Hot Topics in Total Rewards

  • 11 Nov 2020 10:10 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    Companies offer creative solutions to worker burnout during the pandemic | Fox Business

    By Chip Cutter

    Companies are adapting policies and rushing to roll out benefits to head off a surge of employee distress

    A few months into the pandemic, Nick Popoff let his guard down in an all-hands video call and said aloud what many had been experiencing: He felt burned out.

    Some weeks, the engineering director at ticketing company Eventbrite Inc. didn't leave his house for days, he said. Slack notifications buzzed constantly. He missed seeing friends and colleagues in person. Even a hike with his wife through northern California's redwoods, didn't leave him sufficiently recharged.

    "Work burnout is insidious. It's not just like a red light that comes on, " Mr. Popoff says. "It's something that very slowly starts to happen, and that's how it can catch people by surprise."

    After Mr. Popoff shared his experience in the meeting, colleagues came forward, saying that they, too, felt exhausted by work, and life, in a pandemic. Mr. Popoff began leading "recognizing burnout" sessions for other employees, giving staffers a forum to voice their feelings, and to hear advice from mental health professionals about how to cope.

    The effort is one of many experiments afoot in corporate America as bosses stare at a sea of faces on Zoom and worry. With no end to the pandemic in sight, managers say many remote employees report feeling depressed, fed up and wary of what's next. Companies are adapting policies and rushing to roll out benefits to head off a surge of employee distress.

    "There's this second wave upon us, where people are feeling super-anxious that this is the new normal, and how much longer can we sustain this?" says Matthew Schuyler, chief administrative officer at Hilton hotels. "I don't think we've yet come to grips with the mental impact this is having on all of us."

    In addition to expanding access to counseling and mental health services, many employers are trying other approaches, such as insisting employees disconnect or offering more training for managers. In recent months, Antonio Neri, chief executive of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co., has been encouraging bosses at the technology company to call employees to check in on their well-being. "You've got to make the effort," he says. "Don't assume email is enough, because email is not personable."

    Jimmy Etheredge, CEO of North America at consulting firm Accenture PLC, recently asked his 27 direct reports to attend 2 1/2 hours of virtual training on how to better support colleagues facing mental-health issues. All participated. Mr. Etheredge says he regularly receives emails from employees, explaining their pandemic-related challenges. But consultants have a tendency to jump into a situation and become problem-solvers, an "occupational hazard," Mr. Etheredge says. The training stressed that, in conversations with employees, sometimes attentive listening without judgment can be most helpful.

    "Just validate that the person is being heard," Mr. Etheredge says, while directing them to additional resources, if needed.

    Solutions needn't be complicated or costly, executives say. Eventbrite recently changed leadership training during the pandemic to focus on how supervisors can manage with empathy while people are working remotely. Now, bosses are taught to begin one-on-one sessions with employees with a simple phrase meant to elicit genuine emotions, says David Hanrahan, the company's chief human resources officer. Instead of a stock "How are you?" before quickly moving on to business, managers might ask, "How are you really, really doing?" After Mr. Hanrahan poses the question, he is silent, even if the pause feels uncomfortable. With some prodding, employees may then open up about their true feelings regarding work or personal challenges. "It's a simple tactic any manager can employ," he says. "But it's about true empathy and true care."

    Other companies have taken steps to bolster morale in the Covid era. Seattle construction and engineering company McKinstry Co. LLC began issuing companywide "good news Friday" memos, pointing out, "Hey, here's eight things that happened this week that are pretty good," says Dean Allen, the company's CEO. That could be feedback from a happy customer or details about new business the company landed. Hilton's Mr. Schuyler encourages managers and teams to allow Zoom calls from parks or other outdoor venues.

    Fidelity Investments recently began a pilot program for a small portion of its workforce in which employees can opt to work 30 hours a week, with a small pay cut, while retaining their full benefits. Fidelity plans to hire more staff to pick up the work so that other colleagues aren't overwhelmed, says Bill Ackerman, head of human resources at the financial-services firm.

    As the pandemic drags, employers need to adjust their approach, Mr. Ackerman says. Benefits that may have been appreciated early on -- such as matching gifts to charities and stipends for home offices -- have shifted this fall to include access to child-care coordinators and subsidies, as parents grapple with schooling issues.

    Many bosses say even finding ways to get employees to step away from their laptops takes more thought now. Geben Communication, a public relations firm in Columbus, Ohio, began offering employees bonus "self-care days" off in recent months, to encourage them to disconnect, says Heather Whaling, the company's president. In Austin, Texas, Ryan Wuerch, chief executive of Dosh, an app that gives consumers cash back when they shop, takes another approach: impromptu three-day weekends. On some Thursdays, during all-staff meetings, Mr. Wuerch now surprises the company with the news that the following day is a "Dosh Day," when no work is allowed.

    Extra vigilance is key, managers say. To head off burnout, Eventbrite's Mr. Popoff watches for employees who seem to be plugging away after hours and follows up with them the next day, saying that such work is unnecessary.

