September 2012 Compliance and Culture Newsletter
“No amount of happiness can buy money.” —Jack Nordhaus
This issue discusses:
- Editor’s Column: Where’s Your HR ‘Edge’?
- Social Media Background Checks Make Sense
- Life Expectancy: Reality Check
- Who’s Really Supporting The Economy?
- There’s A Lot to Know About HR!
- Getting Commissions Agreements Right
- The Cost of Not Having Employment Practice Liability Insurance
- Inspired HR: An ‘Inside-Out’ Opportunity
We have also provided you with the Form of the Month.
Please click here to view the newsletter in PDF.
Editor’s Column: Where’s Your HR ‘Edge’?
Where’s your edge? This is the question Sounds True founder, Tami Simon, asks her New Age guests. Their answer is usually the most interesting part of the interview.
So I ask you the same question. What are you doing in HR at your company that excites you? What are you doing that’s cool, different, outrageous, experimental, and otherwise, really edgy?
If your answer is silence, you have a serious problem. What do you think will happen if your competition is focused on creating an “edge” and you’re not? Kind of like Southwest Airlines vs. American, United, etc.
Pushing for the edge helps keep us going here at HR That Works. Sure we focus on doing the HR blocking and tackling as well as we can — but we also want to make sure that our clients keep looking for their edge. For example, what if you distributed the Creativity Checklist and Employee Suggestion forms to your entire workforce? I’ll bet that you can discover a lot of edge lying dormant at your company. Trust me. Just do it. One good idea can more than repay your investment in HR That Works for years to come! It can also do wonders for your career.
Here’s what we’re doing to build our edge at HR That Works:
- We recently produced the Job Security Program and book. You can find it in the Training Modules. There’s a lack of literature or programs on how to be a great employee. This program fills that void. I would encourage you to allow all your employees to spend the 90 minutes it takes to watch the program — and then task them to complete the exercises in the book.
- We’ve released the Time Management Program, a project that was years in the making. We did the Webinar months ago, got great feedback from our Members, and have produced a program that I believe all your employees and executives should watch. In today’s “squeezed” economy, time is your most precious asset.
- We’ve upgraded our website and are revamping our social media platforms. We realized that although we knew what we wanted to do with social media, we just weren’t implementing it fast enough. So we brought on third-party experts to do the job for us. If your social media platform is in the same spot we were in, using a third party can help take you to the edge.
- We’re providing cutting-edge Webinars. We’ll continue to push the edge with who we bring in to help educate you on growing your managers and company. HR is not, and should not, be viewed primarily as a way to avoid getting sued. We’re convinced that cultivating great employee relationships and a high level of trust helps minimize lawsuits. Last year we did 20 excellent webinars that you can now watch at any time. We’ll produce an equal number this year — giving us a library of more than 100 great stored webinars.
- We’ve upgraded site navigation. By now, you’ve been able to view the latest version of HR That Works. We’ve added the ability to attach documents to the audits, quizzes, and surveys. We’ll also be making it easier to upload your own documents to the SharePoint portal.
I could go on, but that’s plenty for now. I encourage you to keep asking yourself, “Where’s my edge?” To compete in today’s crazy business environment, you need to be creative, proactive, and ahead of the curve. Playing catch-up will guarantee the failure of your business — and your career.
Social Media Background Checks Make Sense
There’s been plenty of HR press about the use of social media in doing background checks on job applicants. Some attorneys have gone so far as to recommend that employers should ignore social media completely. I think that’s poor advice. If people are willing to do stupid things on their social media sites, they’ll be just as willing to do stupid things when working for you. According to a Career Builder/Harris Interactive survey, more than one in three employers rejected job candidates because of their social media activity. The four top reasons were that candidates: 1) Had posted inappropriate photos or information, 2) showed evidence of drinking or drug use, 3) demonstrated poor communication skills, or 4) badmouthed a previous employer.
Risk management is not about eliminating risk. As Walter Olson once stated, “There’s no such thing as the golden shore of legal compliance.” Ask yourself: Which is the greater risk — facing a potential discrimination claim because they showed one of the bad behaviors discussed above, or hiring them and allowing them to damage your company? You get the idea of where I think the real risk lies. The bottom line: Don’t hire a candidate until you learn everything you legally can about them.
