Columbia EDP Blog

News From Columbia EDP

Posted: 2020-01-15

What sort of questions should we ask and avoid asking during a job interview?

The questions you ask in a job interview should all be job-related and nondiscriminatory. You should avoid questions that are not job-related or that cause an applicant to tell you about their inclusion in a protected class. For example, if the position requires someone to lift 25 pounds repeatedly throughout the day, you should ask the applicant whether they can lift 25 pounds repeatedly throughout the day. You should not ask whether they have back pain or any other physical issues that might prevent them from lifting 25 pounds throughout the day. The latter question would be discriminatory.

Protected classes include race, national origin, citizenship status, religious affiliation, disabilities, pregnancy, sexual orientation or gender identity, past illnesses (including use of sick leave or workers’ comp claims), age, genetic information, or military service. You should also avoid asking about things that might be protected by state law (e.g., marital status and political affiliation). If you were to ask any questions pertaining to these matters, rejected candidates could claim that your decision was based on their inclusion in these classes rather than their credentials.

Posted: 2020-01-13

Can we discipline employees for complaining about the company on social media?

Probably not. Depending on what they said, and who responded to it, their speech may be protected under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act. Section 7 protects concerted activity by employees that relates to the terms on conditions of their employment. Concerted means “in concert,” so two or more employees must be involved, but this is easily achieved on social media if a co-worker even just “likes” the post. Terms and conditions could include pay, hours, work environment, treatment from managers, benefits, or violations of labor and employment laws.

We understand that this sort of social media activity by employees can be frustrating. One way to reduce the likelihood that employees will air their grievances on social media is to establish a means for them to do so internally. Employee surveys, comment boxes (whether physical or online), stay interviews, and true “Open Door” policies are common ways to solicit this feedback. The key is to be willing to listen and act on the information you gather. If employees believe that taking their complaints directly to a manager will end in retaliation, or that it simply won’t lead to any change, they’re more likely to keep complaining on the internet.

Posted: 2020-01-10

Our busy season starts next month. Is there anything we can do to help our employees reduce their stress?

There is! Here are a few things you can do to make the busy season run as smoothly and stress-free as possible:

Remove or reassign non-essential work duties: Before the busy season begins, ask employees to make a list of tasks that others could feasibly handle for them or that could be put on hold. Then work on reassigning those tasks or simply hold off on non-essential tasks until business slows down.

Allow for flexible scheduling: If employees need to work longer hours on some days during the week, consider allowing them to work fewer hours other days of the week. Be aware, however, that some states have daily overtime laws.

Budget for overtime: Employees may need to work extra hours to get their job done, so allow them to work overtime if you (and they) can swing it. If you’re pretty sure overtime will be necessary, try to make sure employees know that ahead of time, so they can plan accordingly.

Ensure all equipment is fast and reliable: It's important to identify, troubleshoot, and correct any slow or non-working equipment issues (whether laptops, cash registers, or vehicles) before employees gets slammed with extra work. Do preventative maintenance to take one less stressor out of the busy season.

Posted: 2020-01-08

Is Your WFM System Tracking These 3 Essentials?

Comparing Workforce Management capabilities? Make sure you evaluate the tools for workforce analytics. Let’s look at the top three things you want your software to track.

But first…

Let’s define what we mean by a Workforce Management system. At a minimum, a Workforce Management system administers employee time tracking and scheduling. Other desirable features are PTO, overtime, breaks, job codes, and compliance.

Even a bare-bones WFM system can provide insight into your employees. This insight can help you make better decisions about resource allocation.

What should your system be measuring?

1. Workforce Productivity

Productivity and profit go hand in hand.

The formula for productivity isn’t complicated; hours worked per tasks completed. This can be measured by employee, team or any other useful metric.

Things to look for:

  • Which staff members are consistently more productive?
  • Which teams work best together?
  • Would cross-training the most capable improve productivity?
  • Does productivity fluctuate by shift?

Your software can help you organize the most effective teams and schedule them accordingly. Create schedules templates for effective teams.

Job role tracking ensures you have the right coverage for each department or project. Job role alerts tell you if a schedule has the right employee qualifications.

