Everything employers need to know about employee job classifications

FLSA job classifications can confuse even the most experienced HR managers. Continue reading this blog post for everything employers should know about employee job classifications.


Chief among the issues that keep employers up at night is staying compliant with federal and state employment laws.

Arguably, wage and hour rules are the most complex and cause the most issues for companies. Job classifications under the FLSA can confuse even the most experienced HR managers.

In fact, some of the costliest wage and hour lawsuits and penalties on record could have been avoided if only the employer properly classified an employee as either exempt or nonexempt. It’s critically important to understand the law — and the devil is in the details.

Exempt or nonexempt?

Most employers understand that an exempt employee is not entitled to receive overtime pay for hours worked in excess of forty hours per week, according to the provisions of the FLSA. Conversely, nonexempt employees are required to receive overtime pay and should be classified as nonexempt from these same overtime provisions.

While it may sound straightforward, figuring out an employee’s exempt status is not that simple. Different types of exemptions exist and each has its own unique set of requirements that are outlined in the FLSA. Most of these exemptions are specific to certain jobs or industries, for example, some exemptions only apply to specific types of agricultural workers, or to truck drivers who transport goods in interstate commerce. But for most businesses, exempt employees will usually fall into one of the following three exemption categories: executive, administrative and professional. Collectively, these are referred to as the white collar exemptions.

A common error that employers make is to classify all their salaried employees, or all employees with the word manager in their title, as exempt. Neither of these factors alone is enough to make the exempt designation. Each of the white-collar exemptions has two components: a salary requirement and a duties requirement. The salary requirement is the same for each of the three exemptions, but the duties requirements are different.

The salary basis test

For any employee to be considered exempt under any of the white-collar exemptions, they must be paid on a salary basis. This means that any employee who is paid by the hour, per day, or is commission-only, regardless of their title or position, will not meet the criteria for any of the white-collar exemptions. How the salary is paid as well as the amount are also subject to certain restrictions. The salary basis test determines the minimum amount, which is subject to change from time to time. The minimum salary is currently $455.00 per week (or $23,660 per year). This test also provides restrictions on when and how an employer can make deductions from an exempt employee’s salary.

An increase to the minimum salary per week from $455 to $913 (or $47,476 per year) was originally scheduled to go into effect back in December 2016, but industry groups against the measure successfully lobbied to block it. The U.S. Department of Labor is exploring alternatives that could appease these industry groups while keeping the regulations in line with the times. The DOL is scheduled to re-start the rulemaking process in March 2019, and prior statements of the current DOL Secretary, Alexander Acosta, suggest that the new rule may propose a more modest salary increase to around $634 per week (or around $33,000 per year).

Job duties

In addition to the salary, each white-collar exemption has its own unique set of duties requirements. Employers must look at the actual duties that each employee performs to determine whether they meet the criteria and their title or position does little to influence the outcome. So, simply naming an employee a manager does not automatically qualify the worker as an exempt employee. To be considered exempt under the executive exemption, which is the most common exemption for managers, this employee would need to supervise two or more full-time employees (or the equivalent) and have the authority to hire and fire employees. Otherwise, they would need to meet the requirements for one of the other exemptions to be paid in this manner.

Knowing that these regulations exist and being well-informed of the framework is the first step in understanding overtime obligations – and reducing wage and hour worries. Employers should seek a qualified employment law attorney for additional guidance on the specifics of each requirement to ensure compliance with applicable overtime laws.

SOURCE: Starkman, J.; Nadal, A. (15 February 2019) "Everything employers need to know about employee job classifications" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/what-employers-need-to-know-about-job-classifications?brief=00000152-14a5-d1cc-a5fa-7cff48fe0001


LinkedIn’s job search feature gets smart

LinkedIn is planning on simplifying their process of finding and hiring talent via their recruitment features. The platform plans on consolidating their LinkedIn Recruiter, Jobs and Pipeline Builder products into one service. Continue reading to learn more.


LinkedIn plans to simplify the process of finding and hiring talent through upgraded recruitment features this summer.

The career platform will consolidate its LinkedIn Recruiter, Jobs and Pipeline Builder products into one service — the Intelligent Hiring Experience — to streamline the recruitment process for its corporate customers. Artificial intelligence algorithms will help talent recruiters find the most suitable candidates for open positions.

“[The] update is about how we can make those tools work even better by fostering collaboration and more efficient sourcing,” says John Jersin, vice president of Product for LinkedIn Talent Solutions and Careers. “We’ve started along this path by bringing more intelligence into our platforms, to ensure our products are working together optimally, and helping both companies and job seekers more easily zero in on the best opportunities.”

With the upgrade, messages between recruiters and potential talent can be shared with HR professionals and hiring managers. The platform also allows the recruiter and corporate hiring team to exchange notes on each job candidate. Recruiters who rely on LinkedIn to discover talent are optimistic the upgrades will make the hiring process more organized.