Life Expectancy: Reality Check
How long can you expect to live? A “life expectancy analysis” provided by Lincoln Financial Group lists the impact of various factors on reducing average longevity:
- Driving record (DUI): 12 years
- Smoking: 10 years
- Hard or recreational drugs: 10 years
- Drinking: 7 years
- Lack of exercise: 6 years
- High blood pressure: 6 years
- Poor nutrition: 5 years
- Gender (male): 4 years
- Family history of heart disease: 4 years
- Failure to use seat belts: 4 years
- Neglect of regular physical exam: 2 years
- Stress: 1 to 2 years
The big three are obviously drug, alcohol, and tobacco addiction. When you add poor eating and exercise habits to the mix, you have a formula for disaster. Any wellness program must keep curbing these killers at the top of the list.
Who’s Really Supporting The Economy?
According to a report from ADP, the companies that we help with HR That Works usually have fewer than 500 employees — a size category that produce 97% of the jobs added in the private sector during April 2012! Although most of these companies intend to maintain their current level of employment, 31% expect to add more workers, compared with only 13% that expect to reduce their head count.
Interestingly, according to a Simply Hired survey, 39% of college graduates would prefer to work for a small or medium-sized business (compared with 27% at a large corporation, 19% in the public sector, 11% for nonprofits, and 4% with a start -up). The respondents see job security as their No. 1 priority (33%) followed by salary (23%), benefits (23%), and company culture (18%).
The Catch-22 is that smaller companies often offer less job security, benefits, and salary. Looks like the greatest opportunity then is to focus on building a great culture!
There’s A Lot to Know About HR!
In just three pages of the recent SHRM HR Magazine, you’ll find these topics:
|FatigueGood listenerHealth care benefitsLeadershipMotivation/morale
Working with finance
A separate article on benefits included these subjects:
|401(k)Alternative medicineBenefits coordinationCatastrophic coverageClaims management
- Available 24/7
- Negotiation ability
- Total premium cost saved
|DeductiblesEAPEducation about usage of benefitsEnrollment assistanceERISA, HIPAA, ADA, FMLA, state laws
|Overlaps/gapsPension plansPet insurancePreventive care/wellnessRetirement planning
Total compensation statements
Younger worker buy-in
The point is that there’s a lot to know about HR. Great HR executives are constant learners — they have to be!
Getting Commissions Agreements Right
A recent California case, DeLeon v. Verizon Wireless, involved an attack on the company’s commission program for alleged violation of a labor code section that prohibits the secret underpayment of wages. Basically, the complaint was that the Verizon employees who were paid both a wage and a commission should not have been charged back against those commissions for customers who did not fulfill their agreements.
Verizon prevailed for these reasons:
- The commission was clearly defined as such, and the employees already received a wage that satisfied minimum wage standards.
- Employees knew that the commissions were not final until the customer completed their contract period, and that anything paid was considered an advance on commissions.
- Employees underwent training which included the chargeback feature.
- The court reminded employees that “the essence of an advance is that at the time of payment the employer cannot determine whether the commission will eventually be earned because a condition to the employee’s right to the commission has yet to occur or its occurrence as yet is otherwise unascertainable.” In this case, an advance was not a wage because all conditions for performance have not been satisfied.
- The court reminded employers that a chargeback based on “unidentified returns” from the wages of all sale associates violates the law. There are also cases in which the employee cannot be charged with business losses i.e. work comp claims, theft, etc.
Settling commission claims can be costly — so get the agreement right!
The Cost of Not Having Employment Practice Liability Insurance
According to insurance industry estimates, fewer than 50% of companies carry EPLI — and the smaller the employer, the lower the percentage. Although the cost of coverage varies, a $1 million policy with a $5,000 deductible usually costs from $50 to $250 a year per employee. When you think about obtaining EPLI, weigh the cost of this protection against the likelihood of a claim, settlement, verdict, etc.
Check out the cost figures on claims, derived from Jury Verdict Research and other sources:
- Median award (2004-2010:) $199,600
- Mean award (2004-2010): $632,589
- Median settlement (2004-2010): $85,000
- Mean settlement (2004-2010): $515,816
- Nearly two in four plaintiffs’ verdict (39%) ranged from $100,000 to $500,000 range; 12% of verdicts were $1 million or more. Note: Verdicts tend to be higher in state cases than in federal ones.
- Legal fees, stress, additional exposures, etc. — a minimum of $25,000 per claim and going up from there.
