Human Resources

How to Upgrade Employee Learning Opportunities

by Jessica Thiefels
Originally published on July 25, 2018, at SCORE

Employee learning is important for businesses. So much so, that U.S. companies spent $90.6 billion in employee learning in 2017 alone. You’d think with that spend, companies would be seeing massive success. According to McKinsey, however, that’s not the case, with the majority of survey respondents saying their training efforts are not effective as-is.

Instead of simply checking a box, and offering learning opportunities without any value, focus on making your programs effective. If not for your budget, do it for the  that feel they aren’t reaching their potential at work.

Here are a few ideas for upgrading your employee learning opportunities, make better use of your budget and keep employees engaged.

Offer an Annual Conference Pass

Many companies allow time for out-of-office learning, but a free, half-day seminar is a much different experience than that of a large, 3-day conference. There are a number of factors to consider here, including cost. According to Hubspot, total costs of attending a conference range from $4,630 to $10,230, and this accounts for the cost of attending, in addition to lost work and productivity.

Still, Hubspot explains that there are many benefits, for your employees and your business, including:

  • Learning new skills
  • Uncovering unique ideas
  • Gaining courage and confidence to try a new idea
  • Creating new relationships
  • Practicing the ability to process data and turn it into useful tips for the team
  • Improving relationships among employees

Not to mention, attending an expensive conference may not be an option for employees who have to pay out of pocket—even if they really want to go. You don’t just pay for their conference attendance, but you boost their loyalty to your company. 

Start an Intrapreneur Program

One of the best ways for employees to learn is to let them run with one of their own ideas. While this is great for employees who are entrepreneurially spirited, it’s great for your business too. Facebook “likes,” the Sony PlayStation, Post-It Notes and Gmail were all invented by employees—not founders or even executives.

A successful intrapreneur program empowers your employees to take chances and inspires them to try new things. With the go-ahead from leadership and mentors, they may be more willing to overcome their fear of failure, making them an even better employee for you too.

To be most effective with your in-house program, follow these tips from experts at Cirqles:

  • Validate all ideas through a discovery phase, rather than jumping right into incubation.
  • Find a program mentor. “A mentor can hold intrapreneurs accountable and — if the mentor is not part of your company — can help remove the biases that we have.”
  • Build a team of people who want to participate; open it up to others later.
  • Make time to learn and reflect: What went wrong? What went right? What can we do better?

To build a strategy and framework for your intrapreneurship program, dive into this extensive resource from Academy for Corporate Entrepreneurship.

Create a Blended Learning Strategy for Developers

There are few places where employee learning is more important than within your development team. Technology is moving at a rapid pace, and in order to keep up, your tech team needs to be on the front lines. Despite this ever-evolving nature of technology, it’s a challenge to keep this team engaged, while growing within the company and their career. Tim Kulp, Director of Emergent Technology for Mind Over Machines explains: 

“One of the core challenges I have faced is helping team members build their career goals and cross the chasm of ‘how do I get from where I am to where I want to be?’ I’ve seen many team members who burn out or leave an organization because this question cannot be answered.” 

This is where upgraded learning, and a developer learning strategy, comes into play. Kulp suggests implementing a mentoring program with a clear track for progressing forward, but don’t stop there. 

The 2018 Developer Learning Survey Report found that there’s a wide range in learning preferences between senior to junior developers, including reading-based, instructor-lead, and video-based learning. As such, survey authors suggest your strategy should be all-inclusive: 

“L&D managers should adopt a blended learning strategy which combines reading with private, dedicated training courses, along with outlets for peer-to-peer mentoring and coaching (e.g., internal company meetups). Online technical libraries or video libraries such as Pluralsight are ideal resources to include in such a blended learning strategy.” 

This blended learning strategy allows you to engage every member of the team, and may even be effective with other groups within the company. Test it first with your technical team, and then implement organization-wide.

Upgrade Employee Learning

Take your learning to the next level to make the most of your budget and give employees what they want: a chance to boost their skill set and grow. Use these ideas as a jumping-off point for your internal training. Don’t forget to modify and test as you go to figure out what your employees like best and what’s most effective for your business.

How to Explain Paycheck Withholdings, Deductions & Contributions to Your Employees

by Kathryn Aragon
Originally published on July 19, 2018, at SCORE

Your employees are unhappy.

They're financially stressed, feel they don't get the support they need, and as a result, 71% are looking for another job. But research by Kronos suggests there's an easy way to both reduce that stress and make your employees feel more supported.

You see, 42% of all employees say taxes and deductions on their paycheck are confusing to read and understand. Nearly half say they'd feel more engaged with their job if their employer helped them understand the impact of taxes and deductions on their overall earnings.

Clearly, for your own sake as well as your employees', you need to help employees understand their paychecks — what goes in as well as what goes out.

Here's a quick guide on how to do that.

Gross vs. Final Pay

Most employees understand the difference between "gross" and "net" pay. In case they don't, here's a quick way to explain it:

Gross pay is the full amount of your salary, before deductions, withholdings, and contributions are taken out.

Net pay is your take-home pay, or the amount you receive after these items are subtracted from your gross pay.

That leads naturally to the next question you'll need to answer: "What are the deductions and withholdings taken from my paycheck?"

Deductions and Withholdings

New workers are often surprised to learn that money is taken out of their paycheck before they're paid. Others may understand that deductions and withholdings exist, but they don't fully understand what they are.

Here's how you can explain them to your employees.

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Deductions and withholdings are subtracted from the gross pay before your paycheck is paid. 

Start by explaining the difference between deductions and withholdings:

Withholdings are amounts taken out of every employees' paycheck to pay their income taxes for that pay period. Deductions are amounts taken out for benefits and donations the employee has chosen, such as retirement, healthcare, or special funds.

Most tax withholdings are determined by law. You, as employer, are required to withhold the required amounts and submit them for your employees in the required manner.

Deductions are often voluntary and are determined by the worker's choice of, say, their healthcare plan or the percentage they want deducted for their retirement plan.

Explaining Tax Withholdings

Here's how to explain tax withholdings:

In the US, federal and state incomes taxes are withheld from all employee paychecks. The amount withheld is determined by the number of exemptions an employee enters in their W-4 form when they're hired. 

Employees need to understand that the money withheld is being sent to the government on their behalf. If too much money is withheld, they'll receive a refund after filing their tax return. If they haven't paid enough, they'll need to pay the difference when they file their tax return.

Also, employees may adjust their tax withholding if they feel you're taking too much or too little or if their life circumstances change (such as getting married or having a baby).

NOTE: If the employee needs help calculating their potential tax burden, the Tax Foundation has a calculator that could help.

Deductions

Here's how to explain deductions to your employees:

Deductions include a range of benefits that the employee either pays for completely or pays a portion of. This may include their 401K contributions, insurance premiums, flexible savings accounts (FSAs), profit sharing, garnishments, and other items.

Some employees may ask why they have to contribute to their insurance or retirement plans. They assumed these benefits would be paid for by you.

You may need to explain that you, as employer, can access lower healthcare rates than they can as individuals. You pay for a base package that covers most employees' needs, but you give them the option of signing up for additional coverage at their own cost. That cost will be taken out of each paycheck and listed among their deductions.

Similarly, even if you pay a retirement benefit, employees may opt to save more if they want to. If so, they'll see the amount they've specified among their paycheck deductions.

Contributions

Here's how to explain contributions to your employees:

Some tax withholdings are shared by the employee and the employer. The portion the employer pays is call a contribution because it's "contributed," or paid, by the employer for the employee's benefit. 

Here are a few of the contributions most US employees see on their paystub.

  • Social Security: You match the employee's 6.2% Social Security tax, for a total of 12.4% contributed in the employee's name.
  • Medicare: You contribute another 1.45% to the employee's Medicare tax, for a total of 2.9% contributed in the employee's name.
  • NOTE: The total of both Social Security and Medicare is 15.3%, split 50-50 between the employer and the employee.
  • Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Tax: This is a required benefit that's 100% employer-paid.
  • Other: Other contributions may include state unemployment and local taxes.

Bottom Line

Taking time to explain the numbers on your employees' paystubs can help them feel more empowered and less frustrated with their take-home pay. But reading about the numbers may make their eyes glaze over.

To help, make it a visual presentation. Walk them through this infographic that makes your paystub easy to explain and easy to understand.

5 Biggest HR Mistakes Small Businesses Make and How to Fix Them

by ComplyRight
Originally published on November 20, 2017, on SCORE.org

Download Guide

Running a small business is both exciting and rewarding. But keeping up with all the latest employment laws can be complicated. The last thing you want to do is put your business at risk by making a mistake that could result in costly legal fees or fines.

In this e-guide, we’ll take a look at these 5 common HR mistakes:

  • Treating independent contractors like employees
     
  • Practicing “accidental” discrimination when hiring
     
  • Not properly verifying work eligibility (via I-9 forms)
     
  • Putting employees who don’t legally qualify on salary
     
  • Not displaying all required labor law postings

Each section will cover why these laws matter, how to identify whether you have a potential problem, and what immediate steps you can take to address them.

 

About the Author(s)

Screen Shot 2018-07-11 at 11.52.41 AM.png

ComplyRight creates practical products and services to help small businesses complete essential HR and tax reporting tasks in an efficient and legally sound manner. From hiring to firing, to mandatory employee postings, to 1099 and W-2 processing, our solutions are guaranteed to be 100% compliant with federal and state (and in some cases, local) employment laws. Our direct brands include HRdirectapps.com (simple and smart online HR software), PosterTracker.com (complete range of ComplyRight posting solutions), efile4biz.com (online 1099, W-2 and ACA form processing), and HRdirect.com (leading provider of ComplyRight HR products).

Knowing the Laws, Managing the Intricacies of Employee Time Off

by ComplyRight
Originally published on June 20, 2018, on SCORE.org

In addition to vacation and sick days, does your business offer other kinds of paid or unpaid leave to your employees? Did you know that your employees can take time off from work under various conditions covered by federal, state and local laws?

As an employer, you’re responsible for understanding and upholding these legally allowed absences. Which ones do you know about? And is your business in compliance?

While it may seem difficult or intimidating to know all the relevant laws, there are ways you can quickly and easily manage the intricacies of employee time off.

Here is an outline of relevant federal laws and state/local laws as well as helpful resources that will help you navigate the complexities related to managing leaves of absence.

The Family and Medical Leave Act

If you own a private business with 50 or more employees, or you operate a public agency with any number of employees, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies to you.

This law requires that covered employers provide eligible workers up to 12 or 26 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave under the following circumstances:

  • Childbirth or adoption
  • Medical care for an employee’s serious health condition
  • Care for a close family member with a serious illness
  • Care for a covered family service member/veteran with a serious injury/illness or military exigency

The FMLA defines “serious health condition” as an illness, injury, impairment or physical/ mental condition that requires an overnight stay in a hospital or continuing treatment by a healthcare provider.

It’s important to note that FMLA leave may be taken all at once or intermittently. For example, your employee can take 12 weeks of leave — or just a few days or even hours for medical appointments.

The Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which applies to businesses with 15 or more employees, requires employers to consider making reasonable accommodations for a qualified employee with a disability.

If a reasonable accommodation clearly imposes “undue hardship” (significant difficulty and expense), then you’re not required to provide it. The definition of what is reasonable is open to interpretation, so always err on the side of caution.

Under the ADA, an individual with a disability is defined as someone who has “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.”

This condition could cover anything from a sleep disorder to a chronic disease. In some cases, an extended leave of absence, even longer than the time mandated by federal or state family/medical leave laws, may be required as an ADA accommodation.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act

Companies with at least 15 employees must comply with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which protects pregnant applicants and employees from discrimination.

While you’re not required to provide maternity leave or other special benefits to pregnant women (like with the FMLA and many state/local laws), you must apply the same rules and benefits for pregnancy-related absences as you would for other medical absences.

For example, if it is standard practice for your company to allow employees to take up to 10 weeks of medical leave, the same must be provided for pregnancy-related absences.

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act

All employers in the private and public sectors must allow employees to take leave to serve in the military under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). This law also requires employers to:

  • Allow these covered employees to give birth or adopt
  • Reinstate employees returning from military leave
  • Grant seniority and applicable benefits to returning members
  • Train or otherwise qualify employees returning from military duty

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act

Under Title VII, employers with at least 15 employees have a duty to provide workers with reasonable accommodations, so employees may observe their religious beliefs unless the request would create an “undue hardship” for their business. Accommodations may include allowing time off for certain holidays or practices. When considering this kind of request, again it is strongly recommended to err on the side of caution.

State and Local Laws

Many states, cities and local governments have passed their own laws giving employees greater leave rights than federal laws. These laws address issues not covered at the federal level, and these laws vary by location.

State and local laws typically provide more generous employee benefits than the FMLA. For example, these laws may:

  • Apply to smaller employers with fewer than 50 workers
  • Have less stringent employee eligibility requirements
  • Offer longer leave periods
  • Broaden the definition of serious health condition
  • Include individuals other than immediate family members as defined by the FMLA
  • Require paid leave instead of unpaid leave
  • Provide leave for circumstances beyond the scope of the FMLA (such as parental leave for school activities, leave for organ donations, etc.)
  • Require paid time off for employees serving on juries
  • Require bereavement leave for an employee who has lost a parent, spouse, partner or child

Before you deny an employee’s time off from work, it’s important to check all applicable federal, state and local regulations. And consistency is key. It’s always recommended that you treat similar employee situations the same way. Give the same consideration before docking employee pay, taking disciplinary action or firing an employee for absenteeism.

Easy-to-Use, Online Services

An online time-tracking system gives you the ability to track employee leave and then distinguish between legally mandated time off and paid time off. Having automatic, easy-to-use tools streamlines and simplifies your processes, reduces the potential for errors and ensures legal compliance.

The Time Off Request app from HRdirect Smart Apps helps you handle these time-off requests in a more organized way and manage employee requests electronically. With this automated process for requests, approvals and documentation, you’ll always be current and on track with your employees’ requests for time off — whether the request is for vacations, sick days or legally required leave.

 

About the Author(s)

Screen Shot 2018-07-11 at 11.52.41 AM.png

ComplyRight creates practical products and services to help small businesses complete essential HR and tax reporting tasks in an efficient and legally sound manner. From hiring to firing, to mandatory employee postings, to 1099 and W-2 processing, our solutions are guaranteed to be 100% compliant with federal and state (and in some cases, local) employment laws. Our direct brands include HRdirectapps.com (simple and smart online HR software), PosterTracker.com (complete range of ComplyRight posting solutions), efile4biz.com (online 1099, W-2 and ACA form processing), and HRdirect.com (leading provider of ComplyRight HR products).