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Human Resources Simplified

helping businesses do more with less

Our team is focused on serving our clients. We bring education, experience, and enthusiasm to every business need. We are practitioners, authors, professors, consultants, professionals, managers, and trainers. Our degrees, certifications, accreditations, licenses, and registrations attest to our advanced academic achievements.

But it is our common sense, quality delivery, and practical experience that define our associates. We deliver accurate results for real companies in real time. We understand federal regulations and state regulations pertaining to the management of employees so that you can focus on what you do best.

A Full-Service Human Resources Consulting Company

Human Resources Consulting HR

Human Resources Consulting

Your employees are your most valuable resource. Keeping your staff motivated, productive and content is in your best interest. When your staff is not performing, we are here to advise you and guide you.

Business Consultant Interim Management

Interim Management

The practice of using a contract human resources executive, full-time or part-time, or an interim full time onsite HR executive, is a popular option. Interim managers are experienced executives with strategic management and specialist skills and a track record of achievement.

Job Training HR

Training

Companies that value their employees offer learning opportunities. Training is an organized activity aimed at imparting knowledge or developing skills and abilities to improve a team’s performance, satisfy annual education requirements, or provide education about new laws that affect a company’s employees.

Career Coaching Human Resources

Coaching

Beyond traditional group training lies individual coaching. Coaching looks at the outcomes desired and designs a plan to get there with the client. It is a journey both coach and client travel together to assist the client to achieve milestones through mental review, behavioral changes and actions implemented, always focused on the goals.

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Below is a List of Services We Do Best

  • Human Resources
  • Talent Development
  • Screening
  • Compensation
  • Coaching
  • Meeting Facilitating
  • Staffing
  • Employee Relations
  • Interviewing
  • Employee Safety
  • Teaching
  • Selection
  • Compliance
  • Employee Benefits
  • Termination
  • Training
  • Subject Matter Expert
  • Human Resources Audit
  • Employee Recordkeeping
  • Management Development
  • Hiring
  • Policies
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Recruiting
  • Interim Management
  • Workplace Investigating
  • Expert Witness

July Interview: Ardon Schambers on… Onboarding: New Strategies for Welcoming New Employees!

Q:  The first few weeks and months after hiring a new employee are critical for the mutual success of this hiring process. Onboarding is also known as organizational socialization and was previously known as company orientation. What would you describe as a modern definition of onboarding as it pertains to the human resources function?

A: I think that “Onboarding” is a concept that has, to some extent, evolved similarly to how Human Resources has changed over the years. Where “Personnel” was generally a record keeping/compliance function, in today’s progressive organizations, Human Resources handles most of the administrative functions of the past but has also moved into a more strategic role in shaping management practice and preparing the organization for the long-term perspective. Onboarding is a critical foundation building function that prepares an employee to operate effectively within the current and future culture that the organization is striving for.

Q: So, the process is a multi-step one that involves an introduction to the company, the department, and the actual job?

A:  Yes, it is these various steps.  But it needs to be much more. It goes beyond the introduction phase after the employee is hired.  It begins during the candidate selection phase. Shaping the organization’s employee brand is an essential element so that the ‘right’ employees come into the sourcing process to improve the quality of candidates, and where candidates can carry the brand to others, whether they are hired or not.

This means the process involves clear goals and training for all staff with the appropriate tools to shape the messages and tone of all communication to anyone touched by a connection to the company. Once selected and accepted, the onboarding process continues even after the initial orientation activities. It can involve follow-up on multiple topics both work related and personal. The intent is to plant the desired culture that supports the long-term objectives of the organization in a fashion that makes the individual feel ‘this is really the right organization for me’ and want to stay, grow and contribute for the long haul.

Q:  Just out of curiosity, is there also a term called offboarding in human resources?

A: That is an interesting question. I expect that organizations do have to deal with offboarding, but it falls under a variety of other labels.  Realistically, not all hires will be just right and may need to leave the organization. However, the idea is to minimize such hires where the offboarding occurs in a relatively short period after hire, due to inappropriate selection.

