COVID-19 at-home testing kits can make returning to work safer

As many begin to return to the workplace, both employers and employees are fearful of bringing the COVID-19 virus into the workplace. A company has produced an at-home testing kit for those returning to work. Read this blog post to learn more.


While access to wide-spread coronavirus testing is still a barrier for millions of Americans, computer software company Appian is partnering with Everlywell, a digital health company, to offer COVID-19 at-home testing kits for employees returning to the workplace.

“Everlywell was founded to give people access to high-quality lab tests that can be taken at home,” said Julia Cheek, founder and CEO of Everlywell. “We are proud to support Appian’s customers in providing FDA-authorized COVID-19 testing to help keep them safe.”

Since March, more than 50 million coronavirus tests have been reported to the CDC, of which 5 million were positive. But as states reopen their economies and infection rates increase, there are growing concerns about supply chain problems, according to Politico. Reopening has increased demand for testing, causing samples to pile up faster than labs can analyze them, which is lengthening turnaround times for results — complicating efforts to contain the virus.

Everlywell’s at-home lab tests seek to streamline the process of testing for their employer clients. The COVID-19 test will be integrated within the Appian Workforce Safety solution. Through the partnership, people using Appian’s return-to-site solutions will be able to request home delivery of Everlywell’s COVID-19 testing kit by taking a screening questionnaire based on CDC guidelines. Each test request will be reviewed by an independent physician from Everlywell’s third-party telehealth partner. Test results can be delivered to the test-taker’s mobile device in 24-48 hours after the sample arrives at an authorized lab.

The lab tests have received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. The testing used by the company and its lab partners meet the FDA’s performance criteria for COVID-19 test accuracy, and telehealth consultations are included for those who test positive.

“How much you know as an organization is how much you can protect the members of your organization,” says Matt Calkins, CEO of Appian. “This is the fastest way to get information on infection. We've seen that high amounts of testing can help minimize COVID-19. Knowledge is power, so we're trying to get [employers] as much knowledge as possible, as quickly as possible, and provide them with another tool to keep their employees safe.”

As employers make their strategies for returning to work, workplace safety is of top concern. Antibody screening, thermal cameras and on-site nurses are all methods being considered to help employees stay safe. Digital health is playing a major role in helping employees self-report their risks, whether that be the employee taking the subway, or living with someone who’s immunosuppressed. It can also help employers scalably monitor and assess people's symptoms on a daily basis, ensuring that sick employees stay at home and quarantine. Workplace changes may also include desks and workstations being spread further apart, and stricter limitations on large meetings and gatherings in the office.

Appian’s platform helps employers centralize and automate all the key components needed for safe returns to work. Through the platform, employers can process health screenings, return-to-site authorizations, contact tracing, isolation processing, and now, COVID-19 testing.

“A lot of people would rather work with an employer who goes the extra mile, who’s willing to offer and pay for tests if necessary for their own employees, and to quickly deploy it, where there’s even a suspicion of transmission,” Calkins says. “It’s a responsible gesture and a serious signal that the employer cares about the health of their workforce, and employees are reassured that their colleagues are more likely to be healthy.”

SOURCE: Nedlund, E. (30 July 2020) "COVID-19 at-home testing kits can make returning to work safer" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/covid-19-at-home-testing-kits-can-make-returning-to-work-safer


Why continuous listening is the key to a smooth transition back to work

Returning to the workplace during this time can be difficult for many, especially with employers who are being faced with the question of how to create and keep a safe and comfortable workplace scene. Read this blog post to learn more.


As states and businesses reopen in the U.S., many employers are faced with a difficult decision: Should their employees go back to the workplace? And if so, when? Amazon told their workers they likely wouldn’t return until October, while Google announced that their employees wouldn’t go back to the office until 2021. Twitter and Facebook decided most employees could work from home forever.

But once employers do make that decision, they’re then confronted with a more formidable one: How do they get their employees back in a way that is both safe and comfortable for everyone? In short, how do they successfully manage employee experience?

Most companies have coordinated COVID-19 task forces charged with making those decisions and helping their employees navigate the global pandemic. And whether they realize it or not, those task forces are broken down into two different functions: operational and experiential.

When COVID-19 first hit, the task forces had to deal with the operational challenge of moving massive workforces home overnight, and they worked to ensure employees had the equipment and software needed to function remotely. And soon after, many realized they also had another responsibility on their plate: employee mental wellbeing.

Leaders recognized they’d have to find new ways to keep their people sharp, productive, and happy. In fact, their employees’ experience with remote work was a central component in making that big operational move successful.

The same will happen as task forces bring people back to the workplace. In fact, managing employee experience will become a task force’s most critical responsibility. To ensure employees feel comfortable returning to the workplace, company leadership needs to know how they feel about coming back and what safety concerns they may have. Then leadership must act on that information.

But the current situation (and their employees’ feelings) can change rapidly. That’s why a method called “continuous listening” is essential to managing employee experience. At least once a day (if not more), employees should be able to respond to a few questions about how they’re feeling, and leaders can use that real-time information to successfully take care of their teams.

A large retail bank in North America has set up an always-on feedback channel for retail branch employees to identify safety concerns in different branches. The bank recognized that, when it came to health and safety concerns, employees might need to offer feedback immediately rather than waiting for a survey that came around once a day. Other organizations have used pre-screening tools that allow employees to self-report each day so company leadership can decide whether they should come into the workplace.

Continuous listening helps leadership communicate with employees, and vice versa. If there’s ever been a time to listen to your people and manage their employee experience, it’s now.

A Qualtrics study conducted at the beginning of May found that two out of three workers in the United States didn’t feel comfortable returning to the workplace. In fact, nearly half of all workers said they didn’t expect to go back to work until August or later.

Most respondents said they want assurance from public officials like the Centers for Disease Control or state and local governments before returning, while about half said they’d feel more comfortable once a treatment or vaccine is available. Nearly 70%, though, said they trust their company leadership to make the right decision on when to come back.

Once leadership makes that decision, however, employees expect them to enact policies and procedures that will protect workers’ safety. Almost 75% said they want their work facility to be thoroughly and regularly cleaned and disinfected, while 62% said they want strict policies about who cannot come to the office, including those who are sick and have recently traveled. Nearly 60% said they want masks available to everyone who wants one, while the same amount said they want all employees to be required to wear a mask at all times.

A majority expect their company to require those who travel to self-quarantine for 14 days, prohibit handshakes and hugs, and set safety measures around communal food. Almost 40% said they want employees to be brought back in phases instead of all at once.

Employees also want the freedom to take action themselves. Over 60% said they want to be able to wear a mask and maintain social distancing at work, and half said they want more flexible sick-leave policies that employees are encouraged to use, even with minor symptoms. Nearly the same amount said they want to be able to limit the number of people they’re exposed to in workplace meetings, and almost 40% said they want to be able to skip work without penalty or continue working from home if they feel unsafe.

These findings provide companies with a general idea of what their employees want to see before coming back to work, but gathering data specific to each organization is even more helpful. Before and after companies begin their initial return, they’ll need to listen closely and continuously to their employees and should increase emphasis on employee feedback.

After all, employees are an organization’s best ambassadors. Invest in them, and they’ll invest in you.

SOURCE: Choi, J. (27 July 2020) "Why continuous listening is the key to a smooth transition back to work" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/why-continuous-listening-is-the-key-to-a-smooth-transition-back-to-work


‘It’s a fool’s choice’ when employers ignore investments in mental health benefits

Many employers have realized that the coronavirus pandemic has effected their employee's mental health tremendously. Many are now looking into opportunities to innovate change in the way mental health is viewed. Read this blog post to learn more.


As more states reopen and the return to work process gets underway, employers are grappling with how to address the rising mental health issues that have resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Society for Human Resource Management Foundation, One Mind at Work, and Psych Hub have partnered together to launch Mental Health and Wellness in the Workplace, an initiative to engage HR professionals in education and training opportunities to lead changes in the way mental health and wellness are viewed in the workplace.

“Our focus is on helping HR professionals and managers lead positive social change in the workforce,” says Wendi Safstrom, executive director of the SHRM Foundation. “We think it's critical to help employers and employees manage significant mental health tools related to COVID-19, and even beyond as companies begin to reopen.”

Mental health has been a growing concern among workers as the pandemic has worn on. About 41% of employees feel burnt out, drained, or exhausted from their work, according to data from SHRM. Additionally, nearly one in four employees report frequently feeling down, depressed, or hopeless — yet more than one in three employees reported having done nothing to cope with these feelings.

The SHRM Foundation, One Mind and Psych Hub initiative provides employers and HR professionals with a workplace wellness resource center, as well as training resources to help them address and improve mental health issues among employees.

The training covers topics like promoting workplace wellness, managing mental health during a crisis, and becoming an “agent of change” for workplace mental health.

Providing wide-spread education on mental health ensures that the diverse needs of employees have the opportunity to be met.

“What we're saying to everyone is that you cannot be autocratic here — this is about empathy,” says Garen Staglin, chairman of OneMind and co-founder of OneMind at Work. “You can't mandate that people are going to feel okay just because you tell them it's okay.”

Each member of the alliance brings a particular expertise in their respective practice areas. The SHRM Foundation focuses on workplace social change, One Mind at Work focuses on best practices and tools for brain health in the workplace, and Psych Hub focuses on multimedia learning solutions to mental health and addiction.

The materials are available to all companies and HR professionals via the Psychhub website. Employers, HR, and staff will have access to articles and other content on a variety of mental health subjects.

Investing in this program will not only help employees as they’re struggling now, but ensure investment into their future.

“We did a study that said for every dollar you invest in accelerating workplace best practices for mental health, you'll get a $3 to $5 return in the form of lower absenteeism, improved productivity, better customer service, and lower workers comp claims,” Staglin says. “It's a fool's choice to ignore brain health and workplace mental health, because the costs are extremely high.”

SOURCE: Schiavo, A. (23 July 2020) "‘It’s a fool’s choice’ when employers ignore investments in mental health benefits" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from employeebenefitadviser.com/news/its-a-fools-choice-when-employers-ignore-invest-in-mental-health-benefits


Employees Look to HR to Evaluate COVID-19 Data Before Reopening

Many employers are looking at the opportunity to allow employees to return to their workplace, but before returning many are asking and reaching out to their HR departments to look and rely on local, state, and federal data in order to make a safe transition back into office. Read this blog post to learn more.


When national staffing and recruitment firm Addison Group began putting in place the necessary measures to reopen the company's offices in Texas, Peg Buchenroth, senior vice president of human resources, relied on local, state and federal data to make the transition.

The company's employees switched to remote work during the week of March 16. Since then, Buchenroth and her colleagues have been monitoring coronavirus cases in Texas, where the numbers are changing fast.

