Tag: HRI

Salary = Exempt From Overtime?

Many employers and business owners believe that because they pay someone on a salary basis they are exempt from receiving overtime.  This is not always the case.

A good example is someone working as a receptionist.  According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), for a full time administrative employee to be exempt from receiving overtime, they must make more than $455 per week (or $11.37 per hour) and their primary duty includes exercising of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance.  A receptionist making $440 per week ($11 per hour) would not be exempt from receiving overtime on two accounts:

  1. Their salary is below the $455 per week threshold, and,
  2. Their main duty is to answer the telephone and not using judgment with respect to matters of significance.

In this instance the receptionist should be paid overtime for all hours physically worked over 40 hours in a week (i.e. vacation, holiday, and personal time do not apply as being physically worked).

Refer to the FLSA on the Department of Labor’s website for specific details as they relate to each employee classification.  OR, for any small business HR issues contact www.hrinsights.com.

The Small Business HR Resource

To Hire or Not To Hire

With only 2 months left in the 4th Quarter, many business owners are now looking at tasks that need to be completed before year-end and also with an eye towards 2013 goals and objectives.  Both year-end holiday needs and 2013 goals and objectives may include adding staff.  Before you decide to hire full time, HRInsights has this rule of thumb:

Only hire full-time if sales are forecasted at a level necessary to maintain that person’s salary for at least a year.  If not, but you still need assistance, temporary employment may be the option for you.

Although there is a cost associated with hiring through temporary agencies, they are not as expensive as one might think.  The agency takes on the burden of finding the individual(s), paying the individual, paying taxes on their behalf, performing background/criminal checks and paying workers’ compensation costs.

Finding the right person can take a considerable amount of time; time you or your staff may not have.  HRInsights has found that the average number of resumes received for administrative positions is between 300 – 500.  Does your organization have the resources to sort through that many resumes, perform phone screens, in person interviews, make an offer, etc.?  Probably not.

When looking for a temporary agency, two questions to keep in mind are:

  • Is the agency slightly more expensive but provides additional value added services?
  • What is the agency’s own turnover rate internally in addition to that of their temporary workforce?

HRInsights has also found it critical to have one point person at the temporary agency with whom to communicate.  With one contact, you reduce confusion, improve the consistency of the candidates you screen, and, therefore, reduce the time needed to find the right worker for your particular needs.

If you have any small business HR issues, feel free to contact the HR professionals at www.hrinsights.com.

“The Small Business HR Resource”



How Has Sandy Affected Your Small Business?

The immediate impact that Hurricane Sandy has had on the Eastern seaboard is, and continues to be, massive. Considering the current toll, what will be the long-term impact? There are so many different ways that this storm will effect us all, but let’s look at the effect it will have on small businesses and how we can help ourselves minimize that damage.

Obviously, if you have a brick and mortar place of business as opposed to an online business, you are more susceptible to the immediate risks that any natural disaster will pose. If there is physical damage to your store and/or inventory, it’s going to cost you to repair and replenish. On the other hand, if you have an business and you can work from home, there is still the issue of being able to deliver goods to affected areas. Business still suffers if you can’t distribute your product.

Those are some pretty obvious ways that a major disaster could effect your business. What about the not-so-obvious examples? People/teams flying into an impacted area are no longer able to fly in. Webinars, seminars and trade shows have been cancelled. Offices are unable to communicate with other offices in different parts of the country/world.

We don’t need to be completely negative, though.  The restoration businesses, the insurance industry, online service businesses and even messengers are all busy right now. Besides the few who are really thriving right now, what are some ways that we can diminish this damage? Amy Rees Anderson, a contributor to Forbes, wrote an article all about what small businesses can do: How a Small Business Can Recover from Hurricane Sandy and Other Natural Disasters.

Obviously many of these links would be helpful for a business owner who has just endured Sandy. From the application for assistance to crisis counseling for employees and their families, there are many programs out there that provide assistance. But what about just trying to return your business culture to “normal” and get your human resources to feel comfortable again? How do you reestablish yourself in the community? Unfortunately neither I, nor HRInsights, has an exact answer. But it a question worth mulling around. It would seem that a return to normal would be a major milestone on this unwanted trek. So if “normal” is possible, how do you get there? Or how do you accelerate that process?

The Economics of Happiness: Achieving Prosperity Through Job Satisfaction

Truth be told, money does not buy happiness but it certainly does help.  Money in terms of employee compensation is finite.  So, how can business make their employees happy without increasing salaries and financial incentives?   Understanding the keys to finding long-term life personal satisfaction and applying them to your work environment is a good start.  What makes people feel satisfied?

  • A strong sense of support from belonging to a group, whether this group is family, a club, a sports team, or a church.

There is no reason why this “group” cannot be your company.  But, how can you apply this underlying dynamic in practical ways?  HRInsights would recommend that you think about these 5 simple and low cost/no cost approaches:

  1. Initiate a group activity:  There must be some shared interest that your workers have.  Start a reading group, art or music club, investment society, architecture club.  There must be something simple and low cost which could bring workers closer together.
  2. Invest in Planned “Time-Off”:  Research points to the obvious.  Experiences are more valuable than “things”.  Make a special trip to a customer who could demonstrate their product to the team.  Invite a guest speaker to talk about an important, local project.
  3. Create a Business Journal or Scrapbook:  Develop a “newsletter” for employees to share their experiences and what is important to them.
  4. Donate to a Small, Local Charity:  The emotional benefits of giving appear to be greatest when the giver feels a social connection with the recipient.
  5. Have a Tetherball Competition:   Or, take a daily walk with colleagues around the parking lot or block.  Anything that gets you up and about stimulates your mood-enhancing endorphins.

These ideas do not require a great deal of creativity nor investment.  As a business leader, to the extent that you can improve employee satisfaction by reinforcing their “membership” in your organization (group/club), that is a very positive outcome.

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This Week’s HRI “Lightbulb”  – When the Boss is a Screamer

Employees tend to:

  • Quit their jobs at higher rates
  • Become less competent in performing tasks
  • Experience a decrease in working memory
  • Avoid resolving conflicts, allowing them to escalate
  • Bring less creativity to their jobs
  • Speed up their work on simple, familiar tasks

When you do get angry though, be sure to point out how the problem hurts other employees and/or the company rather than yourself.

So What! Yahoo Hires Pregnant CEO!

Goodness gracious.  The media flurry around the hiring of Marissa Mayer by Yahoo, the fact that she’s a she, and that she is also pregnant surely belies the lingering issue that remains inside C-Suite America – where are the women?  Fair enough.  Now there is a big brouhaha from many sides because Mayer told Fortune that she would work through her short maternity leave, which will only last a few weeks.  Bottom line.  It’s her choice.

What does not go unnoticed is the large number of expectant parents who DO NOT have a choice.  This is the vast population of workers who are not covered by FMLA; those who work at small businesses with fewer than 50 employees.  Choosing unemployment is a laughable option, as few of these working parents have the necessary economic reserves.  And, herein lies the conundrum.

Not surprisingly, there are health benefits for employees and their families associated with paid leave programs.

In “Policy Matters:  Public Policy, Paid Leave for New Parents, and Economic Security for U.S. Workers,” Linda Houser and Thomas P. Vartanian found that paid family leave reduces the likelihood of premature birth, improves breastfeeding establishment and duration and increases the chances of obtaining well baby care, in addition to improving the health of both mothers and children and decreasing health care costs in the longer term.  “Access to paid leave has also been linked to families’ economic security and independence,” the authors observed.

Valerie Young, a contributor to Woman in Washington, writes that “access to paid leave following the birth or adoption of a child reduces the likelihood that a family will be forced to resort to public support or food stamps.”  High-ranking officials like Mayer have the edge on middle and lower-income families, Young adds, because their employers often offer paid parental leave.  That’s why establishing a national paid leave policy is so important.

Note:  Mayer is lucky; she lives in California, one of two states (New Jersey being the other) in the United States that has a paid family leave program where employees may take up to six weeks of paid leave through a program financed entirely through small payroll tax contributions.

Paid Vacation: Just the Facts Please

Paid vacation days are simply time spent away from the company while not conducting any work-related responsibilities that an organization voluntarily provides employees as a benefit. Generally, the number of paid vacation days is accrued (earned) by employees based on years of service to the company and to their position’s rank in the organization’s structure. Truth be told, there are no Federal laws in the United States that require an employer to offer paid vacation days as a benefit.  However, to successfully compete in the marketplace for the most competent workers, employers of choice offer employees paid vacation days.

Most organizations use a formula that assigns a certain number of hours accrued during each pay period based on time with the company.  Paid vacation days in the United States range from five to 30.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, in a benefits study highlighted by Salary.com, employees with these years of service on average received the following paid vacation days:

Years of Service

Paid Vacation Days





3 – 4




6 – 7


8 – 9




11 – 13


14 – 15


> 15


NOTE: In order to substantiate an employee’s real competency and also to assure their long-term commitment to the organization, it is common to maintain an initial 6-month probation period where vacation leave is prohibited.  After six months of competent service, then only half of one year’s vacation and / or the amount which has actually been accrued can be taken by the employee.



Why People Leave

Top talent leave an organization when they’re badly managed and the organization is confusing and uninspiring.

That’s the take of Erika Andersen, Contributor to Forbes, on why high performers leave their jobs.  Erika further adds that this is the same reason that all people leave jobs.  Blame is equally pointed at poor people management and a lack of company direction (shifting priorities, no set vision).

This applies to small as well as large organizations.  Simple? Yes, but not that easy to correct. If you want to keep your best people:

  1. Develop your performance management skills!  Make certain you have an appropriate performance appraisal process in place for all employees, and ensure that people know that they will be held accountable for results and rewarded accordingly.
  2. Be clear about what you’re trying to accomplish as an organization and not just in financial objectives. What’s your purpose; what do you aspire to bring to the world? What kind of a culture do you want to create in order to do that? What will the organization look, feel and sound like if you’re embodying that mission and culture? How will you measure success? And then, once you’ve clarified your hoped-for future, consistently focus on keeping that vision top of mind and working together to achieve it.

Why don’t more CEOs and Business Owners make sure these two things happen?  Tell HRInsights what you think.

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This Week’s HRI “Lightbulb”  – Having the Right People

Not too long ago, Bill Gates said in a Fortune Magazine interview, “Take our 20 best people away, and I will tell you that Microsoft would become an unimportant company.”  This underscores that successful businesses make HR a priority.  Why?  A small investment in effective HR is proven to enhance business success and employee goodwill by improving profitability and increasing staff commitment.  Make your business important; cultivate your people.

Do Businesses Really Value Families?

I find myself usually marching in the same direction as Rex W. Huppke, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, who tackles workplace issues of the day.  Mr. Huppke’s latest submission printed in Section 2 this past Monday, May 7th, 2012, titled, “No Question New Parents Should Get Paid Leave”, is not an exception.  With a bit of his typical cynicism, Huppke contrasts our commonly held value of family being a keystone of a stable and successful civilization with the fact that America is virtually alone in its aversion to paid work leave for new mothers.

It is striking that some organizations out there have funded research at Rutgers University to collect even more overwhelming evidence of the benefits of giving new parents paid time off.  Their recent research concluded that paid parental leave makes for healthier babies, more workers returning to the job after maternity leave, and stronger families.  I guess that the research sponsors felt a need to hit some people over the head with these moot observations.  What caught me off guard is the relative lack of company backing of paid family leave programs.

Mr. Huppke references Bureau of Labor statistics showing that only 11% of private-sector workers and only 17% of public-sector workers have access to paid family leave through their employer.  What does this say about American business leaders?  Simple, we are hypocrites.  Huppke points out, “we all seem to agree on the importance of families, yet America – unlike more than 170 other countries – doesn’t guarantee paid work leave for new mothers.”

It’s a better business decision to give new parents access to paid leave.  Fact.  Businesses increase the probability of retaining good employees, building loyalty and avoiding the costs of replacement and training.  It also helps those who are most affected by the lack of paid leave; low income parents who have no choice but to continue working in those brief, but vitally important initial weeks of a newborns development to support themselves.

If we business (HRInsights included) owners and leaders value “family” as much as we say we do, then maybe we should have a paid leave policy that reflects it.