The Modern Office & Managing the Risk

modern officeToday’s employers are placing a premium on employee wellness and engagement. And rightfully so, hard working employees deserve some love. But in addition to doing right by their people, businesses that provide comprehensive wellness plans and lifestyle perks for their employees are realizing huge benefits from it. But with more unconventional and physical activities going on in the office, there comes a whole new set of risks for employers.

Let’s talk about what employers are doing for their people, how it’s working, and how to manage the risks involved in the modern office.

A New Age of Employee Engagement

Now more than ever organizations in business are truly investing in their people. Employee perks and benefits are evolving to an all new level thanks to forward-thinking companies like Google with state of the art fitness facilities, fully stocked game rooms, free bicycles and more cool perks for employees. Who ever thought we’d see a rock climbing wall at the office?  Googles’ perks go so deep that past and current Google employees have gone online to list their favorite perks working for Google.

Here are Some Common Contemporary Employee Benefits, Perks and Activities

  • Fitness gyms
  • Yoga, Karate, Pilates studios
  • Basketball courts
  • Table games: Ping Pong, Foosball, Billiards, etc.
  • Video games
  • Reading rooms
  • Massage chairs
  • On Site Pet Care
  • And yes, even rock climbing

A New Age of Risk

Not to be a wet blanket, but you can get hurt playing Ping Pong, and the bottom line is: If you’re putting perks and activities in place that present the potential for an accident or injury, you have a responsibility to manage the risk and provide the safest environment possible for your employees. So, before you put up the basketball hoop, put some basic risk management measures in place.

Here are some simple things that you can do to manage the risks involved with lifestyle perks:

Liability Waivers: If you’re offering activities with any level of physicality or potential for injury, it’s a common best practice to get signed waivers from participants…even if it’s only Ping Pong.

Medical Clearance: Depending on the physical level of the activities you make available, you may consider requiring clearance from a doctor before employees may participate in any activities.

Restrict Access: To reduce employer risks, allow only employees of the company (and not friends and family) to take advantage of the amenities (Gym, Sports Court, etc).

Safety Programs: Institute a safety education program covering the equipment and activities, and post safety guidelines in game rooms, gyms, and on ball courts or playing fields.

Get Covered: If you’re thinking of providing any new perks or benefits for your employees, make sure that you have adequate liability and workers’ comp  insurance coverage in place (yes, even if it’s ping pong).

The modern office landscape is changing, and with this new era of employee engagement and all of the perks that go with it, a new set of risks arise. So, if you’re considering taking your benefits package to the next level, talk to us at Sinclair. We specialize in measuring your risk and covering your exposure. We’re also Liability and Workers’ Comp experts, so this is right up our alley.

Shannon Hudspeth
Human Resource Director

Why your business needs a wellness program

Beyond the Bonus: Powerful Ways to Reward Your Employees

Beyond the Bonus: Powerful Ways to Reward Your EmployeesA company or organization can only achieve success through the hard work and dedication of its employees. Those employees need to feel motivated and empowered to produce excellent work. 
Finding ways to inspire employees is one of the challenges of today’s managers. The conventional solution is to throw money at the problem in the form of bonuses. The best managers know how to lead without writing checks. Plus, in today’s economic climate, rewarding employees with cash is tough for many businesses. 
Creating a compelling incentive for an employee (or an offer to a candidate) doesn’t have to be centered around pay. Here are some powerful ways you can reward your employees (and boost their happiness and loyalty) without writing bonus checks.  
Public Appreciation
Saying “thank you” behind closed doors is well and good, but we’re social animals that like others to know about our accomplishments. Find ways to acknowledge your employees in public forums, like company newsletters, meetings, or memos. Make sure to document exactly what the employee did above his or her job so you set the standard for others to excel as well.
Employment Perks
Perks are simple ways to make the workplace a bit more comfortable for your employees. Things like free coffee and snacks, free lunch, or even elaborate benefits like a daycare facility or pick-up dry cleaning are excellent ways to make your staff feel like the company is taking care of them. Furthermore, an employee perceives the value of these perks higher than they actually cost you. (For example, an employee values a bottle of water at $2 because that’s what they would pay, but you pay less by buying in bulk for the office.)
Flexible Schedules
For many people, a flexible schedule that can adapt to their lives is worth more than money. A schedule they can adjust within reason may reduce their time spent in traffic, save a few dollars with their daycare provider, or give them a chance to spend more time with their spouse. When work stops being an obstacle in their life, you greatly improve their happiness. 
Opportunities to Develop
Career-minded people are always looking for ways to improve their resumes and skill sets. Give high-performing individuals the tools they need by investing in their education through classes and conferences. Place them in positions of authority and responsibility within your company where they can lead others and improve professionally. Not only will this help your employee grow, but it also strengthens their commitment to your company.
Ask Your Employees
Before doling out what you think your employees want, ask them directly how you can help them do their job better, improve productivity, and improve their work/life balance. You might be surprised at what they find valuable. 
Shannon Hudspeth
Human Resource Director
Why your business needs a wellness program

8 Reasons pre-screening employees is just smart business


I spend my workday helping Sinclair clients manage risk, avoid hidden pitfalls, and implement initiatives that give them the best chance to be prosperous and successful. I do this work happily, it gives me great joy! That’s why I am such a strong advocate of making sure organizations have a structured, consistent approach to pre-screening employees.  It floors me that more than half of organizations do not conduct any kind of background check.

Hard work and strategic planning can suffer mightily in the face of bad hiring decisions. Too often employers don’t take pre-screening seriously enough, only to deal with negative consequences after the fact.

Best practices in hiring include background and drug screening and a thorough dive into references, social media, and other online sources. This isn’t about nitpicking, playing “gotcha” with someone who inflates a title or educational achievement on a resume, this is about protecting your organization from the potential for serious disruption within.

Here are eight reasons why pre-screening potential employees is not only smart risk management, but smart business:

Reduce overall liability — If your organization is one of the more than half that don’t do even basic criminal background checks, you could easily be hiring somebody with a violent past, perhaps even with a track record of altercations in the workplace. Once that person is within your fold, your staff is at risk and you’ve created a huge liability for your company.

Reduce health care and absenteeism costs — Employees that bring substance abuse problems to the workplace cost their employers big time, to the tune of $81 billion annually. In no way should sober individuals who previously had a problem be disqualified from a position, but an active alcoholic/drug abuser is another matter entirely, and one easily corrected by pre-employment screening.

Customer relations — You’ve recruited a young person for a front-line, customer facing position. He seems pleasant enough, and impressed you with his enthusiasm for working with the public. Outside of management eyes though, he can be rude, unhelpful, and catty, alienating your customer base. Had you followed up on reference checks, you would have learned that’s why he was shown the door at his last job.

Avoid poisoning the office culture — She had the right education and experience and did well in interviews. You were in a rush to fill a critical position and didn’t worry about references who didn’t call back. Turns out your new hire is a Debbie Downer who is quick to bring her personal grievances into the workplace, adding tension and dysfunction that can easily spread and grow.

Keep management from getting distracted — Once taken root, a difficult employee becomes a handful to manage, consuming an outsized portion of attention from your senior staff. It’s amazing how quickly one or two problem employees can suddenly command so much energy.

Keep flexible — Difficult employees tend to be the least flexible, the least open to management initiatives and changes in strategic direction. They may go along with the program when the boss is within earshot, but as soon as she’s out of sight, the problem employee is quick to badmouth the strategy to others, gumming up the works, sowing doubt, and making it harder to get buy-in from staff.iStock_000019568102Small

Avoid getting stuck — Despite the fact that nearly all non-union workers are “at-will,” problem employees are hard to get rid of without incurring substantial litigation risk. Plus doing so can also disrupt staff dynamics. It’s better to do everything possible to avoid the situation in the first place.

Avoid negative publicity — When it comes to bad publicity, it used to be you only had to worry about the folks who bought ink by the barrel. Now you have to worry about everyone with an internet connection…which is everyone! Disgruntled ex-employees can trash you on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. They can leave negative reviews on sites like Glassdoor and a host of others that exist just for that purpose (and have very good SEO).

In short, your problem employee is not going to go quietly, so the best approach is to try as best you can to avoid hiring them in the first place.

Not sure how to implement a best-practice pre-screening program at your organization? Contact me today to see if Sinclair can help.

Matt Bauer                                                                                                                     President,Sinclair Risk & Financial Management                                                  

Job Descriptions: Many businesses overlook this key HR must have – do you?

Marty SheaJob descriptions are an essential component of any organization. Not only is it important that they are thorough and accurate when first crafted, it is also vital that they are kept up-to-date, as employees’ job functions may evolve.

Inaccurate or outdated job descriptions can also negatively affect recruiting and productivity, are a detriment to the employer-employee relationship and pose serious legal risks for the company.

 Impact on Recruiting

When a recruiter is told to hire a new employee, he or she should have a clear idea of the type of person to hire—specifically which qualities, skills and experience to look for to yield a solid group of candidates. This can be gleaned from a detailed job description. Without one, the recruiter cannot hope to find a candidate that will match the manager’s expectations for the position.

On the applicant side, prospective employees need specific job descriptions to decide if the position is a good fit for their qualifications and their desired career. Well-written, accurate job descriptions will ensure that the most relevant, qualified candidates apply for the job.

Employer Expectations

Having a comprehensive job description creates a concrete set of expectations for the employer to communicate to the employee. The employee is aware of his or her responsibilities as outlined in the job description, so there is less confusion about job expectations. It can also serve as an evaluation tool for employers to measure job performance based on pre-defined job duties.

Legal Implications – the fine print.

Perhaps most importantly, accurate and up-to-date job descriptions will limit company liability. Job descriptions have been successfully used by employees against former employers in recent litigation.

  • Fair Labor and Standards Act (FLSA): The FLSA defines exempt and non-exempt status—exempt employees are not subject to minimum wage and overtime pay requirements. This can be a serious liability if an employee began work under exempt status, but is now performing non-exempt work as well without an updated job description. The job description must make clear whether the employee is exempt or not and must be in line with the duties the employee is actually performing—failing to do so can leave companies vulnerable to lawsuits.
    • Exempt: The employee must be paid a salary (not an hourly fee) and perform duties defined as relatively high-level work in which the employee uses judgment and discretion on a regular basis. The employee’s primary duties must fit this classification in order to be considered exempt.
    • Non-exempt: Any employee who is paid by the hour is non-exempt, and thus subject to minimum wage and overtime requirements.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): The ADA stipulates that employers define the “essential functions” of a job, which are the basic duties that an employee must perform. An individual is only protected under the ADA if he or she is capable of performing the essential functions of a job, so it is vital that these functions are specified.

Don’t overlook this key HR must have – the Employee Job Description – it should be part of your overall Risk Management program.

Concerned that your company may have a gap and be at risk?  Clients of Sinclair Risk & Financial Management have access to Human Resources Management and other tools to help improve their business’s bottom line.

If you are struggling with creating the correct job descriptions, other HR compliance documents or are concerned that perhaps your current Risk Management program is less than stellar – give me a call, we can take a review and get you on the right track.

Marty Shea. VP of Sales

P: 203-284-3208

C: 860-202-1773




Franchise owners: The secrets to managing Millennials!

It’s no secret that one of the challenges of launching and maintaining a successful fast food franchise is attracting and retaining quality employees.

Turnover in the restaurant business is rampant. Half of a fast food restaurant’s staff will leave within a year, and casual dining establishments don’t fare much better at 44%.

Combine this already tough landscape with the particular tendencies of the millennial generation (roughly speaking, today’s teenagers up to the early 30s) and you’ve got a difficult recipe to work with. The problem is these entitled youngsters who just don’t understand how to behave in the workplace, right? WRONG!

Turns out the stereotypes of millennials — they need constant reassurance, they can’t take criticism, they are unprofessional and don’t understand workplace etiquette — are not true, according to an eye-opening report by IBM. In fact, that kind of negative personality type comes in all ages and is no more likely to be found in someone under 35 than in an older employee.

But broadly speaking, millennials are different from other workers…in a good way! Tech-savvy, optimistic, idealistic, and open-minded, they bring a different set of expectations to the workplace — something smart franchise owners can capitalize on…if they have the knowhow.

Most franchise owners have a need to tap into younger workers to help get the job done. They are motivated, energetic, resourceful, and quite often, a bargain. So, once you’ve tapped into this growing slice of the workforce, how do you keep them happy?

First, don’t stereotype! Treat your millennial employees as individuals. It’s easy to assume a series of personality traits based on age and appearance, but if you do, you’ll just be doing yourself and your business a big disservice. Invest time into learning the particular strengths and interests of each employee.

Provide inspiring leadership. Establish a framework that helps draw in millennials to your business strategy while providing lessons they can take with them as they climb the ranks in your company (or, if elsewhere…think of it as paying it forward.)


Give solid feedback and don’t shirk from offering constructive criticism when warranted. Don’t be afraid to explain why something isn’t up to snuff. Your millennials can take it…they just don’t want to be in the dark, unsure of how they’re doing.

Improve the customer experience of your business.  Millennials are the most marketed to generation, ever, and they care about how your company’s actions and policies affect consumers. Often on the front lines, millennials are eager to play a positive role in customer relations. Making sure your policies are customer friendly helps keep your young staff motivated and has a very positive effect on your bottom line.

Embrace technology and use it to solve problems. Millennials, born with a screen of some kind at hand, have little patience for filling out paper forms in triplicate when software can do the job in a tenth of the time. Make your staff happy and increase productivity by employing technology when appropriate.

These tips are not only good strategies for interacting with your millennials, but with your entire workforce. At Sinclair Risk, we can help franchise owners get the most out of their staff.

Got franchise questions? Contact me today.

Diane Kietner

Sinclair Risk & Financial Management

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Tips for Reducing New Haven Employment Practices Liability Risks

Tips for Reducing New Haven Employment Practices Liability Risks Tips for Reducing New Haven Employment Practices Liability Risks

Hiring can be one of the most challenging parts of operating a business, and it all starts with writing a job posting. Crafting the perfect job posting requires great attention to detail, strong diction and a clear understanding of state and federal employment regulations. A well-executed posting can help bring in more qualified and promising applicants, while a poorly planned listing can have devastating effects. If improperly written a job listing can leave employers open to a host of legal accusations including discrimination and failure to hire.

According to a recent University of Michigan study, some of the most common mistakes made by employers when writing their postings include:

  • Providing details about a desired candidate’s physical characteristics or lifestyle. It is all too easy to desire a specific type of candidate for a position, for example, younger companies typically seek young and energetic workers. However it is essential to display no preference or bias during the hiring process. Focusing on the desired qualities, skills and work habits of necessary to perform the essential functions of the position can help prevent allegations of discrimination. Federal and state laws prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, color, national origin, family status and more. It is essential to keep any mention or suggestion about these elements out of your job posting.
  • Describing the candidate, not the position. It is important to emphasize the essential functions of the position to engage and entice the proper demographic of applicants. Professionals suggest letting the job description speak to the types of candidate you are seeking by detailing the roles, responsibilities and functions necessary to succeed in the position. Doing so will allow the position itself to weed-out unqualified or weak candidates.
  • Requiring, requesting or otherwise stating a preference that a candidate is an American citizen. While certain positions do require proof of citizenship, the vast majority do not. In fact, in most circumstances it is actually illegal under federal and state antidiscrimination laws to require American citizenship when considered employment. Doing so could be seen as discrimination against any applicant who is legally permitted to work in the U.S. To avoid any legal complications employers may only ask for “proof of eligibility” to work in the U.S. as a part of the application process.

While nothing can fully protect you from the risks of running a business, the right New Haven Employment Practices Liability coverage can help secure your business assets should any allegations of misconduct arise. At Sinclair Risk and Financial Management we proudly offer the most comprehensive New Haven business risk management solutions in the industry. Our New Haven Business Insurance coverage includes Employment Practices Liability, Workers Compensation and a full host of specialty coverage options to ensure that your business is protected. Give us a call today at (877) 602-2305 for more information about any of our offerings.

Recruitment & Retention: What Do Employees Want?

Recruitment & Retention: What Do Employees Want?Recruitment & Retention: What Do Employees Want?

When recruiting employees for your company, it is not enough to find and hire the best. In fact, it is after they sign on the dotted line that the real work begins- developing and retaining quality employees who can contribute to your company. This post is brought to you by Sinclair Recruitment Consulting Services

High turnover can rack up training costs and hurt business growth. Just as a candidate presents their best skills and qualifications in the job interview, it is the company’s responsibility to provide a job and work environment that will keep them there. Below is a summarized list of what employees want most from their job, according to Inc. magazine. Hint- it’s not only about the money.

Defining their role. Employees want a sense of purpose and distinct goals that they can pursue. It comes down to a basic psychological need- humans want to feel appreciated. If they clearly know their role in the company, feel like they are making a contribution and their ideas are being heard, they will be much more motivated. And that motivation will show in the quality of their work.

Autonomy & flexibility. Micro-managing indicates that an employee isn’t trusted, and that they need constant supervision. No one likes that feeling, and it puts unnecessary pressure on the employee. Giving your employees the freedom over how they work can make them more productive. They want to come in early on Wednesdays so they can make their kid’s soccer game? Let them. They will be happier employees overall. And, as a business owner, it will help you recruit and maintain top talent.

Compensation. Obviously, salary and bonuses are enticing for a company. But other factors can have huge pull. A comprehensive benefits package, wellness plan, or an extra week of PTO can be enticing factors for employees. Wellness programs can also be a draw.

Identifying and recruiting quality employees is no easy task. Retaining them is even tougher. Creating an environment they want to be in will boost loyalty and retention. Sinclair Risk & Financial Management provides companies with recruitment consulting services to effectively and economically identify, screen, and acquire executives and staff. We understand that an effective Employees Benefits program is key in hiring and keeping top talent- we’ll help you strike the right balance in offering an attractive plan that is flexible with your organization’s financial ability. Contact us today for more information about our recruitment consulting services.