A new year brings new issues for HR professionals to contend with. Some challenges are similar to previous years (overtime uncertainty), while others are more unique and complicated (legal marijuana and employment). Despite inherent difficulties, staying tuned in to these six trends can keep you ahead of the game in 2019. Ignoring them will only put you behind.
Below are the top trends to monitor in the coming months.
1. Opioids, Marijuana and the Workplace
Opioids have been concerning employers for the last few years, and quietly ravaging the country for even longer. In 2017, the opioid crisis was declared a national emergency due to tens of thousands dying each year from prescription painkillers. Many of these tragedies started with a legal prescription after a common medical procedure.
Beyond their deadly risks, opioids also cause absenteeism and performance issues in the workplace. Opioids are difficult to detect in a drug test and even harder to perceive without one. Knowing this, it’s critical to modernize your drug policy to address opioids and offer resources for alternative pain management strategies.
Legal marijuana is also complicating drug policies. Similar to opioids, marijuana is increasingly difficult to detect, with the growing popularity of oils and edibles. Moreover, the drug is legal for medical use in 30 states, making testing legally tricky.
You may find it easiest to adjust your drug policy to focus on workplace performance. For instance, clearly prohibiting impairment at work or the promotion of drug use through paraphernalia. Adopting a zero-tolerance policy may backfire with state laws, so be sure to have legal counsel review your policy before enforcing it.
2. Leave-related Issues
Did you know that 47 percent of employers were very challenged by cross-state leave laws and 43 percent found it extremely difficult administrating leaves in general, according to a recent XpertHR survey? With ever-expanding legislation, it’s not too surprising.
Multistate businesses must contend with different state laws, but even smaller employers can find themselves juggling laws between localities. Without proper guidance, handling common requests like family leave, sick time and reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act can be a nightmare.
The first thing employers must do is determine which leave laws apply to them, remembering that certain localities might have different rules. Other aspects, like which leaves can be used concurrently and proper leave documentation should come next. And, of course, proper employee communication is a must—not just putting policies in a handbook, but posting leave notices as well.
3. Soaring Health Care Costs
Paying over $15,000 annually for each employee’s health care in 2019 sounds like a bad dream, but it’s the real cost trend. With rates surpassing $680 and $20,000 for single and family coverage, respectively, employers are scrambling to cut costs wherever they can. Yet, that can be easier said than done.
Some organizations are encouraging workers to utilize telemedicine or virtual care as a way to trim costs. By “visiting” a doctor online for minor health issues, patients can save a trip to the hospital. And, since it’s virtual, everyone saves money.
Another cost-saving strategy is the consumer driven health plan (CDHP) model. This strategy empowers employees to control their health care decisions and choose care that best suits them. Since employees use a savings account to help offset costs from their high deductible health plans, they are incentivized to pick more affordable options.
4. Wage and Hour Concerns
Hire more workers or pay overtime? That’s the question growing businesses must ask themselves. With overtime changes looming in the first quarter of 2019, you may think it’s easier to hire more workers at lower salaries. But, depending on your situation, that may not be true.
Many states are primed to raise their respective minimum wages in 2019. What’s more, the majority of those rates are already higher than the federal minimum. If you’re considering hiring more workers, check to make sure you know how much you’ll have to pay them in your state. The same goes for federal contractors.
As for salaried employees, it looks like we won’t know anything about the overtime rule until at least March 2019. This leaves the current overtime threshold at $23,660. Experts expect that number to increase to between $32,000 and $35,000—far lower than the $47,476 rate initially proposed in 2016. This means you should keep watching for regulatory updates in the coming months.
5. New Technologies
HR is always looking for new ways to streamline and improve its processes. In 2019, it appears that people analytics and recruiting technologies will be at the forefront of the trend, according to professional HR organization Toolbox.
People analytics is a way of tracking things like employee engagement data, training program effectiveness or ad placement success. The practice examines human data and crunches the numbers so you have a better idea of the return on investment. Need to know if your employees feel appreciated? Want to discover which methods employees are using to communicate with each other? This is where people analytics can help.
Similarly, recruiting technologies are also looking at human data to help create efficiencies, namely in targeting and optimization. Advanced technology can help recruiters hone their efforts to find talent where they are, instead of waiting to stumble upon suitable candidates.
At the backbone of all these new technologies is advanced artificial intelligence (AI). The unseen wizards that run your most complex software are getting more intelligent each year. AI can help schedule appointments with recruiting candidates, create personalized experiences for users, and help employees with tasks like open enrollment, vacation requests and training. Soon, there won’t be much that AI cannot track and offer you solutions for.