“I think that would be a great feature,” says Aimee Aurol, talent acquisition specialist for Acuris Group, a media company. “Hiring managers can get a better idea of what I’m doing as a recruiter, and I can see which candidates are moving along in the process.”

Aurol says LinkedIn is her primary tool for identifying and contacting candidates for her company. While the majority of her job placements come from LinkedIn, she says the platform’s candidate suggestions could use improvement. At its current state, Aurol’s candidate searches often turn up the same candidates over and over. But she hopes the updated AI will direct her to a wider variety of available talent.

And Jersin says it was designed to do just that.

“All of these tools are created to help learn your interests and surface the right candidates,” he says. “When a recruiter reaches out to a specific candidate, or a job seeker applies for a role, our AI algorithms take note, matching profiles with job descriptions and highlighting top recommendations.”

LinkedIn’s AI will also take into consideration whether previously suggested candidates were hired or not as it adjusts its personalized algorithm. To help the algorithm learn your company’s preferences, Jersin recommends setting up projects for each available role. Then, go through suggested candidates and save the ones you want to contact — and hide the ones that don’t fit.

Once a candidate is hired, the upgrades allow hiring managers to send rejection letters individually, or in mass. This part of the upgrade was designed to improve the hiring experience for both job applicants and employers.

“We believe applicants will appreciate knowing the outcome of their contact with your company — and it's bad business to leave applicants hanging,” Jersin says. “…one survey showed that over 40% of candidates said that if they don’t hear back from a company they’ll never apply to it again.”

While the upgrades are scheduled to debut in late summer, Jersin says LinkedIn will slowly introduce the new features over the next couple of months. The feature will be included in LinkedIn’s Recruitment and Job Slots membership packages; existing customers will not have to pay additional fees to access the service.

“The new features will make it simple for recruiters to simply keep doing their sourcing and hiring while inadvertently training our algorithms to learn more about their preferences,” Jersin says.

SOURCE: Webster, K. (20 February 2019) "LinkedIn’s job search feature gets smart" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/linkedin-introduces-intelligent-hiring-experience-platform?brief=00000152-14a7-d1cc-a5fa-7cffccf00000


Goodbye group benefits. Hello personalized pay

Do you offer a uniform benefits package to your employees? With five generations in the workplace now, off-the-shelf benefit options are presenting employers with a challenge. Read this blog post to learn more.


In the past, it was typical for a company to provide all employees with access to the same group benefits — regardless of their age, demographics or education level. From health insurance to retirement plans and paid time off, these uniform benefit packages were designed to meet the needs of the entire workforce in one fell swoop.

But over the past few years, these off-the-shelf benefit options have presented a bit of a challenge. With five generations now in the workplace — Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Baby Boomers and the silent generation — there are diverse expectations about pay and benefit packages.

For example, baby boomers and the silent generation tend to value health insurance and a robust retirement plan. Meanwhile, Gen X workers seek a healthy work-life balance, advancement opportunities and a competitive 401(k) — or a retirement savings plan that lets you set aside and invest money from your paycheck, to which your employer can then contribute. Millennials and Gen Z prioritize flexibility — they want more paid time off, the ability to work when and where they wish and tuition reimbursement.

There is no one-size-fits-all compensation package that can fairly satisfy each generation of workers. Employees today want to feel heard, understood and cared for by their employer. Furthermore, most want a job that fits with their personal interests and lifestyle.

As a result, companies are moving away from traditional group benefits and taking a more personalized approach to compensation.

Many organizations are using social listening tools, focus groups and surveys to gather information about the types of benefits employees want. Others are taking it a step further and having one-on-one conversations to determine what motivates each individual worker and provides them with a sense of purpose at work. How else will we know what, specifically, each employee wants unless we ask them?

By collecting this information, organizations can tailor packages that effectively meet the varying wants and needs of the diverse workforce. They’re offering mixes of pay, bonuses, flex time, paid time off, retirement plans, student loan repayment assistance and professional growth opportunities. Some companies have designed an a la carte menu of benefits, with which employees can pick and choose the perks they care most about.

According to a recent survey conducted by WorldatWork and KornFerry, organizations also are offering more non-traditional benefits that can further acknowledge employees’ concerns and responsibilities outside of work. Eldercare resource and referral services, women advancement initiatives and disaster relief funds all became significantly more prevalent in employee benefits programs within the last year. Telemedicine, identity theft insurance and paid parental leave offerings increased as well.

And many organizations are taking innovation one step further. One firm recently introduced a new benefits reward program in which employees earn points based on both personal and company-wide achievements and then cash them in for perks across various categories: health and wellness, travel, housing, transportation, time off, annual grocery passes — you name it. The purpose is to give employees the power to choose the types of perks that mean the post to them.