Recent data from Texas health authorities demonstrates why it's important for human resource managers to follow infection and hospitalization rates in different geographies.

According to Texas Department of State Health Services data, nearly 75,000 people tested positive for the coronavirus in the first week of June and more than 1,800 people died of COVID-19. As of July 19, nearly 4,000 people had died from COVID-19 in the state, and the death toll is expected to rise further as reported cases have climbed to over 330,000.

Texas Health and Human Services has posted a warning on its website: "Please note that all data are provisional and subject to change. Probable cases are not included in the total case numbers."

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott began clearing the way for businesses to reopen in May to restart the state's economy but had to roll back those plans after COVID-19 deaths began to rise. In the midst of this, the Addison Group reopened its San Antonio/Houston offices on May 4, its Dallas location on May 18 and its Austin facility on May 20. The company closed its Texas offices for the July 4 holiday and has kept them closed as it considers what to do next.

"While we successfully opened our Texas offices in May for employees who wanted to return to in-person work, we've decided to close these locations and will monitor the situation in case we need to reassess," Buchenroth said. "The safety of our employees remains Addison Group's top priority, and we will continue to leverage federal, state and local data to inform any future decisions."

She said employees who return to the office will need to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, such as wearing a mask and maintaining 6 feet of physical distance from others.

"We want to make sure that employees feel safe when they return to the office," Buchenroth said.

She added that the company takes into consideration the many factors that can influence an employee's decision to return to the office, including child care needs, elder care responsibilities, and serious underlying medical conditions that put individuals at high risk of developing a severe illness from COVID-19.

 SHRM MEMBER-EXCLUSIVE RESOURCE SPOTLIGHT
Coronavirus and COVID-19

 

Using Data to Inform Reopening

As more businesses reopen, employers will have to decide if going to the office is safe based on the data received from local health authorities. Insight from that data will determine how employers will design their workspaces to allow for adequate social distancing within an office, how many workers will be allowed in the office at a time and whether remote work will continue for the foreseeable future.

John Dooney, an HR Knowledge Advisor at the Society for Human Resource Management, said he has noticed an increase in the number of inquiries from HR professionals about new federal, state and local measures and how to safely reopen businesses. He added that while health officials have gained a better understanding of the coronavirus during the past four months, there is still a lot more to learn.

"The pandemic is evolving, and we haven't had the luxury of time to get the information we need," Dooney said. "I think it's important for HR managers to continually review data from authoritative resources."

HR needs to be aware of the changes states are making as they reverse previous decisions on reopening their economies given increasing coronavirus infections and death rates in states like Arizona, Florida and Texas. The current crisis, Dooney said, should prompt HR professionals to be more involved with their senior leadership teams in the decision-making process.

"HR executives should work with senior managers to come up with the best ideas that protect their employees," Dooney advised. "The leadership team should be looking at not only how to maintain the business, but also how to implement adequate protections."

Employers' responses will also depend on the work environment at each company. Hospitals, supermarkets, pharmacies and delivery services, for example, need employees at their worksites; many knowledge-based businesses, however, are better-suited to rely on remote workers.

Gavin Morton, head of people and financial operations at HR.com, said as discrepancies arise in the actual number of coronavirus infections and deaths caused by COVID-19, employees will want to know that their employers have seen the data, considered it carefully and are concerned about workers' safety.

"We all want to know exactly what's going on, but it is very difficult for medical professionals and coroners to quickly ascribe deaths to COVID-19 or other causes," Morton said. "It is logical that there are both more cases and more infections than are being reported, since the testing numbers are still relatively low, and we may not know for years what the true impact has been."

Morton added that employers are in a powerful position to reduce their employees' anxiety. "Employers need to read carefully to understand what the reliable facts are and use them to inform their employees rather than alarm them. Clarity, calm and honesty go a long way," he said.

Morton said HR professionals should consider and educate the leadership team in two key areas:

  • How this information impacts the business and employees. Some data could have little to no impact on a company, depending on such factors as location and type of business, while other information could have a severe impact. An outbreak of cases in a city four hours away may not worry the organization's local employees, but if someone's parents live in that city, he or she may be personally very concerned.
  • Employee sentiment. It is critical to understand how employees are feeling and how new data can affect their confidence in their safety.

Contact tracing, new coronavirus cases, new hospitalizations, and increases or drops in the number of people dying from COVID-19 will be critical data that will contribute to HR managers' planning.

Human resource professionals should remember, too, that the data are interrelated.

For example, Morton noted that while an increase in deaths reported is alarming, it doesn't necessarily mean that there are more cases; similarly, falling death rates may not mean that transmission today is low. Information about deaths is only one piece of the puzzle.

Developing measures to secure the safety and encourage the performance of employees during the second half of the year won't be easy, especially if there is suspicion that federal, state and local information on the COVID-19 crisis isn't accurate.

"The numbers are really important, and companies need to pay close attention to information which impacts their employees and their customers," Morton said. "While the data can help guide their decisions, HR leaders and company leaders still need to interpret the data. This is true for any information, and so the uncertainty around death reporting is no different. Company leaders need to use their best judgment based on their knowledge of their business, employees and customers."

SOURCE: Lewis, N. (20 July 2020) "Employees Look to HR to Evaluate COVID-19 Data Before Reopening" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/technology/pages/hr-evaluate-covid19-data-before-reopening.aspx


The Saxon Advisor - July 2020

Compliance Check

what you need to know


SF HSCO Expenditures. The last day to submit SF HSCO expenditures, if applicable*, for Q2 is July 30, 2020. *Applicable for employers with 20+ employees doing business in SF and Non-Profits with 50+ employees.

