. This is what will keep them an engaged and productive member of your organization.

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4 Ways to Improve the Quality of Work for Your Employees

While most employers are usually focused on how to increase the productivity of their employees, they usually fail to realize that their productivity level is closely tied to the quality of life they’re having in a company. Recent studies have shown that companies that provide a better quality of work to their employees have much better retention rates, while they also have an easier time hiring top people in their field. Studies have also shown that happier employees are less likely to take a sick leave, which basically means that happier workers are also healthier workers. Whether it’s a team activity outside of work or a fun zone at the office, there are many ways in which you can increase employee’s happiness.

Show Trust Instead of Micromanaging Everything

Trust me, no one really enjoys doing a job where they’re told what to do all the time. While it’s perfectly fine for you to manage and supervise their work, micromanaging is something that rarely has a positive impact on your staff. Instead, try to build your relationship on trust – where you as an employer delegate tasks that require high responsibility, or at least make it seem that way. Let them make some decisions and all of the sudden you’ll have employers who are actually committed to what they’re doing.

Reward Good Work

Constant recognition is something that employers have found to be of vital importance when it comes to quality of work for your employees. Whether it’s a simple recognition, or a reward (a raise, bonus, or an additional day off), employees feel much better when their effort is noticed. Many employers avoid even complimenting their workers because they feel that they may ask for a raise if they do. But if a certain individual is doing more work than average, wouldn’t you say that they deserve to be paid for the extra work? This is also one of the reasons why more and more young people start freelancing – because they actually get paid for the work they do, not the time spent in an office.

Customizable Workspace

People love customizing their workspace, and when it comes to their desks there are almost no reasons to be opposed to it. While some people like having their favorite posters on the wall behind their monitor, other people might want to bring a plant from home. I’ve even seen people who prefer to work on a desktop while standing in order to improve posture. Some of the top performers I’ve seen love working in a messy environment, which required us to hire a commercial cleaning company at the end of each week.  Allowing your employees a certain amount of freedom when it comes to customizing their workspace will positively impact productivity, while they’ll also be happier to work for you.

Set Clear Goals

The best way to improve the efficiency of your employees is by setting up clear goals for them to aim for. Without clear goals, productivity will drop considerably, but also their overall happiness. This is why it’s important to give clear assignments and expected results to the people who work for you. Setting these goals should be taken seriously because if they’re unrealistic or generic they won’t have as much power. Probably the best way to approach this issue is to set individual goals for the people who work for you. If you employ a lot of people, delegate this task to supervisors and make it a part of their job. The more these goals are realistic and attainable the better results you’ll have and thus improve your employees’ loyalty.

Final Thoughts

The most important thing when it comes to improving quality of work is to have your employees feel like a part of the team. Having a company where everyone wants to progress to a certain point is completely different from having a company where people just work their shifts. If the end results don’t matter to you enough, they won’t matter to them at all. So try to set an example and be a driving force for your employees as you all push towards a single goal.

Turn Your Garden into a Profitable Business

For those who enjoy gardening, it can easily be turned into a source of profit, with some luck and dedication, sufficient to support the entire family. Here are some ideas which can help you start and get you going on your gardening adventure.

Grow an organic garden

The only reason why people buy from small-scale producers is that they believe that the food they buy is healthier than what they can usually find in their local supermarkets. This is your window of opportunity and the share of the market you need to fight for. Win the confidence of those who care about their health by producing and advertising healthy food. Mind you, if you enjoy gardening, the chances are that you yourself appreciate nature and you won’t consider growing any other kind of garden but an organic one.

Offer a variety

Think like a customer. They usually go shopping to a place that has everything they need. Try to be that place and offer a variety of fresh food. Grow the vegetables which are the most popular in your area, but not only that, grow herbs and flowers used for tea and spices as well as several kinds of fruit. You can focus on one thing and throw in some of the other ones but a variety of produce will bring a variety of customers.

Have a flower garden

Well, I jumped straight into it without even offering an alternative. Depending on the type of gardening you enjoy, you may opt for growing flowers solely instead of food. You can sell to florists or landscaping companies. You can even have your own stand or a flower shop. Traditionally, flowers go well with bees, so if you are growing an organic flower garden, perhaps you should have a couple of beehives and see how that works for you. Who knows, if your flowers are good for honey you can steer your business in that direction or simply expand. Beekeeping can be very profitable.

Make products of your yield

Apart from the garden produce, you can also make products for sale. Your Home-made tomato juice or jam will probably find their place in many homes. If you are growing herbs, you can dry them and pack them. You can learn a little bit about traditional medicine and make herbal-tea mixtures used to cure different health issues. You can make tiny booklets on what they are good for and why. Make scented candles and potpourri. These are something that people get attracted to and buy even if they do not need them.