Personalized pay can boost attraction and retention

The unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in decades, and the war for talent is extremely tough. The average tenure for workers is 4.6 years. For millennials, it’s half that.

This sort of high employee turnover can take a massive toll on a company’s bottom line: Experts estimate that it can cost up to twice an employee’s salary to recruit and train a replacement. Not to mention, employee churn can damage company morale and tarnish your company’s reputation.

Customized pay and benefits plans can make an employer be more attractive in a tight, crowded job market. If you want to not only attract top talent but retain them as well, it’s worth taking the time to understand what matters to your candidates and offering them personalized pay and reward packages.

Organizations need to introduce more flexibility into their pay packages and adapt to the needs of the changing workforce. After all, when you invest in your employees, you invest in the overall success and performance of your business.

SOURCE: Wesselkamper, B. (11 February 2019) "Goodbye group benefits. Hello personalized pay" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/tailored-employee-benefit-plans-gaining-popularity


7 employee engagement trends gaining momentum

According to a Gallup survey, organizations with highly-engaged employees outperform the competition by 147 percent in earnings per share. Read this blog post for seven employee engagement trends that are gaining momentum.


Employee engagement is top-of-mind in the HR industry these days. In many ways, it might be one of employers’ biggest pain points. In this tight job market, it’s easier for employees to jump ship — and that’s a big headache for HR. Employers now are working more diligently to retain their key talent who are apt to go elsewhere to seek the working environment they desire.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, it costs a company, on average, six to nine months of an employee’s salary to replace her. So, for an employee making $40,000 a year, that’s $20,000 to $30,000 in recruiting and training expenses. Others predict the cost is even more: That losing a salaried employee can cost as much as twice their salary, especially for a high earner or executive-level employee.

Think about it. Salary and benefits are important, sure. But in this job market, employees can find what they are looking for in a compensation package. So, what makes the difference? It’s employee engagement — the extent to which an employee’s personal goals and interests align with the vision and goals of the company.

Organizations with highly-engaged employees outperform the competition by 147% in earnings per share, according to Gallup. More companies are realizing the effect that improved employee engagement is having on employee performance, retention and productivity. A G2 Crowd survey reported that in 2019, companies will increase their spending on employee engagement by 45%.

This year has all the makings of being a pivotal year for employee engagement with retention being equally, or even more as important, as recruitment. HR professionals, and companies as a whole, need to review employee engagement practices to make sure their strategy impacts retention, production and performance.

What’s ahead in 2019 for employee engagement? Here are my predictions.

Employers will put much more focus on employee engagement. An analysis from PwC says the new standard for employee engagement is fulfillment — the feeling people have when their work and their motivations are aligned and they gain a sense of meaning and purpose as a result. Others say it’s the employee experience — that it’s more than better perks and benefits. It’s ensuring that employees have positive, meaningful interactions with the organization at every step. Whether it’s employee engagement, fulfillment or experience, 2019 is going to see more employers, and the industry itself, paying much more attention to employee engagement.

Flexibility will be all-important. Millennials, the largest generation in the workforce, have made it loud and clear that they want more workplace flexibility including the ability to shift work hours (such as starting the day earlier or later) and working from home one or two days a week. Turns out that non-millennials are saying the same thing. Look for companies to incorporate more flexibility into company policies this year.

The annual performance review continues to be on its way out. The trend away from the annual performance review in favor of more frequent, real-time reviews and informal feedback will start to take hold in 2019. Ongoing communication is a much more effective tactic. Millennials, in particular, like at least monthly review format/commentary. In addition, steps for development, growth and mentoring can influence an employee’s satisfaction and desire to stay with the company.

Employee appreciation will move to a year-round activity. Call it what you want — recognition, appreciation, etc. But it’s not about an end-of-year holiday party or an employee of the month recognition. And it doesn’t have to always be about the cost of doing it — a manager’s thanks and lunch brought in at the end of a big project can go a long way. This year will see more attention to demonstrating employee appreciation on a year-round basis and rethinking the ways in which we can show it.

Companies will add benefits that satisfy employee lifestyle needs. Employee engagement no longer is one-size-fits-all. Employees have various lifestyle needs that companies can address that show they care about employee life stages. For example, more attention is being paid today to the needs of nursing mothers, and many companies are providing lactation services. For example, Goldman Sachs last year started paying for nursing mothers to ship breast milk to their homes when they travel. PwC introduced a phased return-to-work program following parental leave. Look for companies to identify and add more unique benefits in 2019 that show their employees they care about their life stages.

