How to show appreciation to your staff when you can’t have a party

As 2020 comes to an end, we can probably all agree that it’s time to put a bow on this year and move forward. Finishing out strong with the holidays sounds great but given the pandemic situation and social restraints, those fun and festive holidays will look much different this go round.

While year-end holiday parties are fun and social gatherings, many business owners also see this as an opportunity to celebrate the successes of the past year and show appreciation to the team that made it all possible. Often times, holiday parties turn into the time that employees are given a bonus, a raise, a gift, something in return for their hard work and commitment to their employer.

So if this year doesn’t allow for (or frowns upon) said type of party, what other ways can employees be shown how much they are valued, appreciated and celebrated? Here are a few ideas:

• Virtual get-togethers – we’ve all heard of “Zoom fatigue” and yes, it might be a real thing. However, a virtual holiday party doesn’t just have to be a bunch of small faces on the screen with awkward silence, a stuffy agenda, or difficulties trying to talk over each other. That doesn’t sound fun at all, right? But you can get creative with virtual get-togethers such as a cooking class, a wine tasting, trivia, games, ugly sweater contest, ornament crafting or a white elephant exchange by drawing of numbers.

• Gifts – everyone likes gifts. Even if they say they don’t. They do. Of course you can resort to a gift card that will please everyone but that also feels impersonal… so 2020, right? Although functional and practical, it’s kind of the easy way out. Think along the lines of ear buds given all the Zoom meetings lately, new running shoes for the guy that’s taken up more exercise during the quarantine, a weekend getaway for the person that’s put in the most hours to recharge, or a massage for the working but also stay-at-home-virtual-school-teacher mom.

• Culinary treats – A cake, a ham, a nice bottle of wine… these are all things that most anyone would enjoy but also be able to share and may even lighten the load of their grocery list for the holidays.

Regardless of what you decide, the gesture will be appreciated and it’s understood that this is best we can do at this point in time. Yes, we will miss the social aspect of the party and it won’t feel quite as festive but there’s still a lot to celebrate for the deck we were handed in 2020. For companies that are still surviving, and especially those fortunate enough to be thriving, there’s a lot to be thankful for. And we can look forward to one heck of a holiday party in 2021!

Does the new Department of Labor rule apply to your business?

The Department of Labor recently proposed a new rule that they feel will better classify workers and it is something employers should be paying close attention to.

If this rule were to pass, it would adopt a new “economic reality” test to determine what employees should be considered independent contractors and of course, which ones should not. The plan details that contractors should be in business for themselves rather than having any economic dependency on the employer they are performing work for.

There are two main factors in determining employment status:
• The nature and degree of the employer’s control over work being performed
• The worker’s potential profit and/or loss based on personal investment
If those are in question, there are additional considerations that may play a part such as the amount of skill required or utilized in the work, how permanent or long term the working relationship is, and if the work in question is integrated in a larger unit of production.

The goal of this rule is to provide clarity and consistency to both employers and employees as to who qualifies as an employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act and those, respectfully, that choose to go the entrepreneurial route of being an independent contractor.

This proposal is up for lots of discussion throughout the official comment period but should be finalized by the end of 2020.

Are you required to provide paid time off for your employees to vote?

It’s almost Election Day in one of the biggest election years of the recent past. More so than ever, people are emotionally charged and the media is explosive about Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020. It’s been a controversial year, to say the least. While this may cause strain or stress for some, you can help alleviate that from your employees by encouraging and accommodating them to vote.

It may come as a surprise but the majority of states in the U.S. require that employees be given time off to vote and often times, that time is paid. Although Florida is not one of them, it may be wise to formulate a policy outlining your offer and expectations for their voting leave time.

Here are some suggestions that may be helpful. If you have employees outside of Florida or are curious what another state’s requirements are, we’d be happy to share.

• Do not schedule any company or departmental meetings on election day
• Work with your management team to cover absences
• Provide a set amount of paid time off (even if not required in your state and even if it’s just one hour)
• Trust your employees and anticipate long lines, it could take longer than you think
• Be flexible and prepared for last minute voting leave requests

Given the current pandemic situation, it’s more important than ever to BE FLEXIBLE. Schedules may not be what they were before and some staff members may still be working from home or juggling children.

The more supportive you are as they try to fulfil their civic duty on top of an already full plate, the more they will see and appreciate the value in being a part of your team and work family. Be sure to communicate this plan with your team so they know their voice matters and you want it to be heard.

Trade Tip: How to Hire & Retain the Right People in Construction

It’s no secret that in the construction industry, one of the biggest battles business owners face is finding good people and keeping them. In exploring efforts that could enhance the hiring process to be sure you’re getting the right people in the right seat from the get go, we found the following tips:

Lean on local or close by schools and industry specific programs. This is a great resource because students graduate and immediately look for employment, oftentimes with the intent to stay in the community where they already have roots. A lot of times, this can start early on at the intern level, which gives a huge opportunity to mentor and mold them to become a more long-term member of your team.
Get plugged in to apprenticeship programs that are gaining huge popularity and admitting more students constantly. These teach the perfect balance of employment and academics in certain trades so that students can learn and work at the same time.
Consider pre-employment physicals or health screenings in addition to the drug testing, background checks, etc that you already have in your hiring process. This can paint a picture of the prospective employee’s overall health and well-being so you can be sure you’re investing in a long-term relationship and a reliable player for your team.

Focus on culture and how your team feels over what they’re being paid. You may think they care more about their paycheck and yes, benefits are important too, but you might be surprised at how much your team culture and morale means to them. That may be flexible schedules, employee appreciation efforts, team building events or performance-based competitions and incentives.
Emphasize and encourage training. A team that never stops learning together will always succeed. Providing them with courses and material that can make them better and help your team grow together is proof that you want them around for the long haul.
Be transparent and celebrate the small wins. As imperative as it is to be open about and share financial information, the state of the company and growth goals, it also speaks volumes to celebrate and show appreciation for the daily strides in the right direction. The construction industry in general can easily get hung up on measuring success by landing the monster jobs but the little ones count to and as long as you’re transparent and honest, your team will buy in, feel like a piece of the puzzle and genuinely care.
Stay on top of technology and provide your employees what they need to be efficient, safe and profitable. There are many apps and tools out there that could make jobs run more smoothly and most of the time, it’s worth the relatively small upfront cost to invest in those. Making your employees feel as if they have support in that regard alone goes a long way.
Show how much you care. This speaks for itself but is incredibly important and should be a top priority.

It seems to save everyone time, effort, money and headache to get the right people in the right seat early on in the game. Then keep them happy and well taken care of for a long-term relationship of them serving your clients while also fostering a culture of a work family.

Payroll Tax Holiday – To opt in or to opt out?

It’s only fitting for a year like 2020 to have an unorthodox holiday come early… the payroll tax holiday! May not sound very exciting but it’s an important one with some grey area that everyone should understand fully.

Here’s a quick back story: On August 8, 2020, President Trump issued a proposal to stop withholding the 6.2% employee share of the Social Security tax. It would be for pay periods from September 1 – December 31, 2020 and only applicable to those that earn less than $104,000 annual salary ($4,000 bi-weekly). The intent behind this was to be yet another relief effort for those affected by COVID-19 and professional changes that may have caused financial strain, especially the last quarter of the year.

Sound too good to be true? Although it’s a very generous plan to help put more money in employee’s pockets, it does have to be paid back. The payback period starts January 1, 2021 and runs through April 30, 2021. That bill would most likely be in the form of a higher deduction from those paychecks, resulting in less take-home pay for those 4 months.

It’s been advised by many HR professionals to NOT elect for this as an employer or an employee. And here is why… As an employer, it is unclear if you will get stuck with the payback bill if the employee is no longer with your company during that first quarter of 2021. And as an employee, you could be charged penalties and interest if you’re unable to pay it back on time.

The White House is currently stating that they will TRY to get the deferred taxes forgiven but there is no guarantee at this time. That doesn’t seem likely as it would require new legislation and support that isn’t there since it would under fund Social Security.

The good news is that this is optional for those that think it’s a good fit and not required for the majority that will choose to pass up the offer. The only mandatory employers, as of now, are federal workers in the US government.

As always, if you have questions relating to HR and compliance for things such as this payroll tax holiday, we are happy to help find the answer for you.