The other aspect of the process is where changes occur either in organization direction and needs to individual interests, skill levels or circumstances that no longer are cohesive and a parting of the ways is desirable. One aspect to note in this process is to be sure that the employees who remain with the organization see this process handled effectively and consistent with stated cultural values.

Q: I understand that today’s onboarding is much more inclusive and expansive than traditional orientation programs, can you explain?

A: As I noted previously, the onboarding process covers more topics, with greater depth, over a longer period of time.  But a primary difference from the typical new hire orientation, where you can almost have a one-to-two page standard check list of orientation tasks, an effective onboarding process is very much a program unique to each organization and to some extent job specific.

Consequently, preparation requires a fair amount of organization assessment, beginning with the strategic plan and involving analysis on anticipated organization change, and then tailoring the pieces to support the desired objectives, while at the same time meeting the initial needs of getting the employee prepared to start the principal position for which they were hired.

Q: I read on the Society for Human Resources Management website that 90 percent of employees decide whether to stay or go within that first six months. Employee turnover is expensive. How does a successful modern onboarding program reduce turnover?

A: The sooner a poor placement is discovered the better. But, unfortunately, the higher or more influential the position is, the longer the turnover is likely to take. Damage is often done during the whole period.

Remember that employee turnover comes from two perspectives: The employee, and the organization management. Therefore, the onboarding process must involve training management as well as doing the best possible job of selection and extensive information sharing with candidates. They can’t see inside the organization any better than the organization can know the individual in-depth during the selection process.  The prime objective is the get the best possible collaboration between the two, so everyone is a winner. A poor fit costs time, frustration and money.  The stats show anywhere from 35% to 120% of the annual income in hidden costs for a poor hire.  That is big-time money.

Q:  What are some modern strategies to create a successful program?

A: I’m not sure there are ‘modern strategies’ to create a successful program, but what is necessary is to apply some very basic tools in a comprehensive fashion.  Like with strategic planning, it starts with the establishment of clear measurable goals. This is then followed up with a detailed SWOT analysis of the various aspects of the existing programs and the identification of areas not handled but needed.  This information is utilized to shape the pieces required for the new onboarding process which needs to be implemented with knowledge and support, including enforcement when necessary by top organization leadership.  The last and rather important step is measurement against the stated goals.  And don’t be afraid of program adjustments, when circumstances warrant.

 Q: Should all organizations aim to create a program that works to welcome and facilitate new employees to adapt to their jobs, regardless if big or small, for-profit or non-profit? Are there ideas that small businesses or non-profits can use to create a program that will be effective and save the company money?

A: This is a really good question.  As for the type of organization, I don’t believe that is critical. Size and the number of employee changes will be more important.  My prior comments about the unique aspects and goals of the organization are critical design considerations.

Too often consultants will create a program and say this is what you have to do. The program may be ideal for many, but it is essential each program be designed around what the organization can and is prepared to accept. It may be best to develop a plan that can be implemented in stages. Knowing where you are going is more important than getting there in one fell swoop.

 Q: Can you give me an example of a successful company onboarding program?

A: I’m not certain we should respond to this question because that might lead an organization to select a program without doing a proper analysis of their own organization. An internet search will allow the researcher to find a list of the top 10 or best of class onboarding articles. For me, this is starting with the solution rather than defining the problem and then looking for the right process. I believe the assessment of success depends on where the organization started, it’s turnover rates, the industry, multiple other issues.

Q:  Are they are rules of thumb for how long the program should be?

A: I think to be effective, the formal program should have active elements covering about six months. These should be integrated into other employee engagement practices to re-enforce the values and concepts of the onboarding ‘foundation building’ process.

 Q: What methods are used to evaluate these programs by the new employees and by the companies?

A:  Feedback from the employees can be gained by periodic surveys at select points in the process. The evaluation process for the organization is the measurement assessments designed into the program matched against goals.

Q: Are there any U.S. laws that pertain to employee onboarding?

A: I’m not aware of any specific laws directed specifically at onboarding, but all the rules on non-discrimination against protected classes of individuals would apply to all employee interactions.

