Do me a favor and don't give me the job

Even in this down economy with vast numbers of unemployed workers, choosing not to hire someone is just as important for the candidate at it is for you. There are many reasons we hire people and it is our job as employers examine them to make sure they are the right reasons. Take a look as some of these scenarios, maybe you will see yourself in a few of them.

Desperation: If you are desperate you will repel good candidates and attract desperate ones. You and the employee are better off leaving a position open than just getting a warm body in there. If that warm body is a dead fish they will stink up the place. Customers don't spend money in a stinky place.

Hiring potential: Entrepreneurs are born risk takers. We have to be careful that we don't get too adventurous because we "see" something in a candidate. Make sure the potential you are hiring is based on results even if how they handle the interview process are the only results they have to offer. If you are hiring an administrative person go over their resume and cover letter with a fine tooth comb (they did send a resume & cover letter right?). It should be impeccable and perfect. Did that sales person sell you from start to finish?

Employment by association: Some of your best hires have come from referrals. Often times those referrals come from existing employees. Even if your best employee who has referred you three other employees who have all been outstanding, evaluate the next one with the same scrutiny as if they came from a job board. Do this not because you don't trust the employee that referred them but because you don't trust yourself.

Tips to help you Employ Better:

Always be interviewing: Harvey Mackay wrote a book on networking call "Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty". If you are always interview for quality talent regardless of position,a least two things will happen. 1) you'll become a better interviewer. 2) You will have a pool of candidates that you have a rapport with when you need to fill a position.

Have an interview buddy: If you are just starting out or don't have the money for a recruiter, find a partner in the hiring process. Ask a fellow entrepreneur to give a candidate the once over as well. Go ask the accountant down the hall to interview candidates of the financial position you are filling. You'll be surprised how willing people are to help. Just remember to return the favor. Better yet extend the offer to do it for them before you need to ask.

Have a hiring tool kit: No matter how long you have been doing it never walk into an interview without a list of questions and topics you want to cover. How would you feel if your orthopedic surgeon said "I've done this procedure 10,000 times, I'll see you in there." before consulting with the nurse or confirming with you which leg she will be operating on. Experience should help us refine and adhere to protocol not abandon it.

Following these steps and others like it will help you give the best gift of all. Giving a potential new hire the opportunity to find the right job not just a job. When the job you're offering is right the job for them you get a more productive member of your team.

What other rules do you follow to ensure you are bring on the right talent to your company?


California labor law effective January 1st 2013

Based on the employment law alerts I receive, California leads the way in changes for 2013. These changes which take effect one the clock strikes 12:00am New Years Day need to be acted upon by employers promptly. Here is a quick list of what is to come.

What is not a commission? AB2675 will have some refinement regarding commission payment agreements.

Employer Use of Social Media Employers don't ask your staff to provide access to their personal social media accounts. The law says that is a no no.

Employee rights in inspection of personnel files Updates to AB2674 changes the rights of your current and former employees to access their personnel files.

California Wage Garnishment Limit Increase The exempt portion of an employee's weekly pay has gone up to 40 time the minimum wage ($8.00) to $320.00. This effects what can be garnished.

Paying commission to employees will require a contract It looks like you will need a provide a contract to commissioned employees spelling out how commissions are calculated. You will also need to have your employees sign the contract and everyone needs a copy for their records.

Religious freedoms in the workplace Religious freedom definitions have been expanded to included dress and grooming when an employee is observing their beliefs.

As always, each year brings new challenges and opportunities for employers under California labor law.

For professional advice subscribe and indicate where you'd like more help. There are some great local professionals to help you navigate and prepare.

Disclaimer: The information discussed in this post and on is for discussion purposes only. This information is in no way offered as legal advice. I am not a lawyer nor is any information provided as legal advice. Please seek professional HR guidance or legal council before taking action.


Advertising jobs is back in style

According to recent data from the Labor Department job openings are on the rise. They are at the highest levels since June. 128,000 new job opens for a total 3.68 million is positive. With the ratio of job seekers to openings at 3.3 to 1 the challenge for employers is weeding through unqualified candidates to find the gems.

In times like these business owners and those charged with sourcing new talent need an applicant tracking system. There is serious buzz around cloud based job posting services. These platforms allow you to manage postings to multiple job boards from one place. What is often is missing for small businesses are the added features that make it a complete solution.

The ability to have candidates answers qualifying questions in addition to submitting basic information is key. This allows you to score and rank applicants by criteria you set. This feature puts time back on your side. You can make quick work of the hundreds of applications you will get for one job. The employers that need an ATS the most are small employers with under 250 people on staff. The vital features of a good ATS are often reserved and price for large businesses. In a later post I will be reviewing some of the better small business offering in more detail.

Your thoughts please:

Have you found a good ATS for your small business? If so, please share your experiences.


The deadly effects of sitting

Recent studies have shown sitting down in the office can have some pretty sever health risks. As a former contract stationer rep to larger employers I learned quite a bit about office furniture. There are tons of ergonomic options offered to large employer. (my ergonomist would be so upset with my seating position right now). The bulk of employee work for small employer and are missing out on health benefits of these furniture options.

What do you get when you mashup the terms "walking off the job" and "sleeping on the job"? Walking on the job: introducing the treadmill desk. This is by far on the extreme end of work place fitness. Photo: Tricia Coyne/Gainesville Sun
 Instead of trying to get people out of their seats, some employers have done away with the seat all together. The stand up desk demands more. I could see these in a sales office. Remember the pep talk to the young brokers in Boiler Room "Get up move around, motion creates emotion!"

While working for a Fortune 500 health care firm I was exposed to an electric high adjusting desk in the call center. It was amazing to see in action. Our job here is to find affordable options for the small employer who cares about employee health and needs a more cost effective alternative.

Send picture and links to the solutions you have employed to help your otherwise sedentary staff stay active in the workplace.

 Check out this NY Times article and links to the studies on sitting in the workplace.


Brainstorm documentation just got much easier

Wow I just saw Mindjet in action for the 1st time tonight. The presenter at our 2013 planning meeting fielded questions while typing. By the time we were done brainstorming we had a visually diagrammed course of action. This would have taken hours to accomplish and the drafts would have driven us crazy.

Learning about that help employers execute on their ideas and improve employee performance is what this site is here for. I can see the result on almost any company meeting dramatically increase with a tool like Mindjet. Cutting the fluff and charting an actionable path is key for any small business.

What employee performance tools would you like to see featured on Please comment below.


Year end payroll Checklist

Make live easy and tax time in 2013 a little simpler for you and your staff. Follow these simple steps to ensure the last payroll of the years goes as planned and W-2s are correct.

  • Have all employees confirm the correct mailing address you have on file.
  • Correct or add any Social Security numbers that are missing form employee records.
  • Work with your payroll service to coordinate your year end bonuses. You are using a payroll service right? Your time is too valuable to be doing it yourself.
  • If you are going to issue 250 or more W-2s, know that you will have to report health care contributes on the W-2 to comply with Obama Care Affordable Health Care Act.
  • Make any adjustments to your normal payroll submission process to make sure employee pay arrives on time given the holidays that could cause delays.
  • Remind employees that because they contribute to pre-tax benefits like health insurance deductions and 401k their W-2 wages will be less than the year to date amounts on the final check.
  • Remind employees who are participating in FSA plans to use it or loose. This assumes you don't have a plan with a grace period. Otherwise funds in the plan will be forfeited. 
These are cover the basics to make sure your 2012 payroll closes smoothly and 2013 gets off to a good start.


Employee depression & decreased productivity at work

We've just past Thanksgiving and now Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years Eve/Day, and other festivities are fast approaching. This sounds great for most, but for some of your employees the holidays are the most depressing time of year. Emotional slumps, while pronounced during the holiday season, happen to people all through the year. These down turns can spell disaster for employee productivity. You're not a counselor and you are working on your own anger management issues, so how can you help get that off kilter employee get back on track?

Consider investing in an EAP, employee assistance program. Whether you are lager or small employer making these services available through your HR department can be a life saver. The employee program usually offers a combination of:

Employee Counseling:

  • Confidential telephone consultations
  • Access to online resource library
  • In person counseling for each member of the family

Work-Life Balance Services

  • Legal / financial issues & planning
  • Parent education
  • Adoption assistance
  • Day care referrals
  • Senior housing referrals
  • College planning

Personal Challenge Services

  • Work related issues
  • Marital & family problems
  • Anger & stress management
  • Conflict resolution
  • Parenting challenges
  • Alcohol & drug problems

How much you ask? A whole lot less than lost productivity, absenteeism, or a law suit if something really goes wrong in the office. To answer your question directly, most plans are under $5.00 per employee per month. Well worth making available so you can focus on growing the business and supporting your staff who are in it with you.

Subscribe to access the newsletter with more tools and ideas to help make your staff more profitable.


