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The Inside Scoop: How to Find Out What Your Employees Aren’t Telling You

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We talk a lot about employee engagement on this blog, and for good reason: Companies with an engaged workforce outperform those without by nearly 202 percent. Today, we’re not here to drill such stats into your head – besides, that one makes a pretty solid case on its own – but to discuss how businesses can engage their employees by surveying each and every one of them.

Why is that important? Glad you asked!

Many employers often assume their employees are happy and engaged at work, but if this were reality, then $11 billion wouldn’t be lost on turnover every year. At one point or another, every organization can benefit from surveying their employees, if for no other reason than to gauge morale. Improving morale translates into having a more efficient and effective team.

There are other benefits gained from surveying your employees, too; here are eight essential ones:

  1. Ensures employees are satisfied.
    It’s easy to become blinded by our own assumptions, but be careful, because that’s when you miss the truth. Employees hold the key to how they are feeling and only they can tell you. Rather than assume you know, just ask them. (For more on what you should be asking, see part 2 in this three-part series.)
  2. Identifies reasons for turnover. A business continued to lose top talent to a competitor down the street. The organization knew that the reason employees were leaving wasn’t because of pay, perks and benefits, because those were comparable to others within the region and industry. But what was? It initiated an exit survey to determine the root of the problem, and lo and behold, the real reason for turnover surfaced: a few bad managers. Getting this feedback helped the organization correct the issue, stemming the tide of lost top talent.
  3. Increases loyalty and communication. Talking to the boss can be intimidating, especially when the employee has less-than-complimentary things to say. The anonymity of surveys opens a line of communication that otherwise might be neglected. Employees can share their thoughts, feelings and even ideas for improvement freely without the obstacle of anxiety.
  4. Identifies problems before they escalate. At first glance, everything may seem fine, but as you begin to peel back the layers, you discover problems you never knew existed. Surveys reveal these unknowns, and oftentimes can identify potential problems so they can be stopped before they even come to fruition.
  5. Monitors morale effectively. Is employee morale high or low? You won’t know until you ask. You can increase it by soliciting their opinions, even simply by asking what items they’d prefer to see on the lunch menu.
  6. Sets benchmarks. Survey results reveal where you are today so that you have opportunity to improve moving forward. How can you appreciate where you are going if you don’t know where you’ve been?
  7. Measures and monitors the extent to which personnel align with organizational goals and objectives. Hopefully, the employees you hired share in the organization’s vision and values. However, as your business grows, so do expectations, so it is important to re-evaluate regularly where employees stand on your company’s goals and objectives. This ensures everyone is working toward the same thing. Any slight deviance may mean you need to make adjustments.
  8. Communicates cost-effectively. Surveys are quick and convenient tools for evaluation. Utilizing today’s technology, managers can create a survey that is administered and answered right through each employee’s self-service portal, and you can receive the results on the back end. This eliminates costs for paper, printing, filing and storage.

This is the first in a three-part series, so stay tuned for more tips on engaging employees through surveys. Next up, we will feature the top 10 questions you should be asking your employees.



Author Bio: Jason Bodin has been the communications pulse for a number of organizations, including Paycom, where he serves as director of public relations and corporate communications. He helped launch Paycom’s blog, webinar platform and social media channels. He aided in the development of Paycom’s tool to assist organizations in complying with the Affordable Care Act, one of the largest changes in health care the country has seen. A graduate of the University of Oklahoma, Bodin previously worked for ESPN and FoxSports. In his free time, he enjoys adventuring with his family, reading and strengthen his business acumen.

Office Relationships

How HR Could Have Helped 3 Complicated On-screen Office Relationships

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With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, love is in the air and sometimes that romantic air makes its way into the office. Workplace romances may seem like something only seen in film or on TV, but according to Career Builder, 38% of American workers said they have dated a co-worker at least once in their career. That’s over a third of employees, which makes workplace romance an item every organization should have on its radar.

To better understand how HR can prepare and handle potentially tricky conversations, let’s take a look at three complicated workplace romances from film or television – and how HR could have helped.

Subscribe to HR Break Room to hear more about managing office romance.

