Unemployment is a topic that has been at the forefront of many economic, political and social discussions over the last 10 years.  Since the economic downturn and recession, unemployment numbers have increased.   More importantly, it is not just short-term unemployment but rather long-term unemployment that has become a significant issue for the American population.

Prior to the major economic collapse suffered in the early 2000s, the source of long-term unemployment was generally illness or disability. Today, many long-term unemployment issues stem from people who are unable to find jobs due to the stigma of long-term unemployment or a lack of current skills in their field.Unemployed

The perpetuation of this brutal cycle of unemployment is a direct result of a deterioration of skills, accepting jobs that are unstable or not well matched to their abilities and as a result of all of the above, making less than they were prior to being laid off.

We briefly touched on the topic of the stigma of unemployment back in 2011 and how giving preference to individuals who are recently laid off over those with a long-term gap in employment can be in violation of the EEOC’s regulations.  Today, we want to discuss how human resources professionals can address the need to “re-skill” these workers in order to leverage these individuals.

A paper recently released by the Brookings Panel on Economic Activity indicates that “Those who have been out of work for months come from all industries, but are primarily concentrated in sales, service and blue-collar jobs. The share of the long-term unemployed from sales and service jobs was 36%, and from blue-collar jobs 28%.”

These industries all rely heavily on skill based laborers.  The report also shows that when the unemployed do return to work, they return to the same industry or occupations from which they were displaced.    Whether the skill is a service position – such as technical support or a blue collar job like roofing, there are specific skill sets that are required to be a viable candidate for hire.

So how can human resource professionals address this skill gap that presents itself when an individual has been unemployed? The answer – re-training the individuals to possess new skills in the same or similar job roles as they previously held.  Training should be considered an investment in your employees.  These individuals want to work; they have the foundation for a successful career but need their skills to be refreshed and updated to be concurrent with the current jobs available.

We know that it may seem risky to hire someone who has been out of the game and requires training, however HR Shield offers expert HR advice in this very area – hiring the right people, navigating standards, and compliance and personnel management.  Contact us today to find out how we can help you maximize your HR practices.

Employee BenefitsHave you recently heard the term “company loan” and wondered what it was? A company loan is a loan provided by an employer to an employee. These loans can range from third party loans to loans paid out from the company’s finances. When the loans come from a third party, they are generally at extremely high interest rates and are for short term borrowing. Loans guaranteed by a company are usually lower interest, longer term and paid directly back to the employer through automatic payroll deductions.

These programs are being touted as the financial equivalent of a health and wellness program, as they often include financial education elements as well. The goal of these loans is to help employees address unexpected financial burdens or to help consolidate long-term, high interest debt into a single loan.

According to Renaud Laplanche, the CEO of Lending Club, a peer-to-peer lending start-up, this offering is a win-win for both the employees and companies. “The program we’re putting in place gives the ability for large companies with lots of employees to make loans to their employees and use their treasury reserves, on which they are earning like one or two percent, and put them to work,” he said in a recent interview. “At the same time, they would be offering a lower interest rate to their employees than what they’re paying on their credit cards or other loans they have. It’s really an HR benefit and recruiting tool.”

Is he right? Yes and no. In a perfect world, if employees paid loans back on time and no one defaulted then everyone would win. However, as HR professionals we know that there are regularly unexpected challenges with employees. When developing a company loan program, you need to spend time with both HR Consultants such as HR Shield, and attorneys, to ensure that you are developing an iron clad system.

Contact us today to start discussing the opportunity to develop a company loan program with your personalized HR Advisor!

The answer to this question is short and simple: Yes. Your company most likely pays for diabetes in one way or another. Here’s why…

If you provide your employees with health insurance benefits, your company is likely paying for overall increased healthcare costs that factor in the cost of diabetes. 22.3 million people in the U.S have been diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association recently shared that the total cost of diabetes in 2012 alone was $245 billion, which resulted in higher overall healthcare costs for everyone.

But it’s not just health insurance costs that force a company to “pay” for diabetes. Think about your workforce. If your top performing sales employee has to leave work this year because an undiagnosed case of diabetes progresses into heart disease, kidney failure or blindness (this is not that uncommon), your company will immediately start losing money until he or she is back to work or replaced. When employees (sales employees especially) are sick and unable to work, the employer loses money. When they need to be replaced, turnover and the cost of hiring is very expensive, not to mention time consuming.

So, what can you do to prevent diabetes among your workforce this year?

Employee Wellness Programs – For starters, have an employee wellness program (EWP) in place. These programs don’t need to be time consuming or costly, either. The primary cause for type 2 diabetes is obesity and if we can create environments that promote, support and encourage healthy habits, we can have healthier employees. At HR Shield, we have an entire section of our blog dedicated to EWPs – click here to learn more!

Annual Eye Exams – An annual eye exam is the fastest and easiest way to detect and prevent advanced diabetes. If you’re able to raise awareness and encourage annual exams, you could prevent a health issue before it ever arises. If you’re able to sponsor an annual “eye exam” day for the workforce, that’s even better! As we’ve mentioned above, untreated diabetes can lead to serious health problems including heart disease, kidney failure or blindness.

For more information on employee health and wellness, as well as healthcare costs, call us at (877) 636-9525 or fill out the brief form found on our contact page. HR Shield offers immediate access to expert advice from licensed HR professionals.

For many employers, minimum wage plays a big role in determining just how much help you can afford to hire. You may have various entry-level exempt and non-exempt positions available at your company, but what if minimum wage increases in the upcoming year – will you be able to afford all of your non-exempt workers?

Here’s your head’s up for 2014! If you weren’t already aware, the following states will have mandatory increases:

State minimum wage changes effective on January 1, 2014:

  • Arizona: $7.90 per hour (currently $7.80)
  • Connecticut: $8.70 per hour (currently $8.25)
  • Florida: $7.93 per hour (currently $7.79)
  • Missouri: $7.50 per hour (currently $7.35)
  • Montana: $7.90 per hour (currently $7.80)
  • New Jersey: $8.25 per hour (currently $7.25)
  • Ohio: $7.95 per hour for businesses with annual gross receipts in excess of $292,000 per year (currently $7.85)
  • Oregon: $9.10 per hour (currently $8.95)
  • Rhode Island: $8.00 per hour (currently $7.75)
  • Vermont: $8.73 per hour (currently $8.60)
  • Washington: $9.32 per hour (currently $9.19)


Additionally, California’s state minimum wage will increase on July 1, 2014 to $9.00 an hour. Right now it is $8.00 per hour.

When you need one-on-one support with payroll, compliance or hiring, a quick call to your HR Advisor is all it takes to tap into our team of licensed experts—each with a minimum of ten years HR experience.  Need help? Contact us!

Are you a serial emoticoner? In order to answer that question, you probably have to know what an “emoticoner” is: someone who sends emoticons, pictorial representations of facial expressions. Examples below:

;-)         :-)         :-P       :-(

Many of us use emoticons in everyday forms of communication such as texts to our loved ones or emails to our friends, but is the workplace, particularly workplace email, really the place for that?

Ten years ago you probably would have easily answered that question “absolutely not.” After all, emails at work were intended to be strictly business and written in formal context. But, email communication among clients and coworkers has become a lot more laid back over the years, thus opening the door to the “emoticon issue.”

HR Florida Review and the Florida Institute of Technology recently set out to uncover the science behind the use of emoticons and found the following: emoticons reduce the negativity effect in the business-related email message. Lots can be lost in email translation and sometimes the recipient may think you are being harsh, when a simple “smiley” at the end of the sentence lightens the mood and lets the reader know you aren’t angry and are still on good terms.  However, those who use emoticons, while perceived as more friendly, were also perceived as less professional.

Here’s what we think at HR Shield: email messages that are not clear or require some type of emoticon to let the person know how you’re really feeling should really be conversations you have in-person or at the very least on the phone. Additionally, there are other ways to let people know how you feel outside of emoticons. In an earlier entry “HR Shield’s Lesson on Office Email Etiquette” we noted two things that are rather relevant to this subject:

End Emails With Positive Salutations: The subject of your email may not always be positive, in fact you may be delivering bad news. But, never fail to let people know they are in fact appreciated. Sign off with “Thank you,” “Regards,” “Much appreciated,” or other nice sayings. (This is a much more professional approach vs. utilizing emoticons).

Think Twice: Reread all emails before sending. If the message is not clear, or is left up to too much interpretation, do not send it. Think of a way to reword the message before creating an avoidable miscommunication, or, as we said earlier: have the conversation in-person if possible!

Also, think about your workplace and the culture you’d like to uphold. Are emoticons too unprofessional and childish? How do you want to be perceived as a colleague, manager, client, or vendor each time you send an email?

HR Shield is committed to helping improve office atmospheres everywhere.  From HR best practices and basic office protocol to benefits and taxes, we’re here to help. Need more support than our weekly blog? Contact your HR Shield Advisor at (877) 636-9525!