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Your Employee Matters

Avoiding Road Rage and Aggressive Driving

By Your Employee Matters

Basic decency during driving can seem hard to come by these days. “Road rage” refers to the ability of perfectly sane people to become angry maniacs when behind the wheel of a car. On average, at least fifteen hundred people including men, women and children are killed or injured each year in America due to aggressive driving. Aggressive driving such as tailgating, cutting off other vehicles, and giving the one-finger salute are unfortunately quite common in the United States.

In fact, the problem of discourtesy when driving is responsible for as much as thirty percent of all traffic collisions. Drivers routinely ignore the basic rules of driving, engaging in overtly aggressive behaviors even to the point of murder. One of the most important situations where discourtesy results in injuries or death to other drivers is in right-of-way situations. Whenever two vehicles are driving along a path that puts them at odds with one another, the problem of right-of-way becomes boiled down to who goes first.

Right-of-way is always granted by the other driver, but the problem becomes exacerbated when drivers do not follow the rules concerning right-of-way. Unfortunately, being legally right does not mean being safe. Drivers who cede their right-of-way to the other driver might actually put themselves at risk.

Consider a common situation where, in congested traffic, a driver wants to be let in to the neighboring lane and the driver gives it to them. Before doing so, the driver must check for traffic coming from the rear. If there are two or more lanes going in the same direction, the driver also has to be aware of drivers passing him on the left, since the other driver could pass into that left lane.

Other drivers who are not aware of the first driver may not understand that they are yielding their right-of-way. Drivers must also remember to consider alternate routes. Sometimes avoiding left turns altogether can be the best choice. If a driver has missed a turn and needs to get back to the intersection, performing a U-turn might actually be very dangerous.

When you head it on the road today set an example, so that other drivers can be reassured that there is at least someone who is attempting to drive responsibly.

Retaliation in the Workplace

By Your Employee Matters

In Smith v. Hy-Vee, Inc., Drew Smith brought sexual harassment and retaliation claims due to conduct caused by Sheri Lynch, a tech cake decorator, who engaged in rude, vulgar, and sexually charged behavior toward Smith, and apparently all the other employees. The court stated that since Lynch did not seem to be “sexually motivated” toward Smith or any of the other employees, but simply out of control with all of them, there was no sexual harassment.

The issue in the case, however, was whether or not Smith had a reasonable belief that it was against the law and if the company retaliated against her because of her complaints. The court ruled that because she had to show the “good faith” nature of her belief, the facts from the underlying claim would be admissible at the retaliation trial. (What lawyers call having to “try a case within the case.”)

This case carries two lessons for employers:

If the crazy facts in this case are even slightly true, how did an employee like Sheri Lynch stay employed at Hy-Vee? Smith stated she reported incidents of harassment to at least 12 different managers and co-workers, making 66 to 101 complaints to management. Interestingly, Hy-Vee denies Smith ever complained. The company claimed that there were a number of incidents in which Smith herself did not act appropriately or questioned the authority of supervisors. She was also written up for making mistakes in cake and bagel orders during her final weeks of employment.

Although rude, vulgar, and obnoxious bosses might not end up generating a harassment or discrimination claim, they easily can trigger a legitimate retaliation case and expensive litigation. (Think about it — thousands of dollars in lawyers’ fees over cakes and bagels.) Remember that when employees bring these underlying complaints, they don’t have to use magic words like “harassment,” “discrimination,” or “retaliation” in order to trigger protection.

7 Tips to Share Workplace Concerns With Management

By Your Employee Matters

Sharing concerns with your manager at work can be intimidating, but you may need to talk about a difficult project, challenging co-worker, mistake you made, personal problem or other issue. Learn how to share workplace concerns with management in a way that ensures you are heard and doesn’t jeopardize your job.

Consider solutions not just the problem.

Would you like to change an unfair policy, correct a mistake you made or address the annoying personality of a co-worker? In addition to sharing your concern, offer solutions that improve the company and show that you’re a team player.

Prepare yourself.

Before your meeting, write down what you want to say. You can even prepare a cheat sheet to reference during your meeting if necessary.

Time the conversation wisely.

Instead of squeezing in a conversation before a meeting, at the end of the day or when your boss is walking out the door for the weekend, make an appointment. You’ll have your boss’s full attention and improve your chances of getting the issue resolved. Also, if possible, choose a time of day when you both are fresh and able to think clearly and calmly.