- Loss of pre-claim non-productivity due to the fear of not letting a poor performer go because you might get sued — hard to quantify.
- Impact on the company’s loss of reputation among all stakeholders — priceless.
Note: The mean is the arithmetical average of a group of scores. The mean is sensitive to extreme scores when population samples are small. Means are often used with samples of larger sizes. The median is the middle score in a list of scores; it’s the point at which half the scores are higher and half the scores are lower. Because medians are less sensitive to extreme scores, they’re probably a better indicator with smaller samples.
That’s the potential exposure. What’s the potential of getting hit with it? According to CNA, an employer is more likely to face an EPLI claim than a Property or General Liability claim. Almost 75% of litigation against corporations involves employment disputes. Nearly 100,000 sector charges were filed in 2011 against private employers under EEOC statutes, leading to more than $450 million in settlements and charges. This does not include statistically-based claims or settlements that never see the EEOC, state agency or courtroom. More than 40% of Employment Practices claims are filed against companies with 15-100 employees.
Doing some rough math, there are about 6 million companies in the U.S. Although many of these firms are too small to bother suing, some 2.5 million businesses have 15 or more employees. My experience tells me that tripling the number of EEOC claims give a fairly realistic number of total claims filed. Dividing 2.5 million companies by 300,000 claims comes to roughly a one in eight chance of experiencing a claim during a given year — which means the firm can expect to face at least one employment-related claim over an eight-year period (of course, this probability depends on the size of the company, location, compliance practices, culture, etc.).
By purchasing EPLI, you not only cap your risk at $5,000 to $10,000 a year, but you allow yourself the freedom to let go of poor performers without the threat of litigation. Let’s say a 50-person company pays $7,200 a year (an average of $120 per employee) for EPLI coverage. Over an eight-year period, this comes to a total cost of $57,600, plus the time value of those dollars. The chances are that the company will face a claim at some time during those eight years, which will cost an average of $85,000 just to settle, plus another $25,000 in legal fees, for a total of $110,000 (see the average premium cost and settlement figures above). You’d still come out $52,400 ahead — not to mention eliminating the hassle. If the case goes to verdict, those numbers can easily triple. Bear in mind that there is no way you can amortize this expense! Of course, you might easily face more than one claim during the policy term.
The bottom line: Not getting EPLI is a gamble that could significantly impact or even wipe out your cash flow at any time.
If you’re interested in a checklist for purchasing EPLI, please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org.
Inspired HR: An ‘Inside-Out’ Opportunity
Because so few companies have inspired HR practices, those that do enjoy an enormous competitive advantage. Unfortunately, all too many businesses don’t take advantage of this opportunity. Here’s why:
- Cultivating great HR practices must be an “inside-out” job. I’ve reached this conclusion after coaching and working with hundreds of HR executives over the years. Those who believe, achieve. There are a number of reasons why someone might not believe that they’re capable of producing great HR practices:
- They don’t have the skill set. If that’s the case, they can learn one critical aspect of HR at a time and implement this expertise. Most people can only do things one step at a time anyway.
- They don’t feel they have the time it takes to improve HR practices. The solution is to make the time. Great HR practices offer a cost-effective return on investment. I advise HR executives to save at least five hours a week by outsourcing or delegating these activities, so they can in turn devote this time to strategic activities.
- They don’t believe they have the support of top management. When it comes to business owners, nothing is more important than demonstrating the potential ROI of good HR practices. This is why we’ve created the HR Cost Calculator. I start my CEO workshops with an hour-long review of this form so that participants understand the math surrounding their HR practices.
- Private companies, unlike their publicly held counterparts, aren’t required to have anything but basic compliance. There’s no Board of Directors demanding that they get their HR act together; as a result, most privately-held firms do little or no real HR.
- HR professionals don’t get managers on their side. Begin by surveying them. HR That Works members can use the HR Department Survey to have managers rank specific practices and comment on opportunities for improvement.
- Failing to educate everyone in the company about the opportunities that a good HR program offers them. Learn to let people know the progress you’ve made every month and how this impacts best practices and the bottom line. Show that your HR practices are better than those of the competition.
Form of the Month
10 Steps to Getting a Raise (PDF) – This form identifies the correct process for asking for a raise — the right way!
Click here to to listen to this month’s newsletter podcast.
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©2012 Reprinted with permission from HRThatWorks.com, a powerful program designed to inspire great HR practices.