2. Employee Engagement

Engaged employees perform better.

Can WFM track state-of-mind??

Since you can’t observe every employee constantly (or read their minds), your WFM system can shine a light on this important quality.

Punctuality is telling. Notice which workers are chronically late. Your system should be able to set lockout times that force team members to clock in within a specified time.

Make sure you dig deep…

Watch for early punch ins and late punch outs. It may not indicate that the employee is hyper-punctual and goes the extra mile. It could reveal intentional hours padding. Either way—it costs you more in payroll and may not benefit the company.

Now you can take control:

System alerts can tag late punch-ins. Set clock timeouts to eliminate out-of-shift clock ins. Intelligent clock features can help reduce time theft and encourage employee engagement.

If your staff members interact with customers, your ultimate goal is customer satisfaction. When employees are on-time and engaged, your customers have a better experience. If you don’t interact with customers—link to productivity.  Engagement is required for both measures of success.

Don’t forget:

To best serve your customers, employees need a comprehensive understanding of policies and procedures. A WFM system with onboarding tools makes it easy for a new hire to read the rules and regs. Drive the process to completion. Some systems let you create short quizzes to validate that the employee has read and understands the material.

3. Unplanned Overtime

Small businesses that can’t control overtime better have fat margins. Overtime insight can help you reduce labor costs significantly.

Which shifts accrue the most overtime?
Who are my habitually overtime staff members?
Where can I minimize overlap?
Do some shifts accrue more overtime regardless of the employees working them?

Once you identify frequent fliers, interview the employees and ask them what’s going on.

This can yield some surprises…

You may find that the reasons for overtime are out of their control. The employees who clock the most may be the heroes who make up for slackers or OT abusers who want the extra pay. You can get overtime under control with a change in scheduling.

Contact Columbia EDP to help manage your workforce.  Contact us

Posted: 2020-01-06

Six Payroll Problems To Keep In Mind


Posted: 2019-12-30

Why Should You Care About EX At Your Company?

‘EX’ is popping up everywhere on Human Resources sites. It’s the abbreviation for employee experience.

Posted: 2019-12-18

The new W-4 forms are here, what does that mean for you?

The 2020 Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Certificate, is out and ready to go. The new W-4 is very different from previous years, due to the federal tax law changes that took place in 2018 so please read the direction before completing.

Posted: 2019-12-11

We received a wage garnishment for child support that the employee doesn’t want us to follow. What should we do?

Valid wage garnishments need to be followed regardless of the affected employee’s feelings on the matter. In this case, you should go ahead and follow the instructions from the garnishing agency, withholding and sending them the specified amounts. The instructions should tell you what kind of notice you need to provide to the employee and provide a contact number if you have questions about remitting the payments. You may want to have a separate conversation with the employee so you can explain your legal obligations and why you cannot refuse to withhold the required amounts. If the employee wishes to get the garnishment discontinued or altered, you can refer the employee to the garnishing agency for further conversation; the employer’s obligations will remain in effect until new instructions are received from the agency.

Posted: 2019-12-04

Can we send employees home early because there isn’t any work to do?

Yes, you can send employees home early due to a lack of work. Just keep in mind that exempt employees would need to be paid their entire salary for the day. Non-exempt employees would only need to be paid for actual hours worked, unless you operate in a state with reporting time pay requirements.

If you do operate in a state with reporting time pay requirements, employees may be entitled to reporting time pay for a certain number of hours even if they just show up and do no (or very little) actual work. This pay requirement is intended to lessen wage loss that is not the fault of the employee, as well as encourage employers to not over-schedule, since overscheduling and then cancelling shifts causes employees to waste time and resources getting to work. Given this, some employers decide to keep employees on the clock for more or all of their shift even though business is slow.

States with reporting time pay include California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon (for minors), and Rhode Island; the District of Columbia also has reporting time pay. 

Posted: 2019-12-02

I’ve heard serving alcohol at company parties can be a liability. What steps can we take to protect our organization and our employees?

Yes, alcohol can be a liability. Partygoers who overindulge could cause an accident or act in ways that violate your harassment policy. Here are some practices you might consider: