Resources - Stratus.hr®

3 Surprising Effects of Corporate Philanthropy and Volunteering

By | Company Growth, Employee Morale, Newsletter, Recruiting | No Comments

What do you really get when your company gives back? Warm feelings and potential tax breaks aside, your corporate giving program could also have three unintended effects: making it easier to recruit (and retain) workers, improving employee attitudes, and boosting the bottom line.

How corporate philanthropy resonates with the generations

In 2016, Fortune magazine published a survey of more than 2,000 workers that looked at the impact a company’s charitable gifts had on the workforce. The results: approximately two-thirds of millennials indicated charity matters to them personally. Specially, respondents noted it could impact their decision regarding where to work.

  • 18-34 years old: 66% would prefer to work for a company that gave to charity
  • 35-44 years old: 59% would prefer to work for a company that gave to charity
  • 45-64 years old: 47% would prefer to work for a company that gave to charity

Research by Cone Communications went a step further, indicating that 76% of millennials would also be willing to take a pay cut to work for a responsible company engaged in philanthropy.

Corporate gifts and employee engagement

Aside from hiring do-gooders, researchers at the University of Notre Dame learned that employee attitude and emotional engagement can also be affected by corporate philanthropy. The manner in which the “gift” was given, however, was equally as important. Specifically, they found:

  • Higher levels of corporate giving were linked to better employee attitude.
  • Company-wide charitable endeavors had a greater positive effect than individual employee-selected charitable activities.
  • Hands-on activities/volunteer opportunities in which employees worked directly with the charity showed a stronger positive attitude correlation when the company also gave to the charity.
Giving back to a community gives back to a company’s bottom line

Additionally, companies that actively give back to their communities have the potential to see those dollars impact their bottom line. Research by Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer titled “The Competitive Advantage of Corporate Philanthropy” explains it like this: when a company gives to a nonprofit organization, that nonprofit is better able to extend its reach to more recipients in need. Individual recipients can then shift their own focus to meeting other needs and goals — and the community as a whole benefits.

Similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, if a person is lacking food, he or she becomes micro-focused on obtaining nourishment, whether through legal channels or by theft or other means. However, when that person’s food needs are met and are no longer the most pressing concern, that person can focus instead on other responsibilities, like work or family. This in turn improves the economic growth in a specific geographic location, enhances education because of the ability for students to focus on school work, and the company who made the initial donation may even see some of its charitable dollars retuned in the form of revenue.

Getting the word out: broadcasting charitable gifts

For all the good coming from corporate giving programs, there is one caution: over-publicizing charitable gifts and activities. While companies gain goodwill and enhance their reputations through philanthropic efforts, touting these too loudly can have the opposite effect and result in public cynicism. Tobacco giant Philip Morris found this out the hard way. After spending $75 million on charitable contributions in 1999, the company then spent another $100 million in advertising to publicize its good deeds. End result: all that expensive talk acted to negate much of the good it had done.

Our advice: involve employees in your corporate philanthropy, from selecting charities to pitching in to help. Don’t be afraid to talk about what you’re doing to spread the word; sometimes people just need to be aware of the need, which may inspire other companies to pitch in or find another organization to donate towards. Just be sure your message is more focused on the charity than tooting your own company’s horn.

Corporate Philanthropy

With the help of corporate philanthropy, non-profit organizations can help broaden their reach to meet basic needs. When that happens, education improves, crime and unemployment rates decrease, and the economic growth stimulates that geographic location.

Employee leasing vs. co-employment: what’s the difference?

By | Articles, Company Growth, President's Corner | No Comments

When you’re considering outsourcing your HR, you’ll hear plenty of talk — and advice — about “employee leasing” and “co-employment.”

In general, these two terms refer to the same concept. In “employee leasing” or “co-employment,” your company manages the day-to-day work of each of your employees. But to tap into the benefits that HR outsourcing offers, the HR company becomes the “employer of record” for each of your employees, which means your employees are linked to the HR company’s EIN for payroll, benefits and tax purposes, along with all of the responsibilities that accompany those.

This relationship is more commonly referred to as “employee leasing” or “co-employment.”

What is employee leasing?

Employee leasing is sometimes used to describe the arrangement between a company and a type of HR outsourcing organization known as a PEO (professional employer organization). The PEO becomes the employer or record for its clients’ employees and is responsible for paychecks, payroll taxes, benefits administration and related administrative requirements. At the end of the year, each of the client’s employees also receives their W2 from the PEO — and the PEO’s EIN is linked to it.

How is this “leasing?” It’s not — which is why the term has mostly been replaced with something better (see “co-employment” below).

As a client, your company makes all hiring and termination decisions about employees — the PEO has zero management contact with your employees. That means your PEO does not have the ability to “reassign” an employee to a different department or employer. The PEO cannot terminate an employee (unless YOU specifically ask them to). And fees charged by the PEO aren’t “rental fees” for an employee — your business pays for the administrative tasks associated in the same way you’d pay an in-house HR department to perform these tasks, including onboarding, payroll management and reporting requirements, benefits administration, worker’s compensation admin and insurance, and any risk-management services.

Employee leasing isn’t temporary or short-term employment

While the term “employee leasing” is catchy, it has other downsides, too, namely its short-term feel. But your employees aren’t temporary — they’re full-time, maybe even lifers. Which means your company’s employees in the PEO-relationship will (hopefully) have a long-term relationship with your company, too. If you ever leave a PEO, you take your employees with you.

Fees paid to a PEO in employee leasing

While you will pay a PEO for its services, the fees you pay to a PEO are for the services performed by the PEO. You do not pay a PEO for the use of your employees. If your PEO is managing payroll, you provide the funding for the payroll, just like you would do if you were managing payroll yourself (except with most PEOs, you write just one check for payroll and the PEO divvies it up; if you manage payroll yourself, you’re writing a separate check for each employee).

What is co-employment?

Co-employment is an arrangement in which two organizations — namely your company and the PEO — share responsibilities for an employee. The PEO handles the administration responsibilities and any liabilities that go along with those. Your company manages every bit of the day-to-day duties of your employees.

If co-employment sounds identical to employee leasing, that’s because it is; the two terms are oftentimes used interchangeably. There is one exception: co-employment can also be used to refer to short-term or contractor arrangements — but that’s not what PEOs do.

Hiring and Termination with a PEO’s co-employment arrangement

When you have a co-employment arrangement with a PEO, your company continues to make all hiring, promotion and termination decisions about the people who work for you, while the PEO only handles the administrative tasks, such as onboarding, workers’ comp, and payroll and benefits management. A PEO may also offer an applicant tracking system (ATS) to simplify your hiring process or give you access to reports and visualizations that show you how staffing affects your entire organization, among other services.

PEO and liabilities

With co-employment, the PEO will hold all liability for ensuring your employees and benefits are paid (you’ll still need to write a check to the PEO to fund payroll, however), employment taxes are covered, workers’ comp insurance is current, and any other relevant compliance concerns are met. In short, your PEO assumes liability for all of the services it provides to your company.

There are, however, areas in which you’re still be liable — particularly in regard to day-to-day operational and management tasks. But in addition to 24/7 access for consulting and advice, many full-service PEOs will assist you with employee and manager trainings, as well as help you develop employee handbooks and policies to protect your organization from potential risks like these and others.

Are PEOs expensive?

PEOs are service providers, so you’ll pay for their services. They will cost more than you personally sitting down at 2 a.m. with a spreadsheet and an abacus to manually calculate payroll. However, the PEO also provides other services like affordable rates on a variety of health insurance and supplemental plans (including large group health plans, which most small businesses aren’t eligible for any other way), as well as other benefits that most small companies can’t access or afford without the services of a PEO.

How much will a PEO cost? Depending on the PEO you work with and the size of your team, your company could get the equivalent of a full-service HR team and tap into Fortune 500-worthy benefit options at the cost of a part-time employee, or even less if you’re a smaller company.

Get advice about co-employment

This isn’t always part of the deal, but the best full-service PEOs are consultants, too — they offer answers and advice about your HR concerns and will let YOU know when you could be running into potential risks. If you want to see this in action, contact us today. We’ll answer questions, look at your company’s current HR situation, and let you know if it makes sense for you to partner with a PEO or if there’s another arrangement that would fit your company better.

employee leasing

Outsourcing HR, co-employment, employee leasing – they’re actually all synonymous. Would you like a really technical description of co-employment? Read this article from NAPEO.