Employers will take a much more holistic approach to wellness. Gone are the days when employee wellness meant providing a gym membership and orchestrating an internal health fair. In recent years we have seen companies start broadening their wellness approach. Happy, healthy employees are generally engaged employees and that involves addressing all aspects of wellness. According to the University of Maryland, there are eight mutually-interdependent dimensions of wellness — physical, mental, emotional, social, occupational, financial, purposeful and environmental. They don’t have to be equally balanced, and employers likely can’t address all of them. 2019 will see employers studying the holistic wellness approach and making changes that fit their particular organization and their employees the best.

Gamification will be adopted more widely. Whether it’s for onboarding, benefits communication/understanding, wellness programs or other employee engagement tactics, gamification will be considered and adopted more widely this year. Gamification techniques can be used as well to increase use of intranets, social media platforms and mobile communication. Look for employers this year to create more apps and digital games to increase employee engagement.

Employees who feel their companies care about them are more engaged and dedicated to company success. Those of us in HR need to pay as much attention to employee engagement this year as we do to compensation and benefits in order to succeed with employee retention.

SOURCE: Roberts, R. (13 February 2019) "7 employee engagement trends gaining momentum" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/these-employee-engagement-trends-are-gaining-momentum


Don’t Forget to Post OSHA Injury and Illness Data at Your Worksite

Employers who are covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) record-keeping rule must post a summary of 2018 work-related injury and illnesses in a noticeable place from Feb. 1 to April 30. Read this blog post from SHRM to learn more.


Employers that are covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) record-keeping rule must post a summary of 2018 work-related injury and illnesses in a noticeable place from Feb. 1 to April 30. Here are some compliance tips for employers to review.

Required Posting

Many employers with more than 10 employees—except for those in certain low-risk industries—must keep a record of serious work-related injuries and illnesses. But minor injuries that are treated only by first aid do not need to be recorded.

Employers must complete an incident report (Form 301) for each injury or illness and log work-related incidents on OSHA Form 300. Form 300A is a summary of the information in the log that must be posted in the worksite from Feb. 1 to April 30 each year.

"This information helps employers, workers and OSHA evaluate the safety of a workplace, understand industry hazards, and implement worker protections to reduce and eliminate hazards," according to OSHA's website.

Employers should note that they are required to keep a separate 300 log for each "establishment," which is defined as "a single physical location where business is conducted or where services or industrial operations are performed."

If employees don't work at a single physical location, then the establishment is the location from which the employees are supervised or that serves as their base.

Employers frequently ask if they need to complete and post Form 300A if there were no injuries at the relevant establishment. "The short answer is yes, " said Tressi Cordaro, an attorney with Jackson Lewis in Washington, D.C. "If an employer recorded no injuries or illnesses in 2018 for that establishment, then the employer must enter 'zero' on the total line."

Correct Signature

Before the OSHA Form 300A is posted in the worksite, a company executive must review it and certify that "he or she has examined the OSHA 300 Log and that he or she reasonably believes, based on his or her knowledge of the process by which the information was recorded, that the annual summary is correct and complete," according to OSHA.

A common mistake seen on 300A forms is that companies forget to have them signed, noted John Martin, an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Washington, D.C.

There are only four company representatives who may certify the summary:

  • An owner of the company.
  • An officer of the corporation.
  • The highest-ranking company official working at the site.
  • The immediate supervisor of the highest-ranking company official working at the site.

Businesses commonly make the mistake of having an HR or safety supervisor sign the form, said Edwin Foulke Jr., an attorney with Fisher Phillips in Atlanta and Washington, D.C., and the former head of OSHA under President George W. Bush.

They need to get at least the plant manager to sign it, he said, noting that the representative who signs Form 300A must know how numbers in the summary were obtained.

Once the 300A form is completed, it should be posted in a conspicuous place where other employment notices are usually posted.

Electronic Filing

The Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses rule requires covered establishments with at least 20 employees to also electronically submit Form 300A to OSHA.

Large establishments with 250 or more employees were also supposed to begin electronically submitting data from the 300 and 301 forms in 2018, but the federal government recently eliminated that requirement. However, those establishments still must electronically submit their 300A summaries.

The deadline to electronically submit 2018 information is March 2.

SOURCE: Nagele-Piazza, L. (1 February 2019) "Don’t Forget to Post OSHA Injury and Illness Data at Your Worksite" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/pages/don%E2%80%99t-forget-to-post-osha-injury-and-illness-data-at-your-worksite.aspx/


Top 4 HR trends to watch this year

HR departments are now looking to implement innovative strategies to better engage employees and maximize productivity. Continue reading this blog post for the top HR trends of 2019.


HR professionals can no longer rest on their laurels. They are now looking to implement innovative strategies to better engage employees, improve the company’s brand both internally and externally, maximize productivity and increase the organization’s profitability.

So how can HR professionals go about making this happen? The success of HR will largely be based on staying nimble, evolving their organization’s policies and leveraging technological advances to ultimately reshape their workplace practices.

With that in mind, here are the top HR trends that will take center stage in 2019.

