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DOL Overtime Rule Defeated for Good


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What you need to know

A federal judge struck down the Department of Labor (DOL) overtime rule, which would have raised the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) minimum salary threshold from $23,660 to $47,476.

The federal court’s decision is the final ruling on the subject, unlike the ban in November 2016 that merely halted the rule from taking effect.

While the DOL can still challenge the ruling, experts say this is highly unlikely. In the decision, the judge noted that an increase to the FLSA salary threshold was legally permissible, but added that the DOL overstepped by nearly doubling it. The DOL is now expected to continue the rule-making process and eventually raise the threshold to a “reasonable limit.”

However, it is uncertain what limit would be deemed reasonable. The court stated that adjusting the rule’s 2004 salary threshold for inflation would be an acceptable option.

Another factor in the court’s decision was what it considered a circumvention of additional tests to determine FLSA exemptions. Under the current rule, employees must perform certain duties—in addition to earning the minimum salary limit—to qualify for an FLSA exemption. The court said that nearly doubling the minimum salary threshold made the duties test irrelevant.

What happens next

Based on the court’s summary judgment and noted opinions, the DOL will need to present a more reasonable salary threshold if it wishes to pass any future overtime rules. This means employers should continue operating as usual, but they should be aware that an increase might come down the road eventually.

A Plus Benefits will keep you updated with any future developments on this matter. In the meantime, please contact our HR experts with any questions you may have.

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A Plus BenefitsDOL Overtime Rule Defeated for Good

5 Ways Millennial Employees Positively Impact Your Company


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You most often hear negative stereotypes about millennials. They are lazy. They want more pay for less work. They are entitled.  They lack communication skills. They are job-hoppers. Hearing these and so many others shared all the time both anecdotally among business leaders and in articles found in every business publication, it can be difficult to get excited about the next generation of employees. But just like every generation that came before them, Millennials bring positive and negative things to the workplace. For now, we want to focus on the positive and a recent article in Entrepreneur does just that. Here are five ways that Millennial employees can positively impact your organization:

They have a disruptive mindset.
You have likely heard the buzzword “disruptor” many times in the business world. It usually refers to a product, person or company that changes the way we think about an industry. They are usually start-up companies that manage to unseat the giants in their industry due to their innovative ideas.

Millennials are natural disruptors. They question the status quo and are constantly wondering if things could be done better. There is likely a great source of new ideas bubbling right beneath the surface of your Millennial employees. To gain access to their insights, all you need to do is ask. Encourage employees to share their ideas and provide guidance and support to vet these ideas and move those that are most valuable into action.

They value experiences.
More than any other generation they understand the importance of the customer’s experience with your brand. Allow Millennials to share their thoughts on how you can improve the user experience with the product or service.

They are digitally savvy.
Most Millennials grew up with technology all around them/. Most have computers in their homes and schools and cell phones from a very young age. Use this to your advantage when you’re looking at ways to improve your products, services, or even your internal processes with technology. You can also implement a reverse-mentoring program, where younger, more technically-savvy employees help those employees that may have a harder time getting up to speed on a new piece of technology.

Millennials also grew up in the age of social media. They likely have a keen understanding of the platforms and how you might be able to best reach your customers there.

They care about your purpose.
Millennials aren’t really concerned with having fun at work as many might think. What really creates staying power for most millennial employees is having a purpose at work. Understanding the impact that one’s work has on their company, community and the world is important to them. You know why you went into business, so share that with your team often and allow them to spread that message.

They want leadership.
The stereotype of Millennials being lazy or lacking focus presents a great opportunity for business leaders. Though they may have lacked this in their childhood and young adult like, they really do want structure and accountability. Set high expectations for all employees and hold them accountable. Lead by example. Set high expectations for yourself and hold yourself accountable. Fairness matters greatly to Millennials, so make sure that you fairly assign work and communicate clearly what it takes to succeed.

There is no avoiding the fact that Millennials will soon be taking over the workforce, and in many industries, they already have. Rather than have a negative attitude about that prospect, we hope that small business leaders will see the opportunities that Millennial employees bring to the organization.

Want to learn more about this important part of our workforce? We have a webinar coming up on Thursday October 12, 2017 at 11:00 am (MST) about Unleashing the Power of Millennials with special guest speaker Ben Galvin (PhD), Assistant Professor in the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University who has done extensive research on leadership, management and unleashing the power of millennials. You can register for the webinar here.

