Tips for Small Business Owners Archives - Harbor America

Upskilling to Lead Company Revamping

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With the HR industry revitalizing and revamping its strategies to best position businesses in the competitive markets, the hunt for top talent is scarce. Marketing efforts have evolved to unique and quality benefits that attract younger, mobile candidates, as well as innovative, robust workplace settings and culture to retain top employees. With the struggle of attracting and maintaining a strong workforce, companies may see a shift to utilizing upskilling methods rather than engaging in the daunting HR processes for terminating, hiring, and recovering from employee turnover.

Upskilling is employer-provided training and education to learn new skills and enhance already established skillsets. This investment in employees showcases the value you have for their expertise, their trust, and enthusiasm to further their career within your corporation, and provides a win-win situation.

66% of global executives prioritize upskilling their employees.1 Upskilling provides benefits for both employees and employers.

For employees, upskilling provides broad growth opportunities and marketability. Learning new skills and honing established skillsets equip employees with more opportunities to advance their careers. With AI and automation revolutionizing the workforce, upskilling presents employees with a competitive edge to demonstrate adaptability and collaborative skills.

For employers, upskilling boosts employee retention and competitive strategy among rivaling companies and industries. Upskilling can reduce job vacancies and onboarding expenses, while also providing professional development opportunities for current employees. Progressing employee skills to adapt to changes in the market allows your business to prosper and sustain an ambitious position in the marketplace.

How to Implement an Upskilling Strategy

Evaluate business demands. The first and best place to begin strategizing for upskilling begins with evaluating the skill gaps and brainstorming solutions. From there, you can determine an appropriate approach to implementing such solutions.

Strategize long-term needs and resources. Next, you should look to the market that you service and predict shifts in skillsets and systems that will influence the employee demand and marketability. This will allow you to strategize for future needs and resources that will [sustain] in the long term.

Analyze employee needs. Employees carry individual skillsets that benefit your business. Take a moment to analyze what each employee brings to the table, and then identify potential areas of expanding such skillsets to further assist your business challenges.

Develop adequate upskilling programs. Cultivating programs tailored to both employee interests and business needs will provide more successful upskilling. Ensure programs are up to date with market and business changes, as well as using sufficient technology to advance such programs. Take advantage of technology. Investing in technology, such as performance management tools, can assist in the proper identification of areas for improvement, as well as methods for developing skills to improve.

Looking for ways to revamp your company’s approach to recruiting and employee retention? Harbor America provides an inclusive suite of HR management solutions, including onboarding, compliance, unemployment, and much more. Contact us today to learn more about ways to promote the use of upskilling and other resources available to advance your business needs.


1HR Insights: Benefits of Upskilling

Small businesses can get access to the kinds of benefits Fortune 500 companies have by working with a Professional Employer Organization, or PEO.

Let’s Get Real About Small Businesses

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Most business owners are initially driven with the purpose of becoming their own boss, but the reality is they are also becoming a cog in the economic wheel drives the nation. 57.9 million people are employed by small businesses which currently makes up 47.8% of U.S. employees.

Although small businesses are a dynamic part of our nation, they are less likely than ever to offer competitive benefits packages due to the company not having affordable access to enterprise-level benefits.

There are many reasons people love supporting and shopping with small businesses. As the business owner, you have a way to make each customer feel special by customizing and adding personal touches to their experiences.

Customers that like the boutique shopping experience will appreciate the details of higher quality products that stem from the passion, energy, and effort devoted to the business.

From small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, new, top candidates are attracted to work for the organization, many times, based on the employee benefits package. Quality benefits include 401(k) plans; health, dental, life, and other insurance; dependent care; and other benefits they might not typically receive as employees of a small company.

What if you could have the best of both worlds? With a PEO in your corner, you can! Being a part of the largest privately-owned PEO in the country, we allow you, the small business owner, to improve productivity and profitability, and to focus on the core missions of your company. All while keeping the small business values that Americans crave in their product and service needs.

Don’t become another statistic. Contact Harbor America to find out how we can giving your small businesses the quality of benefits your employees deserve.

Partner Post: Helping Small Businesses Understand Workers Comp

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Workers’ compensation, the insurance that safeguards employers from liability if employees are injured in the workplace, includes coverage for medical bills, lost wages, and ensures the employer will not be sued for injuries or illnesses related to the workplace. A great additional level of coverage for any employer, workers’ compensation underlines an employer’s role in taking responsibility for the safety of employees in the workplace.

Small business owners are not exempt from employee injuries or workplace safety, however, many states require businesses to carry workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. (Check your state’s workers’ compensation laws or contact us at Harbor America.) Regardless of the severity of the employee injury, workers’ compensation will ensure the injured employee, the employer, or a customer receives the care that is necessary to address their medical needs.

However, not all small businesses understand the basics of workers’ compensation. Here is what small business employers need to know:

1. Workers’ compensation coverage is purchased separately from business insurance. We recommend choosing an insurer who is not only familiar with workers’ compensation claims in your state, but that is also well versed in the coverage you need for your specific business.

