New study: Employee loyalty weakened by gas prices

As gas prices stay high, workers continue to make sacrifices and many are considering leaving their jobs for opportunities closer to home in order to cut down their commute.

Over one quarter (26%) of employees are considering changing jobs to improve their commutes, according to a study conducted by BusinessWeek Research Services and commissioned by TransitCenter.

Almost half (48%) of employees reported that their commute is getting worse and they’re looking at their employers to ease the pain, according to the study. About 65% of employees are expecting their employers to do something to help tackle the problem.

The top four commuter-related benefits employees find most appealing in a new job are:
  • Flextime (79%)
  • Telecommuting (72%)
  • Pre-tax commuter benefits (54%)
  • Subsidies for their pre-tax commuter benefits (47%).

TransitCenter is a not-for-profit organization that provides tax-free transit benefits as a means to promote mass transit use. Visit their website for a copy of the full press release on employee loyalty and gas prices.

Build employee loyalty with open communication

Employee loyalty is built with open communication, not with monetary rewards like raises, according to the latest Management Action Programs Inc. (MAP) Quarterly CEO Survey.

Open communication, employee recognition and involving personnel in decision making are the top three qualities people value most in a company, according to the MAP survey.

“Clearly, a work environment where employees are recognized as part of the team is more valuable than simply receiving a paycheck,” said to Lee Froschheiser, president and CEO of MAP, in a press release.

The survey revealed “open communication between management and employees” is the number one factor contributing to employee loyalty. Open communication was mentioned almost twice as frequently as “receiving raises.”

The most perceptive business leaders realize the enormous value of motivating employees in non-monetary ways, according to Froschheiser.

“Most of all, clearly communicating the company's vision and mission, as well as making employees feel they're playing an important role in the business' overall success are among these CEO's top employee-retention strategies,” Froshchheiser said.

Effective communication can contribute to a company’s profitability according to the recently released Communication ROI Study by Watson Wyatt.

Companies with the most effective communication programs had a 47% higher total return to shareholders from 2002 to 2006, compared to companies that communicate least effectively.

Those companies with effective communication are four times as likely to report high levels of employee engagement as compared to those with less effective communication.

The Watson Wyatt study identified that the highest-performing companies:
  • Focused managers and employees on customer needs.
  • Engaged employees in running the business.
  • Helped managers communicate more effectively.
  • Utilized the communication talents of internal communicators to manage change effectively.
  • Measured the impact of employee communication.
  • Branded the employee experience.


Employees agree diversity is key to success, but still needs work

While most employees believe that a diverse workforce contributes to the success of their organization, many have experienced some form of workplace discrimination and feel that their employers publicize diversity more than it’s actually implemented.

The majority of workers (61 percent) agree that having a diverse workforce makes their organization more successful, but almost half of all employees (47 percent) have felt discriminated against at the office, citing age as the top form of workplace discrimination. The findings are from Workplace Insights, a survey conducted by Adecco USA, which took a close look at how Americans think about diversity in the workplace.

Age discrimination was the top reported form of workplace discrimination (52 percent), followed by gender (43 percent), race (32 percent), religious (9 percent) and disability (7 percent).

American workers are skeptic when it comes to their company’s diversity initiatives, with the vast majority (78 percent) of workers feeling that companies talk more about having a diverse workforce more than they practice it.

With true diversity, Americans feel like they would get more done at work. The majority (53 percent) believe that the more diverse their workforce is, the more productive they would become.

Most American workers reported that having a diverse workforce is a top priority for their employer, but only one-third believe that corporate America has achieved total workplace diversity.

To better the workforce outlook, Adecco suggested that top executives make commitment to diversity their top priority. Companies looking to strengthen their diverse workforce should gain commitment from senior managers, engage employees in the process, support local diversity groups, provide diversity training and promote open lines of communication.

Read the full Adecco press release.

Federal minimum wage increasing this week

This Thursday, the federal minimum wage will become $6.55 per hour. The new wage, effective July 24, 2008, is up 70 cents from the first stage of the minimum wage law, previously set at $5.85.

To stay compliant with the Department of Labor (DOL) under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers must display a poster explaining the minimum wage increase. The poster must be posted in highly visible areas where employees may easily read the notice.

This week’s increase is part of a three-stage federal minimum wage increase passed in July 2007. The third phase of the law, increasing the wage to $7.25 will take effect in one year on July 24, 2009.

Researching constant labor law changes and ordering individual posters is a time-consuming, never-ending task. Luckily, there are tools out there to help. G.Neil’s Poster Guard Compliance Protection makes it easy to stay in compliance with all federal and state labor law posting requirements by doing all the work for you. Learn more here.

Digital dilemma: Paying employees to check BlackBerrys?

Should employees receive overtime compensation for checking company email, checking messages or posting a work-related blog from home?

The question recently became a hot topic at ABC, over whether the company should pay writers to check their BlackBerry outside of work.

The writers’ union challenged a longstanding contract waiver stating that writers who occasionally checked their BlackBerry after hours did not receive time-and-a-half overtime pay.

ABC argued that paying employees time-and-a-half overtime for using their BlackBerry for minutes at a time would turn into a nightmare of a paperwork and payroll issue.

The Writers’ Guild’s wanted to make a point that while technology makes it easy to work from anywhere, but we must avoid creating a 24/7 workplace.

