Saturday, June 11, 2016

Unraveling the New FLSA Overtime Rule




" By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may get to be a boss and work twelve hours a day." --  Robert Frost


The effective date for applying the new overtime rules is December 1, 2016. (Be aware that this is a Thursday so you will need to make changes for the payroll period in which December 1 falls accordingly). Out of all the questions I get concerning rules, regulations, and government interference... I mean new laws, this is perhaps the most concerning for employers.

So, here is an attempt to clarify the new rule, which is over 500 pages, to make some sense of how it affects your business. The rule is being marketed as a save-all for employees who have been working long hours without getting paid overtime for them. Unfortunately, the rule won't help employees as much as it is advertised. There will be some who will benefit and some who will suffer. Some will see extra pay and some will see their hours cut in an effort to avoid the new ruling.

The main changes presented in the final rule relate to the minimum salary levels that apply to the white collar overtime exemptions, as well as the formulas for calculating and increasing these levels. However, no changes were made to the exemptions for outside salespeople, teachers, lawyers or doctors.

Here is what it boils down to:

1.) Minimum salary level: Since around 2004, the salary level for white collar overtime exemptions has been $455 per week, or $23,660 per year. The new rule sets the minimum salary at $913 per week, or $47,476 per year. This rate was established based on the 40th percentile of earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage census region in the United States, currently the South. This increase now places the federal minimum salary level higher than the corresponding salary levels in California (currently $41,600 per year) and New York (currently $35,100 per year).

2.) Highly compensated employees: The current minimum salary level to qualify as a highly compensated employee is $100,000 per year. The final rule increases it to $134,004 per year. According to the Department of Labor, this amount represents the 90th percentile of full-time salaried workers nationally. To satisfy the requirements of the highly compensated employee test, employees must be paid a minimum of $913 per week in guaranteed salary. But, for compensation paid in excess of the minimum $913 per week, the regulations remain unchanged that bonuses or other incentive payments can be used to establish the $134,004 per year required salary. In other words, additional compensation of up to $86,528 - in the form of bonuses, commissions, or incentive payments - can be used to satisfy the highly compensated employee test.

3.) Use of nondiscretionary bonuses and commissions: - The DOL’s final rule permits employers to use other forms of compensation to satisfy up to 10% of the new minimum salary requirements. The additional compensation must be paid at least quarterly and may include nondiscretionary bonuses, incentive payments and commissions.

The final rule requires employers to pay exempt employees at least 90% of the minimum salary level per workweek. This equates to $821.70 per workweek or $42,728.40 annualized. Additional compensation – up to $4,747.60 per year, or $1,186.90 per quarter – may be used to satisfy the remainder of the salary requirements.

There is a little more fluff to the new ruling, but this is basically what it covers. The bottom line is that some employees will benefit and some will suffer due to working fewer hours. Remember that in all cases, document your pay policies and make sure you are following these new rules come December, 2016.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

TOTAL IMMERSION



"Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education." --  Mark Twain 


I couldn't swim.  I mean, I could survive in water for a short time, but I couldn't swim with any kind of form, and definitely not competitively. 

I was a runner at the time, competing in everything from 5Ks to ultra-marathons. Triathlons were the rage and my new girlfriend had completed a full Ironman so I wanted to learn how to swim so I too could compete.  I joined the YMCA and spent countless hours in the pool.  My girlfriend showed me how to swim.  The lifeguards showed me how to swim.  Even other swimmers I didn't know tried to teach me the ropes, but none of the tips, tricks, or demonstrations helped.  

Then, I discovered the book, Total Immersion by Terry Laughlin and John Delves. From cover to cover the authors spoke to me explaining the fundamentals of swimming that I could grasp and apply.  I begin using the techniques from the book and within a short time I was swimming!  I didn't make the Olympic team or set any records, but I did feel comfortable and glided through the water like never before.

Why even share this story?  Because training does not always provide blanketed coverage.  Not all training sessions work for all attendees. Sometimes you have to provide customized training for various trainee needs. This book, from 1996, not only helped make me a swimmer (and end the embarrassment of having my girlfriend teach me), but unveiled three key points that should be applied to all employee training:


1.) Start from the ground- When training team members, it is important to remember that training requires beginning from the ground up.  Too often organizations will try to build upon skills, knowledge, talents, and abilities that aren't there.  A great deal of assumption is applied to the performance levels of employees.  