2. If your business requires employees to work with or around occupational hazards or illnesses related to your industry, it is a good idea to obtain coverage.

3. Employee health insurance isn’t the same as workers’ compensation insurance. These are two separate and, in fact, very different policies.

4. Physical injuries or illnesses obtained while on the job qualify for workers’ compensation coverage. However, if an employee was using a piece of equipment against manufacturer instructions or were acting dangerously even after receiving proper training, the claim could be denied.

5. Independent contractors are typically ineligible for workers’ compensation coverage.

6. Workers’ compensation typically does not cover injuries or illnesses obtained while not on the job, injuries that occurred while the employee was committing a crime or as a result of violating company policy, or self-inflicted injuries.”

Protecting your employees, yourself, and your customers is an important aspect of making sure your business runs smoothly—especially for a small business owner. Workers’ compensation, in addition to employer liability, can help pay for legal fees, court costs, and settlements the employer may be required to pay in the event of a lawsuit. Learn how to best protect your business by contacting Harbor America.


As seen originally on insured Solutions Blog: August 13, 2019.

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Workplace Investigation Best Practices

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Workplace investigations are a critical element in establishing a safe work environment. The investigations, however, can involve negotiating several sensitive and personal topics or disputes. Conducted properly, a workplace investigation can actually help to reduce conflict, positively promote inclusion, and reduce the organization’s legal liability.

A workplace investigation can be initiated by suspected substance abuse, discrimination or harassment threats, theft, or outright violations of work policies, or other reasons. All investigations or reasons initiating the investigation will be different, so there is no cut and dry workflow to handle each, but basic procedures should be outlined.

The person(s) chosen to lead investigations should be respected, knowledgeable about company policies, procedures, and employee rights (including employment law), and trained in conducting workplace investigation interviews. When necessary, some situations may require a member of the executive team to be involved. This person should also exhibit these same areas of experience.

Here are some recommended steps for ensuring workplace investigations are executed effectively.

  • Ensure the HR team is equipped and prepared to recognize and introduce an investigation when one is needed.
  • Work quickly to identify involved parties and interview them in a specific manner. For example, start with the person who brought forward the complaint, the accused harasser, any witnesses, and then follow up with a second conversation with the complainant.
  • Use your company’s standard tracking and record-keeping system to maintain and establish and maintain secure files pertaining to the investigation.
  • Document everything. Take notes throughout each interview and compose a summary once complete.
  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep. For instance, promising an interviewee that the information they share will be completely confidential. This is untrue. Elements of the investigation will likely be shared with people who are required to understand the full scope of the incident to take appropriate action in response to the pending investigation.

After the investigation concludes, review all of the steps taken in addition to the final report. Make suggestions for essential improvements to increase effectiveness and ensure future investigations will continue to run smoothly. Contact Harbor America to learn more about workplace investigations, developing the proper policies and procedures, or to customize a solution for everything related to the HR functions you’re unable to give your full attention.

Helping Your Small Business Survive 2019

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Small and medium-sized businesses face different issues than large or enterprise-level companies. For example, early in their journey, small and medium-sized businesses have a harder time predicting growth patterns. Keep your company vision clear, but supplement what you don’t know about the market with what you’re able to control: how you market, how you sell, and your brand perception. Regardless of the size of your business, you too can survive 2019 with these helpful tips:

  • Stay competitive in terms of prices, but keep your budget in check.
  • Quality will never be sacrificed if your budget is always low—even when business is booming.
  • Use the internet to your advantage by selling your services online. Instead of sending a rep on-site, use your digital tools to get back on track.
  • Allocate enough money toward marketing and sales each year including research and industry data that will help your growing business thrive.

Contact Harbor America when it’s time to review your business plan and start planning your 2020 successes.

Who to Hire: Contractor vs. Employee

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When it comes down to the hiring status, between a contractor and employee, most employers have a preference or at least a policy to help govern the designation of these hires. “The IRS and Department of Labor pay close attention to worker classification issues to ensure that employers are making the right determinations”[1] when it comes to employment.

Here are the main differences between employing a contractor or an employee:

Interested in learning more? Contact Harbor America to get started.

[1] The CPA Journal: Employee Versus Independent Contractor

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Overcoming New Manager Challenges

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The candidate pool for quality candidates has shifted, especially when it comes to proper managerial candidates. Employers who are forced to look externally to bring in new management are faced with a different situation that has existed in the last decade, as the unemployment rate is low, and the job market is continuously changing in each industry.

For people transitioning to a managerial role for the first time, there is a lot to consider to ensure that your time in the new role is productive and sets you up for your next move somewhere in the future. Managers, however, tend to have the same struggles. Whether an employer is bringing in a new manager-level person to the company or an employee has recently received a promotion, these managers will face similar issues. Navigating learning opportunities, delegating certain tasks, and getting the feel for long-standing dynamics and unwritten organizational rules.