    Some workers have adopted cues to signal they need help. At Dell Technologies Inc., Jennifer "JJ" Davis, senior vice president of corporate affairs at the technology company, says during the pandemic her team has developed a way to alert colleagues when they are "above the line" -- feeling OK, and able to lend a hand -- or "below the line" and needing assistance. The phrases allow people to convey their state of mind without necessarily divulging personal details. "Nobody asks questions. They just say: 'OK, what can I do?' " Ms. Davis says.

    Pandemic-specific peer groups also are effective. More than 1,500 Dell employees joined colleagues in virtual support groups focused on child care or pandemic isolation, for staffers living alone. "It gives you a safe place to let your guard down," Ms. Davis says.

    Ms. Davis says she helps her colleagues cope by being honest about her own challenges, such as deciding whether her three teenage sons should attend classes in-person or virtually. Sometimes, when meetings run long, Ms. Davis begins preparing dinner -- and tells her team she's multitasking. "I'm like, 'Hey guys, great meeting, I just finished a batch of brownies,' " Ms. Davis says. "If I don't tell my staff and lead by example that I'm cooking brownies while doing a meeting at the same time, then they don't know that they have permission to do the same thing."

    Taking Action

    What companies can do to curb staff burnout:

    Encourage employees to take time off. Some companies offer bonus "self care" days or end work a few hours early.

    Expand access to counseling and mental-health services. Employers have rolled out digital counseling apps or brought on coordinators to help employees access care.

    Ask managers to check in on individuals' well-being. Even simple gestures, like a phone call instead of an email, can go a long way.

    Offer training for managers on supervising with empathy. Overseeing employees in a pandemic is a new skill, so guidance on supporting colleagues' mental well-being can help.

    Foster dialogues where workers share genuine emotions. Asking "How are you?" isn't enough; probe to get a sense for people's real situation.

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    Source: Fox Business

  • 09 Nov 2020 3:31 PM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    its meant to offer retirement readiness to plan participants

    by Lynn Cavanaugh | November 2, 2020

    Employers have a year to implement a new 401(k) rule, but it’ll take some preparation. The Department of Labor (DOL) is requiring firms to provide employees with lifetime income estimates to help them determine their retirement readiness.

    The DOL’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has announced this interim final rule. It’s meant to help workers realize how their current retirement plan might translate into lifetime monthly payments, in a similar fashion to what the Social Security Administration provides employees.

    This rule was set in motion by the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act, passed in 2019. This Act amended the pension benefit statement requirements to show participants equivalents of their retirement savings as monthly income.

    “Our goal is to help workers and retirees understand how savings translate to retirement income,” says EBSA’s acting assistant secretary Jeanne Klinefelter Wilson.

    To help ease administrative burdens on employers, the new rule includes 11 brief model language inserts that may be used in an employer’s own plan disclosure. Firms can access the new rule online, since it’s now published in the Federal Register.

    Calculating estimates

    The DOL’s fact sheet includes an example of a plan disclosure for a 40-year-old employee, using a 10-year constant maturity Treasury rate to calculate the monthly payments. Here is the information that must be provided:

    • current account balance: $125,000
    • single life annuity: $645 per month for life, and
    • qualified joint and 100% annuity: $533 per month for an employee’s life and $533 for the life of a spouse following participant’s death.

    The DOL is allowing a 60-day comment period, giving employers until Nov. 17, 2020 to submit or mail comments ( on this new rule.

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    Source: HR Morning

  • 03 Nov 2020 7:09 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    By Marthin De Beer | October 30, 2020

    From a pandemic and the move to remote work, to natural disasters and social justice protests, 2020 has been a rollercoaster. These events are having a meaningful impact on companies as employees look to their employers for support. Many organizations have stepped up their efforts to address some of these big challenges our society is facing today, while simultaneously investing in the future of every employee — and the company as a whole.

    In the current market environment as HR and benefits leaders look ahead and plan for 2021, Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) initiatives have taken on increased importance. D&I initiatives are no longer nice-to-have, but rather vital for organizations to thrive as employees increasingly demand them. found that 62% of job candidates would turn down a job if they didn’t feel the company valued workplace diversity. This is a notable change from recent years and a step in the right direction to address some of society’s biggest challenges where we spend the bulk of our waking life: the workplace.

    Although there are a lot of important threads to the D&I conversation, there's one element that often gets left out: financial wellness. That’s a critical oversight given the wealth gap in this country. The Federal Reserve reports that on average white families have accrued eight times the wealth of Black families and five times the wealth of Hispanic families. This is a systemic issue and provides an opportunity for companies to play their part in solving this problem by enabling people of color to increase their wealth.

    Growing up in apartheid South Africa, I saw firsthand how the depth of systemic racism permeated society. It became clear that lack of access to economic opportunity — and education to get there — was holding back generations. When I moved to the U.S. and founded BrightPlan, I made a commitment to advancing financial wellness to fuel equality. Employers have an opportunity to lead this transformation by ensuring financial wellness programs are an integral part of their D&I initiatives.