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A Plus Benefits5 Ways Millennial Employees Positively Impact Your Company

6 Simple Strategies to Motivate Your Employees


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In preparation for our Fall session of HR Boot Camp, we asked participants what their biggest HR challenge is. One of the things we hear often is what challenge it is to motivate employees to perform at a high level. Each individual employee may be motivated differently, creating a challenge for small business leaders already strapped for time and other resources. A recent article from Entrepreneur provides six strategies for motivating employees.

  1. Promote purpose. Companies that clearly communicate and demonstrate their purpose to employees have higher levels of employee engagement. This allows them to attract and retain the best possible employees. Unfortunately, according to research by Gallup, only 27% of employees say they can apply the company values to their individual job. There is a reason you chose to go into business. Share that with employees. Tell them what motivates you to come to work each day. Help them find purpose in their work.
  2. Actively listen and ask open ended questions. Engage in two-way communication with your employees. Ask them what motivates them and really listen to what they are saying. Find out what they are passionate about (inside or outside of work) and then ask questions about why that drives them. Use that information to help employees plan for their own career development to reach their goals.
  3. Catch a motivational wave. Take advantage of times when individuals are already motivated. Maybe it’s the beginning of the year, when people are setting New Year’s resolutions, or right after attending and industry conference or corporate event. Ride that motivational wave and keep the momentum going.
  4. Stop with the bribes. Rewards only work when they are handled strategically. Have a reason for rewarding and recognizing your employees. Doing it for no reason can lead to a lack of appreciation and a feeling of unfairness in the workplace.
  5. Lead by example. Make sure you are motivated as well. If your heart isn’t in it, others will notice., You must lead by example by pushing yourself to perform at a high level.
  6. Be vulnerable. Solicit positive and negative feedback from your employees. Share with them both your successes and your failures. This will increase the level of trust your team has in you as a leader.

These strategies may not all work for all employees, but they should give you some ideas of where you can improve the motivation of your team. Once you implement one or more of these ideas, we want to know how it goes. Drop by our Facebook page and let us know.

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A Plus Benefits6 Simple Strategies to Motivate Your Employees

5 Ways to Build Strong Relationships with Your Employees


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We get it. Leaders of small businesses are burdened with so many tasks, that often building employees relationships is the last thing on their mind.But maintaining positive work relationships is important to employee engagement and overall business success. Research by Gallup shows employees are more likely to be fully engaged in their work when they maintain good relationships with leaders and peers. With 70% of the workforce not fully engaged, this can be a real game-changer. The truth is, people are looking for more than just a paycheck from their job. They want to find meaningful work they actually enjoy. Here are four simple things from a recent blog on Talent Culture that leaders can do to get the ball rolling:

Celebrate the good times
Take the opportunity to celebrate with your team whenever possible. Bring in a cake once a month to celebrate everyone who has a birthday (and/or work anniversary) in that month. Get the team together to celebrate when company or team goals are reached.

Find creative ways to communicate internally
Don’t rely on just one method of communication. Be sure to use a combination of email, face-to-face, phone and even text communication to connect with employees. Also consider whether using an internal instant messaging program like Skype for business or a software program like Slack could help you connect with your team in another way.

Encourage feedback
Encourage employees to provide feedback to you and to one another. Ask employees for feedback on your leadership skills. If you see someone doing something awesome, tell them! Create a culture where feedback is welcome and rewarded. To make this happen, provide some training and guidelines for peers to provide feedback to one another. Emphasize the importance of providing a balance of positive and negative feedback at all times.

Emphasize shared values
Employee engagement is the highest when a company clearly ties the employee’s work to the company’s shared values and goals. Everyone wants to know that their work has value. Keep you values and mission statement at the forefront of everything you do.

The great thing about these suggestions is that they don’t take a lot of time or money. Simply building these into your routines will allow you to build meaningful relationships with your employees. Do you have great ideas for connecting with your employee? Share them with us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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A Plus Benefits5 Ways to Build Strong Relationships with Your Employees

4 Things Great Leaders Say to Get New Employees Engaged


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Getting employees up to speed quickly is important at every organization. Especially at this point in the employment relationship, your leaders can make all the difference. According to research by Gallup, managers are responsible for up to 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement. From a recent article in Inc., here are four discussions your leaders can have with new employees to get them engaged quickly.

Describe how the business creates value
In order for employees to be engaged, they need to understand what the company does that sets them apart. All employees want to be part of something bigger than themselves. Help employees see how the work they are doing directly relates to the value the organization creates in the community. Employees need to understand the why of the business and the why of their specific position in the company.

Define who the stakeholders are
Helping employees understand how all of the pieces of your organization work gives them a better idea of the big picture of the organization. Employees need to understand who the stakeholders are, both inside and outside the organization. Make sure they know the important people inside the organization and how everyone’s job interact. Also make sure they understand who your customer s and vendors are\ and what those relationships are like. Providing this clarity gives employees a better understanding of the organization as a whole.

Immediately set goals and provide feedback
Help employees set goals very early on (within the first couple days of work) that will allow them some quick wins. This allows you to provide feedback immediately and start the process of constructive performance communication.

Reinforce the reasons you hired them
Don’t assume your employees understand the reason they were selected for the position. Remind them what characteristics and experience they have that led you to make the decision to hire them. Praise employees for their skills, experience, attitude and work ethic. Reinforce those positive behaviors you want to see continue, early on.

It can be a huge competitive advantage for an organization to not only have productive employees quickly, but also engaged ones. Make sure your leaders are doing these four things with all new employees. It can also be a great reminder of the ongoing conversations they should be having with existing employees as well. Looking for more ideas to get employees up to speed quickly?  Check out our Onboarding Toolkit.

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A Plus Benefits4 Things Great Leaders Say to Get New Employees Engaged

Does Your Company’s Vacation Time Need to be Revamped?


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It’s hard to believe that summer is already winding down. Kids will be back in school soon and your employees will likely be scaling back their time off requests. Summer is typically the most popular times for employees to take family vacations, so it’s likely you had the opportunity to observe your time off policies and procedures in action over the past few months. Now can be a great time to review that and start making plans for what you might want to change for next year. Here are some simple steps you can take to begin that review process.

Analyze your compensation and benefits strategy
Most companies (91% in the US according to SHRM) offer some paid time off or vacation time to employees. That is pretty much a given at most organizations. But how you structure your vacation policy is an important piece of your overall benefits strategy. Decide what you hope to accomplish and what you hope to communicate to employees through your time off policy.

Keep long term viability in mind
It is important to find a balance of what your company can afford in terms of productivity loss and compensation for employees along with examining what competitor companies are doing to determine if you are more or less competitive from that standpoint. It is much easier to add additional benefits than it is to remove them from employees. Only commit to what you know is sustainable for your organization moving forward.

Plan the structure of your policy
Time off policies are often as unique as the companies they come from. You really do have a lot flexibility in your plan design. Here are some of the important questions to ask yourself:

  • How much paid time off will employees receive?
  • How many hours per week must an employee work to qualify for paid time off?
  • Will employee receive a lump sum, or will it accrue over time?
  • What will happen to accrued paid time off when an employee terminates? (check your state laws)
  • Will employees have a deadline to use paid time (use it or lose it)? (check your state laws)
  • Will hourly employees receive the same amount of vacation as salaried employees?
  • Do you need a bona fide leave bank for salaried exempt-level employees?

Plan and communicate your implementation strategy
Almost as important as your plan structure, it is important to plan for the actual implementation of that policy. Develop an employee vacation tracking and planning system to help you plan business needs and employee schedules. You will also want to determine how employee vacations during peak business times or during employee absences. Having a plan in place and clearly communicating that to employees prevents future issues.  Some questions to consider include:

  • How will employees submit requests for time off?
  • Will you do a first come first serve basis when employees request time off, or will seniority be considered?
  • Who will determine whether time off will be approved and how will this be communicated to employees?
  • Will you have deadline for vacation requests or blackout dates during busy business periods?
  • How will you divvy out employees’ duties during employees’ vacation periods?
  • Will you offer incentives for employees who work during peak vacation periods?

Once you have a plan, this needs to be communicated clearly to employees, so they understand the benefit and the process by which to use it.

Consider other types of leave
While you are considering your vacation policy, you may also want to take a look at other types of paid and unpaid leave. Other things to consider besides just a vacation policy include:

Setting up a vacation policy that will best fits your company culture will help ensure your employees are healthy, happy and feeling they are being fairly compensated. If you aren’t sure what types of leave are important to your employees, ask them. This can help you gain insight to how employees really feel about the policy and make them feel included in the process. If you would like assistance with creating a written time off or other type of policy, contact one of our HR experts at humanresources@aplusbenefits.com.

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A Plus BenefitsDoes Your Company’s Vacation Time Need to be Revamped?

5 Ways to Increase Employee Autonomy Today


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The workforce is changing and employees are now expecting more autonomy than ever before. Employees want to have more power over how (and often when and where) they perform their jobs. Research by Gallup has repeatedly found that employees highly value flexibility and autonomy in a job. If you are striving to attract and retain the best employees, you’ll need to move your company in that direction. Here are five ways you can increase employee autonomy in your organization beginning today.

Hire the right people.
Increasing employee autonomy requires a great level of trust. This must begin at the very start of the relationship. Ask questions during the job interview that help you begin to build that trust early on. Some examples are:

  • Tell me about a time you managed a project with little to no oversight or direction.
  • Have you ever been in a situation where your role or responsibilities haven’t been clearly defined? What did you do?
  • Can you give me an example of a time you went above and beyond the call of duty to help either a customer or co-worker?
  • Tell me about a time when you felt you needed to immediately address a difficult situation with your boss or supervisor when others wouldn’t.

Focus on quality training.
This begins on day one with a strategic onboarding process. Provide new employees with the information they need to begin making good decisions early on in their employment. Reward and celebrate early wins in this area and redirect employees who may be off track. We also encourage employers to set up a mentorship program for new employees. This allows current employee to model good behaviors for new employees.

Help employees to “Ask for forgiveness, not permission.”
Empower employees to make decisions rather than requiring management approval for every decision. This requires a certain level of transparency with employees as they will need to understand the goals of the organization as well as relationships with stakeholders. Set clear boundaries and then allow employees to solve problems their way. Role play difficult situations and encourage employees to practice quick, thoughtful decision making. As with anything, your employees will become better the more they practice.

Openly discuss career plans.
While we are on the topic of transparency, discussing development options with employees helps improve their autonomy as well. Leaders should have weekly one on one meetings with employees that help to push the employee forward. Ask employees what they hope to get out of their role and where they see themselves going in the future. Small businesses often feel disadvantaged in this area, where there are not many roles that an employee could move into. Career planning doesn’t have to mean switching roles or getting a promotion. There are plenty of ways employers can encourage development without those things. Perhaps they could improve existing skills or learn new skills through an online course. Or maybe they would be interested in joining a professional association and attending trainings and conferences with peers in their industry. Ask your employees to find out what is important to them.

Provide employees with more choices.
Whenever possible, increase the number of choices your employees are allowed to make. Perhaps you can improve their benefits options, allowing them more options to choose from. Maybe you could add flexible working schedules where employees could choose their start and end times. Anytime you can allow an employee to choose what is best for them, you will reap the rewards for employee autonomy.

Increasing employee autonomy not only increases employee engagement, but also frees up your managers for more important strategic planning and execution. It is a win-win situation for everyone. Demonstrating you trust your employees by giving them flexibility and choice also makes them trust your company and your leaders. Looking for more ideas? Reach out to our HR experts at humanresources@aplusbenefits.com

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A Plus Benefits5 Ways to Increase Employee Autonomy Today

3 Simple Questions You Can Ask to Increase Employee Retention


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Employee retention is one of the things we hear most often when we ask businesses owners what their greatest challenge is. National statistics are right in line with that. Research from Future Workplace and Kronos, found that 87% of employers felt that improving retention is a critical priority for their organization. Retention doesn’t have to be that difficult. Here are three simple questions from a recent article in Inc. that your leaders can ask employees today to immediately improve retention.

Do we have a high level of trust?
Trust is a critical part of any relationship, including an employment relationship. You need to trust that employees will do the work they have been hired to do and your employees need to know that you will fulfill your promise to compensate them for their work and treat them fairly. Earning and keeping trust requires work. If you find that trust is lacking with any of your employees, your next question needs to be, “how can we rebuild trust and continue to work together?”

Do you feel like you have space to voice your concerns and be heard?
This is one of the ways you can earn trust from your employees. Providing them with opportunities to express their concerns gives employees a sense of security. Employees need to be able to tell you if they think your expectations are unrealistic. One way to ensure this opportunity is not missed is for leaders to have weekly one on one meetings with each employee they supervise. Set the expectation that the employee owns this meeting and that it is a time for them to share their ideas and concerns in addition to sharing their accountability report. Spend most of your time in this meeting listening to understand and get to know the employee.

What can I do to help you be more successful?
Great employees are usually great because they push themselves to keep getting better. High performers want opportunities to learn and develop their skills. Asking this question not only shows your employees that you care and are invested in their development, but also provide s opportunities to have conversations about the things the employee might like to do moving forward. Especially in a small business, where career advancement opportunities may be scarce, offering professional (and personal) development opportunities can give employees the growth they need to stick around.

Asking these questions does very little if leaders do not act upon what is learned from the conversations with employees. But taking a few minutes each day and 30 minutes a week to check in with employees and ask them a few simple questions can help your leaders learn what is important to employees, aiding in employee engagement and retention long-term.

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A Plus Benefits3 Simple Questions You Can Ask to Increase Employee Retention

Help Employees Destress to Reduce Employee Burnout


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We all have times where we feel stressed, because of personal relationships, work, or other obligations. Stress isn’t always bad. It can sometimes be positive. Research suggests that a moderate level of stress that can be overcome often helps an individual feel stronger and more productive. Stress becomes a problem when it impedes our ability to be productive and reduces morale.

There are many things that can cause negative levels of stress in the workplace. Poor communication, lack of accountability and distrust are just a few.

 

You can evaluate the level of stress you may be adding to your team by asking yourself these simple questions:

  • Are my employees working in careers that have high depression rates? If so, what help can I offer to help them minimize stress?
  • Are my employees overworked? Do we have a high turnover rates? Do we have fair compensation?
  • Do I trust my employees and in turn do they trust me?
  • How often am I communicating one on one with my employees about not only their careers by their lives as a whole?
  • Am I holding m y team accountable for their work?
  • Am I treating employees fairly?
  • Is my management style adding or reducing to my employee’s stress?

We cannot control all the stress our employees experience. Employees may have problems outside the workplace that increase their stress levels. This makes finding ways to minimize stress in the work environment even more important to improving employee productivity and morale.

Here are some stress-reducing activities to try with your employees:

  • Get out of the office and go on a walk
  • End the day doing ten minutes of meditation
  • Create a game area for your employees to hang out and build personal relationships during breaks
  • Take your team to lunch away from the office
  • Find ways to recognize employees or departments for their hard work or accomplishments
  • Do a fun service project to help everyone get engaged and give back

What ideas have you implemented to help employees destress? We would love to hear about them on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/APlusBenefits.

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A Plus BenefitsHelp Employees Destress to Reduce Employee Burnout

7 Things Employees Need if You Want Them to Stick Around


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One thing we often hear from the small business leaders we work with is how challenging it is to retain good employees. This is especially true in competitive job markets where skilled workers may encounter new job opportunities at every turn. Keeping employees around really boils down to one thing; having great leaders. According to research by Gallup, managers account for up to 70% variance in employee engagement. It is often said that employees don’t leave companies, they leave bad bosses.

Leaders in small business often have so much on their plates, they have little time to improve their leadership skills. Providing little bits of information leaders can immediately use can be incredibly helpful.

A recent article in Inc. shares seven things employees need in order to stick around. Share these with the leaders in your organization to help them better understand their teams.

  1. Safety– Employees need to feel secure in their job. This means understanding what is expected of them. Leaders should ask employees about their future goals and help develop them along their career path.
  2. Recognition– We all like to hear when we are doing a good job. Working hard without anyone noticing is discouraging. Leaders should get into the habit of praising employees often. Check out our Employee Recognition Toolkit for ideas.
  3. Understanding– Employees want to know that their manager hears and understands them. They want to be able to come to their leaders with concerns and not be brushed off. The best leaders listen and validate the thoughts, concerns and feelings of their employees.
  4. Purpose– Everyone wants to feel like they are part of something bigger and better than just their individual work. Help employees discover how their work impacts the goals of the organization. Then help them see how the organization has a positive impact on your customers and your community.
  5. Communication– Employees want to feel like they are in the know. They don’t want to be in the dark about what is going on in the organization. Open communication and transparency increases the trust your employees have in your leaders. It also helps them feel safe and secure in their job.
  6. Value– Employees want to feel like they matter not only to the organizational as whole but to the leaders as well. Encourage leaders to really get to know their employees. Understand what is important to them and what motivates them.
  7. Love– This may seem a bit out of place for the work environment, but the truth is employees spend a large portion of their lives at work. They need to develop positive relationships in the workplace, including relationships with their supervisors. Feeling like someone at work cares about you drives employees to show up and perform at a high level each and every day.

Improving employee engagement and retention doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming. Helping your leaders understand these seven things that drive employee engagement and loyalty will immediately help get your company on track with retention.

Looking for more ideas? Contact our HR experts at 1-800-748-5102 or humanresources@aplusbenefits.com

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A Plus Benefits7 Things Employees Need if You Want Them to Stick Around