Super Bowl Champion Set for Celebrity Golf Tournament in Denver

Denver, Colorado – JULY 15, 2016 – Super Bowl 50 Champion, TJ Ward, is making big plays during his off-season with his namesake foundation. Ward and the TJ Ward Foundation are hosting their 2nd annual Celebrity Golf tournament, at Blackstone Country Club in Aurora, CO on Monday, July 18. This event is organized to assist in the mission of the TJ Ward Foundation, and raise money for youth development programing in underprivileged communities.


The annual event has attracted a star-studded list of athletes and celebrities from around the country including numerous teammates of Ward and the Denver Broncos.  The celebrity event is also proud to partner with Game On Technology, Synergy Sports, the Hale Family, Smile Generation, Webroot, Aircom, Body Armor, 7up, Hennessy, Frontier Airlines, Snapple, True Capital, Crown Trophy, Wells Fargo, Beam Suntory, Solomon Davis Wealth Management, Elevate Consulting, Crown Lifestyle Management, Celebrity Custom Homes, Land Rover Denver, LaCorte Enterprises, Gwenivere Snyder, Epic Sports, Vault Aviation, ReMax/Fairway Mortgage, Mu Brewery, Nothing Bundt Cakes, A 5 Star Limo, Perry’s Steakhouse, Marley Coffee, Trunk Club, and Krave Jerky.


“It feels great to have a big annual event that my foundation and I put together that so many people from around the country support.  I am so proud to be a Super Bowl Champion in the city of Denver”, said Ward.  “I’m most excited about a special guest joining us.  He definitely is the biggest champion in my book”.


Although public observation is not allowed, media is welcomed with a credential.  For all inquiries, please contact Melissa LaCorte at 469-500-1734 or by email at  For all event information, visit


About the TJ Ward Foundation

The TJ Ward Foundation is committed to enhancing the lives of young people by supporting programs that provide the tools necessary to empower young men and women in underprivileged communities across the country. The Foundation focuses on the socioeconomic, educational, and physical needs of the young people it supports. The TJ Ward Foundation stresses the importance of education while also placing an important emphasis on physical fitness and health. These areas are recognized by the Foundation as playing a crucial role in youth development and ultimately leading to a successful and fulfilling life.


*For direct link to press release, click here

Employers Rethink Pay Practices After Overtime Rule

Employers Rethink Pay Practices After Overtime Rule

Challenges include using bonuses to push employees over the exempt threshold

The Department of Labor’s final rule on overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA), released May 18, will mean adjusting numerous compensation practices to comply with the new rule, HR managers and advisors say.

The pay-related issues raised by the new rule extend beyond reclassifying millions of employees as nonexempt—and thus entitled to paid overtime at an hourly rate of time and a half when working over 40 hours a week (see SHRM’s FLSA Overtime Rule Resources page.) Compensation managers also are grappling with challenges such as whether to use bonuses to push employees over the exempt-pay threshold of $47,476 annually or $913 weekly, whether workers who have lost exempt status should be treated as “salaried but nonexempt,” how to confront the risks of pay compression, and how to deal with strained compensation budgets.


Each Workweek Stands Alone

Employers who are covered under the FLSA must establish a workweek (7 consecutive 24-hour periods) and must pay overtime when hours worked exceed 40 in the workweek. When calculating overtime pay, each workweek must stand alone. For example, an employee works 35 hours one week and 45 hours the next week for a total of 80 hours. Even though the total hours averages to 40 hours worked each week, the employee must still be paid for the five overtime hours worked during the second week.


New Role for Incentive Pay

The final rule amends the salary basis test to allow employers to use nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) to satisfy up to 10 percent of the new standard salary threshold, provided these payments are made on a quarterly or more-frequent basis. Previously, there had been no regulatory provision to count incentive pay toward the salary threshold.

At companies that offer such incentives and bonuses, employees can earn a nondiscretionary bonus if they meet performance or productivity goals set by the employer. If the goals are met, “there’s no question about whether it’s going to be paid out or not,” said Meg Ferrero, assistant general counsel at payroll and HR services firm ADP in Parsippany, N.J.

“If we’re talking about commissions or bonuses that might not be earned from period to period, then relying on those payments to get an employee over the salary threshold could put the employer at risk,” she noted.

Under the final rule, if an employee does not earn enough in nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments in a given quarter to retain his or her exempt status, the employee would be entitled to overtime pay for any overtime hours worked throughout the quarter—or, alternatively, employers are permitted to make one “catch-up” payment to the employee at the end of the quarter to compensate for the shortfall.

Morris Communications Co., a newspaper and magazine company based in Augusta, Ga., has about 1,800 employees nationwide, and just under 300 of those employees hold professional positions that will lose their exempt status under the new rules, said Sally Roberts, SHRM-SCP, director of HR. Using bonuses and other types of incentive pay to keep employees above the threshold is “an idea our compensation manager and I have kicked around a bit because it could be a win-win,” she said. “If employees are productive or saving money and we’re able to give them a quarterly bonus that will help toward the threshold, then we might be more eager to do that versus increasing base pay” to maintain their exempt status.