    Financial wellness is core to D&I

    Employers are working hard to expand their D&I initiatives. LinkedIn data shows there has been a 71% increase in worldwide D&I roles in the past five years. Most D&I efforts focus on representation and removing workplace bias — which is important, but not sufficient to solve the larger issue of financial inequality. Creating lasting wealth for underrepresented communities, however, can lead to change by fueling generational advances.

    That’s where financial wellness can be very valuable. Even something as simple as education can be a powerful step forward. Financial education and literacy in the U.S. is extremely low, in general, but even more so in underrepresented communities. For example, a study from Next Gen Personal Finance found that only 3.9% of students from low-income schools were required to take a personal finance class, compared to nearly 17% nationwide. Employers can help close this financial literacy gap by offering wellness benefits that provide comprehensive financial education to employees.

    But education alone isn’t enough. A successful financial wellness program should make it easy for employees to take action across their entire financial life. That means providing a complete view of all their personal finances in context of life goals, delivering clear recommendations and making it easy to monitor progress.

    Employees expect their employers to provide essential benefits like health care and 401(k)s. It’s now time to add financial wellness to that list, with companies going beyond retirement plans to offer complete financial wellness benefits. By helping underrepresented communities achieve financial wellness, employers can play an active role in bridging the wealth gap.

    Gaining a competitive advantage

    Including financial wellness as part of employer provided benefits and D&I initiatives doesn’t just benefit employees and society as a whole. It’s also good for business. We’ve seen compelling data from enterprises revealing that financial wellness as part of a broader well-being strategy, improves employee engagement and workplace happiness, while increasing retention and strengthening recruitment efforts. Moreover, data shows that diverse companies perform better financially too.

    Data from PwC shows finances are by far the top source of stress for employees. By offering financial wellness benefits, employers can help alleviate anxiety so employees can be more productive and engaged at work.

    I’ve seen firsthand that demand for financial wellness solutions is soaring as COVID-19 and D&I conversations have motivated employers to seek innovative solutions. With D&I set to be a priority for employers headed into 2021, financial wellness will be even more valuable as an actionable program that directly addresses root causes, empowering companies and employees to enact lasting change.

    Diversity pays off in many ways, and we're just starting to scratch the surface of how financial wellness can support more equitable organizations. By adding financial wellness as a key component to D&I initiatives, employers can take a leadership role in advancing equality and creating generational wealth for all employees while gaining a competitive advantage.

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    Source: Employee Benefit News (EBN)

  • 02 Nov 2020 8:06 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    Published: Nov. 1, 2020 at 3:51 a.m. ET | ByAndrew Keshner

    ‘It’s not unusual for people not to be aware of the specifics they are being afforded by their employers, sadly.’

    A record number of Americans have voted early in the race between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden, and many will still head to the polls on Election Day. Some companies want to make sure they have plenty of time to do so.

    Major companies including Walmart WMT, +1.04%  and Twitter TWTR, -3.32%  are trying to make it easier for workers to cast their vote on or before Nov. 3’s Election Day, often by providing paid time off.

    But many workers don’t know about the accommodations, a new survey suggests.

    While 52% of companies are offering paid time off to vote according to their human resource staffers, only 23% of workers are aware of the benefit, a survey from the Society for Human Resource Management found.

    Almost one-third (30%) of human resource officials say their companies are providing time off with no pay, and 16% of workers said they knew about such a benefit.

    “It’s not unusual for people not to be aware of the specifics they are being afforded by their employers, sadly,” said Johnny Taylor, president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, a professional association.

    The survey comes during a hard-fought presidential election — and the coronavirus pandemic that’s up-ended work routines and added another layer of complexity to the voting process.

    More than 22 million people had already cast their vote as of earlier this month, according to the Associated Press. That’s 16% of all votes in the 2016 presidential election.

    The wait for early in-person voting has sometimes stretched on for an hour or more, according to media reports. A delay like that can take a real chunk out of a person’s work day.

    The findings come from two surveys, one of almost 500 human resource workers who are members of the Society for Human Resource Management. The other survey polled approximately 1,000 people. ***NORC at the University of Chicago performed the worker survey on SHRM’s behalf. ****

    Workers in one survey may not necessarily be working at the same companies as the human resource officials. Still, said Taylor, the lack of awareness might hold true even if the workers and HR poll participants worked in the same place.

    Employees are often unaware that they’re entitled to all sorts of perks, he said. “Some of it is employees during the orientation process are just overwhelmed with data,” and more focused on key questions like pay.

    Between 42% and 44% of surveyed companies offered paid time off to vote between 2017 to 2019, according to previous benefit surveys from the organization that used larger sample sizes.

    Taylor was expecting even more companies to offer time off for voting this election season. But when he asked around, some colleagues told him they weren’t doing it because the opportunity to vote has been stretched out over so many days, and workers already had flexibility in how they used their time off.

    Around 25% of companies told Mercer, the human resources consulting firm, they were changing their internal policies this year to provide more voting time. The most-cited tweak was increasing paid time off (10.5%), according to the survey released Thursday.

    As of late August, more than 700 companies had joined Time To Vote, a non-partisan coalition of businesses pledging to facilitate their staff’s ability to vote. (That’s anything between a paid day off, lighter schedules or assistance with mail-in ballots.)

    Over 200 companies joined the coalition over the summer, including Nike NKE, +2.25%, Dell Technologies DELL, 1.50%  , Visa V, +2.54%   and Bank of America BAC, +1.24%. Nike said its accommodations may include paid time off on Election Day, no meetings that day or offering resources for mail-in ballots and early voting.

    Dell already offers paid time off to vote, a spokeswoman noted. But she added that the company joined the coalition “to further amplify this message amongst team members and reinforce our commitment to civic engagement.”

    Visa expanded its paid time off policy from two to four hours and offered other resources on voting, including a virtual event with voting experts, a spokesman said. “Taken together, we hope these actions lead to an increase in employee voter participation in our country’s elections this year,” he said.

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    Source: MarketWatch

  • 29 Oct 2020 8:14 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    Gartner Top Priorities for HR Leaders in 2021

    October 23, 2020 |  Contributor: Jackie Wiles

    Building critical skills and competencies continues to top the list of priorities for HR leaders in 2021. Also on the radar — organizational (re)design and change, and leadership.

    A recent survey of more than 800 HR leaders shows that although many expect their organizations to focus on growth in 2021, cost optimization features more widely than it did previously — and improving operational excellence remains paramount. To support these and other business priorities, 68% of HR leaders say they will be building critical skills and competencies, an objective that has topped the priorities of HR leaders for three consecutive years.

    Organizational design and change management also feature among the key objectives for HR leaders, as does building a bench of current and future leaders. None of these goals is new to HR leaders, but all have been made more urgent by the effects of COVID-19.

    “As organizations move from their initial pandemic response to more sustainable operations, they’re trying to build resilience into everything, from strategy to work design, so as to enable the organization, its leadership and employees to sense and respond to change, repeatedly,” says Mark Whittle, VP, Advisory, Gartner.

    Top priority No. 1: Building critical skills and competencies

    HR leaders see building critical skills as vital to driving many of their organization’s priorities — from growing the business and executing business transformation to improving operational excellence.

    One-third or more of HR leaders agree the major challenges include their lack of visibility and understanding of current skill gaps and being unable to integrate learning effectively into employee workflows.

    Use a dynamic approach for future-forward skills development

    Traditional ways of predicting needs and upskilling the workforce aren’t working in today’s highly changeable conditions, where employees need more skills for every job and many of those skills are new. Gartner TalentNeuron™ data shows that the total number of skills required for a single job is increasing by 10% year over year, and one-third of the skills present in an average 2017 job posting won’t be needed by 2021.

    Furthermore, many employees aren’t learning the right new skills — for their personal development or the benefit of the organization. 

    Gartner research shows that HR leaders need to adopt a dynamic approach to reskilling and redeploying talent, one in which all impacted stakeholders work together to sense shifting skill needs and find ways to develop skills as those new needs arise. Currently, only 21% of HR leaders say peers share accountability or partner with HR to determine future skill needs.

    Gartner research shows that when using this type of dynamic approach to reskilling, employees apply 75% of the new skills they learn — far more than with other approaches — and learning begins sooner, as needs are identified faster.

    Adopt new recruiting tactics

    HR leaders also need a more modern and out-of-the-box approach to recruiting. Traditionally, organizations sought to replace roles and individuals in the workforce by seeking a similar set of candidate profiles — from known talent pool sources and from those attracted to the existing employee value proposition (EVP).

    Instead, to ensure quality hires

    • Prioritize skills instead of hiring profiles

    • Seek to tap into the total skills market, not just known talent pools

    • Make sure the EVP evolves to deliver on changing candidate wants and needs

    Gartner research finds that 65% of candidates have cut short the hiring process because they found certain aspects of the job (e.g., work-life balance, development opportunities, company culture) unattractive.

    Gartner surveyed more than 800 HR leaders in late-2020 about their priorities for 2021. Building critical skills and competencies topped the list.

    Top priority No. 2: Organizational design and change management

    This objective is a top priority for 46% of HR leaders. And it’s key to driving many enterprise business goals, including cost optimization (which aligns costs and resources to business priorities). 

    Many organizations have experienced, in trying to respond at speed to the effects of the pandemic, that their years-long focus on efficiency has actually left them with rigid structures, workflows, role design and networks that don’t meet today’s needs or flex with fast-changing conditions.

    Work friction weighs down employees

    Gartner research shows that only 19% of HR leaders report that their workforce can effectively change direction based on changing needs or priorities. Less than 40% believe employees can effectively detect when they are working on the right things for customers.