 Q: What books would you recommend for learning more about this topic?

A: There is a presentation on the LinkedIn website called “onboarding in a box” that may be helpful for people trying to get up to speed.  It also has some other references that may be useful.

 Q: In conclusion, what other words of wisdom do you have on this important function which falls under the training, a/k/a talent development area?

A: The key to the success of this process is its alignment with the long-term objectives of the organization. It is a program that needs continuous support and should be a foundation on which other programs of engagement and development can be built.  It should be treated as an integrated process, not a one-time event.

July Interview: Ardon Schambers on... Onboarding: New Strategies for Welcoming New Employees!

 Ardon Schambers has over 40 years of professional HR experience and is the President and Principal of P3HR Consulting and Services in Grand Rapids, MI. He worked for world class companies including General Telephone, Bell & Howell and Steelcase, where he was the Director of Compensation, Benefits, and International Human Resources. He can be reached at http://www.p3hrcs.com/

June Interview: Susan Howard on… Travel Pay: Everything You Need to Know to Pay Employees!

Q: The US Department of Labor has rules for employers on the topic of travel pay. But, what is the definition of travel pay in the legal context?

A: Title 29, Part 785 of the Code of Federal Regulations defines Travel pay in this manner:

Time spent traveling during normal work hours is considered compensable work time. Time spent in home-to-work travel by an employee in an employer-provided vehicle, or in activities performed by an employee that are incidental to the use of the vehicle for commuting, generally is not “hours worked” and, therefore, does not have to be paid. This provision applies only if the travel is within the normal commuting area for the employer’s business and the use of the vehicle is subject to an agreement between the employer and the employee or the employee’s representative. 

The easiest way to think of the travel time regulations is to remember that basically, any travel on company business that cuts across the normal workday is compensable time worked, regardless of whether such travel occurs on a day the employee is normally scheduled for work.

Q: So, travel time is generally not “worked time”?

A:  That is correct, in general.  The principles which apply in determining whether time spent in travel is compensable time depends upon the kind of travel involved. Home to work travel, travel to lectures, meetings or training programs, travel away from the home community are all types of travel covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Q:  When is travel time considered hours of work for pay purposes?

A: Time spent by an employee in travel as part of their principal activity, such as travel from job site to job site during the workday, is work time and must be counted as hours worked.  Think of a cleaning service, a plumber, landscapers or roofers as examples.

Q: What about employers with a labor union? Can travel pay be a point of negotiation for the labor contract?

A: Yes, travel pay is usually a provision covered in a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).  The CBA can be as simple as referring to the employer’s travel policy and procedure or detailed out in the CBA covering items such as travel location, subsistence, legitimate expenses, transportation, parking allowances etc.

Q: We are talking about the federal wage and hour laws, do certain states also have specific travel pay laws that must also be followed?

A: There are specific states that have rules that differ from the Federal Wage and Hour Laws.  The best place to research for specific state information would be your state site such as http://www.myflorida.com for Florida employers.

Q:  Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, each job must be properly classified as exempt or non-exempt for overtime purposes. Are there distinctions between travel pay for the exempt jobs versus the non-exempt jobs?

A: Yes, and the distinction would be in calculating overtime, if applicable, for those employees who travel that are hourly non-exempt.  Especially when traveling to work on a Special One Day Assignment vs. Travel away from the employee’s home community (overnight).

Q: When overtime is calculated for non-exempt employees, is travel time added into the calculation?

A: The travel time should be paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay; however, it is permissible to have a wage agreement where employees are paid at a lower rate (at least minimum wage) for compensable travel time and other types of non-productive work time, as noted in 29 C.F.R. 778.318(b). However, any such agreement should be clearly expressed in a written wage agreement signed by the employee, and the time so distinguished must be carefully and exactly recorded. Additionally, if such work results in overtime hours, the overtime pay must be calculated according to the weighted average method of computing overtime pay, as provided in 29 C.F.R. 778.115. Due to the complexity of the overtime calculation method necessary and the recordkeeping involved, any company attempting this should have the agreement prepared with the assistance of an attorney experienced in this area of the law.

