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August 2019

Breaking Down Organizational Silos

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Organizational silos are somewhat the nature of being in business, working in a specific department, or out of a regional office. While it’s hardly the intention of any employer to construct silos, they will eventually creep up, separating groups of people by department, project, geography, function or role, or skill set.

A block against collaboration, communication, and sharing, silos can inadvertently cause duplication of effort and potentially cost. For example, one group may be working on a project and be unaware that another department is nearly done with a very similar project which will yield the same outcome. Managers will find this to be a waste of time and resources, and ultimately, cost.

There are a number of ways to implement a more collaborative environment and break down the existing organizational silos. Here are our top recommendations:

Adopt a Team Collaboration Software

Team collaboration software is an application that contains all of the possible elements needed for a team to work collectively on a project. This software helps employees of any organization come together to more effectively track, report, communicate, and manage projects.  Software like Microsoft Teams, Slack, or Asana are just a few of the available platforms. Each has their own pros and cons, however, the most valuable aspect of each platform is the collaboration where departments can get more done with a joint-mindset.

Share Company Goals. Create Joint Team/Department Goals.

Every company has its own annual goals, which are typically in addition to its mission and vision. Team and department missions should include an effort to localize the larger company goals, finding elements of the goal attainability that apply directly to the team. Continue the “one-team” mentality by either creating key initiatives that feed the company goals. Led by a unified team of managers, each department’s employees will encourage one another to step out of the silos.

Employ Cross-Training or Interdepartmental Liaisons

One of the reasons silos are not a preferred operational method is the innate separation in communication and collaboration. In addition to streamlining processes to eliminate any gaps or segmented roles, nominate one person from each team to act as an interdepartmental liaison. This person will work to encourage cross-team communication and collaboration during a project or specific time-frame.

If this additional role doesn’t make sense for your company, the idea of cross-training may be more your speed. Cross-training allows members from each team to learn aspects of a different role. This helps the teams eliminate a single point of failure. This is where only one person knows how to do one specific task or use a specific application. If they are sick or leave the company, that process fails. Cross-training also ensures employees know what their available resources are, where to get information, and how to enlist the assistance of other departments.

While each of your departments and teams may be operating at full capacity that doesn’t mean they are communicating or collaborating effectively with other teams or departments. Don’t let working silos derail your business’s forward momentum Contact Harbor America to see how we can help by providing a professional team of HR experts ready to assist with employee onboarding, handbook development, or regulatory compliance. Our help can give you the necessary time back to focus on eliminating existing inter-departmental silos.

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Improving the Payroll Process

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The idea of payroll seems straightforward. A company sells a product or service. The revenue from those sales is distributed between operational costs and payroll. Employees who log hours during the payroll period get paid for their work.

Small and medium-sized companies often feel that this process is better managed if it is done manually. However, the multiple tasks associated with “payroll” can be rather confusing and result in a variety of problems. Especially as the business grows, the once easily managed manual methods may become overwhelming as additional employees are added to the mix.

In addition to simply paying employees, the employer is also required to track time worked, attendance, and have a good handle on reports for annual or quarterly audits. Other issues can arise from properly setting up employees in a payroll application or platform, calculating deductions, direct deposit, and managing the reporting of hourly employees who clock-in or out.

Employees rely on effective and accurate payroll processing from their employers. If the payroll process is delayed or inaccurate, the employee is likely to incur issues in their personal life as it relates to finances. This can cause undue hardship between the employee and the employer.

Whether you are processing payroll manually or using a human capital management (HCM) platform that includes payroll processing, we recommend using these tips to improve your existing payroll process.

Use a Payroll Calendar.

Create a payroll calendar that includes payroll cycle start and end dates and pay dates. The calendar will need to take into account Federal and/or holidays observed by the organization that falls during the regular workweek. Marking these holidays on the calendar will help to reinforce the cycle start and end dates. Post the calendar in a conspicuous place, in addition to making it available on the company intranet. This is also a great piece to include in the new hire packet.

Self-Check with Regular Audits.

Gross wages, benefits, social security and Medicare, and tax withholdings are all factors of your payroll process that need to be evaluated on a regular basis. Develop a regular audit schedule if you are processing payroll manually. This audit should include a verification of all active employees, confirm pay rates match employee records, hours worked match hours paid, time is labeled correctly (i.e. PTO, bereavement, holiday, regular, etc.), compare your general ledger to your bank statement, and check to ensure withholdings and remittance are correct based on each employee’s tax amount.

If you are enlisting the assistance of an HCM, you should still double-check many of these same elements. As the employer, it is your responsibility to know where your business stands in terms of your payroll process. This includes understanding active vs. terminated or inactive employees, hours worked vs hours paid, etc.

Know Your State and Federal Tax Policies.

It is fair to say that most business owners find taxes and bookkeeping to be one of the most difficult or less favored parts of owning a business. This does not minimize, however, the importance of these tasks, especially as they relate to compliance. While using an HCM with a payroll feature can help minimize your compliance concerns, this does not remove your responsibility of also manually maintaining payroll compliance. It is important to keep a close eye on legislative updates on a federal and local level to ensure your business is compliant and policies are current.

Here are some additional resources:

Include a Strong Payroll Policy in Your Handbook.

Employees aren’t required to fully understand the payroll system, but they should be able to access information quickly and easily to help answer any questions they may have. For example, unpaid taxes or employee misclassifications is an item that should be covered in the employee handbook.

Overall, it is better to be as transparent and forthcoming as you can regarding any organizational policies. This will leave little room for interpretation and misunderstanding on the employee’s part. At the very least, your employee handbook should detail employee classification, how salaries are calculated, employee reporting, how promotions are calculated, and how the business handles any payroll mistakes.

Processing payroll can be one of the most time consuming and costly aspects of your business. Harbor America payroll solutions offer businesses peace of mind when it comes to wage garnishments and deduction, direct deposit, reporting, and time and attendance. In addition, we will actually file and distribute your W-2s and manage your State and Federal filings. Contact us to learn how we can eliminate these and other tedious payroll-related tasks.

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Avoiding Dust Hazards in Agriculture

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While we have already explored the importance of prioritizing respiratory protection for safeguarding employees from exposure to airborne contaminants while on the job, we wanted to dive in a little further on organic dust toxicity syndrome (ODTS) in the agriculture industry.

Agriculture is “defined as embracing all forms of activity connected with growing, harvesting and primary processing of all types of crops; with breeding, raising, and caring for animals; and with tending gardens and nurseries.”[1] As one of the oldest activities known to man, agriculture is one of the more common professions around the world.

While the notion of farming brings wide open, rolling fields and clean, fresh air to mind, the reality is that farming is filled with potential respiratory hazards, including dust. Dust can appear in any work setting, including:

  • Mineral dust from mineral processing
  • Chemical dust from bulk chemicals and pesticides
  • Vegetable dust and pollen from wood, flour, cotton, or tea
  • Mold and spores

Workers who are most likely to become exposed to work-related dust include those who are “[exposed] to soil, intensive animal husbandry, dry vegetable products, or agrochemicals.”[2] This organic dust (dust that comes from hay, grain pesticides, chemicals, feed and bedding particles, or hair, feathers, and droppings “can lead to congestion, coughing or wheezing, sensitivity to dust, and frequent infections, such as colds, bronchitis, and pneumonia.”[3]

The best ways to prevent prolonged dust exposure or limit the amount of inhaled dust particles are:

  • Wear proper respiratory protection or personal protective equipment at all times.
  • Supply and regularly employ automated equipment to maneuver materials with high organic dust content.
  • Use proper wetting techniques when moving or working with feed, cleaning grain bins, or any dusty surface or container.
  • Ensure ventilation systems are well maintained in barns and silos to minimize worker exposure to dust.

Harbor America approaches safety as a crucial business element. Contact us to learn more about our wide range of accident prevention and OSHA compliance resources, including respiratory safety and procedures for avoiding dust hazards.

[1] American Thoracic Society: Respiratory Health Hazards in Agriculture

[2] World Health Organization: Hazard Prevention and Control in the Work Environment

[3] United States Department of Labor: Youth in Agriculture: Organic Dust

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Preparing Employees for Change Management

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Change, as they say, is inevitable. This is even more accurate in a business environment. Organizations around the world are becoming more comfortable operating in a constant state of change. From adjustments to process and procedures, workflows, acquisitions, and mergers, or organizational structure—this type of change is no longer a far-fetched concept. And while managers attempt to at least put an optimistic spin on the change, most of these events do come with both positive and negative elements.

Initiating change management isn’t easy, but it can be done in a constructive and thoughtful manner that softens the blow for employees. Here are our tips for preparing employees to handle upcoming change management:

Map Out the Process

Taking the time early in the project to map out the change management process is not only a great way to keep project members on track and on task, but this will also become an integral aspect of the go-forward communication to employees. Create a detailed action plan that can substitute as a step-by-step guide for the project team. The map can be adjusted slightly as you work through the process, but by the time communication reaches employees, the map should be considered a static document.


Be Clear About the Why

Employees don’t love surprises when they pertain to throwing a proverbial wrench in their everyday life. Take the time to craft open, honest messages to the staff to explain why these changes are taking place. If you’re uncertain or not comfortable discussing the change management, it may be time to slow down or take a step back to make sure that you and your leadership team are clear on why the change is being initiated in the first place. Making sure the team leading the project fully understands (and is enthusiastic about) the why will be crucial to being able to confidently speak about the change.

Include Training When Necessary

While the notion of training in a change management process may not always be necessary, it is safe to assume that most change management will involve a process adjustment or tweak that could include a training segment of some sort, regardless of the length. Employees will see the training as an opportunity to further their professional skills and fill them with confidence as the project nears the conclusion. Ideally, these training sessions will help the employee’s transition to the new process and save management time on the back end answering questions or going back over the new workflow with independent employees, instead of in a group-learning situation.

Experts at Harbor America can help your teams manage evolving areas of the business, including change management and organizational documentation updates, including the employee handbook. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you keep your employees happy and help prepare for upcoming change management.