The gig economy and the importance of flexibility. The gig economy, which is comprised of individuals with short-term or temporary engagements with a company, is substantially important to employers. Here, workers are seeking increased flexibility and control over their work environments. Since many questions remain unanswered regarding worker classification issues and the application of existing laws in the gig economy, look for the Department of Labor to issue an opinion letter or guidance in 2019 detailing how a company may compliantly work within the gig economy and not run afoul of existing independent contractors.

Flexibility also is important for all employees — not just for the gig economy. While telecommuting and remote positions are not new, they are being emphasized again to better engage employees and increase retention metrics.

The tech effect on future of HR. The strategic and consistent use of workforce data analytics to predict and improve a company’s performance has exploded over the last several years, with additional momentum expected in 2019. While most HR professionals rely on metrics for basic recruiting and turnover rates, more in-depth analytics and trend spotting has become the norm.

Once trends are identified in, for example, turnover rates, an HR professional should have the tools to dive into the data and analyze root causes, such as the need for manager training, review of compensation strategies or a change in the company’s culture. Using predictive analytics in the HR space is helping companies make better informed, dynamic and wiser decisions based on historical data, as well as placing HR on the level of other data-driven company departments, such as finance and marketing.

The collection of this enormous amount of data also poses challenges and potential risks to companies, including negative perceptions among employees about how their data is being used, employee privacy laws and potential security breaches. Strong and comprehensive security policies, protocols and controls are necessary to ensure employers are keeping their employees’ data safe. In 2019, a steady flow of communications to employees regarding advanced security and usage policies is key to prevent data misuse or misunderstanding regarding how information is collected and used.

Artificial intelligence also will continue to be a significant focus driving improvement in the HR arena. Determining which data to collect, analyze and protect will provide opportunities for AI to assume a larger role in HR. Also, in some large organizations, AI already is being used for more than just automating repetitive HR tasks, such as onboarding new employees. The future of AI for most companies will include creating more personalized employee experiences as well as supporting critical decisions. From analyzing performance data to eliminating biases when screening candidates, AI will continue to be a pivotal HR tool.

Strategies for successful recruitment. Running an effective talent pipeline should be the objective of all hiring endeavors. Pipelining is consistently gaining traction as a recruitment tool for new employees. The concept employs marketing concepts to ensure that companies have a diverse group of strong recruits waiting to be hired. Pipelining reduces time to hire and leads to better quality candidates.

Health, wellness and adequate employee training. Another area of importance is multi-faceted wellness programs, which focus on an employee’s total well-being, from nutrition to financial wellness. These programs often include a comprehensive employee assistance program, training and activities during worktime. The training can focus on anything from physical health to development of employees’ knowledge base and technology-focused education. A greater emphasis also is being placed on workplace communication coaching, such as collaboration and negotiation, which are critical to success in the workplace.

Continued training and heightened prevention of sexual harassment and discrimination will be another trend this year. Organizations big and small must ensure that compliant policies are in place and employees are trained on the policies. Several states including California, New York, Connecticut and Maine already mandate that private employers must provide harassment training to workers, and the number of states requiring this training is expected to increase in the coming years.

SOURCE: Seltzer, M. (29 January 2019) "Top 4 HR trends to watch this year" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/top-4-hr-trends-to-watch-this-year?feed=00000152-a2fb-d118-ab57-b3ff6e310000


It’s a job applicant’s market: What it means for employee benefits

How do you attract top talent in today’s hiring landscape? Stock options and paid holidays may no longer be enough to attract top talent in today's competitive hiring landscape. Continue reading to learn more.


When it comes to employee benefits, stock options and paid holidays may no longer be enough to attract top talent — especially in today’s competitive hiring landscape.

With job openings on the rise, it has become more difficult for companies to compete for the most talented, highly sought-after candidates. The strong labor market also means more Americans are willing to quit their current job in favor of something better — in fact, this past year, employees voluntarily left jobs at the highest rate since 2001.

Comprehensive employee benefits packages have never been more important for employers looking to hire the best and brightest. Studies have shown as many as 60% of people cite benefits as a major deciding factor when considering whether to accept a job offer. The question is: What kinds of benefits are employees looking for most?

Of course, there are some benefits that have become commonplace among employers, including health and dental insurance, retirement plans and paid time off. However, these incentives may just be table stakes in the hiring game these days — for example, nearly half of privately owned firms in the United States offer health insurance, and 79% of Americans work for an employer sponsoring a 401(k)-style retirement plan.

Although many employees have come to expect benefits like health insurance and retirement plans, employers don’t need to go above and beyond as many larger companies, like Google, do — offering free meals and on-site haircuts. Flashy perks may seem appealing on the surface, but in reality, employees are seeking benefits that support them through — and help alleviate the stress that can come with — life’s major moments.

