Alumni benefits: What to expect when rehired

Companies rehire alumni employees because it is beneficial in multi-faceted ways.  Cost savings occur in orientation savings and reduced hours spent on training and recruiting overhead.  Some large corporations have created ‘alumni’ recruiting websites to keep up with ex-employees and use their connections. They use ex-employees’ continued loyalty to the corporation to recruit new hires or rehire employees who may now have valuable new skill sets or experience.  This benefits not only the company, but also the rehire. For example, a seamless benefits reinstatement – if the alumnus has been gone for only a short period.

Savings for HR results in a reduced need for background checks. The alumni employee has already been researched. Or, the time period between termination and rehire was so short a new background check is duplicative. There may be no referrals to call because the alumni’s tenure with the company speaks for itself.  Fewer man-hours are spent on a recruiter’s full-life-cycle of tasks normally required.

The cost of training is minimized, unless the alumnus has missed major changes to policies, markets, products or services.  Many rehires can simply pick up where they were.  Unless the alumnus is placed in a new job or department, there is no need to re-train them on most corporate policies or techniques.  The IT department minimizes overhead costs by reactivating e-mail addresses, access to servers or employee portal, or previous permissions for tasking.

When alumni employees return, whether for an old job or a different position (new department or geographic area), initial expectations may be everything will be the status quo.  If the rehire has been gone more than a month, changes may have occurred as part of a company’s cost-cutting and streamlining, of which the alumni needs to be aware before they sign the re-hire offer of employment.  It is vital Human Resources (HR) or the rehiring manager communicate changes, expectations, and any variation of benefits to the rehire, either during the final interview for a rehire, or within the rehire offer letter.

Offer letters have an annual salary noted, but many companies don’t detail benefits, except to note entitlements to benefits provided to all full-time (and/or designated benefits for part-time) workers.  If there has been an open enrollment period, then co-payments, premium costs, co-payments, or provided benefits may have changed and need to be communicated. Rehired employees usually slip through the communication cracks in the HR department, so alumni has the onus to inquire.

If the employee has been absent for less than 30 days, the employer might be able to re-instate the alumnus or ‘make whole’ without a lot of paperwork.  The insurance vendor might not yet have been notified the employee has left.  If the employee has been gone for over 30 days and enrolled for COBRA, they should have received information about changes in the benefits coverage. If there is no break in insurance, there should be 100% coverage when they re-convert the employee back to the same plan. If the rehire did not elect COBRA benefits and there is a gap of coverage over 30 days, they will be considered a new employee and will most likely have to make elections as a new hire.  This might be to the benefit of the rehire if they don’t have to worry about pre-existing conditions, but may result in a waiting period if there are pre-existing conditions not covered by the recent health care act.

Rehired alumni may be able to negotiate a higher baseline salary; but the company could offer the same salary because they are still struggling. If an alumnus is offered a lower salary, they should remind the employer the cost of a rehire will be drastically reduced compared to a new hire, based on less orientation, retraining, and background checks needed by a recruiter.  This provides a modicum of power to negotiate a higher salary or reinstatement to the status quo.

The employer may wish to consider offering stock options and vesting stock. They may not be able to offer a higher salary, but may have the ability to future incentives via investment. The stock may eventually exceed the ‘lost’ value of the higher or status quo salary.  The alumni takes the gamble the company’s worth will increase when the economy gets better, there is a gain in sales for a new product or service, or even a back-burner R&D project starts to produce. The bet might even revolve around the alumnus’ ability to increase sales.

Employees expect vacation (Paid Time Off [PTO]) and possibly sick leave (if separate from PTO accrual) as part of their benefits rehire package. Employees absent for a short-term period will want their accrual rate reinstated – especially if it was at a higher rate than new hires.  Employees earning three, four, or five weeks of vacation annually will want that reinstated (or grandfathered).  This should be discussed in the final interview, and written into the offer of rehire, so there is no misinterpretation.  If the company is struggling financially, or the alumnus has been gone for several years, HR may insist the rehire restart the PTO accrual rate from the baseline.

Employees love extra benefits offered by employers such as tuition reimbursement or training cost reimbursement.  The company may have tenure restrictions for these benefits, so the alumnus needs to ask for any restrictions to be lifted as part of the rehire offer.  This will ‘make whole’ benefits attained before the employee left.

Many rehired employees have the capacity to negotiate from a point of strength with employers who wish to rehire them.  Smart job seekers can regain benefits, higher salaries, and other tenured perks, if the company has the financial capacity.  No company is legally obligated to provide the grandfathering of benefits, privileges, or perks. But offering these in small or incremental amounts could be a deciding factor to hiring back a special skills or unique employee that can give the company an edge against the competition.  Alumnus should get everything negotiated in the final interview for an offer of (rehire) employment letter so there is no misunderstanding once onboard.

