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
shudspeth@srfm.com

Why your business needs a wellness program

The Power of an Open Office Space: Good or Evil?

open office spaceForward thinking iconic Silicon Valley organizations like Google and Facebook started the wave that is known as the open office space. The open office space is an office layout that removes all of the physical barriers between employees-No walls, no cubicles, just desks and people.

Born from the spirit of collaboration (and a desire to maximize productivity per square foot) open office layouts have been adopted by businesses all over the country. But has it been an epic win or an epic fail?  It’s both. Let me explain.

If you type in a search engine query for “open office space”, it doesn’t look so good for the open floor plan. You’ll see results claiming that the open office space is oppressive an environment, a nightmare, and likens the trend to a viral outbreak decimating businesses all over the world (that’s taking it a little far, but that’s the gist of it).

Yet there are still some organizations that sing the praises of the open office space and talk about the tangible benefits they’ve seen in workforce and their profits as a result. It’s obviously a mixed bag and it’s tough to call this one, so let’s break it down.

Here are some pros and cons from both sides of the discussion.

Open Floor Plan Praise

  • It  fosters collaboration
  • Employees feel more comfortable in the space
  • By stripping down physical barriers, it promotes an openness in communication which sparks camaraderie and establishes a stronger sense of team
  • It allows management to have a more hands on “real world” view of the office dynamics
  • Increases productivity

Open Floor Plan Complaints

  • No privacy
  • Causes anxiety in employees due to the fact that everything an employee does is “under the microscope”
  • Hard to concentrate and focus
  • Employees can feel that the interaction with coworkers is “forced” and uncomfortable
  • It causes a divide between employees in the open space and managers in their offices
  • Decreases productivity

 There are valid arguments on both sides of the coin (and some conflicting ones). On one side, the big dot com organizations embrace the concept and are reporting an increase in morale and productivity with the open floor plan in place. In fact in 2015, Facebook moved to a new facility and created the largest open office floor plan in the world.

So, if it’s working for the big guys, Can it be that bad?

Will the Open Office Space work for my business?

From what Facebook says, employees can thrive in the environment and your business can reap the benefits of increased morale and productivity.

 However, employees are people, we’re all unique individuals and what works for one of us, may not work for another. Giving employees no choice but to be on display in front of all of their coworkers will ultimately present a problem for some individuals.

 Organizations like Facebook and Pixar attract employees with the personality for it. That is, professionals who apply for jobs at those organizations know going in that the open floor plan is part of the culture, and it’s something they’re content with. So if you’re a business looking to make a switch to an open office space, it’s not something employees signed up for, so it could meet with some resistance.

Balance is Key: The Hybrid Floor Plan

If you’re thinking about shifting to an open floor plan, consider a hybrid that combines elements of both traditional and open plans. This mix will encourage the collaboration, and create a level of comfort that an open office space is meant for, and at the same time will give the employees an option for more privacy. Sounds like it could be a winner.

Here are a couple simple things to try:

·         Create an open office space floor plan but include some privacy rooms where employees can break away and be on their own, make phone calls, and have some privacy.

·         If space is an issue, conversely you can keep the traditional floor plan in place and create some “open areas” in the office where employees can break out in small groups to collaborate.

The Verdict

The idea of the open office space is a good one, but taken to the extreme it can apparently be problematic and counter-productive. The goal is to create a comfortable space for employees – a “home away from home” helps employees to feel good about their day when they’re putting in long hours. You have to first know your employees and what makes them tick, then you can create an environment that strikes a balance and works for your unique team.

The professionals at Sinclair have a proven history of success in Human Resources. Our staff has the ability to become an integral part of your organization, understanding your products and services, your culture, and your processes. Feel free to get in touch with us anytime for a consultation.

Shannon Hudspeth
Human Resource Director
Why your business needs a wellness program

Can Manufacturing Overcome the Widening Skills Gap?

Can Manufacturing Overcome the Widening Skills Gap?Manufacturing has always correlated with rapid economic growth. Time and time again we’ve seen manufacturing businesses create jobs and elevate a community’s standard of living. The development of a factory is the saving grace of poor communities all over the world.

The International Monetary Fund and U.S. government projections expect our manufacturing sector to grow by 3 or 4 percent over the next two years. It’s good business for investors, too: we add $1.37 to our national economy for every dollar invested in manufacturing. Despite this optimistic future, the industry is poised to face some familiar challenges.

Like other wealthy nations, the general population of the United States is aging. By 2025, nearly 25% of all persons will be older than 60.

The manufacturing sector is experiencing this trend the hardest. In 2000, the median age of the manufacturing workforce was 40.5 years old. In 2012, the median age climbed to 44.7 years, significantly higher than other sectors.

This aging of the industry has created a skills gap that is getting wider every year. Over the next decade, two million of the available 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will go unfulfilled. Employers won’t be able to find skilled workers.

Experts believe the talent gap is caused by a number of reasons:

  1. Baby boomers are beginning to retire in tremendous numbers, leaving more positions vacant than the up-and-coming workforce can fill.
  2. Trending economic expansion continues to create more jobs (about 700,000 over the next decade) that can’t be filled.
  3. There is a negative image of the manufacturing industry among younger generations. Even though executives are willing to pay higher than market rate, positions remain unfilled.
  4. There has been a slow decline of technical education in public schools, leading to fewer graduates pursuing science, technology, engineering, and math degrees.

The Manufacturing Institute found that a majority of manufacturing executives consider talent loss their toughest struggle. They fear the skills gap will cause an inability to create and implement new technologies to meet customer demand and increase productivity. Naturally, these challenges will deter profitability and growth.

The industry has come become quite diverse. Automation, data, robotics and engineering play a big role in nearly every manufacturing facility in the United States. Manufacturing is expected to continue changing, which means the industry desperately needs tech-savvy young people who can adapt to new processes and technologies.e a long way. Instead of easy-to-replace repetitive jobs, industrial operations hav

Admittedly, attracting a new workforce is challenging. In order to maintain some manufacturing status in the global economy, we have to infuse the industry with younger talent. Companies need to feed young people’s interest and show that manufacturing can be a rewarding career.

This can be best achieved by creating partnerships with schools (at the secondary and collegiate levels) to invest in technical education and offering extra-curricular programs that inspire manufacturing-related skills.

To combat the skills gap, employers need to view training and workforce development as an investment in their company, not an inconvenient expense. They must build never-ending learning into their employees’ roles so skills can stay sharp and agile. Furthermore, they need to find effective ways to transfer the knowledge of their aging population to the young recruits or risk losing competitive advantages.

Jonathan Belek
Risk Management Consultant
jbelek@srfm.com
Spring Hazards: Worker Safety During Warmer Weather

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

Why your business needs a wellness program

Why your business needs a wellness programHere’s a business ideal, not always easily achieved:  Doing tangible good for others while doing good for your bottom line. You don’t have to be a flashy biotech firm or offer a solution to an intractable problem an ocean away to be improving the health of your fellow men and women.

We all want our products and services to benefit the greater community, but like charity, doing good starts at home. In the case of promoting health and wellbeing, it should start with your workforce.

Wellness programs in the workplace promote healthy habits and long-term positive change. They help employees lose weight, quit smoking, take care of themselves mentally and physically, and live more active lifestyles.

That all adds up to fewer sick days and worker’s compensation claims, and most importantly from your business’s macro level, improved staff morale and less turnover.

The high cost of low morale — Morale in the workplace is not easily measured on a 1 to Why your business needs a wellness program10 scale, but it doesn’t take complex data sets to know that when staff attitudes are poor, you’ll feel it acutely in reduced productivity, increased absenteeism, and problematic customer/client interactions.

Poor health directly impacts morale by taking key employees away from their posts as they struggle to fill in the gaps left by employees who are dealing with acute and chronic health conditions and injuries. This can lead to depression and loss of motivation not only for the directly affected employee, but for those who are left behind to pick up the slack.

The high cost of staff turnover – The daily effects of eating poorly and not exercising take time to turn into chronic problems. Similarly, excessive absences don’t translate overnight into permanent loss of key staff, but give it enough time and you will be losing employees for extended periods or completely.

With that loss, you suffer a blow to institutional knowledge, and gain the high cost of training new employees. A Center for American Progress study found that costs for bringing on a new employee range from 16% of annual salary to replace a low-wage worker (under $30,000 salary) to a whopping 213% of annual salary for highly compensated key employees and executives.

Employers must consider direct costs like advertising, interviewing, screening, and onboarding a new hire, as well as indirect costs such as lower productivity (at least initially) and impact on other staff, who may be missing an esteemed colleague who is unable to return to work.

Quite simply, there’s too much at stake for you to be without a wellness program in your workplace. The team at Sinclair Risk & Financial can help you get started.

Shannon Hudspeth, SPHR

shudspeth@srfm.com

8 Reasons pre-screening employees is just smart business

Matthew-Bauer

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                                                            mbauer@srfm.com

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

mshea@srfm.com

P: 203-284-3208

C: 860-202-1773

 

 

 

The Cleveland Browns and Sinclair Risk: Why being different is a good thing.

Matt Bauer

Matt Bauer

The Cleveland Browns debuted new uniforms last month, and they are quite eye-catching, especially given what came before. Fans long familiar with jerseys featuring tiny, barely readable “Browns” now see “CLEVELAND” screaming in big letters across the front. The uniforms can consist of multiple color combos of orange, brown, and white, the day’s variety depending on…owner Jimmy Haslam’s mood?

But, my favorite team has always been a little different (e.g., the Browns are the only franchise that doesn’t sport a logo on its helmets), and different is a good thing! The Browns stand out, even if their performance in recent seasons has not.

At Sinclair Risk & Financial Management, my other favorite team, we stand out for being different as well…but our performance is a LOT better than the Browns of late.
We don’t just write insurance policies and send clients on their way. We become part of your strategic team. Sinclair is one of the top 100 privately owned insurance brokers in the United States, thanks in part to our Risk Safeguard Advantage™ system , which digs deep into your company’s structure. We want to learn and help you succeed in achieving long term goals by uncovering potential pitfalls, identifying gaps in your Risk Management portfolio. We then create a plan that gives you the security you need to maximize your bottom line.

Our approach highlights risk management but goes further down the field, focusing on loss control, claims management, financial consulting, and human resources.
When you partner with Sinclair, our team of seasoned and talented professionals takes the time to gain a full understanding of your management philosophy, goals, and risk tolerance. We’ll also get inside your business operation to identify exposures to loss that could be a threat. We’ll then tailor a comprehensive risk management and insurance strategy that addresses your goals, protects your company’s value, and delivers measurable results — today and into the future.

The Risk Safeguard Advantage system has five key steps:
Vision: Learning about your goals, objectives, and how you define success.
Evaluation: Taking a deep look at your business through an onsite assessment so we can develop a complete risk analysis.
Analysis: Matching strategic solutions with your unique challenges, goals, and needs.
Implementation: Putting into place our recommended programs, such as safety training and operational improvements.
Accountability: Providing you with a Stewardship Report twice a year that shows our progress, along with your income statement and balance sheet to demonstrate transparent, tangible ROI.

When it comes to choosing a company to trust with your Risk Management needs, it pays to consider the one that’s a little different. Talk to us today about how we can help you reach the end zone.

Matthew Bauer

mbauer@srfm.com
Sinclair Risk & Financial Management

 

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.