In Total Immersion, the authors state, "The body struggles to learn complicated motions-- like a fluid and powerful swim stroke.  But it easily masters the simple ones into which every complicated motion can be broken. Start from the ground up, gradually and easily assembling all the parts of an improved stroke using unique, bite-size skill drills."  We need to do the same for our employees.  Taking the necessary baby steps in order to reach the more advanced degrees of training ultimately produces greater performance levels.

2.) Eliminate drag-  One of the best illustrations in the Total Immersion book is a drawing of a barge beside a yacht.  The barge was me, swimming on my stomach and plowing through the water, exhausted when I got to the end of the pool.  The yacht is how I was supposed to look, swimming on my side, knifelike up front, easy for the water to go around.  I was creating drag instead of eliminating it.

I would imagine that some of your team members are doing the same thing right now.  They are a drag on the company, its resources, and its production level.  It is not intentional (I hope not!  If so, read this article), but if the employees don't understand the "why" it is difficult to appreciate the "how," or the lessons given them during training.  Give them the reasons why they are training first and how it affects the overall picture of the company.  Do this and you will eliminate, or at least reduce the drag.

3.) If it feels good, do it some more - In Chapter 7 of Total Immersion, the authors explain the difference between sensory skill practice and drill-and-swim.  "Drill-and-swim is training-wheel swimming in that if you start to fall, you can fall back on the drills for support.  Sensory skill practice takes the wheels off for as long as you can leave them off.  It challenges you to pedal straight and true, as far as you can go, before starting to wobble again."

The point here is that the drills, or baby steps, teach team members what the sensation should feel like.  Sensory skill practice brings it all together.  When an employee gets it, they and you will know it.  When I got the swimming down, I jumped out of the water with excitement.  The drills worked, and when it all came together, I just knew it.  I felt it.  When employees get it, it simply feels right.


Whether it is technical training, customer service training, sales training, or manual skills training, it pays to formulate a training plan that speaks to every employee.  A gloss-over training session does very little to improve performance. But total immersing employees in bite-size nuggets of training goes a long way toward developing a more professional and productive workforce.




Monday, December 14, 2015

Fire Your Consultant!




"All too many consultants, when asked, 'What is 2 and 2?' respond, 'What do you have in mind?" --  Norman Ralph Augustine 

There is a often repeated story of the consultant that was hired to fix a piece of machinery in a factory.  When he arrived, he took a hammer and tapped twice on the machine and it started running.  

A week later the CEO received an invoice for $1,500.  The CEO called to complain and demand a breakdown of the invoice and stated, "All you did was hit the machine with a hammer."  The consultant kindly responded that the cost for hitting the machine was only $1, the remainder of the invoice was for knowing where to hit.

Though an interesting story, and many consultants use it as a defense for justifying their charges, what the story lacks is commitment from the consultant.  You see, he uncovered the problem and provided a solution... for now.

If you've retained a consultant and he or she is not committed to your business, the best you can do for your business is to fire them and do so today.  Fixing a problem without commitment is what a plumber does.  Nothing wrong with this approach, at least for the plumber.  But when you hire a consultant, you want to at least know that they have your long-term interest at heart. 

Here are three key factors that the consultant you hire should have in order to help your business succeed. They should:

1.) Feel the Pain- A business consultant should understand and empathize with your situation. He or she should feel what you are feeling in order to seek and provide a solution.  When you explain your issues, they should feel the hurt and frustration that you do. When you are angry they should be just as ticked.  When you cry, they should taste salt.  They should step inside and become owner, leader, or manager in your organization and wear your shoes.

2.) Take ownership of the problem-  The consultant that you hire should own whatever the problem is.  It should be as if the problems were transferred to the consultant and completely off the plate of the business leader.  The consultant should convey sufficient confidence and competence to the business leader that the leader hands over the issue to him or her.  The consultant needs to take the issue home, sleep with it, eat with it, bath it, and own it.

3.) Follow-Up - This is typically an area where most consultants fail. They tackled the problem, washed their hands, and forgot about it. The client is left feeling alone again hoping that the issue was completely resolved and that someone will follow-up to make sure.  Tragically, the business leader uncovers another issue, but is unsure whether the consultant cares enough to fix another problem and so delays contacting him.

