Canadian HR Reporter

January 23, 2017

Canadian HR Reporter is the national journal of human resource management. It features the latest workplace news, HR best practices, employment law commentary and tools and tips for employers to get the most out of their workforce.

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Page 18 of 19

CANADIAN HR REPORTER January 23, 2017 INSIGHT 19 Introducing an employee benefi ts plan There are several considerations when it comes to offering up new perks Question: We are a small but growing com- pany and are thinking about implement- ing an employee benefi ts plan for the fi rst time. How do we go about doing so? Answer: e fi rst step you will need to take is to determine which benefi ts you are able to provide employees, and what budget is available to cover the costs of the plan. When off ering benefi ts for the fi rst time, it is important to be as conservative as possible — it is easy to introduce additional ben- efi ts to the plan in a year or two, but very diffi cult to take away ben- efi ts if the costs of providing them turns out to be unsustainable. A good starting point would be to off er basic life insurance (at least enough to cover most of the burial costs for the employee), a drug plan, and possibly some health-care coverage. Dental cov- erage, paramedical services and disability insurance will likely be out of budget initially. Although long-term disability (LTD) premi- ums are generally paid fully by the employee due to tax advantages, this is often not an appreciated benefi t until the employee needs the coverage. For that reason, you may choose to off er additional optional ben- efi ts where the employee would be fully responsible for the cost, but would then be able to take advantage of lower group rates. Such benefi ts might include addi- tional optional life insurance and perhaps a group registered retire- ment savings plan (RRSP). Also, consider if you will off er diff erent (increased) benefi ts to company executives and senior leaders. You may need to do so if retention is an issue at higher levels in the organization. How- ever, in a very small company, it may prove to be too costly to have more than one plan. You should also determine how the costs of the plan will be paid. Will the company fully pay the premiums or will it be a shared cost between the company and the employee? (Note: ere are tax implications to the employee for any portion of the premiums that are company-paid.) Again, it is likely better to have the employee assume part of the cost for the benefi ts as this will help them to appreciate the plan more, and can aid in keeping the plan cost increases down. However, increased payroll deductions for employees may end up having a negative impact on employee morale if there is no off set in their pay to cover the ad- ditional costs. e next step is to decide who will be eligible for the plan and when they will be eligible. Will it be mandatory or optional for em- ployees? Will part-time or con- tract employees be eligible? Will employees be eligible on their date of hire or will there be a waiting period? If there is a wait- ing period, how long will it be? Many organizations have a wait- ing period between one and three months to avoid added adminis- trative costs due to enrolling and removing employees who do not pass their probationary period. Will the plan only be rolled out to certain levels within the company (such as managers and above) or will all levels be eligible to participate? In a small compa- ny, it will be better to roll out the plan to more employees to help reduce the cost. Will spouses and children be eligible for the plan or will it only be off ered to the employees themselves? Some of these decisions will be based on the organization's culture while some may depend on the ultimate cost of the plan. Generally, having more partici- pants in the plan will provide the advantage of lower rates. However, there are also risks and administrative costs involved, so often contract and temporary employees are not included, as well as part-time employees. If eligible, part-time employees may have a longer waiting period such as six months to a year, or even two years. Finally, it is important to com- pile data about the workforce, in- cluding employee demographics. You should report on the numbers of each type of employee (such as full-time and part-time), as well as employee age, gender, family status (if you intend to extend the benefi ts to spouses and children), smoker status (if possible, as it may aff ect life insurance calcula- tions), salary and length of ser- vice. e insurance providers will need this information to provide cost estimates for the plan and to advise on what services they are able to off er. At that point, you will be ready to engage with brokers or insur- ance providers to fi nd a plan that suits your needs and to help you with building and implementing the benefi ts plan. However, it is important to shop around in or- der to fi nd the best coverage, ser- vice, fl exibility and rates, striving for cost-containment wherever possible. Janet Russell is an HR practitioner and compensation expert based in Toron- to. She can be reached at j_russell7@ Bring on the English graduates Communication skills invaluable when it comes to employee, employer success After reading thousands of resumés re- cently during a busy hiring period, I have become frustrated with the quality of applicants' command of the English language. Overall, I would say 95 per cent of the resumés I read have at least one spelling mistake (often many) and very few people take the time to write a decent cover letter. Many times, a resumé is word-perfect, but the cover letter is littered with errors and poor sentence structure. is tells me the applicants had help with their resumés, but basi- cally can't communicate or don't care enough to communicate well if they do possess the skills. The longer I employ people, the more I see the value in hiring English majors. Recently, two of my best hires came from English literature backgrounds. is was not planned, but I was impressed with the heartfelt cover letters that articulated their goals. In both cases, it set them apart from the hundreds of other applicants. Admittedly, two of my five children are English majors, so I may be biased. However, I saw fi rsthand the amount of time and eff ort they put into their stud- ies and the skills they developed from their love of language. is observation was bolstered by the success of my new hires. e bottom line: I am going to hire as many English majors as I can fi nd. Here's why: Analytical skills: At busi- ness school, we were always told, "We are not teaching you what to think, but how to think." Eng- lish majors are top-notch at this, as well as reading, analyzing and distilling information and then expressing an opinion. Work ethic: English graduates have excellent energy levels, often reading a massive list of books in a short time period and writing long papers into the night. Slack- ers don't apply to be English ma- jors. ere are no multiple choice questions on their exams. Written communication: English grads know how to write, including constructing full sen- tences with correct punctuation and spelling. is not only helps our company look professional, it contributes clarity to the emails they write. In this digital age, when atten- tion spans are limited, the clarity of a message matters more than ever. You have to be clear and succinct or you will lose your au- dience. e receiver doesn't have the time or patience to read a mes- sage over again to fi gure out what you are saying. Commas, periods and capitals work wonders in helping people understand. Verbal communication: Be- cause they read so much, English grads' verbal skills are great too. ey are articulate, even if they are shy by nature. Whether you are on a voice conference call, a video conference call or in a face-to-face meeting, being able to express yourself counts. If you are clear, confi dent, have a great vocabulary and are expressive, people will listen to you. Availability: Sadly, some Eng- lish majors have a tough time en- tering the workforce. As a result of this, they are often available and also aff ordable. So you are able to hire them at a reasonable starting wage for junior positions and then move them up quickly once you confirm what their skills are. Gratefulness: English gradu- ates are grateful to be employed. In my experience, they are eager for a chance to work in their fi eld, and have a much lower sense of entitlement compared to other new employees. Creativity: Along with the language skills, you get a whole lot of creativity. An English grad will happily prepare a PowerPoint presentation, proofread a market- ing brochure and think outside the box on an operational issue. e right side of their brain is well-developed. Positive attitude: Generally, I fi nd English graduates are pas- sionate and have a "can do" atti- tude. ey pursued an arts back- ground because they love it. ey knew it would be hard to get a job, but could not pass up the oppor- tunity to do what they love. One fi nal note: Job applicants should take the time to re-read their resumés and write coher- ent cover letters. And when they are responding to a request for an interview, they shouldn't use a smartphone. In my experience, the chance of making errors on a small keyboard is much greater. Most people are inclined to type quickly (out of habit) and their spelling is often atrocious. Every step in the hiring process is a chance to impress... or not. is applies — even if someone is an English major. Lois Fraser is president of Fraser Direct Distribution Services, a warehousing and logistics company in Milton, Ont., that employs 150 people. : We are a small but growing com- pany and are thinking about implement- ing an employee benefi ts plan for the fi rst time. How do we go about doing so? Janet Russell ToUgHest HR QUestion After reading thousands of resumés re- cently during a busy hiring period, I have become frustrated with the quality of applicants' command of the English Lois Fraser GUest CoMMentarY "I am 63 and chose to work in government jobs for union and pension benefits. It was understood the pay was less, but at least the pension was defined. People outside of government have opted to let go of unions that took care of better wages and pensions. So, wages have gone down and they no longer are paid higher than government jobs. Instead of improving their own sorry lot, they look to civil servants with jealousy and fight to have the civil servants' unions and pensions removed, rather than insist on better for their retirement. We are now a country of part-time workers with little to no benefits. Of course, that's OK when people are young, but as age, debt and family responsibilities kick in, it's not sustainable. My advice is to learn to live on the cheap and with combined families to cut expenses. Learn to grow your own gardens again as your grandparents did. You will need all of that (and then some) to survive what is coming." — Maggie, commenting on Todd Humber's blog "A farewell to DB pension plans" Join the conversation. Comment on any blog on READER COMMENTS In this digital age, when attention spans are limited, the clarity of a message matters more than ever.

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