Is Your HR Excel Spreadsheet Really Free?

By: Michelle Craddock, Midwest Regional Account Manager

When I talk to clients, I like to compare managing employee information through an Excel spreadsheet to playing a game of Tetris. At first it’s easy to put all the pieces in place, but as it progresses and pieces – or in HR’s case, information – appear at a faster pace, it can get overwhelming and messy, fast.

That’s when we come in. I like to think that we’re kind of like that piece you’ve been waiting on for what feels like an eternity. We help slow the game back down, cleaning up rows and rows of blocks – or data – and help you, the HR department, better manage any new information that’s sure to appear through a workforce platform.HR Administration can be a lot like playing Tetris

When we describe it as such, clients and prospects tend to get a pretty good understanding of both the power and efficiency of choosing a workforce platform. They see the benefits, recognize the opportunities and even get excited just thinking about all the possibilities and free time they’ll have to devote to other aspects of their jobs.

But every now and then we run into someone who doesn’t want to buy the cow when the (Excel) milk is free.

Don’t get me wrong, Excel is a great tool for a number of things. For awhile, it might have even been the best tool to help manage aspects of the HR process, especially for smaller companies with even smaller HR budgets. It just isn’t anymore. HR teams are doing more than ever and need a tool that can keep up with them. That means handling everything from payroll and benefits to talent management and performance tracking, all while maintaining compliance with local and federal regulations.

So, before you say no to an automated solution, take a look at these three areas to find out where your “free” solution might be costing you a lot more than you think.

Time is Money

If you’re handling payroll, HR and TLM administrative tasks in house then we’re willing to bet you don’t have time to do much else. In fact, according to a survey done by the National Small Business Administration, “In 2014, 40% of small business firms reported they spend more than 80 hours per year dealing with federal taxes – that’s two full work weeks spent on just federal taxes.” The survey also reported that respondents said they believe they “spend more than $5,000 on administrative federal taxes.”

But it doesn’t just stop with tax documentation. A quick browse through the Society of Human Resources Management’s (SHRM) website uncovers almost 60 (57, to be exact) possible spreadsheets and workbooks for HR professionals.

Ok, so you probably aren’t using every single spreadsheet available, but let’s assume you’re using 10 of them. And, of those 10, let’s say that each has a total of 30 different places where data needs to be keyed for a hypothetical workforce of 100 employees. Let’s also assume that it takes 5 seconds to enter each piece of data and that those spreadsheets need to be updated quarterly.

If my math is correct, that equals a little more than one full week each quarter (41 hours) for a total of four weeks each year spent entering data. Combine that with the 80 hours spent on federal taxes and your HR department is already losing 6 weeks annually to administrative tasks.

And that’s assuming all of the information entered is correct! Unlike word processing applications that put those handy red lines under your misspellings, tools like Excel are much more literal. Seemingly minor errors such as adding an extra PTO day to an employee record or misplacing a decimal point in an employee salary could end up costing your company some serious cash and damaging the credibility of your HR department.

“Premium Leakage”

Ever heard of the term “Premium Leakage”? If not, it’s something we often use to describe a situation where a company forgets to terminate insurance when they terminate an employee. Premium Leakage can – and often is – a very costly mistake that quickly adds up, too. In some instances, we’ve even heard of companies having to shell out nearly $10,000 per terminated employee. So, what often causes this costly problem? You guessed it, manual entry into multiple spreadsheets.

Know the Rules

Despite what you may have heard, rules are not made to be broken. This is especially true when it comes to maintaining compliance with the U.S. Department of Labor and major regulations, including COBRA and ERISA. Consider the following from the site Compliance Dashboard, “COBRA compliance is an actively litigated area with many pro-employee and beneficiary interpretations by the courts.” In two separate cases, a court even ordered plan administrators to pay up with a sum of $279,840 for failure to provide COBRA notices to two qualified beneficiaries in one case, and medical expenses of $125,000 and attorney fees of $27,000 in the other.

Much like COBRA, not complying with ERISA regulations can also cost companies a pretty penny. Once again, our friends at Compliance Dashboard have some compelling details that show many employers don’t even understand that most of their group insurance benefit plans – medical, dental, vision, life, LTD, STD – are subject to ERISA. They note that “Failing to follow ERISA’s reporting and disclosure requirements, such as filing form 5500, can result in penalties of $1,100 per day for each plan not properly reported.”

This isn’t a few hundred dollars we’re talking about either. Failing to comply with either of these regulations can end up costing companies sums in the hundreds of thousands. Money that could otherwise be saved by simply choosing to work with a partner whose job is to stay on top of the latest regulations and communicate details and needs to clients.

Have you run into issues with your own manual solutions or saved time and money by switching to a workforce platform? Tell us all about it in our comment section below.

The Development Balancing Act

By Linda McClelland, manager of technical services and product development

I know we’ve got some time, but the team here at Sentric is already whipped into a frenzy talking about October’s HRTech conference. It’s an exciting time, in an exciting place and we’ve got some exciting things to share.

I guess you could say we’re pretty excited.

And while we’d love to spill the beans early and tell you all about what’s in store for us at this year’s show, we’ve taken a vow of silence until the big day. So, like a kid before a birthday, we’ll be patiently awaiting the official “OK” to start tearing the paper off of our new toys.

…But that doesn’t means we can’t shake the boxes a little, right? That’s why I’m here, to discuss a subject near and dear to my heart, something we’ve affectionately named the Development Balancing Act.

Let’s start by talking about balance. Go ahead and think about that word for a second. Seriously, close your eyes and picture something that shows balance.

It can be whatever you want; an old-fashioned scale, a tightrope walker, or even an animal balancing items on its furry head. Here’s a link for some inspiration – http://stuffonscoutshead.com/home/.

Now think about all of the above examples. Do they all correctly represent balance? Sure. Are they all drastically different from the next? You bet. My point is that while we all understand the concept of balance, we don’t necessarily give it the same meaning.

As an HRIS provider, the idea of balance can get even trickier, especially when it comes to product development. What X client wants might not be the same as Y client, and vice versa. But regardless, it’s our job to navigate these murky waters to create something that represents a blend of the two.

Often, we do this by evaluating the information we have to best balance short-term wants with long-term needs.

Here’s a good way of looking at it, let’s say I give you $10,000 right now because I’m feeling generous and because it isn’t real money. But with my gift of $10k comes a caveat that you must do one of two things with it right away – either spend it or invest it.

Do you spend the cash on something you want, maybe that pony you’ve always dreamed of, or do you put that money into an investment portfolio that has a high earnings potential?

Both offer an eventual reward – unless you’re taking financial advice from MC Hammer – but the timeframe on that reward varies greatly.

I know, this is just a fictional example, but it does help us illustrate a bigger challenge we often face in the development process. Do we implement a short-term solution for that quick win or do we tie things back to a larger, more strategic vision so that we can deliver clients more long-term value?

Our answer? Yes.

That’s because there really is no right or wrong answer. In a perfect world it would be cut-and-dry, yes or no, but the reality is, sometimes we need to make a change right away and in certain instances, that value will come further down the road after we’ve taken some time to consider all of the possibilities. In both cases, clients can rest assured that upgrades aren’t just implemented when they’re getting industry buzz, but when you, our clients, actually need them.

Now, let’s put some context to this by checking out two of the biggest issues we face when searching for balance – functionality and user experience.

Functionality is what users almost always ask for and what the industry loves to talk about. Need proof? Take a look at this sample RFP from www.CompareHRIS.com. Like a lot of others, it asks participants to outline a host of specific product functionality details. It even includes a section dedicated to functionality on page 4. I’d argue that makes it pretty important.

User experience? Yeah, it’s mentioned…once…on page 14!

So, what gives? Why is functionality such an important piece of the puzzle, yet user experience takes a back seat? Well, because if it’s a good experience then no one really thinks about it, and if it’s bad then no one is using it anyway.

For the most part, functionality is high pressure and urgent (we’re falling behind or have the chance to beat the competition!), while user experience tends to linger, waiting for another day, with big promises, lots of aspiration and no real pressure (think about how much easier it could be to do x…or how much more value people could get out of the system if only we…).

But what’s interesting, is that this focus appears to be shifting as companies look to HRIS as a way to improve the employee experience, reduce cost and better support their business. Look no further than a February 2014 survey from Information Services Group (http://www.isg-one.com/web/expertise/hr-technology/hr-servicedeliverytrends.pdf?aliId=4279154) titled “Human Resources Technology and Service Delivery Trends in 2014.” What topped this year’s list? You guessed it, user experience and the expected benefits of implementing new HR technologies, as well as new HR delivery models.

So what does this all mean? Well, for starters, it proves that a balanced solution is getting even harder to, well, balance. But it also means that users are starting to value the bigger picture and understand that by pushing for things, like a more intuitive user experience, they can improve the employee experience and affect the bottom line.

At Sentric, we’re always keeping balance top-of-mind but know it isn’t something we can figure out on our own. That’s why we’re constantly engaging with our internal teams, partners, and clients to gather feedback and evaluate what’s next. But it doesn’t stop there, we’re also sorting through research, pulling industry information and staying heavily involved in major conferences. Because much like the definition of balance, what our clients need is always changing and it’s our job to stay a step ahead.

Like what we have to say? Have feedback on functionality vs. user experience? Tell us in the comments section below.

5 Tips to Improve (and Rock) Open Enrollment

By: Shannon Maggs, CPP, PHR

If you’re like me, then the term “Open Enrollment” doesn’t exactly make you feel all warm and fuzzy. It might actually make you feel the opposite, landing somewhere between cold and scratchy and chilly and prickly. But really, it shouldn’t.

Why? Because open enrollment isn’t just another month in the year, it’s HR’s time to shine.

That’s right, HR professionals, during open enrollment you’re no longer the opening act, but the headliner. And as such, it’s your job to provide all employees with the vital information and options they need to decide on the benefits that will impact their lives in the coming year.

Like all true rock stars, we know that you didn’t just show up on stage one day. You’ve paid your dues, gone through years of training and are well prepared for this month. We know you’re ready, you know you’re ready but, just in case you still get a little stage fright, we’ve put together 5 helpful tips to help you rock this year’s open enrollment period.

Now get on stage, HR rock star, it’s your moment in the spotlight.

1) Build a Set List: Successful rock stars don’t just jump right into a show, they build a set list and you should, too. Include fan favorites, like updates to any existing plans and pricing, but be sure to add in new tracks to address more recent challenges facing HR. Challenges like higher premiums, entirely new benefit plan options to address those premiums, new and ongoing reporting requirements from the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the range of new and confusing options and terminology. By understanding and tackling these issues early, you’ll not only have a better handle on the benefits landscape, you’ll also be better prepared to communicate these details with your employees when the enrollment period opens up. Once built, go through each item to determine next steps. That might mean getting quotes, building cost-comparison sheets or even developing FAQ documents to help with any questions that arise.

2) Strike the Right Chord: Most employees fear change and, unfortunately, the benefits world is changing. As an HR rock star, it’s your job to strike the right chord with your audience by providing the necessary information to help calm those fears. Usually, that can be done through education. Rather than starting with plan details, consider giving a big-picture overview of the industry, comparing benefits to national averages and the current trends in healthcare. Define key terms and explain how recent legislature – like the ACA – is impacting both employees and providers. Consider going a step further and showing how company-paid benefits impact an employees’ total compensation package. Once you’ve done that, reinforce HR’s role as the company advocate in the benefits battle. You’re all in this together and employees should feel confident knowing that they have a dedicated and passionate ally in HR.

3) Put on a Show: Tired of the same old song and dance? You’re not alone. According to a survey from GuideSpark (http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20140402005535/en/Study-Reveals-Employee-Handbook-Irrelevant#.U-DVcvldWwP), the employee handbook is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Although the handbook isn’t exactly an essential part of open enrollment, this survey makes it pretty clear that employees want a new and exciting way to obtain and digest information from HR. Consider trying something new this year such as incorporating videos, social media or even holding an open enrollment kick-off party. Pair information with snacks, bring in reps from your insurance providers to answer questions and throw in a few small giveaways along the way to help promote benefits for the upcoming year. Just be sure to have the educational materials available so that after the party, employees can evaluate their options and ask any questions they might have.

4) Give an Encore Performance: Just because the curtain closed after your first performance doesn’t mean the show is over. Be sure to follow up with employees in the weeks to come to help ensure they have all of the information needed to elect the proper benefits. Even in the most engaged workforce, companies will have a few employees who aren’t entirely aware of details and deadlines. In fact, according to a recent article in Workforce magazine, only one-third of employees actually understand that they’re only able to change enrollment options during the open enrollment period or after a qualifying event. As their HR rock star, it’s your job to make sure all employees understand the rules, so preach, educate and follow up until the clock strikes twelve and the open enrollment period ends.

5) Expect the Unexpected: Just like every rock star expects to eventually deal with a bout of laryngitis, it’s important to remember that there may be a few bumps along your open enrollment tour. It’s nothing to get discouraged over; employees simply don’t know what they don’t know. They might not know what question to ask or, in some cases, who they should be asking. This can often lead to last minute issues or larger problems. Do the best you can to be proactive, not reactive, and be sure to keep a healthy reserve of backup singers – like your benefits brokers and providers’ representatives. Having these additional resources piled into your tour bus will provide employees with another resource to clear up any confusion and help keep you well-positioned to give the performance of the century this year and beyond during the open enrollment period.

Prepare for the FPC or CPP Payroll Certification Exam with Sentric!

Preparing for a payroll certification exam? Join the Sentric staff for a CPP (Certified Payroll Professional) or FPC (Fundamentals of Payroll Certification) Study Course! Available in our Pittsburgh, PA and Huntington Beach, CA offices, we’ll help you learn and understand the exam topics and materials in a casual group setting, and help you to be better prepared for the exam. Space is limited, so reserve your spot today by calling 412.884.7600 ext 200 or emailing us at bdougherty@sentric.net. Sentric is an Approved Provider of Payroll Education by the American Payroll Association, and all Sentric training courses qualify for recertification credits.

Upcoming CPP / FPC Preparation Courses:

PITTSBURGH, PA and HUNTINGTON BEACH, CA:

Thursday 8/7/2014

1:00 PM Local Time

CPP Exam Preparatory Course – Module 1- Payroll Concepts

3 hrs

Thursday 8/14/2014

1:00 PM Local Time

CPP Exam Preparatory Course – Module 2 – Payroll Calculations

3 hrs

Thursday 8/21/2014

1:00 PM Local Time

CPP Exam Preparatory Course – Module 3 – Fringe Benefits

3 hrs

Thursday 8/28/2014

1:00 PM Local Time

CPP Exam Preparatory Course – Module 4 – Payroll Reporting & Empl Taxes

3 hrs

Thursday 9/4/2014

1:00 PM Local Time

CPP Exam Preparatory Course – Module 5 – Record Keeping & Payroll Practices

3 hrs

Thursday 9/11/2014

1:00 PM Local Time

CPP Exam Preparatory Course – Module 6 – Payroll Accounting

3 hrs

Thursday 9/18/2014

1:00 PM Local Time

CPP Exam Preparatory Course – Module 7 – Management & Administration

2 hrs

 

Upcoming Client Training Opportunities

Sentric conducts regular training sessions for clients looking to learn more or simply get a refresher about a particular product, or those who have new payroll or HR staff that needs trained on one of Sentric’s products. Below is a listing of 2014 pre-scheduled training sessions available for Sentric clients. Register by contacting your CSR, or emailing to training@sentric.net with your name, company name, course name and requested session date. All Sentric training courses are pre-approved for recertification credits through the American Payroll Association.
2014 Session Dates:

Thursday, July 10, 2014 – 1:30 PM Eastern (1 hour duration) – SentricWorkforce: Onboarding & Configurable To-Do’s

Thursday, July 17, 2014 – 1:00 PM Eastern (2 hour duration) – M3 Basic Software Training

Thursday, July 31, 2014 – 1:00 PM Eastern (2 hour duration) - WebPay Basic Software Training

Thursday, August 14, 2014 – 1:00 PM Eastern (2 hour duration) – M3 Basic Software Training

Thursday, August 14, 2014 – 1:30 PM Eastern (1.5 hour duration) – SentricWorkforce: Routing & Alerts

Thursday, August 28, 2014 – 1:00 PM Eastern (2 hour duration) - WebPay Basic Software Training

Friday, August 29, 2014 – 1:00 PM Eastern (2 hour duration) – WebPay Report Writer Training

Thursday, September 11, 2014 – 1:00 PM Eastern (2 hour duration) – M3 Basic Software Training

Friday, September 12, 2014 – 1:30 PM Eastern (1 hour duration) – SentricWorkforce: Compliance

Thursday, September 25, 2014 – 1:00 PM Eastern (2 hour duration) - WebPay Basic Software Training

Thursday, October 9, 2014 – 1:30 PM Eastern (1 hour duration) – SentricWorkforce: Leaves of Absence, including FMLA

Thursday, October 16, 2014 – 1:00 PM Eastern (2 hour duration) – M3 Basic Software Training

Thursday, October 30, 2014 – 1:00 PM Eastern (2 hour duration) – WebPay Basic Software Training

Thursday, November 6, 2014 – 1:30 PM Eastern (1 hour duration) – SentricWorkforce: Query Builder

Thursday, November 6, 2014 – 1:00 PM Eastern (2 hour duration) – M3 Basic Software Training

Thursday, November 13, 2014 – 1:00 PM Eastern (1.5 hour duration) – M3 Report Writer Training

Thursday, November 20, 2014 – 1:00 PM Eastern (2 hour duration) - WebPay Basic Software Training 

Cloud-based HRIS service models: how to tell if service was built around you

By Dave Lewis, Chief Operating Officer

If you’re among the many HR managers and directors using a cloud-based HRIS, I’d venture a guess that you often deal with your partner’s customer service department. However, the frequency of your service contact isn’t nearly as indicative of a positive relationship / right HRIS fit as the outcomes of those calls. For instance, how often does your cloud-based software service representative ask, “How can I help you?” It’s the question every customer service employee asks regardless of industry or location. In fact, it’s a question many of our customer service reps may have asked you at one point or another. It’s Polite, short, and in theory, service oriented.

But I know a guy who hates that question. When he first told me about his heated sentiments on such a mundane question, I thought, “whoa dude, time for a hobby.” But then I thought about it for awhile. Really, it’s a pretty vague question; it’s definitely generic; and is it really that helpful? The more I thought about it, the more I realized, “that really puts the burden of service back on the customer.”

Most customer service relationships, whether in B2B or B2C environments, are in a constant state of change. From restaurants to store to doctor’s office, calling a 1-800 number or dealing with a vendor presents a real possibility that you’ll be dealing with a different person every time. Too frequently, the conversation starts from zero. So, if the rep doesn’t know you, and you don’t know them, how can you collectively jump right to a solution – which is pretty much what the question, “how can I help you,” proposes?

In our industry – SaaS HR (integrated with payroll and time & attendance)– service models vary widely. But often, service models exist to troubleshoot product issues. So, you, the client might call a 1-800 number, press a number for the right help, provide a customer number to get help, and then spend the first half of the call explaining “how they can help you.” The truth is, we usually end up gaining business from a lot of companies fed up with this model. Probably because the only number that matters is the stock price. But that’s a whole different story. If you’re in the market for a cloud-based HR solution, start with service. It may not be your first priority, but it will quickly become your most or least favorite part of your new relationship. The best companies know it’s far easier to keep a customer than to acquire a new one, and it’s pretty easy to tell whether a company wants to acquire your business to meet quarterly numbers or to service it for a long-term, mutually-successful relationship.

Here are the top indicators that your SaaS partner values the second S:

Do you know who to call? There are some pretty impressive trends on breaking down service silos. In Forrester’s Top 15 Trends for Customer Service in 2013, (http://blogs.forrester.com/kate_leggett/13-01-14-forresters_top_15_trends_for_customer_service_in_2013), the analyst firm flags the breakdown of service silos and “a more collaborative environment with subject-matter experts to increase first-contact resolution rates” as growing over the last few years. We agree. But you should still have more than a number to call. Do you have a dedicated service rep? Do you have an actual name and person who is accountable for actually engaging these subject-matter experts? Your rep doesn’t have to know all the answers, but they better know where to go to get them. This is especially important considering another Forrester trend that shows nearly 30% of companies are expressing interest in outsourcing operations.

Having the support of sales, product development, or dedicated expertise is great. But the pass-along is not. I don’t want to tell four people at Verizon why my phone isn’t working, and you don’t want to tell your story over and over again either. A dedicated rep keeps the burden of service with your SaaS partner, and ensures someone is accountable for your satisfaction. Otherwise, the burden sits with you to tell your story to a new contact over and over again.

What kinds of questions do you get asked? Yes, you called to get a problem fixed, but as service evolves, the job of the rep may not be to do exactly what you asked. I’ll say that again. The job of a good service rep is not always to do what you asked. In a complex product and a maturing industry, the customer isn’t always right. In fact, I’ve seen reps get into a lot of trouble trying to do exactly what a customer thinks they want. The best service reps don’t try to figure out what the customer wants, they try to identify the customer’s pain. This is especially true in new roll outs.

Maybe processes were disrupted. Maybe data isn’t where you expected it to be. Maybe the product hasn’t been adequately adopted or used by the company. Good service doesn’t start with “what can I do for you?” It starts with, “what are you trying to do?” i.e. – what’s your desired outcome, goal or objective? Which leads me to the next point…

How does the company continually align the solution with your needs? It starts with smart sales questions about HR and business goals, how to win your business, demonstrate ROI, and all that good stuff. But technology and business alignment is elastic. It’s not a magic wand that solves all your HR challenges without human intervention or a learning curve, and anyone who tells you otherwise just sold you a bill of goods. Alignment continues in implementation as the project managers translate your objectives and processes to a new way of doing things. And it continues as service helps you better utilize functionality to meet desired outcomes.

But back to my previous point about questions, if the rep is asking what you are trying to do, they can then tell you how the solution can get you there, which may not always be exactly the same way you were thinking. Often a SaaS HR solution is purchased to change the way things are done, and even though that’s what a customer wants, change can sometimes come slowly. A service-driven partner is focused on continually aligning your needs with your investment in their technology – which will drive ROI.

In fact, they may even have roles outside of the sales team dedicated to proactively sourcing unspoken client needs. A couple years ago, CNet even identified a growing set of titles in the SaaS world, including “VP of Customer Success.” I’ve even been kicking around the idea of changing my title to “VP of Customer Love,” but I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea.

Regardless of title, a company’s overall approach to service shouldn’t change and ours hasn’t. Human resources is about people, and we use technology to strengthen the interactions between them. Can your partner say the same?

Want to see who else is taking customer service to the next level? Then check out this year’s class of Stevie recipients from The 2014 American Business Awards. Sure, it’s a shameless plug for our customer service team, but what good is an award if you can’t brag about it? http://www.stevieawards.com/pubs/awards/403_2941_24915.cfm.

5 Simple Ways to Choose the Right HRIS Provider

If you’re in the market for a new HRIS provider, the only thing more terrifying than your current situation (usually it’s too many systems or manual processes) is spending hundreds of hours and tens of thousands of dollars only to choose the wrong partner.

I typically see this concern manifest itself in 75 page RFPs or six-month-long search cycles. And for many companies, that’s a necessary process to build consensus and ensure everyone’s needs are met. But I often see companies go through that process because it feels like the right thing to do, or maybe they found a template RFP online that seemed to cover off all the potential challenges that could arise in the future. However, those companies often find their way into my pipeline after six months with what they thought was the right HRIS provider.

At the risk of creating fewer of those leads for myself, I recently asked some of my best prepared prospects – most of who are now clients – about their behind the scenes efforts to find the right partner. I merged that with what I have experienced as a sales rep and came up with a remarkably short list.

Here are five things I see smart clients doing to find the right HRIS provider

1) CONVERSATION: If a relationship is started with an attitude of openness and partnership, that’s always the best way. That’s a tone that we always try to influence, but honestly, it is usually controlled by the client. We can only affect what we know about, and a team’s willingness to share and disclose their challenges can make a big difference.

2) TEAM ENGAGEMENT: The due diligence and committees formed by successful clients always have the right people – i.e. those who would use and manage the product – included, regardless of seniority. All stakeholders seem to understand exactly what they need to perform their duties and from the very beginning, take ownership over the decision – factors which can greatly influence product adoption later one.

3) LEADERSHIP INVOLVEMENT: The flipside of having too many people at the table is making sure someone is driving this train. Executive involvement can help keep conversations rooted in “reality.” And the best leaders can strike a strong balance reality and with giving the rest of the team ownership and a voice.

4) A POINT GUARD: Moving from one stage to next is more seamless when one person on each end acts as a driver. Our reps always play that role, but are comfortable bring more experts (like developers, implementations or service) to the table as needed. That role often varies on the client end, but as long as it exists, we generally see more clarity in communications, next steps and negotiations. When that point guard model continues after the sale with a dedicated implementation rep and then a dedicated service rep, we see even greater accountability and satisfaction.

5) HAVING A VISION FOR THE SOLUTION: Most of these clients don’t send us a lengthy request for proposal. That’s not a knock on RFPs, but they all ask the same questions and I’ve seen many that require a lot of information without ever getting to the heart of what a company really needs. Our happiest clients often take the approach of a long, but very real checklists that are specific to their challenges and priorities. It makes it much easier to be effective and focused and make sure we’re the right HRIS provider for their needs.

 

By Tracy Null, Vice President Business Development, Sentric

SENTRIC® NAMED AS A CUSTOMER SERVICE DEPARTMENT OF THE YEAR FINALIST IN 2014 AMERICAN BUSINESS AWARDS

High Levels of Client Satisfaction and Tenured, Certified Customer Service Staff Contribute to Sentric’s National Recognition

Pittsburgh, PA – May 13, 2014 – Sentric®, a cloud-based workforce software provider, was named a Finalist in the Customer Service category in The 2014 American Business Awards, and will ultimately be a Gold, Silver, or Bronze Stevie® Award winner in the program.

The American Business Awards are the nation’s premier business awards program. All organizations operating in the U.S.A. are eligible to submit nominations – public and private, for-profit and non-profit, large and small. More than 3,300 nominations from organizations of all sizes and in virtually every industry were submitted this year for consideration in a wide range of categories. Sentric is one of ten finalists in its category (Customer Service Department of the Year, Business Services).

Sentric provides an all-in-one, cloud-based software – including HR, payroll, talent management and attendance – to mid-sized businesses across the country. The company has more than 2500 customers with hundreds of thousands of customers’ employees on its solutions. Because Sentric’s products are cloud-based, customers pay on a per-employee, per-month basis and Sentric services all upgrades, implementation and support from its Pittsburgh, PA and Huntington Beach, CA offices. Sentric delivers on its promise to provide industry leading service in three ways:

  1. Each of Sentric’s clients is assigned a single point-of-contact who is dedicated to their business. That contact learns their client’s business, needs and goals.
  2. All of client service representatives as well as client-facing teams (such as sales, accounting, product support) seek certification in key areas. Seventy-one percent of Sentric’s client-facing employees have at least one certification in areas that include human resources, payroll, and accounting.
  3. Sentric treats its customer service team well. In addition to competitive compensation packages and full benefits, Sentric constantly finds creative and personal ways to reward employees. The efforts have measurable results. The CSR team has an average tenure with the company of nearly six years.

“There are a lot of measures of a quality service department – customer retention, satisfaction, first call resolution – but there are two metrics that make me most proud,” said Dave Lewis, Chief Operating Officer, Sentric. “First, our CSRs have an average tenure of six years. Second, in our annual survey, our clients mention – by name – over 75 percent of our CSRs in their reasons for satisfaction.”

Finalists were chosen by more than 150 business professionals nationwide during preliminary judging in April and May. More than 150 members of several specialized judging committees will determine Stevie Award placements from among the Finalists during final judging, to take place May 13-22.

“The final judges have a difficult task ahead of them, to rank the Finalists, because there are so many great nominations this year,” said Stevie Awards president and founder Michael Gallagher.

Details about The American Business Awards and the list of Finalists in all categories are available at www.StevieAwards.com/ABA.

About Sentric

Founded in 1994 and headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA, Sentric serves the middle market with cloud-based HR, attendance, talent management and payroll solutions. Our mission is to secure clients for life by ensuring software and service work together to solve real business problems. We think our 95 percent customer satisfaction and 94 percent customer retention rate are pretty darn good, but we’re always improving. Learn more at www.sentric.net.

About the Stevie Awards

Stevie Awards are conferred in five programs: The American Business Awards, The International Business Awards, the Asia-Pacific Stevie Awards, the Stevie Awards for Women in Business, and the Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service. A sixth program, the German Stevie Awards, will debut later this year. Honoring organizations of all types and sizes and the people behind them, the Stevies recognize outstanding performances in the workplace worldwide. Learn more about the Stevie Awards at www.StevieAwards.com.

Sponsors and partners of The 2014 American Business Awards include Biz Talk Radio, CallidusCloud, Citrix Online, Cvent, Engility, John Hancock, LycaMobile, PetRays, and Softpro.

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Stevie Letter

2014′s State and Federal Tax Changes Affecting Employers

taxtime-150x150By: Melissa Causer, Tax Supervisor

In 2013, Sentric processed nearly $1 billion in tax dollars. Every year, we file returns in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam. And to keep current on changing tax laws, our team of experts taps into various resources – such as www.irs.gov and www.ssa.gov, state agency websites, and the American Payroll Association — to help us ensure we are staying current and keeping you compliant.

However, we also believe it’s important to keep our clients up-to-date on the latest tax changes. Federal and state taxes change often and can result in excess penalties charged to an employer if left unnoticed. To lend a hand in making sure our clients’ 2014 tax year is smooth sailing, we’ve compiled a list of recent tax changes. Some of the changes Sentric automatically puts into place for our clients, however there are other changes for your business to manage.

2014 Tax Guidelines

  • Pennsylvania and Louisiana Unemployment Agencies are now among the states that require employers to file reports electronically. Sentric has been filing electronically for all clients that participate in Sentric’s Autotax service prior to the mandate. For a complete list of state agencies and to view their filing requirements, please visit http://www.payroll-taxes.com/state-tax .
  • To make sure your Unemployment Contribution Rate has been updated in Sentric’s system, please forward us your rate notice as soon as possible. We do not receive these notices directly. If you haven’t received your updated contribution rate within the fourth quarter of 2013 or first quarter of 2014, please contact your state’s unemployment agency to request your rate notice. Contact information for each state agency can be found at http://www.payroll-taxes.com/state-tax .
  • If you pay withholding and other corporate taxes in PA, the PA Department of Revenue has lowered the threshold for mandatory electronic payments from $10,000 to $1,000. Additional information about this threshold reduction can be found at https://www.etides.state.pa.us/ .
  • Twenty-four states have adjusted  their unemployment wage bases. Sentric updated all wage base limits in our system prior to 2014.
  • Beginning in 2014, 23 states revised their income tax withholding tables. During the fourth quarter of 2013 those rates were released by each state. Sentric has updated accordingly for each client.
  • The Additional Medicare Tax of 0.9 percent was added to earnings in excess of $200,000 ($125,000 for married filing separately. $250,000 for married filing jointly) by the Affordable Care Act and began in 2013. Click here for additional information about the Medicare Tax. Filing tips for 2013 can be found here.
  • The Social Security wage base increased from $113,700 to $117,000 for 2014.
  • Federal mileage rates for businesses decreased to 0.56 per mile.

If you’ve received any state or Federal tax notices and have not yet sent them to Sentric, or if you need to make changes to your reporting, please make sure to contact your CSR immediately. Failing to send your updated rates and notices to Sentric or sending them late can result in the following:

  • Unemployment tax can be underpaid, resulting in penalty and interest due.
  • States can issue delinquent tax rates – i.e. a higher rate.
  • Additional money due at end of quarter which can result in a large sum due at once.

Forwarding any and all tax-related notices to Sentric as soon as they are received is the best way to prevent unnecessary issues from developing. Many of these notices are time sensitive and tax agencies do not notify us directly with your business’ information. If you have questions regarding your filing status, please contact your CSR today.

12+ Ways Your Legacy HR Tools are Killing More than Your HR Team

I’m in sales and my battle since the creation of the cold call has been “just pick up the phone.” In the last decade, it’s become better as companies have come to understand that it’s more than a “smile and dial” game in our world. But there are still companies that have experienced sales reps (who can identify and help solve business problems, close, negotiate, up sell and hold relationships with executives) making 500 calls a month. Maybe not the best use of resources, but what happens on other sales teams isn’t my problem to solve.

The problem I do help solve is when I see a similar struggle with some of my HR clients who are tasked to “just manage the data” with old HR tools. Just get the employee files from one excel spread sheet into a payroll system, into three insurance providers’ databases, into the 401k program, into the voluntary benefits programs, into the performance review tool, into the training and development program, into another excel sheet for time and attendance, into another one for disciplinary actions, and run reports against it all and let leadership know how the business is doing. And once they’ve dealt with that mess, they find the time to manage talent, business

growth, healthcare costs and deal with “people” conflict! Fortunately, it’s more widely accepted that this admin nightmare is not the best use of an experienced HR executive’s time, but in this year’s CedarCrestone survey, less than 50% of companies see HR as strategic (but over 40% and climbing do). I still talk to way too many people who are living in this data transfer nightmare at the expense of the human side of human resources.

For anyone who thinks this way of managing your employees and their information is just a matter of inconvenience for a few workers, let’s be clear, it’s not. Let me say it again, there’s a lot more at stake than your HR team’s time (which is valuable in and of itself). If you’re still using multiple legacy, on-premise HR tools (or worse, MSOffice), you’re hurting more than your HR team. Here are 12+ of the ways I regularly see antiquated processes and systems hurting, well, everything:

  1.  Your data is a rock instead of a floatation device. If you want a view of key performance indicators, your data is either keeping you afloat or it’s a cinder block tied to your ankle. Inaccurate and inconsistent data leads to bad analysis which leads to risky business decisions. Or worse, bad data isn’t in any condition for analysis, which leads to blind decisions. Your HR team shouldn’t be spending more time finding and transferring data than they are drawing value out of it.
  2. Premium leakage may go unnoticed. It’s a slow drip, but if your termination process is manual and requires termination across multiple benefits providers, any delays or mistakes could be causing you to pay premiums on employees you no longer employ. We recently spoke with a prospect who lost $10,000 over just one improperly terminated employee. 
  3. Lousy managers get to stay lousy. Businesses lose over $360 billion annually because of bad managers. And most employees report they’d rather have a good manager than a raise. You cannot get an objective and clear line of sight into every department’s turnover and employee feedback if your HR team is reliant on aggregating feedback exclusively through management. When you lack direct transparency between the company and employees, you may be losing good people and enabling the wrong ones.
  4. One of the things that came up over and over again at this year’s HR Tech is that LinkedIn knows more about your employees than you do. That’s kind of messed up.
  5. You have no master system. When you’re working in payroll, talent suites, training CMSs, recruitment tools, time tools, email and your company intranet, what’s your “go-to” system when you think something is wrong? And who outside of your HR manager knows where to find it? Your HR manager’s head is not the best place for tracking which system contains what data. She’s probably brilliant. But she’s also probably not permanent.
  6. Life events take a lifetime to add. Marriage, baby, divorce, death – they happen in every company. And every benefits provider needs to know about them. It’s a time suck and mistakes are costly – both financially and emotionally.
  7. Personal information is at risk for exposure. Manual processes for signatures aren’t just tedious because people are walking promotion, salary and other critical information from office to office. When that data sits on desks and passes through multiple hands, it’s a security issue.
  8. On premise solutions are at the mercy of your location. Natural disasters, power outages, and physical security issues are not just IT’s problem. Hopefully it never happens, but if your town or city ever suffers a major disaster, the most fundamental thing you can do for your people is make sure they get paid and their insurance information is accessible, even if your HR person is accessing it from home or a hotel.
  9. Your employees forget how much value you offer them. Your benefits package and total compensation should be more to your employees than a set of forms they fill out, turn in and then misplace until the next time they clean out their desks or need to see the dentist. Don’t let your employees take their benefits for granted, and make sure they have simple and easy access to all the programs, tools, insurance products and financial value you offer them.
  10. Open enrollment is a nightmare. That’s for everyone in the company. When it comes to their personal lives, 57% of people will look online for help or information before they engage a customer service rep. And by then, they’re probably annoyed. Chances are, before someone has contacted HR for open enrollment help, they’ve combed the intra- or internet for help and came up short. If you want open enrollment to go smoother, it’s time to bring it online.
  11. Behavior change never arises out of complexity. Getting managers to write reviews. Getting people to take training courses. Implementing a new attendance policy. All are issues I regularly hear HR executives tackling. People never do them. But never doing them isn’t the same as not wanting to do them. Peter Bregman recently wrote a great blog on getting people to change their behavior. Often what’s needed isn’t more incentives or more processes or more disciplinary actions, it’s just less. He writes about how a smaller plate can be the best diet, or moving an outdoor table 10 feet closer to the house can increase its use. Sometimes it’s fewer clicks, fewer logins, and simplicity that can make all the difference in how people engage with the company or adopt a new policy. Do your tools align well with your objectives? Or better yet, do you really need all those tools to meet your objectives?
  12. + Choose any one of the below, which are direct from prospects’ and clients’ mouths:
  • Our system “goes down” a lot because we host it on premise and we have IT limitations
  • I have to manually run reports weekly and monthly to find out things I need to know – there are no automated notifications
  • My employees can’t see and/or change their personal information
  • My benefits open enrollment process doesn’t pass information to payroll so we have to make those deduction changes one by one right after the last payroll that uses the old deductions (no effective dating)
  • Candidate information must be re-entered when they are hired because candidates are housed in a different system
  • I can’t get point in time information
  • Employees have to use 2-3 different portals
  • When I call our vendors they all blame each other and I never get to talk to the same person
  • I need to ensure our workers maintain certain certifications, and this process is manual and unreliable with the systems we use today

My clients have more on their plate than I thought was possible and I’m consistently impressed and sometimes dumbfounded at the “work-around” systems and processes they’ve created to keep everything moving. But if you’re “working around” your technology, is it really working for you?

 

IT Workplace Evolution: Is a Mobile Time Solution Right for You?

By: Jim DeVaty, TLM Implementation Manager

Photo Credit: The Bundy Museum of History & Art

Some time between the industrial revolution and the invention of the assembly line, the first time clock was created by a jeweler named Willard L. Bundy (in 1889). His brother, owner of Bundy Manufacturing Co., incorporated the product making them the very first company to offer an automated timekeeping solution. The system was simple and allowed employees to record their time by stamping their time onto a thick piece of paper which was inserted into the clock. Since then the Bundy Manufacturing Co. has become part of IBM.

I could go on about the history of time clocks, but the truth is, time punching remained relatively unchanged for over a century. Employees came to an office, manufacturing plant, store, hospital or restaurant and punched their time onto a cardstock time card. Like most technologies, more change has occurred in the last 10-15 years than in the prior 100, and that change is being driven as much by how we get things done as the technology we use to get things done. For example, the way in which we “go to work” has significantly changed the past decade, and will continue to change and create a new set of HR and compliance issues. Forrester Research estimates that “63 million of the U.S. Workforce” will be telecommuting and/or working remotely from home, according to “The New Workplace Reality: Out of the Office” by Naveen Narayanan.

Additionally, not including the self-employed, telecommuting has increased by 79.7% from 2005 to 2012 according to a survey done by Global Workplace Analytics, and it’s estimated that “16 million employees work from home at least one day a month.”

Today, trends, telecommuting / remote workforces, job sharing, constantly changing local labor laws, new Federal healthcare regulations, 24/7 service models, and mobile adoption, have changed the game for time and attendance.

Employers can choose from a range of technologies, from biometric or proximity card reader clocks to web-based employee self-service, and most recently, to mobile solutions. Each solution has different costs and benefits, and what works for one company might not work for another.

Considering that over half of the total U.S. population (57.3%) is currently using a smartphone according to the study, “Always Connected,” done by IDC and Facebook, and many companies hear these mobile data points, they begin to believe they need mobility everywhere. And while mobile time and attendance solutions are becoming the new norm, (mobile solutions are now fully supporting time and attendance and leave management), we’re seeing optimized apps for smart phones and tablets become available for most full functioned time and attendance systems which allows for on-the-go or remote employees to punch in where ever they are.

When deciding if a mobile time solution is right for your company you should consider a number of different factors such as:

  • Just because most people have mobile phones, doesn’t mean they need mobile work access. What matters is do YOUR employees need mobile access or if you’re in a service business, do your clients need to access your employees via mobile? If your staff is typically in the office, then the answer is probably no. However, if part of your staff is in and out of the office frequently, then you may want to consider having a mobile solution for those employees. Make sure to verify that the mobile solution works in conjunction with a more traditional time keeping solution that way you can have a solution that works best for various types of employees. And remember, just because a few employees are on the go, doesn’t mean the entire staff needs the ability to punch in/out where ever they are.
  • Does the solution have employee and manager functions? Even when choosing a mobile solution, the options for employees and managers still exist.
    • Options for managers include: reviewing alerts from employees running late or absent, approving leave requests and time cards, reviewing and modifying schedules, seeing who is currently working, and contacting potential replacements for absent employees. For a mobile manager who needs to ensure proper coverage, alerts and the ability to find replacements is an important consideration. Especially where adequate coverage is required, by law or for your business model, it is important that managers have the ability to call in subs.
    • Options for employees include: punching in/out, transferring to different departments or jobs, checking schedules, requesting leave, receiving alerts, notifying managers if they are running late or will be absent, and correcting missed punches. Creating the ability to have a 2-way communication with their managers permits adequate coverage and provides employees the ability to accept additional shifts that become available.
  • Some solutions include the ability to track GPS coordinates. For an employee who is on the road each day working at many sites, a smart phone can track the GPS coordinates of their location when they punch or transfer to a different location. Some of these new TLM apps store that information in your database and some can restrict punching to a radius around specific coordinates. Not only can you use this information to ensure that an employee is actually where they say they are, you can track the time spent at particular places. This can provide information you can use to help improve the way you deliver your products and services. We see this type of requirement often in property management firms and landscape companies.
  • Are you prepared to frame the conversation around a mobile time and attendance solution? The ability to track an employee’s time should be viewed as a positive opportunity for the employee. It should allow greater flexibility and opportunity for managers and employees to conduct work outside the office. However, if framed in a negative light, it can feel like an electronic leash. Make sure your policies and culture are adapted for what may be a fairly significant change.

As our workforce becomes more mobile, it’s undeniable that people need access to business applications wherever they are. It’s an evolution that is exciting to see because these mobile solutions empower employees, providing them flexibility, interaction and accountability in their daily job responsibilities. At the same time they allow managers to oversee their workforce and make adjustments to staffing wherever they happen to be.

Reducing Employers Multistate Tax Filing Costs: Eliminating Zeros

By: Melissa Causer, Tax Supervisor



The number one scariest thing for business owners is tax filing according to a study done by the National Federation of Independent Business reported the Pittsburgh Business Times. Tax filing is always a tricky subject and gets more complicated at year end. It gets even more complicated when you’re a multi-state employer, but there’s often one simple thing every multi-state employer can do to get a handle on their unemployment and withholding taxes, and that is closing the accounts in states that file zeros.

After being on the business side of taxes for over 6 years, I’ve realized it’s not uncommon for businesses to leave their accounts open in states they’re consistently filing zero returns for. It might not seem like a big deal, but after tying in the unaccounted costs for time and potential fees, you could be costing your business more than what those zeros are worth.

I’ve been involved in many scenarios in the past in which not only the company I worked for, but also our clients were filing unnecessary zero returns. In one instance, after doing a review, I came to find that one client was filing zeros in at least 30 states since 2007! Most of the tax codes didn’t have liability for years and others never even had any liability.

Zero returns are a lot of work for the employer, the service provider, and the state. Employers can end up paying unnecessarily for the time an employee taxes to file the zero returns or for a provider to continue filing for states they do not need. No matter who is filing for your company, time is spent filing the zero returns in a variety of methods. Even after they’re filed, the state has to process and post the returns they receive. Since it is a zero return, there is no tax money benefit for the state which can delay recording that they received the return, which will result in the continuation of the receipt of unnecessary notices and penalties.

Of course, every state is different. There are a multitude of rules and regulations employers have to follow, requirements for filing tax returns, and depositing tax payments. How each of those are done can vary by each state that you have employees in. According to the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) article “The Perils of Multistate Employment”, every multistate employer should check the city and state’s withholding laws in which the employee will be working in before the employee actually begins work in that state since every location may have their own tax laws. It’s important to be cognizant of new employees, where they are working, and follow procedures accordingly to open your business in a new state.

SHRM also further explains in their Q&A article “Taxes: Multistate: If we have employees..” that there are a few things employers need to consider when setting up accounts in multiple states.

  • “Not all states impose a withholding tax. The states that do not are Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Wyoming and Washington.”
  • “Some states have special reciprocal agreements with neighboring states. These agreements typically allow an employer operating in one state to withhold employees’ personal income tax for the state in which they reside.”
  • “Last, an employer may need to be concerned with other withholding tax requirements. Some states have counties with county tax requirements or cities with local income tax requirements.”

Additionally, you should be cognizant of closing accounts with state agencies. When the work is finished in that city/state, or if you no longer have employees in those locals, you could be leaving accounts open when they don’t need to be or accidentally closing them prematurely. Some states automatically close accounts for you if you file a specific number of zero returns for multiple, consecutive quarters. Others do not. You can tell your service provider to stop filing for an agency, but if you don’t follow through closing the account with the state, you will still receive notices. So, why are some employers are hesitant to close accounts that have been consistently zero for? Well, there could be few reasons such as:

  • They think they MAY have employees in that state again
  • They think it’s difficult to close and reopen
  • Some states require some type of authorization to “do business” in that state and they fear that they will have to re-certify. For example, a state may require a Certificate of Good Standing from a corporation’s state of domicile in order to give authority to do business in that state.

All of those reasons are justifiable; however, closing the accounts in which you’re filing zeros for at year end will help to reduce the paperwork for quarterly filings, reduce manual work for yourself or for your tax service provider, and reduce your costs whether it’s the charges you incur from your provider for filing returns or for the time your employees spend filing the returns in-house.

One thing you do want to make sure of is that you don’t close the account prematurely simply because doing so could create some timing issues. For example, the state of Wisconsin requires W2s within 30 days of closing the account. If the IRS hasn’t released their final draft of the W2, then you or your tax provider is unable to generate the W2 reports prior to year end.

Doing a periodic self-audit of your open tax accounts can be a great help to figure out which accounts you need, which ones you don’t and when you can close them. To perform the audit, ask yourself:

  • How many employees do I have in different states?
  • How many of those states have regularly had employees?
  • Are there any state accounts that I’ve kept open but haven’t had employees for more than a year?
  • What are my costs for continuously filing zero returns?

Though closing and re-activating your tax accounts is a pretty straight forward procedure, there could be additional factors you may need to consider. Beginning to ask yourself the questions above is just one way you can begin to figure out if it closing those unused accounts would be beneficial for you.

As we approach the end of 2013, it is a great time to close unneeded accounts. As mentioned, some states require W2s with the final filings, and these are being prepared at the same time as the final returns, so it is easy to comply. Review your state accounts, identify the last time you actually had any liability in those states, and work on getting them cleaned up (with the help of your tax provider), so you can start 2014 with a clean tax slate.

Determined. Fearless. Inspired.

We like to use these words a lot in the business world. We like to think that we do big things and overcome big challenges. We like to think that greatness lives in company walls and board rooms and that change comes from employees who are determined, fearless or inspired.

But sometimes we get a reminder that determination, fearlessness and inspiration have much deeper and important meanings than how we use them in a conference room or in a performance review. Sometimes people really do overcome significant life obstacles. Sometimes people possess a restlessness and personal drive to pursue their heart’s desire. And sometimes that courage and strength is what gives the rest of us some perspective of what it means to inspire others and become a better version of ourselves.

This weekend, our COO’s son Matthew reminded us all here at Sentric to dig a little deeper.

http://www.wtae.com/sports/high-school-playbook/avonworth-freshman-drums-to-his-own-beat/-/9681298/22167232/-/99e7x3z/-/index.html

Top Performer or Great Manager? Not Always the Same

Shannon is Sentric’s manager of HR

And that’s ok. Being in human resources in a growing organization, I often struggle with the issue of “promoting from within” versus bringing in outside talent when looking to fill supervisory or management roles. Of course, we want to give our employees upward mobility. And naturally, we look to our “top performers” first when looking to promote. But is that always the right answer?

In my experience, if a promotion is offered, most will accept it, whether they think they’ll be good or effective in the position or not. There can be various reasons for this, but most often it comes from a fear of losing their current position or losing the respect of those in higher positions if they turn the promotion down, according to Eve Tahmincioglu, writer of “How to Decline a Promotion Without Hurting Your Career.”

Naturally employees don’t want to offend the people that are giving them the opportunity at moving up in the company. But not every employee is interested in managing others, nor are they best equipped to do so. Management is the art of getting things done through others. If your top performer is a “doer” who prides themselves on the quality of their product, this might not be for them. Some top performers simply don’t want the headache of management role. According by Dr. Cain, writer of Why Not Every Top Performer Should be Promoted, ”A recent survey by OfficeTeam found that 76% of job seekers were not interested in management. This shows that most workers prefer playing over coaching. If you have star players who enjoy reveling in the glory of making the play, standing on the sidelines with a clipboard isn’t for them.”

Job enthusiasm

Assess your top performer’s excitement for management — enthusiasm has probably served them well until now.

 

Keeping your top performers engaged may not mean a transition into a management, but rather just the incorporation of new tasks and responsibilities that will engage and challenge them. If you’re considering offering an employee a promotion you should, at a minimum, have a conversation with the employee to learn more about their aspirations, before making any offers. Encourage them to fully consider their options before making a decision, and let them know that they are safe in their current role if they should choose to stay there, and that you are more than happy with their performance.

By having this conversation you may learn things about your top performer that will be good indicators of future direction. For example, you may be able to ascertain whether they are an introvert, extrovert or a little of both. This could have a large impact on their happiness in the position. Are they happiest mainly completing tasks on their own? Do they struggle working in a team even if the quality of work is above your expectations? Or are they your social butterfly? A video found on TED, “The Power of Introverts,” delivered by Susan Cain, eloquently explains that your top performers may actually be introverts, and thrive in the quiet of their work, while becoming overwhelmed and exhausted at the thought of dealing with an entourage of direct reports. That’s not to say introverts can’t make great managers, but aligning style and expectations will be key.

Because of your employee’s personal goals, personality type or management experience, promoting a top performer to management can be detrimental. For example, we had a long-time developer who was an excellent employee; loyal, hardworking and dedicated. As the department grew, the need for a supervisor emerged. Naturally we offered it to this star employee, and he accepted. He had no leadership or management experience, and unfortunately didn’t excel in the role. At the same time, his overall performance suffered, largely due to his struggles with the new role. Ultimately, he took another high-level, but non-management position at another company. We didn’t learn of his dissatisfaction with his move to management until his exit interview, which was obviously too late.

Companies like ours don’t have to fall victim to ill-fit promotions. When considering promoting employees there are a few key points I have found that need to be considered before the promotion occurs:

  • Does your best performer have the “people-skills” needed for management? Just because they’re a top performer doesn’t mean they can lead others to be top performers. Don’t assume your star employee knows how to teach/nurture others.
  • Are you willing to lose some of their contributions to the success of the organization in exchange for their management skills? Let’s face it; you’ll set them up for failure if you expect them to continue with their current workload and take on their new task of managing their team. It takes time to lead a team which means it takes time away from tasks they used to do (and do well).
  • Is your star employee going to be happy and feel successful in the position? If your employee isn’t going to feel like they’re contributing to the company as a whole and can see their work in action, then they may not feel like they have anything to give. It’s important to figure out what makes them happy in their current role to determine if a management position is right for them. In 2012, the 63% of employees reported that the ability and opportunity to use their skills and talents gave them the most satisfaction in their career according to the 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Survey performed by the Society for Human Resource Management.

On the flipside, what if your top performer actually WANTS management but you know they don’t have the necessary skills?

  • Talk to your employee about what the managerial job requires and what is expected of them. Go over the job description or requirements line-by-line together. This will give them the chance to evaluate their own skills, and give you a chance to bring your concerns to light if you think they’re lacking any of the skills needed. Often, when it is laid out, the employee will realize on their own that they aren’t the right fit.
  • Give them a “trial run” for a predetermined amount of time. This gives you and the employee the opportunity to decide if it’s a good fit for their skill set – and also gives you the chance to see if perhaps you’re wrong about them. Maybe you’ll both find that all the employee needs is a little coaching to excel in their new position.

In the event that either you or the employee finds that the promotion wouldn’t be a good fit, don’t penalize them for being an individual contributor. Be sure to let them know that they are still a valuable member of the team. By penalizing or criticizing them for not climbing the corporate ladder, you run the risk of losing one of your most valuable employees – which is something any organization, and especially a smaller organization, can’t afford to lose.

HR Moneyball: Looking at Your HR Data Differently

Scott Keitlen, Director of Partner Channel Sales

I see a lot of my clients and prospects undergoing some amazing transformation in their human resources teams. Teams that were once cost centers are taking center stage in managing their companies biggest and most important costs – people and benefits. Teams that were once highly administrative are now highly strategic. Teams that were once process and paper driven are now drivers of new technology that’s used across the whole organization. I’m particularly impressed when I see these teams marrying HR data with great talent to redefine business problems and improve performance.

And as I’ve watched HR teams foster all this change, especially bringing in new technology and using HR data differently, I always want to start talking sports. I know, I’m a cliché – the sales guy who loves to talk sports analogies, but we’re talking big money at stake, big needs for performance, lots of data, and new ways of doing things. Is there really any better comparison?

Think about this. Gallup just put out a report that estimates crappy managers cost employers $450-$550 billion per year. And Gartner estimates disengaged employees cost the U.S. economy as much as $350 billion per year in lost productivity, accidents, theft, and turnover.

The Gallup report continued to explain how that huge business loss affected employee potential:

“Currently, 30% of the U.S. workforce is engaged in their work, and the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is roughly 2-to-1, meaning that the vast majority of U.S. workers (70%) are not reaching their full potential — a problem that has significant implications for the economy and the individual performance of American companies.”

The two are connected – good managers and employee performance – and it reminds me of one of my favorite scenes in the movie Moneyball. It comes at the very end when Brad Pitt’s character, Billy Beane, talks to Arliss Howard’s character, Red Sox owner John Henry, about a job. And Henry says, “You won the exact same number of games the Yankees won, but the Yankees spent $1.4 million per win and you spent $260,000.”

Howard’s delivery of the line is far more inspirational though, watch it for yourself:

Billy Beane Gets a New Job Offer

In that moment, Howard crystallizes the remarkable impact of a remarkable manager. Players and business excelled in the Beane model, but it never would have happened if someone didn’t lead the way to looking at things differently. Beane was also willing to let methodology, technology and data replace human bias and the “expected” way of doing things.

When I look at the hundreds of billions of dollars in loss and the impact of low performing employees, I can’t help but think most businesses, even the most successful ones, are operating more like the Yankees (sorry, I’m an Indians fan). Rather than redefining a problem – as Jonah Hill’s character does when he aptly points out that most teams focus on buying players over wins – most businesses are focused on throwing money at it.

But that’s why I’m always impressed with my clients who are acting as the game changer in their organization. They seem to understand the need to do things differently, to look at the data and the performance indicators and see the individual differently (I love the scene where Beane puts a catcher on first base because he sees value where no one had before).

The reason Moneyball worked was because there’s no sport with more data than baseball. Teams know exactly how many times a player gets on base, how many times a player hits a home run, how many times he strikes out, walks, is up to bat, games played. The performance indicators run broad and deep.

HR is approaching that same pivotal moment. HR data is rich and complex, yet we know so much about which metrics matter. We know which metrics indicate employee engagement – turnover, satisfaction, attendance and absenteeism, performance reviews are just a few. We’ve been measuring them forever. Until recently, HR spent virtually all their time moving and managing this data from one system to the next. But today, it’s possible to actually analyze HR data because technology reducing the burden of administration.

Instead of transferring time and attendance data from a devise to excel and then to payroll, they can spend time triaging who is having attendance issues and determine why and how to help.

Instead of aggregating emails for 360 reviews for hundreds of people from multiple peers and managers into one place, they can look at the qualities of the best managers and most productive teams and how to identify that type of talent for new roles.

Instead of personally entering data changes across insurance carriers, payroll, tax forms, and dozens of other systems or silos, they can enable employees to do it themselves and focus more on the benefits package, culture and policies that attract better talent.

Smart HR is playing Moneyball style. Better manage the data. Redefine the problem. Improve performance. Win more.

Sentric’s 1st Official Cornhole Tournament!

Instead of our annual softball game, we tried something new this year… CORNHOLE! Staff in our Pittsburgh, PA and our Huntington Beach, CA offices paired up for a high-stakes cornhole tournament, and we had a blast. Complete with a “double-elimination bracket”, plenty of cornhole sets, and gourmet burgers from the BRGR truck, the fun lasted much longer than the daylight did. Our final teams played under the streetlights, but a winner had to emerge. With the winning team getting their “Birthday Off” this year, it wasn’t just fun and games! Luckily the competition wasn’t too intense, and a great time was had by all.

Everything You Never Knew About SaaS, Infographic Style

By Colleen Stroh, director of marketing

I spent nearly a decade in tech marketing / communications, but took a hiatus to join the ad world for five years. When I joined Sentric a few months ago, it seemed like a good time to do a refresh on SaaS and I began scouring the Internet for research, trends, data, competition, similar categories, white papers, Facebook pages, Twitter handles – all that fun stuff marketing people like me geek out on.

Some of the most fun (I know, it’s a relative word) info came from the analysts, who seemed to continue to reinforce the good decision of joining a company that’s focused on the cloud (according to Forrester, the market is expected to increase 25 percent in 2013 to $59 billion. In 2014, the market is expected to total $75 billion. Forrester calls SaaS the tech industry darling).

But as a marketer, the only thing I love more than surveys, forecasts and data is data that leads to insight or data that’s presented simply and visually. Our industry’s done a great job of putting SaaS into context through some really well-done infographics.

Rather than hoard these beautiful perspectives on my desktop for personal reference, I thought I’d share some of my favorites for anyone thinking about a SaaS solution for, well, anything.

Enjoy!

SaaS Now, Then and Tomorrow: A look at the history of SaaS (ever heard of Salesforce.com?), the future of SaaS and what makes SaaS different from other solutions. A good SaaS 101 overview to understand its place in the solutions market and how it is expected to evolve.

http://visual.ly/its-saas-world

SaaS Integration: Ready or not.

We don’t know Mulesoft, but it looks like they help companies integrate clouds. We liked their take on integration. For us, we are constantly learning how to better integrate with other clouds as well as on premise solutions and third parties.

http://blogs.mulesoft.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/mulesoft-2-12-13.gif

Don’t forget the second S: This isn’t a SaaS oriented view of service, so much as it’s a common sense one. Some SaaS providers get it, some just want to sell Saa…know what you’re getting and never forget the basics.

http://www.bitrebels.com/lifestyle/learn-from-your-customers-infographic/

Cloud challenges: Ask the right questions. Cisco’s fun view on the CIO’s challenges and expectations as they migrate to the cloud:

http://blogs.cisco.com/wp-content/uploads/Cisco_Cloud_Networking_Survey_Infographic.jpg

EaaS: Everything as a Service – every new technology threatens to make its predecessor obsolete. Is SaaS to packaged software what digital was to film? Or is it more like what social is to email? You decide.

http://visual.ly/eaas-death-packaged-software

Why Smaller Cloud Companies Can Compete in the Talent War

By Mike Maggs, President, Sentric Inc.

Late last year, analyst firm IDC put out a whitepaper on a new talent war that received a lot of attention in the tech and business media. In a year where the U.S. job market was still sluggish, there were 1.7 million cloud computing-related roles across the globe that could not be filled due to the lack of training. And over the next 3 years, the demand for cloud talent will grow by 26% each year through 2015 – leading to 7 million jobs that were never needed before just a few years ago.

 

The talent gap becomes even more of a business challenge for companies like mine –smaller cloud solutions providers in niche industries. There are the obvious reasons – candidates think smaller companies can’t compete from a compensation perspective, or that they need a bigger name on their resume, or they worry about financial instability. We can address those things pretty quickly. But the real complexity lies in finding talent that will not only thrive in an entrepreneurial culture, but one that can support how we win against larger players like ADP, Paychex or Ultimate Software.

We don’t just need cloud talent, we need cloud talent that can hit the ground running because they either know our industry or can confidently bring a perspective that challenges the status quo; talent that can see and own the company vision while executing for immediate needs in the present; talent that can drive innovation and transformation (we went from a payroll firm to a national cloud-based HR solutions provider in less than 18 months), while incrementally innovating for a better user experience; and most importantly, talent that can help us build and evolve an unexpected customer experience.

Notice I didn’t say a boutique, or a relationship-driven, or different experience. Great talent isn’t attracted to clichés, and they don’t want to win by creating the expected. And most of the time, the unexpected doesn’t come from pre-defined. It comes from individuals with a passion for what they do and a drive to make an impact. It’s the developer that finds a way to take a three year project and get to market in just a few months. It’s the tax manager who looks at an industry norm of managing thousands of open tax notices and develops a process to close virtually all of them. It’s the implementation manager who has found a way to never, ever miss a go-live date. It’s the service rep who defaults to yes, even when the obvious answer is no.

As a smaller player, we’re competing in the talent war because we let individuals draw on all their skills to make a difference in our client’s experience.

We’re competing because we’re making big asks of people.

We’re competing because the underlying message is we don’t just need your skill to succeed – we need your loyalty.

You Can’t Pay in Loyalty, but it’s a Great Reward if You Know How to Use It

The average time at a job is about 4.5 years and younger workers track at half that (especially in tech). Yet from 2007 to 2011, the most important factor in job satisfaction was job security (SHRM’s annual Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Surveys). The behavior and reporting haven’t aligned for awhile. That’s because job security is half the story. What a survey can’t tell you is how an individual defines job security. Is it about simply knowing your job is going to be there tomorrow, even when the economy is uncertain? Is it about working for a financially stable company? In a risk adverse industry? Not having to worry about salary cuts? Or maybe it’s a little more complicated than that, especially when you’re talking about a driver for in-demand talent.

Maybe job security is about loyalty and intrinsic reward. Maybe it’s about knowing that hard work will lead to a more secure, and meaningful role (and smart employees know financial compensation and security follows meaning and impact). Maybe the best option for articulating “I want to make a difference long-term in this company” seemed like “job security.”

While job security was topping the charts of surveys just 2 years ago, qualitative research with workers was telling a different story. Authors Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer were talking about a concept they called “The Progress Principle.” In Harvard Business Review, they wrote, “Through exhaustive analysis of diaries kept by knowledge workers, we discovered the progress principle: Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. And the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run. Whether they are trying to solve a major scientific mystery or simply produce a high-quality product or service, everyday progress—even a small win—can make all the difference in how they feel and perform.”

A year after the “Progress Principle” research came out, SHRM’s survey reported that “opportunities to use skills and abilities” finally held the top spot on the list of job satisfaction drivers (63 percent). It’s the smaller, growing players that can foster those opportunities easily, without bureaucracy and without pretense.

In my own business, I’ve come to see loyalty is about helping people unlock their potential to be unexpected. It’s about seeing the person past the resume and letting them help you see the opportunities for growth in your own organization. It’s about letting and empowering small and large wins.

Here are a few loose rules I follow as a business owner to attract and keep our people. It’s also why I think companies like mine will continue to succeed in the talent wars:

  • Set goals. Articulate challenges. Don’t prescribe solutions. The best talent thrives on problem solving, not process.
  • Title matters. But not as much as opportunity. It’s always more comforting to hire senior talent when you’re in growth mode. But never under estimate the power of hunger and novelty to someone with just a few years less experience. Again, a smaller company’s willingness to take a risk on potential over experience can immediately create a sense of loyalty on both sides of the table.
  • The vision belongs to everyone.  It’s my job to set the vision. But I have to give people more than a line of sight to that vision, I have to let them own it themselves. I have to find people who want to build on that vision…not just grow the business. We didn’t have plans to open a Denver office a few years ago, but when the right people came into the company, opening the office was our response to their contribution to the vision. Our vision evolved because of their passion. There’s no way a larger organization can be that adaptable.
  • Build an all-star team. As we grow, I know there will be more hierarchy. But we’re setting a tone that we’re not a team of one-or-two score leaders. We want a deep, capable and diverse bench that’s about more than sales or revenue, but recognizes the value of the customer and their entire experience.

What’s more, this matters not just to attracting clients, but to preventing our talent from burning out. In an always on, high pressure, speed to market industry, the burden of success needs to live across the organization.

In short, most people want to do more than watch greatness, they want to learn from it and create it.

Sentric celebrates National Lemonade Day

Sentric celebrates National Lemonade Day with ice cold lemonade – and a donation to Alex’s Lemonade Stand (http://www.alexslemonade.org/). It’s a win-win!