Grow your business with a culture of Thanksgiving

We all have been guilty of it at one time or another. From founders to front line employee. Complaining about customers. This should not be tolerated under any circumstances. None. If you want more customers that are more profitable an attitude of thanks giving must be part of your culture. This ideas is so relevant in our hyper social society that Gary Vaynerchuk wrote a book call The Thank You Economy.

You know as a business owner you don't have one boss but many. You work for every client and they pay you. Employees on the other hand view you as the provider of their pay. It is easy for them to fall into the trap of complaining about clients because of that loss of connection between their lively hood and a customer's continued patronage.

To continue being thankful for all of your clients you must maintain do the following:

  • Set clear expectations on what you provide.
  • Train customers and employees on the best ways to communicate with each other.
  • Share the tangible impact of each new client and the loss of a client with employees when that happens too. "If we add X number of clients we will be able to hire more, start profit sharing, open a new office, etc."
  • Be willing to part ways with clients that detract from your goals. Some customers are not worth the hassle despite the revenue. If fact by helping that customer find a better provider for their needs you free up time, talent, and resources to grow your business. This can happen by service your other clients better of focusing on adding new clients who fit your business model.


Direct deposit is the halfway point to paperless payroll

Employ better payroll delivery methods to simplify pay day. Now that you have 100% participation in direct deposit among your staff it is time to take the next step. Electronic pay stubs is the logical progression making your life easier and employee pay safer.

One frustration I have heard many times from payroll administrators is the annoyance of repeat requests for old pay stubs. In one office the head of HR had a stack of unclaimed pay stubs that her employees never bothered to pick. Why should they? The money is in their account and that is what really matters right? Then there was the employee who's glove compartment was overflowing with old pay stubs that never made it home.

Paperless payroll is a solution to these challenges.

Electronic pay stubs were once the luxury of the Fortune 500. Now even the smallest of employers can take advantage of the technology. When using a modern payroll service your staff can receive their pay stub via email. That email will contain a secure link to a .pdf that is ready to print or be saved to their personal computer. Alternatively, employers can give their staff access to a portal so they can view pay stubs. Those stubs are archive and can be reprinted on demand. This option also provides copies of previous W-2s as well.

Paperless payroll offers many benefits:

  • No lost pay stub or employees bugging you for copies. They can be retrieved & saved at any time.
  • Sensitive employee data won't fall out of the car or a bag. It won't be readily available for people to pick up when lost. Most identity theft happen when paper containing ID information ends up in the wrong hands, not from computer hacking. 
  • You are doing your part for the environment in three ways. 
    • No trees were harmed in the processing of your payroll.
    • No C02 were emitted in the delivery of your payroll.
    • You can lessen the clutter in your office and your mind by eliminating reports and unclaimed pay stubs.
  • Paperless payroll is cool. I over heard two young professionals reveling in the idea that they could look at their pay stubs from their iPhones. Yes, there is an app for that too.
Employ better tools so your staff can focus on the job at hand: acquiring and retaining better clients, and generating better profits. 


How to give your staff a raise at no cost

In the age of direct deposit and emailed encrypted pay stubs there are still many U.S. workers that don't have bank accounts. This fact has been a boon for "alternative financial service" industry better known as check cashing stores. Unfortunately, this causes pain that workers may believe they just have to live with.

Be a super hero and give you un-banked employees an instant raise.

Partner with your bank: Invite your banker in to talk to your staff. Have them educate on the value of having a bank account. It is key that people are educated on the safety of FDIC insured accounts. Many people who are new to America often don't trust the banking system so they choose to deal strictly in cash where ever possible. The conversation should end with a comparison between account fees and fees associated with retail check cashing.

Offer Pay cards: Pay cards are debit cards that are loaded with an employee's net pay each period via direct deposit. The cards are usually marked with a major provider's logo like Visa so they are widely accepted. Common transactions like cash withdrawals and purchases are free. Other transactions like transferring money do have fees. If managed properly an employee will come out ahead compared to check cashing services.

The money your staff can save in check cashing fees by having a bank account or pay card can have a material effect on their day to day lives. Employ better payment methods, every dollar counts.


The workplace: It's a jungle in there

Wow, I just watched 20/20's "Workplace Confidential" and it makes the employee-employer relationship  look like a Discover Channel show. Given the media's over dramatize to make a point, the piece would seem to paint the work place as a chaotic mess. Over my career I have experienced environments that I was glad to leave at the end of the meeting. All roads lead back to the employer when this stuff happens.

After seeing the full episode I came up with ways to help you keep your workplace a place for profits.

Establish a formal and routine review process. This process needs to be a two way street. One question I like my staff to answer before we end a review is, What would you like to see me stop, start, or continue doing to help you reach your goals? The feedback is valuable and asking the question shows respect.

Install a rubber room. Everyone needs some space to blow off steam and vent or just checkout for a few minutes. If rubber walls in the supply closet don't appeal to you try a ping pong table, video games, or other diversion tactic.

Exercise program. Sponsor a company walking club. There are many options to based on the interests of your staff and the level of involvement you'd like to take. Ask Christine & Darien, they can point you in the right direction.

Install bright lines. Large employers that are more likely to be plagued by some of these issue have Bight Line policies. Policy on activities like dating in the workplace is spelled out in such a way that no one can say they didn't understand. These bright lines are talked about so much that you could never say you didn't know. Put them in place they could be some of your best protection.

Remember your job as an employer is to set up people to succeed so they can deliver a superior consumer experience, and increase profits.


Track time without wasting it

When operating a small your resources are limited. Your biggest enemy is a the passage of time. So why in the world would you spend it managing time cards?

In a medical office here are some of the steps involved. Employees fill in paper timesheets, each week you audit them, you have to chase people to get them to tell you about missing entries, they you recalculate the totals, and submit them to the awesome payroll company you use. You do have an awesome payroll company right? Then just before you submit payroll you notice that some of the start / stop times that are written in don't quite match. Yes, the dredded buddy punching.

This process consumes a ton of time for even the smallest staff size. That time should be used instead to build your business. Invest in a SaaS cloud computing option. Employees "punch" in and out from a static web page. If buddy punching is a concern you can install a biometric hand or thumb reader. You can audit these electronic time cards daily or weekly. A good system will highlight missed punch and give you other metrics to better manage staffing levels among other things.

By putting a modern time and attendance system in your office you will put time back on your side, stay in compliance with State & Federal labor laws, and build trust with our employees.

For more information about setting up a good system leave a comment so that I share more regarding your specific situation.


Your best employees would pay to do their job

Stop looking for candidates who spend time & money looking for a job. Your next great hire is paying to do what they love right now and they spend a ton of time advertising it. There is an affinity group for all manner of hobbies that are easily accessible due to the social web. In each of these networks people build rich profiles about their hobbies. Build relationships with these networks and you will have passionate profitable employees at your finger tips.

  • A knitting supply retailer has a branded community site with over 30,000 members. If used correctly they should never have to pay to fill a position at any level in the company. 
  • Local bike shops have done this for years. The kid who is always hanging around ends up sweeping floors, then becomes a technician, and eventually buys the shop when the current owner retires.
  • IT staff can be found through any number of online forums. Check out and ask for help, you are now interviewing a candidate while getting a problem solved.
  • If you need someone with a creative background hang out at Users are showcasing their portfolio for you to see right from you desk. This site is such an authority that many animation and comic book companies demand to see your deviateart work before you can interview.
"I don't have a branded community or retail shop to turn consumers into employees." There still may be an answer for you. There is a network for just about everything. Join groups on that are related you business. Offering employment opportunities adds value to the group which will increase it's member and your pool of candidates from which to pluck your next great employee.

When commission & overtime cause a payroll mess

By law employers are required to provide a description of all pay types and pay rates on their employee's check stub. Any reputable payroll company will have this covered. What has stumped some of them is the following scenario.
When calculating the regular rate of pay, CA Department of Industrial Relations says the following:

The "regular rate of pay" is the compensation an employee normally earns for the work they perform. The regular rate of pay includes a number of different kinds of remuneration, such as hourly earnings, salary, piecework earnings, and commissions. In no case may the regular rate of pay be less than the applicable minimum wage.

Both commissions and bonuses must be included in this calculation provided the bonus is nondiscretionary and it is based upon hours worked, production or proficiency.
Johnny, a hourly employee works as a sales person and earns commissions on sales. As a non-exempt employee Johnny earns over time when he works more than eight hours in a day or forty hours in a week.

Here is where the problems can start. Lets assume that Johnny worked 45 hours in the week, at $10.00 per hour, and earned commission of $400.00. His gross wage for the week would be 40 regular hours x $10.00, 5 over time hours at $15.00, plus the $400.00 for a total of $875.00.

On the surface my calculation above makes sense, but it is wrong. In 45 hours of work Johnny earned $875.00. The base rate used to calculate overtime is not $10.00 per hour ; it is actually $875.00/45 hours or $19.44 per hour. When calculating the overtime $19.44 x 1.5 x 5 hours is the proper way to calculate wages.

Here is the last hurdle to make this work and keep everything legal. Every week Johnny's total hours worked and commissions earnings will be different. The true rate used to calculate Johnny's overtime must shown on the pay stub so he can confirm accuracy. Your payroll system will need to be able to a) do the calculation each pay period and b) display that calculated rate on stub.

In the end you didn't start you business to be an expert in what makes a legal pay stub. So leave a comment or contact me direct and I can help you invest in the right tools that make you a better employer and keep your staff focused on delivering excellent experiences that keep your fans coming back.


Employee health & the link to profitablity

As business owners hopefully you are now setting goals for your enterprise in the new year. Give the shifts in healthcare the health of your staff should be on the table in that goal setting process. I spoke to Christine and Darien of ROIwellness on the value of a companies' involvement in the health of their staff. Here are some of their thoughts health in the work place and what in means to you.

EB: Please give a little background on who you are. Education, hometown, family, activities, etc.

Christine~ I'm from a town, south of San Francisco called Daly City. I got my BS in Exercise Physiology from UC Davis and MBA from Univ. of Phoenix. 

Darien~ I grew up in in a town called Oakland, CA. I attended UC Davis, where I studied Nutrition Science, ran track, played a little football, and became a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. Upon completion of my studies I was blessed with the opportunity to compete in track and field on the elite level.

I am happily married, and I have 2 amazing daughters.

I love to play golf, and I love to exercise- all kind of fitness activities!

EB: Why are you passionate about fitness and how did you enter corporate wellness as an area of focus?

Christine~ As a young child, I was not encouraged to be athletic. In fact, I was discouraged and made to feel like I had no athletic capability. I feel, more than ever with the staggering obesity rate in children and in adults, that active lifestyles should be encouraged, and people should feel empowered to live it! When I was awarded a corporate wellness internship with Johnson & Johnson Health Care Systems at Hewlett-Packard, I discovered I am able to affect more people and their families in that forum.

Darien~ Ever since I can remember I've always had some affiliation with sports and fitness. Some of my fondest moments as a youth are of little league baseball games, playing in high school homecoming football games, and competing in track meets around the world. All this exposure has naturally led me to an athletic and fitness lifestyle. Upon retiring from competitive running, personal training was a easy transition from from one career to the next. As a certified fitness professional from 2001-2008 I had the opportunity to aid numerous people achieve their fitness goals. By assisting my clients achieve their fitness goals it left me yearning to help more people. It was this yearning that led me to training the employees of companies and realized that there was an industry for what I was doing and it was called "corporate wellness".

EB: At what size does an employer need to consider a corporate wellness program?

Christine~ If you have employees, you ought to have a wellness program!

Darien~ If a company has as few as 1 employee, then that company should have a wellness program of some sort.

EB: Tell me about the basics of a good wellness program?

Christine~ A good wellness program addresses the goals and interests of the organization while ensuring improvement of employee health. A healthy workforce is a productive workforce. Therefore, a great wellness program also utilizes strategies that engage the greatest population of employees possible.

Darien~ A good wellness program should address the needs of the entire population while staying consistent with the vision of company.

EB: What tangible benefits can an employer expect from a wellness program? Give an example.

Christine/ Darien~ To list just a few: 
• greater employee productivity and morale
• improved team synergy
• lowered health care costs
• reduced costs due to workers compensation, absenteeism, presenteeism, accidents
• reduced employee turnover rate; thus reflecting a greater talent retention rate

EB: What are the key components of corporate wellness?

• a plan
• assessment of efficacy
• maximal employee engagement
• return on investment

Darien~ A few key components are 1) senior management support, 2) a plan of direction, 3) thorough assessment of the employees lifestyle and the need/ interest of the company, 4) program evaluations, 5) maximum employee participation, and 6) Return On Investment!

EB: What are the top 3-4 reasons employers are prompted to have enlist your services?

• I need creative ways to show employees they are appreciated that is conscientious of a budget.
• To prevent employees from overusing health benefits.
• Prevent workplace accidents 
• Improve employee productivity

Darien~ 1) employers need to reduce overall health care expenditures, 2) team building needs to occur, and 3) a reduction of presenteeism along with absenteeism is needed. 

EB: What should I be looking for and asking when considering hiring a company to run a program?