This kind of support can come in a number of forms. For example, many companies have seen their employees push for more comprehensive parental leave benefits, giving new parents time they need to refresh and bond with their child. While many countries around the world offer more than a year of paid parental leave, the U.S. doesn’t guarantee paid time off for new parents, and the national average for parents taking time off after having a child is only 10 weeks.

Employees may want to feel empowered to further their education or professional development, helping to bolster their confidence in their career. Starbucks is a proponent of this. To help employees take their education to the next level, the company offers full tuition reimbursement for online degrees through Arizona State University.

These benefits are great, but don’t cover all aspects of life where employees need support. For example, if an employee finds themselves in a situation where they need to care for an elderly parent, family leave may not be enough — especially as they find themselves navigating complicated Medicare/Medicaid documents and nursing home or hospice payments. Particularly in situations that pack on a lot of additional stress, companies can provide comprehensive financial wellness plans as a way to give their workforce peace of mind.

Financial wellness plans are an emerging area of employee benefits and provide assistance with everything from estate planning, to advice from certified personal accountants, to identity theft protection. There’s a clear demand for these services, too. PWC’s 2018 financial wellness survey found that over 50% of employees are stressed about their finances and want help.

Financial wellness plans don’t just offer practical benefits, but emotional benefits as well. Most people don’t realize how many instances in life, big or small, require some form of financial guidance, and without any professional support, these matters can be intensely stressful. Whether an employee is creating a prenuptial agreement, taking out a mortgage when buying their first house, or trying to navigate student loans when sending their child to college, knowing their company provides support and counsel for these situations alleviates the associated pressure. Employees want to know their employers can help them tackle anything life throws at them.

Ultimately, employees have come to expect benefits and perks providing coverage for all stages of life — whether they’re planning to have a child, want to take time to get their degree or are beginning to think about estate planning on top of traditional retirement planning. To attract and retain the best talent in 2019, employers should think first and foremost about how they can support their workforce in achieving financial wellness.

SOURCE: Freedman, D. (22 January 2019) "It’s a job applicant’s market: What it means for employee benefits" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/its-a-job-applicants-market-what-it-means-for-employee-benefits


How to Speak to Your Employees About Their Intimidating Benefits

Employers spend thousands annually to secure and offer benefits to their employees. However, a small amount of time and money are devoted to ensuring employees understand and appreciate their benefits. Properly communicating – what you say, how you say it and to whom you say it to – can make a tremendous difference in how employees think, feel and react to their benefits, employer and fellow co-workers.

In this installment of CenterStage, Jamie Charlton, founding partner and CEO of Saxon Financial Services, discusses the importance of offering sound education of benefits to employees, as well as how to effectively communicate their benefits in a clear, concise manner. Through 18 years in the financial services field, Jamie has instilled a focus on stressing to employers the importance of communicating and educating employees on all that is available currently and what may change with each upcoming plan year. Jamie believes a focus on premiums leads to “next level benefits”, an offering Saxon delivers.

The Need for Benefits Communication

Clearly communicating benefits is an increasing issue due to the complex dynamics of benefits plans. Previously, benefits decisions have been made primarily by employers. As a result, employees have not become educated consumers about their benefits or on how to implement them. This absence of engagement, as Jamie notes, causes employees to enroll in benefits that don’t fit their needs, pay too much for their coverage and not discover the full advantage of their offerings. Good communication is important and should cover all matters regarding plan offerings to employees and their dependents alike. The goal of a proper benefits plan, Jamie states, is to be enjoyable, comprehendible, and easily accessible. However, there currently exists an infliction point in employee benefits, and the entire process is changing.

This change is a factor of two main topics: (1) the continuing rise in medical costs and health insurance premiums and (2) a truly multigenerational workforce within the workplace. So how does an employer communicate their benefits to their employees?

Employers seeking to spread the word about their benefits offerings are continuing to seek out the expertise and experience found through Saxon. Understanding there is no one-size-fits-all method for every employer, Saxon delivers tools through tested methods to get your message across to employees. We explore your company’s offerings and assist you in crafting the perfect method to communicate and educate your employees on their existing plan offerings. Jamie gives the example of wellness programs and how to broadcast these offerings. Utilizing channels in which employees are bound to check – computers and smartphones – Saxon places the knowledge of how to display these offerings through informational web pages or email blasts.

Proper Benefit Education Begins with Saxon

While the methods above serve as channels for reaching employees, nothing compares to a direct, in-house explanation of your benefits to ensure your message is addressed and comprehended. Unique to Saxon is what Jamie notes as the “secret sauce” of Saxon’s employer and employee empowerment – the annual open enrollment meeting, which consists of nothing more than a step-by-step walk through of your entire health plan. This annual ‘seminar’ within your office closely examines the “nuts and bolts” of your plan to ensure everything is in-tact, working and done so with comprehension across the entirety of the organization.