Form 5500 and Form 5558. The deadline for the 2019 plan year’s Form 5500 and Form 5558 is July 31, 2020 (unless otherwise extended by Form 5558 or automatically with an extended corporate income tax return).

Form 8955-SSA. Unless extended by Form 5558, Form 8955-SSA and the terminated vested participant statements for the plan year of 2019 are due July 31, 2020.

Form 5558. Unless there is an automatic extension due to corporate income tax returns, a single Form 5558 and 8955-SSA is due by 2½ months for the 2019 plan year.

Form 5330. For failed ADP/ACP tests regarding excise tax, Form 5330 must be filed by July 31, 2020.

401(k) Plans. For ADP/ACP testing, the recommended Interim is due August 1, 2020.

In this Issue

  • Upcoming Compliance Deadlines:
    • Eligible Automatic Contribution Arrangement (EACA)
    • The deadline for the 2019 plan year’s Form 5500 and Form 5558 is July 31, 2020.
  • Medicare 101: A Quick Guide For Employers
  • Fresh Brew Featuring Saxon’s Holiday Favorites
  • This month’s Saxon U: The Steps Of An Internal Investigation
  • #CommunityStrong: Pick your Own Charity! One of our Own, Deborah Raines, made a meal for a family in need at her temple!

COVID and the ADA and EEOC

Join us for this interactive and educational Saxon U seminar with Pandy Pridemore, The Human Resources USA, LLC, as we discuss COVID and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Medicare 101: A Quick Guide For Employers

Bringing the knowledge of our in-house advisors right to you...


Medicare is a government-funded health insurance program for those aged 65 and above, those under 65 with certain disabilities, and those with End State Renal Disease (ESRD) or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Employers that offer group health insurance plans to their employees have an interest in learning how employees’ entitlement to Medicare benefits can affect the administration of those plans.

“Ask a licensed agent for assistance. Advertisements can be confusing, and everyone wants to make the right choice. Using my expertise, I take the fear out of the decision making, so my clients can make an informed decision concerning their healthcare.”

Advice from Olivia

Fresh Brew Featuring Saxon's Holiday Favorites


In celebration of Independence Day this past month, the Saxon crew has decided to share one of our favorite summer recipes for this month’s Fresh Brew! We hope you all have a safe and happy holiday! 

Marinate your Chicken

This Month's #CommunityStrong:

Each member of Saxon will be choosing their own charity that they want to make a positive impact on!

This May, June & July, the Saxon team and their families will be choosing their own charity that they would like to make a positive impact towards!

Are you prepared for retirement?

Saxon creates strategies that are built around you and your vision for the future. The key is to take the first step of reaching out to a professional and then let us guide you along the path to a confident future.

Monthly compliance alerts, educational articles and events
- courtesy of Saxon Financial Advisors.


How to Prosper When HR Is Understaffed

The HR department often has many things on its plate when the company as a whole has a lack of staff, but what happens when the HR department has a lack of staff that may be caused due to many situations? Read this blog post to learn more.


One of the hardest parts about working in HR is helping a company's managers succeed when the company is understaffed. But what about when the HR department is understaffed, perhaps due to summer vacations, unfilled positions, or team members working fewer hours as they wrestle with child care or illness during the COVID‑19 pandemic?

HR leaders, whether managing a small or large team, can find the weight of a company's needs overwhelming when their department is short-staffed. But HR experts say there are a range of strategies to help address this situation.

"When an HR team is short-staffed, one of the best things to do is try to understand the goals of the company during this time," said Melodie Bond-Hillman, senior manager of HR and administration at XYPRO Technology Corp. in Simi Valley, Calif. She has had many cohorts reach out and express concern that their jobs have expanded out of scope during the coronavirus outbreak as they attempt to handle a range of new duties amid staff shortages. "They need to try and figure out how long term the staffing issue might be to know how to strategically plan," Bond-Hillman said.

Conversely, it's important not to over-promise when seeking staffing solutions for the department in such an unpredictable environment, said Buck Rogers, a vice president at Keystone Partners, a Raleigh, N.C., executive coaching and outplacement firm. "Don't set your team up for a fall," he said. "You need to keep their spirits up as much as possible, but giving them false hope can make them less likely to trust you in the future."

Rogers recommended against giving the HR team exact dates on when operations will return to normal, because no one can say for sure. Instead, he suggested being supportive—but not unrealistic.

Consider Investing in Automation

One positive step an HR leader can take during a period of uncertainty is to look for opportunities to automate required processes to save time, Bond-Hillman said.

"An important question to research is, how well is your HR system set up? Is it driving a lot of your process so you can automate when possible and give employees a strong range of self-service access?" she asked. "Do you have apps so workers can get their benefit cards and policy questions easily answered without your team being called on to step in too often? From getting their pay stubs to making 401(k) changes, the process needs to give employees a chance to help themselves. These are areas HR may get lazy at when times are easier, but it makes a difference" when times are tougher, as they are today, she said.

Even with shortcuts in place, there are other steps that will help the team operate more effectively. One is to provide new opportunities for team members to broaden their contributions, perhaps by giving responsibilities to HR professionals who are ready for a new challenge.

"This is a chance for them to help you out," Bond-Hillman said. But you can also help HR team members advance their careers or become specialists. "Give them the opportunity to come through for the team and further their career."

And despite potential revenue shortfalls due to the faltering economy, now isn't the time to reduce training. After all, if team members are going to be able to assist you more, they'll need the training to succeed, Bond-Hillman said.

"Yes, there's a feeling you don't have time, but if you don't make the time, it will potentially be a disaster in executing the work," she said. "Many HR people struggle because not everyone is cross-trained."

Seek Inexpensive Support

Seeking part-time help from a temp or college intern is another popular option this summer, said Heather Deyrieux, SHRM-SCP, HR manager for Sarasota County, Fla., and president of the HR Florida State Council, a Society for Human Resource Management affiliate. "We've had an intern just for the first couple of weeks of the summer, and she has been very helpful," Deyrieux said. "You can even look for volunteers—there can be many of those, especially if it's remote work."

Keeping morale up also is important and may be achieved by making sure everyone in the HR department sees team leaders rolling up their sleeves and doing tasks that may have been handled by others before the pandemic. It's also wise for those leaders to keep their office doors open and be available early and late to help answer questions and address issues, Bond-Hillman said. "A team has to be just that–a team."

Debora Roland, a Los Angeles-based vice president of HR at CareerArc, said seeking opportunities to allow the team to recharge is critical. "Your team, however big it may be, is working tirelessly during these times, and showing appreciation can go a long way," she said. "One way to do this is to give team members time off when it's needed. We're all in such high-stress times, and providing days off to recuperate and reset can make a world of a difference."

If providing time off isn't possible given the workload, showing appreciation can help. "Give a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant or something else they like," Deyrieux said. "This way you show appreciation, but you also show them that you pay attention to their interests. People need to know they're not just another employee."

6 Ways to Support an Understaffed HR Team

  1. Identify the company's primary goals during the pandemic and share it with the team.
  2. Ease the team's hours through automation or help from a temp, an intern or a volunteer.
  3. Be in the trenches with team members by taking on menial tasks and arriving early and/or staying late.
  4. Show appreciation, even if just in a small gift.
  5. Give additional responsibility that could lead to a promotion.
  6. Provide training so your team members feel they're in a good position to take on new responsibilities.

SOURCE: Butterman, E. (09 July 2020) "How to Prosper When HR Is Understaffed" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/organizational-and-employee-development/pages/how-to-prosper-when-hr-is-understaffed.aspx


Facial Analysis Technology in the Workplace Brings Risks

Technology is a forever-changing topic and a forever-advancing field. Most recently, facial recognition technology has been a topic of discussion when talking about technology. Read this blog post to learn more.


Facial recognition technology has been under the microscope as organizations and lawmakers re-evaluate its use in the wake of global protests about racial injustice. Technology giants Amazon, IBM and Microsoft all recently announced that they would stop selling facial recognition technology to police departments in the United States, citing the technology's potential for violating human rights and concerns about racial profiling.

Recent research has shined a light on some inherent dangers of using the technology. One study by MIT and Stanford University found that three commercially released facial analysis technologies showed skin-type and gender biases. The study found that the technology performed better for men and lighter-skinned people and worse for darker-skinned women.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as well as other human rights groups and privacy advocates also have raised concerns about privacy and surveillance issues tied to use of the technology.

Evaluating Job Candidates

Some vendors in the human resources industry have long used facial analysis technology to help evaluate video interviews with job candidates. These artificial intelligence (AI) tools scan facial expressions and movements, word choice, and vocal tone to generate data that help recruiters make hiring decisions. Vendors say the tools can help reduce hiring costs and improve efficiencies by speeding the screening and recruiting of new hires.

But experts say that if these facial analysis algorithms aren't trained on large or diverse-enough datasets, they're prone to consistently identify some applicants—such as white men—as more employable than others. For example, the MIT and Stanford study found that one major U.S. technology company claimed an accuracy rate of more than 97 percent for a facial recognition algorithm it designed. Yet the dataset it was trained on was more than 77 percent male and more than 83 percent white.

Josh Bersin, a global HR industry analyst and dean of the Josh Bersin Academy in Oakland, Calif., said some HR vendors have embedded facial analysis technology into their video-interviewing tools with the goal of identifying job candidates' demonstrated stress, misrepresentations and even mood.

"These vendors have tried very hard to validate unbiased analysis, but they are taking risks by doing so," Bersin said. "The best solution is to use these tools very carefully and make sure you perform tests across very large samples before you trust these systems."

The use of facial analysis technology to evaluate job candidates is "very problematic," said Frida Polli, founder and CEO of the New York-based assessment company Pymetrics. "The science of the technology in terms of what it really says about someone is extremely new and not well-validated, and certainly not well-validated for HR uses," she said.

Results should be viewed with a skeptical eye if the technology is used for any assessment of job candidates' character or behavior, said Elaine Orler, CEO of the Talent Function, a talent acquisition consulting firm in San Diego. "The technology solutions aren't accurate in this area, and they leave too much to chance in terms of creating false positives or negatives," she explained. "To understand micro-expressions, for example, would require a deeper understanding of that one person's behaviors and not just a crowdsourced base line of everyone's expected expressions."

Some experts say facial recognition technology isn't without value in the workplace, especially in the age of COVID-19. Orler said using the technology as a biometric tool to grant access to parts of a building or as a touchless replacement for time clocks can be a good solution to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

"Badges and other products that hold credentials often need to touch products that have been touched by others, and fingerprint scanners also have such dangers," she said.