Mulder and Scully – The X-files

For almost 25 years, special agents Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) from The X-Files have been solving supernatural and extraterrestrial cases on television. This pair of government agents work for one of the most well-known organizations in the country, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Throughout the series, they slowly become more than just friends or coworkers and have even become romantically involved in the most recent seasons. Each episode features a case that often involves aliens, weird occurrences … and yet another development in Mulder and Scully’s evolving relationship.

How HR can help: The on-again, off-again relationship between Mulder and Scully has left audiences wondering about their status for years. That ambiguity is what makes their relationship unhealthy for the workplace. It’s important for an organization’s policy to hold employees accountable for reporting a romantic relationship with a co-worker. This transparency allows HR to hold a consistent policy that can protect both employees if they break up.

Tom and Summer – 500 Days of Summer

The greeting card industry can be tough, but a brutal breakup in the office can make it even harder! Just ask Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon Levitt) and Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel) from the 2009 hit romance film, 500 Days of Summer. The romance that sparked between this on-screen couple turned out to be a bad fit that eventually led to Tom’s depression and complete disengagement from his work. It’s a classic example of how even the most beautiful romances can sometimes go sour.

 How HR can help: It’s important for HR to treat their employees like adults who are allowed to make their own mistakes. It is equally important for managers and supervisors to know about office romances so they can be prepared to handle potential drama.

In this film, Summer is the personal secretary of Tom’s manager, Vance. As the long and painful breakup unfolds, Vance is not clued in on the reason behind Tom’s disengagement, which leads to awkward workplace encounters and poor productivity. By incorporating some form of documentation confirming a workplace relationship into your organization’s policy for managers and team leads, you can foster a culture that equips leaders to better address the impact of those painful breakups.

Lois and Clark – Superman

The iconic comic book couple Lois and Clark have appeared on the screen together many times over the last several decades, but let’s take a look at the 1975 film Superman starring Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder. Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Lois Lane works closely with Clark Kent, who (unbeknownst to her) lives a life of fighting criminals. In the workplace, they are coworkers with great chemistry, but Lois’ professional-turned-romantic relationship with Clark’s alter ego, Superman, eventually makes her and the entire Daily Planet a target of his rivals. Clark’s dual identities complicate the root of the problem within the workplace, so that his interest in Lois puts the entire organization at risk.

How HR can help: Krypton’s last son may be great at hiding his identity, but ultimately living a life of two identities endangers people in both. That includes his coworkers Jimmy Olson, Perry White and most importantly, his romantic interest, Lois Lane.

It’s up to The Daily Planet’s HR department to screen their candidates through an applicant tracking system with thorough background checks before making a hiring decision. This can help identify potential red flags or conflicts of interest before a new employee joins the team.

 This Valentine’s Day, take the opportunity to look closer at your existing workplace romantic relationship policies. These stories make for great entertainment – but an effective policy on workplace romance can help you make sure the drama stays on the screen and out of your office.

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Posted in Blog, Featured, Talent Management

caleb.masters

by Caleb Masters


Author Bio: Caleb is the host of The HR Break Room and a Webinar and Podcast Producer at Paycom. With more than 5 years of experience as a published online writer and content producer, Caleb has produced dozens of podcasts and videos for multiple industries both local and online. Caleb continues to assist organizations creatively communicate their ideas and messages through researched talks, blog posts and new media. Outside of work, Caleb enjoys running, discussing movies and trying new local restaurants.

Understanding the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

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With the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) being signed into law by President Donald Trump on Dec. 22, 2017, several changes to individual and business taxation were made. How those changes affect each taxpayer depends on that individual’s specific situation.

Below is a “big-picture” overview of various provisions affecting businesses and individuals, with more focused guidance on how the new law will affect employer withholding of employee income taxes.

 

Changes for individuals

The TCJA affects individual income taxes in a number of ways. While the law maintains the seven income brackets used in tax calculation, it reduces the tax rate for five of the brackets:

Previous Rates 10% 15% 25% 28% 33% 35% 39.6%
New Rates 10% 12% 22% 24% 32% 35% 37%

 

The new law has also changed the withholding rates for supplemental wages. For wages up to $1 million, the current rate is 22%, and for wages over $1 million, the current rate is 37% (previously 25% and 39.6%, respectively).

