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Top Five Issues for HR

January 17, 2014

By Anthony Kaylin SBAM Approved Partner, ASE

As we walk into 2014 the question we have to ask is “What are the hot button issues of the new year?” With limited resources and expanded responsibilities, HR can only pulled in so many directions. The following are five important issues, in no particular order, that promise to keep HR up at night in 2014:

Obamacare and the employer: The issue diverges into two parts.  First, will the employer be charged a penalty? For many ASE members, the answer is no. The employer targeted by the already notorious employer mandate has 50 or more full-time equivalent employees or FTEs. The great majority of ASE members of that size or larger provide healthcare coverage to their employees. Where the rubber hits the road is where the employer is at or near the 50-FTE mark. That employer must monitor and carefully control its employees’ hours per week, since the ACA considers 30 or more hours per week on average to constitute full-time employment.

Then there is the second part. That employer has to establish a measurement period in 2014 to conduct average hour analysis, which will dictate whether or not the employee is someone to whom coverage has to be offered by the employer. Without an established measurement period, employers will find it impossible to monitor employee hours and will run a significant risk of having to offer coverage to people they thought were part-time employees.  If the employer falls into this situation, the penalty may come back into play.
Building the talent pipeline:  This issue has internal and external implications.  Internally, for too long the training and development budget spigot has been turned off.  And too many employers have been running very thin, probably too thin.  The employer cannot assume that employee loyalty is high simply because voluntary turnover was low over the past couple of years.  Nor can the employer assume people want to work for them simply because of who they are. There are lots of good employers out there. With the economy growing and housing market moving, employees have options. Employees will go where they feel they are respected and given tools and opportunities to grow. 
Compliance, compliance and more compliance:  Compliance training has to be a focus of 2014.  The EEOC received a total of 93,727 private sector charges of discrimination in FY 2013 and obtained a record $372.1 million in monetary relief, $6.7 million more than was recovered in 2012, then the highest level obtained in the Commission’s history.  Seyfarth Shaw reported that from data obtained from the Federal Judicial Center, 7,764 Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) cases were filed in 2013, up 10% from 2012.  And the Obama Administration is pushing a one stop center for all whistleblowing complaints, which should rise dramatically over the next few years. OSHA alone covers 17 of these laws.  Federal Contractors are also looking at HR and trying to determine if it is worth contracting with the federal government, given all the rules and requirements of OFCCP.
Ignoring NLRB intrusions:  The conventional belief is that unless the company is the target of a union organizing drive or has a union, who cares about the NLRB? This belief is wrong. The National Labor Relations Board will have a big impact on nonunion organizations in 2014, whether declaring policies such as social media or confidentiality in violation of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to claiming employee at will is simply a pipe dream while pushing the union agenda.  The NLRA generally applies to all private sector companies except those in the railroad, airline and marine transportation industries.
Providing only transactional HR services: HR has to build its own skills to see the forest, not just the trees. If asked, most senior management would cite the major negative aspect of HR as its lack of ability to see and think strategically. They may praise HR’s tactical leadership, but generally that is a reactive approach to leadership. Senior leadership recognizes value, and if HR cannot provide the vision to see how the future will be, there will be no seat at the table.  HR is the keeper of the culture and leader of change. HR has to invest in its own pipeline and leadership development. 

So in the long and short of it, HR has to invest more resources into development and talent.  It has to overcome issues of government restrictions and cost controls to achieve its mission in 2014.  2013 did not even come close to the complexities that HR must deal with in the coming year.  So yes, it is hard to sleep at night. Too big a plate and too little time.

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