Yes, 2015 was a tough year for employers.
HR professionals and payroll departments in companies with 50 or more FTE’s were scrambling to get in shape for the upcoming Affordable Care Act filing deadlines.
All companies who had employees working in Massachusetts were suddenly required to accrue paid sick time under the Massachusetts earned sick time rule this past summer.
Lawsuits were on the rise. The definition of “spouse” changed nationally.
You get the idea.
Heading into 2016
I wish I could tell you that the New Year will be easier, but you can expect even more legislation in 2016, especially surrounding new overtime definitions due in late summer, perhaps some new rules regarding scheduling/on-call practices (government collecting comments now), and new minimum wage hikes in 14 states to start off the year.
HR professionals that take a proactive approach to the new year will be better prepared for these and other rules and help get their organizations in better shape overall.
Five resolutions for HR professionals
- Improve employee retention and engagement — Workforce demographics are changing and Millennials are now the predominant group in the workplace. However, HR professionals must now deal with the most diverse, multi-generational workforce in history. Trying to keep everyone happy is proving to be a challenge. These generations have different needs and motivations. The key will be in understanding what drives each group and designing benefits and other programs to meet those needs. Flexibility will be key (See Leading a Multi-Generational Workforce)
- Address rising health care costs — Health care costs have risen dramatically for employees. High Deductible Plans, rising co-pays, and expensive drug costs take more and more from each paycheck. For starters, if you haven’t implemented an FSA (Flexible Spending Account) plan to help employees, do it now. Some companies are also looking into self-insurance to keep a lid on costs. Something has to be done to lessen the costs on your employees. Wellness programs are also gaining in popularity, but HR professionals should be cautious about voluntary vs required, and seeking medical information about spouses, both potential minefields for the company.
- Increase your training & development investment — A low unemployment rate will make it increasingly difficult to find the experienced talent you want. Therefore, you’ll need to train from within to get the skills and talent you need to grow the company. Besides training on legally oriented topics such as sexual harassment, and discrimination, HR professionals should look to build up other types of skills within the organization, including time management, and provide management oriented coaching and training, such as conflict resolution, collaboration and team building, performance and goal setting. This will have side benefits of improving retention rates and employee engagement too.
- Seek process improvements — HR professionals should review all internal processes to see where you can streamline process, reduce paper and improve the overall experience for not only new hires, but for all employees. HRIS technology can play a big part in this initiative, helping to support the on-demand culture with data immediacy and feedback through dashboards, mobile capabilities and ESS/MSS.
- Get to know your employees better — What do employees like or dislike about your organization? What would they like to see improved? What obstacles stand in their way of success? How can HR professionals help the company become an employer of choice? How can you attract more people like your “A” players? Is there upward mobility within the organization?
Answers can turn into adjustments
Getting answers to these questions will help you make adjustments to the work environment and provide a better workplace for your employees to thrive. One of the more useful methods for gathering this information is through confidential employee surveys. These can be used for general feedback, as well as getting the pulse on many of the other aforementioned resolutions.
In addition, we recommend regular one-on-one meetings to not only discuss performance and professional goals to ensure alignment, but to also help manage personal goals and your employees’ personal interests.