IRS Increases Mileage Reimbursement Rate Starting July 1, 2022

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced that its optional standard mileage rate will increase to 62.5 cents per mile driven for business purposes. The increase takes effect July 1, 2022.

Use of this rate is optional, though it is widely used by employers as a standard rate for calculating mileage reimbursement for employees who use their personal vehicles for business purposes. If your organization uses the IRS rate to calculate mileage reimbursement, be sure to update your systems to account for this change.

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How Paid Family Leave and Related Programs Can Help Your Business

Employment benefits that improve quality of life, increase flexibility, and enable people to attend to their personal needs rank high among both employees and job-seekers. And yet, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), while 79 percent of employees have access to paid sick leave, only 23 percent have access to paid family leave. 

What’s the difference between these benefits? Sick leave typically entitles people to take time off work when they or a family member are sick or need to see a doctor for preventative care. State-mandated sick leave benefits often top out around 40 hours per year, but paid sick leave is a common benefit that many companies offer even when it’s not required by law. Employees appreciate being able to rest and recover without a ding to their paycheck. Employers win because employees don’t come to work while sick and risk infecting coworkers and customers.

Paid family leave programs, whether funded by the state or offered by an employer out of the goodness of their heart, generally cover more lengthy illnesses and life events. For example, California’s state-sponsored program provides up to eight weeks of wage replacement benefits in a 12-month period. Benefits can be collected when taking time off for the birth of a child or adoption or foster care placement of a child; to care for an employee’s family member with a serious health condition; and to participate in a qualifying event as a result of a family member’s military deployment to a foreign country.

Unsurprisingly, not many companies offer their own paid family leave benefit. It is expensive, which is why states that provide paid family leave benefits typically fund it through payroll deductions. For employees, unpaid leave is better than no leave, but unpaid leave isn’t always a realistic option. In many cases, people who need time off to care for a family member can’t afford to take it—or they don’t take as much of it as they’d like. They feel they have no choice but to work. Paid leave, on the other hand, gives people a real option to take time off. It makes it possible for them to balance their obligations at work and at home.

Paid family leave can have an upside for your business too. When people feel needed at home, but can’t afford to take time off, they are distracted, extra stressed, fatigued, and prone to burnout. Their mind isn’t on the job—it’s on the loved one that needs them. When a business offers paid time off, it makes an investment in its people, a small short-term loss for a big long-term gain. Paid leave gets people back to work when they’re actually ready and able to work effectively, and it generates feelings of loyalty toward the company that was there for them when they needed it. That’s why employers keen on attracting and retaining skilled people often choose to offer various paid leave benefits when they’re not legally required to do so.

If you determine a paid family leave benefit is something your company would like to offer, here are some of our recommended practices:

  1. Clearly communicate what your paid family leave policy covers—how much money and time is offered and for what reasons. A lot of different benefits can be put under the “family leave” umbrella. To avoid confusion or misunderstanding, be clear about what you offer. Paid leaves to consider include baby bonding, bereavement leave, taking care of an ill or injured family member, and military family leave. Clarify what each leave can be used for. For example, if you offer paid time off for bereavement, your policy might specify that it can be used following the death of an immediate family member or the loss of a pregnancy.
  2. Be sure that you aren’t creating a leave program that’s discriminatory. To avoid a gender discrimination complaint, provide baby bonding leave for both parents in equal amounts. Baby bonding leave should also be available for an employee who is adopting or fostering a child.
  3. Along similar lines, if you also provide paid short-term disability benefits, treat paid leave for baby bonding completely separate. In other words, a pregnant employee would get disability benefits when they’re disabled during and after pregnancy. Then, once they’re no longer disabled (or when their disability benefit runs out), their paid family leave for baby bonding starts. Collapsing pregnancy disability and baby bonding leave together could give rise to complaints of disability discrimination or gender discrimination.
  4. Encourage use of your paid leave programs. Sometimes employees are nervous about taking time off—or too much of it—even when it’s offered to them. They may feel that they’re inconveniencing their coworkers or irritating their boss—as though paid leave is allowed but may be frowned upon. This is a cultural problem, and it has a cultural solution. First, regularly talk to your employees about the importance of taking time off—for whatever reason. Second, when people do take time off, talk about it as a good thing. Third, if the situation calls for it, offer additional support. Let the employee know you’re there for them if needed.  
  5. Ensure that employees aren’t penalized for using paid family leave. Often there is a disconnect between what HR and company executives want to offer and what managers actually tolerate. For example, if you were to see a trend that employees who use the paid family leave benefit are less likely to be promoted, you’d want to look at why that is and take steps to correct it. If employees discover that use of their benefits puts their career development at a disadvantage, this may discourage them from reaping the benefits of paid time away and expose the company to discrimination claims.

You can learn more about paid family leave and related compliance obligations on the platform. Select “Leaves and Accommodations” under the Topics tab at the top of the page or use the search bar if you have a specific question in mind.

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Four Ways to Make Terminations Less Stressful

In the 2009 movie Up in the Air, George Clooney and Anna Kendrick play corporate downsizers—HR consultants that companies across the country hire to terminate employees for them. The practice wasn’t exactly common at the time, and fortunately never took off, but it was believable.

Terminations are nerve-wracking. You’re doing something that’s going to cause another person incredible stress and financial hardship. It’s not easy to do, even when it’s deserved.

Nothing you can do will make terminations entirely stress-free. But terminations are often far more challenging than they need to be. No, we don’t recommend flying in Anna Kendrick and George Clooney to conduct your terminations, as tempting as that may be. But good preparation and the right attitude will make a big difference. Here are four general practices we do recommend:

Know Your Compliance Obligations Ahead of Time

Look up applicable laws regarding termination procedures and paperwork, accrued paid leave, severance pay, COBRA, and final paychecks before conducting a termination meeting. If you’re laying off a number of employees, you may have specific notice obligations under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) or a similar state law. You don’t want to miss any steps or deadlines. If the employee works in a different state, refer to that state’s laws.

You should also understand how antidiscrimination laws work in practice and take steps to reduce the likelihood that the terminated employee will file a discrimination claim. While at-will employment allows either the employer or the employee to terminate the employment relationship at any time, with or without notice and with or without cause, it does not permit you to terminate employment based on the employee belonging to a protected class (e.g., race, sex, religion, national origin).

Along similar lines, screen the termination to make sure it’s not based on a protected activity. Myriad state and federal laws protect employees from being discharged for certain reasons. For example, Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act entitles employees to talk about their wages or complain about working conditions with each other. A handful of states prohibit employers from terminating employees for engaging in lawful activities outside of work. Reporting unsafe working conditions is protected. And don’t forget about the many leave laws that vary from state to state: from sick leave to military leave to school-involvement leave and more, you may be surprised by the types of absences that are protected.

There’s even some risk when the termination is for cause. A terminated employee could claim your reasoning is just for show, and they were actually terminated for an illegal reason. That risk grows exponentially when you don’t provide the employee with a sensible reason for the termination or when you’ve been inconsistent in applying your discipline policies.

Consequently, the safest way to terminate employees is to communicate performance issues to them, give them a chance to improve, and have documentation that justifies the legitimate business reasons behind the termination. This documentation would include policy violations, instances of poor performance, and any disciplinary or corrective action taken. The documentation should indicate that the company communicated the issues to the employee. The more you can do to show you had a legitimate business reason and gave them an opportunity to improve, the harder it will be for an employee to fill in the blank with their own illegal reason for termination. The termination will be less risky, and you’ll feel better about the decision because you treated the employee fairly.

Approach Terminations with a Positive Mindset

Painful as they are, terminations can be a good thing. Yes, even for the terminated employee. Let’s say you have an employee who’s continually struggled to meet your performance expectations. Guidance and training haven’t proven fruitful. No amount of coaching has or would enable them to do the job better. There’s no other job in your organization they could do. So now you have a choice. You can keep them on, tolerating subpar performance and accepting its consequences for your organization, or you can let them go. In this case, letting them go is probably the better option for both parties.

You’re not doing this struggling employee any favors by keeping them in a position where they can’t be successful. You’re also setting them up for failure in future roles. Months or years of experience listed on their resume may help them land a future job, but if it’s a job they actually can’t do, their future employer will have the same choice you’re facing. And the employee will be no better off.

This employee has their own hard choices to face. They may need to develop skills beyond what you can provide, rethink what kind of work they’re suited to do, or make better choices about their future. Whatever the case, if you allow them to coast along, they’ll never thrive. Termination is in the employee’s best interest in these types of situations. We wouldn’t recommend telling the employee this, but it’s something to keep in mind when making this difficult decision.

In the case of layoffs, where the employee is not at fault, figure out a few ways you can help them land on their feet. Provide a severance if that’s an option. Remind them that they can apply for unemployment. Help them update their resume. Inform them of any opportunities you know about and facilitate networking connections if you can. In short, make the layoff meeting a productive discussion about their future. That’s going to be a hard discussion, no doubt, and it’s possible the employee won’t want to hear it. You can honor that too.

Be prepared for strong emotions like sadness and anger to surface during the termination meeting so that you can respond with confidence. While there’s a fine line between allowing space for initial processing and unnecessarily prolonging the meeting, you can acknowledge and validate the employee’s feelings without changing the end result. Although escalations into violence are rare, review your company’s procedures ahead of time for dealing with such situations.

