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New Overtime Tips

The salary level test for the Fair Labor Standards Act is rising on December 1 to $913 per week ($47,476 annually.) The duties test and salary basis test are unchanged. This means you must take action by December 1 to review the impact on your organization and make any needed adjustments. Many small organizations do not understand or comply with the duties tests –  this can present significant legal and financial risks if an employee or ex-employee reports you to the state wages and hours agency or seeks out an employment attorney. You may have seen legal ads for failure to pay overtime cases on TV in fact.

I did a webinar for the Alexandria SBDC on the new overtime rules – both the webinar and the annotated slides are available free. The webinar or slides can guide your thinking and action planning so that you are ready.

The New Overtime Law Webinar

The annotated slides

Guidance from the US Department of Labor  –  https://www.dol.gov/WHD/overtime/final2016/

It is smart to get started now on assessing the impact of the new salary level on your organization, as well as reviewing your compliance with existing duties test rules.  This process includes assessing what makes the most sense in terms of your desired or existing culture and extensive communications.  Ideas for these areas are included in the webinar and slides.

By |August 8th, 2016|Compensation, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on New Overtime Tips

Orlando to Dallas: “We Are Not as Divided as We Seem”

Martin Luther King Jr had been assassinated, cities were convulsed and some burned, ‘Chicago ‘68′ became a cliche for demonstrations and strong-arm police tactics. One sunny day I was deep in the beautiful wilds of Minnesota trying to find the farm of a woman whose husband had been shot down and was missing. By 2am, long before the days of social media, she was calling me terrified by the horrible calls and threats she was already getting.

Today we also face turbulent times, compounded by social media and cable news coverage. The ‘fog of war’ hurts us all. Many people are fearful for their personal future and their ‘tribe.’

What does this have to do with your business?

The conditions of our culture are reflected in our work. People spend a large portion of their lives at work. You have the power to create a better place and one that allows all your employees to be their best selves. We know that this actually increases financial success and growth. It will help your employees.  It might just help our country turn this current climate more positive too.

First, have you created a climate of respect?

Respect is more than superficial equality and basic manners – although those might be a good start in some workplaces. Respect includes valuing everyone without implicit bias or overt discrimination based on how different they might be from you. It involves creating a climate that values fairness and good faith and trust. It includes everyone in the organization treating each other well and positively. It includes neither hiring nor retaining ‘jerks’ who damage interpersonal relations and destroy trust. If your own behavior or emotions get in the way, it means learning how to control yourself […]

By |July 14th, 2016|culture, values|Comments Off on Orlando to Dallas: “We Are Not as Divided as We Seem”

What Now? The New Overtime Rules Announced

Small organizations have feared the impact of the new overtime rules which changed the level of pay below which everyone is considered eligible for overtime pay significantly. Many small businesses and non-profits assume they cannot afford to pay overtime. Others think anyone with a college degree is automatically exempt from overtime. The new rules have been announced and the salary level test is $913 per week ($47,476 annually.)

What are you going to do now?

The first step is to educate yourself. The US Department of Labor has a wide range of resources explaining the new rules and what has and has not changed. You can find this at DOL Final Overtime Rules 2016

I will be doing a webinar for the Virginia SBDC Network on June 24th which will focus on what options you have now and how to assess your next steps. Register for this free webinar via Webinar Info and Registration

Then move into assessing exactly what the impact is in your organization.

Who is newly eligible?
What are your options for each new eligible?
How many hours does each person currently work over 40 on average?
What are the reasons for overtime work?
What are the costs associated with the possible changes you are considering?  Timing?

If you have an annual pay review coming up this year, consider that date as well as the December 1 date – what does your culture imply you should do?  What other impacts on your culture will this change lead to?  What other impact will your culture have on your decisions?

Once you have a plan in place, you need to begin communicating with your employees. Although the rule changes do not take place until December 1, 2016, most employees will have […]

By |June 21st, 2016|Business planning, Compensation|Comments Off on What Now? The New Overtime Rules Announced

Lessons from Biltmore

Recently, on vacation, I visited the Biltmore Estate and saw a staff which was what any organization would want. Each person I came in contact with was positive, helpful, and focused on what they could do to make my visit enjoyable. It made the day a real pleasure.  I spent money I might not have and got experiences I really enjoyed.  I even tweeted about Biltmore and its great staff.

If you want this for your organization, you need to focus on setting the conditions for people to succeed in their work. No matter how small you are now, these aspects are critical:

Hiring the right people
Training each person in their current role and developing them for the future
Providing an environment that supports everyone there
Managing effectively and consistently

Too often these seem like climbing Mt. Everest – more effort and cost than you can sustain. But, in fact, investing in your people leads to higher financial returns and lower long-term costs. For years the management gurus have pointed to the difference in how Walmart and Costco pay and treat their employees. Costco spends more on pay, benefits, and training but has higher profits. Now Walmart has begun to raise pay and benefits to attract and retain better employees to enhance the company’s future growth and profitability.