Sell seeds and starter plants

Help other start their organic gardens by selling seeds of your plants as well as growing starter plants. You can do this while expending your offer without a lot of additional effort. You will most likely need a glass house for this if you do not already have one. Hoselink suggests making a separate irrigation system for what you are growing in the glass house as plants growing in different conditions require different amounts of water.

Sell compost

Do not throw anything organic away. While you are creating compost for your garden, create some extra to sell. You can offer it straight away to the customers interested in your organic seeds as you know that they will also do whatever they can to keep their garden healthy. Due to the period required for creating compost, the very beginning is the hardest, later on, they will have enough material and enough time to make their own, but in the meantime, you can be there to help them start and prepare the ground.

Once you decide what to grow and how you need to find the way to sell it and advertise it. In order to keep the process enjoyable, I suggest inquiring about the government regulations and taxes. You should take care of that first before you start selling. Once you have that taken care of, you should advertise locally and show off your offer at a local green market, have a roadside stand, sell to health food stores and restaurants. Perhaps you can even organize promotional events such as gardening lessons for children or making jam with elderly and choosing the best recipe.

Chatbots Are the New Phone Interview

How to boost employee communication with these 3 apps

The way we communicate has come a long way since the ancient scratches and drawings on cave walls. The modern world of work is fluid and ever changing, with ‘agile’ solutions being required to solve contemporary problems. Work habits are changing as Millennials are demanding not only different working environments; with standing desks and cubicle-less, open planned work spaces; but also innovative technologies and solutions to keep them engaged, and to aid them in improving their overall employee experience. Consequently, this has made the work of internal and corporate communications professionals considerably more demanding. Yet despite this appreciation of the need for changing work circumstances, the ‘2016 Digital Workplace Communications Survey’ conducted on over 250 companies concluded that almost half of all employees (48%) advocated for a change in their company’s digital workplace communications. Here a list of the top apps to implement to boost employee engagement and communication.

Slack

Slack is a cloud-based set of team collaboration tools and services. The name is an acronym for “Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge”, which concisely indicates it’s primary functions. Slack has humble beginnings and initially was used as an internal tool by its founding company. Since its creation in 2013, Slack has become one of the darlings of the tech scene, becoming one of the fastest growing apps in history. Slack was recognized as the best start-up of the year at the 10th Crunchies Awards, organized by TechCrunch. By the end of 2016, Slack was valued at $2.7 billion. Features offered by Slack include organized chat rooms (channels) by topic, private groups, and direct messaging. All content inside Slack is fully searchable This enables workers to search for all kinds of data including files, conversations, and users. Conveniently Slack is integrated with many other available services such as Google Drive and Dropbox; thereby making it simple to implement, and even easier to share and save files.

Impraise

Technology is here to make our lives easier. Having a conversation with someone on the other side of the world is now simple and instantaneous. There’s no delay. That’s precisely how good performance management software should work, and is the key to Impraise’s performance management software. Multi-award winning Impraise, is a web and mobile application, that was founded in 2013. Since then, the start-up has grown impressively with over 130 clients including booking.com, NRG and Fandango all using Impraise to streamline their in-office communication. Ease of use and accessibility are at the heart of Impraise’s performance management tool. Impraise allows you to gather relevant and accurate feedback for your employees faster and easier than ever before. Collaborative feedback is set up in a matter of minutes, giving an excellent understanding of your team’s strengths and possible coaching needs. Prompt feedback results in faster learning and encourages social interaction amongst your team.

Asana

Asana is web based ‘software-as-a-service’ designed to improve team collaboration. It comes in both web and mobile app versions, and enables users to manage projects and tasks online without the use of email. This is a crucial part of Asana’s mantra, as its founders  Dustin Moskovitz and Justin Rosenstein launched “an audacious attempt to change the way people connect at work, where the incessant drumbeat of email has become an excruciating annoyance”. Asana works by giving each team its own unique workspace. These workspaces contain projects, and projects contain tasks which can be assigned (or owned) by a team member. Users can follow projects and tasks and, when the state of a project or task changes, get updates about the changes in their Asana inboxes. The app also contains a social network, instant messaging application and online calendar. These features enable teams of employees to share information and do most of their jobs without relying on tedious emails. This is a revolutionary idea as the ‘2016 Digital Workplace Communications Survey’ found that 97% of employees still use emails for both internal and external communication.

Without continuous and free flowing communication in the digital workplace, companies will fail to innovate and progress will be stunted. There are many applications that companies can adopt to improve communication however Slack, Impraise and Asana are our three favourites.