Saxon understands the complexity of the modern healthcare scene and therefore is driven to provide the most comprehensive breakdown of your plan. Have more than one? No problem – We can compose a side-by-side analysis of your plans to show not only employers but employees where the strongest assets lie. Additionally, we stress the importance of shopping around at renewal time to make sure you get the best you can for your money. Jamie explained the goal of the meeting, as well as Saxon’s continued service year-round, is to “empower employees to have a choice.”

Empowerment from Saxon comes in many different forms. Just one of these many ways discovered through Saxon’s annual meeting is placing the power of online benefits administration at the fingertips of employees. Traditionally, when an employee needed to update their plan (i.e. having a new baby in the middle of a plan year), they were entitled to visiting their employer’s office and updating their plan by filling out a form. Risks associated with this older process included the “potential loss of documentation and therefore an inaccurate reading of an employee’s coverage needs”, said Jamie. The online method saves time, stress and paper.

How Saxon Helps

At Saxon, we want to invest in you. We begin by engaging experts that truly listen, building successful strategies that stay focused on your vision and goals. We strive to not be a name you turn to for assistance but a knowledgeable face always at your service. Saxon exists to care, cultivate and empower through relationships, expertise and exceptional standards of service. From finding a doctor, solving a complicated claim or partnering with an insurance agency to help protect your company’s sensitive medical data to ensure you are HIPAA compliant – with us; it’s personal.

To begin the conversation with Jamie on how to better communicate with your employees, contact him at (513) 573-0129.


Free snacks won’t retain workers long term. Here’s what will

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 32 percent of employers offer company-paid snacks and beverages to their employees. Read on for information on what will retain workers long term.


Free snacks at work can help workers curb late afternoon hunger — but will employees be more inclined to stick around because the office has free food? Probably not, according to a report from recruiting and staffing firm The Execu Search Group.

Offering free snacks at work seems like a good way to attract and retain workers, but it is a misconception that millennials, the largest generation in the workforce, want the benefit, the report says.

The trend of offering free snacks to workers started with big Silicon Valley tech companies — like Facebook and Google — and spread to employers of all sizes across the U.S. According to research from the Society for Human Resource Management, 32% of employers offer company-paid snacks and beverages to employees, up significantly from last year, when 22% offered them.

Free snacks can be a great addition to the office, but only if an employer offers others substantive benefits, says Edward Fleischman, CEO of The Execu Search Group. On its own, he adds, food offers little value.

“[Free food] is great. But some companies are using it as an incentive to keep people there — and that’s not going to keep people there,” he says.

Instead of offering small perks like snacks, the report says that if a company wants to retain millennial workers, it should offer benefits that allow greater work flexibility, more vacation time, training and development, and opportunities to make a difference. In particular, employers should consider instituting benefits like a flexible work schedule and unlimited paid time off, Fleischman says.

“That’s a keyword now — flexibility,” he says. “The flexibility to work from home when they need to, or want to.”

Millennials, in particular, he says, want the ability to work whenever and wherever they want. While there might be initial concern that allowing employees to work from home means they won’t be as productive, this isn’t the case. Millennials are very connected to their devices and will typically respond even after work hours are over, Fleischman says.

“They’ll respond on their iPhone at 11 o’clock at night. They may be at a restaurant, but they’ll respond to you,” he says.

Making changes like adding an unlimited PTO policy or a flexible work schedule could be difficult for legacy companies to institute, Fleischman says. It often requires trust that employees won’t abuse the policy. Additionally, older generations and executives may be used to stricter PTO policies, so it could require an adjustment, he adds.

But more companies are taking the plunge to offer these kinds of benefits. The number of employers offering unlimited PTO jumped from 1% in 2014 to 5% in 2018, according to SHRM. Employers including General Electric, Dropbox and Grant Thornton all offer the benefit, according to Glassdoor.

Fleischman says that in a competitive labor market, benefits are a key factor to recruiting and retaining a solid workforce. If a company is not offering solid benefits, it could mean the difference between accepting a job and looking elsewhere.

“As a company, you have to really set yourself up nicely to recruit that person and retain that person,” he says.

SOURCE: Hroncich, C. (28 January 2019) "Free snacks won’t retain workers long term. Here’s what will" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/free-snacks-wont-retain-workers-long-term-heres-what-will?brief=00000152-14a7-d1cc-a5fa-7cffccf00000


What to expect when your employee is expecting

How an employee's boss treats them has a major influence on whether or not they return to work after maternity leave. Read this blog post for what to expect when your employee is expecting.


Only four out of five employees return to work after maternity leave. The way their boss treats them has a major influence on that decision.

Women make up nearly half of the American workforce, and 85% of them will become mothers by age 45, according to a study by Pew Research. The same study estimates it costs organizations around $47 billion to replace employees who quit their jobs after maternity leave. Yet, employees going on maternity leave are often pushed aside.