Don’t Let Terminations Be a Surprise

Have you ever gotten an email from a boss saying something cryptic like “We need to talk”? You may immediately begin to worry. Are you in trouble? Are you getting fired? Until you have that talk, you can’t breathe a sigh of relief.

Why would your mind go there? It might be because you’re not clear on what could get you into trouble at work and you don’t feel safe. Vague out-of-the-blue messages are seldom a good idea. They’re a terrible practice when people believe that they could realistically lose their job for reasons unknown to them. That belief puts people on edge, inclining them to assume the worst when their manager reaches out without any context. Surprise terminations encourage everyone to adopt that belief and incentivize a culture of fear.

Terminations should never be a complete surprise. Yes, at-will employment allows you to terminate employment for any reason or no reason at all (as long as it’s not an illegal reason), but please don’t fire someone for any reason or no reason at all.

Clear rules and consistent practices are your friends here. Inform employees what’s expected of them and what could result in their dismissal—the employee handbook is a good place to do this. Enforce your rules consistently, not willy-nilly. If you let employees get away with policy violations, but then suddenly switch to strict enforcement, you’ll only create confusion and fear. You don’t need to follow the same process for every kind of offense—some behaviors may warrant immediate termination, for example. But don’t bend the rules for some employees and not others.

A coaching culture can also be your friend, especially with employees who are struggling to perform to expectations. If managers regularly work with employees on improving their performance and enhancing their skills, they’re in a good position to spot signs early on that a struggling employee may be more successful and happier doing something else. In some cases, good coaching means guiding an employee out of the organization. A loss is a loss, but guiding employees toward more suitable work elsewhere is usually much smoother and less disruptive than an involuntary termination. Plus, they leave with goodwill towards you. In situations where termination is the right call, if managers have had conversations with employees ahead of time about the consequences for failing to improve, they’ll have softened the blow when it eventually comes.

Lastly, don’t hide bad financials from employees. If business is slow and a layoff is possible, employees need to know so they can make informed financial decisions and contingency plans. They’ll be extra angry if they feel they’ve been lied to or misled. In an age where companies go viral on the internet for poorly conducting layoffs, it’s in your interest to be transparent and honest.

Stay Organized

Develop a checklist ahead of time of things that need to be covered. This list might include specific equipment and keys that need to be returned, passwords and access cards that will need to be disabled, coverage of the employee’s workload until a replacement is hired, notification to coworkers, vendors, and customers, COBRA information, a current address for W-2s, and what you’re going to say during the termination meeting.

Checking off boxes may feel impersonal, but the day of a termination is at the very least challenging for all involved, and at the worst chaotic, especially if you’re disorganized. Keeping the process smooth and orderly is both kind and professional.

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DHS Ends Temporary Policy for Form I-9 Identity Documents

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has ended its temporary Form I-9 policy that allows employers to accept List B documents that expired on or after March 1, 2020.

DHS adopted the temporary policy in response to the difficulty of renewing documents during COVID. Since then, document-issuing authorities have reopened or provided alternatives to in-person renewals. Employers must now return to only accepting unexpired List B documents.

Action Item

If an employee presented an expired List B document between May 1, 2020, and April 30, 2022, you need to update their Form I-9 by July 31, 2022, as follows:

  • If the employee is still employed, they must present an unexpired document from either List A or List B. If presenting a List B document, it could be a renewed version of the document previously provided, or a different List B document. You should enter the document title, issuing authority, document number, and expiration date in the “Additional Information” field of Section 2, and initial and date the change. USCIS provides an example of how to do this here
  • If the employee is no longer employed, no action is needed.

If the List B document was auto-extended by the issuing authority so that it was technically unexpired when it was presented, no action is needed.

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The Qualities of Great Managers and How to Develop Them

Think about your favorite manager. Now think about what made them your favorite. Was it the success you earned while working with them? Your employer may have evaluated them based on metrics like team productivity or turnover rates. Great managers are usually good at leading productive, low-turnover teams, but those aren’t the things their employees remember.

So what about them left such an indelible mark on you? Perhaps this manager was easily approachable and worthy of your trust. Perhaps they effectively led your team through a major change and had your back the whole way. Perhaps they were always laser-focused on developing their team—on developing you.

In our view, the success of a manager is defined by the success of the people they lead. We rate a manager’s performance based largely on how their team is doing.

Bad Management Practices Are Rampant, But That Can Change

Unfortunately, the terrible manager remains a popular character in our collective consciousness—and for good reason. There’s no shortage of managers unwisely promoted into the role or given insufficient training to manage people well.

You’ve got the micromanager, the bully, the leader who plays favorites, and the boss who emails subordinates in the middle of the night only to not be available for clarification or responses during the workday. You’ve likely met or heard about the manager who frequently blows off meetings, neglects to give needed details on a project, or takes credit for the work of others. Horror stories abound in review sites, online communities, and conversations across the land.

With bad management practices so rampant, it’s easy for people to forget that there are lots of managers who do their job well. Many do it exceptionally well. That’s why we want to look at the characteristics of the best managers and what businesses can do to hire, promote, and develop these leaders.

Qualities of the Best Managers

The best managers work hard to improve the work lives of their team members. A big part of that is setting and communicating clear expectations. Good managers focus on performance, so their people get better at what they do. This includes empowering employees to identify development areas that matter the most to them. Another big part is facilitating cooperation so that their reports work better together and better with other teams. The best managers also recognize and advocate for their people. They listen carefully to know what their people need to be successful, and they aim to deliver it.

These managers are empathetic, understanding, and supportive. They listen to their people and have a keen understanding of what motivates and inspires them. They’re available to troubleshoot problems, brainstorm ideas, and provide guidance on projects. They communicate effectively and correct mistakes in ways that build people up rather than tear them down. They teach what they know and always seek to learn. They have an eye for equity.

Developing the Best Managers

If your managers—or the people you intend to promote into management—don’t have all of these qualities, don’t worry. These traits and behaviors can be taught and nurtured. Managers also need to be managed. Here are some ways you can build more effective managers and nurture the traits that make managers great.

  1. Train New Managers After You’ve Promoted Them
    When you promote a stellar employee into a managerial role, you also must give them the tools to successfully manage people. They may feel ready to lead a team, but it’s up to the employer to be certain they know the responsibilities involved, and how your organization wants them to execute those responsibilities. Also, consider managers that are building a new team. Do they have the resources to successfully interview candidates? Perform tasks in your applicant tracking software? Communicate with HR or recruiting about the process? Your newer or less experienced leaders may have ideas about the way they want to manage based on their experience as employees—but that’s not enough.

    To build truly successful managers, leadership may need to go back to the basics and provide not only base-level training, but clear avenues for answers, guidance, and support. Should new managers go to their own managers first or to HR with questions or problems? These are things that should be spelled out and communicated, even if you think they might be obvious or rudimentary.

    It also doesn’t hurt to prepare new managers for the role before you hire or promote them into it. Talk with them about what the job will be like, especially if they haven’t managed before. Go over what’s needed and what’s nice to have. Be open about the struggles and the stress the new manager can expect to experience. Make sure they have the desire to manage.
  1. Practice Presence
    Most managers don’t want to or have the time to micromanage. They hope their reports have the skills and knowledge to do the job they were hired to do, so they take a hands-off approach and let their reports get to it. Or they’re too busy with their own projects to do anything more than basic managerial duties. But that’s a sure way to see projects or tasks go off-track, especially if managers don’t make themselves available for troubleshooting, or provide clarity on instructions.

    Remind your managers to treat silence from their reports as an opportunity to check-in, offer an ear, problem solve, or simply cheerlead. Check-ins don’t have to be formal, overwhelming, or take more time than necessary. Software programs that allow employees to note what they’re working on or bring up obstacles and share these with their manager can be a great tool and don’t have to take anyone more than a few minutes at a time. Less formal but still as productive, a scheduled check-in call (at an agreed-upon frequency) gives managers insight into projects and helps employees feel heard and celebrated.
  1. Guide the Guiders
    Good managers don’t necessarily have all the answers—but they know where to get them. Company leadership should aim to provide managers at all levels with the resources and training they need to do their best for their reports. Do your people leaders have access to mentors either inside the company or with partners or resource groups and do you encourage these relationships? Mentorship programs, “day-in-the-life-of” presentations, or even informal programs that connect managers from different departments can provide managers with inspiration and support.

    Newer managers might not know immediately how to handle a situation where an employee has a health crisis or family issue that suddenly takes them away from work. Do your managers know where to turn? Is there an online repository for information and guidance for situations managers may be presented with (and do all managers know about it)? Or would you rather they immediately bring the issue to HR?

    Programs can be robust, such as mandatory manager training scheduled throughout the year, or as simple as setting up an internal messaging process (e.g., Slack, Skype, text messaging) or smaller interdepartmental groups of managers that can provide informal support to one another. Whether your company has the budget for a formal training program or not, connections can and should be made to support managers.
    If you’re not sure where your managers could use guidance or development, ask them. They’re more likely to be engaged in their development if they have a say in what they’re learning.
  1. Promote Teamwork Among Managers
    Are your managers operating as a team? Each of your managers has a distinct personality and approach to management that affects their leadership style. One may be highly self-driven while another needs deadlines to motivate action. One may focus on building their team’s strengths, another on correcting their team’s weaknesses. One may communicate a lot, another only a little.

    These differences can work, but they can also cause confusion and inequality, whether real or imagined. For instance, employees who report to or work with more than one manager may not know what is expected of them. Or they may find themselves overworked if managers don’t coordinate workloads. Cross-team efforts may be delayed or even ruined due to misunderstandings or failures to communicate. The company may be guided by several conflicting personalities instead of a single, unified company culture. In extreme cases, inconsistent management practices may lead to discrimination claims.

    To bring managers together, you need something to unite them around. This is your company culture—the personality of the organization, its mission and values, working environment, policies, and practices. Ensure your managers are following consistent management practices, making decisions aligned with the values of the company, and regularly communicating with one another about their needs, obstacles, and workforce changes.

Neither good managers nor bad managers exist in a vacuum. They either have the support or the inattention of company leadership—the latter to dangerous consequences. A culture of poor management can lead to employee dissatisfaction, burnout, and increased turnover, all of which can be costly. An investment in selecting with intention and training your managers is not just an investment in them, but an investment in the company.

Article content provided by My HR Support Center

7 Ways to Reengage Your Workforce and Inspire Loyalty

You’ve probably been hearing about the Great Resignation (or however you want to describe it) for months now. Even if you’re not dealing directly with increased turnover, your employees know they have options. Their friends, family, and people they know peripherally or on social media have made the leap and are gleefully announcing it on LinkedIn.

Some job-hoppers may be emboldened by the movement to quit good jobs in the hope of something better—better pay, more flexibility, or more opportunities for advancement. Some have simply been pushed to the brink by dead-end jobs, lousy company culture, or ineffective managers. Others have given up trying to “have it all” and left the workforce completely.

But what if employers could capitalize on this current “I quit” mood? What if you could keep your employees engaged, inspire loyalty, and make it easier to attract and hire those that are looking for that next best thing?

We’ve got some ideas for both prioritizing current employees and making it easier to attract new ones.

  1. Understand and be responsive to employee needs, motivations, and priorities. A paycheck may be the reason everyone has a job in the first place, but it’s not the only reason people choose to work or decide to work for one employer over another. Your employees stick with you because there’s something in it for them besides the money. The job is useful to them. Knowing why it’s useful enables you to keep employees satisfied and, better yet, make their jobs even more appealing.
  2. Prioritize employee development. A work environment in which people gain knowledge, learn new skills, and advance in their careers speaks more clearly and loudly than any marketing message can. People like working where they can grow and develop. According to a LinkedIn report, companies “that excel at internal mobility are able to retain employees nearly twice as long as companies that struggle with it.” And a better trained workforce is also a more productive and profitable workforce! 
  3. Invite employees to be co-creators of the organization. Empower them to make decisions about how things are done and where the organization is going. People feel more a part of something when they see themselves in it. They’re more engaged when their decisions bring about real change.
  4. Reward success. In fact, reward anything you want to see more of. Whether large or small, the rewards have to be meaningful. Ideally, figure out what type of reward speaks to each employee. For some, acknowledgment in a company meeting will make their heart sing. For others, receiving a token of your appreciation, such as a coffee gift card, will be more meaningful.
  5. Allow for a healthy work-life balance. Flexibility is a big selling point for employees looking for better balance between work and life. Your employees have other commitments they need to attend to. Some are caring for young children or other family members while navigating daycare and school closures or multiple appointments. Give employees the time to see to those commitments and have a life outside of work, and you’ll get more from them when they’re on the job. Options may include remote or hybrid work, paid time off, flex hours, four-day workweeks, alternative schedules, and reducing workload. Remember, however, that policies are only as good as the practices around them. Ensure that employees don’t need to jump through hoops to request time off. Remind managers to be responsive to requests for time off and on the look out for signs that employees are feeling overwhelmed. 
  6. Conduct “stay interviews.” Don’t wait until people are leaving to investigate what could have inclined them to stay. Talk to employees now about what’s going well, what pain points they’re experiencing, and what could be done to take the relationship to the next level. Stay interviews enable you to address problems and unfulfilled wishes before they drive people out the door.
  7. Let people go who want to go. You have only so much time in the day. Don’t spend it trying to entice people to stay if they really want to leave the organization. That time is better spent ensuring smooth transitions and engaging employees who don’t have one foot out the door.

Article content provided by My HR Support Center

Avoiding Burnout When You Work in HR

If you work in HR, you know that employee burnout remains pervasive. You also know that the task of supporting overly stressed employees often falls on your shoulders. But you’re exhausted too. Burnout isn’t just a problem you have to help others solve; you also have to solve it for yourself. Here are seven ways to do that.

