Erisa Solutions

Delegation: Getting Results Through Other People

Leaders who master the art of delegation achieve greater results for the organization, better maximize their time, and develop more skilled employees. Delegation is a key responsibility of leaders, allowing them to achieve results through other people as opposed to doing everything themselves. This leaves them more time to focus on business strategy, planning, and guiding overall business execution, while transferring knowledge and skills throughout the organization. Leaders, who struggle with delegation work more hours, are always buried, are “professional firefighters”, and find themselves micro-managing the details of their employees.

Most employees are promoted into leadership roles, not because they are great trainers or seasoned leaders, but because they excelled in their technical skill. Many fail as leaders because organizations do not train them in how to get things done through others. We promote our top sales person to Sales Manager, not to grow sales, but to grow sales people. Sales Managers can make a greater overall impact through transferring knowledge and skills to other sales people than they do by selling. Delegation is not just about freeing up time, it’s about developing people so they can become self-sufficient.

Effective Delegation

Have you ever turned over a task to an employee, only to see them fall flat on their face? Perhaps their failure had more to do with your delegation method than their ability to do the task. You can’t just turn over a task expecting success unless you have clearly transferred knowledge, given effective coaching, and provided resources needed for the 1 person to get the job done. The following delegation steps and techniques will help ensure greater success.

Delegation Steps & Techniques:

  • Delegate the right task to the right person. Know your employees’ strengths, weaknesses and ambitions. Delegate tasks that utilize their strengths and allow them to grow in areas where they aspire to develop. Make sure the person selected understands why they were selected, how it helps the company or team, and how they will
  • Set clear goals and expectations. Clearly define the task or project expectations including: goals & outcomes, what the final projects will look like, how performance will be measured, and when it should be completed. Establish action plan miles stones and review dates for routine progress evaluation and feedback. Ask for their ideas and involve them throughout the process for stronger commitment and buy-in.
  • Empower people to find their own solutions. With goals and measures clear, let them own how it gets done. Avoid the tendency to describe exactly how you want everything done. Avoid micro-managing their every move, or you will derail their success and their trust in you and
  • Provide needed training & coaching. Delegating a task does not mean you give the assignment and walk away. Help the employee by giving them any needed training, resources and coaching. Be a resource they can openly come to with questions or challenges.  Providing intermittent coaching as needed helps ensure their success.

Remember to discuss current work load and identify any needed freeing up of their tasks or workload so they can accomplish their new assignments.

  • Define any resource needs. Discuss and agree on resources required to get the job done. All relevant resources should be taken into consideration, including staffing, physical space, equipment, materials, inventory, storage and other related activities and services.
  • Support and Communicate. As part of the communication and support process, alert the individual to any unusual matters of politics or protocol within the organization of which he or she should be cognizant. Inform your own manager and your own peers of the new assignment to a direct report, if the task assigned is one of high visibility and warrants this level of support and
  • Monitor progress. Build into the task or project assignment a process for on-going monitoring, meetings and accountability discussions. Don’t leave them to sink or swim; inspect what you expect. Have set times where you meet with the employee, allowing them the opportunity to report on progress, ask questions and receive any needed coaching. If you delegate to someone who lacks the skills to accomplish the job, even after the needed training and coaching occurs, you may have to make a change in the assignment. When you delegate, you’re still responsible.
  • Be patient and encouraging. There are always challenges in learning new skills and taking on something you’ve never done before. Expect some set-backs and mistakes without over- reacting. Remember, you didn’t learn the skill overnight either. Stay positive, showing confidence in the employee and their ability to get through the tough times. When they approach you with problems, ask what they suggest. This shows confidence in them and helps them to take more ownership.
  • Provide feedback and reinforcement.

As you monitor employees’ on-going task completion efforts, provide feedback anytime you are surprised with results. Give praise and recognition when you are pleasantly surprised, and constructive feedback and coaching whenever performance is subpar. Like any performance situation, there should be no surprises at the end. Make sure the employee knows how you feel and how he or she is doing along the way.

  • Assess lessons learned at the end of a given project. Ask the employee to review what went well, what could have gone better and how things should be done differently the next time. This helps with the development of the employee while ensuring continued organizational improvement.  Make sure to let the employee receive credit and recognition for the project results. Nothing will undermine future delegation efforts faster than a leader who delegates, then claims all the glory for the task being done. Each time a project is completed, the manager should attempt to engage the employee in a task that is incrementally more challenging than the previous

 About HR Service, Inc.

HR Service provides broker and client solutions for benefit ERISA compliance and HR, insuring organizations meet ERISA and Department of Labor (DOL) requirements for:  Summary Plan Description Wraps (SPD Wraps), Employee Notifications, 125 Premium Only Plans (125 POP), Summaries of Material Modification (SMM), Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA), ACA Reporting, and Employment Laws.  Our web-based SPD Wraps, Employee Notices, 125 POPs, and ACA Reporting tools make it easy to comply with ERISA.  Visit us online at or call (855) 447-3375 for SPD Wraps, 125 POPs, HR Support, ACA Reporting, HIPAA Solutions, HR Support, and more.

