2016 HR Hot Topics

Topic #1: Enhanced Wellness Programs

2015 was an eventful year in the world of human resources primarily due to all the complications caused by the reporting requirements of the Affordable Care Act. 2016 is shaping up to be an action-packed year for HR professionals. To help keep you ahead of the game I have identified 10 developments that will play a major role in the HR landscape this year. Over the next few weeks I will be sharing these individually so stay tuned.

The first major development I want to discuss is an increased emphasis on employee wellness. Wellness programs have been around for years as a way to improve employee morale, while helping keep your group health care plan costs down by improving the health of your employees. 2016 will see these programs continue as more and more companies implement them and improve their existing wellness programs. In fact, according to one study 77% of employees believe their workplace wellness program positively impacts company culture.

The changes I see coming for 2016 and in the subsequent years is that employee wellness will move beyond health, but will focus on financial, mental and personal wellness. Depression, for example, is only one of numerous mental illnesses employees may suffer from, but the National Institute on Mental Health estimates that it costs $44 billion annually in lost productivity. These components are going to become vital parts of company’s wellness programs moving forward.

Remember to keep checking back over the next several weeks as I post the remaining 9 HR developments for 2016 and if you have any questions about these HR trends or anything else please feel free to contact me at dcatanese@div-ins.com.


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Topic #2: Develop Workplace Culture

The next development that will play an important role in 2016 is workplace culture. Every business has their own unique culture, but clearly defining what it is and getting employees to buy into it can be challenging.

Here at Diversified Insurance Solutions, our culture plays a big part of who we are and the way we do business. We feel it has heavily attributed to us being named the Milwaukee Business Journal’s “Best Places to Work” and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s “Top Workplaces” multiple times. A major component of our culture (and our value statement) is respect and this is evident in the way our associates interact with each other, our clients, the community and our business partners.

Workplace culture is going to play an even larger role this year and beyond. This is because businesses are starting to realize that by identifying and developing a company culture, you can get your employees more invested in the success of the company. A positive company culture can have a tremendous impact, so much so that a recent Gallup poll found that employees with a negative impression of their employers cost American businesses $300 billion every year. Creating a positive company culture is not always an easy task, so HR professionals should first work alongside other company leaders to determine what your business’ culture is. Is it casual or professional, innovative or traditional, customer service or product driven and so on? Once you identify what your culture is the next step is to convey this message to your employees so they start believing in it and engaging in it.

Workplace cultures are not new, but more and more HR professionals are starting to see that by formalizing your company’s culture and actively encouraging employees to engage, you can achieve greater results. The results are so great that according to a recent study, happy and engaged employees are 12% more productive than an average worker compared to unengaged and dissatisfied employees who are 10% less productive. Once employees believe in your culture and fully invest themselves in it, their overall productivity and work improves as a result.


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Topic #3: Re-evaluate Performance Reviews

As a continuation of my series on the top HR topics to focus in in 2016, I want to discuss re-evaluating the way your business conducts performance reviews. The employee performance review process has been an integral component of how managers measure the success of their colleagues for many years. The trouble is that this process has evolved very little over the years and many view its current status as archaic and ineffective. In fact, one study showed 98% of employees viewed annual performance evaluations as unnecessary. Furthermore, only 8% of businesses surveyed thought that their organization’s performance review process brought value, while 58% said it was not an effective utilization of time and resources.

While I am not advocating discontinuing employee performance reviews entirely, instead I am suggesting you take a look at your current practices and look for ways to improve and modernize it. By modernizing, I mean identify better technology to evaluate performance metrics. Did you know that due to the outdated nature of performance reviews almost 60% of business still use Excel spreadsheets as the only means to measure performance metrics?

In addition to looking into adding more technology into your performance review process, I also recommend making it more candid and collaborative as opposed to the old fashioned big conference room meetings of the past. Chose a neutral and more intimate setting to make the employee for comfortable. Elicit feedback on employee’s performance from peers and incorporate them into the review to show you really understand the work your employee has done.

Since every organization conducts their performance reviews differently, the changes required to improve yours are most likely unique. Consider that over 55% of companies reviewed their performance evaluation system a C grade or lower. Then, ask how long your organization has been doing your reviews in their current method and you will most likely agree there is some area for improvement.


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Topic #4: Utilizing Data in Recruiting

As we move through the top HR topics for 2016, I want to look into the recruiting process currently being used by most organizations and demonstrate how incorporating data into this process can greatly increase effectiveness. Data and recruiting can take several forms including special software, social media, candidate testing and more.  According to a 2014 LinkedIn Talent Solutions Survey, 75% of recruiters don’t use data as part of their recruiting process even though those that do are three times more likely of being more efficient while lowering their costs. This means that there is a huge incentive and ROI to use data for recruiting.

The typical recruitment model used today by most HR professionals and recruiters involves posting open positions, collecting and reviewing resumes, selecting appropriate candidates, conducting interviews and then making an offer to a desired candidate. This can be an extremely costly and time consuming. Utilizing this traditional method often takes weeks if not months to complete and in some instances still does not lead to the hiring of an acceptable candidate.

Incorporating data can significantly streamline the process. HR professionals and recruiters who use it are twice as likely to improve their hiring efforts. All of these methods are designed to weed out unacceptable candidates while simultaneously finding the ones your organization is looking for.

The cost to hire a new employee can be quite significant when you factor in all the training that follows the decision to add someone to your organization. What happens if the new hire leaves or is let go after a few months because they simply are not working out? Your organization is out of a lot of time and money. Employers that arm their hiring professionals with data during their hiring process are much more likely to find an employee that is both right for the role and more likely to stay with your company long-term.

Data and recruiting will soon become more and more common so maybe it is time to re-evaluate your business’ process and see if incorporating data is right for you.

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Topic #5: Maintaining & Leveraging the Skills of Your Employees

We’re halfway through my series on the Top 10 HR Hot Topics for 2016.  Next, I wanted to stress the importance of leveraging the skills and abilities of your employees. Technology is constantly changing and evolving, so it is critical to make sure the members of your organization stay trained and up to date.

One crucial area to make sure your company stays current with is Social Media. 10 years ago Social Media barely existed. Today, Facebook is the most visited website on the internet; an increase from the number four spot just 4 years ago. Additionally, LinkedIn users spend an average of 21 minutes per week on the site and 50% of consumers have enlisted the services of a business or made a purchase based on a Social Media recommendation. In short, Social Media is essential for businesses and if your organization is not taking advantage of it, it should.

How does the importance of Social Media tie into Human Resources: one word - training. Many companies have realized that they are not utilizing it to its fullest potential. However, some business leaders did not grow up with Social Media and therefore are not as savvy or active on it as their younger peers. As a result, they often seek assistance from consultants and outside contractors.

More often than not, you already have associates well-versed in these social platforms and can assist leaders and associates who are not as adept with these technologies. This creates a unique situation where younger associates will be required to train their senior associates, bosses and managers which differs from the traditional training model where more experienced employees train the newer ones. However, embracing and leveraging the skills of every associate will not only provide them with an opportunity for leadership, but will also help your company grow its Social Media presence. Social Media’s rise in prominence over the last decade is a clear indication of its continued importance in business, so consider looking to the young associates within your organization to see if their skills can ensure you stay on the cutting edge of Social Media.


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Topic #6: Utilizing HR Technology to Increase Employee Engagement

As we move into the second half of the Top HR Trends for 2016, I wanted to focus on how HR technology can be a great tool to improve the ways HR engages with employees and how employees engage with one another.  I’ve discussed in my previous blogs that employee engagement is a key component to your organization’s success (i.e. culture, wellness, etc.), but a recent Gallup study shows that over 70% of United States workers feel unengaged at work. This means that less than one third of your employees feel actively engaged, are truly committed to their jobs and interested in positively contributing to your organization.

As it is becoming increasingly difficult to fully engage with employees, we have found there are many HR technology tools available that can be used to increase employee engagement. Your company’s social media pages, for example, are a great way to share company news and allow employees to respond, comment and share experiences with each other. Online portals or HRIS systems are another effective medium where you can post and share company information in a single location where employees can access it. A company intranet page is also a great way to deliver a magnitude of messages to employees – from insurance/benefit updates to upcoming company events to company or individual awards or acknowledgement. All of those technology tools allow HR to give employees the information they need in a way that allows them to interact with it much easier when compared to emails or phone calls that are typically one on one or small group methods of communication. When you consider that the average United States employee receives almost fifty emails on average per day, it becomes more and more important to find other methods of communication to reach your audience.

Many businesses may already have some of these technology solutions in place, but have not considered utilizing them as a way for HR to further communicate with employees. If you do not have any effective HR technology tools that can be used to engage with employees, perhaps it is time to consider this investment and how you can maximize using them to their potential.

Please feel free to reach out to me if you want to learn more about all the different HR technology solutions available to you and which ones make the most sense for your organization. I would be happy to help you determine what solutions can help your business.


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Topic #7: HR and Retaining Millennials

Millennials, or individuals born between 1983 and 2000, make up one third of the American workforce with a staggering 53 million of them. This is why, as a Human Resource professional, understanding how to recruit, train, manage and retain quality millennial employees is critical to the future of any business. I want to use the 7th blog post in my 2016 HR Hot Topics series to give you some insights into how you can support Millennials and make them invaluable associates within your organization.

One of the most common complaints associated with Millennials is that they are disloyal. With studies showing two-thirds of them plan to leave their job by 2020 and one-fourth planning to leave within the year, it is not hard to see why. Is this trend because Millennials are really disloyal or is it because their employer does not understand what they are looking for in their careers? Consider the following tips to help ensure your Millennials are satisfied in their jobs and make them long lasting members of your organization.

Praise Them: Another common trait associated with Millennials is that they require more feedback than other generations. They want to know what you think of the work they are doing and value input from others. To help improve their job satisfaction, provide honest feedback with their work whether it is good or bad. Millennials also look for frequent communication, so don’t wait till their annual reviews (Check out Topic #3 for more on reviews) and be ready to provide prompt feedback on assignments.

Develop Them: Millennials want to learn, develop, grow and advance in their careers much faster than other generations. Creating comprehensive associate development plans with clear goals is a great way to satisfy this desire. Challenging them to generate new ideas and think outside the box is another great way to take advantage of their skills while also helping them to feel like they are growing and developing their careers.

Free Them: One of the common requests Millennials have is flexibility in their careers. They do not want to work the standard 9-5. Millennials prefer to work on their own schedules and feel they should be measured more by the work they complete, not the number of hours they work. To help satisfy and retain your millennial associates, assign work and deadlines and then embrace flexible schedules when possible.

Millennials transition through jobs at a much father rate than other generations. As HR professionals you can appreciate the time and cost of training and recruiting new associate so consider some or all of these suggestions to help keep your millennial associates engaged and retain them within your business for many years.


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Topic #8: Using Technology for Compliance

One of the most common HR headaches over the last few years has been Affordable Care Act (ACA). Companies have had years to prepare for the impact of the ACA, but ongoing legislation that changes dates, rules, and requirements has made it increasingly difficult for HR to stay up to date. According to a recent study, 60% of companies place ACA compliance responsibilities solely with the head of HR. This means that on top of all of their already mounting duties, they must now deal with all the legal and technical details to make sure their company’s group health plan meets the standard requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

Even with the upcoming election, regardless of the result, I anticipate ACA compliance will be an ongoing issue for HR for the foreseeable future.

One way to help alleviate the work created by ACA compliance is through technology. I have already discussed how HRIS systems and other solutions can help make an HR professional’s life easier and these systems for compliance are just another useful tool.

There are several options available that can assist with ACA Compliance. Some of the key features these solutions provide include:

  • Electronic generating and filing of 1094-C and 1095-C forms
  • Preparing, printing and distributing 1095-C forms to your employees
  • Employee hourly tracking software to calculate eligibility
  • Managing interactions between government agencies
  • Coverage Eligibility and affordability calculators
  • Data analytics
  • Custom ACA evaluation software
  • ACA forms, documents, tools and checklists
  • ACA news and update aggregators
  • And much more….

These are just some of the ways technology solutions help businesses with ACA compliance. Every organization’s needs are different and I know there are solutions that can take the burden of ACA compliance off the shoulders of HR. If you are interested in learning more about the different technology solutions available to help you with ACA compliance please feel free to contact me and I will be happy to go over all the options available.


2016-01-29_13-32-17    2016-01-29_14-49-03

Topic #9: Responding to an Aging Workforce

As I close out my blog series on the Top 10 HR issues for 2016, I wanted to discuss an important issue that more and more businesses are facing which is an aging workforce. Over the next 10-20 years, business owners will need to address the challenges of the aging American Workplace. According to the United States Census Bureau, 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 every single day until the year 2030 and more people are delaying retirement.  This means that the American Workforce is going to get drastically older over the next two decades and this will pose challenges.

As you may recall, I previously discussed how Millennials are making up a bigger part of the American workplace and how HR will need to adapt in order to work with them. HR will also need to adapt to handle their aging employees as they pose an entirely different set of challenges to businesses.

Two of the main challenges an aging workforce can create for HR are fostering intergenerational relationships and training.

Intergenerational Relationships: Relationships between employees is an integral component of any successful business. Making sure all your associates get along and work well together is an important aspect of HR, so understanding how to foster relationships between younger and older employees is critical. Millennials and Baby Boomers work very differently from one another, so understanding their differences will assist HR professionals to help these groups work well together.

Training: The workplace today is dramatically different from the environment that baby boomers once found when they began their careers. Technology is constantly evolving and businesses need to keep up to be successful. One advantage younger workers have over older ones is that they adapt very easily to new technology and are easy to train. Older workers on the other hand can struggle with training on new systems and technology, so it is important for HR to recognize that older associates may require more training in certain areas. It is also a great idea to tap into the strengths of your younger employees to help train older ones. This will in turn help improve intergenerational relationships.

Older employees are essential for the success of any organization and often times comprise the majority of management and executives, so their status within any company is critical. My suggestion is to recognize that the amount of older workers is set to increase dramatically, so it is important to prepare your organization. I also wanted to highlight some of the challenges these employees pose so you can understand what HR professionals are facing and set yourself up to get ahead of them.


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