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Drug Testing – Where Do I Start?

By | Articles, Drug Testing, Health & Wellness, Manager Training, Newsletter, Performance | No Comments

You’ve seen a few hints of potential drug abuse at your worksite and are suddenly chilled by thoughts of everything you’ve tried to avoid since hiring your first employee. You certainly don’t want other employees to think this is acceptable behavior, and the last thing you want is for the employee to injure himself (or even worse, somebody else) – but what do you do? Here’s the quick how-to plan for both reasonable suspicion testing, as well as setting up a random drug testing policy.

Reasonable Suspicion Drug Testing

1. Know the Signs
Although you are not expected to be an expert at diagnosing somebody who is impaired from drugs or alcohol, there are several signs that, when paired together, may indicate something more than a bad day. The most common signs of drug or alcohol impairment include: mood changes; slurred speech; difficulty walking; altered appearance; clumsiness; loss of concentration; performance problems; watery or red eyes; argumentative, uncooperative, or accusatory behaviors; and dilated pupils.

2. Get a Second Witness
Ask another manager (without explaining your suspicions) to observe the employee to provide you with a second opinion. If both you and your second witness have reasonable suspicion that the employee is impaired, pull the employee off the job immediately. If the behaviors are severe or the job is safety-sensitive, don’t wait to find your second witness before pulling the employee off the job.

3. Document Everything!
Being as objective as possible, write down all behaviors and performance issues you’ve observed. Do not include any thoughts and opinions as to why the performance problems are the way they are – simply the specific details of what you observed. These details may include employee actions and interactions, smells, when and where everything occurred, what the employee was doing, any witnesses, and so on. (If you’d like to use our user-friendly form to document your observations, please contact us.)

4. Get the Employee Tested
Perhaps this doesn’t need to be said, but never send an employee to a testing facility alone if you have reason to believe he/she is drug or alcohol-impaired. Either you or another manager should drive the employee to the testing facility, or have someone come to your worksite to test the employee. For more information on reasonable suspicion drug testing vendors and pricing, please contact our HR experts.

Setting up a Random Drug Testing Policy

Many employers choose to set up a random drug testing policy to discourage drug abuse from the get-go, which will hopefully eliminate any for-suspicion incidents. Here’s how to quickly get that set up:

  1. Create a random drug testing policy.
  2. Hold a meeting with employees where the policy is discussed; be sure they sign an acknowledgment form before returning to work.
  3. Have new employees sign off on the policy upon hire.
  4. Conduct random testing (at random times) to enforce the policy and deter drug abuse.

As part of our services, Stratus.hr clients already have steps 1-3 taken care of through the drug-free workplace policy provided in your handbook and the acknowledgment form that employees sign once they are hired. If you are not yet a Stratus.hr client and would like to get a policy set up, or you are interested in setting up random drug testing, please contact us and our experts will take care of everything. We can even conduct the random testing for you and have it deducted from your company payroll rather than billing you separately.

Don’t wait for the avoidable incident – contact us today.

(Reposted from our archives)

Reasonable suspicion drug testing and random drug testing both need to be carefully planned before acting on any whims.
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What is a PEO and why you should outsource HR to one

By | Articles, Company Growth, General HR | No Comments

Although PEOs (Professional Employer Organizations) have been smart HR outsourcing options for decades, we still hear questions like “What is a PEO?” or “How does a PEO work?” or “When would a business need a PEO?” Here are our answers.

How PEOs make HR manageable and affordable

A PEO (Professional Employer Organization) allows smaller companies to band together as part of a larger employer (Stratus.hr), creating efficiencies for administrative needs that every company needs, such as payroll, workers’ comp policy and claims management, benefits deductions and reconciliations, and more. The PEO also has certified Human Resources experts who are available to clients 24/7 to provide consulting for any kind of HR matter, whether it be hiring or firing concerns, employee disputes, wage and hour issues, employee onboarding, discrimination claims, employee handbooks, and so on. With economies-of-scale working in their benefit, PEO clients are also able to tap into the buying power of a PEO to provide competitive benefits that would be difficult to afford and manage on their own.

Why businesses outsource HR to a PEO

As a PEO, Stratus.hr becomes the employer of record for your employees while you remain the worksite employer. Many people refer to this as co-employment. Your employees still work for you and you manage them as always, but Stratus.hr assumes the responsibility and liability of wage payments and other HR compliance laws. Your company gets the protection and service it needs and you’re free to get back to building your business.

When does a business need a PEO?

