life activity.” It also rejects the standard set by the Court that required the considera-
tion of the effect of“mitigating measures”in the analysis of a qualifying disability.
In addition, the ADAAA broadens the definition of“regarded as having an impair-
ment” and allows an episodic impairment to be considered a disability under cer-
tain circumstances. The ADAAA expressly seeks to shift the focus from whether
individuals have a disability to“whether covered entities have complied with their
obligations.” Under the amended ADA, many more employees will be deemed to
have a protected disability, and employers will need to make sure they engage in the
interactive process and provide reasonable accommodation to qualified individuals.
Definition of disability. Under the ADAAA, the definition of disability is to be
construed“in favor of broad coverage of individuals under this Act, to the maxi-
mum extent permitted by [its] terms.” This will likely result in a sharp increase in
the number of individuals found to have a covered disability.
Substantially limits a major life activity. In Toyota Motor Manufacturing v.
Williams (122 S. Ct. 681 (2002)), the Court held that an impairment must“prevent
or severely restrict”an individual in tasks that are of“central importance to most
people’s daily lives,” rather than simply restricting the individual’s ability to perform
tasks in a particular job. The ADAAA calls this interpretation“an inappropriately
high level of limitation”and mandates an interpretation of the term“substantially
limits”in a manner consistent with the findings and purposes of the ADAAA (i.e.,
to reinstate a broad scope of protection under the ADA). The ADAAA also rejects
the EEOC’s definition of“substantially limits”as“significantly restricted.” (Note: The
ADAAA also gives the EEOC authority to issue binding regulations consistent with
the purpose of the amended ADA.)
The ADAAA expands the term“major life activity”by adding activities to those
already enumerated in EEOC regulations. The new activities include eating, sleep-
ing, standing, lifting, bending, reading, concentrating, thinking, and communicat-
ing. Significantly, a major life activity also now includes the operation of a major
bodily function, including functions of the immune system, normal cell growth,
digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine,
and reproductive systems.
Episodic impairments. Under the ADAAA, an impairment that is episodic or in
remission is a disability if the impairment would substantially limit a major life
activity when active.
Mitigating measures. In Sutton v. United Air Lines (119 S. Ct. 2139 (1999)), the
Court held that mitigating measures must be considered in determining whether an
individual has a disability. Under the ADAAA, disability determination is made with-
out regard to ameliorative effects of mitigating measures including hearing aids,
medication, medical supplies, auxiliary aids and services (such as qualified inter-
preters for individuals with hearing impairments), reasonable accommodations,
and“learned behavioral or adaptive neurological modifications.” It is likely that this
last measure is intended to address the Court’s ruling in Albertsons, Inc. v. Kirking-
burg (119 S. Ct. 2162 (1999)), where the employee’s brain subconsciously learned
to compensate for his monocular vision. That compensation was found by the
Court to be a mitigating measure, and using the Sutton analysis, the Court ruled that
the employee did not have a disability under the ADA. The ADAAA excludes ordi-
nary eyeglasses and contact lenses from the list of mitigating measures. Under the
ADAAA, the employers may no longer take into account an individual’s use of
2 Top 10 Best Practices in HR Management for 2009
although the 12 months of employment need not be consecutive, employment
before a continuous break in service of 7 years or more need not be counted.
Light duty. Under the final rule, time spent in“light duty”work does not count
against an employee’s FMLA leave entitlement, and the employee’s right to job
restoration is held in abeyance during the light duty period. If an employee is vol-
untarily doing light duty work, he or she is not on FMLA leave.
Perfect attendance awards. The final rule changes how perfect attendance
awards are treated to allow employers to deny a“perfect attendance”award to an
employee who does not have perfect attendance because he or she took FMLA
leave—but only if the employer treats employees taking non-FMLA leave in an
Medical certification. In the final rule, DOL adopted a change that allows
employers to contact the employee’s healthcare provider directly. An employer
may contact the employee’s healthcare provider for two purposes only: clarifica-
tion and authentication of the medical certification. The employer may request no
additional information beyond that included in the certification form.
