What’s trending in human resources approaches, policies and good management practices.

Sorting out the differences: Service animal versus emotional support animal

Business owners and managers take measures to ensure that employees and customers are safe. They want everyone to have the best experience possible in their work environment.

So what should an employer do when customers, or employees, bring animals into the workplace? Which animals must you allow on your premises, by law?

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Is the paperless office right for your company?

The paper-free office is becoming more and more popular. The idea of going paperless or having a work environment which eliminates or greatly reduces paper can be overwhelming to think about. Probably the most difficult part of transitioning to a paperless environment is setting up the needed infrastructure and getting employees on board with making the switch. Once those two items are addressed, the benefits far outweigh the initial burden.

We live in a digital world and most business is conducted via the internet, email and digital document sharing already. Making your documents readily available in the format you need to increase your productivity and ability to operate efficiently in a digital world is key.

According to the CompTIA CDIA+ Certification Handbook 2016:

  • The average office worker makes 50 trips per week to the fax machine, copier or printer.
  • On average, 6 minutes are wasted every time a document is retrieved and then refiled.

There are multiple business benefits from going paperless but the number one reason is cost reduction. You can reduce the costs associated with paper, printers, copiers, fax machines, ink and toner. You can also reduce or eliminate the need for filing cabinets and additional office space to hold them, off-site storage and the cost related to organizing paper files. Other examples include hanging file folders, folders, labels, shelving, storage boxes, not to mention the manpower related to moving and archiving files.

Obviously, there are cost related to a paperless office, but they are controllable and significantly less. Cloud storage space is very inexpensive looking at overall costs. Services such as Dropbox, OneDrive, Amazon Drive and Google Drive are just a few products that offer free, instant online storage which is often a good starting point until you determine how much space you need. Take care that any digital storage solution you choose is secure for storing sensitive documents.

Once you decide to go paperless, don’t get bogged down with archiving existing paper files. At some point you might choose to scan and digitally archive key documents such as employee files, customer contracts or tax returns, but often you will not find the need to archive all paper files and eventually many can be purged after a certain period.

Start by breaking down your operations and consider which processes rely heavily on paper. Pick one or two key functions in these processes that you can start digitizing. Choose a specific date to start (i.e. the beginning of quarter) so you have a reference date of how to look for data in the future. Then, create a digital storage policy and structure, train your employees and set about saving important information digitally. After you have mastered digitizing one process, move to the next until your entire operation, or much of it, is paperless.

Ready to make the switch? Contact BCN Services and we will can help you with the basics and how to get started.

David Pilon, Controller

Retiring Boomers Continue To Lift Small Business Sales

Sales of small businesses in America remain elevated, according to an updated report from BizBuySell. Specifically, there were 10,312 closed small business transactions in 2018, a 4 percent increase from 2017 and the highest full-year total since BizBuySell started tracking this data in 2007. The report’s authors attributed 2018’s continued acceleration in transactions to a variety of factors, such as strengthening revenue and profit numbers, as well as more people looking to buy and sell.

The uptick in sellers is in part being driven by the aging U.S. population, i.e. Baby Boomers, and 80 percent of surveyed business brokers said that they expect even more Baby Boomers will look to sell their companies in 2019 than in 2018. The main reason for this is that a rapidly growing number of these older Americans who own a business have reached the age at which they will want to stop managing the day-to-day operations of their company. Further, around a third of business brokers and small business owners in a separate BizBuySell survey said that they feel higher minimum wages, rising healthcare costs, and concerns over upcoming regulations are likely motivating many owners to sell sooner rather than later.

Such owners have probably also been motivated by a favorable market that has seen the time it takes for a business to sell fall considerably, along with a 9 percent jump in the median selling price in just the past twelve months. Adding to older owners’ increased willingness to sell is likely a desire to avoid the challenges of managing a company during another recession. Indeed, while there are not any major warning signs of an imminent recession, some sort of economic downturn occurring within the next few years would not be surprising since the current expansion in America has already been going on for more than 114 months, making it the 2nd-longest on record and more than twice the historic average (48-months).

For some owners, passing on the management responsibilities, along with ownership, to one’s children is another option, but many may instead wind up simply selling their company to an outsider. Why so? There are several potential answers to that question but one reason could be to help fund retirement because roughly one in five Baby Boomer small business owners in a recent SunTrust poll admitted that they are still not financially prepared for retirement. In fact, an earlier FPA/CNBC study on succession planning found that more than three-quarters of surveyed small business owners plan on selling their company in order to satisfy 60 percent to 100 percent of their old-age income needs.

Such a large dependence on a single asset could put the financial security of these soon-to-be retirees in a precarious situation should their company not sell for the price they had anticipated (and developed an old-age budget around). Just as stock market investors should diversify the equities they hold in their portfolio, small business owners should aim to diversify their retirement savings vehicles (401(k)s, IRAs, real estate, etc.), and in turn lessen their overall sensitivity to the eventual selling price of their company.

 

Copyright @ 2019 Slavic Investments (http://blog.slavic401k.com/retiring-boomers-continue-to-lift-small-business-sales-1). Republished with permission.

Reviewing a changing workplace dress code and your policy

Many employees feel that wearing jeans and comfortable street clothes is preferable to the more professional business dress code and we are seeing employers moving towards a more relaxed dress code in the workplace.

The terms “business casual” and “business formal” have traditionally had an expectation that employees come to work dressed in a certain professional fashion.

In the past, they were viewed this way: business casual was outlined as women wearing a skirt or dress with a hem past the knee, or tailored dress pants with a button-down or blouse and men should wear dress pants or khakis, with a collared shirt and a belt. For business formal, placed men in a suit and tie, and women in a tailored dress or pantsuit that was dressier than business casual attire.

But these may not be appropriate norms in today’s workplace. Business casual dress has evolved, as has the way that companies should look at gender-neutral language in their policies.

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “dress for the job that you want, not the job that you have,” it suggests that higher-level jobs are the ones that require the formal dress code. That doesn’t seem to be the trend anymore. Google is an example of a company that doesn’t fit that mold. Google’s philosophy is that you can be serious without a suit and Facebook has adopted a similar expectation for workplace attire that is completely casual (http://www.businessinsurance.org/10-big-businesses-with-incredibly-casual-offices/).

A lot of employers offer “casual Fridays” which offer a relaxed dress code one day each week. Some employers may also require employees to donate to a charitable organization to be able to wear casual dress on Fridays, but either way, wearing jeans and casual dress is portrayed as a benefit to employees. If you look at attitudes and productivity, could there be potential benefits to easing up on expectations of workplace dress?

Another consideration is brand image and how your company is perceived by customers and clients. If your industry is customer-facing, what kind of image do you want to portray? Do your customers expect their point of contact to be dressed professionally? How would customers feel about seeing an employee dressed in jeans and a t-shirt? If you aren’t in a customer-facing industry, should employees be required to dress professionally every day?

Businesses also need to consider how they are wording their dress code policy and be careful to use only gender-neutral terminology. The definitions above for business casual and formal, for example, are not appropriate nomenclature now given our clarified view of gender identity.

Telling women they must wear a skirt and men, pants, could be seen as a discriminatory policy, even though this was widely accepted until recently. Please contact the human resources department at BCN Services if you would like to review your policy and make an update to your employee handbook.

Kari Stanley, Partnership Manager

Setting goals for 2019? BCN Services can help you with HR efficiency

Yes, it is December already.

It’s that time of year when you reflect on the challenges your business has achieved, crushed, fallen short of or come close to over the past 12 months. You have probably started proactively assessing goals for the coming 12 months.

Those plans should include strategies for growth, doing things differently and maximizing your resources for efficiency when it comes to the world of human capital.

Here are a few powerful and thought-provoking questions to help develop your 2019 plans:

  • Do you have infrastructure and resources in place to meet your company goals?
  • What are the biggest challenges facing your company today?
  • How do you keep up to date with ever-changing employment regulations that affect employees?
  • What would you change about your employee retention and recruiting strategy?
  • How confident are you that you are complying with wage-and-hour, immigration and wrongful termination practices?