Legal and Privacy Concerns

The use of facial recognition technology is now governed by laws in a growing number of states. Kwabena Appenteng, an attorney specializing in workplace privacy and information security with Littler in Chicago, said most employers are now aware of the landmark Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) that requires companies implementing facial recognition technology in that state to obtain consent from subjects and to provide a written policy about how collected data will be stored, protected and used. Appenteng said more states—including California and Texas—also now require employers using the technology to satisfy certain compliance obligations.

Illinois and Maryland also have placed restrictions on facial analysis technology specifically for use in evaluating job candidates. California and New York have proposed similar legislation to regulate the use of artificial intelligence in assessing job applicants, said Monica Snyder, an attorney with Fisher Phillips in Boston and New York City and a member of the firm's data security and workplace privacy practice.

Illinois enacted its Artificial Intelligence Video Interview Act earlier this year, a law that requires companies using the technology to notify applicants in advance that the technology will be used to analyze their facial expressions, to obtain consent for its use, to explain to applicants how AI works and to destroy video interviews within 30 days if a candidate makes such a request, Snyder said.

"Employers need to tread carefully on how they use this technology," she said.

Appenteng said there's also the issue of getting employee buy-in for using facial recognition technology since many may consider it a risk to their privacy. "Employers may therefore want to consider providing their employees with a notice that explains facial recognition technology in easy-to-understand terms to placate any of those employee concerns," he said.

SOURCE: Zielinski, D. (09 June 2020) "Facial Analysis Technology in the Workplace Brings Risks" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/technology/pages/facial-analysis-technology-workplace-brings-risks.aspx


Navigating the New Normal in International Business Travel

The coronavirus pandemic has placed many restrictions on travel for both leisure and business. As parts begin to open up and lift certain regulations, organizations are now looking at travel for the business, and if those are possibilities once again. Read this blog post to learn more.


What can your company expect in terms of your employees' ability to travel internationally as parts of the world begin to come out of months of lockdown?

And what will the ongoing restrictions and changes in everyday life mean for your company's ability to transfer or hire new foreign national talent in key areas? Only time will tell exactly what will happen, but we are beginning to see patterns and hints of what is to come.

Some countries that have managed to flatten the curve of COVID-19 infections are gradually easing restrictions on freedom of movement and commerce. This is typically being undertaken cautiously and in a multistep fashion. Other countries have been slower to ease travel restrictions. A broad travel ban remains in place in China, and countries in Latin America continue to extend travel limitations with a wary eye on the outbreak in Brazil.

International travel restrictions on freedom of movement are being eased, albeit more slowly than domestic restrictions. We expect that the easing of international travel restrictions will be incremental in nature as the easing of domestic restrictions has been. We also expect that quarantine requirements for arriving travelers are likely to be put into place in many locations, significantly hampering international business travel.

Arriving travelers are also likely to be questioned more closely than in the past regarding their recent travels, health, reasons for visiting and plans for satisfying quarantine requirements. Although the primary purpose of the vetting may be to limit the spread of COVID-19, an unintended consequence may be that the purpose of the visit and whether the traveler has the correct documentation is scrutinized more closely than in the past. If the traveler is attempting to enter to engage in productive or remunerated work—which often includes consulting, commissioning, installing, troubleshooting and, in some countries, even training or audit activities—without the proper work visa, they are likely to be identified and denied entry.

Governmental migration authorities around the world are beginning to either ramp back up where they were operating at limited capacity or to reopen where they were shut down completely. But although many facilities are ramping up and/or reopening, significant backlogs of applications exist. Many government offices and consulates are encouraging or requiring contactless submissions via post or even e-mail.

The New Normal: A Long-Term Perspective

Looking ahead, it is somewhat challenging to predict what will happen in the global immigration space given that we do not yet know how long the pandemic will drag on. The longer it continues, the more different our new global immigration normal is likely to be. What is already clear is that even if a vaccine or effective remedy for COVID-19 is developed, things are unlikely to go back to "normal" as we knew it before the pandemic. So, what will the new normal look like for your company?

Rise in Remote Work—Decrease in Global Mobility

Many companies have discovered the ability to conduct business remotely, including across borders. What used to require an international business trip (with the corresponding time, costs and visas) now takes place via conference call. Where you used to relocate key staff across borders to facilitate teams working together in person, you likely have now discovered that with everyone working remotely, it may not matter whether your newest team member is physically sitting in Canada, China or France.

New Challenges for Essential Travel

Despite the rise in remote work, technology can't replace all short- or long-term global movement of employees. Some work—installing or commissioning equipment, quality control on a production line, testing of systems and more—simply cannot be done via conference call. If your company has employees who must travel for business purposes, those employees will likely continue to encounter quarantine requirements until the pandemic has been resolved. This means your employees traveling for work will need to provide evidence that they will quarantine for 14 days following arrival, before attending their meetings and/or work duties.

In the past, citizens of privileged countries, such as the U.S., have often enjoyed a low level of scrutiny at ports of entry and have been able to avoid issues when traveling for work purposes without a visa. In fact, before the pandemic, your company's employees may have been previously accustomed to traveling to certain countries with just their passport and no visa. Under the new normal, we anticipate that all international travelers will be subjected to increased scrutiny on entry through the destination country's customs and immigration process. This means your employees are more likely to need to secure a visa in advance of any foreign travel. For this reason, it will be important for you to verify immigration requirements with the most recent information well in advance of your employee's planned travel date. After all, the last thing you want is for your employee to experience the unpleasant surprise of being denied entry or prevented from boarding a flight.

