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Anyone have advice for helping my directs deal with changes in our benefits that are coming Jan. 1?

HR gave meetings this week to explain them. Afterward, a director of another dept down the hall from me came through bloviating loudly about all the ways the company could use these new policies to screw us. :?

I went out in the hall and argued cordially with him that he was putting the most negative possible spin on everything, because I really did think he was blowing it out of proportion AND he was spewing his negativity all over some of my directs!

Nevertheless, some of the changes aren't so great. But I just want to be a voice of reason. They are what they are -- I didn't have any say in them, that's above my pay grade. I have to live with them too.

jhack's picture

Terri,

Do you know (maybe from O3's) whether the benefit changes will have a material impact on any of the team members?

Or do you just expect it to be a morale issue? Sometimes these issues are lightning rods for other concerns or problems. (like pay or crowded conditions).

John

stephenbooth_uk's picture

BLUF: Tell them as soon as you can, as much as you can and the unblemished truth (in so far as you can). Listen to the Compassionate Layoffs casts.

My employer has just been through a process called Single Status. This is supposed to deliver equal pay for equal work (part of addressing the gender pay divide) by objectively evaluating each job in the organisation, giving each one a score based on the evaluation and then fitting them to a grading structure that sets the pay range for that job. It supposed to be that the salaries of the underpaid will go up (level up) but senior management decided to use this as a process to cut pay (not quite purely level down, more if one person gains £1 another loses £2-3 so the pay bill as a whole goes down). The upshot of this is that approximately 30% of people have lost anything from 2% to 60% of their salary (most have lost around 12-15%), about 7.6% have gained anything from 5% to 40% of their salary (most are around 20%).

The layer of management just below those who took the decisions to cut people's pay decided to tell everyone as soon as the information was available, to be utterly upfront about it and honest (emphasising that they had no control over the situation) and to organise emotional and other support for staff.

There have been complaints, about the salary cuts not the fact that people have been told, some people did have to go home early that day and there have been quite a number of people literally crying in the corridors (imagine being suddenly told that you're going to lose 12% of your salary, despite the company doing very well and it being noithing at all to do with your job performance whilst someone else is getting a 20% pay rise and that has nothing to do with thier job performance, how happy would you be). On the other hand, it's been a lot better than expected as people appreciate being told and the candour. People have gotten through the upset and the rage very quickly and are now looking at the practicalities of the situation. Rather than blaming 'management' for the pay cuts they're looking at the system (albeit to question the objectiveness, that the losers have tended to be workers (both male and female) whilst the gainers have tended to be managers (mostly male) has caused some suspicions).

Stephen

WillDuke's picture

Don't argue cordially in the hall. Get him into your office where the splatter hits your walls instead of your directs.

Don't presume that the changes will have a negative impact on your directs. If your directs want to, talk about the impact on them individually in their O3s. I wouldn't try to "spin" it. I'd be up-front and honest. If you're unclear on the impact, tell them you'll find out.

If you try to "deal with" this out in the open with everyone at once the mob might come out. Instead address the actual reality of the changes as they impact the individual. It's probably less of an impact than you think.

bflynn's picture

This is a culture building opportunity. Focus on your directs, your work and the business. You are a serious business. Behave that way. In a way, you have a mini-crisis going on, so I suspect the "Managing in a Crisis" podcast is very applicable.

When your directs have questions or concerns, address them. One option is that you can pass the concerns up to your boss with an emphasis on how the change affects the business. There may be non-monetary options you can offer, such as comp time, but be extremely frugal with them and clear them with your boss prior to offering them. Ultimately, many answers probably comes down to "this is what we have to do to remain a viable business."

Mark/Mike - if you're reading this, it would be an excellent topic for a future podcast. Especially in the US with rising health care costs and the generally falling dollar/economy, I suspect we will see a great number of companies doing similar things in the future. Some concrete steps on how to handle the situation would be great.

Brian

terrih's picture

Will: Get Mr. Bloviate into my office? And decrease his audience? Sure, you try it. :? But, I get your point.

Stephen: that bites! :evil:

I think my first order of business is to make sure I understand the changes thoroughly. We all just found out about everything yesterday, and I have yet to read through the handouts.

There are positives AND negatives. Getting vision insurance back after it had been cut last July; on the other hand, no more across-the-board match on 401(k) contributions. Instead, at the end of the year they will evaluate how well the company is doing and give out a "discretionary" match. Not sure how the mechanics of that will work.