Ten percent of the threshold is $4,747.60, which would be the maximum amount that could be applied, “but if you’re awarding a bonus based on performance metrics, you’d have to structure the incentive so that, if the top target is missed, the payout would still be sufficient to get those employees over the threshold. It’s a little tricky, and we’ll need to carefully model it and see if it’s appropriate. But it’s intriguing,” Roberts said.

Elizabeth Hays, SHRM-SCP, director of human resources at Mars Home for Youth (MHY) Family Services, a Mars, Pa., nonprofit organization that serves at-risk youth, said her organization has about 150 employees, of which around 65 are currently exempt. “Probably 50 of these will be affected, as most of them are making $30,000-plus, well under the new $47,476 threshold.”

MHY doesn’t currently pay bonuses, but “perhaps down the road that’s something we could consider, if we have adequate funding to do so,” she said. “A small bonus doesn’t feel like much once it’s taxed, so it’s got to be big enough to feel like some type of reward.” And, as with many nonprofits and small businesses, she doubts that her compensation budget is large enough to keep these employees exempt, whether by raising their base pay or making incentive awards.

————————————————————  Comp budgets may not be able to keep employees exempt,  whether by raising base pay or making incentive awards. —————————

Salaried, Hourly or Salaried Nonexempt?

Some employers are planning to keep newly nonexempt employees as salaried even though they will be entitled to overtime based on their actual hourly rate if they work over 40 hours a week, but “I don’t believe it to be a best practice,” said Ferrero. “I think the best practice still is to pay your nonexempt employees on an hourly basis and to pay them for all time worked, included partial hours down to the minute.”

She added, “It’s almost more work for the employer, because they have to do the calculations around what the hourly rate actually is.”

Nevertheless, Ferrero said, it’s understandable that some employers might consider using a salaried nonexempt approach “because of the emotional impact, given that employees don’t necessarily want to see their pay rate change from a salary to an hourly rate. Employers are going to have to make some tough decisions from the human relations perspective with some of these issues, and to let their employees know they are valued employees regardless of how they’re classified.”

At Morris Communications, Roberts said, “Our solution is not going to be a one-size-fits-all.” Among those earning less than $47,476, “we are not going to raise everybody up to the new threshold, nor are we going to make everybody hourly. We’ll evaluate those people and positions to see how far away they are from the threshold, and evaluate the time that they’re currently working. Then we’re going to make decisions based on those assessments.”

As for using the salary nonexempt approach, “I think there is a place for it,” Roberts said. “It depends on the industry. In some categories of jobs, it works.”

To make the approach effective, she suggested that HR “prepopulate those employees’ timecards, since you’re assuming they’re going to work 40 hours per week. However, if there’s an occasion that warrants their working overtime, you would certainly have to pay them for that.”

Hays, at MHY Family Services, was more skeptical. “I have never in my life understood why you would classify someone as salaried and then pay them overtime,” she said. “You’re exempt or you’re nonexempt.”

Hays acknowledged that this approach allows nonexempt employees to say they’re salaried, “which makes them feel they have a certain status.” But, she added, “what really makes you feel that you have status in the organization is your title and your autonomy, and in particular it’s autonomy—the ability to control your own time—that indicates you’ve achieved a certain status. Now a good chunk of that is going to be diminished.”

Confronting Pay Compression

Pay compression occurs when salaries for those earning somewhat below the threshold are raised to keep those employees exempt, causing pressure to realign salaries up the ladder to maintain internal valuations within the salary structure.

“It’s something that employers are going to have to take into account,” Ferrero said. “Employers should consider those employees earning above the threshold who are now going to get compressed as the organization raises lower-tier salaries.” As a result, “the financial impact on the company can be greater than just the cost of bumping salaries on those employees who fall in the gap” between the old threshold of $23,660 and the new threshold of $47,476.

“Pay compression isn’t going to affect us because we don’t have the means or anticipate increases in funding to offset these changes in pay ranges,” said Hays, sharing a sentiment that other nonprofit organizations and small businesses, in particular, have expressed. “If we had the funding to raise our pay ranges, we would have done so already.”

Roberts, too, isn’t anticipating problems with pay compression since, with few exceptions, her company isn’t planning to raise pay to meet the new threshold. “I would say that’s one reason we don’t want to bump up people, because of that fear of compression. We’d have to also look at what their boss is making,” she noted.

(To learn more, see SHRM Online’s article “Put a Lid on Salary Compression Before It Boils Over.”)

Budgets Under Pressure

“It’s going to be a big budget hit,” said Hays. “We can’t avoid all overtime, and we are not going to prohibit it at the risk of our clients’ safety.” But even so, “if therapists want to take on new clients but doing so pushes them into working 50 or 55 hours a week, we’re not going to allow that, we can’t have it.”

Strained compensation budgets could limit salary increases going forward, said Roberts. “We have people who are accustomed to getting their job done working 45 or 50 hours a week. We’re going to ask that they become more efficient. There’s going to be more time management, which hasn’t been part of our culture.” For instance, “supervisors will need to be sensitive about assigning tasks late in the afternoon. We’ll be training our managers on that.”

“Employers only have so many dollars, so they should evaluate how to minimize their costs,” concurred Ferrero. In addition to paying time and a half for overtime, she noted, those costs include FICA taxes—Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes—on any overtime.

“The first step is conducting a financial analysis to determine what these changes will mean from a dollar perspective,” Ferrero advised (see box, below). If estimated overtime hours are significant, “it might make sense to hire another nonexempt employee, even with the added benefits costs.”

An FLSA Action Plan

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) final rule takes effect on Dec.1, 2016. Meg Ferrero, assistant general counsel at ADP, suggests employers take these steps to prepare for the deadline:

1) Take stock and review classifications. Any exempt employee who earns greater than the threshold amount ($47,476 under the new rules) may remain exempt from overtime pay if that person primarily performs executive, administrative or professional duties as described in the regulations. Also, keep in mind that each state may enact regulations that differ from federal regulations; employers will be subject to whichever set of directives is more generous to employees.

2) Closely manage and monitor employee hours. To better understand the amount of overtime that is currently being worked, monitor employee hours and use appropriate tools to help make educated scheduling decisions. One effective method is to implement an automated time and labor management system that continuously tracks hours worked, helps companies monitor when an employee nears the overtime threshold and makes it easier to create more cost-effective schedules.

3) Compare the costs of various pay options. Weigh the costs of raising employees’ salaries to meet the exemption criteria against what it would cost to reclassify them as nonexempt and pay them overtime when they work more than 40 hours per week.

4) Consider the impact on internal pay equity. Beyond the costs of raising exempt employees’ salaries, consider the impact on internal pay equity so that employees are paid fairly when compared with other employees within your organization. If you substantially increase some employees’ pay, other employees may have questions about why their pay isn’t increasing.

5) Proactively control costs. Develop alternative labor strategies that make it possible to shift expensive overtime hours to other workers who can be paid at a regular or lower rate. Monitor fluctuations and patterns in the volume of work, and align employee schedules accordingly, so that work can get done without creating overtime situations.


Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM

How We Can Be the Best Version of Ourselves

As employees and leaders, the people we surround ourselves with either raise or lower our standards.  They either help us to become the best version of ourselves or encourage us to become lessor versions of ourselves.  In turn, how we act and communicate will help them either become the best or lessor version of themselves.  In some cases, we become like our friends.  However, no man or woman becomes great on their own.  The people around them help to make them great. 

So, as I encourage my clients to do, we all need people in our lives who raise our standards, remind us of our essential purpose, and challenge us to become the best version of ourselves.  Ultimately, those behaviors are then filtered to others and the people of an organization will thrive on a culture of collaboration, transparency, and communication resulting in future success and growth. 

USCIS: Expired Form I-9 Still in Effect

Employers have until April 27 to comment on proposed changes to new form.

The current version of the Form I-9, the most fundamental tool HR professionals use to determine if applicants are eligible to work in the U.S., expired on March 31. Until further notice, though, employers should keep using the expired form until the recently proposed “smart” I-9 is in effect, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Dave Basham, a senior analyst in the verification division at USCIS, has been answering the following question a lot recently: “What will happen on March 31, 2016, when the Form I-9 expires?” Basham says: “Employers should continue to use the current version of the form as it continues to be effective even after the OMB [Office of Management and Budget] control number expiration date March 31, 2016, has passed.”

On March 28, 2016, USCIS published a second round of proposed changes to the form in the Federal Register, giving the public 30 days to comment. Once the comment period ends April 27 and comments are considered, USCIS may make further changes before sending the proposal to OMB, which will need to review and approve it. Ultimately, the form will be available for download at upon being approved.

“Employers must continue to use the current version of Form I-9 until the proposed version is approved and posted on the USCIS website,” said Amy Peck, an immigration attorney in the Omaha, Neb., office of Jackson Lewis.

The proposed, revised form is designed to address “frequent points of confusion that arise for both employees and employers,” said John Fay, vice president and general counsel at LawLogix, a Phoenix-based software company specializing in cloud-based immigration and compliance services.

The proposed changes specifically aim to help employers reduce technical errors for which they may be fined, and include:

  • Validations on certain fields to ensure information is entered correctly. The form will validate the correct number of digits for a Social Security number or an expiration date on an identity document, for example, Fay said.
  • Additional spaces to enter multiple preparers and translators.
  • Drop-down lists and calendars.
  • Embedded instructions for completing each field.
  • Buttons that will allow users to access the instructions electronically, print the form and clear the form to start over.
  • A dedicated area to enter additional information that employers are currently required to notate in the margins of the form.
  • A quick-response matrix barcode, or QR code, that generates once the form is printed that can be used to streamline audit processes.
  • The requirement that workers provide only other last names used in Section 1, rather than all other names used.
  • The removal of the requirement that immigrants authorized to work provide both their Form I-94 number and foreign passport information in Section 1.
  • Separating instructions from the form. Employers are still required to present the instructions to the employee completing the form, however.
  • The addition of a supplement in cases where more than one preparer or translator is used to complete Section 1.

“The proposed changes will have far-reaching impact because all employers are required to complete and maintain the Form I-9 for each employee hired to verify their identity and authorization to work in the United States,” said Susan Rodriguez, an attorney based in the Charlotte, N.C., office of McGuireWoods.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM. 

How to Recruit for a Winning Work Culture

So your organization has been deemed a “best place to work.” Now what? How do you communicate the company’s winning culture and values to job seekers? And how do you ensure that new hires will be a positive complement to that culture?

