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May 03, 2017

UST Nonprofit Members Utilized Over $1.1 Million in ThinkHR Resources Last Year

The Unemployment Services Trust (UST), the nation’s largest and lowest cost unemployment Trust provider, today announced that last year alone it helped 2,200+ nonprofits save more than $1.1 million dollars in human resources services through its value-added HR Workplace add-on.

The UST HR Workplace powered by ThinkHR empowers nonprofit HR professionals with the guidance they need to be more effective and efficient in their jobs. By providing expert HR advice, thousands of HR templates, hundreds of training courses and an award-winning online library for all workplace concerns, the UST HR Workplace gives nonprofits the knowledge they need to avoid costly risks and liability issues.

“Maintaining risks in the workplace is crucial to any organization but specifically for the nonprofit sector where one unexpected risk can put the organization in a situation they’re unprepared for,” said Donna Groh, Executive Director of UST, “ThinkHR helps nonprofit HR professionals avoid costly litigation with the tools available to them through use of ThinkHR Live, Comply and Learn.”

Staying on top of the latest HR laws and educating employees on organizational policies can help mitigate volatile unemployment claims and reduce costs long-term. Last year alone, UST members took nearly 5,000 online training courses and submitted close to 1,500 HR questions. The most popular resources utilized included Workplace Safety and Harassment Prevention training, Compliance and compensation inquiries, the Employee Handbook Builder and downloadable HR forms.

The UST HR Workplace has been a go-to resource for UST’s participating nonprofit employers since its launch in 2014 and is a priceless support system that helps to save time and money – offered at no additional cost to UST members.

Nonprofits can get a free 30-day trial of the UST HR Workplace powered by ThinkHR by visiting http://www.chooseust.org/thinkhr/.

About UST http://www.chooseust.org/thinkhr/ Founded in 1983, the Unemployment Services Trust UST provides 501c3s with a cost-effective alternative to paying state unemployment taxes. UST participants save millions annually through claims management, hearing representation, claim audits, outplacement services and HR support. Join more than 2,200 nonprofits nationwide and request an Unemployment Cost Analysis at www.ChooseUST.org.
May 03, 2017

Free Webinar: HR Compliance Impact with Washington’s First Moves

Are you keeping up with the Trump administration’s quick moves to change laws, enforcement actions and regulations to support business and our economy?

Presented by ThinkHR, this on-demand webinar explores President Trump’s first 100 days in office. The presentation will address issues and questions about rescinded Executive Orders, regulatory enforcement agenda changes and legislative moves that could impact your nonprofit’s business operations.

Discover what you need to know and should be doing relating to:
 
  • Wage and hour changes
  • Benefits and time off programs
  • Immigration
  • OSHA and safety
  • Other work-related rules


Watch the webinar recording today: http://links.thinkhr.com/Q0FW0oT0Kj1Rn0Wf900v9S0

Want access to more HR-certified webinar opportunities and a live HR hotline? Visit www.chooseust.org/thinkhr/ to sign up for a FREE 30-day trial of the UST HR Workplace, powered by ThinkHR.
May 03, 2017

Bad Managers Aren’t Good for Business

Few things are as costly and disruptive as good people turning in their resignation. Finding qualified, motivated and reliable employees can be challenge enough but retaining them once hired can often be just as taxing. In order to prevent good employees from wanting to exit, companies and managers need to understand what they’re doing that contributes to an employees’ departure because people don’t typically leave jobs, they leave managers.

Many managers lack fundamental training in managing people. More importantly, they lack the values, sensitivity, and awareness needed to interact effectively with their staff which affects the company as a whole and causes the bottom line to suffer.

 

Let’s take a look at the type of manager behavior that send good people packing.

Micromanagement - Bosses who are always under foot and constantly requiring updates are exasperating to everyone. All managers should start out from a position of trust with their employees. Micromanaging shows a lack of trust and makes an employee feel like they can’t be counted on to do things effectively.

Failing to get to Know Employees as People – Developing a relationship with employees is a key factor in managing. Managers need to know how to balance being professional with being human. Because we spend more time at work than we do at home most days, it’s important that employees feel like they belong. Celebrating successes, both professional and person, and empathizing during hard times can go a long way.

Workload Burnout – If you want push people out the door, nothing does it better than overworking your staff and pushing the limits of excessive production. Managers tend to push their best and most talented to do more but overworking your employees is counterproductive and risky if you don’t compensate with some sort of recognition such as raises, promotions or title-changes.

Failure to Communicate – The best communication is transparent communication. Sharing as much information as possible helps to make employees feel engaged and empowered. It also opens the door for feedback, ideas and suggestions which every company should encourage.

Don’t Recognize Good Work – Everyone likes a pat on the back every now and then and it’s the managers’ responsibility to reward a job well done. It can be as simple as verbal recognition, a small token of acknowledgement such as a gift card for coffee or as grand as a raise or promotion.

Failure to Develop Skills – Talented employees are always looking to learn something new and missing the mark on this one can cause your best people to grow bored and complacent. If you take away their ability to improve, it not only limits them, it limits you too.

If you want your best people to stay, you need to think carefully not just about how you develop them but about how you treat them. Cultivating happiness and good will through methodical efforts will help to avoid any unnecessary losses.
May 02, 2017

HR Question: Non-Paid Positions

Question: We are offering non-paid positions volunteer work to interns working at the office on research projects, collecting data and conducting study projects. What liabilities do we need to be aware of as these volunteer interns will be working on company premises?

Answer: One of the primary issues you face is in paying or not paying your interns. The Fair Labor Standards Act FLSA, which sets standards for the basic minimum wage and overtime pay, affects most private and public employment. Covered and nonexempt individuals who are “suffered or permitted” to work must be compensated under the law for the services they perform for an employer. Internships in the for-profit private sector will most often be viewed as employment, unless the test described below relating to trainees is met.

Interns in the for-profit private sector who qualify as employees rather than trainees typically must be paid at least the minimum wage as well as overtime compensation for hours worked over 40 in a workweek.

Test for Unpaid Interns

The determination of whether an internship or training program meets this exclusion depends upon all of the facts and circumstances, and the following six criteria must be applied when making this determination:
 
  • The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment.
  • The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern.
  • The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff this is the test that shows the intern is not answering phones, delivering mail, filling in for an absent employee, etc., and that the intern is doing work that is for his or her benefit and not necessarily for the benefit of the employer.
  • The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern, and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded.
  • The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship.
  • The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.


If all of the above factors are met, an employment relationship likely does not exist under the FLSA, and the act’s minimum wage and overtime provisions do not apply to the intern. This exclusion from the definition of employment is necessarily quite narrow because the FLSA’s definition of “employ” is very broad.

Important: As of May 25, 2016, the Second Circuit New York, Vermont, and Connecticut and the Eleventh Circuit Alabama, Georgia, and Florida have rejected the Department of Labor’s six-factor test and have adopted the “primary beneficiary” relationship test, which takes into account the economic reality between the intern and the employer. The primary beneficiary relationship test has seven factors:
 
  1. The extent to which the intern and the employer clearly understand that there is no expectation of compensation. Any promise of compensation, express or implied, suggests that the intern is an employee — and vice versa.
  2. The extent to which the internship provides training that would be similar to that which would be given in an educational environment, including the clinical and other hands-on training provided by educational institutions.
  3. The extent to which the internship is tied to the intern’s formal education program by integrated coursework or the receipt of academic credit.
  4. The extent to which the internship accommodates the intern’s academic commitments by corresponding to the academic calendar.
  5. The extent to which the internship’s duration is limited to the period in which the internship provides the intern with beneficial learning.
  6. The extent to which the intern’s work complements, rather than displaces, the work of paid employees while providing significant educational benefits to the intern.
  7. The extent to which the intern and the employer understand that the internship is conducted without entitlement to a paid job at the conclusion of the internship.


In examining these factors, no one factor is dispositive and courts should weigh the factors to determine the appropriate result depending upon the facts before them. The factors are also not exhaustive and, in certain situations, additional evidence may be appropriate to consider.

Here is our practical advice before you hire an intern:
 
  • Develop an intern policy and define the job carefully so that both parties are clear about job duties and expectations. This reduces misunderstandings that can lead to lawsuits. The policy should define the basic internship program, such as compensation structure or the fact that interns will be unpaid, eligibility requirements, and the intern’s at-will status. Make sure the policy does not establish what could be viewed as a legally binding contract. Never infer the promise of employment for a specified period.
  • Define supervisory roles and supervisor/intern evaluations. Reliable supervision is the key to preventing problems, including injuries, discriminatory actions, and performance failings. Make sure all supervisors know who is overseeing the work of each intern.
  • If possible, obtain formal documentation from the intern’s college explaining the educational relevance of the internship if the intern will earn credits.
  • Ask whether the school provides liability insurance to cover damage caused by a student. Many schools carry the coverage. Also, if the company has employment practices liability insurance, check whether it extends to interns.


Once the intern is on board:
 
  • Manage interns as closely as employees, if not more so. The company can be held responsible for the actions of any workers, including unpaid interns, while they are performing work for the company. Courts will view interns like employees, as “agents” of the company.
  • To ensure interns are paid correctly, maintain time records. To avoid the possibility of FLSA violations, companies who find themselves in the position of “employer” should ensure their interns accurately capture and are paid for all of their hours of work.
  • Apply the company’s workplace policies to interns, for both consistency and good positive employee relations reasons. Interns who are considered employees have all of the legal protections regular employees have, and even unpaid interns may be able to pursue claims under Title IX, which bans sex discrimination in “any education program” or pursue common-law job-bias claims, such as infliction of emotional distress.
May 02, 2017

Recruiting and Hiring: Get the Recipe for the Secret Sauce

What is top-of-mind for almost every HR practitioner in 2017? Recruiting and hiring and getting the recipe right to be successful.

It’s a competitive world for hiring managers and no one wants to get chopped or leave out a key ingredient.

Presented by ThinkHR, this on-demand webinar cooks up ideas and best practices for:
 
  • Creating a great applicant experience from first impression to hire
  • Short-term hiring (including summer interns)
  • Creating and implementing inventive interview questions and interpreting the answers
  • Onboarding communications

Watch the webinar recording today: http://links.thinkhr.com/o01iW00al00fSK09oWT9nR0

This webinar offers 1 HRCI and 1 SHRM-approved credit. Want access to more HR-certified webinar opportunities and a live HR hotline? Visit www.chooseust.org/thinkhr/ to sign up for a FREE 30-day trial of the UST HR Workplace, powered by ThinkHR.
May 01, 2017

Webinar Recording: Build a Great Safety Program

Make your “___ Days Accident Free” sign happy.

Do all your employees want to be on the safety team? Are you turning people away from your slips, trips, and falls training? Yea, we didn’t think so.

Workplace safety is important and ongoing, yet it’s tough to get employees excited and to stay on top of safety plans, regardless of the industry you’re in. Presented by ThinkHR’s workplace trends expert Don Phin, this on-demand webinar provides insight on the many ways to revamp or create a new safety plan.

In this webinar, Don discusses:
 
  • The importance of OSHA training and regular safety inspections
  • Creating and implementing a safety plan
  • Getting your employees excited about safety


Watch the webinar recording today: http://links.thinkhr.com/A20b09KT10W9fSn00R0C0oW

This webinar offers 1 HRCI and 1 SHRM-approved credit. Want access to more HR-certified webinar opportunities and a live HR hotline? Visit www.chooseust.org/thinkhr/ to sign up for a FREE 30-day trial of the UST HR Workplace, powered by ThinkHR.
May 01, 2017

HR Question: Employees That Are Always “On”

Question: Generally our employees are “always on”, meaning they check work emails and communicate with co-workers/supervisors via smartphones during all hours. However, some of our employees are beginning to feel overwhelmed. Any suggestions?

Answer: Although employers may see the “always on” employee as highly productive, the constant state of being readily available can leave employees feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. To combat this struggle, employers may:
 
  • Elect to simplify the workplace and clearly outline expectations of employees during non-working hours.
  • Implement more flexible workplace standards encouraging employees to take time off and teach employees how to prioritize the constant flow of work. Employees inundated with information overload will benefit from streamlined information that is easy to understand and apply.
  • Teach employees how to delegate tasks and help employees learn new skills to manage their time so as to decrease the sense of a “workaholic” environment.
  • Outsource tasks to free up employee time.
  • Direct supervisors not to send employees emails or message employees after standard working hours so as to put employees more at ease and not feel the pressure to be "always on."
Note: The application of any new or existing workplace policy must be applied consistently and without discrimination throughout the workforce.

Q&A provided by ThinkHR, powering the UST HR Workplace for nonprofit HR teams. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a free 30-day trial here.
December 14, 2016

7 Simple Steps to a Well-Balanced Work Life

With employees constantly striving to prove their invaluable skill sets, along with the rise of technological advances, employers are finding it more and more challenging to get their employees to slow down and take well-deserved breaks from their work responsibilities.

Often equipped with fewer resources and a smaller staff size, nonprofit employees tend to feel overworked and stressed out. Because high stress levels can lead to a domino effect of general workplace unhappiness and high turnover rates, it’s imperative that employers take the time to encourage a balance between their work and personal life.

Here are 7 best practices that will help your employees maintain a proper work/life balance:
 
  1. Set the example. Rather than just preaching the importance of taking time off from work, you need to take time off yourself and avoid work communications when you’re off the clock.
  2. Encourage vacations. Vacation days are meant to be used. In case your employees are too “busy” or nervous to take their allotted vacation time, make sure you let them know that you want them to take a relaxing break from the office.
  3. Have flexible work hours. If possible, allow your employees to work from home, outside or at a nearby café every now and then. You can also let them create their own work hours, rather than strictly enforcing a typical 9-5 schedule.
  4. Give time management tips. Provide training on the latest methods for organizing priorities or keeping track of both short term and long term tasks. This should help increase work efficiency and lessen the amount of time your employees work outside the office.
  5. Develop personal relationships. Ask your employees about any upcoming trips they may have or what’s new with them. Having consistent conversations with your team will help you gauge whether or not they’re feeling burnt out or overwhelmed at work.
  6. Implement interactive breaks. Whether it’s a quick game of charades or a weekly company lunch, set up fun breaks throughout each month so that your employees have something to look forward to.
  7. Ask for suggestions. No one knows what employees want more than employees themselves. Request feedback on what methods help them stay de-stressed and happy. They’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness and will respond positively when you implement their ideas.


As a supervisor, your responsibility is to make sure that your employees have the tools and positive work environment they need to efficiently work through their day-to-day tasks. Taking the time to check in with your staff and encourage a balanced lifestyle will not only help your employees stay sane, but also improve general organizational productivity and growth. ​
December 06, 2016

HR Question: Handling Employee Requests for Steep Pay Increases

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Question: One of my best employees is asking for a raise because he found salary data on the internet that he believes shows he is underpaid. How should I handle that conversation? I don’t want to lose him, but I doubt he is that underpaid.

Answer: Handling this type of discussion on such a sensitive subject can be difficult, but it is also an excellent opening for a frank conversation with that employee about his professional needs while you get direct feedback about his view of his job and the company. We recommend this approach:
 
  • Involve the employee’s manager in the discussion and have him/her lead the conversation with the employee.
  • Treat his concerns with respect and schedule time with him to discuss his issues. He may have been searching the internet for jobs as well as salary information.
  • Let him know that he is valuable to the company and you want to hear his concerns and review the salary data that he has compiled.
  • Prior to that meeting, review your company’s reason for paying the employee at his current salary. The compensation rates are probably due to a number of factors, including your compensation survey data, your internal company compensation strategy, and his performance level. For example, your company’s strategy might be to pay below market level because your benefits or time off plans are so rich.
  • If you are satisfied that you are paying him the proper compensation for this job that is aligned with all of the internal company equity considerations, then think about how you will present that information to him during the course of the conversation. If you believe that there may be some valid concerns about his level of compensation, discuss those concerns in advance with your boss and Human Resources and consider what may be done to ensure his compensation is adequate.
  • Try not to minimize the salary data that he is bringing to you to discuss. The information on the internet can be very broad, general and tied to a job title (that could be very different that what the employee is actually doing in your company) where the data your company uses is probably carefully matched to the industry and the specific job description’s duties and responsibilities.
  • You can point out that general compensation surveys can be misleading and may not consider the total compensation package being offered, especially if you have more specific information that you can share with him about how his total compensation package was derived.


During the course of these types of conversations, although compensation may be mentioned as the presenting problem, often the issue is really not that: You could find that the issues are more about the job itself, development opportunities, career goals, or other considerations. Consider the complete picture and be prepared to have a career development discussion with the employee about where he currently fits in the organization, what additional skills he may need to move his career in the direction he wants it to go, or other considerations.

The keys to these types of conversations are to treat the employee with respect and not dismiss his concerns without a good discussion of all of the relevant factors. Assure the employee that you value and respect his contributions to the business and want to do all you can as his manager to help him be productive and feel good about his contributions to the business.

This Q & A was provided by ThinkHR, powering the UST HR Workplace—a cloud-based HR platform provided to UST members at no additional cost. If you’re a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, get your toughest HR questions answered by signing up for a free 30-day trial
November 29, 2016

Tips for Handling Employee Pay Issues Caused by Mother Nature

Although warmer weather is on the way for most organizations across the U.S. it's always the right season to think about how to handle employee relations and pay issues that arise when your organization is forced to close due to inclement weather.

What should an employer do? Pay employees to stay at home? After all, in most cases, they are not at work through no fault of their own. Many businesses, however, do not have the financial resources to pay employees not to work. What follows are the rules regarding paying employees who miss work due to Mother Nature, along with some practical tips. From an employee relations perspective, the more generous you can afford to be to your employees who are suffering as a result of a weather-related disaster, the better. Employees (and their families) do pay attention to how they are treated, and a little extra time off and compassion for individual circumstances can go a long way towards enhancing employee loyalty.

If the company has no power and sends employees home for the day, should they be paid? And does it matter if the employee is exempt or nonexempt?

In general, there are two sets of rules for paying employees depending upon their classification under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) as it relates to eligibility for overtime. With nonexempt employees (those eligible for overtime pay), there is no obligation under federal or state law to pay for time not worked. However, under certain state laws, employers may have an obligation to compensate nonexempt employees under call-in/reporting pay laws, especially if the employees were not advised that they should not report to work and were denied work upon arrival at the workplace.

These pay obligations vary by state. With respect to salaried exempt employees who must be paid on a “salary basis” under the FLSA, employers may not make salary deductions for absences that result from an employer’s partial-week closing of operations, including closings due to weather-related emergencies or disasters. The bottom line is that exempt employees must be paid their full salary if they perform any work in a workweek and only miss work time due to the employer’s closure of operations. Closures for a full workweek need not be paid if no work is performed.

Are these rules different if the company can tell the employee not to come to work the next day?

For nonexempt employees, if they are told in advance not to come to work and the employees stay home, then the employer is under no obligation to pay them for the time off. The employer and the employee can choose to use accrued paid time off to compensate the employee for the missed workdays.

For exempt employees, the “salary basis” rule still applies. In some cases, the employee may be working from home during the bad weather days. If state laws permit employers to do so, employers may deduct from the exempt employees’ accrued paid time off balances to resolve the issues related to “salary basis” compliance. The employer should ensure, however, that these employees have not done any work from home during the office closure prior to deducting time from the accrued paid time off bank balances.

If an employee is on Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave, do those “bad weather days” count against the employee’s 12-week allotment of time off?

The FMLA regulations are silent about bad weather office closures. However, the regulations do allow for situations when the employer’s business stops operating for a period of time and employees are not expected to come to work (plants closing for a few weeks to retool, mandatory company-wide summer vacation, etc.). In that case, the week the business is closed and no employees are reporting to work would not count against the employee’s FMLA leave entitlement. If the business is closed for a shorter period of time, the general thinking is that the FMLA regulations relating to holidays would likely apply. Under those rules, if the business is closed for a day or two during a week in which the employee is on FMLA leave, then the entire week would count against the employee’s FMLA leave entitlement. If, however, the employee is on intermittent FMLA leave, then only the days that the business is closed and the employee is expected to be at work would count against the leave entitlement.

How do we handle attendance issues where the office is open but public transportation is not available due to the weather and employees cannot come to work?

If the business remains open but employees cannot get to work because of the weather, employers will need to consider their own attendance policies and practices in determining what flexibility to give employees as it relates to attendance. Employers may encourage employees to car pool or assist them in establishing alternative methods of transportation to get to work.

Under the FLSA rules as they relate to pay, however, employers do not need to pay nonexempt employees if they perform no work. For exempt employees, if the business remains open but an employee cannot get to work because of the weather, an employer can deduct an exempt employee’s salary for a full day’s absence taken for personal reasons without jeopardizing the employee’s exempt status. Employers cannot, however, deduct an exempt employee’s salary for less than a full-day absence without jeopardizing the employee’s exempt status.

Does a company have to allow employees to work from home (exempt or nonexempt) if the office is closed due to bad weather?

No, the employer does not need to allow employee to work from home, regardless of their FLSA status (exempt or nonexempt). The employer can make those decisions based upon the work that can be done remotely and based on the needs of the business. The employer should have clearly communicated policies and expectations regarding working from home during office closures.

Be Prepared

The bottom line is that every employer should think about the needs of the business, its financial resources, and employees’ needs and have plans in place to manage business issues due to inclement weather. Thinking through what the wage and hour laws require and developing your policies and then applying them consistently and fairly with all employees can reap huge dividends in employee loyalty and retention.
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