Darien~ Some things to consider when choosing a wellness company are 1) who does the program cater to and who can participate in the wellness programs activities, 2) how does the wellness company charge for their services ( ex. per employee or by programs), and what programs are offered by the wellness company. 

EB: As a small business owner are there any free or low cost alternative to ?

Christine~ Absolutely!!! We have both free and low-cost program options that are fun.

Subscribe to Employbetter for to hear more from pros like Christine and Darien on a variety of employee performance subjects.

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Five ways to increase employee engagement

  • Dump merit increases and replace them with knowledge bonuses. An employee's tenure may just be an indication of how long you have been wasting money. The more they are engaged the industry/company their value increases and they should be paid accordingly.
  • Have cross functional champions: Require people in accounting to know how to demo a product. Have some one in marketing become an expert in shipping. Mix it up, people will get to know each other better as wells a develop respect for other functions in the firm.
  • Don't let people hide in company meetings. Tap two or more people to present at the next meeting. Provide the parameters such as allotted time, subject, etc. On the day of the meeting only select one person to present. At a minimum those who could have been called upon will be engaged and alert.
  • Everyone loves to be center stage and have people view them as a resource. Give someone the responsibility of being  the "go to" person on a function of the business. To validate their expertise, management should go to this person for information and advice as well as peers.
  • Go public with contributions. Post new sales in the conference room not just the sales office. Use a central whiteboard or high mounted monitor so everyone can see who makes it rain. Keep track of the sales that come from other departments as well. The same tactic can be used for other metrics like new knowledge added to the company wiki, customer satisfaction surveys, and more.


The employee suggestion box is dead

You don't remember the last time an employee left a suggestion in the box. In today's entrepreneurial world employee suggestions are worthless. You care about the ideas your employees are acting on. 

With free easy to use tools you can implement an "Execution Box". This is a private cloud based space to see who is working on what and build on experience for accelerated growth company wide. Here is a prime example may employer face.

When it comes to shared knowledge, most employers find themselves in one of two categories.
  1. You have that great employee who allows you to get away, but chaos would ensue if they unexpectedly didn't show up for work.
  2. Time and opportunities are lost because best practices are not shared through out the company.
Leverage social media behavior you staff is familiar with on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to organize information. This will foster the discovery of great ideas and you won't be left disabled when your "right hand" employee suddenly leaves. Try out some of these tools today to protect your business from brain drain.

Company Intranet: Using a Google groups/sites for free or paid platform like Zoho Collaborate will allow you to setup a central hub for announcements, documentation on projects, internal FAQs, storage for common documents, and discussions. All shared knowledge is accessible to all employee. You do have the ability to restrict non-employees and keep some information exclusive to a team if necessary.

Microblog: While Twitter is the defacto microblog for individuals, you may be asking how can my company use microblogging? Check out Yammer or Socialspring. Instead of trading emails and Cc: everyone using a microblog platform for business can simplify things a great deal.
  • It forces people think about what they are trying to communicate and to be brief. 
  • Multi-media is simple to attach to you short form communication.
  • Old messages can be searched with simple search terms.
  • Free up the phone and email for you clients to reach you.
Wiki: Have your employees build a tiny Wikipedia just for you. Now anything that is learned is documented. Because anyone can update a subject the information is always current. 

Employee participation is the key to getting the value of any of these tools. With any of these systems you can quickly see what is being share, the quality of that information, and who is becoming the "go to" person. Make sure that person is acknowledged in public and throw in a little something extra on pay day. Think about where you would be if they never shared and were the only person who could perform a task in the company.


Reduce your liability and improve relationships

As a business leader you are well on your way with plans for the new year. One area that should not be overlooked are company policies including an updated employee handbook. Take action to reduce your liability as an employer. Make clear the vision for your firm and how that vision should be executed. You, your staff, and clients will be better for it. 

I am very excited to post the first of many EmployBetter interviews. Being proactive with employment law is so important it is appropriate that our first interview covers the subject. Phillip Cha is a tenured employment law attorney who took some time to share his insight on the correct view of labor law as an employer. Here is what he had to say:

EB: Please give a little background on who you are. Education, hometown, etc.

Phillip: My hometown is Los Angeles, California.  I received my B.A. in Sociology from UCLA and my law degree also from UCLA.  I have been a practicing attorney specializing in labor and employment law since 2000.

EB: Why are you an attorney and how did you enter employment law as an area of focus?

Phillip: I was not a good science student, so I saw the legal field as my way of helping people.  I became interested in labor and employment law when I took an employment law class during law school.  The cases I read were really interesting and people-oriented.