In response to privacy concerns expressed by employees, DOL added a require-
ment to the final rule that specifies the employer’s representative contacting the
employee’s healthcare provider must be a human resources professional, a leave
administrator, or a management official, but in no case may it be the employee’s
The revision also specifies that the employee is not required to permit his or her
healthcare provider to communicate with the employer. However, if the employee
denies the employer permission and doesn’t otherwise clarify an unclear certifica-
tion, the employer may deny the designation of FMLA leave. However, before mak-
ing any contact with the healthcare provider, the employer must first provide the
employee an opportunity to resolve any deficiencies in the certification.
Fitness-for-duty certification. The final regulation also clarifies that employers
may require a fitness-for-duty certification to address an employee’s ability to per-
form essential job functions. However, if the employer does have such a require-
ment, the employer must provide the employee with a list of those essential job
functions no later than the“designation notice”and specify in the designation
notice that the fitness-for-duty certification must address the employee’s ability to
perform those essential functions.
Military caregiver leave. The regulation implements the requirement to expand
FMLA protections for family members caring for a covered service member with a
serious injury or illness incurred in the line of duty on active duty. These family
members are able to take up to 26 workweeks of leave in a 12-month period.
Leave for qualifying exigencies for families of National Guard and reserves
members. The law allows families of National Guard and Reserve personnel on
active duty to take FMLA job-protected leave to manage their affairs—“qualifying
exigencies.” The rule defines“qualifying exigencies”as: (1) short-notice deploy-
ment, (2) military events and related activities, (3) childcare and school activities,
(4) financial and legal arrangements, (5) counseling, (6) rest and recuperation,
4 Top 10 Best Practices in HR Management for 2009
N A list of essential job functions must be provided with the designation notice if
the employer will require that the fitness-for-duty certification addresses the
employee’s ability to perform the essential functions of the position.
N Only one designation notice is required for each FMLA-qualifying reason per
leave year, regardless of whether the leave is taken as a continuous block of
leave or on an intermittent or reduced leave schedule basis.
N In situations in which the amount of leave to be taken is not known at the des-
ignation stage (e.g., when unforeseeable intermittent leave will be needed),
the employer is to inform the employee of the number of hours counted
against the FMLA leave entitlement only upon employee request and no more
often than every 30 days if FMLA leave was taken during that period.
N The employer may notify the employee of the hours counted against the FMLA
leave entitlement orally and follow up with written notification on a pay stub
at the next payday (unless the next payday is in less than 1 week, in which
case the notice must be no later than the subsequent payday).
Employer failure to provide notice. The updated rule contains technical
changes to be consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Ragsdale v.
Wolverine World Wide Inc. In light of the Court’s decision in Ragsdale, the Depart-
ment stated that an employee isn’t automatically FMLA-eligible just because the
employer fails to provide the required eligibility notices to employees or provides
incorrect information. The rule clarifies that if an employee suffers individual
harm because the employer fails to follow the notification rules, the employer
may be liable.
Military family and caregiver leave. In January 2008, President Bush signed a
law that allows employees to take leave because of any qualifying exigency arising
out of the fact that the spouse, son, daughter, or parent of the employee is on
active duty (or has been notified of an impending call or order to active duty) in
the armed forces in support of a contingency operation. In the new regulations, a
qualifying exigency leave is limited to service members called up to duty in
National Guard and/or reserves, and certain retired members of service (not regu-
lar career service or state). It mimics the leave provision in 10 USC 101(13)(B)’s
definition of“active duty.” The rule defines“qualifying exigencies”as: (1) short-
notice deployment, (2) military events and related activities, (3) childcare and
school activities, (4) financial and legal arrangements, (5) counseling, (6) rest and
recuperation, (7) postdeployment activities, and (8) additional activities where the
employer and employee agree to the leave.
The new law also allows eligible employees to take up to 26 workweeks for leave
during a single 12-month period if the employee is the spouse, son, daughter, par-
ent, or next of kin caring for a military service member recovering from an injury
or illness suffered while on active duty in the armed forces. Under the new regula-
tions for military caregiver leave, the term“active duty”includes members of the
regular armed forces (not just Guard/reserves)—this differs for exigency leave.
Similarly, for caregiver leave, the term“active duty”is more expansive than for exi-
gency leave. Whether or not an injury or illness arose from active duty is a determi-
nation to be made by the treating healthcare professional as part of certification.
6 Top 10 Best Practices in HR Management for 2009
Union employees. If employees are unionized, only the chief elected union
representative must be given notice. The notice must contain:
N The name and address of the employment site where the plant closing or mass
layoff will occur, and the name and telephone number of a company official
to contact for further information;
N A statement as to whether the planned action is expected to be permanent or
temporary and whether the entire plant is to be closed;
N The expected date of the first separation and the anticipated schedule for
making separations; and
N The job titles of positions to be affected and the names of workers currently
holding these jobs.
Nonunion employees. Employees who may reasonably be expected to experi-
ence an employment loss and who are not represented by a union must be noti-
fied individually in writing. While part-time employees are not counted in
determining if a plant closing or mass layoff had occurred, these workers must get
a notice if they will experience an employment loss. The notice must include:
N A statement as to whether the planned action is expected to be permanent or
temporary and whether the entire plant is to be closed;
N The expected date when the plant closing or mass layoff will begin and the
expected date when the individual employee will be separated;
N An indication of whether bumping rights exist; and
N The name and telephone number of a company official to contact for further
State notification. Employers must always notify the state dislocated-worker unit
and the chief elected official of the local government unit within which the clos-
ing or layoff will occur. The notice must include:
N The name and address of the employment site where the plant closing or mass
layoff will occur;
N The name and telephone number of a company official to contact for further
N The nature of the planned action including whether it is a plant closing or a
mass layoff, and whether it is expected to be permanent or temporary;
N The expected date of the first separation and the anticipated schedule for mak-
N The job titles of positions to be affected and the number of employees in each
N An indication of whether bumping rights exist; and
N The name of each union representing affected employees and the name and
address of the chief elected officer of each union.
8 Top 10 Best Practices in HR Management for 2009
Best Practice: Preserving Employee Morale
There’s no escaping that the country is officially in a recession, and unfortunately
for many businesses, that means having to lay off employees. No one enjoys the
prospect of having to tell employees that the company is going to have to let them
go, but it is important to stay well focused at a time like this and make certain that
you handle the situation the best way you can.
“This is such a tough job for managers to deal with,” says Patricia Berg, general
manager for the Career Management Services division of Personnel Decisions
International (PDI). Clear heads, however, need to prevail when laying people off,
says Berg. “You need to take time to plan the layoff carefully and to meet with and
prepare your managers for the process. It’s smart to hire a good outplacement serv-
ice or career transition firm to help you through the process, and get them
involved early on.”
Berg and PDI have suggestions for handling the process well. The first is to pro-
vide notification training for your managers because this is such a difficult talk.
You also need to allow adequate time to prepare for all the necessary contingen-
cies, such as:
N Giving as much warning as possible for mass layoffs,
N Conducting a threat assessment to ensure the safety and security of all
N Having information prepared in advance to give to employees regarding their
severance, benefits, outplacement, or other information that will be important
Berg suggests that after you have put together your plan of action, the next step is
to talk with employees. “You want your meetings to be one-on-one as much as
possible, though that doesn’t always work,” she notes. The best idea is to sit down
face-to-face, in a private office, with the individual and a Human Resources profes-
sional. Acknowledge the employee’s contributions to the company, and thank the
employee for those contributions.
If possible, have your outplacement company or career transition firm on-site to
meet with employees. Explain to the employees the logistics of leaving the com-
pany, and make certain that you have clarified the separation date to make sure
the news sinks in. Explain to employees the type of services you have available for
them, including any outplacement services that are appropriate for the level of the
employee. You should also provide references for them, if applicable.
A few other general pieces of advice from Berg include:
N Inform employees at the beginning of the workday, rather than at the end of
N Treat people with respect.
N Use good listening skills and acknowledge employees’ reactions.
“Survivors.” “You need to be as aware of the people remaining as you are about
the people you are letting go,” says Berg. Employers“need to make sure they get
information to the survivors about how they are supporting their colleagues who
have departed. Then they need to stay very close to these employees in the weeks
10 Top 10 Best Practices in HR Management for 2009
Some survey results. When comparing survey results from 2008 to 2007, sev-
eral categories illustrated increased problems for workers who participated in
N 25% did not go to a doctor because of cost (18% in 2007).
N 23% went without health insurance (20% in 2007).
N 23% did not fill a medical prescription because of the cost (17% in 2007).
For Generation Y (survey respondents between the ages of 19 and 29), the future
seems even more problematic. Of this group, 49 percent said that America was a
better place to live in the 1990s, and 56 percent were worried about their own per-
sonal economic security. Also, 79 percent agreed that America was a lot less
secure or somewhat less secure today than 10 years ago.
“Americans want to work hard and improve their financial situations; 80 percent
believe they are responsible for their own financial security,” according to the exec-
utive summary. Some solutions that survey respondents thought would help them
secure their economic future include:
N The government and employers providing basic necessities such as healthcare
or retirement programs (70%)
N New policies and programs that will create jobs (82%)
N Initiatives to provide more access to family health care (77%)
N Support to make it easier for people to work such as more paid family leave
(68%) and government-funded child care (66%)
2009 Healthcare Trends
In the words of Samuel H. Fleet, president and CEO of AmWINS Group Benefits, in an
article that he wrote for BLR, the country’s job-based system for health insurance is
too entrenched to disappear. The healthcare industry generates about $2 trillion—
that’s trillion, with a“T”—in economic activity annually, which means it has a strong
interest in preserving the status quo. That means employers will be forced to continue
down the path of using consumer-directed strategies and cost-sharing plans to escape
the expensive, anticompetitive burden that health benefits have become.
Expect continued pressure on healthcare providers to make their charges more trans-
parent so that consumers can make choices based on real-cost comparisons. In addi-
tion, Medicare’s recent decision to force hospitals to absorb the cost of opportunistic
infections, caused by pathogens at the hospital that compromise an unhealthy
immune system, should raise consumer awareness of quality-of-care issues.
The bottom line is that one-size-fits-all healthcare plans are a luxury of the past.
Employer-provided health benefits will continue to become more customized as
companies struggle to balance the competitive advantage of offering employees
good, affordable health care with the increasing drag on their bottom line.
Now, more than ever before, benefits professionals will have to become careful,
discriminating shoppers who can sort through sales pitches to identify partners
who can deliver value-enhanced offerings. What should you look for? Here are a
12 Top 10 Best Practices in HR Management for 2009
HSAs. Many companies are implementing health savings accounts (HSAs), which
are a cost-effective way to co-fund health care. HSAs are designed to help individu-
als save for future qualified medical and retiree health expenses on a tax-free
Network management. Also recommended are high-performance networks
where experts analyze cost and practice patterns, weeding out from the network
specialists who cost much more than others. These are specialists who tend to
order more tests and require more doctor visits than others. By removing them, the
total cost of health care for employers decreases.
Surcharges. Another strategy for cost-cutting is introducing“dependent sur-
charges.” These are charges levied by companies to cover employees’ working
spouses who could be covered under their own plan. The surcharge creates an
incentive for the spouse to switch to his or her own plan.
Volume discounts. Joining a coalition of employers that leverages volume to pur-
chase health coverage on a group basis can also help employers reduce costs. Vol-
ume purchasing power when negotiating with community providers leads to lower
Consumer-driven health care. In order to curb rising healthcare costs, more
employers are implementing consumer-driven healthcare plans (CDHPs). Dozens
of concepts can hide under the trendy title of consumer-driven healthcare plans,
from smoking-cessation, weight-loss programs, and health club memberships to
three-tier pharmacy plans. But here’s a definition offered by the Washington, D.C.-
based National Business Group on Health:“Most plans include cost-sharing provi-
sions, high deductibles, a health reimbursement account or health savings
account (HSA), and tools and resources to help workers become more educated
BLR asked Steve Kraus, principal-in-charge of Deloitte Consulting’s Human Capi-
tal practice and leader of the study, for his reaction to that definition. He gener-
ally agreed with it, stressing that plans vary widely from employer to employer.
The core principle, Kraus says, is“enabling employees to understand the true cost
of healthcare services and the options available to them for receiving care while
requiring [them] to take on increased financial responsibility for managing their
These are the basic features, Deloitte Consulting’s Steve Kraus reports, for each par-
ticipant in a consumer-driven healthcare plan.
N A fixed annual allowance to cover“wellness benefits”preventive care such as
physical exams and health screenings.
N Enrollment in a high-deductible medical plan, such as a $1,500 deductible
with coverage by a preferred-provider organization.