TCJA has eliminated the personal exemptions for individuals, spouse and dependents. Previously, a married taxpayer filing jointly could claim two exemptions: one for his or her spouse and another for themselves. In that instance, two exemptions of $4,050 each would reduce taxable income by $8,100 total.

While that exemption is gone, the TCJA nearly has doubled the standard deduction. Last year, the standard deduction was $6,350 for single filers and $12,700 for joint filers. For 2018, these levels increased to $12,000 for single and $24,000 for joint filers.

The TCJA makes several other specific changes to individual income taxes, including:

  • The individual shared responsibility mandate within the Affordable Care Act (ACA) essentially has been removed, as the penalty for noncompliance will become $0, effective Jan. 1, 2019.
  • Individuals no longer will be able to claim unreimbursed business expenses as itemized deductions.
  • A $10,000 limit has been placed on the deductibility of other taxes (state income tax, property taxes, etc.).
  • Donations to universities for athletic seating privileges are no longer deductible.
  • The child tax credit will double from the previous $1,000 value, up to $2,000 per child.

 

Changes for businesses

Businesses will need to take note of several changes within the TCJA as well. One key change: The corporate tax rate has been reduced from 35% to 21%.

Additionally, a new short term incentive is in place for businesses who offer FMLA paid leave to their employees. Such businesses will receive a credit of 12.5% for every dollar paid for FMLA leave, up to 50% of an employee’s pay, with an additional 0.25% credit for every 1% paid above 50% of an employee’s pay.

Among various reductions or removal of deductible expenses that businesses should note include:

  • transportation fringe benefits
  • limitations for employer-operated eating facilities
  • deduction limitations for pay to highly paid employees and C-level employees
  • limitations to the write-offs for sexual harassment settlements
  • limitations for the deductibility of entertainment expenses

 

All of the above items will need to be discussed with your CPA or tax counsel to determine how they apply to your situation.

 

Frequently asked questions from employers

Some of the most frequent questions we have received since the president’s signing of the law pertain to the withholding tables and Form W-4 questions.

Withholding tables

The IRS released the new 2018 withholding tables on Jan. 11 in Notice 1036, with more detailed guidance released on Jan. 29 in Notice 2018-14 and Publication 15. (These changes already have been implemented in the Paycom system, ahead of the Feb. 15 implementation deadline from the IRS.)

The IRS designed the 2018 withholding tables so that employees’ existing Form W-4 data could continue to be used. Therefore, the IRS does not require employees to complete a new W-4 for 2018.

Extensions to the 2017 Form W-4

The IRS currently is working on a new 2018 Form W-4 that will allow employees to modify their withholding to take full advantage of the changes in the TCJA. The new form’s expected release is after Feb. 15.

As a result, Notice 2018-14 highlights these items relating to the 2017 Form W-4:

  1. Existing 2017 Forms W-4 furnished to claim exemption from withholding for 2017 would be extended to Feb. 28, 2018.
  2. The 2017 Form W-4 may continue to be used temporarily to claim exemption from withholding in 2018.
  3. The agency temporarily has suspended the requirement that employees must furnish new Forms W-4 to employers within 10 days of changes in states that would reduce withholding allowances they may claim.

 

Allowances and exemptions

When discussing the effects of the TCJA, it is important to understand the distinction between “allowances,” as claimed on the W-4 that are used for withholding, and “exemptions” that an individual claims on a year-end tax return.

Historically, these numbers are usually the same. For instance, last year they were $4,050 per allowance in withholding and exemptions in year-end tax returns. The number of allowances claimed on the 2017 Form W-4 were multiplied by $4,050, and an employee’s annual wages were reduced by that product to arrive at taxable wages used in withholding calculations. If the employee claimed exemptions on his or her annual return, the number of exemptions claimed likewise was multiplied by the same $4,050 to reduce taxable income on the Form 1040 year-end return.

While the TCJA has eliminated exemptions for 2018, the allowances (as used in calculation of withholding) have not been eliminated; in fact, they were increased to a value of $4,150 per allowance claimed on the W-4. Thus, for every W-4 allowance claimed, an employee’s gross income will be reduced by $4,150 to arrive at taxable wages for use in the withholding calculation. However, no exemptions will be allowed on the employee’s Form 1040 at year-end; moving forward, it is anticipated the worksheet on the 2018 Form W-4 will not include exemptions in the calculation of withholding allowances.

Voluntary submission of 2018 Form W-4

While submitting a 2018 Form W-4 is not required by the IRS at this time, an employee may elect to do so. Employees should look at the 2018 W-4 once it is released, because of the removal of exemptions from the income tax provisions. Employees should calculate the allowances on the new form to determine if they would benefit by submitting a new Form W-4 to their employer to adjust their withholding.

Until the 2018 Form W-4 is released, an employee may voluntarily choose to submit a copy of the 2017 Form W-4 if he or she wants to adjust their withholding for the period prior to the 2018 form’s release.

The recent tax reform is complex, leaving many items to consider for your employees as they head into 2018. Businesses and employees alike would benefit from consulting tax counsel to help determine the most appropriate next steps for their specific situations.

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Posted in Blog, Compliance, Featured


Author Bio: Robert Barclay has been the Tax Research Team Lead at Paycom since 2012, and has been instrumental in such company projects as the development of its Affordable Care Act compliance product, implementation of geolocation services and redesign of Form W-2. He joined Paycom in 2011, bringing more than 20 years of experience with the capital markets consulting practices of Ernst & Young in Memphis, Tenn., and Birmingham, Ala.; and Causey Demgen & Moore in Denver, Colo. A native Oklahoman, Barclay is a graduate of Rhodes College in Memphis, where he played football as linebacker.

2 Ways Your Employees’ Opinion Sways Consumer Behavior, for Good or Bad

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Your company’s brand and external reputation may not seem like an HR concern at first, but in this age of technology and social media, the voices of your people actually may be your most important asset.

The way your employees and even job candidates view your company influences the opinions of their online and offline connections, who could be prospects for your business. Social media only amplifies that effect. How can you make sure the effect on your business is a positive one?

In a recent episode of our HR Break Room podcast, we talked with Elon University communications professor John Doorley about how employer brands and reputation sway consumer behavior and what business leaders can do about it. Here are two key takeaways from that conversation.

1. Communicate your organization’s brand and culture to employees.

A company’s reputation and influence are critical to its success, and the employee experience is a big part of that success. A key element to a great employee experience – especially with millennials – is a workforce that understands the organization’s purpose. An organization’s reason for being must be communicated to workers from the top down, so the employee base can invest in the goals and mission.

A great employee experience empowers and encourages them to share your organization’s mission with their friends and family, including on social media. Your employees have the potential to be your most powerful brand advocates and can sway the way consumers view and interact with your product.

Giving your happiest employees the microphone (so to speak) can improve your organization’s reputation and, ultimately, your profits.

2. An unclear employee and candidate brand threatens your reputation and bottom line.

In the same way a great employee experience can turn your people into your most powerful advocates, a poor experience with your brand from employees or candidates can damage your reputation.

When you have a messy careers website or do not respond to an application a prospective employee may have spent hours putting together, you risk sending a negative message that not only could damage your reputation in one person’s eyes, but even may lead to the loss of clients. Even losing one client could result in negative feedback that influences the decision of potential clients.

Doorley recommends talking to candidates and employees with the same respect as one might exhibit when speaking with the media. That level of care can help you ensure that your organization is viewed in the best light by the people who are able to influence your external reputation.

Employers also should ensure consistent employee communication – in person whenever possible, as it’s one of the most important steps to empowering your people to help your organization. That can help you trust that your company’s brand and reputation is the best it can be with employees, candidates and consumers.

Tags: , ,
Posted in Blog, Employee Experience, Featured, Talent Acquisition

caleb.masters

by Caleb Masters


Author Bio: Caleb is the host of The HR Break Room and a Webinar and Podcast Producer at Paycom. With more than 5 years of experience as a published online writer and content producer, Caleb has produced dozens of podcasts and videos for multiple industries both local and online. Caleb continues to assist organizations creatively communicate their ideas and messages through researched talks, blog posts and new media. Outside of work, Caleb enjoys running, discussing movies and trying new local restaurants.

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