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Stopping Harassment in the Workplace

By | Articles, Corrective Action, Discrimination, Employee Morale, General HR, Manager Training, Newsletter | No Comments

U.S. businesses and government agencies paid out more than $482 million to resolve work-related discrimination and harassment claims in 2016, a number that the EEOC indicates is on the rise. As an employer, it’s essential to have policies in place to prevent workplace discrimination, but where do you start? Here’s what you need to know…

Steps to prevent discrimination and harassment in your workplace
  1. Set a zero-tolerance policy. Here’s a sample policy:

“It is our company’s policy to maintain a workplace free from harassment and any other form of discrimination based on gender, race, religion, color, national origin, age, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, ethnic background, citizenship, military service, genetic information, or any other class related to discrimination. Accordingly, our company has zero tolerance for harassment in any form or other such unlawful discrimination. Anyone in violation of this policy will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.”

  1. Train managers and staff about the zero-tolerance policy. Although your anti-discrimination policy may be included in the employee handbook, employees most likely skimmed over that section. Become proactive by providing official employee and manager anti-discrimination trainings. Trainings should cover all protected classes (preferably over several different trainings), including gender, race, religion, color, national origin, age (40+), pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, ethnic background, citizenship, military service, and genetic information. Send out follow-up messages via email to help remind employees of the company’s stance on any protected classification.
  2. Create a complaint process. Have an internal system for reporting complaints of discrimination. This could be as simple as reminding employees about which person in the company internally fields complaints and the acceptable form of complaints for your company (text, email, discussed in person but then documented afterwards, etc.). Encourage employees to always report any inappropriate behavior or remarks. Any scoffs or mistreatment towards those who report inappropriate remarks must also be subject to disciplinary action for retaliation. NOTE: Be sure to have a method for complaints to be submitted anonymously, in the event an employee is not comfortable discussing the situation in person. Although follow-up with the complainant will not be possible from anonymous tippers, you’ll at least be making the situation more reportable.
  3. Investigate immediately. The HR manager or person responsible for fielding and responding to inappropriate remarks must be trained to take all complaints seriously and to investigate immediately.
  4. Provide disciplinary action for violators. If this is a first-ever situation for your company, remember that you’re setting a precedence. If you let the violator easily off the hook, you’re setting your company up for a lawsuit.
  5. Document everything. Managers need to document the initial complaint, the process for the investigation, what was discovered during the investigation, and what disciplinary action was implemented. If an issue ever escalates to a lawsuit, this will be critical evidence to counter any “he-said, she-said.”
Costs beyond discrimination lawsuits

While workplace discrimination can quickly add up to large settlements (and more, if legal fees are included), it also has costs that go beyond lawsuits. Workplace Answers indicates that discrimination may impact turnover, employee productivity, and employee dissatisfaction. The effect is felt by more than just the victim and extends to others in the workplace. Recruitment efforts may also be stifled: a study found that 58% of employees who witnessed harassment would “discourage potential employees from joining the company.”

If, as a business owner, you’ve opted to turn a blind eye toward inappropriate remarks and behaviors, you’re placing your business at risk. You may also be harming your most valuable resource: your employees. Workplaces need to ensure complaints are taken seriously and acted upon immediately to remedy the problem, all of which can spare a company from heightened issues that have gone unresolved (just ask Uber). In addition to supervisor-employee relationships, harassment may also come from co-workers and even non-employees. Complying with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 means the workplace must protect workers from all forms of discrimination.

At Stratus.hr, our experts provide compliance assistance to clients to help prevent employment-related lawsuits. This includes ongoing regulation review, policy development and guidance, employee handbook updates, manager training, and new-hire onboarding to ensure all regulations and requirements that affect a business are met. We do this in addition to the more traditional HR outsourcing services.

For more information, please contact our HR experts at HR@stratus.hr or request a free demo of our services today.

Prevent harassment lawsuit

Facts and figures about workplace harassment:

  • 75% of U.S. workers have been affected by discrimination or harassment as victim or witness
  • 29.4% of discrimination suits filed in the U.S. in 2016 were sexual in nature
  • 97,000+ charges of discrimination were resolved by the EEOC in 2016
  • $125,000: the average cost for a small business to defend a discrimination suit
  • $160 million: highest settlement paid for a discrimination case in 2013
  • 11.7% chance that a U.S. small/medium businesses will face a discrimination lawsuit

Sources:









Your business is more likely to increase profits if it does this

By | Articles, Company Growth, President's Corner | No Comments

Building a profitable small business requires a good business plan and the right market condition, but a recent survey found another factor may boost profitability, too: outsourcing employee management and HR functions to a professional employer organization (PEO).