Q: Can you give me an example of a typical work situation where travel pay is due to the employee in their pay?

A: Let’s consider a business such as a Plumbing Company.  Normal travel from home to work is not work time. However, there may be instances when travel from home to work is work time. For example, if an employee who has gone home after completing his or her day’s work is subsequently called out at night to travel a substantial distance to perform an emergency job for one of his or her employer’s customers, all time spent on such travel is working time. However, where an employee is given prior notice, as for example, he or she is told on Friday that he or she will be required to work at a customer’s place of business on Saturday, it will not be considered as an emergency call outside his or her regular working hours.

Q: Is there a time frame to pay travel time? Does it have to be paid in the normal pay cycle or not?

A: As with all wages, travel pay should be paid with the next regular pay cycle.  If an employee is required by the company to submit specific paperwork or time records and the employee does not do so in a timely manner, then the recommendation would be for the company to estimate the amount due the employee and true up wages in the next pay cycle.

Q: What are the penalties for not following the law?

A: The FLSA allows the Department of Labor (“Department”) or an employee to recover back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages where minimum wage and overtime violations exist. Generally, a 2-year statute of limitations applies to the recovery of back wages and liquidated damages. A 3-year statute of limitations applies in cases involving willful violations.

Remedies may be recovered through administrative procedures, litigation, and/or criminal prosecution.

Administrative procedures:

  • The Department is authorized to supervise the payment of unpaid minimum wages and/ or unpaid overtime compensation owed to any employee(s).
  • In lieu of litigation, the Department may seek back wages and liquidated damages, through settlements with employers.
  • Civil money penalties may be assessed for child labor violations and for repeat and/or willful violations of FLSA minimum wage or overtime requirements.
    • Employers who willfully or repeatedly violate minimum wage or overtime pay requirements are subject to civil money penalties for each violation.
    • Employers who violate the child labor provisions of the FLSA may be subject to civil money penalties. These penalties may be increased for each violation that results in the death or serious injury of an employee who is a minor, and may be doubled if the violation was determined to be willful or repeated.
    • For current penalty amounts, see https://www.dol.gov/whd/flsa/index.htm#cmp.

Litigation procedures:

  • The Department may file suit on behalf of employees for back wages, an equal amount in liquidated damages, and civil money penalties where appropriate.
  • The Department may seek a U.S. District Court injunction to restrain violations of the law, including the unlawful withholding of proper minimum wage and overtime pay, failure to keep proper records, and retaliation against employees who file complaints and/or cooperate with the Department.
  • The Department may seek an order for payment of civil money penalties from a U.S. Department of Labor Administrative Law Judge where appropriate.
  • An employee may file a private suit to recover back wages, an equal amount in liquidated damages, plus attorney’s fees and court costs. In such a case, the Department will not seek the same back wages and liquidated damages on that employee’s behalf.
  • The FLSA provides that DOL may seek a U.S. District Court order to prevent the shipment of the affected goods.

Criminal prosecution:

  • Employers who have willfully violated the law may be subject to criminal penalties, including fines and imprisonment.

Q: What resources (websites and books) would you recommend for company owners, executives and employees to learn more about this topic?

A:  I have added links throughout may answers but, the best resource is always the Department of Labor website. www.DOL.Gov. You can search by Topic, Agency, Fast Facts (travel is briefly covered in Fact Sheet #22), or even Opinion Letters the Agency has given.

The Handy Reference Guide to the Fair Labor Standards act is available online and in PDF version that provides a good overview of the law and a great place to start.  https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/hrg.htm

For employers who may want some in-depth reading they can read the Field Operators Handbook for Wage and Hour Investigators www.DOL.Gov/FOH/FOH_CG31.PDF, Chapter 31 covers Travel pay in detail.

Susan Howard on Travel Pay: Everything You Need to Know to Pay Employees!

Susan T. Howard, SPHR, is the owner of Employers Resources Plus, based in Bradenton, FL. With Employers Resources Plus small businesses have the human resources “Resources” when you need them. You can contact her at http://employersresourcesplus.com/.

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