6. Upskilling Employees
If you have a new task that requires new skills, do you hire a new employee for the job? The current trend says no—you upskill current workers. Upskilling is the process of training current employees in new skills and responsibilities. According to a McKinsey study, 62 percent of executives think automation will require them to retrain or replace over a quarter of their workforce.
Obviously, replacing employees is less cost-effective than offering more skills training, but is it easy? That depends on how you go about it.
As was previously mentioned, advanced AI is making training easier and more personalized for employees. AI can provide real-time feedback, recognize the areas in which employees need help and adapt to individual learning styles. While advanced training software may be pricey, it’s certainly less than the cost of replacing a quarter of your workforce.
Top Cyber Predictions for 2019
The average global cost of a data breach has risen to $3.86 million, magnifying the need for companies to be aware of all potential threats. Here are just a few of the threats that cyber security experts have forecast for 2019.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a Weapon
With AI being so young, it is still vulnerable to attacks that can affect its operations. However, AI could also be used defensively to identify new threats and better protect systems from attacks.
A Lack of Security in the Cloud
As organizations are adding more data to the cloud, they’re not practicing good enough housekeeping to secure that data, making them a top target for cyber criminals.
5G Network Vulnerability
As 5G takes the place of 4G, the market for 5G infrastructure is expected to grow by 118 percent annually through 2022. Although that rate of growth may be profitable for cellular networks and providers, it creates new vulnerabilities as well. Instead of connecting to a Wi-Fi router, 5G devices are expected to connect directly to a 5G network, making those networks more appealing targets to hackers while also making it more difficult for home and office users to monitor their devices.
Despite being the most secure method of authentication, biometric data can be stolen and altered. And sensors on smart devices can deteriorate with excessive usage, making them less reliable and easier to hack.
Criminals are targeting bank networks with malware, similar to the way they use credit and debit card skimmers to steal banking information and passcodes from unsuspecting customers. The result can be millions of dollars in losses and a lack of trust in major financial institutions.
The online gaming industry has seen massive growth and is expected to hit $2.2 trillion by 2021. This is an attractive target for cyber criminals who can easily pose as gamers and gain access to their credit card information.
More Targeted Spear Phishing
Devious cyber criminals are using tactics that involve breaking into an email system and learning as much as they can about their targeted victims. They use that information to take advantage of the trust built with another person and scam them out of money.
How to Secure Office IoT Devices
An internet of things (IoT) device is any smart device that is connected to the internet. Many of these devices are everyday objects—like watches or thermostats—that connect via Wi-Fi, allowing users to control them remotely or even collect data.
Employers pride themselves on using IoT technology to make their workplaces more modern and help them stand out from their competitors. Things like smart desks, video conferencing systems, security systems, smart TVs and intelligent HVAC systems are becoming more commonplace. Unfortunately, these same gadgets, as well as other IoT devices, can create a growing security threat for businesses who aren’t prepared.
There is a lack of consistency between manufacturing companies who make the IoT devices. They have different operating systems and different security measures, and some aren’t even capable of software updates. This makes it difficult for IT departments to prevent hackers from accessing IoT devices and gaining access to company networks.
That’s not to say that your organization shouldn’t use IoT devices altogether. You just need to take extra precautions. Here are a few ways to protect your valuable data while reaping the benefits of IoT devices:
- Consider multi-factor authentication or use certificates. Both are able to stall hackers who’ve managed to crack your password.
- Create a separate Wi-Fi network specifically for all IoT devices. If hackers access the IoT network, your separate business network should still be safe.
- Limit access to sensitive data. For example, IoT security cameras can expose sensitive information to hackers. Therefore, it is important to consider what the device has access to before setting it up. Be sure to also clear its storage on a regular basis. In addition, it’s important to never store critical business or personal data on these devices.
- In the event of a hack, be prepared to disable your devices and reset the factory settings at any time. If you regularly back up your devices, it should be easy enough to restore them and reconnect.
- Avoid installing third-party software. It’s easy to add functionality to IoT devices simply by installing additional applications. However, you should never install software from an untrusted source. Doing so can open the door to hackers.
- Turn off IoT devices when they aren’t in use. This may seem like a simple solution, but active devices are vulnerable to attacks. Just by switching off unused devices, you can improve network security overall.
Although IoT technology is likely here to stay, it is important to remember that it is still in its infancy. By taking proper precautions, you can enjoy its conveniences instead of letting it threaten your business operations.