N In larger companies, those with at least 1,000 employees, an employer-funded
health reimbursement account (HRA), say of $1,000, for use in covering the
N In smaller companies, an HSA that acts like a 401(k)-type retirement plan.
Employees save their own money, which may be fully or partially matched by
14 Top 10 Best Practices in HR Management for 2009
President Obama’s Future Plans on Health Care
President Obama proposes a healthcare plan that would require employers to
offer healthcare insurance to employees or pay a percentage of payroll to support
a public healthcare plan. Small employers would be exempt. President Obama
would also give a tax credit to small businesses to encourage them to offer health-
All children would be required to have healthcare insurance, and the new presi-
dent’s plan calls for subsidies for people who are unable to afford insurance. Presi-
dent Obama also has a plan that he says will reduce healthcare costs, including a
change to allow Americans to purchase less expensive prescription drugs from
Best Practice: Cancer Screening Saves Lives,
C-Change, a national cancer coalition of key leaders from the government, busi-
ness, and nonprofit sectors, recently launched an initiative designed to encourage
employers to add cancer prevention and screenings to their health insurance poli-
cies and programs. Its white paper, “Making the Business Case for Cancer Preven-
tion and Early Detection,” is available in its entirety at www.c-changeprojects.org/
With more than half of Americans covered by health insurance provided through
employer plans, the costs associated with cancer have a direct impact on business’
bottom lines. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States,
after heart disease. Proper screenings can prevent cancer and improve outcomes
where cancer is found. As such, screenings lead to lower costs and, of course, bet-
ter outcomes for individuals, families, and businesses.
C-Change says there are four prevention areas that can have the most impact:
tobacco-cessation programs, breast cancer screening, colorectal cancer screen-
ing, and cervical cancer screening. A study by America’s Health Insurance Plans
and the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research found that investing in
tobacco-cessation programs reaps immediate results.
“By investing 18 cents to 79 cents per member, per month, an employer can gener-
ate a cumulative savings of $1.70 to $2.20 per member per month after 5 years,”
says C-Change. Death rates are reduced by about 16 percent in women over the
age of 40 who have mammograms every 1 to 2 years. And the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services says that the death rate from colorectal cancer can be
reduced by at least 30 percent with regular screening for the disease.
Educating employees about when and why they should quit smoking or be
screened for cancer is important, and there are simple, low-cost ways to do that.
Invite a mobile screening unit, such as a mammography van, to come to the work-
place. Send reminder cards around employees’ birthdays to encourage them to get
screened. Include notices in newsletters, on the company intranet, and in break
rooms about when and why employees should be screened. Offering time off to
take advantage of cancer screenings can also encourage early detection.
16 Top 10 Best Practices in HR Management for 2009
N Older workers are just coasting to retirement. In fact, they can be just
as—or more—productive than younger workers. Their work tends to be more
accurate and their decisions more thoughtful.
N Older workers get hurt more often and heal more slowly. Instead,
they’re less reckless than younger workers and subject only to repetitive strain,
which can be eased.
N Older workers can’t or won’t learn new skills. Instead, they do learn
differently but continue to enjoy chances to learn something new.
N Older workers are short-timers, so not worth the investment. The truth
is that they are more loyal, have lower turnover, and have positive work values.
Bernstein and Trauth think they have an effective answer to the looming talent
crunch in which employers won’t be able to find enough workers with the right
kinds of skills to fill needed positions. Here are elements of their program, MORe
(Mutually Optimized Renewal), “a new retirement paradigm”for retaining older
The first step is to prepare a 5-year plan of business objectives for change and
growth, including the employee skills that will be needed to get from here to there.
Next, assume that all workers aged 59 or over now will retire before the end of the
5 years. Do any have skill sets and/or institutional knowledge that will be essential
to keep? The answer is likely yes, and Human Resources should approach those
people to discuss their retirement needs and wishes.
Bernstein and Trauth see real problems with the phased retirement programs some
large employers have used:There’s low enrollment, too-brief tenure, and failed
mentoring processes. The authors believe the reasons are that older employees are
burned out from doing their current jobs, they’ve not thought enough about what
they want out of work and life in the future, and they haven’t been properly
trained for mentorship. What should happen, Bernstein and Trauth advocate, is
that chosen older workers take a 1- to 6-month sabbatical to assess their needs and
wishes. That renewal break should be accompanied by completing a reliable per-
sonality profile that reveals the kinds of work they like best and what job aspects
lead to stress. Based on those activities, the worker and the employer together
structure a new, part-time job tailored to the worker’s personality and interests.