Internet at Work: Tool or Productivity Waster

The use of internet at work has increased significantly over the years for business communications, transactions, and research. It has also become one of the biggest time wasters to employers, because of the increased non-work related use by employees. For example, according to a recent report by SurfControl (Snoddy), a web filtering and security software provider, office workers who spend one hour a day at work on various non-work activities (e.g., trading stock shares, booking vacations, shopping online) could be costing businesses as much as $35 million a year. The survey found that 59% of internet use at the office was not work related and employees who traded in stock shares, played online games, shopped, and booked vacations cost companies the most. It is clear from this type of research that internet abuse is a serious cause for concern.

Not only are there concerns for productivity, but also for addiction related to things like pornography, gambling, social networks, and video gaming activities. It has been argued behavioral addictions are no different from chemical addictions (e.g., alcoholism, heroin, or tobacco addiction) regarding the core components of addiction such as salience, tolerance, withdrawal, mood modification, conflict, time waste, and relapse. Most excessive internet users spend vast amounts of time online for social contact (mostly for chat room services). Young (1999) claimed internet addiction was a broad term that covered a wide variety of behaviors and impulse control problems that have been classified by five specific subtypes (i.e., cyber sexual addiction, cyber- relationship addiction, net compulsions, information overload, and computer addiction).

Each of these addictions translates into lost productivity and time wasters for employees with

these problems. There are many factors that make internet abuse in the workplace seductive.

Research in the area of computer-mediated communication has shown virtual environments have the potential to provide short-term comfort, excitement, and/or distraction (Griffiths, 2000c). They also give anonymity allowing the users to privately engage in their behavior, believing the chance of being caught is minimal.

Fixing the Problem

Finding ways to eliminate internet misuse and addictive behaviors while still allowing the positive benefits to remain in the work environment is possible.

  1. Create Internet Use Policy – Clearly define company policy on all computer, internet, and email use. This should include the following information:
    1. Computer, internet, and email are all company property and the company reserves the right to monitor use and access
    2. Definition of misuse items that would result in corrective action (e.g., gambling, pornography, and other non- job related uses).
    3. A provision prohibiting communications that is contrary to the company’s harassment and discrimination
    4. A statement that the use of internet and email are for business purposes
  2. Train Employees – Train employees in the policy defining expectations, proper use, and abuse that will result in corrective actions. Ask employees to be vigilant in using their work time, internet, and computer resources wisely. Give employees a diagnostic checklist to help them see if they might have an internet problem.
  1. Internet Filter – There are good internet filters available that block or restrict access to undesired websites. Work closely with your IT personnel to develop restrictions to various categories and sites. In addition to restricting sites like pornography and gambling, some organizations even restrict YouTube and Facebook. Consider restricting any site that does not serve a business purpose. Balance restrictions by not being too mistrusting. Allow those who do not abuse the system to do some personal things on the internet during breaks and
  2. Monitor Internet Use – In addition to informing employees your organization monitors internet use, monitor access to restricted sites, especially for those who have shown a problem in this area. If you suspect an employee may have a problem with internet abuse, request that the company’s information technology specialist look at the history of the employee’s internet surfing because the computer’s hard disk will have information about everything the employee has ever accessed. One of the simplest checks is to look at an employee’s list of bookmarked
  3. Give Support – For lesser violations, give support to identified computer/internet abusers, helping them understand the problems associated with their misuse. In some instances, creating a performance improvement plan defining the problem, needed changes, and getting the employee’s signature can be an effective tool to bring about needed changes. Others may need assistance with counseling services or addiction recovery
  4. Supervisor Reinforcement –Supervisors must ensure adherence to all company policies and procedures, including the internet, computer, and email policy. Train leaders to remain aware of employees’ computer activities and other indicators that show there may be a problem. For example, decreased productivity, missing deadlines, spending excessive amounts of time on the internet, and shifting to another site when someone walks by, can each indicate there is a potential problem. Raise awareness, set expectations, monitor, give feedback and reinforce the need to use the internet appropriately.
  1. Corrective Action – Employees who violate your internet, computer, and email policy should be held accountable. The level of the violation drives the corrective action response. For lesser violations, you may give them support and coaching to help them improve. For more serious violations and repeat offenders, discharge may be the best recourse. Keep in mind other employees know when abuse is taking place. If they see someone getting away with wasting time and misusing the internet, it causes resentment, negativity, and may lead to them adopting poor internet habits as well. Be consistent and take needed actions to enforce your policy.

Internet abuse can be a hidden activity that requires clear policies, training, monitoring, blocking, leader reinforcement, and corrective action to keep the internet a productive tool–not a time waster.

About HR Service, Inc.

