A major trend in Human Resource in 2014 is the expanding role voluntary benefits are filling in employee benefits packages.  Voluntary benefits are insurance products that a company offers their employees of their own accord, not because it is required by law, which allows employees to obtain these insurances at rates lower than they could on their own. Voluntary benefits can include dental, life, vision, prescription, accidental death and dismemberment, short-term disability, cancer, supplemental health, and pet insurance, as well as identity theft protection policies.  According to a white paper on voluntary benefits compiled by Prudential, offering these benefits to employees offers several advantages to employers.

  • *It is a cost effective way to increase your employee benefit offerings.  In a survey conducted by Prudential, 51% of employers said their voluntary benefits helped them stay competitive with the programs offered by their peers at little to no additional cost.
  • *It helps protect larger investments.  Employers already invest substantial amounts of money in employee retirement and health care benefits, and voluntary benefits can help support these investments.  For example, an employee with disability insurance would have the supplemental income they needed during a period of lost work, without having to drain funds from their retirement account.
  • *Voluntary benefits can save employers on expenses associated with employee absences.  Disability insurance companies generally offer “return to work” programs for those who are out of the office due to disability which will lower the cost of replacing or retraining those individuals.
  • *You will have happier, healthier employees.  Regular eye exams can help with early detection of high blood pressure, glaucoma, and diabetes, while good oral hygiene can be directly linked to preventing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.  Employees who have vision and dental insurance are much more likely to visit their doctors for preventative care to maintain their good health.


Is your office considering purchasing employee benefits administration software?  If so, you have probably been asked to articulate the advantages of having such software to senior management.  The key is to clearly communicate the amount of time and money this software can save your organization.  Below are some business advantages to using benefits administration software that your company should be aware of.

  • **Benefits administration software helps you with complying with federal law.  Federal mandates, such as HIPPA, FMLA, Sarbanes-Oxley, and COBRA, all carry with them complex rules and regulations.  Violating any of these laws can result in major financial penalties.  In a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, it was found that error rates pertaining to compliance lower to 1% or less through the use of automated software.
  • **Your employees will become more familiar with the benefits available to them.  Benefits Administration software will allow your employees to go online and conduct their own research regarding the benefits you offer, allowing them to more thoroughly understand plan features at their own pace.  Additionally, investment and retirement management available through benefits administration software will empower an employee to save for his or her future, while at the same time having the feeling of security that comes from knowing their employer cares about their retirement as well.
  • **Your Human Resources staff will have more time to handle special projects.  Employee self-service features offered through benefits administration software, such as time sheet completion and approval, will remove a great deal of paperwork from the desks of your Human Resources team.  This will give them more time to focus on staff relations, recruitment, and other items of importance to the company’s success.
  • Benefits administration software will greatly reduce the chances of human error that will cost your company money.  It will automatically calculate hours worked and paid time off, ensuring accurate paychecks and leave banks.

As the saying goes, “Teamwork makes the dream work.”  Employees who have a sense of unity and shared goals collectively possess the momentum your company needs to handle any bumps on the road to success and help you achieve your company’s visions with more speed and accuracy than ever before.  Below are some tips for creating a culture of teamwork within your organization.

  • To properly set the tone within your company, Human Resources personnel should stress the value of teamwork right from the start at new employee orientation.  They should also train employees on methods teams can use to complete projects efficiently.
  • Company executives and managers should utilize teamwork so as to become a role model for others within the organization.
  • Managers should relate tales to employees about times in the past in which teamwork was successful and what was achieved.
  • Managers should literally form teams of staff to accomplish tasks.
  • Group meetings are important.  Managers should meet not only with the entire staff as a whole, but with individual teams to make sure things are running smoothly with their projects.
  • Make sure teamwork is publicly rewarded and recognized.  This doesn’t necessarily need to be a monetary reward; it can be as simple as reserving five prime parking spaces near your building for the “team of the month.”
  • Have a performance evaluation system that places emphasis on teamwork. One such system, known as 360 degree feedback, allows an employee to receive feedback from four to eight peers, staff members, coworkers, and/or customers in addition to their direct supervisor.
  • Remember that teambuilding doesn’t always have to be about work.  You can encourage connections amongst the staff by taking time out to lead them through icebreakers prior to a meeting, by purchasing tickets for everyone to visit a local ballpark, or by having a monthly pizza party.