Dawn Boyer is the owner of D. Boyer Consulting (http://dboyerconsulting.com), a human resources consulting firm for small business and 8(a) government contracting companies.  She can be reached at Dawn.Boyer@me.com.

 

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Perfect Zucchini Bread Recipe – Converted to “Eat Your Fruits and Veggies” Cake

Dawn Boyer’s Homemade Zucchini Bread: “Eat Your Veggies & Fruits Cake”

Original Recipe for a ‘boring’ Zucchini Bread (24 servings/two loaves)

3 Cups All purpose flour
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
3 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
3 Whole Eggs
1 Cup Vegetable Oil
2.25 Cups White Sugar
3 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
2 Cups Drained, Grated Zucchini (important to keep this ‘dry’ as possible)
1 Cup Chopped Walnuts

1. Grease and flour two 8 x 4 inch loaf pans; pre-heat oven to 325 degrees F (165 C)
2. Sift flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl.
3. Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and cream/beat well together.
5. Stir in zucchini and nuts until well combined; pour batter into prepared pans.
6. Bake for 40-60 minutes or until tester (toothpick, chopstick, fork) inserted into center of loaf comes out clean.
7. Cool in pan until cooler than room temperature; turn over and place in plate.
8. Lemon sauce can be made with a cup of powdered sugar, a cup of lemon juice, and 2-3 teaspoons of corn starch (for thickening) cooked until syrupy, then cooled to thicken further. Pour over slice of zucchini bread for additional flavor.

Dawn Boyer’s Recipe for Eat Your Veggies and Fruits Cake (Large Batch)
(Quadrupled ingredients, so if you want smaller batch, cut by ¼ or ½)

NOTICE: RECIPE CHANGED TO ACCOMMODATE DIFFERENT INGREDIENTS

Dry Ingredients: Mix in Bowl Thoroughly

4 Cups Instant Oatmeal Flakes (any brand)
4 Cups Baking Mix for Biscuits and Pancakes (Jiffy or generic ok)
4 Cups Self-Rising Flour (white)
1 Cup Wheat Germ or other fiber-intense additive
3 Teaspoons Salt (sea-salt acceptable substitute)
4 Tablespoons Baking Soda
4 Tablespoons Baking Powder
½ Cup Ground Cinnamon
3 Tablespoons Ground Ginger
3 Tablespoons Ground Allspice
3 Tablespoons Ground Cloves (or less if too expensive for you to afford)
3 Tablespoons Orange Peel (dried)
3 Tablespoons Lemon Peel (dried)
3 Tablespoons Sesame Seeds

Wet Ingredients: Mix in Mixer To Ensure Blended Thoroughly

18 Eggs
12 Cups Vegetable Oil (Canola is best, Olive Oil good, but expensive)
2 Bags (16 oz.) Dark Brown Sugar (dry, needs to be mixed w/ wet initially)
12 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract

Semi-Wet, Fruits and Vegetable Ingredients – mixed into batter LAST:

8 Cups Chopped Walnuts (equal to two large 1 pound bags)
8 Cups Raisins (large container or box)
4 Cups Chopped Pecans and/or Almonds
1 Cup Sunflower seeds or other types of nuts and/or seeds
2 Cans Chunk Pineapple (drained of all syrup)
8 Cups Drained, Grated Zucchini (equal to 4-6 small / 2-4 large)
8 Cups Grated Sweet Potato (equal to 4-6 small / 2-4 large)
2 Bags Grated Carrots (equal to 8-12 small / 8-10 large)
2 Bags Grated Coconut (about 8 ounces in weight each)

Wash hands thoroughly, up to and including elbows. Ensure container washed thoroughly with bleach or disinfectant between uses. Roll up your sleeves and hand-mix all the batches of ingredients above together (if you don’t have an industrial mixer); once they have all been mixed in each group noted above.

1. Grease and flour twenty- two 8 x 4 inch loaf pans; pre-heat oven to 325 F (165 C); okay to spray with a anti-stick, spray oil coating, then flour as usual
2. Sift flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl.
3. Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and cream/beat well together.
5. Stir in zucchini and nuts until well combined; pour batter into prepared pans.
6. Bake for 40-60 minutes or until tester (toothpick, chopstick, fork) inserted into center of loaf comes out clean. (I have had to cook loaves as long as 1 hour 15 minutes.)
7. Cool in pan until cooler than room temperature; turn over and place in plate.
8. Wrap cooled loaves in wax paper, then insert two-loaves each into gallon-sized zipper-lock freezer bags, and suck out air in bag to reduce potential freezer burn.

ENJOY!