BCN Services has been providing comprehensive human resources services to businesses for over 25 years and can help you answer these questions. We are your one-stop resource for all HR services including: payroll processing, risk management, human resources administration and employee benefits administration. This helps you focus on your day-to-day business priorities, avoid costly HR mistakes and maximize your company’s profits.

Let us handle all of these services for you, which are typically done by an in-house HR department:

  • Oversite, compliance and guidance of EEOC, HIPAA, COBRA, FMLA and other federal regulations Recruit and retain employees with better healthcare, 401K, and voluntary benefits packages
  • Electronic onboarding, administration and compliance including I-9 tracking, drug screen program set-up, record keeping of new employees using a state-of-the art HRIS and payroll system
  • Risk assessment of your HR policies and procedures
  • Employee relations coaching and training for team members who manage staff and deliver disciplinary actions
  • Proactive assistance with a workplace safety training program
  • Lower unemployment rate with complete unemployment case management program

We can help you identify and prioritize your challenges and opportunities for the upcoming year in when it comes to payroll, risk management, HR administration and employee benefit offerings. How can you look at your business in a different way? BCN Services will put together an individualized plan so you can focus on operating and expanding your business.

Call us at 1-800-891-9911 so we can begin helping you.

Wishing you all the best in 2019!

Corey Decker, Sales Manager

Michigan voted to legalize the use of recreational marijuana. Now what?

On Nov. 6, 2018, Michigan residents voted to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use, the first state in the Midwest to do so. What does this mean for employers? Generally, they have the right to maintain and enforce a zero-tolerance policy against drug and alcohol use. But that may change over time as courts weigh in on varying laws in state and federal jurisdictions.

 

The new law allows individuals age 21 and older to purchase, possess and use marijuana and marijuana-infused edibles. Adults can grow up to 12 marijuana plants (keeping a maximum of 10 ounces) for their own consumption.

Although the referendum calls for the law to take effect 10 days after election results are certified, marijuana is not expected to be available commercially for quite some time. The state puts regulations and licensing in place and local municipalities decide whether to allow such businesses in their communities.

Michigan police agencies must also consider how law enforcement procedures will change with the new law. A number of Michigan universities have also released policy statements regarding marijuana use on campus.

Weed in the workplace: What Michigan employers can do

In a recent blog posting, experts at the Varnum Law Firm state that ” The MRTMA does not restrict a private employer’s right to maintain and enforce a zero-tolerance drug and alcohol policy.”

In other words, employees can still be fired (or not hired) for a positive drug test. Employers may continue to perform pre-employment and random drug tests on employees and maintain zero-tolerance policies. This new referendum will not protect job applicants or employees who test positive for marijuana use.

But keep in mind that prospective employees may still file a discrimination claim if their employment offer is rescinded. In a Connecticut case, for example, a prospective employee using medical marijuana for PTSD treatment filed a discrimination case using the premise of a state law that prohibits employers from discriminating on that basis. The plaintiff won a summary judgment in that case.

Individual Michigan employers must consider whether to maintain zero-tolerance drug policies or create more tolerant guidelines. Now more than ever, it’s important to make sure pre-employment drug-testing policies and employee handbook reflect the times. A policy needs to be in place making it crystal clear that employees are prohibited from being impaired by marijuana while on the job, legal or not.

We recommend that employers focus on prohibiting employees from being impaired due to alcohol/marijuana use while working instead of focusing on marijuana use in and of itself. By focusing on impairment instead of use, employers will minimize the likelihood of conflicting with state “lawful use” laws.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law

For employers with federal contracts or with employees licensed through federal agencies, there is no gray area. Marijuana is an illegal substance under federal law and, thus, a zero-tolerance drug policy will apply. For employers facing significant safety and health risks, drug testing is imperative.

Employers not facing significant safety and health risks from impaired employees may decide drug testing risks outweigh potential benefits. In states where recreational marijuana is already legal, a growing number of companies are asking the lab to test for all drugs except marijuana. For example, in Nevada, where marijuana was legalized in 2017, the number of companies asking that marijuana be included in workplace drug testing dropped from 95 percent in 2016 to 91 percent in 2017.

More information here: Listen to an interview on WDET with updates about the new law.

Do you need help considering the marijuana issue in your workplace policies? The specialists at BCN Services are happy to help you craft or revise a policy. We can help with everything from developing policies and handbooks, to handling safety training, payroll and HR reporting. Contact BCN Services at 1-800-891-9911 or contact us electronically.

Photo Credit: Photo by Roberto Valdivia on Unsplash

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Thom Moore, Partnership Manager

Be aware of voter leave laws, talk with staff before Tuesday

With voter turnout expected to be higher than ever at the polls for 2018 mid-term elections on November 6, some employers may wonder about their obligation to employees.

While there is no federal law mandating time off for voting, nearly half of U.S. states provide a voter leave law (either paid or unpaid).

Employers in states with paid voter leave laws (Illinois and Minnesota, for example) should familiarize themselves with the leave law before employees request time off to vote. Some of these laws have specific details related to requesting of time and how much time must be paid.

Other states (such as Michigan and Indiana) don’t require employers to give time off, however, it is a best practice to encourage employees to make time to vote. Employers may want to consider adding a policy addressing time off for voting, depending upon their specific situation.

If you are an employer that operates in more than one state, experts suggest that you either maintain one policy that complies with all state laws or implement a general policy that denotes local laws will prevail.

Regardless of the laws in your state, managers can take a proactive role by talking to their staff before Tuesday. To maximize office coverage, find out if some employees can vote on the way in to work, some on the way home from work and, depending on logistics, maybe some during an extended lunch period. Advanced planning can be key in making your employees’ work day smoother both in and out of the office.

Not sure of the laws in your state(s)? Would you like assistance in creating a voter leave announcement or a policy for your employee handbook? Contact your HR experts at BCN Services to discuss your individual situation.

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Sue Kester, HR Manager

Is it legal for employees to record in the workplace? It depends.

There have been a number of high profile news stories lately regarding audio or video recordings in the workplace, including recently released conversations from former White House special assistant Omarosa Manigualt Newman and a viral video of conditions at a Popeyes Chicken franchise in the metro Detroit area.

As an employer, this may have left you wondering if it is legal for your employees to record conversations with their supervisors or other coworkers. It depends on a few factors:

  • What is the law in your state? Most states, including Michigan, only require the consent of one party in a conversation to legally record. In other words, an employee may legally record a conversation they are a party to without giving the employer notice. This is known as “One-Party Consent.” There are 12 states, which require either “All-Party Consent” or “Two-Party Consent” to record a conversation, meaning that everyone involved in the conversation or phone call must give consent before any recording begins.
  • Does your company have a policy for workplace recordings? Many employers have company policies prohibiting the recording of conversations with managers, co-workers or customers. These policies are permissible as long as they are not overbroad and do not violate an employee’s rights under the National Labor Relations Act for protected concerted activities such as documenting unsafe working conditions or federal and state whistleblowing laws.
  • Does the recording contain private information? Even in a One-Party-Consent state, the disclosure of confidential information, such as information covered under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, may violate common law privacy rights.

Most employees have easy access to a recording device through a smartphone, so there are a few steps employers should take to minimize legal exposure:

  1. Train supervisors and managers who may need to have tough conversations with employees in performance reviews, disciplinary actions or terminations so that they are cautious in what they say and stick to the facts of the situation.
  2. Develop a workplace recording policy if you don’t yet have one and include it in your employee handbook. It should define legitimate business reasons for the policy (for example, protection of proprietary information) and should not allow an employee to reasonably interpret the policy as prohibiting them from protected activity under the NLRA.

Do you need more information about this topic or help developing a handbook policy regarding workplace recording? BCN Services can assist you with this or with a supervisory training program. For more information, contact us at 1-800-891-9911.

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Alicia Freeman, Operations Manager

Many Young Adults Are Making Smart Financial Moves

slavik_9-20-18 img 1Millennials are optimistic about retirement, according to a recent report from Charles Schwab. Specifically, 76 percent of surveyed young adults said that they believe they will have a better financial future than their parents, and the average Gen-Y respondent expects to retire at age 60. The latter is a somewhat ambitious goal considering that it would mean exiting the workforce five years earlier than the traditional age of retirement, even as many financial experts are now recommending waiting until age 70.

Delaying retirement, if possible, can be a smart decision since it will help ensure that you receive the maximum Social Security benefit and also provide a few more working years (income) to pad your nest egg. While postponing retirement could therefore put many Millennials on a firmer financial standing in old age, one reason why some of the respondents in the Schwab poll might still be able to achieve a comfortable retirement as early as age 60 is because these young adults are already making wise financial moves. For example, 64 percent of surveyed Millennials said that they will often hold off on a discretionary purchase and instead set the money aside for retirement.

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Nearly half of Gen-Y respondents also said that they do additional work to boost their savings, and around one in three reported that they limit their vacations and traveling in order to set more money aside. Similarly, a new Bankrate poll found that Millennials were a lot more likely than other generations to say that they are saving more for retirement today than they were a year ago, and a recent Principal Financial study even found that some young adults are regularly setting aside at least 90 percent of the maximum the IRS will allow to be placed in a 401(k), IRA, and other tax-advantaged savings vehicle each year.

Since only around 9 percent of 401(k) plan participants are estimated to have annual contributions that come within 10 percent of the deferral limit, these “super savers” are likely to be well ahead of the vast majority of Americans in terms of retirement readiness. Jerry Patterson, a senior vice president at Principal Financial, added that “There is no better advice I can give anyone than save more, earlier. These super savers are making sacrifices today that should help set them up to have the freedom to do the things they want in the future.”

 

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Copyright @ 2018 Slavic Investments (http://blog.slavic401k.com/many-young-adults-are-making-smart-financial-moves)Republished with permission.

Would you marry me? Would you hire me? Tips for finding staff with leadership and other key skills

Would you consider marrying someone you have never met before, but looks good on paper? I’m guessing most people would not accept a marriage proposal from someone they have not previous met, even if that person looked great on paper. A job offer is similar in that it can be a potentially life-changing event that needs careful deliberation.

Job interviews provide an opportunity for the employer to assess how well an applicant’s skills align with the company’s needs. Job interviews allow applicants a time to get better acquainted with a prospective company and co-workers.

Traditionally, interviews usually consist of an employer asking applicants about their skills and experience to see if they would be a good fit for the job. Interviews can range from in-person or over the phone, to one-on-one or in group settings. According to a recent Global Recruiting Trends 2018 report, traditional interviewing methods rank especially bad for assessing soft skills and weaknesses.

Learn to assess soft skills and find good team members

These soft skills, such as leadership, relationship building, communications, adaptability, strategic thinking and work ethic, take up to 25 percent of the skills required to do the job and to be a great teammate. Unfortunately, these skills are arguably the most difficult to assess. You can test for soft skills using such tools as a 20-minute survey, which can provide a more objective measure of a person’s traits.

Using interview questions to determine soft skills is another method, but can be difficult, as most candidates prepare for interviews and put on their best front. This makes it difficult to assess soft skills. Also, interviewers sometimes contribute to the assessment problem by how they ask questions. For example, asking, “Are you a team player?” sets the applicant up for answering with a simple “Yes”, which doesn’t offer additional information about their skill set. Below are a few examples of interview questions that can be used to better help assess important soft skills:

Leadership

  • Tell me about a time when your team was in a difficult position and you took the lead.
  • What would you do if your team members disagreed with your instructions?

Teamwork

  • Tell me about a time you dealt with a team member who constantly opposed your ideas.

Communication

  • Tell me about a time you had to deal with a difficult co-worker.

Adaptability

  • How would you prioritize multiple tasks with the same deadline?

Strategic Thinking

  • Tell me about a time you had to make a decision with incomplete information.
  • If you spotted a mistake in a report but your manager wasn’t available, what would you do?

Work Ethic

  • Tell me about a time you faced an ethical dilemma at work. What steps would you take if you discovered your supervisor was breaking the company’s code of conduct?

The experts at BCN Services are available to help you and your supervisory team develop good interviewing techniques. Contact us for assistance.

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Thom Moore, Partnership Manager