A useful barometer can be found by looking at the common attributes of Glassdoor’s employees’ choice 50 Best Places to Work 2016. Award winners were determined using feedback shared on the site throughout the past year. The average employer rating on Glassdoor is 3.2 out of 5. Airbnb topped the 2016 list as a result of 276 employee reviews that rated the company a 4.6 overall. Other winning employers include Bain & Company, Guidewire, Hubspot, and Facebook.

“Some people think that getting on the list comes from providing extravagant perks,” said Dawn Lyon, vice president of corporate affairs at Glassdoor. “You do not need to offer free lunch to all your employees to be a Best Place to Work.” Instead, based on the millions of reviews submitted to Glassdoor, Lyon said a common denominator of winning companies is culture.

Lyon defined winning culture as:

  • Emanating from the top and permeating down through the organization.
  • Having a mission to believe in, with purpose-driven work.
  • Putting people first. “This is something you can’t just give lip service to,” she said. “It’s about how you behave. Is it always the bottom line, or do you treat people as if they have lives outside of work and acknowledge their whole selves? We see that time and time again in winners’ reviews.”

Tom Gimbel is president and CEO of Chicago-based staffing firm LaSalle Network, which ranked No. 36 on Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work list for small and midsize companies. “Culture happens. It’s the people that make the culture and it starts from the top. You can say you want to have a fun culture, and try to force-feed it down employees’ throats, but culture is when top down meets bottom up,” he said.

Communicating a Winning Culture

Culture and engagement has been the “secret sauce of our success,” said Jeff Selander, chief people officer at health care technology firm Health Catalyst, based in Salt Lake City.

Health Catalyst came in at No. 7 on Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work list for small and midsize companies.

But how well companies communicate that winning culture in the recruitment process is “very difficult to measure,” he said. While there’s no silver-bullet method to communicate culture to candidates, there are several channels to work through, including:

  • The company website. “We make sure to emphasize our mission, cultural attributes and operating principles and put them front and center for all to see, hoping that as candidates begin to have interest in us, they take some time to learn about us on our website,” Selander said.
  • Social media. Health Catalyst shares customer success stories and “how much fun we have here at work” testimonials on platforms like YouTube, LinkedIn and Twitter, he said.
  • Glassdoor. Selander said the site “has been a tremendously successful tool for us in communicating our culture. The anonymity gives credibility that candidates won’t ignore. We take the comments very seriously and try to learn from everything people say about us.” Selander reads and responds to nearly every comment made on the site and asks people to review the company profile on Glassdoor as part of the recruiting process, “so that they hear about our culture through a third-party resource.”
  • The employees themselves. “There is no better way we’ve found for people to learn about our culture than from talking with people who actually live and know our culture best—our team members,” he said. In 2015, over half of new hires came to know Health Catalyst through contact with its workforce via referrals, conferences, social media and affinity groups.

Finding a Match 

Maintaining a winning culture comes from hiring the right people. But determining a matching cultural fit during the recruitment process is not an easy task. “It’s hard,” Gimbel said, explaining that sometimes there’s a disconnect in expectations between hiring managers who need to fill a position quickly and the C-suite, who expect the best hire possible.

“So you’ve got to identify the characteristics of the culture you want,” he said. “Sometimes people present themselves one way during the interview and then they are someone else in reality. We make sure that people interviewing for one department are interviewed by different levels of people from other departments to get various perspectives.”

At Health Catalyst, everyone involved in the interview process evaluates each interaction with a candidate within the framework of the company’s fundamental hiring criteria, which are demonstrating humility, working hard and being smart. “In essence, we look for people that are humble enough to love working in teams, recognize their mistakes and learn from them, and put the good of others in front of their own; smart enough to have a curiosity to always be learning and innovative; and hardworking enough to know how to stay until the job is done, while maintaining work/life balance,” Selander said.

Interviews are structured with both questions to test skills, and behavioral questions to determine demonstration of cultural attribute qualities, he added.

The Airplane Test

Gimbel believes there’s too much focus on whether the person can do the job and not enough on actually liking the candidate. “Whether or not the manager and colleagues like a new hire is cultural fit,” he said. “When people hire someone and say ‘I don’t like the person but I think they can do the job,’ that kills me.”

Gimbel said that he takes note of minor but telling actions during the interview process: Is the candidate dressed and groomed professionally? Does he or she make eye contact, deliver a firm hand shake, get up and acknowledge when someone enters the room, and respond to questions with conviction?

He will also employ what he calls the airplane test: “Would I be willing to sit next to him or her for four hours trapped in a confined space and enjoy the time?”

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Employers May Be Held Liable for Employees’ Cyberbullying

If evidence of cyberbullying connects back to work, however tenuously, employers may be on the hook.

A stand-alone cyberbullying policy may not be necessary to address the problem, according to Nathan Pangrace, an attorney with Roetzel & Andress in Cleveland. But harassment policies and use-of-technology policies should clearly prohibit cyberbullying, he said. So should anti-discrimination policies.

While no federal law specifically prohibits cyberbullying of employees, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits a hostile work environment based on race, color, gender, national origin or religion, regardless of whether that environment is created in person or by texts or social media.

Make sure, though, that efforts to prevent cyberbullying don’t violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), cautioned Peter Gillespie, an attorney at Fisher & Phillips in Chicago.

Harassing Texts

Employers may be liable for harassing texts from a supervisor, even if they are sent outside of work hours.

Consider Isenhour v. Outsourcing of Millersburg, No. 1:14-CV-1170 (M.D. Pa. 2015). In that case, a female operations manager allegedly harassed a male accounts receivable representative in 2012 by, among other actions, sending sexually explicit texts. The plaintiff introduced into evidence one comment from the operations manager’s cellphone requesting him to send her explicit pictures of himself.

In this case, an account manager responsible for supervising the accounts receivable representative testified that she, not the operations manager, sent the text. The operations manager also testified that she witnessed the account manager send sexual text messages to the plaintiff and that the comments and messages were written only outside of work hours.

No matter. This, along with other evidence (for example, testimony that the operations manager touched the plaintiff inappropriately and made comments about his body), was enough for the court to rule that a jury could decide that the plaintiff was subject to a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII.

“Courts have found that online platforms were merely extensions of the workplace,” Gillespie said. “The fact that the conduct may have been occurring during off hours and online did not prevent aggrieved employees from bringing claims.”

Threatening Facebook Messages

Just as it was unclear initially who sent the text in Isenhour, sometimes it isn’t clear who authored a harassing social media message. But if it can be traced back to employees or the work premises, that may be enough for there to be employer liability.

In Maldonado-Cátala v. Municipality of Naranjito (D. P.R. 2015), an emergency medical technician with the municipality claimed that threatening Facebook messages sent to her contributed to a hostile work environment.

After the plaintiff alleged that an emergency management office director sexually harassed female employees, the director was forced out.

The plaintiff then received several hostile messages on Facebook. One message sent on Nov. 1, 2010, at 9:46 p.m., called her a “whore,” “snake” and “dike.” The message also said, “I will see you fall you dirty lesbian and every one of you one by one [for] what you did to that man, the one from emergency management. … Remember that you have children. … By the way, the boy is gay and the girl is a lesbo.”

Interpreting the message as a threat, the plaintiff filed a police report. The police traced the message to a computer in the municipality’s emergency management office that only its director and secretary could access.

The court denied summary judgment for the employer on the plaintiff’s Title VII hostile work environment claim, noting that the use of the word “whore” raised Title VII concerns. (The pejorative words about sexual orientation did not; the plaintiff did not argue that there was sex stereotyping.) A reasonable jury could infer that the director permitted one of the municipality’s employees to send the message, the court said.

But don’t take social media at face value, Gillespie cautioned. As a prank, a third party could create a social media profile purporting to be a company manager harassing subordinates, he said.

NLRA Violations

Employers also need to proceed carefully when trying to stem online bullying to ensure that they don’t run afoul of the NLRA, Gillespie said.

The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that many employer policies that could be used to prevent workplace cyberbullying may violate Section 7 of the NLRA, which protects an employee’s right to engage in concerted activity, he explained.

For example, while posting someone’s photo online is a common form of cyberabuse, the board has concluded that it is unlawful for an employer to bar employees from taking pictures of co-workers.

Policies should be drafted to clarify that they are intended to prohibit abusive behavior without interfering with an employee’s rights, he said.

Allen Smith, J.D., is the manager of workplace law content for SHRM

Happy Holidays from Elevate Consulting



The Christmas season means something different to every person and family.  So, blessings to you and may this joyous season offer you the opportunity to enjoy time withy our loved ones. Best wishes to your family this season and always.

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and Happy New year from Elevate Consulting, where our goal is to elevate your potential in 2016 and beyond!

How Do You Say ‘Thank You’ to Employees?

There’s no denying it. Work can be a grind. You put in a lot of blood, sweat and sometimes tears, and it often seems like no one notices.  Below is a compilation of how some HR Professionals and Managers say, ‘Thank You’ to their employees.

In honor of this month’s focus on giving thanks, we wanted to know what HR can do to boost employees’ spirits and let them know they are truly appreciated. We asked you to share your suggestions via HR Week and the Society for Human Resource Management’s official group LinkedIn page. It turns out that simple gestures may be the best way to make someone’s day.

A Daily Thank-You

The one mainstay in my bag of ideas is to say a simple “thank you” at the end of the day to those you manage. I learned this from a man who understood human nature better than anyone I ever knew: Mayor Peter Torigian of the city of Peabody, Mass. I served as director of human resources under the mayor. The lessons he taught me about appreciation of others’ efforts have stayed with me through the years. Two to three times a week he would spend about 30 minutes in different areas of City Hall to say hello and to thank each employee. If someone was not in the office, he would leave a note saying “thank you” in his unique scrawl. Sometimes he would leave beautiful flowers that he grew in his garden on someone’s desk along with a thank-you note. Each night, if he left before I did, he would come by or yell from the other side of the hall, “Thank you, Cindy, see you tomorrow!” He was a master at making people feel important and appreciated. All of these efforts never cost a cent! I believed then and still believe many years later that employee appreciation should be a daily event and not saved for a “special day.” That alone will bring satisfaction to employees.

—Cynthia R.H. King, SHRM-CP, director of human resources, Institute for Health and Recovery, Cambridge, Mass.

Rubber Chickens

When I became president of KFC at PepsiCo, I started giving away floppy rubber chickens and $100. It ignited performance because people respond to recognition—and it’s fun. When you recognize people, it says that you’re watching them, what they do matters. It keeps employees motivated and excited to come to work every day. People would sometimes cry when I gave them their chickens.

—David Novak, executive chairman, Yum Brands, Louisville, Ky.

Frequent Thanks

It’s not a one-time event but rather a habit of active listening and championing. I thank my work family by making praise personal and frequent.

—James Carchidi, CEO, The JFC Staffing Cos., Harrisburg, Pa.

Gift Choices

Employees probably wouldn’t need a big token to feel appreciated if they got affirmation, pats on the back and verbal thank-yous frequently. My company used to give out things like pens, paperweights and crystal vases for various years of service. Now employees can choose from a catalog of items based on the service level. It’s a big improvement, as people can now pick items they could actually use. However, I would gladly give up a service award every five years if I felt valued and appreciated on a regular basis.

—Lorianne Lee, HR project manager and recruiter, Cityteam, San Jose, Calif.

Handwritten Notes

I always send a handwritten note right after an employee completes an assignment. I include a comment that praises one or more key strengths that the person demonstrated. I end with a statement of how the company has changed for the better because of that individual. A lot of companies “talk the talk” about recognizing employees, but a handwritten note “walks the walk” and demonstrates a true caring attitude for others and what they do. I know several people who have saved—and framed—their thank-you notes.

—Karen Zupanic, SHRM-SCP, vice president, J. Preston Automation, McKinney, Texas

Thank You to the Family

My favorite gesture is a note to the employee’s family to thank them for their support of the worker, which has enabled that person to succeed. I like to include a small Starbucks or other gift card for the employee. I pay for this myself, since being reimbursed by the company could seem less sincere. By including their families, the workers know that, while at times they may be needed for longer hours, their efforts haven’t gone unnoticed or unappreciated.

—Rebecca Wrage, area director of human resources, Mid-Plains Community College, North Platte, Neb.

Employee Appreciation Day

As an intern at a small business, I organized the company’s first-ever Employee Appreciation Day. The work crew had helped finish construction at several out-of-town sites. Their hard work and flexibility helped to ensure completion of the jobs on time. These projects involved stressful deadlines and pressure to ensure the utmost accuracy—all while being out of state or several hours away from home. We rewarded them with a half-day of paid time to enjoy games, food, prizes and fun with their families, with the company’s owners serving them. Not only was it something they’d never had before, but it was an opportunity for me to learn.

—Carisa Sechrist, HR intern, House to Home Properties, Youngstown, Ohio

Employee Appreciation Week

We are a nonprofit organization serving senior citizens, and our employees don’t make as much money as they could elsewhere. It is critical that we show them that what they do is important and appreciated. Rather than focus on individual job titles (such as Nurses Day or Administrative Professionals Day), we wanted to recognize every one of our employees through an Employee Appreciation Week. Each department director sponsored a different day of the week. We held events at various times throughout the day, so even those working different hours could get in on some of the fun, including a trivia contest, ice cream sundaes, mini-massages and more. Our budget is small. But what little money we did spend had a great return on good will and improved morale. We are actually continuing the mini-massage each Friday afternoon.

—Mary Hofacker, human resources director, Licking County Aging Program, Newark, Ohio

Personalized Thanks

The thank-you should depend on the individual employee and the company culture. A note or certificate might work for some employees and companies, while a spot award or gift card presented in a team or group meeting might be more effective for others. Whatever the thanks may be, it should be noted on the employee’s performance appraisal so it’s not forgotten at review time.

—Charlene Bayne, independent career consultant/HR coach, Drexel Hill, Pa.

E-Mail to Direct Supervisors

I make it a point to tell direct supervisors or senior staff when an employee accomplishes a significant task or project. Usually it’s in the form of an e-mail, and I cc: the employee. It is amazing how effective this form of thank-you can be.

—David McKale, SHRM-SCP, director of risk services, The Hawaii Group, Honolulu

Public Recognition

Our company has 62 locations and more than 4,000 employees in the U.S. and Canada, so reaching everyone can be tricky. During the month, our workers e-mail me their “Way to Go” nominations. Anyone in the organization can be chosen—co-workers, supervisors, subordinates, etc. Common nominations are for going the extra mile, generating positive customer comments, helping a co-worker with a project or difficult task, recognizing a good boss. I send out a companywide e-mail that includes who was selected and why, and one person’s name is randomly drawn for a $50 Visa gift card. Everyone likes to “see their name in lights,” and it’s a great way to encourage employees to make a difference in one another’s lives.

—Heather Beall, SHRM-SCP, director of human resources, Jack Cooper, Kansas City, Mo.

Company Picnic

We host an annual employee picnic. I grill all the hamburgers and hot dogs for the employees, and the marketing department coordinates the side dishes and drinks. People are welcome to come and go as they please, and most attend on their lunch break.

—Jimmy Proffitt, human resources manager, Old Mill Square, Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

Monthly Events

Choose a different event to hold each month—like buying all the employees bags of chips and holding a Vote for Your Favorite Flavor Day. Have a chili cook-off between departments or an Ice Cream Truck Day with free ice cream for all employees. Make it different each time. Show some effort. They know when management truly cares. And then they will care about their jobs that much more! Plus, it’s fun!

—Justin Jonas, regional HR consultant, Greystone Health Network, Columbus, Ohio

‘Ministry Of Fun’

We have implemented the “Ministry of Fun” within the HR department to announce activities, new videos, gifts, early releases and events. The ministry organizes onsite events such as an ugly holiday sweater contest or a Red Sox beard contest. Employees at other locations send in pictures so they can participate as well. The CEO and other senior managers act as judges. The ministry also sends out funny YouTube videos and hires an ice cream or cupcake truck to come to the office. We send out small gifts on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day and have a brunch for employees. When an employee gets an e-mail from the Ministry of Fun, it brings a smile to their face. It’s one e-mail that never goes unopened!

—Helen H. Topor, senior vice president/human resources director, Salem Five Bank, Salem, Mass.

Little Surprises

I write e-mails and notes and plan little surprises that I know my staff will appreciate (giving them money to get their favorite candy bar, bringing in doughnuts). My department wouldn’t run effectively without my team, and I want to make sure they feel valued.

—Anna Reilly, RPO manager, TriStarr Staffing, Lancaster, Pa.

Compiled by John Scorza, Associate Editor – HR Magazine 11/1/2015

8 Best Practices for Open Enrollment Communications

As open enrollment is upon many companies, this recent article by Laura Kerekes, SHRM-SCP comes to mind  She is the chief knowledge officer at ThinkHR Corporation, an HR advisory firm.  It’s quite relevant at this particular time and wanted to share.

Employees can miss out on the valuable offerings you spent so much time putting together

It’s no secret that a competitive benefits package—particularly in today’s job market—is one of the best tools to attract the right talent, enhance employee engagement and retain your most valuable employees. But without the right internal marketing and communication strategies in place, plan participation can falter and employees can miss out on the valuable offerings you spent so much time putting together in the first place.

To help ensure a smooth and successful annual enrollment period, here are some communications tips to help promote employee participation and satisfaction with your company’s health benefits.

  1.  Review workforce demographics and benefits usage to get a better understanding of employees’ stages in the life cycle. Knowing your audience and targeting benefits communications to meet those life cycle needs makes the benefits more personal and relevant. Employees with young families, older workers preparing for retirement, empty nesters and young singles all have distinctly different benefits needs and interests.
  2.  Package benefits by target group. Additionally, promote messaging that speaks to each group’s needs while consistently reinforcing the overall benefits strategy and employer branding in the messaging. Different communications delivery systems may also be valued by different employee groups.
  3. Messaging should start with “why” the benefits are structured as they are and “what” the company’s overall benefits strategy is designed to accomplish for employees. Most employees are smart, so don’t sugarcoat any bad news about changes in the benefits program, such as increased health plan premiums or deductibles. The best employees will see through the slick messaging and resent any attempts to hide changes that may be perceived as negative. But this also is a good time to highlight the important value of your benefits programs, promote wellness and encourage retirement savings through the effective use of provided benefits.
  4. Keep the messaging simple. Provide clear information, checklists and decision support tools that are easy to follow. While the details behind a certain benefit may be fascinating to benefits specialists, exhaustive explanations may cause some employees to set that carefully crafted document aside. By all means, have the details available, but keep the key messages and “what you need to do for enrollment” information central to the enrollment materials.
  5. Bring company managers and supervisors into the discussion prior to launch. Give them a heads-up regarding the upcoming benefits changes and enlist their help in the process.
  6. Explain the benefits options in as many ways as the budget will allow. Multimedia messaging that provides different methods for employees and their families to watch videos or webinars, read detailed benefits materials, review infographics, use hands-on decision tools, view desktop dashboards or pop-up “Did you know?” benefits messages, read Q&As or consider examples can help employees recognize the value of each benefit and ultimately make better benefits decisions. Structure a campaign for repeating key messages.
  7. Tackle the “how” of your benefits communications program. This should include communications delivery methods such as:
  • Electronic communications.
  • Webinars.
  • In-person company meetings.
  • Packages mailed to home addresses to involve the family.
  • Use of social media.
  • Intranet posts.
  • E-mails and instant messaging.
  • Live hotline for questions and concerns.
  • A possible combination of several, or even all, of the above methods.

Employees need time to think about their options and allow the information to soak in, so consider sending employee prompts and reminders so that the enrollment process is completed in a timely manner.

      8.  Provide administratively simple enrollment methods. Use online platforms if the budget allows. Establish a timeline working backwards from the date that the information must           be completed with the carriers and other benefits providers, then work forward to deliver the communications program.

Remember that your benefits programs will only realize their investment potential if the benefits are perceived as meeting the expectations and needs of your employees and their beneficiaries. The annual open enrollment communications opportunity is precious: You can influence how employees see benefits or cost changes and motivate employees to change their health or savings habits. Furthermore, it is a chance to let employees know that management is listening, considers their feedback valuable and will respond to their needs.


Arbitration Case Before Supreme Court Will Impact Employment Agreements

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in a nonemployment case will likely have serious ramifications for employers’ use of arbitration agreements with class-action waivers.

The justices on Oct. 6, 2015, reviewed the decision of a California appellate court that affirmed the denial of arbitration to DirecTV in an action filed by past subscribers challenging the company’s imposition of early cancellation fees (DirecTV, Inc. v. Imburgia, No. 14-462).

A form agreement between the company and its subscribers required arbitration of all contract disputes, and it prohibited either party from combining claims in arbitration or joining in a class action.

But an addition to the arbitration clause said that if the “law of your state” banned class-action waivers, then the entire arbitration provision was “unenforceable.” California law bans class-action waivers.

“Regardless of how the court rules, this decision will apply to all arbitration agreements, not just those involving customers or that were signed in California,” Michael Droke, an attorney with Dorsey and Whitney in its labor and employment division, told SHRM Online. The decision will change the landscape of arbitration agreements, he said.

“If [the subscribers] win, any company using arbitration clauses will be required to review the agreement to comply with state laws. This would require companies either to ditch their arbitration agreement, create one form that complies with the most-restrictive laws across the United States, or have a piecemeal approach with multiple agreements. Companies will need to hire lawyers to review arbitration agreements at additional cost. Any arbitration agreements with a class-based waiver will be under attack,” Droke said.

“If DirecTV wins, companies will be encouraged to include class-based waivers in their arbitration agreements. Companies will be encouraged to require arbitration agreements across the board,” he continued. Nationwide standards may apply, which will encourage more companies to require arbitration clauses in employment agreements, he said.

State Law or Federal Policy?

Two past subscribers to DirecTV, a television company headquartered in Segundo, Calif., sued the business over the cancellation fee issue. The company moved to compel arbitration in the pending case, which had been certified for class action.

A state trial court denied arbitration, reasoning that the contract’s reference to state law meant the parties had intended to follow California law, which bans class-action waivers. The California Court of Appeal affirmed the denial of arbitration.

The Supreme Court on March 23, 2015, granted DirecTV’s petition to review the state appeals court decision.

Arguing for DirecTV, Christopher Landau, an attorney with Kirkland & Ellis in Washington, D.C., said that even though contract interpretation is ordinarily a question of state law, the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) gives federal courts the power to make sure state court decisions don’t frustrate the federal policy favoring arbitration. The state court’s contract interpretation in this case would infringe on that strong federal pro-arbitration stance, he said.

If the court reviews the state law contract interpretation in this case, “we’ve got every arbitration case in the world” coming to the Supreme Court, Justice Stephen Breyer responded. “We would have federalized” a “huge area” of state contract law, he said.

The state court opinion was “unsatisfying” at best, Justice Elena Kagan said, but she questioned whether that gives the Supreme Court the power to intervene and reverse on a state law issue. The DirecTV contract was poorly drafted, the state law reference was ambiguous and the state court probably “got the answer wrong,” Kagan said. “But ‘wrong’ isn’t what we do here.”

Representing the class of subscribers, Thomas Goldstein, an attorney with Goldstein & Russell in Bethesda, Md., said that even if the state court incorrectly interpreted the arbitration pact, it relied on ordinary state rules of contract construction that don’t implicate federal power under the FAA. If the justices override the ruling in this case, the high court will face “a wealth of challenges” to state law contract rulings that happen to touch on arbitration clauses, he said.

Congress enacted the FAA in response to state courts exhibiting “hostility” to private arbitration agreements and refusing to enforce them, Chief Justice John Roberts responded. Those courts adopted “special rules of interpretation” for arbitration agreements, different from other types of contracts, and that’s what Congress expressly wanted to stop, Roberts said.

If the Supreme Court grants Goldstein’s argument, Justice Antonin Scalia added, the states then “can do whatever they want” to invalidate arbitration agreements.

Another Arbitration Case before the Court

The high court on Oct. 1 agreed to review whether the FAA pre-empts a California state court rule regarding the enforcement of contracts containing unconscionable provisions (MHN Gov’t Servs, Inc. v. Zaborowski, No. 14-1458).

The justices will review the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision that denied arbitration to MHN Government Services on Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and state law claims filed by consultants used by MHN to provide counseling services to military service members and their families.

The consultants claimed that MHN, based in San Rafael, Calif., incorrectly classified them as independent contractors rather than employees. When they sued in federal court for overtime pay and other employee benefits, MHN moved to compel arbitration under service contracts the consultants had signed that included mandatory arbitration clauses.

But the 9th Circuit affirmed a district court decision denying arbitration on the grounds that those agreements contained unconscionable terms that couldn’t be severed from the rest of the pact, despite the fact that the agreements contained severability clauses. These clauses stated that if any provision was “rendered invalid or unenforceable,” the agreement’s other provisions “shall remain in full force and effect.”

The district court ignored the severability clauses and refused to sever the allegedly unconscionable portions of the agreement and enforce the remainder, relying on a California state court ruling that arbitration agreements with more than one unconscionable provision can’t be saved by a severability clause.

MHN asked the Supreme Court to resolve whether this non-severability rule is pre-empted by the FAA, which states a strong federal policy in favor of arbitration.


– Joanne Deschenaux, J.D., is SHRM’s senior legal editor.