Five End-Of-Year Hacks for Small Business HR

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You’ve likely noticed Starbucks already rolled out the red cups, and are about to usher the PSL (pumpkin spice latte, for those not in the cult) back into seasonal retirement. This can only mean one thing: the holidays are upon us, and the calendar year is coming to a close.

Bad news if you don’t like carols. But fortunately that’s the only reason to panic – there’s still plenty of time for even a small business HR professional to prepare their team for success in the new year.

Here’s our cheat sheet – the top five small business HR hacks you should be doing before saying goodbye to 2014:

1. Perform a COBRA audit. Do you know if you offer state COBRA? Have you hit the ceiling to switch to Federal COBRA? Is your Federal COBRA properly administered? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, it’s time for an audit. Better to do it proactively, and set-up services as needed, than wait fro the Department of Labor to knock on your door.

2. Update your SPDs. Wait… my what? The Summary Plan Description (SPD) is a document plan administrators are legally obligated to provide to all participants. It’s more than just the Summary of Benefits or Master Contract – this is a unique, ERISA compliant document, that contains the important facts your employees need to know about their retirement and health benefits.

3. Update your employee handbook. This is the most understood and least completed task on an HR/Ops Manager’s plate. Outdated documents are irrelevant documents. They are also potential liabilities – for example, if your dress code is different in practice than in writing you aren’t protected should one manager decide to enforce what others are letting slide. An effective handbook is essential to keep operations efficient, employee motivated, and overall communications clear.

4. Prepare for 2014 costs. Health insurance is the second-largest recurring cost of a small company’s budget. And we are in an age of volatile health care costs. Don’t let impending Affordable Care Act compliance deliver an unexpected blow to your fringe rate. Know the range of costs – and strategies to mitigate increases – before the budget year begins.

5. Have a recruitment plan. Employee benefits are expensive, but worth it. More than salary, employees often look to this part of a total hire package to make an employment decision. You’re in constant competition with other companies to hire the best and brightest – are your benefits able to go toe-to-toe? If you don’t know, you need to find out. Note “better” is not synonymous with “more expensive”. A good benefits strategy leverages creative, holistic solutions to find the most attractive package for your recruitment needs.

Bonus hack – get a progressive broker

Does the above seem more an overwhelming project list than helpful hack? Then you need a new broker. Today’s employee benefits brokers are more than just insurance, providing all of the above services (and more!) as part of your existing insurance premiums – no additional costs.

If you haven’t found this kind of partner yet, your top hack should be: ditch your broker, and find a new one that can really help.

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