You can help new managers ensure success on your team by:

  • Relying on your human resource team when it comes to your first hire or fire within the organization. The HR team should be more than willing to jump to help support new managers through the hiring or firing process, address any negative emotions from laying someone off or even suggest some helpful tools or conversations with the new manager’s team.
  • Encouraging any new manager to focus on building inter-departmental trust and relationships. New leaders can many times be harboring a bit of anxiety around their team—trust and relationship building can be a great way to overcome this. With new entry-level employees, many companies assign a buddy, someone who has been with the organization, potentially in a similar role, for a while. This gives the new employee someone to lean on from day one. This same strategy should be applied for new managers, suggesting a managerial-level buddy who can help the new manager navigate the choppy waters of taking on an existing team.
  • Helping the new manager find their “sweet spot” in terms of their managerial style. All teams are different, and therefore should not be managed in typical cookie-cutter fashion. There is a sensitive balance between being too distant or hands-off and micromanaging. The best way to gauge where a new manager’s “sweet spot” should be is to simply ask employees what they prefer, how they handle heavy workloads, and how they think they could better align to meet company goals.

Starting a new managerial role should be a fun and exciting time in a person’s life. It is important to remember that a manager’s success is built on the backs of their employees’ success. Over time, the manager’s relationship and report with employees will become more comfortable and familiar. Until then, it is okay to be confident as a new manager, while also remaining humble and self-aware.

Harbor America helps clients breed passionate leaders while supporting the profound desire to build a strong business and strong community. Adding a new manager to an existing team can be stressful for the team, the new manager, and the existing leadership. Let Harbor America help get your organization prepared for new hires by upgrading to an electronic onboarding system. Contact us to learn more.

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Designing a Benefits Package for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses

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55% of employees would accept a position at a company with lower compensation for a more robust benefits package.[1] But how does one compile a more robust benefits package?

It is important to note that regardless of the size of your business, any organization can offer a substantial benefits package. A common misconception concerning small to medium-sized businesses is that they are unable to afford or will not even be considered for good benefit package offerings typically reserved for larger organizations.

In order to start offering better benefits, however, you need to make sure you have a good hold on your finances and have a strong financial planning foundation in place. In most cases, going without benefits for your employees may be a temporary cushion for your bottom line, the long-term effects will inadvertently keep your business from growing.

“Organizations that use benefits as a strategic tool for recruiting and retaining talent reported better overall company performance and above-average effectiveness in recruitment and retention compared with organizations that did not.”[2]

Partnering with a PEO can save businesses of any size from all the legwork of vetting providers and carriers, comparing plans, and pricing. As a PEO customer, you will have access to plans typically available for only enterprise organizations. Your employees will have a larger choice in doctors, hospitals, and will be able to see out of network providers, for an additional out-of-pocket fee.

If working on your own, you will find health insurance to be the most significant portion of your benefits budget. Dental and vision are traditionally not included in base health insurance plans. To include these you would need to source separate plans specific to dental and vision, respectively.

Retirement plans (401(k)s) are also highly sought-after benefits of employees of any age. You will need to decide if your organization will participate in employer-sponsored matching. This will make a difference in your budget at the end of the day.

Other plans that can be added to your benefits package could include life insurance policies, disability insurance, a health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA), basic paid time off (PTO) or unlimited time off (a new trend in PTO).

Harbor America is committed to helping businesses of any size add time back into their day. Regarding employee benefits, Harbor America clients are greeted with a wide range of benefit packages to not only attract top talent but retain your top performers. Contact us to start designing a benefits package specific to your employees and your business.

[1] HR Daily Advisor: Research Shows Strong Job Satisfaction, Benefits

[2] LinkedIn: These 5 Employee Benefits are Trending


Considering the Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

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Aside from ensuring employee safety, employee happiness and morale is one of the most important elements of any business. It may seem like helping manage your employees’ personal happiness is outside of your realm of responsibility as an employer, however, personal issues may impact an employee’s performance, productivity, and focus.

Employee assistance programs (EAP) are delivered as a no-cost workplace wellness program that offers services to help employees deal with any personal problems they may be facing. This includes substance abuse, stress management, financial problems, and more.

Most EAPs offer 24/7 phone access to trained counselors. The counselors are trained to discuss sensitive issues while maintaining employee confidentiality. The EAP offers direct counseling and treatment rather than just referrals to other practitioners.

Employers will also find benefit from the EAP as they have provided employees access to a resource that can help to remedy personal issues that could cause a decrease in productivity, absenteeism, or eventually abandoning their position.

Harbor America’s EAP includes access to highly-trained and experienced clinical providers, financial consultants, and elder care or child care specialists. With the goal of assisting employees to resolve issues before they get worse, Harbor America has the best interest in mind for you and your business. Contact us today to add EAP to your employee benefits program.