Notes on Dawn Boyer’s Recipe for Eat Your Veggies and Fruits Cake©

• This is an awesome way to encourage kids to eat fruits and vegetables if they don’t normally eat them at the dinner table – it’s a dessert to them!
• Since the recipe is somewhat “loaded” with special ingredients, and some of the ingredients are somewhat expensive, it is advised to make large batches, wrap in individual packages, and freeze. (Freezing/Defrosting actually enhances the flavor!)
• Makes approximately 240-264 servings/twenty to twenty-two loaves. This recipe is essentially ‘quadrupled.’ Essentially this makes so much it needs a very, very large mixing container. I purchased a plastic storage bin from a local mart to ‘hand-mix’ the ingredients once they had gone through the mixer blending.
• Make sure you have enough wax paper to wrap it up after cooling & cooking, as well as zippy-lock bags in which you can store two loaves at a time.
• Cooking time & temperatures are the same – I put six loaves on each of two oven racks set at 1/3 and 2/3 from bottom of the oven while cooking, with about ½ – 1 inch of space between each pan to let the heat cook evenly.
• The addition of spices makes the entire flavor of the cake; but cooks are encouraged to try different spice combinations to their own tastes.
• DO NOT USE convection cooking, \it’ll burn the tops & sides & leave insides gooey.
• Potential for the fiber in this recipe is huge; so be prepared for the possibility it’ll ‘clean your system out thoroughly.’
• If the ingredients all mixed together seem a little too ‘wet’ you need to be forewarned that the cake may not rise, and seem ‘heavy’ once thoroughly cooked. It won’t mean the recipe is ruined, but some folks may not like the heavy texture of the bread.
• If the ingredients all mixed together seem a little too ‘dry’ – add in a few more eggs, a little oil, and brown sugar, then remix the results. It’ll look and feel more like an appropriately textured mix, and you’ll have a lighter, higher loaf when cooked.
• I haven’t tried this recipe without wheat flour or gluten products, so would be interested if anyone else can experiment and come up with ingredients that can be substituted and used successfully with the rising of the cake in the pans.

Creating a roadmap for hiring new employees = success!

When you own a small business, seeking, identifying, and hiring new employees can be a daunting task.  What questions need to be asked in an interview? What questions might create a lawsuit liability for the company?  What types of records should be kept for the job candidate search to satisfy government agencies?  These questions stymie some business owners simply because they don’t know the answers, don’t have time to look them up, and can’t afford to hire a subject matter expert.

Draw up a road map for the hiring process for the business that becomes a reference policy for hiring actions to avoid mistakes that might cost money and valuable time.  This provides a checklist for action, bullets for task completion, and ensures a fair hiring process for applicants, as well as the company, which helps avoid legal problems.

The first bullet on the hiring plan is to write a job description – not in excruciating detail, but with broad task descriptions, including: 1) expected days and hours of work, 2) required responsibilities performed through a normal workday, 3) physical demands for sitting, computer work, lifting, and 4) to whom to report (supervisor’s title) and whom might report to them. This job description should be provided to every applicant before any interview, allowing them to read and determine continued interest or if they are physically capable of performing the job tasks.

The second bullet is to establish a ‘letterhead’ application form for all job applicants – regardless of what job, when they apply, or whether they are going to be interviewed.  This application provides the company a documented basis upon which to make decisions to interview, allows a peek at past employers, job skills, experience, and education or training.  The application should be completed before the interview regardless of whether a resume is submitted.  The application should be note legal conditions informing the applicant of their and the company’s legal rights, with a section for the applicant’s signature indicating understanding and accepting the legal conditions.

The third bullet is to develop a list of questions for the interview to be asked of every applicant who has reached candidate status based on qualifications.  This fairly ensures no extraneous non-work related questions will be asked. It keeps the interview on a timely schedule and targets only the pertinent KSA information needed to make a hiring decision.  Asking about family size or children, political or religious affiliations, age-related questions, sexual orientation, or ethnic heritage are illegal. Those answers have nothing to do with an applicants’ ability to perform a job in most cases. (If answers are required for the position, the company must be prepared to legally defend the reasoning behind the required information and explain those reasons to the interviewing candidate.)  Hiring managers may ask a candidate if there is anything which would physically keep them from performing the job, and if yes, what accommodations would be needed.  This enables applicants to explain any visible or invisible disabilities, but should not be used as an excuse not to hire if they can perform the job.  If they are the most qualified candidate, handicaps or disabilities should be ignored unless an accommodation is unreasonably cost prohibitive.

It is vital the company keeps a record of all applicants who submit interest via a resume or completed applications coupled with the job description the applicants have considered.  Each of the applications should be kept in a file folder for each job description advertised (if not in an electronic automated tracking system) for review and reporting if the DOL or other government agencies audits the company and its hiring practices. This protects the company by documenting fair hiring practices and protects the company from potential liability issues if applicants make unfair hiring claims against the company.  Any interview notes or questions asked of applicants in an interview should be stapled to the candidate’s application for documentation in the job posting file.