On Dec. 14, 2018, a federal judge ruled in Texas v. United States that the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA) is invalid due to the elimination of the individual mandate penalty in 2019. The decision was not stayed, but the White House announced that the ACA will remain in place pending appeal. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also confirmed that it will continue administering and enforcing all aspects of the ACA.
This lawsuit was filed by 20 states as a result of the 2017 tax reform law that eliminates the individual mandate penalty. In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ACA on the basis that the individual mandate is a valid tax. With the penalty’s elimination, the court in this case ruled that the ACA is no longer valid under the U.S. Constitution.
This ruling is expected to be appealed and will likely be taken up by the Supreme Court. As a result, a final decision is not expected to be made until that time. The federal judge’s ruling left many questions as to the current state of the ACA; however, the White House announced that the ACA will remain in place pending appeal.
The ACA imposes an “individual mandate” beginning in 2014, which requires most individuals to obtain acceptable health insurance coverage for themselves and their family members or pay a penalty. In 2011, a number of lawsuits were filed challenging the constitutionality of this individual mandate provision.
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the ACA in its entirety, ruling that Congress acted within its constitutional authority when enacting the individual mandate. The Court agreed that, while Congress could not use its power to regulate commerce between states to require individuals to buy health insurance, it could impose a tax penalty using its tax power for individuals who refuse to buy health insurance.
However, a 2017 tax reform bill, called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, reduced the ACA’s individual mandate penalty to zero, effective beginning in 2019. As a result, beginning in 2019, individuals will no longer be penalized for failing to obtain acceptable health insurance coverage.
Texas v. United States
Following the tax reform law’s enactment, 20 Republican-controlled states filed a lawsuit again challenging the ACA’s constitutionality. The plaintiffs, first, argued that the individual mandate can no longer be considered a valid tax, since there will no longer be any revenue generated by the provision.
In addition, in its 2012 ruling, the Supreme Court indicated (and both parties agreed) that the individual mandate is an essential element of the ACA, and that the remainder of the law could not stand without it. As a result, the plaintiffs argued that the elimination of the individual mandate penalty rendered the remainder of the ACA unconstitutional.
The U.S. Justice Department chose not to fully defend the ACA in court and, instead, 16 Democratic-controlled states intervened to defend the law.
Federal Court Ruling
In his ruling, Judge Reed O’Connor ultimately agreed with the plaintiffs, determining that the individual mandate can no longer be considered a valid exercise of Congressional tax power. According to the court, “[u]nder the law as it now stands, the individual mandate no longer ‘triggers a tax’ beginning in 2019.” As a result, the court ruled that “the individual mandate, unmoored from a tax, is unconstitutional.”
Because the court determined that the individual mandate is no longer valid, it now had to determine whether the provision is “severable” from the remainder of the law (meaning whether other portions of the ACA can remain in place or whether the entire law is invalid without the individual mandate).
In determining whether the remainder of the law could stand without the individual mandate, the court pointed out that “Congress stated three separate times that the individual mandate is essential to the ACA … [and that] the absence of the individual mandate would ‘undercut’ its ‘regulation of the health insurance market.’ Thirteen different times, Congress explained how the individual mandate stood as the keystone of the ACA … [and,] ‘together with the other provisions’ [the individual mandate] allowed the ACA to function as Congress intended.” As a result, the court determined that the individual mandate could not be severed, making the ACA invalid in its entirety.
Impact of the Federal Court Ruling
Judge O’Conner’s ruling left many questions as to the current state of the ACA, because it did not order for anything to be done or stay the ruling pending appeal. However, this ruling is expected to be appealed, and the White House announced that the ACA will remain in place until a final decision is made. On Dec. 17, 2018, HHS also confirmed that it will continue administering and enforcing all aspects of the ACA. Many industry experts anticipate that the Supreme Court will likely take up the case, which means that a final decision will not be made until that time.
While these appeals are pending, all existing ACA provisions will continue to be applicable and enforced. Although the individual mandate penalty will be reduced to zero beginning in 2019, employers and individuals must continue to comply with all other applicable ACA requirements. This ruling does not impact the 2019 Exchange enrollment, the ACA’s employer shared responsibility (pay or play) penalties and related reporting requirements, or any other applicable ACA requirement.