Maintain Professionalism

Even if the situation is emotional, do your best to remain professional, focus on facts, stay objective and avoid name calling or blaming others. Take time to calm down and remain non-confrontational and purposeful. Avoid losing your temper, crying, cursing or making personal accusations. You’re there to improve the situation, not throw a fit.

See managers as allies.

While the management team has the authority on the job site, they are also your allies. They want you and the team to succeed, which means they need to hear your concerns, so don’t be afraid to approach them.

Ask the offender to join your meeting.

When you need to discuss a problem with a co-worker or boss, consider asking the person to join your meeting. This way, you can air your grievances in a professional manner with your boss as the mediator and work together to find a mutually satisfying solution.

Be willing to compromise.

You may want to see the situation resolved to your advantage, but be prepared to compromise for the good of the company, its future and your own self development. Remember to look at the situation from your boss’s point of view, too. You may need to accept responsibility for any mistakes you made or agree to make changes in the future so the company will succeed.

Sharing concerns with management is intimidating, but you owe it to yourself and your company to speak up. Use these seven tips to help you successfully share workplace concerns with management.

Tips For Ride Sharing To Your Job

By Your Employee Matters

Also known as carpooling, ride sharing occurs when two or more commuters share a private vehicle on their drive to work. It gives you several benefits, so learn more about why you should ride share and tips to do it successfully.

Why You Should Participate in Ride Sharing

Ride sharing is actually very beneficial.

    1. Save money. With less wear on your vehicle, your maintenance costs will decrease. You’ll also pay less for gas, tolls, parking and other expenses when you share these costs. Pay less for your auto insurance, too, because you drive fewer miles each year and avoid accidents.
    1. Reduce stress. When you no longer have to deal with traffic, congestion and other commuting stress, you can arrive to work less frazzled and stressed.
    1. Reduce pollution. Do your part to reduce emissions and protect the environment when you share a ride to work.
    1. Save time. Ride sharing gives you access to the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane. It’s usually less crowded and can help you arrive to work earlier and save time.
    1. Create safer roads. With fewer cars on the road, accident risk decreases.
    1. Build friendships as you chat or discuss current events on the way to work.

Ride Sharing Options and Etiquette

There are several ride sharing options for your work commute. You can ask a co-worker, neighbor, family member or friend who lives nearby, drives near your job site and works similar hours to share rides with you.

If you can’t find anyone nearby who wants to ride share, use or another ride sharing website to find a commuting partner. You can also pay a bit more for a ride sharing service like Uber or Lyft if you only want to ride share a few times a week or less often.

Remember that you can customize your ride sharing experience to meet your needs. Maybe you ride partway with your neighbor and walk the rest of the way or carpool with a co-worker several times a month.

Once you do agree on ride sharing, decide who’s driving. You may each take turns driving your personal cars or provide money for gas, tolls and other expenses to the regular driver. The meeting place can be your home or a central location.

Keep your ride sharing agreement running smoothly when you follow several etiquette guidelines.

  • Arrive on time.
  • Create a schedule to accommodate vacation days or holidays.
  • Keep the car clean.
  • Agree on off-limit conversation topics or radio stations.
  • Use deodorant but not cologne or perfume.
  • Pay your share as agreed upon.

Ride sharing for work is highly beneficial. Check into this option today as you save time, money and the environment.

How to Pick the Best Health Insurance

By Your Employee Matters

It is very difficult to evaluate what Health insurance plan is the best fit for you if you don’t have a basic knowledge of insurance industry lingo and terminology. An insurance provider can describe the various insurance plans ad nauseam, but unless you understand the technical terms, you are not likely to be any wiser by the end.

The following are some of the most commonly used and important Health insurance terms:

Exclusions: The services that will not be covered under a Health insurance policy. Exclusions vary per provider, but cosmetic surgery, experimental treatments, or home care would be examples of common exclusions.

Co-payment: The fixed out-of-pocket amount that you will pay for each medical service or prescription before the Health insurance provider begins to pay for the service or prescription. This amount will also vary per policy, but usually range from $10 to $50.

Co-insurance: The percentage of the total cost that you will pay for a medical expense. Co-insurance may be in lieu of a co-payment or in addition to it. It also varies per policy, but a common arrangement is 20% patient payment and 80% insurance provider payment.

Deductible: The amount of out-of-pocket money you will pay before any health care expense is paid by the Health insurance provider. The annual deductible can be anywhere from $500 dollars to thousands, depending on what type of insurance plan you choose.