The last to-do on the list is establishing an offer letter. Many businesses have a template ready to complete with the job candidate’s information to make an offer of employment on letterhead stationery.  The offer should include the candidate’s contact information, address, job title, salary offer, hours/days of work, supervisor’s name and number, and other helpful company data, as well as a deadline for the candidate’s response.  If the candidate does not respond within ‘X’ days, the company can legally move forward to the next qualified candidate.  The offer of employment letter should also note the company will perform calls to referrals provided, as well as a background check (if company policy).  It should state any negative commentary from the background check provides the business the legal right to withdraw the offer of employment letter without negative consequences to either party.  When candidates sign the letter and return it, they are providing the legal authority for the company to perform background and reference checks.

Keeping a hiring roadmap on hand keep the process in alignment with company needs and simplifies tasks to be completed.  Documenting each step along the way assists in avoiding potential legal entanglements.  A hiring checklist will enable any hiring manager to easily process applicants, move the qualified job seekers to candidate status, and hire new employees within legal guidelines for a smooth transition.

Dawn Boyer is the owner of D. Boyer Consulting (http://dboyerconsulting.com), a human resources consulting firm for small business and 8(a) government contracting companies.  She can be reached at Dawn.Boyer@me.com.

Human Resources – What’s In Your Company’s Personnel Files?

HUMAN RESOURCES

What’s in your company’s personnel files?

Small business owners who are finally successful enough to start hiring employees are wading into unfamiliar territory when they start the process of hiring, on-boarding, and keeping records of the employee’s tenure with the company, as well as records of disciplinary actions and terminations.  Not keeping the records is providing a ripe arena of liability for the company.  Without liability business insurance, the DOL, EEOC, and other government agencies can swoop in based on employee charges and complaints, and make the owners of the company suffer financial hardships, based on fines, fees, punitive damages, and awards to the employees bringing charges.

As much as managers hate ‘forms’ Human Resources seems to be so fond of, in reality, those forms saves the company hundreds or thousands of dollars in liability costs for employee accusations of unfairness or other legally-based complaints. Many companies are going to computerized record-keeping, with only the minimum of hard copy documents kept in a slim personnel file locked away in a limited-access storage room.  Online recruiting records (job posting, candidates listing, records of numbers of hire), to on-boarding processes of personal information records and benefits sign-ups, to specialized evaluation software, training and development modules or classes, and termination processes are streamlining the entire human asset management process.

Some companies no longer keep electronic records in company servers (to avoid employee’s hacking into the files), but use SaaS (software as a service) programs on the Internet (cloud computing) with specialized security and firewall protection.

What should be in a personnel file or kept as legal employee records – from the mailroom clerk and front desk receptionist up to the CEO?  Below is a list of recommended documents to keep within personnel file folders.

  1. Employee’s application for employment and originally submitted resume.
  2. Signed offer of employment, salary/wage information, employment contracts
  3. Background check results, letters of recommendations, confirmation of education
  4. Signed non-compete, non-disclosure, and company policy acknowledgements
  5. Employment records, tax forms (W-4’s), and payroll deduction authorizations
  6. Signed policy agreements (Code of Conduct, Receipt of Employee Handbook)
  7. Testing results (for hire, promotions, transfers)
  8. Training & development (external/internal), safety training, tuition reimbursement
  9. Time sheets, time-off requests, vacation, attendance reports
  10. Evaluation, performance reviews, and disciplinary actions (each with no less than two manager’s signatures)
  11. Resignation and termination documentation, including exit interviews

Some documents need to be kept out of personnel files – and kept in separate ‘lock-and-key’ locations.  Records relative to I-9’s or E-Verify should be kept in a separate file or binder only human resources have access to for review (and should be audited annually). Below is a list of items to be kept in limited access with even tighter control.

  1. Medical or benefits information, drug-test results, doctor’s notes, etc.
  2. Insurance claims, FMLA, OSHA, or workers’ comp claims
  3. Security or investigative records, complaints, or reports
  4. Personal finance records or personal references and credit reports
  5. Accommodation information for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requests

The workload for creating, maintaining, and updating these records may be physically impossible to keep up with by a trusted internal staff member. An option is to hire a trusted external human resource consultant to audit company records. They can either make recommendations or professionally organize the company records.  While not 100% fail-safe, it’ll be an excellent investment for ensuring the business avoids costly record-keeping based, legal liabilities.

Dawn Boyer is the owner of D. Boyer Consulting (http://dboyerconsulting.com), a human resources consulting firm for small business and 8(a) government contracting companies.  She can be reached at Dawn.Boyer@me.com.