Take a look at your organization and assess your current practices. What could you do to improve these and help grow your future success? Each small step forward can make a real difference.

Help is available in other articles on this website, the SBA has an extensive online training program, and your local SBDC can assist you. The real issue for most of us is to take the first […]

By |June 7th, 2016|culture, Policies and Practices, values|Comments Off on Lessons from Biltmore

How Will You Adapt: Changes in Paid Overtime

Over the past year, the US Department of Labor has been revising the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which governs which positions must be paid overtime. Your payroll firm and employment attorney have probably been pushing you to review your practices. The proposed rules got a lot of comments, over a quarter million, and now the new rules believed to be coming out this month with a short implementation period. Rumor has it that the salary level test will be $47,000 instead of the originally proposed $50,440.

Many small organizations had ignored the duties tests of the FLSA and called all employees exempt from the FLSA based on the old test of $23,660. In reality, exemption from FLSA is based on the duties of the position and the salary test.

What Should You Do Now?

1. Look at your existing position descriptions and requirements.

Are they accurate and current? If not, update them. Look at the duties test first and determine if the positions are in fact exempt from the law. A simple checklist: https://www.dol.gov/whd/overtime/fs17a_overview.pdf

2. Review the pay of individuals in each position you consider exempt from FLSA using the duties test.

Assess what you will do with each if their current salary is less than the final salary test. In some cases, it may make sense to raise pay. In others, it may make more sense to reclassify the position as non-exempt and control overtime.

3. Consider your culture.

If you have been paying all employees on a salary basis, you may wish to continue to do so. This can be done whether employees are exempt or non-exempt. If your organization pays at the end of a specific pay period through the same date, and you wish to include non-exempt […]

By |May 9th, 2016|Business planning, Compensation|Comments Off on How Will You Adapt: Changes in Paid Overtime

Successful Internships and Your Business

Many small businesses hire interns, both during the school year and over the summer. Internships offer students and career changers a great way to learn more about how business works and what a potential career is like. They offer your company an additional worker and perhaps insights into a different generation or technologies.

However, too many companies think they can just have an intern do some work and not have to pay them. Most internships are paid. Unpaid internships come with very stringent rules. You need to understand the differences to reduce your legal risks.

There are six criteria which must be met to qualify as an unpaid internship. The most important factor for most private sector employers is the similarity to training in an educational environment. Thus if you have an intern who is getting course credit for the work with you and the university/college has specific requirements of you, that often means you are likely to comply with the unpaid internship rules. You still will need a specific agreement with the school or professor and the student to cover the basics.

If you are not hiring an intern as part of a university program for course credit, here are all the federal Department of Labor criteria you must meet:

the internship must be similar to training in an educational environment
the internship experience is for the intern’s benefit
your company derives no immediate benefit from the intern’s activities and may even have your operations impeded
the intern works under close supervision and does not displace employees
the intern is not necessarily entitled to a job following the internship
the intern and your company both understand it is an unpaid internship

Clearly in a case like this, a written agreement on what the […]

By |April 5th, 2016|Smart practices|Comments Off on Successful Internships and Your Business

March 2016 News You Can Use

Many of my clients have some form of ‘respectful workplace’ policy or practice to guide employees on discrimination, harassment, and violence in the workplace. Whether you have such a policy or not, you may want to decide what you want to do about guns in the workplace if you are a Virginia employer.

While Virginia allows both open and concealed carry and makes many restrictions on carrying guns limited, employers can prohibit guns in their workplace. You cannot prevent them generally from being locked in cars in parking areas though. As you consider a new policy or statement in your employee handbook, consider adding other potential weapons to it.

A sample statement:

Organization name X strictly prohibits the possession, use, and/ or sale of all types of weapons on work premises or while engaged in company business off premises except where expressly authorized by X and permitted by state and local laws. This policy applies to all employees, including those who have a valid permit to carry a firearm. Weapons include but are not limited to all types of guns, explosives, and knives or other edged weapons.

Further you may want to consider whether you need a plan, employee guidance, and training related to ‘active shooter’ issues. There are very good resources listed and linked on this Homeland Security page:
https://www.dhs.gov/active-shooter-preparedness

Many local police departments will assist in assessing vulnerabilities and provide resources to support your planning and training.

NEW: Virginia Safety Poster Requirement

The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry has updated their job safety and health protection poster. This is now effective and you need this new poster. Additionally there are new accident reporting information. All fatalities, injuries, or illnesses that result in patient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an […]

By |March 13th, 2016|Business planning, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on March 2016 News You Can Use

SmallBiz Nightmares: Employees and Security

Recently Elizabeth Chisman Moon of Focus Data Solutions and I did a seminar on this topic for the Alexandria SBDC. Here are some basic ideas on managing your risks of security breaches.

Start by developing policies or practices that address the most important security needs of your business. These might include:

use of company equipment and software,
use of personal devices for work,
social media,
basic security procedures (physical and systems),
what you consider ‘company confidential’ or sensitive information.

Defining what you consider sensitive information is critical. This ensures you know what information deserves extra care in handling and storing so you can protect it. The policy also tells your employees what information you expect them to keep restricted and ensure others do not see. Common types of sensitive or ‘company confidential’ information include:

all data relating to services, applications, procedures, and/or products sold by the organization, excluding marketing literature designed for external use
research and/or development materials
information about clients or customers, excluding that within sales or marketing literature produced for external use
contractual arrangements between the organization and its clients or suppliers or vendors
purchasing, pricing, sales, or financial data
personnel data on any employee or ex-employee
information provided by other organizations under confidentiality agreements.

Development of basic policies can be done using samples from your professional/trade organizations or your network. However – it is vital to ensure that each policy is designed to support your desired culture. Having such policies checked by your lawyer, appropriate consultants, or vendors is important to ensure you minimize your risks. The policies then provide a basis for orientation of new employees as well as training of all employees and regular reminders on need for each employee to protect the organizations’ assets.

Remember that policies that are difficult or complicated lead to […]

By |February 22nd, 2016|Business planning, hiring, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on SmallBiz Nightmares: Employees and Security

Communication Tips – Listening Skills 2

An effective listener must direct and guide many discussions including performance management, dealing with customers, interviewing job applicants, among others. One aspect of better listening is learning how to gather information via smarter questions. This is the second on major aspects of listening skills. See also http://shrinsight.com/communication-tips-listening-skills/

Requests for Information

A major type of questions are requests for information. The six common types are:

the invitation to talk
open-ended questions
fact-seeking questions
comprehensive questions
probing for specifics
encouragers

An invitation to talk is a statement rather than a direct question but it invites the person to talk about a given subject. For example: ” I’d like to hear about the goals you have for this year”. Invitations to talk feature:

It focuses attention on a specific topic but gives a wide range of options to the person responding.
Its use keeps your views from influencing the response you will receive or tipping your hand about what you want to hear.

Interspersed with direct questions, it can keep a discussion or interview more comfortable and less like an interrogation.

Open-ended questions are good ways to start a flow of information because they call for an extended answer and cannot be answered “yes” or “no”. They give people room to respond and communicate that you are interested in the response.

For example: “Do you like your job?” can be answered yes or no and is closed-ended. Rephrased as “What do you like most and least about your job?”, it communicates that you really want to know details and their ideas.

Fact-seeking questions are designed to elicit very specific or factual information. They are questions with a narrow, more precise focus. Here are some examples:

What did you do to resolve the customer’s complaint?
How do you want our current policy changed?
What training have […]

By |February 8th, 2016|Communications|Comments Off on Communication Tips – Listening Skills 2

Communication Tips – Listening Skills

Listening, really hearing what someone else is saying, is a skill. Why are listening skills so important? Listening skills are critical to many aspects of managerial work including interviewing for open positions, coaching and counseling, gathering data, customer service, working effectively with others, performance management, and so forth.

Many, if not most, people tend to have an inner monologue going on when they are ‘listening’. This may be a disagreement with what is being said, preparing the answer, or worrying about something else entirely. Not effective, but common.

Exercise

Think for a moment about a person you worked for who was not a good listener. Try to clearly see in your mind’s eye what happened in a discussion. What made the person a poor listener? What did s/he do or say that communicated the message “I’m not really listening” or “I don’t really care about your ideas”.

Now think about how you felt. What effects did the poor listening skills of the person have on you?

 

What are the benefits you can derive from good listening skills? Here are some:

You show the person that you are interested in and concerned about their needs and interests, not just your own. This is especially useful in interviewing job candidates, counseling, and customer interviews.
You find out why an individual did what they did, how they made their choices or decisions, and attained or missed goals. This is useful in resolving problems, coaching, and job interviews.
You give the person an opportunity to be heard and feel understood so that they will reveal much more information.

These tips are designed to help you learn more about listening effectively. Good listening skills can be acquired with practice. They provide real benefits in your professional and personal life. […]

By |January 27th, 2016|Communications|Comments Off on Communication Tips – Listening Skills