In the end, ABC still will not pay overtime for employees who check email away from the office, holding true to their practices before the argument started.

As technology makes it easier to work from home, blurring the lines between work and play, issues like this will only continue to crop up.

Do you think this is a workplace issue we should be worried about? What’s the right thing to do?

Hot workplace legislation on the move this summer

Last week, Congress members returned to Washington for the final legislative push before a month-long recess beginning August 9.

With the Democratic and Republican presidential conventions scheduled for late August and early September, Congress members look forward to returning to their home states to campaign.

The next few weeks, while legislators remain on Capitol Hill, are one of the last opportunities for Congress to make significant progress on important workplace legislation in 2008.

Congress is expected to vote on a list of critical workplace issues during the next five weeks, including:

  • Amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Proposed extension (or replacement) of the E-Verify employment verification program
  • The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which creates federal protections against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation
  • The Healthy Families Act, which requires certain U.S. employers to offer paid sick leave as an employee benefit.

We will continue following all of the latest headlines, so check back regularly over the next few weeks for news on workplace legislation that may affect your business.

Rising gas prices force workers to make sacrifices

American commuters are feeling the strain and making sacrifices in order to buy the gas they need to get to work everyday. Last month, surveyed more than 8,700 workers nationwide, revealing some interesting statistics.

Of the 89% of workers who said they drive to work, almost half (47%) reported they had to give up something in order to afford the gas needed for the commute.

Workers reported they had to give up the following in order to pay for gas:

  • Dined out less – 35%
  • Spent less on entertainment – 31%
  • Bought less expensive groceries – 27%
  • Shopped for clothing less – 24%
  • Did not take a vacation – 21%
  • Eliminated cable, magazine subscriptions, etc. - 11%

Factoring in the cost of gas, 60% of workers said they would be willing to drive up to 20 miles to the office and 29% would only drive up to 10 miles.

“One-in-ten workers said they would take a pay cut for a job with a shorter commute,” according to Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources at

Employers can help alleviate the burden of high gas prices by looking into transit subsidies, promote carpooling, adopt flexible scheduling and allowing workers to telecommute for part of the week.

For more information, read a previous post on how employers can help ease the pain at the pump for employees.

New cell phone laws create business liability

As of July 1, a new law makes it illegal to drive in California while talking on a hand-held phone. If Californians still wish to talk while driving, they must use hands-free cell phone devices or risk a ticket. Drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using any mobile device while driving, except for emergency calls.

As Gov. Schwarzenegger said in a June press conference, the purpose of the law is “getting drivers’ hands off the cell phone and onto the steering wheel.” He added that the new law will save almost 300 lives each year in California.

Drivers using cell phones without a hands-free device face a $20 ticket for a first offense and $50 for subsequent offenses.

The new law creates additional liabilities for businesses with employees who must drive as a part of work. Employers in California may be fined if they still require employees to use their mobile phones while driving or if they are not completely clear in policies regarding cell phones and driving.

Although the it does not impose specific requirements on employers, companies with employees in California should take a few precautionary steps in response to the new law. According to those at the Ford & Harrison law firm, employers should:

  • Develop and implement a clear policy prohibiting the use of any mobile device to conduct business while driving, unless using a hands-free device.
  • Train everyone at the company including employees, supervisors and managers about the policy and new law.
  • Employers who reimburse employees for business-related cell phone charges, or provide employees with cell phones should also provide a hands-free device or reimburse employees for the purchase of such a device.

California now joins Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Washington state, New Jersey, New York with similar laws prohibiting the use of cell phones while driving.

Visit the California Department of Motor Vehicles for a complete FAQ regarding the law and more information on how the new cell phone laws may affect you and your business.

Employer adoption benefits increasing

With adoptions growing in the U.S., more companies are helping out their employees with financial benefits to help in the sometimes costly and emotionally exhausting adoption process.

“Last year, 47% of about 1,000 major U.S. companies offered financial aid for adoption, up from just 12% in 1990,” according to the Hewitt Associates human resources consulting firm in a recent article.

The Family and Medical Leave Act allows employees to take unpaid leave due to care for a new child including by birth, adoption or foster care. Other than the 12 weeks of leave covered under the FMLA, private employers are not legally mandated to provide adoption assistance.

There are more than 1.5 million adopted children in the U.S., making up over 2% of all U.S. children, according to the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption 2008 Best Adoption-Friendly Workplaces in the U.S. are:

  1. Wendy’s International, Inc.
  2. Citizens Financial Group, Inc.
  3. United Business Media LLC (UBM)
  4. Timberland
  5. Barilla America, Inc.
  6. Subaru of America, Inc.
  7. JPMorgan Chase
  8. Avon Products, Inc.
  9. Franklin International
  10. American Century Investments


The new I-9 form is the old I-9 form

Word has come down from the USCIS that the old I-9 form (one with a revision date of 06/05/07 or later and any expiration date) is still valid for the foreseeable future. That includes forms with an expiration date that has already passed. Nothing except the date has changed on the form. There is no impact on compliance.

The new form, with an expiration date of 06/30/09, is now available via download on the GNeil site. The printed and punched paper forms with the new expiration date will be available shortly.

In the meantime, you may continue to use the old I-9 forms, even if they say they have expired. We will continue selling the older fully compliant version as we await the new forms.

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