For the last three years, global law firm Proskauer has conducted a worldwide study of social media use in the workplace.  With 36% of all employers fully blocking access to social media sites, and 70% of businesses reporting they took action against employees violating the rules, it seems company social media usage policies are more important now than ever.   Not surprisingly, establishing such rules can carry legal ramifications.  Proskauer notes that each year in the United States, hundreds of lawsuits are brought against employers for unfair labor practices surrounding social media use.  The main issue in these suits typically involves social media rules interfering with or fully violating employee rights to engage in protected activity, as established by the National Labor Relations Act.  To avoid such lawsuits in your company, Proskauer offers the following five recommendations.

1)      Because laws surrounding social media are ever evolving, it is recommended that you have your legal team review the laws at least once per year, and make sure your current employee rules are in line with them.

2)      Make sure your policies surrounding social media use are reviewed thoroughly as part of your employee training program.

3)      Make sure your policies and training cover the following topics, and specifically how they pertain to social media: misrepresenting the views of the business, misuse of confidential information, the impropriety of disparaging remarks about the business or fellow employees, the inappropriateness of use that is not business related, and the legalities surrounding online harassment.

4)      If you have employees that are required to use business-related social media as part of their job, make sure clear lines are drawn on the boundaries between work and personal use.

5)      Implement a provision regarding the repercussions of misuse of social media by former employees to disparage your company or their former colleagues.


A 2014 study conducted by the Association of Accounting Technicians discovered that the people polled valued good relationships with coworkers over the amount of money they made at their job.  Out of the 2,000 person group, 8 out of 10 stated that would turn down a salary increase if it meant working with people they didn’t like.  Indeed, employees that are able to get along and work well with each other are the best possible foundation for a successful business, and such harmony is definitely what you should be seeking as an employer.  According to salary.com, there are 5 components critical to building strong working relationships.

  • Clear Communication-  When you have employees working in a team environment, keeping everyone on the same page in terms of details, due dates, and deadlines for a project helps things get accomplished more smoothly and assists everyone with feeling they are working in unison toward a shared goal.
  • Collaboration- While individual efforts should always be recognized, employers should set the expectation that success consists of the entire group working together to achieve an end result.
  • Corporate Culture- Harmony in the workplace comes from the top down.  Employers should create an organization structured to reward collaboration amongst employees.
  • Creativity- Managers should hold regular meetings in which every single employee is encouraged to bring their ideas to the table in a judgment-free environment.  Show that you value the background and experience each employee has that can bring creative solutions to company problems.
  • Commitment- Engender commitment from your employees with teamwork.  Explain to each individual what they bring to the team that is positive and unique, as well as what others are there to contribute.  Employees should be aware of how their role in the team will allow them to shine, while at the same allowing them to learn from the knowledge of others.

We have all heard the expression, “Fake it until you make it,” and there is most definitely an existing school of thought in the world of psychology that if you aren’t feeling happy, plastering a forced smile on your face will help to improve your mood.  However, a study conducted by researchers at Michigan State University in 2011 actually suggests otherwise.

The study followed a group of 78 bus drivers for two weeks as they conducted their daily work tasks.  During this time, the drivers took surveys regarding their emotions before work, at the conclusion of their workday, and prior to going to bed at night.  The drivers were asked about their hours of sleep, their mood, and if they felt that had been emotionally “wearing a mask” that day.  The researchers discovered that drivers who practiced fake smiling at work became withdrawn throughout the day, their moods worsened overall, they reported increased family conflict at home, and they suffered from insomnia later that night.  Oppositely, those who smiled only when they genuinely felt it experienced increased work productivity, a better mood overall, and higher quality sleep in the evening.  From these findings, the researchers concluded that suppressing negative thoughts and emotions can actually make them more persistent.

Based on this conclusion, it is important to consider that in the business world, faking your emotions can actually be detrimental in any career.  If you are constantly pretending to be or feel something you are not when you are at work, the majority of people are likely to pick up on your lack of authenticity.  This could cause people to feel you are untrustworthy, and not want to do business with you.  When you are being genuine, it will convey a sense of honesty and vulnerability which help to establish trust.

In this increasingly high-tech world with so much of what we do computerized, it is not surprising to have employees demand access to human resources options online.  One item that is particularly in demand is the ability to complete and submit a timesheet over the internet.  If you are a Human Resources professional who is fearful of speaking to your employer about this option and having your request denied due to lack of funds, there are some strategies you can employ to increase your chances of approval.

The first thing to do is to make sure that the company’s board of directors and/or high level executives understand exactly what Human Resources self-service technology is, what it does, and how it can benefit your organization.  Chances are, your employer would like to see you spend less time on administration and more time on employee issues and supporting the company’s strategic goals. However, they won’t know just how this technology could help you do that unless you tell them.  Before you approach these executives, be sure you know the answers to any questions they may ask.  This would include the cost of the product, a timeline for implementation, a calculation of how much time this new technology will save both the Human Resources department and all other company employees, and how that time savings translates into benefits for the business in the future.