“Women often face having their hours cut, harassment and losing out on promotions for becoming pregnant,” says Robyn Stein DeLuca, a postpartum consultant and professor at Stony Brook University. “It’s important for managers to know pregnant women are just as capable as they were before.”

Pregnancy discrimination can result in costly lawsuits and hurt a company’s reputation. For instance, pharmaceutical company Novartis in 2010 was ordered to pay $175 million to plaintiffs after a boss told female employees they should consider having an abortion if they wanted to advance within the company, DeLuca explains. And last year, thousands of Google employees staged walkouts to protest the company’s treatment of women.

“The walkouts knocked Google off their pedestal as a great place for everyone to work,” DeLuca says. “Thanks to the #MeToo movement, businesses are being held accountable for the way they treat pregnant employees.”

DeLuca spent the last 15 years of her career studying how new mothers cope after returning to work. She applies that knowledge to her consulting business, where she advises employers and working mothers on balancing personal and professional responsibilities.

During her research, DeLuca discovered women were more likely to return to work if they had supportive managers who made reasonable accommodations for their condition. The reverse was also true; employees who didn’t receive support and accommodation were most likely to quit their jobs.

“When you give talented women the opportunity, they’ll succeed,” DeLuca says.

During a webinar for the New York City chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management, DeLuca discussed strategies for managing pregnant employees in the office and during maternity leave. Making reasonable accommodations for them is just as important as good communication, she says. The first thing employers can do is refrain from negatively commenting on the pregnancy.

“When she decides to go public with the news, stay neutral or give a positive response to the announcement. Don’t say it’s the worst possible time for her to go on leave, even if it is,” DeLuca says. “She shouldn’t be made to feel bad about this exciting time.”

The next step should be collaboration, DeLuca says. Once the employee has made her announcement, managers should meet with her to discuss when she’s planning to go on maternity leave, and how best to divvy up her responsibilities after the baby is born. It’s also a good idea for HR to have the phone number of the employee’s OBGYN in case she goes into labor at the office, DeLuca says.

“Women worry about leaving the team in the lurch, but making plans that spell out the details of her leave can reduce anxiety, bring order and set clear expectations,” DeLuca says.

DeLuca suggests asking the employee to make a list of her duties and projects so she and her manager can discuss how best to cover the work. This can help quell any job security anxieties by reaffirming she’s a valuable part of the team.

“It gives her the opportunity to shine and show what she’s accomplished,” DeLuca says.

Coworkers might resent being asked to do extra work for someone on maternity leave. The best way to prevent these feelings is to frame the work as an opportunity for professional growth, DeLuca says. Do this by praising employees for taking on extra work, and for the new skills they’re learning, she says.

Providing these employees with flexible hours so they can address personal needs — like furthering their education or caring for a loved one — is another way to reward them for stepping in for a coworker on maternity leave.

“It helps them feel like they’re not being taken for granted,” DeLuca says.

Most pregnant women plan on working right up until the baby is born, DeLuca says. And despite stereotypes about “mommy brain” — the idea that pregnancy decreases cognitive function — DeLuca asserts that pregnant women are mentally healthy and fully capable of performing their job duties.

“TV portrays pregnant women as flighty and crazy. But pregnancy is actually a good time for mental health,” DeLuca says. “Pregnant women are less likely to suffer from depression, to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital or attempt suicide.”

However, managers should understand that pregnant employees have physical limitations. Depending on their role at the organization, pregnant women may require more breaks and lighter duty.

“She shouldn’t be on her feet all day or lifting heavy objects,” DeLuca says. “The baby is literally sitting on her bladder, so she’s going to make frequent trips to the bathroom.”

Women can be self-conscious about their changing bodies during pregnancy, which can be exacerbated by inappropriate comments and gestures from managers and peers, DeLuca said. HR can help educate the workforce about this issue during harassment training.

“Don’t touch the belly. Don’t say she’s beautiful, looks like a big round ball, or like your wife did at that stage. It’s not conducive to a comfortable working environment,” DeLuca says. “Instead, you can ask how she’s feeling.”

While making plans for an employee’s maternity leave, managers should talk to the employee about how they’d like to get back to work. Some companies allow women to ease their way back into work by letting them work short days toward the end of their maternity leave.

DeLuca recommends deciding beforehand how often, or if, a manager should contact an employee during maternity leave. If the employee would rather not be contacted, set a date for a return-to-work meeting, she says.

“It gives you the chance to fill her in on projects and new clients so she can hit the ground running when she returns to work,” DeLuca says.

SOURCE: Webster, K. (28 January 2019) "What to expect when your employee is expecting" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/what-to-expect-when-your-employee-is-expecting?brief=00000152-1443-d1cc-a5fa-7cfba3c60000


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