Your business is too precious to allow an outsider with no blood in the game to come in and tinker with.  If your consultant doesn't feel your pain, own the problem and then follow-up with you long after the invoice is paid---fire them.  Though rare, you can find those who will possess these three qualities and walk with you through the trenches providing solutions along the way.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Enjoyed A Piece of Apple Computer Treatment Today




While in very much a hurry today, I realized that my Dell laptop, of which I paid a handsome sum for a few years back, decided to act weirdly.  Of course this was not a good time for this kind of thing to happen because I am scheduled to conduct a harassment training session for a company here in Orlando in about five days.  I was stuck.  Stopped in my tracks by a non-working, frustrating- building, piece of junk and future doorstop.

Needing a laptop to present some critical figures and informative case studies as well as state and federal laws to my audience, I went onto an Apple site and found a chat feature.  I threw my issue at the feet of the customer service rep and waited to see if this person could magically provide a solution.  I was not disappointed.

My Apple representative was superb!  My first question to her was that if I go to the Apple store, (which is about 45 minutes away because of Central Florida traffic), and bought a MacBook Air, could I plug in my InFocus projector?  She immediately chatted me back a link to an adapter that I would need.  Then, a minute or so later, she sent another link to one that was about $6 cheaper.  I was impressed.

I told her that I would go to the Apple store on Thursday when I had some time and purchase both the computer and the adapter.  She suggested that if I order it online before 5:00pm that I could have the items on my doorstep on Thursday, two days away.  Great!  I placed the order while still chatting with her.   She walked me through the process and stayed online with me until I received my confirmation.  She then asked me for the order number that I received via email so she could confirm that everything was in order.

Just wanted to share with you that this is the way it is done.  No hesitation.  No pressure.  No frustration.  No guessing how to do things.  No wondering if I made the right decision.  This customer service rep held my hand through the entire transaction.

How about your business?  Does your team go the distance with your customers?  Please let me know.  I would love to share your story with others.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Do You Know Your MVV?




"A mission statement is not something you write overnight... But fundamentally, your mission statement becomes your constitution, the solid expression of your vision and values. It becomes the criterion by which you measure everything else in your life."---  Stephen Covey 

Thankfully the economy is picking up steam and most of you are back at, or exceeding, 2008 successes.  Congratulations!  But let's not be sitting on our laurels.  (Mary Kay Ash once said that a laurel sat upon isn't worth anything).  Now is the time to market like its 2008 and you really, really, really need the business.  It is also a time to make sure all of your team members are on board with the company's mission and vision.

If business has been so good that everyone is being pulled in all directions just to keep up, or even if you've hired the best you can and all is running smoothly, make time this month to review your Missionand Vision Statements to make sure you are on course and communicating your Values.  

Knowing these inside and out provides clarity for your brand and helps you to better communicate this brand to your team members and customers.  

Here are three quick ways to get this accomplished:

1.) What do you Value? This is the starting point for the Mission and Vision Statements.  Knowing what you value establishes the foundation for everything else in the business.  It gives direction and serves as a light in the darkness when things may go south.  When you know and understand what it is that you stand for, every decision you make becomes easier because the cloudiness isn't there.  The fuzziness doesn't exist because your compass is clearly showing you the way.

2.) See if the Mission is impossible-  If you pull out your Mission Statement and it is covered with dust, give it a quick review to see if it still applies.  If it doesn't, if your business no longer follows the plan, chunk it!  Schedule a time with your team to re-write one and this time plaster it all over the office, shop, restrooms, smartphones, and vehicles.  This will save you countless hours of aggravation and disappoint later.  Your Mission defines the direction of the company.

3.) How is your Vision? - The Vision Statement is different from your Mission Statement in that it defines the optimal desired future state, or the mental picture of what an organization wants to achieve over time.  It functions as the North Star providing guidance and inspiration as to what an organization is focused on achieving in five, ten, or more years.  Does your Vision Statement do that?  Is it relevant to where you see your business down the road?  If not, like the Mission Statement, schedule a Vision Statement building party and nail it down.

Do you know your MVV?  When you do, the direction of your company and the brand of your business is easier to communicate, easier to focus on, and easier to achieve.  What are you doing today with your business?

Friday, August 28, 2015

4 REASONS WHY OVERWORK IS OVERRATED




by Stephen Duncan

Hard work pays off. Everyone knows this to be true. There is, however, a difference between working hard and simply overworking. In the workplace, the ability to work long hours and being on-call 24/7 are generally traits that are applauded, but studies have shown that overwork is not always beneficial to the employees themselves or the company at large, and can in fact be harmful in the long run. Here’s why: 

1. Overworking can lead to a number of health problems

Impaired sleep and memory, diabetes, headaches, stomach tenseness, and depression have all been linked to overworking. The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health also discovered a link between overworking and alcoholism, noting that employees who work long hours are 12% more likely to partake in “risky alcohol use.” Related studies have shown that humans possess finite capacities for extended, uninterrupted concentration, and have concluded that short breaks are essential for long hour work sessions.

2. Overworking can make employees worse at their jobs

In addition to the health risks, overworking can also diminish one’s energy and senses, which can in turn lead to increased difficulty in essential job traits such as judgment and communication. These fatigue-induced problems could surface in a number of different forms: employees who are overworked could be more likely to lash out when they are upset, they could struggle more with making important decisions, they could have more trouble identifying and handling problems, or they could simply have a more negative outlook in the workplace altogether. It has also been statistically proven that a mere 1-3% of the population can get away with sleeping only five or six hours a night without suffering from any performance-related consequences.

3. Overworking can make employees lose sight of their goals

Along with possessing a dulled-down skill set, studies have shown that overworking can cause employees to become more distracted, and as a result, lose sight of what they are ultimately working toward in the first place. Interestingly, these studies have been linked to Facebook usage patterns. A study conducted by the social media management company Vitrue indicated that the highest Facebook usage occurs in the day during the middle of the afternoon (around 3:00 PM), in the peak hours of fatigue for most people.


4. Overworking doesn’t actually result in more output
New research done by John Pencavel of Stanford University has shown that employees who put in 70+ hours of work a week do not actually produce more output than those who work 50 hours a week. Additionally, Erin Reid of Boston University’s Questrom School of Business found that managers could not even differentiate employees who worked 80 hours a week from employees who simply said they did but actually worked less. 

The evidence is clear—overworking is overrated, and is not helpful in the workplace. Sure, working overtime once in a while can be beneficial, but when it becomes a habit, it produces disadvantageous effects. So how does one combat overwork when there’s so much work to be done? Every bit of research has suggested the same treatment:  small breaks throughout the day. A simple 15-minute break during work hours has been proven to reactivate one’s mind and energy, increasing one’s decision-making and communication skills, and putting their goals into perspective once again. 




Sunday, August 2, 2015

Keeping It Real




"Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect."  ---  Mark Twain 

Most business leaders are trend setters; they don't follow the crowd and blend with the masses.  They typically set their own course and blaze paths for others to use.

But, unfortunately, some begin to lean toward what the latest fad might be and see if doing things the way others do them might work. When it comes to leading team members, these flavors-of-the-month tactics usually backfire.

Here are three popular strategies that can damage your work force along with alternatives for success and ways to keep your leadership style real:


1.) Caving Into The Union Mentality-  This happens when you read too many articles and watch too many nightly news programs about how employees are jumping ship to other companies that are "sensitive" toward the employee.  First, those companies rarely succeed and most of the stories you hear are based on garbage information.  Second, if you treat your team members with respect, pay them fairly (and not what the government says you should pay them!), you won't have to worry about employees leaving.  Don't bend to the small voices petitioning for mandatory sick time and more money for less work.  Set your standards and stay the course.


2.) Hiring Illusionists To Help Build Teamwork - I am all for hiring a consultant to provide quality training for team members.  Some areas of work performance need tweaking from time to time and companies can benefit from using an outside agent with special talents to fill the need.  However, some of those agents provide hours and even days of feel-good exercises and talks.  These are akin to eating a big bowl of ice cream-- feels good, tastes great, but you will forget about in the morning.  I've never met an employee who gave better customer service after walking over hot coals.

3.) Parking Spaces -  Giving an employee-of-the-month award has its merits if you are managing a McDonald's, but isn't usually much of a reward or an incentive to others for most other businesses in the long run.  To keep it real, offer an education for the outstanding employee so they can grow and manage even more.  Most employee rewards are based on the thought that employees love trinkets and Starbucks coupons.  These are good, fun things to have, but they are just like that big bowl of ice cream, good for the short term, but soon forgotten.

Instead, offer long-lasting rewards that keep the employee interested.  If the employee is in sales, send them on a trip to see a well-known sales professional offering a seminar.  Another great reward and incentive is to provide a course outside of work that helps with the employee's hobby, or a gym membership, or a baby-sitting service to give the employee and spouse a few nights alone.  You can get real creative with these, but the point is to provide a memorable, long-lasting reward.

Make it a point to not follow the crowd, especially when it comes to leading your team.  Keep it real and your employees will reward you with dedication and loyalty.

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