Monthly Archives

October 2018


What Should Be Included in Your Employee Handbook?

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Your employee handbook is the go-to literature for your new hires, and it serves as a handy reference for long-term employees, as well. It’s an essential document in any company, and it’s important for you to ensure it’s thorough and easy-to-understand.

Does anyone even read the employee handbook? Why take the trouble to perfect this document? They do read it, or at least they should. A well-written handbook sets the tone for a positive experience with your company and helps save time and resources.

The Benefits of a Thorough Employee Handbook

First and foremost, your employee handbook sets your expectations: your new hires know exactly what they are getting into, and that clarity can make it easier to address discipline or productivity issues down the road. If the handbook is precise, it can even help protect you in a lawsuit.

A handbook is a reflection of your organization, so you want it to be well-organized, clear, and free of mistakes. This reassures your new employees you care about the way you do things. It shows your company understands its own mission and wants everyone else to understand it, too.

A good handbook also saves resources by cutting down on the number of questions your new hire asks your staff members. When everything is addressed and carefully explained in the handbook, your newest employees find clarity on the subject at hand without having to ask your veteran employees. Besides, if your handbook isn’t clear in the first place, your old employees might not be sure about certain things, either, and they might accidentally share incorrect information with the new hire.

What to Include in Your Employee Handbook

Some handbook topics are required by law: the U.S. Department of Labor outlines items that must be included. These laws may vary from state to state. This article mentions several important handbook sections, some of which may be required in your state and some of which are just a good idea, including:

  • Non-discrimination policy
  • Policies on vacation, sick leave, family leave, holidays, etc.
  • Policies on reporting unacceptable behavior or resolving conflicts
  • Company history, vision, and mission statement
  • Disclaimers (this is not a contract, these policies are subject to change, etc.)
  • Employee conduct and dress code
  • Policies on meal and snack breaks
  • Social media policies (if and when social platforms can be used during work hours and what type of work-related material can be shared)
  • Employee benefits
  • Payment schedule and details
  • Paths to promotions, bonuses, and professional development
  • Employee acknowledgment (employee signs to acknowledge that he or she has read the handbook)

Your company and culture may require additional sections to address policies and expectations unique to you or your industry. Failing to include vital information or including too many (or not enough) details regarding a particular policy can confuse a new hire and leave you vulnerable to legal action from disgruntled employees. Because it’s impossible to mention every potential scenario or consideration, for example, it may be best to be more general in certain sections rather than risk leaving something off an already lengthy list.

Get Your Employee Handbook Right

Hiring a PEO to help you develop your handbook is an easy way to make sure you stay compliant with all laws regarding what must be included in the handbook. It also ensures a clear, thorough finished product to present to your new hires. It saves your company time and resources in the development stage and helps you prevent costly mistakes. Contact Harbor America to learn more about employee handbook development and how we can help you create or update employee handbooks, training manuals, and more.


8 Ideas for Boosting Employee Loyalty and Retention

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Fortune called it the biggest problem facing employers in 2017: employee retention. The truth is, considering the high cost of recruiting, hiring, and onboarding new talent, this is a timeless concern that followed us into 2018—and will follow us beyond this year.

When an employee doesn’t feel loyal to your company, you get, at best, a lackluster effort that results in low productivity. You may even find you’re paying someone to browse job listings for a few hours a day. When that employee has finally had enough and leaves, you’re stuck: you need to devote time and resources to finding the right person and then getting him or her up to speed on the job duties. And there’s an unfortunate chance that person might not work out, either.

Even though a PEO can help you with recruiting and hiring, it’s much wiser to retain the employees you have. Here are eight ways to help you do that:

Invest in Employee Development

Your top talent wants to continue to learn and grow. When you offer opportunities to do that, whether via in-house training, seminars, and conventions, or even an allowance for purchasing books or online courses, your employees learn skills that will help them be better at their jobs. They also know you value them enough to provide such opportunities.

Respect Their “Other” Lives

They are more than just workers: your employees are human beings with families, hobbies, and goals that have nothing to do with the workplace. Offering benefits and perks that acknowledge this is one way to build their loyalty to your company. People striving for a work/life balance are inspired to work for someone who gives them space to achieve this. This could mean onsite childcare, flexible work hours, the option to telecommute, wellness programs (which could include gym memberships, healthy workplace snacks, etc.), and more.

Put Safety First

This seems obvious, but a lack of concern about safety is immediately felt by employees. It’s hard for them to trust you if you’re not looking out for their health and well-being, and it makes sense for them to move on to another job if they feel like they’re putting themselves at risk every day.

Provide a Career Path

There should be opportunities within your company for promotions and raises as merited. Those who have the ambition to climb higher should understand the path to do so. When that path is murky or littered with unexpected roadblocks, morale drops quickly.

Pay Them What They’re Worth

A higher salary for the same job somewhere else is an easy choice for someone who’s already dissatisfied with his or her working situation. Provide a competitive salary and top-notch benefits to encourage top talent to stay with you.

Trust Them

They’re adults, and you hired them for a reason. Micromanaging is deflating. If you don’t trust their work, you shouldn’t have hired them in the first place.

Have a plan in place for when someone’s work starts to slip. An appropriate warning and a game plan to help them get back on track shows them you care about the work they do, and you want to keep them around to do it.

The “trust” theme may also include keeping employees up-to-speed on company developments, even the difficult ones. When it’s time to make changes within the company, ask your employees for suggestions and include them in the decision-making process when appropriate.

Give Back

Many employees today want their employers to be environmentally and socially responsible. It’s a source of pride for an employee to say, “Look how much my company cares,” and they enjoy getting involved in the process. Get involved in your community, and look for opportunities to give back in ways that align with your vision.

Show Your Appreciation

Don’t assume your employees know what a good job they’re doing. Everyone wants to feel valued and appreciated, and this may be as simple as writing a quick email congratulating someone on a recent sale or a handwritten note thanking someone for coming in early this week to finish a project. Bigger gestures might include surprises like a catered lunch, a party or outing, or a gift.

Building employee loyalty is all about creating a culture of teamwork and appreciation where employees know their work matters. Implementing some of these tips may take time and money initially, but they will save both in the long run when your company is full of happy, longtime employees.

Let Harbor America Help You Boost Employee Loyalty and Respect

Harbor America can help you with employee benefits packages, as well as payroll, HR, and more, so you can spend more time nurturing a positive company culture that encourages retention. Contact us to learn more about our services and how they may help you build employee loyalty while saving time and money.


Cultivating a More Respectful Workplace Environment

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You may be highly trained and proficient in all the aspects of your business, but if your employees are rude or simply don’t respect one another, your company will suffer from high turnover and absenteeism. A hostile work environment negatively affects productivity and can be quite costly. In fact, one study showed that American employees devoted 2.8 hours each week resolving conflicts, which cost $359 billion in lost work time.

Unfortunately, many of today’s workplaces struggle with this issue. Here are a few basic guidelines for cultivating a more respectful workplace environment:

Recognize and Respect Different Opinions

One of the main ways to promote civility in a workplace is by being more inclusive. Realize your employees are individuals, each with their own unique life experiences, backgrounds, and views. Before expressing your opinions, take time to listen to their views, even if you initially think they’re wrong. Furthermore, don’t interrupt, cut off or speak over someone who’s talking.

Put an End to Gossip

A huge problem today in workplaces is gossip. When this occurs, it’s critical that you have a one-on-one meeting with the specific individuals who are starting the rumors. Meet in a conference room where you can shut the door, so no one else can hear what you’re saying. The people starting these malicious rumors need to understand how spreading gossip hurts a business, leading to severe consequences, such as being demoted or fired.

Make a Policy to Not Discuss Politics or Religion at Work

Be sure your employees make a habit of not discussing politics or religion at work as this usually leads to conflict. Although workers who like to express their political or religious views hope to change the beliefs of others, the likelihood is extremely low when trying to do so and especially at the workplace. Even worse, airing political and/or religious differences can create walls between co-workers rather than build bridges.

Encourage Your Employees to Look for the Positive 

Whenever an employee comes to you complaining about a co-worker, listen intently to what he or she has to say and find ways to solve the problem. However, it’s just as important to point out the good in people who tend to be more challenging. For example, you could say something like, “I can understand how you may feel intimidated by Mr. K’s harsh tone, but he’s been a faithful employee for more than 30 years and has been instrumental in securing major contracts. Is there anything you like about him as a co-worker?”

Set a Good Example

If you set positive standards as to how to treat co-workers respectfully but fail to be a positive example, your efforts are useless. Thus, it’s important to model those qualities so that people working for you can follow in your footsteps.

Other Considerations and Warnings

  • Recognize your triggers regarding what angers and frustrates you and then find ways to control how you react.
  • Instead of relying on assumptions about someone, take the needed time to get the facts regarding a situation.
  • Practice active listening when you talk with your employees. This shows that you respect them and truly care about what they think.
  • In addition to watching what you say, be aware of your tone of voice and body language.
  • Recognize your own weaknesses. When you acknowledge that you’ve made mistakes, too, you become more approachable and human. This can help your employees to be more transparent with you.
  • Learn to laugh at yourself and encourage your employees to do likewise instead of making fun of co-workers.
  • Don’t be overly critical or judge employees on stuff that isn’t that important.
  • If you must criticize someone, try to add something positive before you criticize. In other words, use the “sandwich approach”, in which you start and end with positive statements. What’s more, teach your employees to do use this technique when dealing with co-workers.
  • Encourage your employees to be sensitive to the needs of others.

Get Help With Your HR From Harbor America

Creating a respectful workplace environment can take a good portion of your time, leaving you with fewer hours in your workday. Why not join the growing number of business managers who are handing over the job of HR (Human Relations) to a PEO (Personal Employer Organization). HR is one of the many services of Harbor America. Please contact us for a free consultation and learn more about how we can help you accomplish more.


Is Your Payroll System a Total Disaster?

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Do you run a small or mid-sized business? If you do, then how is your payroll system? Is it in order or is your payroll a total disaster? If it isn’t as streamlined, accurate or organized as it should be, you could face huge problems. Here are some of the most common payroll mistakes and the potential consequences of not keeping a tidy payroll system:

Errors in Employee Classification on W-2 Forms

Not classifying employees properly is one of the most common payroll mistakes. When this occurs, it can result in major employment tax penalties. In other words, sometimes business contractors classify workers as independent contractors to avoid having to pay the extra costs for Workers’ Compensation, Social Security and State Unemployment.

Poor Record Keeping

Failing to keep accurate records is another sign of a messy payroll system as well as failing to gather the right data. Although it takes time, it’s critical you keep a chronological history of everything pertaining to your business and employees since not doing so can result in having to pay hefty fines and penalties (including interest).

Confidentiality Breaches

Breaches in confidentiality in your payroll can lead to problems. Your payroll system should be set up so that your employees cannot find out the salaries of their coworkers or even your salary.

Being Unaware of Tax Laws

Probably, the most dangerous payroll error is ignorance. If you’re not up to date on all the tax laws, you’ll suffer. You need to familiarize yourself with all the mandatory regulations and keep up-to-date as these change. This can be a very daunting task, which is one reason why it makes sense to outsource payroll to a PEO.

Rushing Through Payroll

Not taking the time needed for doing your payroll can lead to either underpaying or overpaying employees, resulting in employees questioning your abilities. What’s more, when your payroll is inaccurate, your business could experience severe financial consequences during audit checks when the numbers fail totally.

Potential Consequences of an Untidy Payroll System 

  • Payroll mistakes can lead to considerable financial loss for your company.
  • Legal problems—Often, businesses are faced with audits and other types of legal actions because of payroll errors and messy record keeping.
  • Productivity can suffer when you’re forced to spend hours or even days searching for lost records, instead of working. As time is money, this can also cost you financially.
  • When you spend valuable office time trying to correct payroll mistakes, it’s easy for your employees to not be paid on time. Falling behind on a payroll schedule can affect company morale and lead to employees quitting.
  • Data loss is another significant consequence. That’s why you should have a backup plan in case records are lost. In the worst cases, companies can go bankrupt or even go out of business because of lost records, lack of compliance, or financial errors.

Other Warnings and Considerations

  • Taxes are one of the most complex features of payroll. Consider how it’s easy to make errors in the withholding process because deductions can be either mandatory, or they can be voluntary.
  • One way to determine if an employee is an independent contractor or an employee is by asking how much control your company has over a worker. The more control there is over a worker, the more likely he or she is an employee and not an independent contractor.
  • If you have misclassified any of your employees as independent contractors, it’s imperative that you immediately contact the IRS.
  • Consider that part of a payroll system may entail paying money that an employee owes to someone else or a third party, such as garnished wages for child support. When this is overlooked or mishandled, your business can be affected.
  • Stress to your employees the importance of informing the HR (Human Resources) department when there are changes in their employment histories.
  • It’s a good idea to have mandatory employee data checks on a quarterly basis to make sure that your payroll system is updated and accurate, regarding the information you have on them.

Get Help With Your Payroll System From Harbor America

You don’t have to be a slave to your payroll. More and more business owners are discovering the benefits of outsourcing their payroll system to a PEO (Professional Employer Organization). This is just one of the many services we offer at Harbor America. Please contact us for a free quote and learn more about how you can find more hours in your workday.


Cyber Liability Insurance – Is It Really Necessary for Small Businesses?

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Cybersecurity has been a hot topic of discussion for businesses in the last few years, thanks to infamous data breaches like the incident with Target in 2014 or Experian in 2017. One of the biggest questions on everyone’s mind is how to defend against cybercrime in general, and especially data breaches.

Many companies – large and small – are looking to cybersecurity software to keep them safe and minimize risk. This is a good idea, but statistics show that both the amount of data stored in the cloud and the number of cybercrimes committed are rising. Unfortunately, cybercriminals are wise to the measures businesses and individuals are taking. Businesses, especially smaller ones, should consider the benefits of cyber liability insurance as part of a backup plan in the event that their security measures fail.

What is cyber liability insurance?

Cyber liability insurance is a specific type of insurance policy that is meant to protect businesses and individuals from internet-based risks, such as data breaches or cybercrimes.

Generally speaking, there are two levels of coverage under these policies. The first is first-party coverage, which covers the direct losses a person or an organization suffers. The second is a third-party, which takes care of legal actions or claims brought against the company by its partners or customers.

This sub-category of insurance may also be referred to as cyber insurance or cyber risk insurance.

How it benefits small businesses to have cyber liability insurance

With all of the incidents in the news in the last few years related to large businesses, small business owners may feel like they are less of a target for data breaches or cybercrimes, but this is not necessarily true. Verizon’s 2018 Data Breach Investigation Report actually shows 58% of the victims in incidents reported to them in 2017 were small business owners.

That is more than half of the cases reported to Verizon. Clearly, there is a need. But how does cyber insurance benefit small businesses?

1) It acts as a second line of defense.

In the age of the internet, no business should be without a cybersecurity system in place. Clients and customers entrust their private information, including credit card and bank account information, to the businesses they work with. Once they give it out, they expect their business partners to protect that information as if it were their own.

No system is perfect, however. Cyber liability insurance can act as a second line of defense if cybersecurity is breached by allowing business owners to offer remedies once it has occurred.

2) Your business will not get wiped out.

As many businesses who have fallen victim can tell you, it gets expensive to deal with the fallout from these incidents. Potential costs include:

  • Fines imposed on your business or claims filed against it
  • Lost business on days you are closed down to investigate what happened and the extend of the damages
  • Lost sales due to the damage to your business’s reputation
  • Installing new security systems or updating the systems already in place
  • Goodwill gestures like free credit monitoring for a certain period of time for customers and extra discounts and service promotions

For small businesses, it can be a fatal blow. In 2016, Small Business Trends reported that 60% of all small businesses that are on the receiving end of a cybercrime or data breach go out of business within six months of the incident occurring. No one wants it to be them, but it happens.

While having an insurance policy will not prevent events like these, you can focus on figuring out what happened and how to make things right with your customers and business partners.

Protect your small business with Harbor America

Looking for more ways to protect your small business? Click here for a free guide. For more help with everything from compliance to payroll, be sure to check out Harbor America’s services.