Coverage Limits: The pre-set monetary amount that a Health insurance plan will cover. Once you incur medical expenses past the limit, you will be responsible to pay the entire amount out-of-pocket.

Premium: The monthly payment amount that you pay to your Health insurance provider to continue coverage.

Out-of-Pocket Maximums: The point where your payment obligation ends and the health insurance company pays all future covered medical costs. These maximum out-of-pocket expenses can be applied to a particular benefit section or the all the policy benefits.

How to Determine What Health Insurance Plan Is the Right One

Health insurance coverage should be based on individual need and monetary resources. Cost is obviously a huge consideration, but luckily consumers have a lot of health care plan options. The cost of a health care plan will vary based on the benefits it provides and what insurance company is providing it. Exclusions, coverage limits, deductibles, etc. will all impact the monthly premium amount.

At the same time, a policy is virtually worthless if it fails to cover your expected medical needs; for example, if you expect to become pregnant, but the coverage excludes maternity, it probably will not be a very beneficial plan for you. There might also be certain known medical needs, such as prescription medications, mental health needs, immunizations, home health, therapy, eyeglasses, or preventative care, that you would want to ensure are covered in whatever Health insurance policy you choose. Always understand the benefits a plan offers before signing on the dotted line.

Lastly, you should make sure that the plan is offered by a reputable Health insurance company. It is also beneficial if the company has a professional insurance agent available. The insurance agent can best apprise you of all of your health care coverage options, help you determine what plan best encompasses your financial and medical need, and answer any policy-specific questions you might have.

12 Most Desired Employee Benefits

By Your Employee Matters

Employee benefits can be as important as salary when you choose a job. With a well-rounded benefits package, a company shows that it values its employees as people and is committed to their work/life balance, morale and motivation now and into the future. Surprisingly, some of the most desired benefits are unique, as you’ll see on this list of the 12 most desired employee benefits.

    1. Retirement Plans

      Employees appreciate a company that helps them plan for the future, especially if the company offers matching retirement funds. Access to a financial planner is another bonus.

    1. Health Insurance

      The stability of a group health insurance plan gives employees peace of mind. It’s also often more affordable than an individual policy, making it a valuable asset for many employees.

    1. Dental and Vision Insurance

      Often optional coverage, dental and vision insurance keep employees healthy and happy.

    1. Life Insurance

      With life insurance, employees can make sure their loved ones are provided for in the future. The peace of mind is invaluable.

    1. Flexible Spending Accounts

      Employees use FSA funds to pay for qualified health care or dependent care expenses. This benefit and its financial benefits stretch their paycheck and gives peace of mind.

    1. Paid Leave

      Paid vacation, sick, holiday and personal leave allows employees to take care of themselves and their families. It promotes work/life balance and improves loyalty and production.

    1. Flexible Hours

      When possible, companies can offer flexible hours. This schedule allows employees work when they’re at their peak, take time off to care for personal or family matters, and find better work/life balance.

    1. Telecommuting

      The ability to work from home appeals to many employees. They value the chance to work independently, save money on transportation and take a tax break.

    1. Maternity/Paternity Leave 

      Because the standard maternity leave is only 12 weeks for new moms, employers demonstrate their value for families when they offer expanded maternity and paternity leave. This benefit also improves middle class income potential and encourages more women to enter the workforce

    1. Free Child Care

      Some employers offer free on-site child care. While this benefit is particularly popular with parents, it improves productivity for everyone since it reduces time off and improves project continuity.

    1. Tuition Reimbursement

      By paying for employees to further their education, a company empowers it team and improves its future.

    1. Student Loan Assistance

      College loans can take years to repay. Any assistance is welcome by employees and helps employers attract educated and trained workers.

When asked about the most desired employee benefits, these 12 benefits top the list. They improve employee relations, productivity and motivation and helps companies attract quality employees, so look for them the next time you apply for a new job.

Talking with Coworkers About Your Disability and Accomodations

By Your Employee Matters

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from telling coworkers anything about an employee’s disability, including the fact that an employee is receiving an accommodation.

However, in some cases, the employee might want to educate coworkers voluntarily about the disability and accommodation, especially if their coworkers are going to notice the accommodation anyway. For example, if an employee with a disability is using a service dog at work, it might be useful to educate coworkers about service dogs.

Or, suppose an employee has severe allergies and needs to avoid inadvertent exposure at work. Here are some general guidelines for employees with disabilities communicating information about their disability and accommodation to their fellow workers:

Keep the conversation work related.

Let coworkers know why you’re telling them about your disability.

Don’t assume that they know anything about your disability; be prepared to provide general information if relevant.

Let coworkers know what you need from them and why you need it.

Explain to them what accommodations you’ll need and how they will help you perform your job.

Be positive and open, but limit the information you provide to the amount that you’re comfortable sharing.

10 Steps to Keeping Employee Parking Lots Safe

By Your Employee Matters
Have you ever considered the safety of your parking lot? Criminal activity, inclement weather and fender benders are all events that can affect the safety of your valued employees. Several steps ensure you are keeping employee parking lots safe.

    1. Install Lighting

      A well-lit parking lot helps employees feel safe and decreases criminal activity since burglars or vandals can’t hide in the shadows. Install enough lights to illuminate your entire parking area, including corners and building entrances.

    1. Monitor the Lot

      Security cameras or security guards add a layer of protection to your employee parking lot. They deter criminal activity and notice any safety hazards.

    1. Mark the Lot

      Every parking space should be clearly marked, and you should mark arrows on the ground that direct traffic flow. This step helps drivers navigate the parking lot successfully, especially during rush hour.

    1. Provide Security Escorts

      There’s safety in numbers. If possible, assign security staff to walk employees to and from their cars every day or encourage employees to walk with a buddy or group.

    1. Perform Repairs

      As soon as you notice a blown light or see faded parking space markings, replace or repair the problem.

    1. Provide Safe Waiting Areas

      Employees should never have to wait alone in the parking lot. Provide safe place to wait in case someone locks their keys in their car, has to wait for a ride or otherwise can’t leave work immediately.

    1. Report Odd or Suspicious Activity

      Encourage your employees to join you in looking for and then reporting odd or suspicious behavior such as:

      • Unfamiliar people or anyone who looks like they don’t belong.
      • Someone wandering aimlessly through the lot.
      • People carrying large bags or concealing objects.
      • A person who peers into parked cars or tries to open the door handles.
      • Someone conducting business from a vehicle.
      • Anyone who sits in a parked vehicle for an extended time.
    1. Plan for Inclement Weather

      Ice, snow, slippery leaves and other inclement weather can pose a safety hazard as employees walk into work. Remove snow, spread ice melter and sweep away slippery leaves as you promote safety.

    1. Teach Self-Defense Tactics

      Empower your employees with basic self-defense training. They will feel confident in potentially dangerous situations at work and anywhere.

    1. Post Safety Signs

      Visual reminders help your employees remember and follow safe parking lot practices. These written rules can include reminders to:

      • Stay alert.
      • Pay attention to your surroundings.
      • Walk with another person when possible.
      • Have your key ready before you reach your car.
      • Lock your doors.
      • Don’t linger in the lot.

These 10 steps go a long way toward keeping employee parking lots safe. Consider implementing them as soon as possible.

1,500 Hours of Wasted Time on Busywork

By Your Employee Matters

Work can be a life-draining affair.” Joseph Campbell

Effective time management is essential if you wish to be a successful HR executive — and have a life at the same time. According to CEO surveys, when HR professionals focus their time on administrative and compliance duties (positions in which one is particularly likely to say “no”) their companies don’t see them as being strategic partners to the business. The problem is that HR executives spend an average of only 25% of their time on strategic activities. From a career and company goals perspective, this is akin to orchestrating their own demise.

When I advise HR executives to manage their time more effectively by minimizing administrative and compliance activities, I get a variety of “reasons” why they don’t do so:

This simply has to get done.
Somebody has to do it.
I don’t have the time to delegate this right now.
There’s nobody else here to do it.
I’m not sure I would know how to delegate it properly.
I can’t manage the person to whom I delegated it.

These are all poor excuses that can block your career success.

Let’s think about some numbers. Suppose you spend an average of 10 hours a week managing payroll and other administrative tasks. Let’s say you earn $40 per hour (roughly $80,000 per year) and administrative tasks such as this are the least valuable work you do. In fact, it’s work that $20 an hour people can do. On the conservative side, every hour that you do this work, the company loses $20 an hour — which comes to $800 a month or $9,600 a year. If you put this same effort into doing $60 an hour strategic work instead, the company would gain $20 every hour — and you’d be in a far better position to ask for a raise.