New Challenges for Long-Term Relocation and Local Hires

While it is true for some industries that it does not matter whether a new hire is sitting in Canada, China or France, for others, it absolutely matters. It is probably impossible for a manager to supervise a manufacturing facility via Zoom. Unfortunately, it is likely that companies seeking to transfer or hire foreign nationals will face increased hurdles, even beyond the immediate travel-related hurdles posed by COVID-19 travel restrictions. As unemployment numbers have soared, we have already seen a significant political backlash against immigrants in the U.S. Even putting aside any politically or economically motivated reduction of work visa numbers, the labor market reality of having millions of citizens out of work will make it extremely difficult to pursue work visas that require labor market testing. This would include Labour Market Impact Assessment work permits in Canada, Tier 2 General work visas in the U.K., and Subclass 482 work visas in Australia, among others.

Mitigating Negative Impacts: Preparation and Strategy

It is hard to imagine how any company, let alone a company with global operations and travel needs, could avoid the negative impact of the pandemic. Here are a few ways your company can mitigate (rather than eliminate) the negative impacts:

  • Raise awareness. Your company and your employees are likely to face many obstacles that you are not accustomed to, whether it is a requirement that employees add 14 days to a business trip to accommodate a mandatory quarantine period, the need to obtain visas in advance of travel where they previously could travel without one, or delaying many months before starting a new position while waiting for a work visa approval. It is crucial that all key stakeholders within your company are made aware that immigration is not business as usual. Stakeholders include not only HR and legal personnel but also company managers and recruiters. To the extent that employees can book international travel without managerial approval, it may be prudent to disseminate policies and information to all employees regardless of level. Requirements for travel, transfer and new hires alike must be checked before business commitments and plans are made or contracts with clients are signed. We recommend providing both written and video training to ensure that managers and other employees outside of legal and HR who may not be familiar with immigration concepts have both an opportunity to ask questions and reference materials to refer to in the future.
  • Conduct quarterly planning. In countries where international transfers or hiring of foreign nationals is not prevented by political and labor market challenges, it will be important for your company to plan well in advance for any transfer or new hire. It is likely that the process of obtaining the necessary work visa and/or permit will be slower for some time given the COVID-19-related backlogs. Even where the immigration process itself is not slower than usual, it may take significantly more time to procure the corporate and personal documents (such as birth certificates, marriage certificates and university diplomas) that often must be included in visa applications. It is also possible that there will be more requirements that must be satisfied to obtain the visa, such as medical exams and negative COVID-19 tests. Given this, we strongly recommend that your company plan as far in advance as possible. Although it is not always possible to anticipate all business needs, it is a best practice to work to identify upcoming assignments or new hires on a quarterly basis. We have seen that having a policy and schedule in place with the relevant managers and recruiters can go a long way to reducing last-minute immigration surprises. As part of this plan, before committing to a client contract or signing an employment contract, companies should confirm with their immigration counsel or another trusted source that the employee is able to qualify for the necessary visa and the timeline involved.
  • Implement a global mobility management system. While we have always recommended that companies with global mobility needs have an organized way to track and manage the global movement of their employees, the pandemic has greatly increased the need for such a system. Many companies were caught off guard by the fast-moving pandemic and did not know where their employees were in the world, when their visas were expiring or how they were going to get them home again. Having a centralized system will certainly not solve all your problems, but it will at least equip your company with the information and tools needed to make informed decisions. A "system" does not necessarily mean the very latest and most expensive software for managing global mobility, but rather, some sort of functional, organized method by which to vet and track travel, international transfers and new foreign national hires, along with a clear company global mobility policy.

SOURCE: Lustgarten, A. (08 July 2020) "Navigating the New Normal in International Business Travel" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/navigating-new-normal-international-business-travel.aspx


Recruitment Research: A New Way to Find Top Talent

Many HR leaders and hiring managers want what is best for their organization. Prior to the year 2020 starting, a main and common goal was to attract and retain the top talent in their industries. Read this blog post to learn more.


Attracting and retaining top talent was the prevailing crisis for company leaders and HR heading into 2020. That was before a deadly virus wreaked havoc on the nation's economy and the unemployment rate went from a historic low to the highest since the Great Depression. COVID-19 has left millions of Americans out of work, yet some companies are still in a hiring mode. The challenge for hiring managers now is that they must wade through mounds of resumes to find the perfect candidate, and they must do it with a much smaller recruitment budget.

"For many companies, revenues are down, but there are still critical positions to fill," said Kathleen Duffy, president and CEO of Duffy Group, Inc., a global sourcing and recruitment firm based in Phoenix. What may come as a surprise is that some jobs are still tough to fill, she said.

Before the health crisis, companies addressed the talent shortfall by stockpiling high-demand workers with specific skill sets, even if there were no jobs available for them. This included a large percentage of hiring managers—about 77 percent—who hired for positions that did not exist a year earlier, according to research by Korn Ferry.

"Whether in traditional industries such as home health care or technology, or emerging fields like baby tech, CBD products or selfie services, there still don't seem to be enough qualified candidates to go around," Duffy said.

One way to combat the problem is for hiring managers to re-evaluate how they recruit candidates. That means considering approaches beyond adding more in-house recruiters, as well as contracting for retained and contingency searches. One often-overlooked alternative that has emerged in the last decade is recruitment research.