The return on investment of the expenditure will be a critical component of your presentation.  Keep in mind there are two ways of measuring this.  The first is hard monetary savings, or direct costs, such as no longer having to pay Human Resources staff overtime to get their job done due to the time savings provided by the technology.  The second is soft savings, or indirect costs, such as a standardization of processes, improved data integrity, and improved employee access to information.

In August 2013, New York City clothing salesman Wade Groom made the news, claiming the company Lacoste fired him from his job for posting a picture of his paycheck on Instagram, captioned by a statement that he was only making enough to live in a “third world apartment.”  While the company did not comment on the reason for firing Groom, Groom’s thinking regarding why he was fired is not outside the realm of possibility.

In fact, workplace policies forbidding employees from discussing their pay are not uncommon, even though the National Labor Relations Act prohibits them.  Unfortunately, many businesses do not fully understand the laws, and operate under fear that full disclosure of employee salaries would cause conflicts among staff and decrease job satisfaction overall.  It is also a possibility that some businesses, while aware of the law, are willing to pay the financial penalties if a complaint is filed against them with the National Labor Relations Board.  A 2011 survey conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research shows that pay secrecy rules are still quite common.  Approximately half of the workers responding to the survey reported that discussing their salary information is either discouraged, prohibited, and/or could lead to negative consequences.

President Obama has taken notice of the issue of pay secrecy, and is on a mission to put it to an end.  In April 2014, he announced two executive actions which serve as a reminder of the current laws and promote the idea of “equal pay for equal work,” starting with those working within the federal government.  The first order directs the Department of Labor to collect data on what federal contractors are paying their employees, in order to spot any pay discrimination.  The second order prohibits federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their salaries or other compensation with others.  The President has issued the message that, “Pay secrecy fosters discrimination and we should not tolerate it.”

Cross training is a term most often heard at fitness facilities.  It refers to using a variety of exercise equipment and routines in your workouts in order to strengthen all muscles equally, prevent injuries from overuse, and keep things interesting for you mentally.  In a workplace, the definition of cross training is teaching your employees who primarily perform certain job functions the skills needed to perform other tasks within your organization.  Similarly, this helps keep your employees challenged mentally while making them a stronger asset to your company.

There are many benefits to cross training your employees.

  • Training staff in a variety of tasks allows small businesses to start up and begin thriving with fewer employees and therefore lower salary expenses.
  • Cross training employees helps keep your company running on all cylinders should someone be out sick unexpectedly, take maternity/paternity leave, or decide to pursue employment elsewhere.  Additionally, this also saves your company money, as you will not need to hire temporary workers to fill these gaps.
  • The cross training process actually results in higher job satisfaction and morale among employees, as it lets them know their employer has faith in their abilities and is keen to provide them with opportunities to grow in their career.

If you are interested in implementing cross training within your organization, it is important to start with an organized plan.  A wonderful initial step would be to ask each employee or department within your company to create a list of tasks they perform each day.  Once these are complete, you can alert your employees of your plans to cross train, send them the lists, then ask which tasks outside of their regular job your employees would like to learn about.  It is best if you select multiple employees to learn each new function.  You should also have a system in place that allows your employees to practice what they have learned, such as occasional job-swaps for the day.

As a manager, supervisor, president, or CEO within an organization, it is highly recommended you have an open door policy with your employees.  This means letting them know that you are always available to them if they have something they need to discuss.  This can have a variety of benefits.

First, by making yourself accessible, you are helping your employees to feel more comfortable stopping by for any number of reasons, from a quick hello to a difficult issue.  In general, this gives you a better idea of what is happening in the company on a daily basis, especially on those harried days when you find it hard to step away from your desk.

Second, an open door policy lets everyone know that you really care, and that you are both interested and engaged in the day-to-day operations of the company.  Employees will be more likely to chat with you informally about things going on in the office, which will give you insight into their thinking and generate ideas for change or improvement.

Next, you will find having an open door policy means you will gain access to information more quickly.  When the door to your office is literally closed, employees will assume you are engaged in an important task and will feel it is best not to disturb you, even if an urgent problem arises.

Finally, an open door policy helps to create a friendlier culture within your workplace.  A closed door acts as a barrier between you and those working for you.  If you avoid this, your employees will know that you are genuinely interested in them as human beings and not just about the job functions they perform.  They will also feel that you are likely to be open and honest with them when necessary. Both of these things will increase morale overall.

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