Think about it: if you waste 10 hours a week for the next three years, that’s 500 hours this year, and 1,500 hours during the next three years of your life that you’ll never get back! What’s more, this waste will cost the company at least $30,000.

If you label your work as “A”, “B,” and “C” work, you should be spending 80% of your time on A Work, 20% on B work — and zero time on C work. Otherwise, you’re spinning your wheels.

C work basically wastes time completely. It’s nothing you can delegate; it’s just something you should stop doing. B work is administrative and can be delegated or outsourced — such as payroll and benefits administration. Focus on A work: What the business needs and what you want to get great at doing. A classic example would be training in a company that’s focused on technological advances.

To determine where your time is going — and should be going — use this checklist:

A-Level Activities:

  • Meeting with the executive team to understand their vision, mission, value, goals, etc.
  • Studying and understanding the company’s strategic plans, financials, succession plan, markets, branding, and other operations.
  • Identifying the critical human resource needs for this organization (surveys, observation, focus groups, interviews, etc.).
  • Input into the company’s overall compensation plan, including pay rates, incentives, bonuses, rewards programs, etc.
  • Creating strategic plans and processes for carrying out top objectives.
  • Developing training plans to support implementation.
  • Input into the company’s overall risk-management plan, including assistance with the purchase of benefit programs, Workers Comp insurance, Cyber Liability insurance, and Employment Practices Liability insurance (EPLI).
  • Creating systems for hiring, performance, retention and compliance.
  • Facilitating creativity, branding, suggestion systems, etc.
  • Implementing any other company strategic objectives to which you can provide input.

B-Level Activities:

  • Payroll and benefits administration.
  • Implementation of hiring, performance, retention and compliance systems.
  • HRIS management.
  • Delivery of training.
  • Creation of employee handbook and executive contracts.
  • Personnel files management.
  • Attendance, vacation, and leave management.
  • COBRA administration.
  • Compliance posters and handouts.

C-Level Activities:

  • Employee dramas.
  • Meetings that go nowhere.
  • Doing any $10-20/hour work.

Benefits of Prescription Drug Insurance

By Your Employee Matters

Prescription drug coverage is a benefit many employers offer. You can use it to pay for your medications and improve or maintain your health.

What is Prescription Drug Coverage?

Most employers offer prescription drug coverage as part of your healthcare benefits package. With this coverage, your insurance pays for the medications your doctor prescribes after you pay your deductible any co-pays.

How to Choose Medications

Your coverage’s formulary list can help you and your doctor choose medication. All the medicines on this list are reviewed by healthcare professionals and are safe and effective. However, they are divided into tiers that determine their price.

  • Tier 1 – Primarily generic, tier 1 drugs provide the same medical benefits as brand-name drugs at a lower cost.
  • Tier 2 – Find many effective and affordable brand name and some generic drugs in tier 2.
  • Tier 3 – Non-preferred brand name drugs will cost more than equivalent generic or preferred medicines.
  • Tier 4 – Drugs in this tier are usually self-administered injectables or specialty drugs that treat chronic or serious conditions and require special handling, monitoring or administration. They are the highest priced drugs available.

Consult the formulary list as you decide which medications you can afford.

How to Fill Prescriptions

Many prescription drug coverage plans make filling prescriptions easy. You can visit a participating retail pharmacy in person with your prescription and member ID card or request medication through a mail order pharmacy. Both of these options include access to pharmacists who can answer any questions or concerns you may have.

You may also visit a non-participating pharmacy. However, you’ll be responsible to pay the full cost of the medicine when you pick it up. You may then submit a claim form to your prescription drug plan administrator before you receive reimbursement.

Maximize Your Prescription Drug Coverage

Several tips help you maximize your prescription drug coverage and save money while staying healthy.

  • Print your prescription plan’s formulary list and ask your doctor to prescribe a tier 1 or tier 2 drug if possible.
  • Ask your doctor about step therapy where you try a less costly medication before a more expensive alternative.
  • Obtain prior authorization for prescriptions from your insurance plan.
  • Choose an in-network pharmacy.
  • Select mail order delivery.
  • Buy 90-day supplies of maintenance medicines used to treat asthma, high cholesterol, high blood pressure or other conditions.
  • Choose a plan that includes most of your medications in tier 1 or 2.
  • Shop around during your company’s open enrollment for the most affordable prescription drug coverage plan.

Your prescription drug coverage is an important feature of your employee benefits plan. Get more details from your HR manager as you protect your health.