Burn! An image from stockio.com

10 Reasons Entrepreneurs Burn Out

Plant on Field. An image from stockio.com

It’s hard to deny that starting your own business requires a significant amount of time, energy and intense dedication to hitting your goals.

As an entrepreneur, you are going to be more susceptible to burnout than most other professionals, which is due largely in part to how many hours entrepreneurs find themselves actually wanting to work, and how hard they push themselves to succeed.

It happens far too often.  Business owners will neglect their own personal needs, moving them even closer to the point of burnout, until they hit rock bottom and wonder how their situation got to be so bad.

As they begin facing burnout, their business begins to suffer, their personal relationships start taking a hit, and they’re left trying to figure out how to recover.

Before you find yourself in this situation, learn some of the more common reasons that entrepreneurs get burned out, and then figure out how you can avoid making those same mistakes yourself.

Below are 10 of the most common reasons entrepreneurs burn out.

1 – Not Delegating

Your business got to where it’s at because you were behind the wheel, and it’s hard to find someone that will treat it the way you do.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to actually do everything, though.  Delegating some of the responsibilities to people who know what they’re doing in those roles can save your sanity.

At the end of the day, you have the same number of hours as everyone else around you.  By surrounding yourself with knowledgeable people, you can increase how many hours are being put into your business from day to day.

You can quit stressing yourself out with the more mundane tasks and put people in place to handle them while you focus on the higher level, executive tasks.

2 – Staying Too Focused

Being in the zone is a great place to be when you’re building your business.  However, staying in the zone too long can cause you to lose focus on other areas of your life.  Tunnel vision is a real problem for many entrepreneurs, and is one of the biggest reasons for them to get burned out.

You can only stay in the zone for so long before you start feeling the effects, and exhaustion begins to take over your mind and your body.  It’s critical that you figure out a balance between your work life and your personal life, to avoid getting caught up in the zone.

3 – Not Eating Properly

Too many entrepreneurs skip meals to make sure they’re able to get more done during the day.  Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, skipping meals and then binge eating unhealthy foods can wreak havoc on your mind.

Not eating properly makes you function at a lower level, destroys your productivity, and affect your sleeping patterns, making it difficult for you to focus when you really need to.

Taking an hour in the morning, and an hour in the afternoon to make sure you’re getting healthy meals into your body can do more for you than you might think.  Avoiding these healthy foods can spell disaster for your productivity, and your business.

Avoid running yourself ragged, causing more problems in an effort to help save yourself some time or thinking that you’re going to get more done.

4 – Setting Unrealistic Goals

Goals are a requirement if you’re going to build a successful and profitable business.  However, unrealistic goals can do more harm than good.

Having unrealistic expectations for yourself or your employees can be a major problem for many entrepreneurs, and will only set you up to constantly feel like either you’re failing, or they’re failing you, leading to even bigger issues down the road.

No business that has become successful ever became successful overnight.  However, business owners that did try to become an overnight success have gone through fatigue, stayed discouraged, and exhausted themselves out.

To avoid this, make sure that you have set realistic expectations for you and the people around you, and that you’re focusing on both short-term goals and long-term goals.

5 – Failing To Maintain Boundaries

Boundaries don’t just exist in your personal life.  The same way that you have certain things that you won’t accept from the people in your personal life, you need to set realistic boundaries for what you will and won’t accept in your business.

When you decide that you are no longer working, you need to completely shut off and avoid work.  This means not letting your clients get in touch with you, and not giving your employees any of your time.

Likewise, when you’re turned on, you need to be completely available to your employees and your clients and customers.  This will help them figure out that when you’re not at work you’re unavailable, but when you are at work they have your full attention.

Taking the time to recharge when you’re not at work is critical to your performance while you are at work, so make sure you have boundaries set for everyone you’re involved with.

6 – Living In Denial

Even though you may understand what causes burnout, you may not necessarily be aware that you are currently feeling the effects.  And if you are aware, you may be completely denying it, pushing yourself even harder to “bust through” the burn out.

Burying your head in the sand and forcing yourself through isn’t going to make the situation any better than it is right now.

If you’re denying that you may be currently dealing with the effects of burn out, or could be on your way to getting completely burned out, you’re going to need to step back now.

Dealing with it “later” will never actually happen and, by then, it could actually be too late.  The damage could already be done.  Step back, take a break, regain your composure, figure out what’s working and what isn’t, then come back with a renewed energy.

7 – Losing Sight Of The Prize

Whenever you’ve buried yourself in the trenches, finding solutions to problems that have been hanging over your head can be difficult to do.