By Natasha Kwachka
Lately productivity has been a huge topic of discussion. Some would say productivity can be achieved by a few simple habits put into action. Although I agree with creating positive habits that can contribute to efficiencies, I wonder if there is more that goes into productivity. I recently read an article that discussed taking small moments to disengage, also known as Quiet Time. It caused me to take a deep look inward and truly evaluate how often I took a step away from all the noise. Needless to say, my time spent in silence likely matches many Americans, who would describe this time as “slim to none.” There are huge gains to be made from taking small amounts of time completely dedicated to silence, removing the noise. Take a look at the article I came across.
by: Jessica Carlson
Do you struggle to tell people what it is that your company does? You know what you do, but trying to explain it to others can sometimes feel complicated. With all of the exciting changes that our company has gone through in the last 12 months, we’ve been working on answering this question for ourselves. This podcast from Donald Miller’s “Building a Storybrand” has helped with that immensely. “How to Tell People What You Do in 3 Easy Steps” will talk you through writing a one- liner that will clarify how you talk about your business. Check it out here:
By Tonya Mott
Do you ever feel like your job title could be “Professional Emailer”?
Pre-Yammer, I would have anywhere from 100 to 125 emails in my inbox on a daily basis. Post- Yammer I’m hovering around 50 to 65. I don’t know about you, but if I have 125 emails in my inbox, I start getting that anxious feeling.
Yammer is a social networking tool that allows employees to openly connect and engage across your organization. It’s a tool that can be used to discuss ideas, share updates, and network with others around the globe.
Our Yammer story began about two years ago. Out of the blue, a colleague sent me an invite to Yammer. I logged in, saw something that resembled Facebook and posted, “I don’t know what Yammer is but I’m excited to learn more!” Then I went on my merry way and never looked at it again, until….
Months went by and I had an epiphany. WHY we needed to use Yammer clicked. It happened after I sent a couple of messages to the masses via email (you know, cc: everyone and their mom). Here are examples of the emails that clog up my inbox:
“Who wants the carpet cleaned in their office?”
This message is followed by 10 responses – Yes, no, yes, no, yes, yes, who, what, when, where, and why. This requires me to respond, delete, file, etc.
“It’s Clean the Fridge Friday!”
This would be followed by 16 “reply all” consisting of funny sarcastic responses, jokes, memes, pictures, etc. Don’t get me wrong- I enjoy a good laugh and our office humor is top of the line. When done via email it creates work for me: respond (I’ve got to ‘one up’ someone else’s meme), delete, file, etc.
Here’s how we got started (the epiphany)…I needed to make a change to an email distribution list and inform the entire team. My normal course of action would have been to send a mass email. I hovered over the send button, hesitated, and began to hear my colleagues’ internal thoughts when they realized I have added to their inbox clutter. I decided to send this message via Yammer. I sent invites to the entire office to join the network and then posted informing every one of the email address change. I also let them know that I would be posting all phone and IT updates in this group going forward. The rest is history.
Yammer took off like wild fire. We now have 24 different Yammer groups including our “All Company” group where we can share general info and updates. We use Yammer to collaborate around certain projects and keep our entire team informed.
If you’d like to explore implementing Yammer for your team, here are a few suggestions:
- Get your leadership team onboard 2. Have someone in your office be the Yammer Champion
3. Have the Champion schedule time with each person to customize their Yammer settings in a
way that works for them. 4. Create a “Yammer 101” group, invite your teammates to join 5. Post these video links in the group and encourage your teammates to watch them. The
videos explain how Yammer can help with communication in your organization.
Use Yammer Everyday
30 minutes (the first eight minutes were the most insightful):
Six Steps to a Successful Yammer Network
- Keep posting tips to encourage users 7. Come up with rules and guidelines to follow when it comes to communicating via email or Yammer. For example, you could decide that all email is only for communicating with individuals that are outside of your organization and Yammer is for all internal communication.
In conclusion, Yammer has made our team invincible; therefore I have to end this message with these timeless lyrics:
That’s word because you know You can’t touch this (oh-oh oh oh-oh-oh) You can’t touch this (oh-oh oh oh-oh-oh) Break it down (Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh oh-oh) (Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh oh-oh) Stop! Yammer time!
Instead, you could choose to be accountable.
Definition of accountable: required or expected to justify actions or decisions; responsible.
The opposite of accountable is to mitigate and/or place blame.
Definition of mitigate: the action of reducing the severity, seriousness, or painfulness of something.
Being accountable has everything to do with yourself and not anyone around you. It is all about “you.”
After listening to the podcast I realized how easy it is, almost even natural, to initially want to blame something or someone when a project or task goes south. I never thought of myself as a “blamer” but I definitely took this to heart and will be very careful of how I react going forward.
Next time you find yourself facing a problem take ownership, don’t blame, and see how the people around you react.
Here is the podcast that inspired me: