3 Big Challenges Facing Business Owners in 2017

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3-big-challenges-facing-business-owners-2017Business owners face challenges and opportunities every day as they make strategic decisions for their companies.  Not all challenges are created equal, though; here are three that are impacting business leaders heavily in 2017.

Increased competition.  It is no secret that the Texas market is growing like gang busters. According to the Texas Tribune, from 2005 to 2013, the state of Texas grew by 345 people per day. Why are so many people moving to Texas? Jobs! Cities in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, such as Frisco, have been dedicated to helping companies move their headquarters to their location.  In Frisco alone, one and a half percent of sales tax is dedicated to business incentives to help grow the city.

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Limit Liability, Boost Recruiting with Accurate Job Descriptions

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job-descriptions-are-essentialAfter almost 25 years in Human Resources, I have definitely learned a thing or two about limiting liabilities.  Job descriptions, in my opinion, are one of the fail-safes in protecting any size business from employee-related liability. Coupled with a strong employee handbook, job descriptions define the employment relationship. In employment disputes, job descriptions regularly become the most important piece of evidence.  Reviewing and updating your job descriptions annually can strategically reduce the business risk, set employee expectations, assist with career succession planning, ongoing training, performance development and should provide flexibility for the employer’s changing goals and business cycles. Continue reading “Limit Liability, Boost Recruiting with Accurate Job Descriptions”

Avoid the Threat of Shadow IT with Current Tech Policies

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danger-of-shadow-it-handbook-policiesThere is a technology movement operating behind the scenes in companies across the world.  Numerous employees have engaged in activities that many employers don’t realize are putting their businesses at risk.  Though malicious intent may not have been the reason for an employee’s actions, the result is the same: the “Shadow IT” movement has gained another loyal follower.

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Avoid W-2 and Payroll Headaches With a PEO

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avoid-w-2-payroll-headaches-with-a-PEOIf you’re a business owner or manager, you are well aware of the many hats you must wear in the small business world.  Not only do you have to worry about productivity, financials, recruiting, HR, training, benefits and more…that end-of-year requirement, W-2s, is also critical.  Employees need these forms to be correct and timely so they can file their taxes.  As an employer, your responsibilities include:

  • Reporting income
  • Reporting taxes withheld
  • Depositing those taxes every quarter (form 941)
  • Filing FUTA form annually and depositing taxes

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New I-9 Forms Required January 22 — Are You Ready?

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Beginning January 22, 2017, all U.S. businesses will be required to use the new Form I-9, released on November 14, 2016 by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  Check out How to complete an I-9 form, a 9-minute tutorial by HR Manager Mallory Basore, PHR, SHRM-CP.  She not only discusses features of the new form, but provides tips on potential pitfalls that could result in penalties.

What is Form I-9, anyway?  The I-9 form, also known as the Employment Eligibility Verification Form, is provided by the U.S. federal government for employers to use in verifying that job applicants are eligible for employment in the United States.  This form is required for every employee hired after November 6, 1986.

What’s different about the new form?  The new I-9 form replaces the 2013 version, and can be completed online, although it must be printed and signed.  Several other upgrades have been made to the document to help employers avoid common mistakes that could result in penalties.

Want more info?  Watch Avoid Costly I-9 Mistakes and subscribe to our “HR Updates in 2 Minutes or Less series.”

Contact us to learn more about our services:  Email, or call 1.800.771.7823.

Protect Your Employees and Your Company from Distracted Driving

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Protect employees and your company from distracted drivingAccording to the National Safety Council, 27 percent of auto accidents have one common factor: mobile phone use, and that statistic is growing.  Using electronics to talk, text or email (not to mention viewing or posting on social media) while driving seriously impacts our cognitive abilities:  we see less of our environment, react more slowly and have a false sense of confidence similar to intoxication.

Studies show that the majority people know it’s dangerous to use mobile phones while driving, but most of us do it anyway.  At any time during the day, 9 percent of drivers are using mobile phones.  Unfortunately, mobile phone use behind the wheel is the dangerous, new normal.  And many people do it while conducting company business.

Regardless of company size, industry or who owns the phone or the car, if employees use mobile phones for work communication, then you need a strong, up-to-date policy banning electronic device use while driving.  Auto accidents are the leading cause of work fatalities, and employees who use mobile phones for work while driving pose serious risks to themselves, the public and their employer. Yet many employers have no policy in place or have a narrow, ambiguous policy that doesn’t eliminate risks.

So what are the risks?  The most obvious are injuries or fatalities to an employee or a member of the public.  And employers can be legally liable for millions of dollars from injuries and property damage when work related mobile phone use results in an auto accident.  There are also other costs: property loss, increased insurance rates, business interruption, absenteeism, reduced productivity and damage to company reputation.  Even if no accident occurs, mobile phone use while driving can put an employer in violation of federal law.  OSHA can fine a business up to $70,000 if that business requires, encourages or makes necessary texting while driving.

What makes an effective policy?

An effective policy must meet three criteria: 1) it must be written, 2) it must be broad enough to protect the company, and 3) it must be enforced consistently.

Many employers do not have a written policy. Some feel they are not at risk; others assume that a presentation or one-time email blast to discourage mobile phone use while driving is enough.  But as the old saying goes, nothing is official unless you put it in writing.  It can be a standalone document, or part of the company’s employee handbook.  It should require an individual employee signature that can be placed in a personnel file.

But even a written policy is only as good as the wording.  Many policies have narrow wording or special exceptions that don’t eliminate risk.  They may only address certain behaviors, like talking, but not texting or emailing.  Or they may apply to only company cars and phones, or to certain employees.  Some allow “hands-free” technology, even though numerous studies have established that being “hands-free” does not reduce the chances of an accident.

Another common flaw is wording a policy to match state or municipal law.  Like policies, mobile phone laws can be narrow and outdated.  They are poor benchmarks for protection from liability.  So if the law and your policy allow for “hands-free” mobile use, the company may still be found liable by a civil jury for an accident where the employee was talking “hands-free” for work.

So what makes an effective “distracted driving” or mobile phone use policy?  The policy should ban any and all business-related communication or work by an employee via electronic device while driving, including texting and use of hands-free devices.  It should cover all employees, all vehicles, all company-owned devices, and all work-related communication, regardless of who owns the phone or the car.  It should lay out clear disciplinary action, and it should be reviewed annually.

Enforcement:  the final hurdle.

In our fast-paced world, we all depend on our phones, so fears of reduced productivity can make employers hesitant to enforce a policy.  Yet a company with an unenforced policy has the same level of protection as a company with no policy.  And most employers who enforce a full ban report no decrease in productivity.

Any new or updated policy should get a major “roll-out”, with meetings and an opportunity for questions and answers.  It should also be specifically addressed during orientation for new hires.  There should also be regular reminders to all employees about the policy.  Disciplinary action should be consistently enforced for all violations.  And management should be continually educated on appropriate expectations, so that employees are not placed in situations where they might feel required or encouraged use a mobile phone while driving.  Promote a company culture where all team members understand management’s expectations and put safety first.

A policy that bans business communication on a mobile phone while driving can seem challenging, but work-related auto accidents are a serious concern for employers.  An effective written policy will help protect you from risk and reinforce to your employees that their safety is your priority.  If you have any questions regarding implementing, updating or enforcing a mobile phone policy, call Staff One HR!

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Image:  Andriy Popov

Dallas vs. Oklahoma City: Where is the Grass Greener?

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Dallas-vs-OKC-where-is-the-grass-greenerFor business owners considering growth into one of these key markets, it’s essential to understand the potential of each location.  Did you know that Oklahoma City, Oklahoma is 62 percent larger than Dallas, Texas?  (By square miles anyway).  Conversely, the population of Dallas is more than twice that of Oklahoma City.  Talk about traffic nightmares!  To a degree, Oklahoma City is still a wide open space and Dallas is a bustling metropolis.  What does this mean from an employment perspective?  These two cities are barely 200 miles apart and share many regional attributes, but have significant differences as well. Continue reading “Dallas vs. Oklahoma City: Where is the Grass Greener?”

8 Great Ways to Improve Your Company Culture

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8 great ways to improve company cultureCompany culture and employee engagement must begin at the highest levels of an organization.  A grassroots movement from rank-and-file employees cannot be successful if the company’s leaders are not on board.  When your C-level team shows enthusiasm and willingness to participate in company events, allocate funds for team-building activities, and listen to and act on feedback from employees at all levels, your company culture will indeed thrive.

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Answer These 4 Questions for a Great Company Party

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Company-holiday-partyWho doesn’t love a good holiday party?  Hosting company holiday parties is a great way for employers to bring people together and celebrate their accomplishments at the end of the year.  They are an effective tool for promoting employee engagement and connection among staff members.  Employees have an opportunity to get to know one another, relax, and have fun.  It sounds great, but employers who host holiday parties can be held liable for alcohol-related accidents, wage claims, and harassment claims.

Careful planning can help minimize your risk, so before you send your invitations, ask yourself these questions: Continue reading “Answer These 4 Questions for a Great Company Party”