Getting away from the business, even for an hour at a time, can help you recharge your batteries and gain new insights on the problems that you’re facing.  It’s easier to look outside in than it is to try and find solutions to problems when you’re caught up in the day to day.

Losing sight of the prize because you’re focusing too hard can be as dangerous as depriving yourself of sleep or eating unhealthy foods all of the time.

When you feel your energy starting to wane, or are finding it harder to figure out solutions to problems you once had instant solutions for, you need to take a step back and remember why you’re doing what you’re doing.

8 – Avoiding The Hard Work

As an entrepreneur, it can be hard to slow down.  Your employees, on the other hand, probably have zero problems taking a few minutes here and there to regain their composure.

While you may want your employees to grind as hard as you do, you could actually take a lesson out of their book and step yourself for a few minutes every hour.

Like everything else on this list, though, the real magic happens when you find a balance.  If you are constantly taking a break to avoid doing the hard work that you know needs to be done, you need to step back into your role and get it done.

On the other side of that same coin, if you’re not taking breaks so you can avoid the hard work, filling your schedule up with the easy tasks, get the hard work done first.  Allowing it to stack up on you can create a situation where you’re burned out and don’t have the energy to get all of the “hard” work done.

9 – Getting Irritated

As you start getting to work, you realize that everything is bothering you, big or small.  Your assistant can’t seem to do anything right.  Your employees are dropping the ball.  Your clients are frustrating you.

When this happens, you have to look at the situation from an outside perspective.  Chances are high that if all of these situations are happening at the same time, those people aren’t the problem, you are.  And you could be burnt out.

You’ve put those people in place around you because they can help you and your clients are the perfect people to work with.  That means they haven’t suddenly changed, something in you has.

If you find yourself dealing with frustrations all of the time, you probably aren’t eating right, sleeping right, or taking good care of yourself.  It’s time to take better care of yourself, relax, take a break, and come back reinvigorated.

10 – Trying To Understand Burnout

If you are trying to figure out why entrepreneurs face burn out, or whether or not you may be facing it, you’re probably knee deep in it, or well on your way to becoming burned out.

Taking the time away from your business, unplugging from your employees and your clients, spending some time on yourself and with your family, and remembering why you are doing what you’re doing can help you save your sanity.

Start setting new priorities in your life, and then remember that building a successful business is like running a marathon.  It isn’t a sprint, and thinking you can be an overnight success will only wear you out even more than you are now.

Focus on sticking around for the long haul, and build long-term plans that help you hit those goals.

4 Things You Need to Know If You Want to Do Business in Asia

Ever since we entered the 21st century a lot of things have changed rapidly in business. The advancement of technology and the global use of the internet has created many opportunities around the globe. Today there are fewer business barriers than ever before as the whole world is completely connected.

Entrepreneurs and companies can easily get in touch with someone across the globe or acquire information that they need to start their business incentives abroad. Asia is becoming one of the hot markets for business investments, as this region is opening up to the West and offering many opportunities, given the fact that the market is still not saturated.

This is why a lot of people are looking to do some business in the East, no matter if we are talking about finding outsourcing partners or starting up new offices in Asian countries. However, there are certain specifics you need to know about Asia from a business perspective to make sure that everything goes as planned.

1. You will have to connect with locals to help you

A lot of people make a terrible mistake by thinking that they can do everything on their own, without anyone’s help. Even if you travel to the country that you want to do business in, you will never be able to make all the arrangements on your own.

There are many reasons for this. First of all, Asians are unlikely to get into business with a foreigner instantly and give their trust right away. You will need a person that knows the laws, the business environment and has the connections needed to “break into” the market

2.  Understand “the concept of face.”

This is a very important thing when it comes to business in Asia. Simply put, this concept means that you need to avoid shaming anyone with whom you do business and blaming them directly, even if they are the ones responsible for the mistakes that have been made.

When someone “loses face,” it basically means that they lost their reputation as a business person and this might mean the end of your cooperation for good. Be mild when telling someone that they are wrong and always take a part of the blame on yourself as well.

For example, if someone doesn’t understand what you are proposing, excuse yourself and say that you are not clear enough and this is how the whole situation can be resolved without the person losing face.

3. Culture is very important

Bear in mind that Asia is culturally very different than the West and that they pay a lot of attention to things that might not even be considered when doing business in Western countries. In Asia, respect and courtesy matter, so you need to have an open relationship with people.

When someone is aggressive and overly ambitious here, they are considered to be inexperienced. Learn some local expressions if you cannot comprehend the language, as this shows that you respect the country you are in. Also, make sure that your business incentives don’t clash with the religious beliefs in the country you are in.

4. Luxurious brands are well-received in Asia

Luxurious western brands which sell “cool” stuff are usually accepted quite readily by the Asian people. Asia is becoming more and more connected to the West, and people there love adopting Western culture and gadgets, as they find them incredibly cool. Still, it’s important that your products deliver the user experience that is promised or your audience will quickly turn on you.

Remember that Asia is a growing market and that there are many business opportunities lurking in this part of the world. In the end, make sure that you respect the country that you want to do business in, and that you never think of Asia as one big country, as there are many differences between all the different countries.

6 Tips to Better Manage Your Landscaping Business

Getting into the landscaping business is a truly rewarding experience as the fruits of our labor are actually palpable. However, as our influence reaches more and more people and our business starts to expand – we are faced with a unique transitionary period where we need not only manage ourselves but others under our wing. Despite the number of challenges we are all destined to face, none of these are insurmountable. In reality, most of the pitfalls of expansion can be avoided by utilizing the previous experiences of others and laying out a solid plan. This turns a turbulent period into nothing more than a smooth ride.

Scale accordingly

First and foremost, a business owner has to understand that management systems are an ever-evolving entity and that every company and situation requires a specific approach. What once worked for a one-man operation will most-certainly not be enough to manage five people, let alone fifty. Ignoring this issue is a surefire way to end up in a logistical nightmare with no way of reliably knowing what transpired within the past month, let alone the fiscal year. By figuring out our needs and hiring personnel to manage employees or come up with systems to keep track of everything efficiently – we pay a bit more upfront but save thousands in the long run.

Hire responsibly

There’s no way around it – your employees will be the face of your company, like it or not. They will be the first, and hopefully not last, face they see when procuring a service. Whatever the task might be, it is an absolute necessity that these people are sufficiently trained and upbeat about their job. Nothing breaks a deal like a general unwillingness to do one’s job and a bad attitude towards customers. A bad employee will get rooted out eventually, sure, but the damage they could do to your brand and company isn’t something that will go away as easily. Tread carefully.

Train your people

When you do actually find people worthy of your trust, make sure to train them in the field. Always offer them opportunities to improve upon themselves and rack up those references for their CV down the line. Any form of training can be presented as a bonus to employees as it increases their skill set while also reflecting positively on the company itself as its workers are trained and have a wide variety of skills. This will also allow you to somewhat tweak pricing to reflect the quality and professional help you’re offering to potential clientele.

Motivate

With an increasing workforce, it can get extremely hard to find the right methods to motivate everyone equally. However difficult and time-consuming it might be, it is imperative that every employee feels appreciated and like they have a higher purpose – a reason to work hard. Make sure any company needs are communicated properly and that every worker knows exactly what their job is and when it is complete. Leave no room for misunderstanding and be as transparent as you can afford – this forms bonds akin to a family instead of an office and makes them feel like part of something bigger.

Invest in GPS tracking

More than just a safety net for rogue drivers, GPS tracking allows for drivers to get from point A to point B more efficiently and improves customer support. Installing GPS tracking isn’t a big deal and you have systems like Teletrac which offer real-time tracking with updates every few minutes. This can help give updates to worried customers, help provide an ETA, find out where a driver has been during his shift etc. This also has the Big Brother effect – employees will know that they have a GPS in the truck and will avoid slacking off.

Quality makes a difference

With all of that out of the way, it’s time to focus on what we’re actually offering to our customers. Simply put, quality service only works if complemented by a quality product. Your employees can be experts in the field all they like if they don’t have the right materials to work with. Strike a deal with a trusted local supplier like Sand4U or other trusted companies in your region to guarantee the best materials and even use their own influence to your PR advantage. With quality personnel and a quality selection of materials, the sky is the limit.

The gist

Handling a company is no easy feat and surviving in this dog-eat-dog world is truly an accomplishment. When starting out, it’s important to look ahead without getting ahead of ourselves. This essentially means that we need to anticipate future problems, come what may, without going so far as to lose sight of what’s directly in front of us. By following these steps, we set up a good set of guidelines to make sure we stay our course through and through while allowing us enough flexibility to adapt and overcome any challenges our business is sure to face down the line.

Affordable Care Act Reporting Software

The Biggest Challenges of Affordable Care Act Reporting

Written by Adam Miller, HR Compliance Manager, Passport Software, Inc.

Affordable Care Act

I’ve helped hundreds of Applicable Large Employers (ALEs) manage their Affordable Care Act requirements and file their 1094-C/1095-Cs. Though each had different reporting needs, the same question kept coming up…

How do I complete Part 2?

1095-C Part II
The original source: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1095c.pdf

Lines 14, 15, and 16 make up Part 2 of the 1095-C and provide details of an employer’s offer of coverage to a full-time employee. Knowing how to correctly complete this section is imperative for Affordable Care Act compliance and avoiding penalties.

Line 14—Use code 1E.

Choosing a line 14 code requires you to know three things:

  • Was coverage offered?
  • Did it meet minimum standards?
  • Was it available to the spouse and dependents?

Deciding on the best 1A-1K code to complete line 14 has one extra nuance, and it can save you hours of scrutiny: If a full-time employee is offered coverage and has the unconditional option to add their spouse and dependents to their plan, you may use the corresponding 1E code for all employees offered coverage—even those who are not married or do not have children. Since spouse or dependent coverage doesn’t need to meet any cost standards, there is little reason not to offer it.

With this allowance, most fully ACAcompliant companies will find they can use Line 14 code 1E for every 1095-C they submit, instead of 1B for single employees, 1C for single parents, and 1D for childless couples. Your life is already easier, isn’t it?

Line 15—Forget about Line 14.

This continues to be a very tough concept to nail down. The IRS wants to know: What is the monthly employee’s share of the least expensive, employee-only plan available to this person?

Let’s review each part of that statement.

  • Employee’s share—the employee’s remaining portion after the employer’s contribution.
  • Least expensive—the qualifying plan with the lowest monthly cost available, often referred to as bronze level. This is not what the employee is paying for a more comprehensive plan.
  • Employee only—One Person. Forget that on Line 14 you reported that the offer included the spouse/dependents. For the purposes of ACA reporting, it does not matter which plan an employee actually enrolls in, only what they could have chosen and what it would have cost them.

Line 16—What happened after Line 14?

It isn’t difficult to find that code 2C applies to employees who accept an offer of coverage, or that 2B is used for a part-time employee. Things start to get murky with code 2D. Code 2D refers to the variable-hour[i] employee who is in their Initial Measurement Period, also known as the Look-Back Method.

People start to panic when it comes to employees who were offered insurance but declined. In their 1095-C Instructions, the IRS wrote 1181 words describing all the Series 2 Codes in use. Nowhere does it say “Use code __ if the employee declined coverage.” In cases where you have made an a fully qualified offer which an employee has turned down, use whichever of 2F/2G/2H matches your method for calculating their income and ensuring affordability:

  • Use 2F if you look at W-2 Wages
  • Use 2G if you use the Federal Poverty Level
  • Use 2F if you look at the employee’s Rate of Pay

Congratulations…

Not only have you completed Part 2, but unless your company self-insures, you can bypass Part 3 completely!

What’s the next step?

Knowing how to correctly use the codes and contribution fields is fundamental, but organized tracking of ACA-related information throughout the year is equally important to save time and avoid penalties. A good, regularly maintained spreadsheet is a serviceable option for smaller ALEs with straightforward ACA reporting. For larger employers, or more complicated reporting, a specially designed software solution or service will reduce the compliance workload and help avoid penalties. A good one will help you accurately manage changing and editing data and even create the 1094-C/1095-C forms or electronic files.

Passport Software’s ACA Software and Services range from on-premise software to full year-round compliance management services. Our friendly service is fast and accurate, and our customers have given us great reviews. Our software is IRS-certified and we are IRS-approved to file on behalf of our clients.

Dealing with past years reporting troubles? We can help there, too.

Learn more about Passport Software’s ACA Software and Services, or call us at 800-969-7900.

[i] variable-hour refers to cases where it is unclear whether the employee will be comfortably above or below the 130 hour per month full-time threshold.

Form 1095-C
The original source: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f1095c.pdf

About the Author:

Adam Miller

Adam Miller is the HR Compliance Manager at Passport Software, Inc. He designed their ACA Software and, as a support tech, he has helped hundreds of people with Affordable Care Act compliance and reporting.  Adam has a background in engineering, the service industry, and print, which makes him a technically proficient and friendly communicator for Passport Software.

Passport Software, Inc.

181 North Waukegan Rd, #200

Northfield, IL 60093

800-969-7900

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HR Specialists Talk About Their Stances On Time Tracking | Featured Image

HR Specialists Talk About Their Stances On Time Tracking

HR Specialists Talk About Their Stances On Time Tracking | Main Image

The exponentially growing digitalization of business and life itself is disrupting almost any industry in every country, and it didn’t bypass their HR departments either. Until recently, HR has operated relatively separately from the other parts of the organization, but the evolution of HRMS and SaaS solutions made the HR embedded in everyday business just as much as Marketing or R&D. On the other hand, just like new technologies have created new forms of organizing work (think about digital nomads and virtual organizations), so must the way of managing those employees differ from the conventional ones.

In my attempts to understand the challenges of managing people in large enterprises, as well as the shift in the approach that technology brings in this area, I spoke to a couple of experts in this area – a director of HR department in a large corporation, and a CEO of HR software developing company, about their views on employee time tracking as a business practice. Their rich experience in “both sides” of human resource management allowed them to discuss the benefits of this concept, but also to elaborate their objections.

It’s not for everyone

The first professional I talked to is Sonja Jovanović, head of HR in Serbian branch of accounting and advisory company Ernst&Young. Besides using manually filled timesheets for tracking revenue streams, and punching cards system for checking in and out of the building (although this serves primarily as a security measure), the company does not use any other forms of time tracking, nor do they intend to in the future. Working hours are flexible, remote work is allowed in some circumstances, and their company culture simply doesn’t leave much room for implementing this type of business practice.

The very nature of the industry of providing high-quality services to business clients requires a substantial level of professionalism and severity of their personnel. It takes a tremendous amount of confidence, followed by the strong and thorough selection, to entrust a client to a group of employees. “ […] Therefore, I do not see a situation in which a time tracking tool could bring any value to our organization,” says Sonja.

In EY, performance reviews and feedbacks are being conducted through the complex network of department managers and counselors, and though the employees do use computers, their performance simply cannot be seen nor measured by the amount of time spent on particular computer activities. “Our HRM is digitized in many ways, but tracking time does not fall into that. It simply isn’t applicable, because you cannot gauge the scope and quality of intellectual work by time,” she explains. “The more you try to frame people and their creative process, the greater the set-down will be, and the poorer results you can expect. This simple principle is something that many discipline-obsessed managers fail to understand.”

It’s about culture and priorities

In order to find which companies do find time tracking useful, or even a must have solution for their business, I spoke to Ivan Petrović, CEO of WorkPuls, a company providing time tracking solutions for businesses around the world.

“When it comes to implementation of time tracking solutions in medium and big companies, there are two basic factors that affect this. The first is the company culture, and the way productivity is understood in the company. The second factor are the individual views of managers, especially the HR Directors and their priorities”, says Ivan. WorkPuls works with various companies, from BPO companies, software and video gaming companies to construction companies and e-commerce businesses. While they think that there are certain patterns that one might observe among use cases of different customers, they say that there are also differences among specific goals different managers want to achieve.

“If you are in charge of HR in a company that has more than 500 employees like one of our clients, and your top level management has an initiative to increase productivity, or just wants to gain better insights into current ongoings, you might sometimes feel that it is impossible to know what everyone is working on currently, how happy or productive they are, and whether some teams or employees might be too loaded with work. So you want to find a way to get your insights efficiently, and this is what a good time tracking solution should provide. Such software gives you an easy overview of what your employees are doing at any given time, if this is what you want to know, but also whether they are getting more or less productive over a specific period of time; if they have too much work to do, whether they are “morning birds” or “night owls” and so on. With these insights, it is easier to work together with your employees to optimize workflow, provide a better working atmosphere, and consequently bring up the productivity of the whole company. Of course, all under the condition that your employees’ work is dominantly computer-bound,” explains Ivan.

Smaller companies, however, seem to have a different motive. “Speaking of smaller to medium size businesses, many times owners or managers look for an easier way to monitor whether everyone is working as promised, or they want to use insights to reduce the waste of time,” explains Petrović. “But there have also been cases where business owners used time tracking to see whether their employees needed any additional training with the tools they use. If some of your employees are spending way more time on those Excel sheets or Google Translate then the rest of the team, that might suggest that it’s time for additional training in that specific area.”

Since large companies already have their own payroll accounting solutions and punch in/punch out systems, the analytics side of time tracking software here becomes much more significant. Ivan mentions security related questions, along with the need to integrate time tracking data with other data in the company.

“There is an increasing need in this field to provide ever more flexible solutions, balancing the transparency for the employees with solid protection of security and privacy, within the company, but also towards the outside. Integration with other systems is also important.”

Control or motivation?

The overall impression was that for companies like these time tracking would not be yet another control mechanism, but a tool for improving the insight of HR professionals in everyday work and interactions of their people as well. It seems that if you are willing to dig deeper into the metrics, you might discover some remarkable ongoings which would hardly be detected in traditional ways of performance management. For many managers, this feels like a big step forward.

Although the digitalization of HR activities has opened great opportunities in terms of increasing the speed and quality of analytical processes and providing greater insights into organizational affairs, while at the same time reducing costs, there are still some downsides to be looked after. Downsizing the HR departments or burdening HR professionals with technical details are the first threats to successful adoption and modernization of people management. The serious threat to privacy that technology presents is the main reason why the initiative for using such tools should and must come from the HR. Bearing all this in mind, we can conclude that the basic challenge of the profession will be to recognize, develop and exploit the positive potentials of digitalization, while at the same time avoid, or at least minimize the concomitant risks.


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Employee Data and GDPR. What You Need to Know | Featured Image

Employee Data and GDPR. What You Need to Know

Employee Data and GDPR. What You Need to Know | Main Image

Every organisation that processes personal data must comply with the new GDPR rules that take effect in May 2018. There are no exemptions based on a size or sector, no staggered dates for compliance and, based on the current performance of the body responsible for policing data protection legislation, a rock-solid guarantee that the new regulations will be enforced and, where companies fall short, fines imposed.

Those with HR and people responsibilities are, without a doubt, at the front line of GDPR compliance. They work with personal data all the time: in fact, their jobs could be said to rely on it.

As custodians of employee information, they’ll be the ones who will need to audit existing processes; validate their own security and that of third parties that they share HR information with such as HR software and payroll providers; take on at least some of the responsibility for compliance training and monitoring and equip themselves to report any data breaches involving employee data, as well as respond to ‘subject access requests’ from employees.

Where should you start?

For many HR teams getting to grips with GDPR is understandably daunting. Not least, because so much has been written about the higher standard of consent for processing personal data that the legislation requires – and the cost of getting it wrong.

At first glance, asking employees for consent seems reasonable. You may already let employees know why you ask them for personal information and what you use it for.

However, when it comes to collecting and processing employee data in the context of GDPR, a reading of the regulations indicates that the focus on consent is misleading and could, in fact, be damaging.

[Box out]

Under GDPR, consent is defining as meaning “freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous indication of the data subject’s wishes by which he or she, by a statement or by a clear affirmative action, signifies agreement to the processing of personal data relating to him or her.”

In an employment context, relying on consent is problematic for three main reasons:

  1. It’s administratively complex. Since consent needs to be ‘specific’ and shown by a ‘clear affirmative action’. A catch all clause in an employment contract, or on the login screen to your HR software won’t cover it.
  2. It’s unlikely to be un-enforceable in law. In an employment relationship, demonstrating free consent is almost impossible since the relationship is not one between equals. By refusing consent, an employee may feel that they put their relationship with their employer in jeopardy.
  3. By asking an employee to give their consent to processing information, you may inadvertently give them stronger rights to have their details deleted. What would be the business implications if, for example, an employee demanded that you delete data about their absences (sickness or otherwise), performance, skills, perhaps even their address. It may seem unlikely, but it’s possible.

Legitimate business interest

Instead, HR should rely as far as possible on legitimate business interest. This should cover the data that is required to ensure the employer fulfil their contractual obligations to their employees. For example, to pay them, award paid time off, manage grievance or health and safety issues etc. It will also extend to issues relating to the effective running of the business, such as monitoring absences, performance reviews or skills audits (with a caveat in relation to automated decision making – which is also covered by GDPR).

Legitimate interest cannot be applied in all cases. For example, processing employee information related to wellness initiatives, while laudable, is likely to require consent, as is sharing personal data with third parties so they can market their services to your employees – however attractive the offer.

An essential first step for HR, therefore, is to audit and document employee information: what you gather and why, where you store it, how you ensure it is accurate and up to date and who you share it with. This forms the foundation for the other activities that HR – or someone else in the organisation – will need to address for GDPR compliance.

The ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) has put together a handy 12-point plan for anyone with day to day responsibility for data protection, much of which is relevant to HR.

Beyond the data audit, top priorities for HR are likely to include: updates to privacy notices, review of current consent approaches, awareness and training activities, internal and partner data security reviews, processes for reporting data breaches and a cost-effective response to subject requests for information.

For HR teams making do with spreadsheets and paper-based files, GDPR may also provide the impetus to modernise personnel record keeping. In a side note to the legislation, the regulator recommends making use of employee self- service HR software, so that employees can both see, and where appropriate correct, the data their employer holds on them.

Consolidating HR information in a single, secure HR software system has other benefits for GDPR compliance. It’s generally easier to demonstrate that you have appropriate security in place if personnel records are held behind a secure login than in spreadsheets or office filing cabinets and approval workflows and audit capabilities make tracing and tracking infinitely easier than trawling through historic emails.

Although GDPR will not be in force until May 2018, the new regulations will have significant implications for the way that companies manage their HR data. HR need to start to prepare now.

Please note: this article is based on our understanding of the requirements of GDPR and should not be relied upon as legal advice or to determine how GDPR might apply to you and your organisation.  You should refer to the legislation and, if in doubt, work with a legally qualified professional to discuss GDPR, how it applies specifically to your organisation, and how best to ensure compliance.


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