HR Service provides broker and client solutions for benefit ERISA compliance and HR, insuring organizations meet ERISA and Department of Labor (DOL) requirements for:  Summary Plan Description Wraps (SPD Wraps), Employee Notifications, 125 Premium Only Plans (125 POP), Summaries of Material Modification (SMM), Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA), ACA Reporting, and Employment Laws.  Our web-based SPD Wraps, Employee Notices, 125 POPs, and ACA Reporting tools make it easy to comply with ERISA.  Visit us online at or call (855) 447-3375 for SPD Wraps, 125 POPs, HR Support, ACA Reporting, HIPAA Solutions, HR Support, and more.

Measuring HR & People Practices

You’ve heard the saying “what gets measured gets done, and what gets reinforced gets repeated”.

The same is true for your human resource management & people practices. Organizations have a greater impact with their people and HR efforts by monitoring key HR/people measures and applying reinforcement steps to drive desired results. By identifying key measures, tracking results, and making needed adjustments, improvement can be tracked and identified.

HR Measures

Most measures of employee results, behaviors and attitudes are a reflection of your people/HR practices. Document key baseline measures before implementation and track after implementation for a reasonable period of time to assess the impact of your training, new initiatives, policies, changes, techniques and other HR efforts.

Consider the following measures when evaluating the effectiveness of your HR/people management practices: Employee performance, turnover, engagement/morale, leader effectiveness, attendance, tardiness, accidents, staff efficiency and organizational effectiveness. Certainly overall business results such as sales, profitability, cost control, quality and productivity are a reflection of your people management practices. Soft measures such as communications, conflict, stress level and work environment also show HR impacts to the organization.

Employee Performance

Measures of employee performance include, but are not limited to:

  • Sales: Growth in sales numbers measured per sales person or sales per employee.
  • Productivity: Output or results per employee work hour or other measures and utilization of labor and
  • Quality: Number of internal errors, external returns or
  • Speed or Quantity: The rate or quantity of output per employee work
  • Accuracy: Ability to perform a given function or service exactly as trained or
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Ability to achieve certain essential job indicators or functions that, when accomplished, satisfy the purpose of a given
  • Goal Attainment: Ability to set and attain specific goals that have meaning to the organization, team, customer or
  • Competency: Any number of knowledge, skills, abilities (KSAs) and behaviors which lead to impactful results and accomplishments. For example, you know a good customer service person does her job through demonstrated service skills, product knowledge, and interpersonal communication
  • Performance Appraisals: There are multiple appraisal systems, all which reflect measures of

Turn Over

Employee turnover is the average number of employees who leave the organization divided by the average total number of employees. Tracking not only the turnover ratios, but also the reasons why someone leaves is a good indicator of your HR effectiveness. Conduct exit interviews to get the real reason someone has left the organization.

Generally employees leave for one of the following reasons:

  • Poor fit with the job, hence ineffective hiring practices
  • Dislike for managers or management practices, a measure of leader training & development
  • Pay or benefits
  • Work environment
  • Better opportunity, which usually means poor fit assessment, lacking competitive pay or ineffective training or career path planning

Employee Engagement & Morale

Measures of employee engagement and morale are usually obtained through an “employee opinion survey” that captures these among other important employee perceptions. Conducting surveys annually provides employers with good indications of these important factors. An employee’s engagement level impacts their performance, attitude, and overall impact to the organization. Engagement and morale can also be measured through one-on-one employee discussions, task force meetings and through such measures as performance and turnover.

Leader Effectiveness

Leaders truly are the real HR managers as they coach and oversee employees and their work results. Effective HR programs and practices will provide leaders with needed training, resources, tools and techniques to best do their job. Although challenging to measure, leader effectiveness can be obtained through leader surveys collecting feedback from their employees, manager, customers and others with whom they interact. A 360 degree assessment that focuses on core leader measures is one method to obtain good HR indicators. Other measures of leader effectiveness are looking at the results of their overall department and employee performance measures under their direction.

Attendance, Tardiness, Sick Leave & Accidents:

Monitoring these important employee measures identify symptoms that help you understand overall effectiveness of your policies, training, practices, performance management and leader skills. Not only are these key expected employee performance measures, they can also be very costly to your organization if not addressed with creative HR solutions.

Staffing Efficiency

Staffing efficiency is measured by ensuring the right staffing levels and having the right person in place when needed. Measures might include over- or understaffing, resulting in reductions or downtime. Some organizations track their recruiting efforts through recruitment or new hire cost and number of days to hire.

Organization Effectiveness

People are the heart and soul of an organization, and determine its overall effectiveness. Therefore, overall business results are another indicator of HR effectiveness. Most organizations measure their effectiveness looking at key business measures such as income statements, stock price, business growth, strategy achievement, objective attainment, budget achievement and so on.

Monitor and communicate these key measures often to see greater results from your people management practices.

About HR Service, Inc.

HR Service provides broker and client solutions for benefit ERISA compliance and HR, insuring organizations meet ERISA and Department of Labor (DOL) requirements for:  Summary Plan Description Wraps (SPD Wraps), Employee Notifications, 125 Premium Only Plans (125 POP), Summaries of Material Modification (SMM), Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA), ACA Reporting, and Employment Laws.  Our web-based SPD Wraps, Employee Notices, 125 POPs, and ACA Reporting tools make it easy to comply with ERISA.  Visit us online at or call (855) 447-3375 for SPD Wraps, 125 POPs, HR Support, ACA Reporting, HIPAA Solutions, HR Support, and more.






Work Distractions: The Productivity Thief

George, your Customer Service Representative, sits at his desk actively sending out personal E- mails, and text messaging, all on your dime. To make matters worse, he occasionally sends off- colored jokes and sexually explicit material. Jane, the Receptionist, plays cards and shops on the internet for up to three hours per day.

Recent surveys indicate that almost 30% of on- the-job computer usage is unrelated to work. Non- job related computer use such as internet surfing, personal E-mails, text messaging, and computer games are major distractions to employee productivity, costing you thousands of dollars.

To help address these distractions, some companies monitor their employees’ computer usage at work. Employees, on the other hand, expect some level of privacy sending emails and instant messages, especially when discussing private matters unrelated to work like medical information.

Computer Usage & Privacy Policy

Charles H. Wilson, attorney for Epstein Becker Green Wickliff & Hall, P.C., provides the following advice on monitoring and creating a computer usage policy:

How far an employer can go in monitoring, and disciplining, employees for inappropriate personal emails and instant messaging largely depends on whether the employer has a clearly defined and well-worded computer usage privacy policy.

Employers mistakenly believe that mere ownership and control of a computer or laptop entitles the employer to unchecked surveillance or monitoring of an employee’s emails and instant messages says Charles. This is not necessarily the case, especially if the employer does not have an appropriate computer usage policy or has one that eliminates any expectation of privacy.

Several recent court decisions have rejected an employer’s right to inspect an employee’s computer in the absence of clear policies and practices informing the employee that no expectation of privacy exists and that the employer retains the right to review emails and instant messages.

What to do: 

To avoid potential liability for monitoring or reviewing private employee emails, employers should create and implement policies that eliminate any expectation of privacy.

Employers should also train their employees on the policy. More importantly, employers must practice what they preach and must not utilize a strategy that gives rise to the expectation of privacy or allow too many work distractions.

At a minimum, a workplace computer usage policy and strategy should include the following:

An introductory statement that an employer’s email and instant messaging system belongs to the company at all times and is a company resource provided as a business tool. Make sure the employees understand the emails and instant messages they send belong to the company not the employee.

A statement that the use of company email and instant messaging for inappropriate personal use may result in discipline including termination. Although, realistically, there will be some personal use allowed, ensure that employees are aware that any and all personal use may result in discipline.

A statement that emails and instant messages sent or received may be monitored by the employer. In this regard, the employer must only review emails or instant messages already sent and saved to the network. It is illegal to intercept emails as they are being transmitted.

A statement informing the employees that their emails and instant messages are not considered private and that by using the employer-provided email and instant message service, they consent to being monitored by the employer.

A statement that all passwords belong to the company and that they must be provided to their supervisors. Avoid giving employees unchecked power to password-protect their computers, which can contribute to an expectation of privacy.

A warning prohibiting the employee from using a code, accessing a file or retrieving any stored information unless authorized. Be careful to explain, however, that such provision does not preclude the employer from accessing the employee’s own stored emails.

A provision prohibiting the communication of messages prohibited by the employer’s harassment and discrimination policies.

Mr. Wilson concludes his recommendations stating that “Implementing and practicing a carefully worded email and instant messaging policy will eliminate any expectation of email privacy and provide the express or implied consent the employer needs to monitor and review emails sent or received by the employee in the workplace”.

Eliminating Distractions

Establishing an effective policy is only half the battle in eliminating work distractions. The following steps will help you get employees focused on their work at hand:

  1. Set the expectation that personal use of computers, cell phones and other distractions during company time is unacceptable. Where possible, allow personal use of these devices during scheduled breaks and lunch periods. Establish the policy and discuss it in group meetings or one-on-one.
  1. The supervisor is the key in implementing and addressing misuse of the policy. Leaders should be in daily contact with employees, monitor performance and address issues as they arise. Anytime the leader is surprised by a misuse of policy or performance, he/she should address the issue with the employee. Look for patterns in dropped performance and investigate to get to the root case, which may or may not be
  2. Catch employees doing things right! Notice and reward those who continually set the type of examples desired and who perform at higher than expected performance levels. Notice achievements and positively recognize when
  3. Those who continue to abuse distraction policies or do not meet performance requirements should be addressed with your corrective action

Managed effectively, organizations can create a positive workforce and have fun at work, while at the same time eliminating costly work distractions of personal E-mails, text messaging, computer games, excessive talking and cell phones.

About HR Service, Inc.

HR Service provides broker and client solutions for benefit ERISA compliance and HR, insuring organizations meet ERISA and Department of Labor (DOL) requirements for:  Summary Plan Description Wraps (SPD Wraps), Employee Notifications, 125 Premium Only Plans (125 POP), Summaries of Material Modification (SMM), Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA), ACA Reporting, and Employment Laws.  Our web-based SPD Wraps, Employee Notices, 125 POPs, and ACA Reporting tools make it easy to comply with ERISA.  Visit us online at or call (855) 447-3375 for SPD Wraps, 125 POPs, HR Support, ACA Reporting, HIPAA Solutions, HR Support, and more.


Top 10 Employer Mistakes- How to Get Sued

In this article, we expand on the items that apply in all states, add in common employer mistakes we frequently see, and show the right things to do to avoid being sued or fined.

Mistake #1: Incorrectly classifying employees as exempt or salaried who are not.

Some employers classify employees as exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to save money and eliminate hassle. Exempt employees don’t get paid breaks, don’t have to track work hours and are not entitled to overtime pay (time-and-a-half) when they work more than 40 hours in a defined work week. The problem, paying them a set salary each week with a puffed up job title, does not make them exempt in the eyes of the law.

Solution: Make sure all positions classified as exempt meet the salary and job responsibilities/duties test before classifying them as such. Federal law requires employees to be paid a set salary of at least $455 per week and to pass one of the allowed job exemptions: Executives, Professionals, Administrative, Computer Related/IT, and Outside Sales.

Keep in mind, when the Department of Labor (DOL) reviews your position classifications, they look at what the person does most of the time on the job, not their job title. If an Executive Assistant is to pass the Administrative test, for example, they must be able to show that they regularly exercise discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance.

Mistake #2: Classifying employees as independent contractors.

Some companies feel that having employees is too much hassle, and they make them independent contractors so they don’t have the worries of Social Security taxes, unemployment, workers compensation, benefits and so on. If you use this approach, you’ll find yourself paying back taxes, unemployment, workers compensation fees and fines. Solution: Follow the rules that allow for independent contractor status. The IRS provides very strict guidelines for this classification, depending on the amount of behavioral control, financial control, and type of relationship. See Employed/Independent-Contractor-Self-Employed-or- Employee for details.

Mistake #3: Allowing non-exempt employees to perform work off the clock.

What do you do when highly motivated employees arrive early, work late, or take work home without reporting the work-time? It is tempting to allow them to go above and beyond without pay. The problem is — as employers — we are required to track and pay for all work time, whether it is approved or not.

Solution: Establish clear policy guidelines requiring non- exempt employees to track and report all work time, then communicate and reinforce this expectation.

Mistake #4: Terminating employees who are out on medical or sick leave.

We have all had situations where an employee is out for a surgery, injury, or sickness that extends way past what seems reasonable, and we just want to cut our losses and move on to someone who can come to work.  The challenge is there are numerous laws protecting employees’ rights that may apply, depending on the facts. For example, Family Medical Leave Act allows up to 12 weeks of protected job leave for employers with 50+ employees within a 75 mile radius for employees who have been with the company at least one year and worked a minimum of 1,250 hours in the previous year.  The definition of disability has been expanded under the American Disabilities Act, making it much easier for someone to qualify for reasonable accommodation.  Employees have rights against retaliation in workers compensation claims and many other situations where they exercise a given right for which employers cannot take negative corrective action.

Solution: Evaluate all medically-related leave situations, carefully looking at employee’s rights and laws (state and federal) separately, before making decisions to terminate. Even employment-at-will does not allow employers to terminate if an employee has protections and rights under the law. Have set policies and practices which instruct employees and supervisors how to handle all leave situations, especially medical-related leave.

Mistake #5: Taking corrective actions without following set practices or policy guidelines.

Many organizations take corrective actions somewhat haphazardly when resolving employee problems, without following consistent best practice techniques. After all, they are the boss and they should be able to fire anyone for any reason, right?  Taking corrective actions in this fashion can lead to inconsistent practices, and claims of wrongful termination and/or discrimination.

Solution: Establish consistent practices for handling most performance challenges and corrective actions. It is a good idea to use a positive discipline approach where there is less punishment and more coaching, feedback, and planning. In most cases this will look something like a verbal discussion, written improvement plan, and then termination. Retaining the flexibility to go directly to the most appropriate step, depending on the situation, requires consistent and fair application of performance steps.

Mistake #6: Not taking responsibility for all employee notice requirements.

Why should I worry about providing the below notices? My broker and insurance company take care of them, don’t they?

Notice Requirements:

  • COBRA – Initial and Qualifying Event
  • CHIP (Child Health Insurance Plan)
  • MHPA (Mental Health Parity & Addition Equity Act)
  • NMHPA (Newborns & Mothers Health Protection Act)
  • WHCRA (Women’s Health & Cancer Rights Act)
  • HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act)
  • Wellness Program Disclosure, if applicable
  • Grandfathered Plan, if applicable
  • Medicare Part D
  • Health Exchange Notice
  • Summary Plan Descriptions (SPDs or SPD Wraps)
  • SMM (Summary of Material Modifications)
  • SBC (Summary Benefits & Coverage)

It is great when you have excellent brokers and providers who assist with notices, but it is you who will be fined if something is not complete.

Solution: Know all employee notice requirements, make sure ownership is assigned to get them out, and use good tools and resources to get them done on time. Have systems in place to be able to show what was sent to whom, how, and when.

Mistake #7: Not training supervisors.

Supervisors need training in responding to complaints, handling requests for medical leave or disabilities, interviewing, selection, managing performance, handling corrective actions, giving feedback, team building, keeping documentation, and handling terminations. What supervisors say and do can create risk to your company, as they are representatives of your organization. Their decisions, actions and inactions not only impact your potential for a law suit, but drive morale, engagement, turnover, motivation, and your overall work environment.

Solution: Make sure supervisors are trained and skilled in all employment and people management practices.

Mistake #8: Not collecting accurate records for time worked by non-exempt employees.

Some organizations are unclear on what constitutes work time, especially in areas of breaks, arriving early, working late, meeting attendance, and travel time.

Solution: Create clear work time definitions and practices to obtain accurate time worked records. Establish policies for handling non-exempt travel, breaks, and meeting attendance.

Mistake #9: Not having a clearly defined process for how rate of pay is determined.

Some apply no logic as to how pay is set other than it felt right or it was what employees were willing to work for. The problem is this leads to potential pay discrimination against women and minorities.  In addition, employers may be paying too much or too little with no connection to the market or internal equity. Your pay system may not be driving your desired results and behavior or allowing you to attract and retain the best talent.

Solution: Establish a pay system with pay range minimum, midpoint, and maximum guidelines for each position based on market survey data and correlation with a job evaluation process that factors in internal equity. Have a process for assigning new hire offers, equity adjustments, pay reviews, and promotions.

Mistake #10: Not keeping employee handbooks up-to- date with good policies and practices.

Many employers don’t have a handbook at all, don’t keep them updated or pull some copy off the internet and call it their handbook. A good handbook communicates expectations, establishes consistent practices and allows for set decisions on important things like vacations, holidays, and handling of time off. Having employees sign an acknowledgement of receipt furthers protects the organization with evidence that employees know the policies, requirements, and resolution process.

Solution: Create a good employee handbook and have it reviewed by a specialist to make sure you have strong polices to govern your employment practices. Evaluate your handbook at least annually and establish a relationship with professionals to keep you aware of needed changes.

About HR Service, Inc.

HR Service provides broker and client solutions for benefit ERISA compliance and HR, insuring organizations meet ERISA and Department of Labor (DOL) requirements for:  Summary Plan Description Wraps (SPD Wraps), Employee Notifications, 125 Premium Only Plans (125 POP), Summaries of Material Modification (SMM), Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA), ACA Reporting, and Employment Laws.  Our web-based SPD Wraps, Employee Notices, 125 POPs, and ACA Reporting tools make it easy to comply with ERISA.  Visit us online at or call (855) 447-3375 for SPD Wraps, 125 POPs, HR Support, ACA Reporting, HIPAA Solutions, HR Support, and more.

The Root Causes of Low Employee Morale

The root causes of low employee morale are not what you think, but are surprisingly easy to fix by focusing on a few simple changes in communication style!

In the movie Multiplicity with Michael Keaton and Andie MacDowell, the character of Doug Kinney (Keaton) clones himself so he can get more work done while having more time for his family and to enjoy himself. As you can imagine, everything goes wrong and at the end there are four Dougs and craziness ensues! Things are pretty stressed at his job as a foreman for Del King Construction. One of the best lines is when his counterpart Ken comes up with an idea to get things moving (and to brown-nose the boss a little). Ken states proudly, “At my old job they used to say, ‘if you don’t show up for work on Saturday, don’t even bother coming in on Sunday!’” It was hysterical in the context of the movie (actually Doug wasn’t laughing), but it does lead to one of the root causes of low employee morale.

In these hectic, overworked, understaffed times, it’s easier than ever for managers (who are usually even more overworked than their subordinates) to come across something like the Quintus Arrius line to Roman slaves from Ben Hur, “ . . . we keep you alive to serve this ship, so row well and live!” It demonstrates how easy it is to come across as a leader who believes that everybody is lucky to have a job, so you better suck it up, keep your nose to the grindstone and don’t complain.

Sadly, this view, while effective during this struggling economy, is killing your productivity today, and will lead to significant retention, recruiting and training costs down the road. The moment your employees begin to feel that you don’t appreciate them and that they’re only on board to row, you have amplified the root cause of low employee morale and it’s going to cost you big time.

Here are five suggestions that will help you to avoid destroying morale and experiencing both the hard and soft costs of poorly engaged employees:

#1 – Form Relationships Built on Trust

Strong, effective relationships are built on trust. If you don’t have strong, trust-based relationships with your people, everything you do to recognize them will be seen as manipulation. When employees feel that you are using recognition to “get more out of them” rather than to show that you value them personally, they begin to emotionally disengage, and morale suffers. It’s not hard to develop trusting relationships with your people, but it does take time, consistency and integrity.

#2 – Show them Respect

The book The One Minute Manager introduces a theory of personal responsibility that allows managers to get maximum results with a minimum of time invested with each staff member. The secret is in showing them respect, defining their expectations and avoiding micro managing. Most employees respond well to being given enough rope to hang themselves, as long as their job is well defined and they are allowed to fail periodically without fear of unrealistic retribution. Respected employees are more alert, creative, and productive. When they do make a mistake, they’ll fix it, move on confidently and don’t make that mistake again.

#3 – Nurture Creativity

Once you’ve built trusting relationships and developed a foundation of respect, employees with automatically respond with more creativity. The best way to nurture and benefit from their new-found creativity is to go by the philosophy that there are no bad ideas, only undeveloped ones. Trusted and respected employees with managers who reinforce the fact that they have some flexibility to try new things will surprise you with the creative ingenuity that they bring to their work. The best part is that you get this for the same price you’re paying unhappy employees who are doing just enough to get by.

#4 – Build Effective Teams

Team building is a more complex challenge than fostering high morale in individual employees. Here are five problems that many teams develop that keep them from being as effective as they want to be in accomplishing company goals:

  • Absence of Trust – due to invulnerability
  • Fear of Conflict – artificial harmony
  • Lack of Commitment – ambiguity
  • Avoidance of Accountability – low standards
  • Inattention to Results – caused by individual status and ego

In the absence of trust, morale is at its lowest and self-protectionism becomes the rule. It doesn’t take a PhD in Psychology to realize that this will limit productivity and make work a lot less rewarding for both employees and their managers. This “every man for themselves” attitude destroys teams and makes it impossible to optimize goal setting and achieve corporate objectives in a timely manner; if at all.

By learning to communicate more effectively based on honesty, consistency, vulnerability and respect, your teams will be able to focus unselfishly on common results. This in turn keeps individual egos and agendas in check.

#5 – Make it Real

One of the first things to stress with your management team is what I call “Making it Real”. This means to be genuine and believable in interacting with their people. Employees tend to fall into some common negative habit patterns that employees experience when they feel underappreciated. When your managers understand how to be more open and vulnerable with their staff they work towards trust, respect and improved communication.

“Making it Real” is the answer to the question, “What is the root cause of low employee morale?” Maybe it’s because it’s so simple that it is so often missed, but without your people believing you are genuine, honest and practicing high levels of integrity, any efforts you make to improve morale will be suspect. If you keep this in mind in your dealings with your people, you will be surprised how easy it is to improve morale, so you can enjoy the benefits of higher productivity, better retention, lower costs and an overall happier, more satisfying workplace.

About HR Service, Inc.

HR Service provides broker and client solutions for benefit ERISA compliance and HR, insuring organizations meet ERISA and Department of Labor (DOL) requirements for:  Summary Plan Description Wraps (SPD Wraps), Employee Notifications, 125 Premium Only Plans (125 POP), Summaries of Material Modification (SMM), Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA), ACA Reporting, and Employment Laws.  Our web-based SPD Wraps, Employee Notices, 125 POPs, and ACA Reporting tools make it easy to comply with ERISA.  Visit us online at or call (855) 447-3375 for SPD Wraps, 125 POPs, HR Support, ACA Reporting, HIPAA Solutions, HR Support, and more.

HIPAA- Compliance Assessment

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act) drives the Standards for Privacy of Individual Health Information (“Privacy Rule”). These standards, along with the HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) “Security Rule” standards, address the security, use, and disclosure of individual’s health info “PHI” (personal health information) by organizations subject to the privacy rules. PHI is defined as individually identifiable health information from their past, present or future physical or mental health conditions.

HIPAA’s three compliance areas include:

  1. The Privacy Rule, which restricts covered entities’ and business associates’ use and disclosure of an individual’s PHI)
  2. The Security Rule, which requires covered physician practices to implement “administrative, technical, and physical safeguards” to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of electronic
  3. The Breach Notification Rule, which requires covered entities to notify affected individuals, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), and in some cases — the media when they discover a breach of a patient’s unsecured

How Does HIPAA Apply to Your Company?

The level and extent of HIPAA compliance requirements vary based on whether your company is considered a “covered entity”. However, even businesses not considered covered entities and those excluded from HIPAA requirements should still take basic steps to ensure the protection of employee’s information.

Who and What is Excluded from HIPAA?

Any company or plan that does not meet the definition of covered entity or business associate is exempt from HIPAA rules. Exceptions include:

  • Employers who don’t offer any HIPAA covered benefits like medical, dental, vision, or
  • Non HIPAA plans like Short-term and Long-term Disability, Worker’s Compensation, Life insurance, Accidental Death and Dismemberment, OSHA required testing, Auto liability insurance that contains payment for medical damages, and Stop-loss coverage
  • Plans with less than 50 participants that are administered and maintained solely by the employer that established the plan, no outside third party vender (TPA) are used in the administration of the plan

If you fall into any of these categories, you are excluded from HIPAA regulations. Document your determination of exclusion from HIPAA regulations and retain for your records.

Covered entities fall into three categories:

  1. Health plans
  2. Health care providers that conduct certain types of transactions in electronic form
  3. Health care clearinghouses

Health plans include private health insurance companies, government health insurers, employer-sponsored group health plans or HMO’s (both fully insured and self-funded plans), FSA’s, dental and vision plans, EAP programs (unless referral only), HRA, HSA and typically insured supplement plans.

A business which is a medical office, in the medical field, insurance provider, insurance issuer, broker, hybrid entity (an organization that has a component that is a “covered” health care provider, and whose activities include both “covered” and “non-covered” functions) or agency which processes medical and/or claims information, would need to ask themselves a more comprehensive set of questions to determine their level of compliance need to ensure proper steps are taken for compliance with HIPAA.

Covered entities have the flexibility and freedom to design their privacy policies and procedures as they see fit, as long as they are reasonably designed to ensure compliance with HIPAA requirements.

HIPAA Requirements for Most Employers

In general, most employers, those who offer fully-insured health benefits like medical, dental, or FSA to their employees, will fall into the “Health Plans” category under HIPAA regulations. However, their level of HIPAA requirements depends on how they maintain, transmit and receive PHI. Organizations can greatly minimize requirements by restricting their personal involvement in handling PHI. As long as the company doesn’t keep, transmit or receive PHI, their level of HIPAA obligation is minimal. The following steps will help these organizations comply with HIPAA:

Compliance Steps:

  1. Define a HIPAA Privacy Officer responsible for handling and overseeing PHI relationships and dealings for the
  2. Review relationships with brokers, insurance providers and outside third party administrators to identify any areas of PHI transmission or use and obtain assurance of HIPAA
  3. Review the following company practices and procedures to verify if PHI is used, stored or transmitted by the company to outside insurance providers, TPA (third party) venders or medical facilities:
    1. Enrollment process for PHI sent or received in electronic or paper form
    2. Billing, invoicing, premium collection and remittance processes for any
    3. HR processes for employee file management, benefit management, and COBRA management for PHI
  4. Take steps to eliminate handling of PHI, and where necessary secure all minimal PHI handlings protecting employee’s privacy
  5. Create a HIPAA policy added to employee and leader
  6. Provide the HIPAA Privacy Notice to all participants, unless provided by the insurer. Note, this notice is done as part of the all-in-one employee notification service provided by HR Service, Inc., and is included in our SPD Wrap documents or a template sample notice is available under HIPAA

Sample policy, procedures and documentation form can be found in the Compliance Basics Center under “HIPAA Tools”, “HIPAA Forms, Documents and Policies”, “Limited or Non-Covered Entity HIPAA Guidance Sample

Plans that require full HIPAA compliance

If your plan falls into a covered entity which keeps, receives and/or transmits PHI, full HIPAA requirements apply and should, at a minimum, have policies and procedures in writing which include:

  • An established Privacy Officer, contact person and/or office designated to receive complaints and provide information regarding privacy policy practices and procedures
  • Document your covered entity assessment process and findings
  • Conduct a risk assessment and analysis to include:


  • Facilities or other places where patient/employee health data is accessed
  • Computer equipment, servers, mobile/portable devices like tablets and cell phones
  • Physical, visual or auditory access to employee/patient data


  • Designated Security Officer
  • Workforce training and oversight
  • Work information access controls
  • Scheduled/Periodic Security reassessment


  • Secure, authorized electronic exchange of employee/patient information
  • Measures that keep electronic employee/patient information from improper or unapproved changes
  • Controls for access to employee/patient information
  • User access and activities audit logs
  • Data loss measures

Policies and Procedures

  • Clearly written work flow policies and procedures
  • HIPAA security compliance procedures (employee/patient notifications and breach compliance)
  • Documentation of policies and procedures

There are many other requirements for those entities held to full HIPAA compliance. For a complete list of HIPAA requirements, forms, policies, and templates visit the “HIPAA Tools” section in the Compliance Basics Center available to all HR Service clients. The HIPAA Tools is a new resource available to Compliance Basic users found by logging at: and accessing the HIPAA Tools dropdown bar.

The above information is a simplification of “Health Plan” HIPAA requirements. Covered Entities, especially health care providers and clearing houses, should refer to “Covered Entity Determination” for a comprehensive checklist to determine HIPAA applicability under the Federal HIPAA Privacy, Security and Breach Notification Rules. Other resource include a “HIPAA Privacy and Security Compliance Guide Checklist” with additional resources, guidance, forms/tools and steps in establishing, implementing and maintaining a HIPAA compliance program.

About HR Service, Inc.

HR Service provides broker and client solutions for benefit ERISA compliance and HR, insuring organizations meet ERISA and Department of Labor (DOL) requirements for:  Summary Plan Description Wraps (SPD Wraps), Employee Notifications, 125 Premium Only Plans (125 POP), Summaries of Material Modification (SMM), Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA), ACA Reporting, and Employment Laws.  Our web-based SPD Wraps, Employee Notices, 125 POPs, and ACA Reporting tools make it easy to comply with ERISA.  Visit us online at or call (855) 447-3375 for SPD Wraps, 125 POPs, HR Support, ACA Reporting, HIPAA Solutions, HR Support, and more.


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