EB: Where are you practicing now?

Phillip: I am with Lim, Ruger & Kim, LLP, which is one of the oldest and largest minority-owned law firms in California.

EB: What are the key components of employment law?

Phillip: The key components are the anti-discrimination laws, wage and hour laws (like overtime, breaks and record keeping) as well as traditional labor laws if there is a labor Union in the workplace.

EB: Given the dynamic nature of recent legislature, what do small employers have to do for the Affordable Care Act / Obama Care?

Phillip: From an employment law standpoint, Obama Care will require employers with more than 50 employees to provide health care coverage to its employees, or else pay a penalty in the form of a tax for each employee that is not offered coverage.  However, the details are pretty vague right now; we are waiting for the government to give us some more guidance.

EB: I talk to many business owners who say they are too small for HR. At what size does an employer need to consider HR issues?

Phillip: All employers should be thinking about HR issues.  Age discrimination and disability discrimination claims are at an all-time high, and no employers are immune.  That said, once employers hit 50 employees, they are considered “large employers,” and that is when they become a bigger target for lawsuits and regulation.

EB: Give me some of the basic and mandatory tools/documentation/ processes all employers should have in place?

Phillip: Basic and mandatory would include an employee handbook spelling out the employer’s policies and expectations, as well as a reputable payroll provider that knows the ins and outs of wage and hour laws, like overtime.

EB: How do good processes and documentation enhance employee performance?

Phillip: When employees know what the employer’s policies and expectations are, it is easier for them to follow the rules and focus on productivity.  

EB: Besides being sued, when should I enlist the services of a labor attorney?

Phillip: Employers should consult with a labor attorney before taking adverse action against an employee (whether it be termination, discipline or denying a leave of absence).  With the help of a good attorney, employers can avoid litigation before it happens.  Unfortunately, most employers wait until after the lawsuit is filed to hire an attorney.

EB: As a business owner what should I be looking for and asking when interviewing labor attorneys?

Phillip: The most effective labor attorneys are experienced in both litigation and HR counseling.  Too many focus only on one or the other, but you need both skill sets to do the best job for the client.

EB: As a small business owner where can I get quality low cost or free information/advice?

Phillip: Some of the larger chambers of commerce have resources for cost-conscious employers, but the cost of consulting directly with an attorney specializing in this field is not as high as most employers think, and consulting with an attorney early can save thousands of dollars in the long run by reducing your risk of litigation. 

For more information regarding tools some cloud based starter solutions  subscribe at the top of the page. If you are here is the Los Angeles area and would like speak directly with Phillip leave a comment and we will make it happen. 


How to run and the path to run on

Working non-stop with limited sleep on a big goal with a small group you're getting to know a little too well. No it's not your start-up; I am talking about my experience with the SoCal Rangar relay event I completed this past March. Our group of 12 covered 200 miles in 36 hours and it was a ton of fun.

Like sporting endevours your business needs direction and instruction for it's participant. When you have employees that direction and instruction comes in the form of an employee handbook and job descriptions. These are two tools that are foundational to the relationship you have with your staff and the one they have with paying customers.
  • What does this company do and what does it stand for?
  • What is my role?
  • Where do I go for help?
  • Who do I voice my complaints with and should I put it in writing? (Don't assume much of anything)
  • When am I eligible for benefits?
These are some of the questions you need to have in writing and acessable to staff to proctect your culture, brand, and financial well being. Don't wait until an employees attorney calls. If you know you need to get this done or update what you have (once a year, laws change often) leave a comment or subscribe via email. I am happy to connect you with resources and people that will delivery a ready to use set handbook or other employee documents tailored to your needs.

What your employees are doing that you should require

Your company must be the foundation of employee's professional social media efforts. Today's employee is tomorrow's entrepreneur. Even if they have no plans of hanging their own shingle and coming back to eat your lunch, workers are marketing themselves like never before. They are on Linkedin, Twitter, and writing blogs about your industry from their perspective. Don't think in terms of controlling that energy, here are some tips to leverage that effort.

  • Lead by example. Set-up YOUR profile on Linkedin or Twitter.
  • Claim your company URLs on Linkedin, Twitter, and Facebook even if you are not ready to use them now. If you can't manage the page it is better not to put it up. You don't want your name on a party that no one shows up to. 
  • Find that social media savvy employee and have them give a tutorial over lunch for other employees.
  • Don't let people walk away from that tutorial empty handed. Ask everyone to dress up a bit, find a clean blank wall and take everyone's head shot. Social profiles without a smiling mug will be ignored.
  • When you set up your Linkedin page have all your staff indicate that they work for your company on the site as well. Now your company will be able to ride the wave of everything they interact with professionally.
  • Solicit article submissions from you staff for the company blog. Link to their professional blogs. 
  • Have a social media policy in your employee handbook that everyone must sign. Even if you don't encourage the professional use of social media what your staff projects to the online world could reflect negatively on your firm. (We will have more detail on this step at a later date.)
More than ever before, employees are not forever. Don't worry about them jumping ship. No matter where they go, the personal equity you build with each employee by helping them build their brand will help cast your net wider that you ever could by yourself. If you have done your job in the hiring process you have bright, creative, and professional people on your team. Help them shine and your company can profit from their glow in the process.

Caveat: Use discretion if you are in an industry where clients value your anonymity.


Healthcare reform and the 2012 W-2

The Affordable Care Act could have a blog all unto itself. For employers it will be like ribbon being unfurled from a high rise window, it will be rolling out for the next few years. Today we'll look at an immediate change and clear some confusion.

One of the questions that has come up quite a bit as we approach the end of the year revolves around the W-2. Business owners are still confused about their obligation to report health care contributions on the employee W-2. For most employers it is simple this year; you get a pass!

Here is how it works:

For the 2012 W-2 which must be post marked by January 31st 2013 contributions made by the employer toward employee health benefits in a company sponsored plan must be reported on the W-2.

Not all employers are required to do this for 2012.  Only the big guys, employers who issued 250 or more W-2 form in 2011 will have to include the additional information in 2012. There are other circumstances that relieve the employer from this requirement for 2012. The fewer than 250 W-2 forms threshold will cover most small businesses this year. Here is a list of the other relieves.

(2) multi-employer plans;
(3) Health Reimbursement Arrangements;
(4) dental and vision plans that either
  • are not integrated into another group health plan or
  • give participants the choice of declining the coverage or electing it and paying an additional premium (see Q&A-20 of Notice 2012-9 for more information);
(5) self-insured plans of employers not subject to COBRA continuation coverage or similar requirements;
(6) employee assistance programs, on-site medical clinics, or wellness programs for which the employer does not charge a premium under COBRA continuation coverage or similar requirements; and
(7) employers furnishing Forms W-2 to employees who terminate before the end of a calendar year and request a Form W-2 before the end of that year.

For more detail here is a link to the IRS website. Reach out to me directly if you would like professional human interaction on this and other HR topics.


Five ways to give your clients some facetime

It's the reason surgeons cut, the reason Steve Nash & CP3 dish out assists, and why Mother Teresa gave: IMPACT. Part of the thrill is seeing the results of your efforts. Given all of his rubber necking, impact on others is clearly the reason Usain Bolt runs the glamour events. So, it's unfair to expect the best from employees and not provide them the opportunity to see how their efforts affect customers lives

U.S. Cellular's current campaign on Youtube is one we have seen before. Giving customers the chance to hear directly from their more talented employees with the theme "Call someone who cares." Flip this around and bring all of your staff face to face with the people who benefit from their effort.

Use some or all of these tools to give every person in your company a glimpse into the companies and lives they impact with their work.

  • Set up an internal Youtube channel and ask a few customers to send you video of them with your products or services in action. Show a few of the submissions at the next company meeting. Better yet, put a live feed in break areas and on the production floor.
  • Use Flickr to chronicle a customer's environment before and after your company was called in.
  • Launch the video chat features of Skype, Google Talk or Groups to let customer service, shipping, and others look a patron in the eye from time to time. It's harder to slack on someone when you've seen their smile.
  • Send people who rarely leave the office out with a salesperson or technician.
  • Have salespeople take some customer service calls so they don't forget that their promises impact people long after the commission check has been cashed.

I recently purchased a box of plastic, foam, and electronics which make up a RC plane. It is more than just an airplane, it is a reward for my son who reached a milestone and a father-son bonding opportunity. Those are just two of the ways it brings value to us. So receiving a defective part and not being able to get a replacement for two weeks makes a difference. Maybe if people in the testing dept. saw my son's eager face they would have checked better. The customer service person with kids of their own who promised a replacement part may have acted faster if they knew a dad had to tell his son to wait a little longer to fly his first plane.

Implementing these tools and others are minimal cost or free and readily available. Leverage this high-tech world and impress upon you people the importance of their high-touch in all they do.

How do you keep your staff from loosing sight of the lives the impact?