    What is keeping employees from adapting to change? Research shows outdated work design is the cause of numerous forms of work friction. Future-forward work design is what’s needed to ensure employees can be responsive — that is, in sync with customer needs, in a position to anticipate changes in those needs, and with the ability to adapt their approach and activities accordingly.

    This work friction adds to the burden of incessant everyday change that is driving widespread change fatigue. That fatigue means employees are unable to process change at a time when organizations most need them to be responsive and adaptable.

    Unlock employee responsiveness

    HR leaders can help prevent change fatigue, and address the specific factors that contribute to work friction. Rethinking work design strategies can help to unlock responsiveness at scale across the workforce and build organizational resilience.

    Tactics include realigning work design to the way work really happens and resetting rigid permissions and signoff processes and hurdles so they don’t unnecessarily impede innovation and action.

    This type of shift from designing for efficiency to designing for flexibility is expected, according to 52% of HR leaders, to have a significant impact on their organizations into 2021. Only 8% said they expected no impact from this evolution.

    Top priority No. 3: Current and future leadership

    Strong leadership is especially important during times of great change. Gartner research recently showed that only 44% of employees say they trust their organization’s leaders and managers to navigate a crisis well.

    Lack of diversity tops the leadership concerns of HR leaders. This contributes to the lack of confidence and trust in leadership in a year when demands for equity and inclusion have, in general, become more visible and ardent from both employees and the public. 

    Gartner TalentNeuron data illustrates the lack of diversity among the leadership of U.S. companies. It shows that only 10% of senior-level corporate positions are held by a woman from a racial or ethnic minority and only 18% by a man from a minority segment.

    The barriers that impede advancement among underrepresented talent equally apply to the leadership pipeline. Potential leaders from diverse groups often face unclear career paths and steps to advancement, get too little exposure to senior leaders, and lack mentors or career support.

    Go beyond mentoring to nurture diverse leadership talent

    HR leaders know it takes more than intent to fix bias. A Gartner survey of HR leaders in early 2020 found that 88% felt their organization had not been effective at increasing diverse representation. The imperative for diversity, equity and inclusion leaders now is to assess all the systems and processes that systematically deter equal opportunity, as well as take proactive measures to build diversity on the leadership bench.

    One approach is to manufacture more intentional networking opportunities that expose high-potential diverse talent to a network of connections that are diverse in role, skills, level and experience — and directly expose that talent to senior leaders who can support their growth and advancement.

    Organizations that use diversity networking programs are 3.4 times more likely to report they are effective at increasing opportunities for talent mobility.

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    Source: Gartner

  • 29 Oct 2020 6:15 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    The burden is on you to stuff your retirement piggy bank.

    by: Ashlea Ebeling | Oct 26, 2020,04:59pm EDT

    How much can you save for retirement in 2021 in tax-advantaged accounts? How does $58,000 sound? The Treasury Department has announced inflation-adjusted figures for retirement account savings for 2021. 

    The basic salary deferral amount for 401(k) and similar workplace plans remains flat at $19,500; the $6,500 catch-up amount if you’re 50 or older also remains the same; but the overall limit for these plans goes up from $57,000 to $58,000 in 2021. That helps workers whose employers allow special after-tax salary deferrals, and self-employed folks who can save to the limit in solo or individual 401(k)s or SEP retirement plans. 

    For the rest of us, IRA contribution limits are flat. The amount you can contribute to an Individual Retirement Account stays the same for 2021: $6,000, with a $1,000 catch-up limit if you’re 50 or older.

    There’s a little good news for IRA savers. You can earn a little more and get to deduct your IRA contributions. Plus, the phase-out income limits for contributing to a Roth IRA are bumped up.

    And the income limits to claim the saver’s credit, an extra incentive to start and keep saving, has gone up.

    We outline the numbers below; see IRS Notice 2020-79 for technical guidance. For more on 2021 tax numbers: Forbes contributor Kelly Phillips Erb has all the details on 2021 tax brackets, standard deduction amounts and more. We have all the details on the new higher 2021 estate and gift tax limits too. 

    401(k)s. The annual contribution limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan is $19,500 for 2021—for the second year in a row. Note, you can make changes to your 401(k) election at any time during the year, not just during open enrollment season when most employers send you a reminder to update your elections for the next plan year.

    The 401(k) Catch-Up. The catch-up contribution limit for employees age 50 or older in these plans also remains steady: it’s $6,500 for 2021. Even if you don’t turn 50 until December 31, 2021, you can make the additional $6,500 catch-up contribution for the year.

    SEP IRAs and Solo 401(k)s. For the self-employed and small business owners, the amount they can save in a SEP IRA or a solo 401(k) goes up from $57,000 in 2020 to $58,000 in 2021. That’s based on the amount they can contribute as an employer, as a percentage of their salary; the compensation limit used in the savings calculation also goes up from $285,000 in 2020 to $290,000 in 2021. 

    Aftertax 401(k) contributions. If your employer allows aftertax contributions to your 401(k), you also get the advantage of the new $58,000 limit for 2021. It’s an overall cap, including your $19,500 (pretax or Roth in any combination) salary deferrals plus any employer contributions (but not catch-up contributions).