Typically when companies grow, they experience the need of having somebody take care of their human resources needs. But finding an employee who specializes in every aspect of HR is difficult and costly to hire. With Stratus.hr, you get the equivalent of a five-person HR department, with certified experts in each aspect of human resources (payroll, benefits administration, employment law, worker’s comp and risk management), as well as access to more robust and affordable benefits for your employees.

The best news is that most companies who use a PEO save money by tapping into their economies of scale. In a nutshell, a PEO simplifies the administrative headache of having employees and makes you a more attractive employer along the way.

Still have questions? Contact us or learn more about Stratus.hr’s services here.

Did you know?

Businesses that outsource to a PEO:

  • Grow 7-9% faster than comparable businesses;
  • Have 10-14% lower employee turnover; and
  • Are 50% more likely to stay in business.

Source: NAPEO

“I didn’t think I needed a PEO, that I could do it all myself.  Then I realized how much I didn’t know.  With Stratus.hr, I do what I do best and they do what they do best.  It’s a win-win for my company.”

10 Reasons Your Company Is Retaining Employees

By | Articles, Benefits, General HR, Retention, Turnover | No Comments

Congratulations! If your business has no problems retaining employees, then you’re in an enviable position. So what makes you different than other organizations in the U.S., where the average employee turnover in some industries exceeds 25%?

1. You know your industry.

You keep up with everything happening in your industry so you can stay competitive in the marketplace, and your employees thank you for this. Why? Because stable employment is at the top of the list of employee wants. But you go beyond understanding industry advancements — you also know which companies are growing and hiring, and you have a retention plan that keeps your own staff in place.

2. You provide competitive employee benefits.

What else is on your employees’ wish lists? Just after job security comes benefits (in fact, 96% of Millennials say they’d leave a job simply for better benefits). You ensure your company’s benefits are competitive within your industry and your market. But you don’t break the bank doing this — even if you’re a small company, you’ve found a way to keep benefits high and costs low.

3. You adapt with employment trends.

You know that a 7:00a – 3:00p shift might not be as appealing to working parents as flex time. In a 2016 study by Adobe, more than 30% of U.S. office workers said they’d leave a job for more flexibility. It’s just one of the trends shaping today’s workforce.

4. You train your managers.

You’ve read the stats — in 2015, a Gallup poll found that 50% of workers in the U.S. admitted to leaving a job because of their manager, and only 12% of workers said their managers helped them set goals. You conduct management training for your team so leaders know labor laws, connect better with employees, and are adept at handling sticky situations when they arise.

5. You outsource your HR to a PEO.

Your PEO handles HR for you. You made this choice as a small- or medium-sized business in part because companies that work with PEOs have turnover rates that are 10-14% lower than companies that don’t. Working with a PEO also ensures your payroll is accurate, on time and in compliance, and you get full service HR to stay up-to-date on employment law and workplace trends.

6. You have a set plan for onboarding new hires.

You hire people for the contributions they can make — which is why you also make sure they have the tools they need to engage on day one. Your onboarding program ensures the team is aware of the new hire, that someone shows him or her around, that paperwork is completed (preferably online), that the person feels welcome, and they are aware of available resources. Why? Because an estimated 20% of turnover occurs within the first 45 days on the job, and onboarding has been proven to get people started on the right foot.

7. You create a culture where employees want to work.

You know there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to culture — and you’re happy about that. So are your employees, who are more likely to stay at a company that puts them first. Josh Bersin explained the link between culture and retention in Forbes noting that companies with strong positive cultures are the most in-demand employers.

8. You survey your employees and listen to their feedback.

You know what your employees want because you listen to their feedback, perhaps from employee surveys. Adobe’s study found that more than 50% of U.S. office workers would leave a job they love, even take a cut in pay, to land their dream job. So you do what you can to make sure you offer the types of opportunities and advancement your employees are looking for.

9. You offer education and growth opportunities to your employees.

Sixty-one percent of respondents in a 2016 American Staffing Association (ASA) survey said training would help keep them in their current job. Of those listed, 67% simply wanted “cross training to learn skills of a different job” and 64% wanted “training to gain leadership and management skills.” Of course, you are ahead of the game and have a job-swapping program or a buddy system, and your HR team is assisting with leadership and management training, creating versatile workers with long-term career growth opportunities.

10. You don’t throw money at everything.

You avoid counteroffers whenever possible (50% of counteroffer recipients leave in the next year anyway) and instead build a custom retention plan that stops turnover before it starts. You also make sure the plan fits your business and budget, and is adaptable and flexible, too.