Set Boundaries

First and foremost, set boundaries. You cannot possibly be all things to all your people, available at all times no matter the cost. That’s not your job. More to the point, your job is not the supreme ruler of your time. Having a job means that you’ve committed to using some of your time to complete a certain amount of work, but you should still think of that time as yours. After all, it’s your life, your energy, your health. Don’t feel bad about giving time to your needs just because you’re working. The mindset that you can never prioritize your needs while on “company time” is an unhealthy one.

Place boundaries around both the time during which you work and what you spend your time doing while working. If you say that you’re done with work at 6 p.m., don’t do any work after 6 p.m. Emails and Slack messages can wait until the next workday. If people at work need to be able to reach you in an emergency, establish a specific way for that to happen (e.g., a call or text to your cell) and make sure the people who may contact you know what qualifies as an emergency and what doesn’t.

You can set boundaries during the workday by delegating tasks that don’t need to be done by you. HR is a big job for one person or even one department. Not every personnel issue even should be handled by you. Managers and department heads should be able to handle a lot of those issues themselves and only come to you for help if it’s actually needed. If they are bringing you so many small problems that you don’t have time to resolve the big ones, you may need to set different expectations or train managers to resolve certain issues themselves. If you’re having to manage employees for them, they’re not doing their jobs (and may need to be developed or replaced).

Know What You Can and Cannot Control

In HR, we often feel responsible for everything related to employees. If there’s an issue, it’s on us to address it. A problem? We own the solution. Something not improving? We’re at fault. This belief that we are responsible for all the things causes stress to mount and leads to burnout. It also isn’t true.

We can’t be responsible for what we can’t control, and so much that happens in the workplace is simply out of our control. It’s vital—both for our work and our mental health—for us to know what is and isn’t in our power to change. If employees are quitting as a result of ineffective workplace policies, and you have purview over those policies, you can probably do something about this attrition. But if they’re quitting because there are better opportunities for them that your organization can’t match, there may be nothing you can do. Spending time trying to solve unsolvable problems isn’t going to have a good return. Or, as the old saying goes, if there is no solution, there is no problem.

Implement Clear and Simple Policies and Practices

The more ambiguous or complex your workplace policies and practices are, the more questions people will have about what they mean or require. If you find that your people often come to you asking what they’re supposed to do in a given situation, look at what you can do to answer their questions proactively. Do you have an employee handbook? Standardized practices for managers? Granted, some employees aren’t going to read any policy documents you give them, but in general, you can save yourself (and others) a lot of time by defining policies and practices so that they are clear, accessible, and easy to follow. Accordingly, you should ensure that leaders are aware of where the handbooks, policies, and guidelines reside so that employees may self-serve whenever possible.

Train Your Colleagues

Being the only one who can do a certain essential task may be good for your job security, but it isn’t good for your health. If no one else can do what you do, you can’t truly get away or be guaranteed to focus on one task to the exclusion of all others. People can only cover for you if they have the knowledge and skills to complete the tasks you need covered.

Realistically, you can’t plan for every contingency, but teaching colleagues the skills and knowledge they’d most likely need when covering for you increases the likelihood that they’ll be able to handle whatever arises while you’re away or focused on an urgent project.

Take Time Off

Speaking of getting away, take time off. You need a break from work as much as anyone—maybe more so—and you don’t need to justify it. You don’t have to feel sick or especially overwhelmed or have something special planned. Breaks from work are good for you, period. If you feel the need to justify a break from work, take time off to set a good example to everyone else that they should be taking time off too.

When employees see leaders in their organization taking ample time away from work, they feel more confident taking time off themselves. That helps save those employees from burnout, which in turn saves their leaders’ time.

Connect with Other HR Professionals

Working in HR can be a lonely profession, especially if you’re a department of one. When you’re in HR, friendships at work range from tricky to ill-advised. You may not have anyone at work you can really open up to or who appreciates the challenges of your job. Fortunately, there’s an active community of HR professionals online who are more than happy to share ideas, answer questions, or just listen. You can find them on LinkedIn, Twitter, and elsewhere by searching #hrcommunity or #hr. They’re a friendly and chatty bunch, eager to converse about the latest trends, specific pain points, and the generally daunting challenges of working in HR.

Consider following a few HR practitioners, participating in a conversation, or just watching from the sidelines until you feel more comfortable. It’s not quite the same as having a close friend at work, but what it lacks in close proximity, it makes up for in shared experience.

Treat Yourself

“I’m going to let you in on a little secret,” Special Agent Dale Cooper says to Sherriff Harry S. Truman in the television series Twin Peaks. “Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it. Don’t wait for it. Just let it happen.”

The present doesn’t have to be extravagant. Cooper’s examples include a catnap in one’s office chair and taking a few minutes to enjoy a nice hot cup of coffee. Yours might be a 20-minute walk to get some fresh air and Vitamin D. The point is to be not just reasonable, but generous with yourself every day. The work we do in HR is stressful, emotionally taxing, and tiring. We spend our days supporting others in difficult situations. Our job is to give time, comfort, and care to others. It’s important to give those things to ourselves too.

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Federal Contractor Minimum Wage and Final Tip Rules

Minimum Wage

Beginning January 30, 2022, the minimum wage for work performed on or in connection with covered federal contracts will increase to $15.00 per hour. The minimum base wage for covered tipped employees will be $10.50 per hour.

Here’s a helpful FAQ

80/20 Tip Credit Rule Restored

The Department of Labor’s (DOL) tip rule has been in limbo for the last year, but as of December 28, 2021, a new rule is in effect. This rule only applies in states where tip credits are allowed. In the rule, the DOL makes it clear that an employer may only take a tip credit when its tipped employees perform work that is part of the employee’s tipped occupation. Work that is part of the tipped occupation includes work that produces tips as well as work that directly supports tip-producing work, provided that the directly supporting work is not performed for a substantial amount of time.

The DOL gives some useful examples of work that would be considered part of the employee’s tipped occupation and work that would not be considered part of their tipped occupation.

  • A server providing table service, such as taking orders, making recommendations, and serving food and drink — YES. That server preparing food, including salads, and cleaning the kitchen or bathrooms — NO.
  • A bartender making and serving drinks, talking to customers at the bar and, if the bar includes food service, serving food to customers — YES. That bartender cleaning the dining room or bathroom — NO.
  • A nail technician performing manicures and pedicures and assisting the patron to select the type of service — YES. That nail tech ordering supplies for the salon — NO.
  • A busser assisting servers with their tip-producing work for customers, such as table service, including filling water glasses, clearing dishes from tables, fetching and delivering items to and from tables, and bussing tables, including changing linens and setting tables — YES. That busser cleaning the kitchen or bathrooms — NO.
  • A parking attendant parking and retrieving cars and moving cars to retrieve a car at the request of customer — YES. That parking attendant servicing vehicles — NO.
  • A hotel housekeeper cleaning hotel rooms — YES. That housekeeper cleaning non-residential parts of a hotel, such as the exercise room, restaurant, and meeting rooms — NO.
  • A hotel bellhop assisting customers with their luggage — YES. That bellhop retrieving room service trays from guest rooms — NO.

In addition to work that produces tips (like the YES examples above), employees often perform work that is directly supporting their tip-producing work. For example, a server’s directly supporting work includes dining room prep, such as refilling salt and pepper shakers and ketchup bottles, rolling silverware, folding napkins, sweeping or vacuuming under tables in the dining area, and setting and bussing tables. Employers can take a tip credit when employee are doing directly supporting work up to a limit — once an employee spends a substantial amount of time on directly supporting work, the DOL considers them to be no longer engaged in their tipped occupation.

A substantial amount of time is defined as more than either 20% of the employee’s hours worked in a workweek while the employer is taking a tip credit or 30 continuous minutes. Once an employee has done directly supporting work for a substantial amount of time, the employer must stop taking a tip credit until the employee resumes clearly tip-producing activities.

Work that does not directly support their tip-producing work (such as the “NO” examples above) must always be paid without a tip credit.

You can read the rule and a lengthy explanation of how the DOL arrived where it did. To find examples of how to calculate the amount of time that can be spent on directly supporting work while still applying a tip credit, search the linked document (the rule) for “5 hours.” 

Why You Should Care About Your Employer Brand

Lots of HR leaders today are talking about the importance of using marketing techniques to build an effective employer brand. What is an employer brand? To answer that question, it may be helpful to go over what a brand is in general. A brand is a name, image, or some other feature that distinguishes your products and services from those offered by others.

Branding may sound simple, but as any marketing team can tell you, a lot of thought and work goes into it, and the difference between success and failure couldn’t be starker. If you call to mind successful companies, some names will pop in your head—not simply because they’re profitable, but because you know their brand. If they didn’t have an effective brand, you wouldn’t have even thought of them.

A company’s employer brand is its public image or reputation as an employer. It’s the feel of the company that comes through in job postings, social media, reviews, news stories, awards, and word of mouth. It’s the value (or lack thereof) that prospective employees expect to find in the employment relationship.

Every employer has a brand, whether they’ve deliberately worked to define one or not. Your company does, too. And that brand is either helping or hurting your recruitment and retention efforts. That’s the biggest reason HR leaders are talking about it. You have no say in whether you have an employer brand, but you do have a say in what that brand is. Here’s how you can take charge of it.

Identify Your Current Brand

When building your employer brand, you won’t be working from scratch, but rather altering what already exists. Your first step, then, will be to get an accurate picture of your existing brand. Examine all the ways your organization appears to the public. Look at your job ads, your corporate social media accounts, and your website. Search your organization’s name online to find news stories and reviews by customers and employees, past and present.

What impression is your workplace giving? How would an outsider view it based on what they can find online? What’s distinctive about working for your organization? What images do you see? What words and phrases appear most often? These are the first questions you should ask.

Next, ask yourself what sort of employees appear to work at your organization. If, for example, your social media accounts feature photo after photo of employees playing games and partying on the job, but show little or nothing of their actual work, you might be giving the impression that working for you is mostly fun, relaxing, and carefree—and that your current employees are the sort that value playing hard over working hard. If online employee reviews mention a former manager who was terminated for harassment, but the reviews make no mention of any other leader in the company, you may still have a reputation for tolerating harassment even though the offending manager is long gone.

Identifying your existing brand may be more challenging than you expect. Not only do you have a lot to consider, you also have your own working impression of your company that may color what you see. It may be prudent, therefore, to enlist the aid of a third party, someone who can describe your existing brand as it is and not as you wish it to be.

Once you’ve got a complete picture of your existing employer brand, it’s time to move on to the next step.

Evaluate Your Current Brand

There are two questions you should ask in this step. First, is the brand you’ve identified an accurate representation of reality? And second, is it the type of brand that you want?

A brand may be inaccurate for a number of reasons. A former employee in a vindictive mood might have taken to a review site to tell the world how much they hated their boss, when their boss was in reality patient, caring, and supportive. Or your social media might describe your culture as no-holds-barred competitive when the truth is your culture is distinctively collaborative and uplifting.

Accuracy is crucial. You don’t want a flood of applicants who don’t have the traits and behaviors necessary for success in your company. If your brand doesn’t match reality, you’ll need to correct that in the next step.

Before we move on, though, there’s another question you should ask. Is your current brand headed in the direction you want? Does it align with your specific employee-related needs? These answers will determine whether the next step involves minor tweaks or a major overhaul.

Develop the Brand You Want

Since it’s vital to success that your employer brand accurately mirror the reality of the workplace, changing your brand may require changing your culture. Creating a really attractive employer brand that hides hard truths about your workplace will only hurt you in the long run. Employees will join your organization only to realize that they’ve been sold a false reality. Frustrated and resentful, they’ll soon leave physically or mentally, neither of which is good for your bottom line.

Just because an applicant has the skills you need doesn’t mean they’d be happy working for you. If you’re a small business with a simple hierarchy and don’t expect to grow, you don’t want to spend your time vetting candidates who are hoping to get promoted in the near future. If you will be able to offer promotion opportunities and will need creative people to lead teams, you probably don’t want to hire lots of individuals who are simply content to do what they’re told.

In short, an effective employer brand can’t be developed in isolation. Whoever is working on the brand should collaborate with the company leadership team and, if possible, the marketing department so that the developed employer brand aligns with both the overall culture and the corporate brand vision. Ultimately, these should all be one and the same.

Tell a Story

If you’re at all familiar with the marketing world, you’re probably aware that a lot of marketing professionals see themselves as storytellers. Stories can be a powerful and effective way to change behavior, which is what marketing is all about. In your case, you want prospective employees to stop what they’re doing and come work for you. You have to convince them to make this change, and a well-told story can be very persuasive.

Think of your employer brand as your workplace culture as seen from the outside. The images and messaging you use should show prospective employees the real you. That way, you’ll attract the kinds of employees you want and deter the kinds you don’t.

But here’s the thing: prospective job candidates don’t care about your story. Even if they’re aware that you exist, they’re not emotionally invested in your success or failure. So, the story you should tell is not about you. It’s about them. They’re the leading character, not you. Your workplace is the setting of their story. At best, you’re in a supporting role.

An effective employer story is a story about employees—what they’ve experienced. Achievements they’ve unlocked. Skills they’ve learned. Friendships they’ve formed. Obstacles they’ve overcome.

You’ll be able to tell some of these stories, but the most heartfelt and effective tales will be told directly by your employees. Don’t tell them what to say. Avoid talking points and scripts. Prospective candidates will know if your employees are just repeating the company line. Instead, create a remarkable work experience that employees are happy to share with the world.

If you’re doing this right, you won’t need to ask employees to share job ads with their networks or be “brand ambassadors.” They’ll promote their work experiences without any prompting from you simply because those experiences have been a good thing for them, and people enjoy sharing the good things in their lives.

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