    The SIMPLE. The contribution limit for SIMPLE retirement accounts is unchanged at $13,500 for 2021. The SIMPLE catch-up limit is still $3,000.

    Defined Benefit Plans. The limitation on the annual benefit of a defined benefit plan is unchanged at $230,000 for 2021. These are powerful pension plans (an individual version of the kind that used to be more common in the corporate world before 401(k)s took over) for high-earning self-employed folks.

    Individual Retirement Accounts. The limit on annual contributions to an Individual Retirement Account (pretax or Roth or a combination) remains at $6,000 for 2021. The catch-up contribution limit, which is not subject to inflation adjustments, remains at $1,000. (Remember that 2021 IRA contributions can be made until April 15, 2022.)

    Deductible IRA Phase-Outs. You can earn a little more in 2021 and get to deduct your contributions to a traditional pretax IRA. Note: Even if you earn too much to get a deduction for contributing to an IRA, you can still contribute—it’s just nondeductible.

    In 2021, the deduction for taxpayers making contributions to a traditional IRA is phased out for singles and heads of household who are covered by a workplace retirement plan and have modified adjusted gross incomes (AGI) between $66,000 and $76,000, up from $65,000 and $75,000 in 2020. For married couples filing jointly, in which the spouse who makes the IRA contribution is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the income phase-out range is $105,000 to $125,000 for 2021, up from $104,000 to $124,000.

    For an IRA contributor who is not covered by a workplace retirement plan and is married to someone who is covered, the deduction is phased out if the couple’s income is between $198,000 and $208,000 in 2021, up from $196,000 and $206,000 in 2020.

    Roth IRA Phase-Outs. The inflation adjustment helps Roth IRA savers too. In 2021, the AGI phase-out range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA is $198,000 to $208,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $196,000 to $206,000 in 2020. For singles and heads of household, the income phase-out range is $125,000 to $140,000, up from $124,000 to $139,000 in 2020.

    If you earn too much to open a Roth IRA, you can open a nondeductible IRA and convert it to a Roth IRA as Congress lifted any income restrictions for Roth IRA conversions. To learn more about the backdoor Roth, see Congress Blesses Roth IRAs For Everyone, Even The Well-Paid.

    Saver’s Credit. The income limit for the saver’s credit for low- and moderate-income workers is $66,000 for married couples filing jointly for 2021, up from $65,000; $49,500 for heads of household, up from $48,750; and $33,000 for singles and married filing separately, up from $32,500.

    QLACs. The dollar limit on the amount of your IRA or 401(k) you can invest in a qualified longevity annuity contract is still $135,000 for 2021.

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    Source: Forbes

  • 29 Oct 2020 6:12 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    AUTHOR: Sheryl Estrada | PUBLISHED: Oct. 16, 2020

    Dive Brief:

    • In efforts to advance racial and social equity, Starbucks will link executive compensation to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) goals beginning in the 2021 fiscal year (FY21), the company said Oct. 14. The Seattle-based company will also launch an Inclusion and Diversity Executive Council in the first quarter of FY21. Starbucks said it's sharing workforce diversity data "in more detail than we have previously shared," as well as making its filings with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission public. Other initiatives announced include a partnership with employee resource groups and the launch of a leadership mentoring program.  
    • Starbucks has set a goal of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) representation of "at least 30% at all corporate levels and at least 40% at all retail and manufacturing roles by 2025," according to the DEI report. In corporate level positions, White individuals represent 65.2% of employees; Asian 19.2%; Hispanic or Latinx 7.4%; Black 3.7%; and employees who identify as multiracial 2.6%. Women represent 69.2% of Starbucks employees in the U.S., overall; and there are roughly 47% BIPOC employees. Starbucks has reached 100% pay equity, according to the report. 
    • A mentoring program will begin in FY21 with a group of executives in senior vice president roles or higher paired with BIPOC directors in corporate and retail roles, the company said. It plans to increase talent development opportunities for BIPOC employees as well as partner with professional organizations that specialize in facilitating development. Anti-bias content will be included in hiring, development and performance assessment toolkits, according to Starbucks. The company will also invest in recognition and development programs for its employee resource groups — Black Partner Network, Hora Del Café, India Partner Network, Indigenous Partner Network and Pan-Asian Partner Network. An Inclusion and Diversity Virtual Leadership Summit scheduled for the second quarter of FY21 will be part of the initiative.

    Dive Insight:

    Starbucks has the responsibility to lead by example and will implement transparency and accountability to meet its commitment, CEO Kevin Johnson said in a letter accompanying the announcement. 

    Executive compensation at Starbucks will now be linked to DEI goals, which is a form of accountability that supports long-term changes, according to Mercer. Starbucks will also focus on racially and ethnically diverse representation on corporate boards of directors by joining the Board Diversity Action Alliance, Johnson said. Starbucks' new initiatives are built on the guidance offered in a prior Civil Rights Assessment conducted by Covington & Burling, according to the company. One of the recommendations was to hire a global chief inclusion and diversity officer. Nzinga "Zing" Shaw was hired for the role beginning at Starbucks in December 2019 "to help establish a strategic vision for the path ahead," the company said. 

    Starbucks also said all leaders in vice president roles or higher will be required to complete a two-hour anti-bias training and "the foundational and racial bias courses from the To Be Welcoming Curriculum," according to the company. This isn't Starbucks' first time partaking in diversity training. The company closed more than 8,000 U.S. stores and its corporate office for several hours in 2018 for racial bias training following an incident in Philadelphia when a store manager racially profiled two Black customers. 

    Starbucks' push toward recognizing and developing employee-led networks is to better understand and support the experiences of BIPOC employees, the company said. The networks could also help Starbucks understand the viewpoints of its diverse customers who advocate for employees. In June, amid national protests calling for racial justice, Starbucks received backlash for banning employees from wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts and accessories. After a #BoycottStarbucks hashtag went viral, the company designed its own Black Lives Matter T-shirt.

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    Source: HR Dive

  • 15 Oct 2020 8:06 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    Don't Balance Money And Life, Integrate Them |

    A survey of over 5,400 workers reveals how COVID-19 and the current political environment have contributed to dramatic shifts in what workers value and expect from their organizations.


    Money or Life? New WorldatWork Survey Shows Dramatic Shift in What Employees Expect from Their Bosses in Exchange for Their Time and Energy

    Worker Value Survey of 5,400 Finds That Safety Replaces Money as the New Currency

    • Almost half would take a lower title and a 30% pay cut to work from home -
    • More than half prefer their organizations take a stand on social issues -

    Employees are putting their safety, security, and personal values over money and titles according to the results of the Worker Value Survey, one of the largest of its kind, conducted by WorldatWork, the Total Rewards Association for HR professionals. The study of more than 5,400 working professionals uncovered significant workplace shifts and reflects the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns and social justice protests. (Journalists contact for a copy of the results.)

    The survey found that employees value safety more than money and want to align with leaders who take a clear stance on issues in which they believe. The survey also dug into what benefits are most important.

    “There has been a reckoning. The American Dream — bigger title, more pay — has been pushed aside and replaced with, ‘I want what I do to have meaning; to have a job that makes an impact; and a safe environment that values me as a whole person,” says Scott Cawood, CEO, WorldatWork.

    The survey provides insights into how COVID-19 and the current political environment have pushed core values and current issues to the forefront of the employer/employee conversation. Findings can help business leaders design and deliver Total Rewards programs that give workers a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives.

    According to the survey, employees say:

    ● They are seeking greater work/life balance, even if it means less money and a lower title. 42% of respondents would take 30% less pay and a lower title to work from home and have a more balanced work schedule. Over one-third (33%) of men and almost half (47%) of women say they’d make this trade.

    ● They strongly prefer that organizations take a public stance on social issues. More than half (54%) of respondents want companies to publicly voice opinions, one-third (33%) say they strongly prefer their employers speak out. Younger generations are the drivers for this. Standing for something is more important to Gen Z and Millennials (64%) than to their Boomer (38%) counterparts.

    ● They want their companies to ensure their safety … or they won’t go to work. 50% say they will NOT work for companies if they don’t feel safe. Another 28% say that if they don’t feel safe they are unlikely to work for that company.

    ● They want leaders whose values align with theirs. The majority (60%) state that working for a leader who shares similar social beliefs is very or extremely important. Almost a third (29%) viewed this as somewhat important and only 12% said it was not at all important. Almost two-thirds of Millennial and Gen X respondents want to work with someone who thinks like they do.

    “This attitudinal shift -- across all generations - has implications well beyond the short-term accommodations that companies are making because of the pandemic. Companies must pay attention or risk losing talent to others who are putting employees first,” says Cawood.

    Benefits that matter most now
    The survey also looked at what benefits matter most to today’s professionals. While employees would like to engineer perfect work and life balances, when asked to rank benefits in order of importance, health insurance outranked lifestyle perks such as paid time off, flexible work schedules, and the ability to work remotely. Scoring 21 points higher than any other benefit, 45% of respondents said health insurance was the most/second most important benefit their company could offer.

    Offering a retirement or 401K plan came in second, with 25% of respondents choosing it as their first or second most important benefit. Flexible work schedules and the ability to work from home came in fourth and fifth, respectively.

    The WorldatWork Work Value survey, conducted online, captured responses from 5,417 working professionals, collected between 8/14/2020 – 8/31/2020. 46% of respondents identified as male, 54% identified as female. Respondents were screened to only include those that are full-time employed in the US.

    About WorldatWork®
    WorldatWork is the leading nonprofit professional association in compensation and Total Rewards. We serve those who design and deliver total rewards programs to cultivate engaged, effective workforces that power thriving organizations. We accomplish this through education and certification; idea exchange; knowledge creation; information sharing; research; advocacy; and affiliation and networking. Founded in the United States in 1955, today WorldatWork serves Total Rewards professionals throughout the world working in organizations of all sizes and structures.

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    Source: Cision

  • 13 Oct 2020 9:06 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    Employer-sponsored health insurance premiums rose 4 percent in past year: analysis

    BY JESSIE HELLMANN | 10/08/20 

    Employer-sponsored health insurance premiums rose 4 percent over the past year, outpacing the increase in workers’ wages and the rate of inflation, according to an analysis released Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

    Average annual premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance are now $7,470 for a single plan and $21,342 for a family plan, up 4 percent from the previous year. Those dollar amounts include both worker and employer contributions.

    Meanwhile, wages increased by 3.4 percent alongside 2.1 percent inflation. 

    About 157 million people get their insurance through work, and the costs have steadily risen over the years.

    The average premium for family coverage, including the employer contribution, has increased 22 percent over the last five years and 55 percent over the last decade.

    In 2020, on average, workers contributed 17 percent of the premium for single coverage — about $1,243 — and 27 percent for family coverage, or about $5,588.

    Rising health care costs have been one of the reasons behind stagnant wages.

    Eighty-three percent of covered workers had an annual deductible for single coverage that must be met because most services are paid for by the plan, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation analysis.

    The average deductible for single coverage was $1,644 in 2020, similar to the average deductible last year.

    Sixty-five percent of covered workers have coinsurance that requires they pay for a percentage of their care of meeting their deductible.

    The analysis concluded that health care costs were stable in 2020, with premium increases modest and consistent with recent years. However, as the analysis was conducted in the early days of the pandemic, it doesn’t address how employers responded to it.

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    Source: The Hill

  • 12 Oct 2020 11:03 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    People voting in polling place

    Aaron Colby | Oct 10, 2020 

    Many food and hospitality businesses are incentivizing workers to vote. But, how does the law protect workers who are forced to choose between working and voting?

    Encouraging Civic Engagement

    Hospitality organizations of all sizes are encouraging employees to get out and vote. Examples include paid time off to vote, employee and customer voter registration initiatives, closing operations on Election Day, and free meals to poll workers. The encouragement is consistent across non-restaurant employers too. And, it has shown to make a difference.

    Schedule Conflicts Suppressing The Vote

    A Pew Research Center survey from the last national election shows several reasons Americans decided to not vote:

    “While a dislike of the candidates or issues was the most frequently cited reason for not voting, other top reasons included a lack of interest or a feeling that their vote wouldn’t make a difference (15%), being too busy or having a conflicting schedule (14%), having an illness or disability (12%) and being out of town or away from home (8%)....”

    Even so, a recent survey of HR professionals reveals that still less than half of businesses offer workers any time off to vote:

    • Paid Time To Vote. 45% of large organizations (500+ employees) said they are offering paid time off for voting, compared to 43% of medium organizations (100-499 employees), and 55% of small organizations (1-99 employees).
    • Unpaid Time To Vote. 33% of large organizations said they are offering unpaid time off for voting, compared to 30% of medium organizations, and 23% of small organizations.

    Like most Americans, many hospitality workers are scheduled to work when polls are open. But, what’s different is that most hospitality jobs are non-exempt (hourly) and either customer-facing or essential to daily operations, making efficient scheduling and attendance vital to success. There is an increased importance on “showing up to work on time” because absences may lead to lost revenue. The unintended impact can be a partial, albeit real, barrier to participating in the elective process.

    The Right To Time Off To Vote

    Having the right to vote is one thing; having the ability to exercise the right is another.

    Election Day is not (yet) a national holiday, and voters often face long lines at the polls.

    No federal law mandates that businesses give employees time off to vote. The right to time off to vote comes from state law.

    Only 30 states have laws that require time off work to vote. Common nuances between state laws guaranteeing workers time off to vote include:

    • Which workers must get time off to vote? Smaller businesses, newer employees, and independent contractors (like gig workers) may not be covered.
    • When workers may take time off to vote? Some laws provide time off “while polls are open” on Election days, whereas other laws do not specify. This issue may play out in the courts given the higher voting by mail and ballot box during the pandemic.
    • What amount of time off do workers get to vote? State laws differ, ranging from two hours, three hours, a “reasonable time,” “the morning of Election Day,” to depending on whether the worker can get to the polls when not working.
    • Whether workers must be paid for the time off to vote? 23 of the 30 state laws mandate the time off to vote also have some element of pay for the time (the other seven state laws require at least unpaid time off).
    • Whether workers must provide proof of voting? Most state laws do not require workers to present proof of voting, but at least seven do in certain circumstances (such as for documentation to be paid for the time).
    • Whether workers must give advanced notice for time off to vote? Most state laws do not require notice, however, some do require “reasonable” notice or notice a day or two before the election.

    Bottom line: whether it is because you have the time, your company gives you the time, or you carve out the time, exercise your right to vote.

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    Source: Forbes

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