Successful businesses of all sizes know that retaining valuable employees requires effort, but it’s effort well spent. Employee turnover is a costly proposition for any business. Working with your HR team or a partner that keeps all aspects of HR running smoothly can be the best — and most affordable — way to ensure your highly valued employees stick with you for the long haul, too.”

Image credits

celebrate employee retention
Simple techniques can help businesses retain employees — and that’s something to cheer about. Image by Freepik.

Volatile Politics: What Business Owners Should Know

By | Articles, Health Reform Updates, Newsletter | No Comments
Business owner and politics

With the volatility and uncertainty of the new political atmosphere, many businesses owners have asked how it will affect them. Though nobody has a crystal ball, whatever the changes may be, we can be assured of two things.

First, healthcare reform and repealing Obamacare in some capacity will have a multifaceted effect on businesses.  It will likely impact HR, payroll, hiring and retention, turnover costs, and overall labor costs.  The term “business as usual” will have a different look and feel for each employer, and creating simplicity in one form of employment may make things more complex in another.

Second, regardless of what changes may come from the new administration, utilizing Stratus.hr to stay on top of everything will prove to be a significant benefit. Internal resources can remain on the company’s critical objectives while Stratus.hr manages the impact of the changes on their business. According to Stratus.hr President, Michelyn Farnsworth, “We help clients formulate a ‘best practices’ approach for an overall strategy moving forward, meaning they don’t have to manage everything themselves.”

If you are a current Stratus.hr client, rest assured everything will be communicated and managed as we closely watch the new laws and their impact to your business. If you are not currently a Stratus.hr client, we encourage you to learn more and discover if our services may be the peace of mind you need in such a volatile environment. As Farnsworth coined it, “Change is coming, and utilizing Stratus.hr is the next best thing to having that crystal ball.”

Capitalize on New Year’s Resolutions to Improve Bottom Line

By | Articles, General HR, Health & Wellness, Newsletter | No Comments

It’s that time of year when employees are motivated to get healthier, creating the perfect opportunity for employers to capitalize on getting higher productivity, lower health insurance claims, fewer sick days, better employee engagement, fewer workers’ comp claims, lower turnover, and higher retention. (Did I mention the Harvard Business Review showing $1:$6 ROI on wellness program investment?) Here are seven easy and cost-effective wellness ideas a company on any budget can implement.

1. Start a competition tracking fitness goals
Most employees concerned about fitness are already tracking steps, calories consumed, calories burned, or other fitness goals on their mobile or fitness tracking device. Spice it up by adding a little competition, with winners for top achievers or for everyone who achieves a specific goal.

2. Bring in fresh fruits and vegetables each day to share with staff
Cut the donuts and pastries. Healthy snacks provide good energy, help with weight control, and improve mood. If your company is unable to provide these for employees each day, have a sign-up sheet for employees to take turns bringing them in, perhaps with a small allotted budget to help sponsor the program.

3. Encourage an after-hours fitness class at work
Employees who exercise together, bond together. Not only will they be getting healthier, they’ll be building relationships that carry over to the workplace for enhanced employee morale.

4. Encourage break time
Bring in some footballs, hula hoops, hacky sacks, and volleyballs to make break time fun. Have a 30-second wall sitting challenge or see who can do a 60-second plank. Taking a mental break is rejuvenating, especially if it gets the blood flowing again.

5. Hold a walking meeting
If you sit most of the day in an office, walking will do a world of good with creativity and brainstorming. Bring along your mobile device to verbally add notes from your meeting.

6. Provide a gym membership
Depending on your budget, you can decide to cover the cost fully, partially, or based on participation. Imagine the difference between an employee coming into work after just rolling out of bed, versus an employee coming from the gym. Exercising creates endorphins that increase energy and carry over to enhance mood, positivity, and overall wellness. Which kind of staff member would you prefer to work next to or have customers interact with each day?

7. Have a water drinking challenge
Encourage employees to bring water bottles to work and track how many total ounces of water they drink each day. At the end of the week, provide small incentives for everyone who drank an average of 64 ounces of water each day.

For more ideas on how to improve your team’s mental and physical wellbeing, please contact one of our HR experts at HR@stratus.hr.

How to Have Difficult Conversations with Employees

By | Articles, Corrective Action, General HR, Manager Training, Newsletter, Performance, Retention | No Comments

Let’s face it – nobody likes dealing with employee complaints, especially when it’s about a coworker. Unfortunately, employee conflict is an inevitable part of managing employees. Whether you’re a new manager or an expert at having difficult conversations with a problematic employee, we’ve broken it down into four easy steps.

Let’s say you just received a complaint about Jim from one of his coworkers.  Before having any conversation with Jim, be sure to do your homework.  Don’t react based on this one complaint; seek input from others, gather facts, and take notes to provide specific examples.  If it warrants a conversation with him, be sure you have a quiet, private space available and an uninterrupted window to speak with Jim.  With everything now prepared, you’re ready to begin the process.

Step 1: Ask if you can give feedback
To begin a difficult conversation with Jim about his behavior, ask him in advance for permission. This shows respect and allows him an opportunity to prepare himself for the conversation. However, don’t drag it out by giving too much notice. Best practices suggest you have the conversation within an hour of asking this question.
Don’t say: “You’ve got a problem.” Or “Pay attention.”
Do say: “Jim, may I give you some feedback?” or “Can I share something with you?”

Step 2: Describe the specific behavior needing to be addressed
Focus on the problematic behavior, being as specific as possible, and not about Jim himself.
Don’t say: “I feel like you keep ticking people off.” Or “I’ve noticed people have been avoiding you.”
Do say: “Jim, several coworkers have told me that you’ve been difficult to work with, from interruptions to borderline inappropriate jokes. I heard about yesterday’s brainstorming session that ended early after you made fun of one of our long-term clients, a company owned by your coworker’s wife.”

Step 3: Explain the impact of this person’s behavior
Describe consequences (positive or negative) that have or may result from Jim’s behavior. Focus on the consequence that is most impactful to Jim.
Don’t say: “How come you can’t be more professional?”
Do say: “Here’s what happens with this kind of behavior at work. It spreads like wildfire and damages your reputation with coworkers and other team members who are expected to work with you in the future, not to mention hurts our relationship with clients.”

Step 4: Provide the “next steps”
This step is the most critical. Determine what you would like Jim to do differently and allow the solution to come from him, not you. After Jim proposes ideas, try to end on a positive note, building on his ability to rectify his behavior and commitment to reaching his goals.
Don’t say: “You need to be more attentive, less disruptive, and control your mouth.”
Do say: “What ideas do you have for preventing these situations from happening again?”

Effective manager and employee training can develop your team with important skillsets and enhance their overall loyalty to your organization. To schedule an onsite employee training with one of our HR representatives, please email us at HR@stratus.hr.

Injured Employee – To File or Not To File a Claim?

By | Articles, General HR, Newsletter, Risk Management | No Comments

Four days ago, Andy, one of your employees, fell down the stairs. You asked Andy if he wanted to file a workers’ compensation claim, but he refused. Andy said that he was fine and did not need to see a doctor. Andy worked the remainder of his shift without further incident and went home. Andy then called in sick the next three days.

This morning, Andy comes to work on crutches and wearing a neck brace. Andy tells you that, after work, his neck was bothering him, so he went to Urgent Care for treatment. Andy hands you a doctor’s note, which excuses him from work for the past three days and places him on light duty for the rest of the week – a request that is granted.

You again ask Andy if he wants to file a workers’ compensation claim. Once again, Andy refuses, saying that his problems are resolved and he does not want to be a bother.

How should you handle this issue?
A – All injuries beyond first aid should be reported to your workers’ compensation carrier immediately – regardless of what Andy has requested.
B – Andy has the right to refuse to file a claim. You have fulfilled your obligation under the law by asking him if he would like to file a claim and need to take no further action.
C – You can ask Andy to sign a waiver. Once signed, Andy cannot later file a workers’ compensation claim for this injury.
D – Andy should be terminated because he did not report his injury to you immediately.

The correct answer is A.  This is why:

Workers’ compensation is governed at the state level. Most states require employers to report any employee injury that occurs in the workplace beyond general first aid. Failure to do so may result in fines and penalties.

Injuries resulting in three days of missed work and medical attention should be reported by the employer to the carrier. Employers should have a policy requiring employees to report injuries, no matter how slight, immediately to a member of management. However, once an employer is aware of a possible injury, it is the employer’s responsibility to report it to the carrier immediately.

If the employee refuses to file a claim, you should contact your workers’ compensation carrier. Once contacted, the workers’ compensation carrier will open a claim on the employee’s behalf and attempt to work with the employee throughout the remainder of the claims process. The workers’ compensation claims adjuster will handle any issues that arise from an employee refusing to cooperate.

Keep in mind, employers cannot determine if an injury is accepted, denied, or whether the injury is fraudulent. This determination must be made by the workers’ compensation claims adjuster to avoid litigation.

For questions about workers’ comp incidents or claims, please contact our HR experts at hr@stratus.hr.

Source: EPLIpro.com
Reposted with permission

Injured Employee – To File or Not to File a Claim?

Why should employers proactively report an injury?

  • It is an employer’s legal obligation.
  • Injuries can be exacerbated if medical attention is not provided at the onset, resulting in a worsened injury and a more expensive claim.
  • The sooner the carrier is involved, the easier it is to control the costs of the injury.
  • It eliminates an employee’s claim that the employer discouraged him from filing a workers’ compensation claim.

3 Real Benefits of Paperless Onboarding

By | Articles, Newsletter | No Comments

First impressions are critical in any company’s recruiting and retention efforts. Today’s technology-savvy workforce expects things to be done right, right from the start. That’s one of the major reasons why smart companies are moving to paperless onboarding systems.

A good first impression makes your job as a hiring manager easier, but the benefits of paperless onboard go way beyond that first impression.

“More and more of my time was being spent on HR paperwork, and less and less of it on the core of my business,” says Jeff, CEO of an assisted living center. That time drain was a major reason why he knew he needed to move his company to a paperless onboarding process.

We worked with Jeff to create a paperless new hire and onboarding system with some key benefits:

  1. Simplified Background Checks

Due diligence in your hiring process has never been easier. With a paperless screening system, the candidate authorizes a background check by using a simple online form. From there you start the ball rolling with one click, and results will all be within easy reach.

  1. Faster, More Efficient Data Handling

Most new hires are anxious to meet the team and get down to business. They don’t want to fill out endless piles of paper, often repeating the same information over and over.  With HR paperwork handled in the cloud, your new hires can complete the info on their own time so their first days in the office can be spent doing what you hired them to do.

  1. Fully Compliant HR Data

There are so many details to track when a new hire joins your team. A good paperless onboarding system provides alerts and reminders to both the new hire and the hiring manager to make sure all the important pieces are getting checked off the list. With advances in electronic signatures and highly secure cloud-based data storage, your employee information will be in full compliance and securely stored.

“Stratus.hr helped me create a streamlined, electronic hiring process that allows my employees to complete all necessary paperwork remotely and on their own time. The days of sitting down with an employee and going over mounds of hiring paperwork are over.”

To learn how to make your life easier with paperless onboarding, please contact us today.  Also, please ensure all non-exempt employees are paid for any compensable work time.  Contact us with any questions.

By Shane Loftus

 

Image credits:  www.dynafile.com

Recruiting for “New Grads” and “Digital Natives”

By | Articles, Discrimination, General HR, Manager Training, Newsletter, Recruiting | No Comments

If you’re recruiting for a specific age group of employees, you may want to have your attorney on speed dial. Many high tech companies continue to target younger employees because, as Mark Zuckerberg phrased it in 2007, “Young people are just smarter.” Perhaps that’s why the EEOC age discrimination complaints have sky rocketed over the past eight years. If you’re drafting job opening advertisements, here are two real life examples of what you shouldn’t say, and samples of what you should say to avoid a call from the EEOC.

1. According to a June (2014) investigation by Fortune, Apple, Facebook, Yahoo, Dropbox, and Electronic Arts all had listed job openings with the phrase “new grad” in the title. Some even continued to list graduation years (“class of 2011 or 2012 preferred”) that would be acceptable. The term “new grad” overwhelmingly targets employees in their early 20’s, meaning older workers would be discouraged from applying. That creates a disparate impact and triggers age-based discrimination, which is protected by the EEOC.

What you SHOULD say: If the position you’re offering requires no experience, then say, “entry-level position” and/or “no experience required” rather than targeting a particular age group.

2. Recently in May (2015), Fortune did a search on indeed.com and found dozens of job openings that had the job requirement of “digital native” listed, including:

StratusLIVE is currently seeking a lead generation specialist to join its team and according to its ad, the ‘ideal candidate must be a digital native’ who adapts quickly to new technologies.
Zipcar, the car-sharing service, posted an ad for a director of creative and brand marketing and says this person “will be a proven creative leader and digital native.” Being a digital native also is on its list of “minimum” job requirements.

A “digital native” insinuates somebody who was raised in the digital world, which clearly targets younger employees over the generation(s) protected by the EEOC.

What you SHOULD say: If the idea is to find someone technologically savvy, change the verbiage to say “digitally knowledgeable” or “digital skills required” – or better yet, list the specific digital skills being sought.

A job advertisement should focus on actual skills or talent needed, and not the age of the person with the skills/talent. For tips on writing legally-appropriate job advertisements, please contact our HR Department.