The other part of the bargain is the one or more mentoring relationships that will
aid the organization in transferring the older worker’s skills and knowledge to
future leaders in the firm. Not only should the potential mentor be thoroughly
trained in how to carry out the responsibility but the personalities and interests of
potential mentees should be carefully assessed to find the right match or matches
for the mentor.
Survey: Few Employers Capture Boomer
Only one quarter of large organizations are making an effort to transfer knowledge
from retiring Baby Boomers to other employees, according to a survey of 2,046
Human Resources executives by Novations Group, a global consulting and train-
ing firm based in Boston.
18 Top 10 Best Practices in HR Management for 2009
Predicting the Future of Retiree Health Care
Educating employees may be the most important thing you can do to help them
plan for retirement health costs, says Robert Schmidt of Milliman. He expects that
an unmarried employee retiring at age 60, with an initial insurance premium cost
of $227 per month (subsidized by a generous employer) and assuming an opti-
mistic health cost trend of 8 percent per year, can expect to need $205,000 for the
purchase of health insurance if he or she lives to age 85. That’s a present value of
$95,000 using a 5 percent discount rate.
Of course, for married people, or those retiring from an employer that doesn’t sub-
sidize part of the cost of coverage, the amount would be substantially more. That
means retirement savings are more important than ever before. “Plan to just chop
off $100,000 of your retirement savings to pay for health care,” Schmidt advises.
Not only do employees and retirees need education about the cost of health insur-
ance, they also need to be on board with wellness and disease management initia-
tives, says Schmidt.
In a recent survey, Kaiser and Hewitt asked companies sponsoring retiree health
benefits about their future plans. In the Kaiser/Hewitt Survey on Retiree Health
Benefits, the highest percentage of respondents pointed to changes in their plan
designs that will mean increased costs to retirees. For example, 80 percent said
they will likely increase retiree premium contributions; 40 percent will increase
cost-sharing requirements; 36 percent are likely to increase drug co-pays or coin-
surance; and 30 percent will increase out-of-pocket limits. Fortunately for retirees,
just 2 percent said they are likely to terminate all subsidized health benefits for
Robert Schmidt believes early retirees are more likely to maintain some form of
employer-sponsored benefits. “I’m seeing a trend,” he says. “If companies are going
to provide retiree health care, they’re providing it to early retirees, and letting post-
65 retirees go on their own. There are so many more options for them now.”
Persuading Older Workers to Stay:
Is It the Money that Matters?
The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) asked workers who had retired in
2003 or later about company policies, practices, and incentives that would have
encouraged them to delay retirement. The 4,981 respondents worked in the aero-
space and defense industries and at the time of the survey, were between the ages
of 55 and 65. Most (79 percent) were men, and 83 percent were married when
Just ask. Nearly two-thirds said they would have seriously considered an offer
from their employer asking them to stay on.
You need me? Almost half (48 percent) of the retirees said that if they had felt
truly needed for an assignment, that would have been extremely or very effective
in encouraging them to delay retirement.
Money please. However, money does enter the equation. Half of the respondents
who had a defined benefit pension plan said that if they had been able to receive
a full pension and still work part time, it would have been effective in getting them
20 Top 10 Best Practices in HR Management for 2009
Measuring success. One way to keep the focus on succession planning and
developing employees is to track and measure the success of the plan at the
department and company level. One way to do this is through the use of metrics
and another is to make sure managers are evaluated on how well they implement
the plan. Suggestions include:
N Measuring the total number of open positions identified as key positions in the
succession plan that were filled by high-potential employees.
N Using 360-degree reviews for evaluating the mentoring process by having the
mentor evaluate the employee and vice versa.
Integrating a Multigenerational Workforce
As your“Radio Babies”(approximate ages 62 to 77) and Baby Boomers (roughly
ages 43 to 61) retire or begin to phase out, Generation X (ages 30 to 42, give or
take) simply can’t fill all the workforce gaps:That cohort is too small. So, despite
problems your older staffers may think they’ve had in adjusting to Gen X, you’d bet-
ter get ready to hire Gen Ys. They’re the biggest cohort since the Boomers, and
you’re going to need them. How do you cope?
In order to increase the amount of workplace interaction among employees of dif-
ferent ages, consider taking some of the following action steps:
N Establish a series of mentor relationships that pair older workers with younger
ones; encourage pairs to meet at least monthly for a year or more to work on
career goals set by the younger workers.
N Create focus groups of mixed generations to brainstorm ideas about achieving
N In populating ongoing project teams, strive for age diversity as well as diversity
of levels, race, and gender in addition to appropriate functional and depart-
N Make it easy for older workers to obtain either in-house or external training in
new technologies or methodologies. Pair older workers with younger workers
who may have more experience with new technologies.
#5 Recession Help
Across the nation, employers find it nearly impossible to ignore dropping revenues
and profits. A recent study by consulting firm Hay Group found that more than 30
percent of respondents are freezing or planning to freeze base salaries, with half
that number doing so for all employees. And some 20 percent will either freeze
workforce size or conduct layoffs in the near future. Respondents also reported
they will change training and development programs (28 percent), change health-
care benefit plans (27 percent), or change retirement savings plans (20 percent).
Furthermore, another survey done by Career Protection predicts a 37 percent
increase in layoffs this year compared to last, making this year’s forecast the worst
22 Top 10 Best Practices in HR Management for 2009
In addition, Avramidis recommends that the first candidates for layoff be chosen
based on where they work in the organization. That is, target first the employees in
less-profitable lines of business or activities the company may eliminate. Even
then, don’t let a top performer go simply because he or she is in the wrong line of
business. Then, if a second layer of jobs may need to be cut, shift the focus to
where employees stand in terms of their performance.
In order to resist layoffs, should employers take such preliminary measures as
freezing salaries and/or reducing such benefits as healthcare coverage or retire-
ment plans? Avramidis is reluctant to endorse such moves, because they penalize
all employees the same way rather than differentiating among them based on their
performance and their organizational roles. “Don’t force out your best people
because they can no longer afford to stay with you,” he cautions. Only an employer
that has developed significant credibility and employee loyalty may be able to get
away with such across-the-board penalties, Avramidis believes. “Do your best to
protect your most valuable human capital,” he concludes.
Best Practice: Mandatory Vacations at HP
Companies caught between a need to cut costs and a desire to avoid layoffs are
turning increasingly to forced vacations, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
These employers reduce their employees’ work hours by asking them to take vaca-
tions that are either paid or unpaid, depending on the company’s financial
circumstances. “I’m advising companies that it’s an excellent idea,” says Bruce
Katcher, president of The Discovery Group, a Boston-based consulting firm. “The
advantage for the organization is that you still keep people around for when busi-
ness turns around. And you’re telling employees that you still want them to be a
vital part of your organization, that you’re committed to them.”
Work slowdowns and subsequent cuts in employees’ workweeks are nothing new
in the manufacturing sector. Yet experts tell the Monitor that this recession marks
the first time a wide variety of businesses, both large and small and from many dif-
ferent sectors of the economy, have used employees’ time as a cost-cutting tool.
Hewlett Packard (HP) asked its employees last April to voluntarily take an addi-
tional 6 days of paid vacation time off before the end of the fiscal year in October.
In June, it asked them to voluntarily forfeit some earned vacation time, take a
small pay cut, or do a combination of the two through the end of the fiscal year.
And in December, HP closed all of its offices for a week at Christmas, which
included 3 days off with no pay.
HP tells the Monitor that 95 percent of its workforce joined in the June cost-cutting
measure, saving the firm $130 million. The other measures also saved an undis-
closed sum of money on two fronts. First, closing saved HP the cost of keeping
offices open. Second, asking employees to take paid vacation time—instead of
rolling it into another year—helped in accounting terms because paid vacation is
a funded liability that carries over from year to year on the company’s books.
Experts say the key to successful implementation of a time-off cost-cutting meas-
ure is in how it’s communicated to workers. The plan needs to be presented
clearly, in advance, with assurances that the company is committed to its staff.
24 Top 10 Best Practices in HR Management for 2009
Lane asserts that you should be doing these three things all of the time, but a
recession underscores the importance of such actions.