Recruitment Research Defined

An offshoot of the executive search industry, recruitment research is a multistep methodology that targets desired candidates and connects them with employers using a flexible pricing model.

"The process is equal parts detective and skilled salesperson," Duffy said. "It begins with taking a deep dive into the company and its business, and ends with a list of interested, qualified candidates."

At the core of the process is strategy, according to Marcia Mintz, CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix. When Mintz was hired to lead the organization four years ago, she had two key positions to fill immediately. "I needed to see a diverse pool of candidates with fundraising and staff coaching experience," she said.

Because the internal environment of Boys & Girls Clubs was changing, it was imperative to find leaders who not only had the skills to do the job, but whose personalities would fit into the new culture. The recruitment team leveraged its network to identify passive candidates at top local competitors and nonprofits in other parts of the nation, Mintz said.

"Ultimately, the process helped us increase the scope and quality of candidates while providing a highly cost-efficient alternative to traditional recruitment," she said.

The Building Blocks

Part art and part science, recruitment research entails some key steps. The foundation is a sourcing strategy, which includes an in-depth situation assessment to understand the culture and personality of the hiring company, along with the job's requirements, responsibilities and specific skill set needed. Using a comprehensive intake form, the recruitment team collects data about the company's recruiting targets, geographic preferences, salary and compensation levels, communication expectations, and industry-specific vernacular.

Next comes name generation. Armed with information from the hiring manager and others, the recruiter can identify candidates whose backgrounds, education and experiences dovetail with their company's needs. This is accomplished using a variety of methods, from cold-calling and Internet tools to probing professional organizations, trade shows and chambers of commerce. The goal is to find not only people who are looking for new careers but also those passive candidates who may not be looking at all.

"It's important to think outside of the box," said Victoria McCoy, former executive vice president of organizational strategy at the global information technology company Cyberscout in Cranston, R.I. "That means knowing where the best talent is working today, whether it is at one of your competitors or in another role at your company."

List in hand, the recruitment team is then ready to contact and prequalify candidates as part of the recruitment candidate vetting. Duffy said it is important to create sizzle around why potential hires should consider the opportunity. "In addition to courting the candidate, this is also the time to ask some all-important questions, including their interest in relocating to a particular area, if they have the right education and experience, and if they have a genuine interest in the job the client is trying to fill," she said.

Duffy's firm may search as many as 100 candidates for one position and then present the top three to five most qualified and fully screened candidates for interviews. These candidates are typically seen within 15 days of the start of the search. That's important, given that recruitment research takes a different approach to finding top talent, using a model based on billable hours, much like a CPA or an attorney.

The final step—presentation and reporting—gives hiring leaders a recap of the results and a database of all candidates for the open position that they can keep on hand for future searches.

Recruitment research isn't limited to outside recruitment firms. Internal company hiring managers have the institutional knowledge to use recruitment research effectively as well.

"They should apply the same elements of the process, starting by learning all they can about the company or the business unit for which they are hiring," Duffy said. "And they should put themselves in the candidate's shoes to create a story that will pique interest in the position and differentiate their company from competitors."

Whether internally, externally or as a collaboration, recruitment research can be a cost-effective, efficient approach to helping companies find their next new hire.

SOURCE: Magruder, J. (01 July 2020) "Recruitment Research: A New Way to Find Top Talent" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/recruitment-research-a-new-way-to-find-top-talent.aspx


DOL: Workers whose kids can't attend summer camp can take FFCRA leave

Dive Brief:

  • Employees can take paid leave under the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) to care for their children in instances where a child's summer camp or summer program has been shuttered due to the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) said in a June 26 field assistance bulletin.
  • The federal agency said a closed summer camp or program may be considered the place of care for an employee's child if the child was enrolled in the camp or program before the closure. It noted that "affirmative steps" short of actual enrollment may suffice to prove the summer program was intended to be a child's place of care.
  • A summer camp or program qualifies as closed for the purpose of an employee qualifying for FFCRA leave if the camp or program is operating at a reduced capacity because of COVID-19, the agency said. For children who would have attended, the same analysis — actual enrollment or affirmative steps toward enrollment — applies.

Dive Insight:

The Labor Department said in the bulletin that "the expectation that employees take FFCRA leave based on planned summer enrollments is not different from the closing of other places of care such as a day care center." DOL says it is not adopting a one-size-fits all rule because of "the multitude of possible circumstances under which an employee may establish (1) a plan to send his or her child to a summer camp or program, or (2) that even though the employee had no such plan at the time the summer camp or program closed due to COVID-19, his or her child would have nevertheless attended the camp or program had it not closed."

If proof of a child's summer camp enrollment is not available, DOL provided several examples of ways that parents can prove a child's planned attendance in a summer program, such as:

  • Proof of the submission of an application before the camp's closure.
  • Proof of a paid deposit.
  • Proof of prior attendance and current eligibility.
  • Proof of being on a waitlist.

The agency also said that an employee who requests FFCRA leave must provide the employer information in support of the need for leave either orally or in writing. Such an explanation must include the reason for leave and a statement that the employee is unable to work because of that reason.

SOURCE: Burden, L. (29 June 2020) "DOL: Workers whose kids can't attend summer camp can take FFCRA leave" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.hrdive.com/news/dol-workers-whose-kids-cant-attend-summer-camp-can-take-ffcra-leave/580718/