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

 

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!

Revised FMLA Military Leave

This year, the Department of Labor made some changes to the Family Medical Leave Act that specifically apply to family members of service men and women. Here’s what you should know.

A Refresher on Military Leave

Military leave falls under two categories: military caregiver leave and qualifying exigency leave. The former provides employee leave opportunities for those who have ill or injured military family members (spouses, children, parents) in need of care, giving employees the chance to care for their loved ones. The latter, on the other hand, has traditionally been set aside for the families of National Guard or military Reserve personnel. Both areas have seen changes in the recent update.

Military Caregiver Leave Provisions

Caregiver leave still permits up to 26 weeks of work leave for care of service personnel. In its previous incarnation, however, military caregiver leave policy included several strict rules. For instance, caregiver leave was previously granted only to those family members of current Regular, National Guard and Reserve forces. Such guidelines have been expanded, specifying that:

  • Leave is permitted for the care of not only active members but also ill or injured veterans who were released from the military 5 or less years prior to the requested leave.
  • Injuries experienced by veterans may also now be shown to have manifested prior to or after official veteran status had been assigned for family members to take caregiver leave.
  • For any serviceperson, the situation necessitating care no longer has to be the result of active duty, so long as the issue can be proven to be at least exacerbated by service activities.
  • The requirement that only military-related healthcare providers could certify a serviceperson’s need for care has been overturned. Now any qualified provider may verify this, however as an employer you have the right to request additional medical opinions prior to granting caregiver leave.

Qualifying Exigency Leave Provisions

Qualifying exigency leave provides short-term leave opportunities for spouses and family members of deployed or deploying military personnel. Changes to those who qualify for it as well as the maximum length of leave have been implemented in addition to various other policies. Some new regulations include:

  • Qualifying exigency leave is now open to all military families. Previously, this leave option was given only to those family members who had loved ones in the National Guard or Reserves who had been called to active duty. This year’s provision allows for family members of deployed Regular military personnel to also make use of a qualifying exigency leave.
  • Exigency leave, previously limited to a period of 5 days, has been extended to a length of 15 days in order to spend time with the military member.
  • Coverage for family members of Reservists and National Guard personnel has been amended to require that such individuals actually be deployed to a foreign country in order for leave to be granted to the family. Previous regulations did not require active deployment.
  • Qualifying exigency leave, never before offered for parental care, is now available. Employees who must care for a deployed serviceperson’s parent because the parent has been rendered incapable are permitted to do so under the new law.

As these changes are relatively new, it is essential to begin understanding them now and to integrate plans for them into you company’s employee leave management software and system. Both military caregiver leave and qualifying exigency leave provide valuable opportunities for your employees to attend to personal circumstances at home. Sentric’s employee attendance tracking software can aid both you and your employees in making seamless transitions leading up to and during periods of leave.

 

Sources:

http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/

http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/2013rule/FMLA_Military_Guide_ENGLISH.pdf

http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/2013rule/comparison.htm

It’s Take Your Dog to Work Day at Sentric!

It was our first year trying this, and if I said we weren’t a LITTLE nervous, well, I’d be lying. But doggone it, it was a barking success!!

Sentric Enhances HCM Reports with Latest Version of SentricWorkforce

PITTSBURGH (June 16, 2013) – Sentric, Inc., a leader in cloud-based workforce solutions, announced today that it has made more than 300 enhancements across 80 different reports in its SentricWorkforce application. The improvements, available immediately, provide new reporting parameters that will give clients instant access to more customizable views of their organization and their employees.

In order to ensure the strongest integrated HR, time and attendance, and payroll solution in the HCM market, Sentric makes three major version updates per year across its product portfolio. The improvements are based on a combination of direct client feedback and overall product innovation plans.

“The client feedback we get is exceptionally strong,” said David Lewis, COO, Sentric. “Our service model gives every client a dedicated, domestic customer service representative. And every person in our organization, even our front desk, is integrated in our CRM process. This high touch, relationship driven approach makes us very accountable to customer needs and gives us a better understanding of what they want from a workforce solution. This particular round of updates was rooted in that client input, while the pending fall updates will focus on a more intuitive user experience.”

Sentric also conducts an annual survey of all its customers to provide the opportunity to weigh in on the next year’s changes. As a Software-as-a-Solution (SaaS) provider, Sentric has the flexibility to respond to this feedback quickly and to make frequent updates across all customers in the cloud.

“This ongoing improvement is one of the biggest advantages of being in the cloud,” said Michael Lavender, chief product architect, Sentric. “We can aggregate clients’ most urgent and consistent requests and address them across our customers seamlessly, affordably and quickly, without burdening their IT or HR staff. It’s also a critical capability to maintaining compliance across IRS guidelines, state tax law and Department of Labor regulations.”

Other version updates include:

  • I9 form updates to meet new USCIS requirements (released in March 2013)
  • Improved tax functionality to reduce user error and improve accuracy

New customers will have the new report parameters available at implementation. The next SentricWorkforce updates are scheduled for this fall. For more information visit www.Sentric.net.

About Sentric Inc.

For 20 years, Sentric has serviced the middle market with HR, time and attendance and payroll solutions. Today, we deliver integrated workforce applications in the cloud. Our mission is to secure clients for life by ensuring software and service work together to solve real business problems. We think our 97 percent customer satisfaction and 96 percent customer retention rate are pretty darn good, but we’re always improving. Learn more at www.sentric.net.

 

CONTACT: Colleen Stroh, cstroh@sentric.net

Sentric Simplifies Affordable Care Act Requirements for Employers with Release of SentricTime

PITTSBURGH (June 16, 2013) – Sentric, Inc., a leader in cloud-based workforce solutions, announced today the availability of SentricTime, a turn-key, auditable time management solution that will support Affordable Care Act compliance while minimizing administrative burdens for HR staff. Built on the same platform as SentricTLM®, the company’s flagship time and attendance solution, SentricTime delivers an easy to implement, quick deployment option that includes a free time clock and low monthly cost.

SentricTime has two great benefits,” said Jim Devaty, Time and Attendance Implementation Manager at Sentric. “It’s a great option for businesses that want to have more automated and auditable controls to help manage employee time, but may not need all of the capabilities in SentricTLM®. It’s also a fast deployment for businesses that are looking for immediate ways to make ACA compliance easier.”

July 1, 2013 will be the last day employers can begin gathering data to determine whether or not they meet large employer status under the ACA. The law mandates specific calculations to determine employer size and the data for those calculations must be gathered over a six month period in 2013, beginning no later than July 1st. Recognizing some employers might not be prepared for the administrative work facing them, Sentric created SentricTime to be up and running in just a few days.

After speaking with clients, and surveying attendees at a recent webinar hosted by Sentric on Employer Shared Responsibility, “The Next Steps in Health Care Reform: What you need to know about the July 1 deadline,” Devaty said he believes as many as half of mid-market employers are still trying to figure out their options for health care reform and how they will be gathering pertinent data. “There was no question that we needed to offer a solution,” he confirmed. “And it had to be a cloud solution to make it as quick and easy as we wanted it to be.”

Penalties for non-compliance of the Affordable Care Act can be up to $3000 per employee. “With the new features being offered by Sentric, we hope this is a no brainer,” said Devaty. “For less than $35 per employee per year, employers can protect themselves from penalties that can go as high as $3000 per year.”

Included in SentricTime will be overtime, rounding and holiday rules, the most commonly used time and attendance features, employee self service, and the ID Punch 7 Proximity Reader or a Web Clock. Of most interest, SentricTime will also include reports specifically designed to aggregate key ACA data with the click of a button.

In order to make the transition to a time application quick and easy, Sentric has waived its implementation fee, will provide a free clock and has created a low per employee, per month cost.

Current SentricTLM® users are still able to use their current solution, but will see that an already powerful solution now includes the new ACA reporting features of SentricTime at no additional costs.

Additional clocks are $.75 per employee per month with a minimum $35.50 per month fee. Additional badges are also $50 per lot of 50.

New and existing customers can contact the Sentric Sales Team at 1.888.729.7654 for any questions about the new SentricTime product.

About Sentric Inc.

For 20 years, Sentric has serviced the middle market with HR, time and attendance and payroll solutions. Today, we deliver integrated workforce applications in the cloud. Our mission is to secure clients for life by ensuring software and service work together to solve real business problems. We think our 97 percent customer satisfaction and 96 percent customer retention rate are pretty darn good, but we’re always improving. Learn more at www.sentric.net.

 

CONTACT: Colleen Stroh, cstroh@sentric.net

10 Ways to Create an Employee-Friendly Environment

Research has proven over and over again there’s a strong correlation between key business metrics and employee engagement. In fact, Gallup has shown employee engagement impacts 9 performance outcomes, including absenteeism, turnover, profitability, productivity and even safety. The relationship between employee engagement and performance outcomes remains the same in tough economic times, as well. Units that score in the top half of their organization for employee engagement experience double the success of other units, and results improve even more the higher the score. In short, happy employees make for better business. Here are some simple ways businesses of any size can build an open work environment and develop a collaborative and high-achieving workforce.

10 Ways to Create an Employee-Friendly Environment

Sentric Volunteers with the PA Conservancy

A little rain wasn’t enough to keep Sentric’s employees from planting a garding in Homestead this weekend! We bundled up and got to work, planting zinneas and mulching in a creatively designed “figure eight” style garden. We can’t wait to see it bloom!