Maia Lucier, director of compensation and benefits for Dimension Data, a global
specialist IT services and solutions provider, explained how her company has
added no- and low-cost ways to beef up its benefits in creative ways while continu-
ing to strive to attract and retain talent against the backdrop of a troubled econ-
omy. Lucier emphasized the importance of frequent and effective communication
to employees when it comes to their benefits, noting that the extent to which
employees value and understand their benefits package impacts job satisfaction
and loyalty to the organization.
With this in mind, Dimension Data has leveraged its relationship with a financial
advisor from its 401(k) plan, asking him to participate in new monthly“Think
Financial Wellness”conference calls for employees. These 30-minute conference
calls were created to address economic uncertainties for employees and consist of
N A 10-minute recap of recent economic developments (in plain English),
N A 10-minute interpretation of“what does this mean for me,” including retire-
ment and personal financial planning implications, and
N 10 minutes of Q&A.
Dimension Data is also providing health expense communications for employees,
such as an“around the office”feature in its monthly newsletter. This feature pro-
vides a profile of an employee and might explain, for example, how he or she
saved money by using mail order drugs. Showing how a specific employee utilized
a benefit program that saved him or her money is much more effective than just
explaining the benefit, Lucier has found.
The company has also created“What you should know as a Dimension Data
employee”webcasts which communicate to employees by promoting learning and
development opportunities, showing them how they can utilize their benefits to
the fullest extent, and communicating Dimension Data’s 401(k) investment review
process and due diligence (something more employees ask questions about dur-
ing tough times).
Lucier also avidly supports the use of total compensation statements. She says that
by providing detailed information regarding the value of their benefits, you may
be able to hold onto valuable employees who would otherwise be tempted to take
a job elsewhere for a small base salary increase.
Finally, in terms of communication, Dimension Data has a“Leading Talent”pro-
gram for its line managers. Dimension Data wants their managers to have the abil-
ity to manage the relationship between the employee and the company. In this
program, managers are taught how they can help attract, engage, develop, and
retain talent for high performance. They are also educated about company bene-
fits so that they can communicate benefits value to employees.
26 Top 10 Best Practices in HR Management for 2009
into effect. The following is an analysis of the reproposed regulation that DHS
plans to implement.
Safe harbor. The DHS regulations provide that by taking“reasonable steps”after
receiving a no-match letter, the no-match letter may not serve as the basis for find-
ing that the employer has constructive knowledge that an individual is working
illegally. The DHS regulations set out the specific steps that, if taken, are automati-
cally deemed to be such reasonable steps and provide the protection of a“safe
harbor”from liability for violating IRCA based on a no-match letter.
Note: Employers may come upon information that an SSN might be invalid in
other ways—for instance, if two or more newly hired employees have the same or
consecutive numbers. In such situations, employers should also follow the safe-
harbor procedure. However, knowledge that an employee is unauthorized must
not be inferred from an employee’s foreign appearance or accent.
Procedures for Avoiding Liability
To qualify for the safe harbor, an employer must follow the procedures set out in
DHS regulations. The procedures, while similar, vary somewhat depending on
whether the no-match letter came from SSA or DHS.
SSA No-Match Letter
After receiving a no-match letter from SSA, employers should do the following:
Step 1—SSA No-Match Letter
N Check the employer’s records immediately to see whether the discrepancy was
caused by a typographical, transcription, or similar clerical error in the
employer’s records or in the employer’s communication to the SSA.
N If there are no typographical, transcription, or similar clerical errors, move on
to Step 2 immediately.
Warning: Time is critical because if the employee confirms that the records
are incorrect, the deadline to correct them is 30 days from receipt of the no-match
If there is a typographical, transcription, or similar clerical error:
1. Correct the records;
2. Inform the SSA;
3. Verify with the SSA that the discrepancy has been resolved;
4. Make a record of the manner, date, and time of the verification (this includes
documentation of telephone conversations, correspondence, computer-gener-
ated printouts, e-mails, and Social Security Number Verification System screen
5. Store the record with the employee’s Form I-9.
In the safe harbor. If these five steps are completed within 30 days of receipt of
the no-match letter, the employer qualifies for the safe harbor.
28 Top 10 Best Practices in HR Management for 2009