Businesses that outsource HR to a PEO (a.k.a. PEO clients) were 16% more likely to report an increase of profits year over year than comparable businesses that maintained the same functions in-house or outsourced individual HR tasks to separate providers (non-PEO businesses).

The survey report, compiled by independent analytics and research firm McBassi & Company and released by NAPEO in September 2017, analyzed responses from 101 small businesses and their employees to determine key differences in the operational health of small businesses that worked with a PEO and those that didn’t. Previous surveys by the group have also indicated a positive relationship between working with a PEO and lower turnover rates for small businesses, as well as higher rates of  business growth.

Additional findings from the NAPEO survey, which was conducted between April and June 2017, include:

  • 2x higher average revenue growth reported by PEO clients businesses vs. non-PEO businesses between 2015 and 2016
  • 45% of non-PEO businesses stated that raising capital was a moderate or major concern, while only 18% of PEO clients stated the same
  • Employee hiring was a moderate or major concern for more non-PEO businesses (70%) than for PEO clients (45%)

PEO clients also scored higher than non-PEO businesses among their own employees when questioned about HR, employee satisfaction, business growth and other employment-related factors. Specific employee responses include the following:

Employer Responses - NAPEO White Paper 2017

Said the report’s authors, Laurie Bassi and Dan McMurrer, “The analysis finds that working with PEOs yields a broad range of positive effects for PEO clients. These findings are consistent with the expectation that business owners who are PEO clients do not need to spend as much time dealing with ‘people issues,’ and therefore have more time to focus on their core businesses, making them better able to take steps to position their businesses to be competitive and successful.”

You can read the full analysis and survey results from NAPEO here.

For more information, request a free demo of our services today!









Active Shooter at Work: How to Respond

By | Manager Training, Risk Management | No Comments

In today’s society, employees must be prepared for the unthinkable. If an active shooter were to come onto your premises, your staff needs to have a plan in place to quickly determine the most reasonable way to protect their lives. Remember that customers and clients are likely to follow the lead of your employees during an active shooter situation, so they need to be prepared to lead out with a plan of action.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, most active shooter situations are over within 10-15 minutes, usually before law enforcement even comes on scene. Employees must be prepared mentally and physically to handle an active shooter situation, be aware of the dangers in their work environment, and be familiar with exits and escape routes. Here is a sample workplace policy to incorporate into your employee handbook and staff trainings for surviving an active shooter situation.

Responding to an active shooter

1. Run
In the event of an active shooter, the first and best option is to evacuate the premises, assuming there is an accessible escape path. Be sure to:

  • Have an escape route and plan in mind – this should be observed and discussed in safety training.
  • Evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow – don’t waste time trying to persuade others to come with you if they resist.
  • Leave your belongings behind – your life is much more valuable than anything left at your desk.
  • Help others escape, if possible.
  • Prevent individuals from entering an area where the active shooter may be – don’t let an innocent passerby become a victim.
  • Keep your hands visible – law enforcement doesn’t have time to distinguish if you are a threat when your hands aren’t visible.
  • Follow the instructions of police officers and don’t ask them for directions – simply proceed to exit from where they are entering if in the same area.
  • Do not attempt to move wounded people.
  • Call 911 when you are safe. Be sure to give your location right away if calling on a mobile phone, as 911 calls from a cell phone only give a general location.

2. Hide
If evacuation is not possible, find a place to hide where the active shooter is less likely to find you. Your hiding place should:

  • Be out of the active shooter’s view;
  • Provide protection if shots are fired in your direction (for example, an office with a closed and locked door); and
  • Not trap you or restrict your options for movement.

To prevent an active shooter from entering your hiding place:

  • Lock the door.
  • Turn out the light.
  • Blockade the door with heavy furniture.

If the active shooter is nearby:

  • Lock the door.
  • Silence your cell phone, pager, or anything that may ring.
  • Turn off any source of noise (i.e. radios, televisions) that may indicate you are there.
  • Hide behind large items (i.e. cabinets, desks).
  • Remain quiet.

If evacuation and hiding out are not possible:

  • Remain calm.
  • Dial 911, if possible, to alert police to the active shooter’s location.
  • If you cannot speak, leave the line open and allow the dispatcher to listen. Turn the speaker volume down completely to keep any dispatcher noises from being heard.

3. Fight
As a last resort, and only when your life is in imminent danger, attempt to disrupt and/or incapacitate the active shooter by:

  • Acting as aggressively as possible against him/her;
  • Throwing items and utilizing office equipment as improvised weapons;
  • Yelling – although it may sound counterintuitive, yelling may intimidate the killer if your only option is to fight; and
  • Committing to your actions – once you decide to fight, follow through with your plan.
Responding to Law Enforcement
When law enforcement arrives, remain calm and keep your hands visible. Their primary objective is to eliminate the shooter, so slowly put down any bags you may be carrying and avoid pointing, yellowing or screaming.
Have an Emergency Meeting Place

Create an emergency meeting place outside of your office or workplace for employees to go in the event of an active shooter. Incorporate reminders of this meeting place during safety trainings.

For more information about maintaining a safe workplace, please contact us.

Active Shooter at Work

Train your employees to Run, Hide, or Fight to protect themselves from an active shooter.

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Is a PEO or ASO better for business? Comparing options

By | Company Growth, Payroll, Risk Management | No Comments

You want an HR solution for your business — something beyond a payroll manager — so you’re looking at ASOs and PEOs. But which option is better for your organization? Finding the answer isn’t always so simple.

It’s estimated that between 14% and 16% of all small businesses work with a PEO, which offer full-service HR solutions, but not every business requires or wants to have a co-employer contract with a PEO. It’s for this reason that ASOs were developed by PEOs in the 1990s. Yes, the pair go hand-in-hand, although a business only needs to work with one or the other.

Definition and responsibilities of a PEO v. ASO

PEO defined: A PEO is a Professional Employer Organization that enters into an arrangement with a small business to provide all services related to human resources. Your PEO can handle payroll, benefits management, workers’ compensation, as well as internal (think company policies) and external (local, state and federal laws) compliance, among other services.

PEOs work with clients through a “co-employment” arrangement, which shifts the employer of record for each of the client’s employees to the PEO. What that really means is that payroll checks, W-2s, benefits, and related tax filings are filed under the PEO’s employer identification number (EIN) rather than the client’s. Other services including onboarding, background checks, workers’ comp, risk management, PTO tracking, applicant tracking systems (ATS), retirement plans, management training, employee handbooks, and more are also handled by the PEO. One of the greatest advantages for a business using a PEO is mitigating risk by running everything through the PEO. There’s also access to lower-cost benefits with a wider variety of benefit plan options they can offer employees. The PEO lumps together all of its clients’ employees to help every client take advantage of economies-of-scale products and administrative services.

PEO costs: The cost to partner with Stratus.hr as your PEO is based on your company’s needs assessment, conducted by one of our Business Development Consultants. Not all PEO pricing structures and service options are the same, so it pays to shop around. Our Stratus.hr team can give you a free quote customized to your specific needs.

ASO defined: An ASO, or Administrative Services Organization, provides most of the same services as a PEO for a client, while the client remains the employer of record. Payroll, W-2s, insurance and tax filings are filed under the client’s EIN, although the ASO still processes each one. While most ASOs do not provide access to affordable insurance options for clients, a few, including Stratus.hr, do.

In general, ASOs are ideal for companies that just want HR and payroll services conducted by an expert team at a more affordable rate than hiring in-house. Most clients who work with ASOs aren’t seeking liability protection (note that some ASOs, including Stratus.hr, offer economies-of-scale benefit options to ASO clients).

ASO costs: Our Stratus.hr ASO pricing depends on the level of service wanted. We offer a full-service ASO option that includes all the same HR services, large-group benefit plans, and digital tools as provided under the PEO model, and costs the same as our PEO services. Our “standard” ASO model provides basic payroll and scaled back HR services, along with large-group benefit plan options, and is available at a lower cost. Our Stratus.hr team can give you a free quote customized to your specific level of service.

Similarities in a PEO and an ASO for human resources outsourcing

Both PEOs and ASOs assist small businesses with human capital management. Clients tap into fully staffed, highly experienced HR teams that require no training by the client and can handle any scaling up or down a client may require. Frequently PEOs and ASOs offer tech tools and employee portals, as well as other human resources outsourcing options, that help small- and medium-sized businesses be both competitive in terms of recruitment and employee retention, and function comparably to large-corporation HR teams. Some also provide visualizations that allow managers and owners to see a big-picture overview of employee staffing and how it impacts other business aspects.

Differences between PEOs and ASOs

The key differences between PEOs and ASOs come from the level of risk a company retains in terms of human capital management. ASOs require employers to retain more of their own risks, while PEOs harbor most employee management risks for the client.

Other key differences between a PEO and an ASO may include:

  1. Access to more affordable insurance options — PEOs provide this service, while only select ASOs do.
  2. Consultative approach to HR — PEOs frequently act as an HR partner and resource for their clients and can offer advice and guidance on numerous subjects, while ASOs may only have simplified HR and administrative services.
  3. Training, employee handbook, onboarding, and guidance regarding hiring, termination, and compliance issues — PEOs act as a full-service HR team and can provide guidance, in addition to all related HR services. Companies (such as Stratus.hr) may also provide this under an ASO model, but it’s not industry standard.
  4. Costs — PEOs at face value may appear to be more expensive than ASOs. However, costs associated with time savings, reduced risk exposure, and client protection services typically make a PEO the more cost-effective option for small businesses in the long-run.
  5. Tax filings — PEOs shift all client employees to the PEO’s EIN for tax purposes, which also shifts the related liability risks. ASOs keep employees on the individual client company’s EIN.
How to determine whether your small business needs an ASO or a PEO? Research

Both ASOs and PEOs can play a valuable role for businesses of all sizes. Options should be assessed carefully, as should references for any organization that provides payroll services, HR outsourcing, benefits options and more. Working with an HR outsourcing provider that offers both PEO and ASO services can help ensure a company gets only the services it needs and the level of support it requires, while retaining the ability to scale up or down to a different level of service with minimal disruption.

ASO or PEO

How do you decide between a PEO or ASO? Start by cutting through the sales pitch and getting to the heart of what PEOs and ASOs have to offer.

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ASO v PEO

Use this chart to learn more about how ASOs and PEOs compare.

Witnessing Suspicious Activity at Work: What Should You Do?

By | General HR, Risk Management | No Comments

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 10% of all fatal workplace injuries over the last few years have been homicides. Additional data indicates firearms are used 78% of the time, making employers wonder how to respond when Second Amendment rights come into play.

The simplest response to the problem for most employers is to create workplace policies that prohibit workers from bringing guns to work, right? But laws don’t always agree. In 20 states, for example, laws prevent workplaces from enforcing no-guns-in-the-parking-lot policies, although most states do allow businesses to prevent firearms from the building premises (California is the exception).

Why the best policy to reduce workplace violence/terrorism is training

Here’s the dilemma: on one side of the coin is the argument that a firearm in the car does NOT imply an employee is going to use it on coworkers, but to protect them. On the other side is the knowledge that hanging a sign on the door that says “No firearms” isn’t going to stop an individual who’s determined to do harm.

The answer? Smart workplace policies that remind all employees to keep their eyes and ears open.

“Reporting suspicious activity is the workplace’s first line of defense,” says Colin Thompson, HR Director at Stratus.hr. “But employees need to know what suspicious activity really looks like. An individual who walks into the lobby who they’ve never seen before doesn’t qualify as ‘suspicious.’ But seeing a coworker acting out-of-sorts with a gun in their belt, that definitely does.”

Guidelines for reporting suspicious behavior at work

Businesses, says Thompson, should have clear policies in place that details what to report and to whom. Workplaces can start with the following language in their handbook:

When on the job, employees should report suspicious behavior (non-life threatening) to HR or a member of the Executive Team, including:
1. Who or what they saw
2. When they saw it
3. Where it occurred
4. Why it’s suspicious

If the behavior is highly concerning where lives may be at stake, employees should call 911 immediately.

“Time is of the essence when it comes to keeping the workplace safe, and it’s the employer’s responsibility for ensuring the workplace is a safe environment for all employees,” says Thompson. “Developing policies and adhering to them and then training employees annually about policies and what should be considered ‘suspicious’ should be a top priority for every employer. It also makes it much easier for employees to identify a real safety threat from a perceived one.”

Once reported, the company’s HR and/or Executive Team should determine the best course of action whenever time permits. “Having an impartial third-party assess the situation is important to ensure someone’s not wrongfully accused or being profiled,” says Thompson. “Talking to the individuals who report the activity, as well as the individual who caused it, can help you determine if it’s really a workplace threat or just a lapse in judgement.”

Adding suspicious activity to workplace training programs

Thompson indicates that adding “suspicious activity” to the company’s safety trainings on an annual basis can often prevent headaches for everyone. Case in point? An employee who brought guns to work at a friend’s workplace for a photo shoot. “They were historic rifles and people saw the employee carrying them into the building. Plenty of them freaked out,” said Thompson. “They reported it to management, and HR reviewed the company’s policy with the individual. They decided the best solution was to move the photoshoot to another location, somewhere offsite.”

As for the employee with the historic guns, they simply never realized there was a policy against this. “If someone had just reviewed the company’s policy in a training, it probably would have prevented a whole lot of stress for everyone that worked there,” said Thompson.

Your Stratus.hr rep can help you with both the policy in your handbook, as well as provide ideas for incorporating suspicious activity lessons into your safety training.

suspicious activity at work

If an employee witnesses any (non-life threatening) suspicious activity at work, they should report it to HR or a member of the Executive Team. If it’s an emergency, call 911.

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How Your HR Software is Dragging You Down

By | General HR, Human Resources Information System (HRIS) | No Comments

I’m just going to say it: you don’t need five different HR programs to run one business. But I see businesses all the time that probably think I’m wrong.

In my job, I regularly meet with businesses and we discuss all sorts of things, including HR. Being in the field has shown me there are some really amazing HR programs out there. You can find great software for recruiting, running payroll, managing benefits, or practically any HR task you need.

Here’s the problem though: smaller companies have a tendency to use HR programs separately. If you only need to accomplish a single task — for example payroll and timekeeping — a standalone piece of HR software can be a great solution and a money saver.

Why small businesses commonly use more than one HR program

What happens usually goes like this: a business starts growing and invests in something simple, like payroll software. The system works great and makes processing the small business’s payroll far more efficient. The company is so happy with its improved productivity that it decides to tackle another problem-area, such as recruitment, and invests in an applicant tracking system (ATS). But here’s where the problems start to arise: rather than going back to the company that supplied the payroll system to see if it has an ATS, too, the company invests in the applicant tracking system with the most bells and whistles in their price range.

How is getting the most from your money ever a problem? Keep reading.

With the payroll system and the applicant tracking system running, it’s time to address benefits management. That means another system from another vendor. And the process continues until eventually the small business has five or more programs, each handling a different task in HR. But because these systems were each a standalone investment, none of the information in one program talks to information in any other system. Whoever is tasked with HR responsibilities in the company spends a big chunk of their day jumping from program to program, inputting the same information in multiple interfaces, and manually connecting the dots.

All that efficiency that was promised with the individual programs? It’s still there but it’s now only associated with each individual task. 

When PC Magazine assessed HR software, its #1 must-have for a Human Resources Management System (HRMS) was integration — the ability for your HR solution to connect to other software you use. I couldn’t agree more. Application program interfaces (APIs), like I mentioned above, require a development team to make two systems talk to one another, and once you get the API working properly, it’s still not 100 percent. Those interfaces break, which means you’re calling in your development team, and when you update either software, the API may require additional work. You’re impacting your development resources and helping HR grind to a halt.

Really want to improve HR’s efficiency? Get rid of the individual programs

If you really want to improve the efficiency of your human resources team, stop using all of those individual programs, software packages, and one-note solutions. Look instead for an HR management system that is all inclusive — or that at least includes everything your business needs. Essential services for most businesses include the following:

  • Applicant tracking system
  • Benefits administration
  • Payroll
  • PTO tracking
  • Management capabilities

Beyond services, your HR solution should have these key features:

  • Cloud-based, so no one person nor any key data is tied to a single device or computer
  • Unique sign-ons for individual users and the ability to limit access to certain services on an individual basis  
  • Technical support so your development team can get back to its real job
  • HR support that provides you with an expert to answer questions
  • Self-serve HR portal for employees
  • Customizable dashboards allowing members of your executive team to see the impact HR is having on the organization, and vice versa
Why all small business HR apps are not created the same

You’d think these features would automatically be part of every HR program now — and by HR program, I’m talking about all-inclusive apps and services — but they’re not. However, the top HRMS options will have most or all of the features you want. Just be sure you’re balancing the offerings against your budget. You want something that can grow with you. Also be certain that you’re not replacing a broken system with a newer version that has the same or similar problems, or with an option that will be obsolete (a.k.a., another headache) in a few years.

Cloud-based HR solutions that are maintained and updated by their vendors really ought to be the industry standard at this point. As a small- or medium-sized business, these will give you the highest return on your investment of time and money. They should also include top-notch security features and mobility that work for your HR team and your workforce.

If you want even more, find a solution that builds onto the cloud-based HR seamlessly. For example, Stratus.hr, my employer, is a Professional Employer Organization (PEO), so in addition to offering cloud-based HR solutions, we also offer access to large-group health insurance rates to small-businesses and give our PEO clients a direct line to HR experts who can answer any employment-related question. The full-service approach is ideal for some businesses; other clients really just need our cloud-based HR. What we recommend and provide depends on the company’s stage in its lifecycle, how it’s growing, and what it hopes to do, even beyond HR. When you’re looking at HR programs, be sure the vendors aren’t trying to sell you more than you really need or less than you want. There are a lot of options out there — you can always keep shopping.

My main message is this: you have a lot of choices in how you run your HR, but if you’re doing it with a collection of pieced-together HR programs, you’re not doing yourself or your team any favors. Your productivity is suffering. You’re putting data at risk. You’re getting little actionable insight into your team’s impact on the business. And you’re not taking advantage of the true benefits of today’s technology.

Remember that technology is supposed to make everyone’s lives and jobs simpler. All those individual HR programs? They’re working against you.

When it comes to employee management, how many companies honestly need to do only one or two things?

Collectively, the cobbled-together HR software suite isn’t saving anyone time for the following reasons:

  1. Software maintenance. Since the business purchased each program separately, it needs to maintain and update each one separately. Every time this happens, productivity stalls. When an update is required, it may be accompanied by a learning curve, which also reduces productivity.
  2. Limits on the number of users. Standalone programs may support only one user at a time. Need to hop into the benefits program? You’ll need to wait until your co-worker logs out.
  3. Desktop access required. This is a big one for me and most businesses: standalone versions of HR software may be limited to the desktop or laptop they were installed upon. Unless you’re in front of that computer, that means no off-site access.
  4. Data isn’t shared between programs. Some HR software have APIs that can be configured to allow two programs to communicate with one another, but you’ll need someone with programming skills to configure everything and maintain the bridge.
  5. Reports don’t come naturally. When data isn’t shared, creating a report for a key team member is a very manual process. When the executive team wants details now, that either means dropping everything to manually cobble the information together from multiple programs or explaining that they’ll need to wait. Neither scenario is ideal.
  6. Security is iffy. In addition to the ever-present laptop-left-at-Starbucks potential, security may also be subpar when you’re using older software that isn’t regularly updated.

When Data Breaches Happen: Ways to Protect Your Small Business

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Last week’s data breach at Equifax comes on the heels of countless other data breaches at big and small businesses alike. But are data breaches now an inevitable part of doing business?

No, not if your business ensures it’s taking the necessary steps to keep all sensitive data safe.

How a data breach can affect employee information

Last year, for example, when a data breach hit HR outsourcing firm ADP and compromised the personal data of employees from more than a dozen of ADP’s clients, we provided a list of actions businesses could take to keep their employees safe. Some of the tips are simple: changing passwords regularly and requiring complexity is something employees can do to help prevent access to their personal information. Also on the list was ensuring security audits were frequently performed by an outside resource.

We did, however, forget to include something from our list: install all patches ASAP, which may have been the cause of the Equifax breach. Why did we miss the suggestion? Because companies in the business services industry should already be taking care of this for their customers. At Stratus.hr, we ensure all of our clients’ employee data is encrypted. We take care of the updates and patches ourselves — these are done on OUR end and they’re not dependent upon any client action. Stratus.hr is also SSAE 16 SOC 1 Type 2 certified, meaning we have been audited by an independent firm to verify our systems and controls are secured. We have electively pursued the SSAE 16 third-party audit to ensure our client information is protected. This thorough audit also identifies inefficiencies or areas for improvement, in the event something has been overlooked. (For more information about the SSAE 16 audit, please visit www.aicpa.org.) It’s just another step in ensuring security isn’t compromised.

Steps all businesses should take to protect sensitive data

There are, however, measures we ask our HR clients to take, too. Watch for scams. Create strong passwords. And call us whenever you have a concern.

No one ever wants to be the victim of identity theft. You can find more details about keeping employee data safe in the following articles.

Security Breach

Your business can help prevent a data breach by changing passwords regularly, requiring login complexity, conducting audits, downloading patches, and doing business with companies that take data security seriously.

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