Instead of sick leave & vacation, switching to a PTO system. Could be positive in some ways and negative in others. I have to examine the details.

Thanks for all the input!

WillDuke's picture

I set my company up with PTO instead of vacation and sick pay.

Everywhere I worked sick pay was always use it or lose it. This pretty much forces people to "call in sick" to get their time. Or, if you're healthy and conscientious, you don't get the benefit. This doesn't seem equitable. I really ought to reward people who are reliable. So, it's all just PTO. It's a much better system.

Vision is nice, that's a positive too.

Discretionary 401K. This seems like the only potentially negative option. But it doesn't have to be. People could get the same, or possibly even more! It would be nice to have the "discretionary" portion of it clarified though. Hopefully there is a system for calculating input. Of course, employee's won't get the matching portion working for them throughout the year. Around here there are laws about how much time you have to get people's money into their 401K/IRA. But I guess they don't apply to the matching funds.

Anyway, you have 2 positives and 1 unknown. This doesn't sound bad at all. As for getting Mr. B. into your office, ask him in so you can ask him a question. It sounds like that would appeal to his ego. (blowhards are all about ego.) Then once inside, let him rant away. But if at all possible, keep that crap away from your directs. :)

rthibode's picture

I'm interested in learning more about the differences between PTO (paid time off) system and other systems of vacation and sick leave.

I find it frustrating that some people take off far more sick days and family days (when kids are sick) than others. Of course I sympathize most of the time, but some folks really do not take care of their health at all and as a result are sick much more often than others. Others take time off for pretty dubious reasons (e.g., two months off for a broken foot. No, she does not type with her toes.)

I have never faked a sick day to use up "my" sick time. It's a struggle just to use my vacation time every year.

What would a PTO system do for someone like me? What would it do for/to those who are already taking lots of time off?

TomW's picture

A PTO system levels the playing field so everyone has the same amount of time off. Why/how you use it is your own concern. It all accumulates and rolls over under the same rules.

For someone who takes a lot of sick days, they get less vacation. For someone who does not use sick days, they get more to use for vacation.

If your company offers sick time, then you really have no ground to complain about people who use it as long as they do not go over their allowed time.

rthibode's picture

Thanks Tom, nice clear explanation. It sounds like someone who's been sick a lot gets "punished" by not getting vacation. This would definitely not hold up with our union! I do get concerned about people using a lot of sick time, because I care about the organization's effectiveness. When staff are at home sick, our students are unserved and our programs left to coordinate themselves. It must be really difficult to design a perfect benefits system!

Sorry to hijack your thread Terri. Sounds like the changes are relatively minor, but fear and uncertainty are a potent mix in these cases. I wonder if the Bloviator may be expressing doubts and concerns that other, quieter pessimists are keeping to themselves? Is it politically safe for you to ask your team members to express their concerns to you, and add in points the Bloviator expressed that your team members don't? Then you can get information and correct any misconceptions, so at least they'll all know where they stand.

jhack's picture

Our large software company has vacation based on seniority, standard holidays, a couple floating holidays (to accomodate varying religious observances) and no limit on sick days. Vacation carries over (with a limit), holidays do not.

Sick days are taken as needed. If someone is sick for an extended period (more than 5 consecutive days) then a short term disability issue is addressed. Sick days can't accumulate or carry over, obviously.

We trust everyone to be a dedicated professional. If someone is abusing sick days, the manager will have to address it (as they would any other performance issue).

I am a big fan of this system. I've worked under it for many years and it works well.

One other point: Peter Drucker mentions sick days in "The Effective Executive" and suggests that some people will be out more than others, and to not lose sleep over it. He also says which demographic takes the most sick days - but I won't give that away here. You might be surprised.

John

WillDuke's picture

rthibode - I don't think of it as someone who is sick a lot being punished, I think of it as someone who doesn't get sick a lot NOT getting punished. Someone's going to make up for the sick person's absences, why should I lean more heavily on people who are more reliable?

The company needs people to come to work. That's why they get paid, to perform some work. Whether that person is out sick or on vacation, the work isn't being performed. When calculating how much work has to be done, and how much it's going to cost, it doesn't matter whether the person is out sick or out on vacation.

Consequently, why should we distinguish between sick and vacation as a benefit?

stewartlogan's picture

[quote="WillDuke"]Consequently, why should we distinguish between sick and vacation as a benefit?[/quote]

Will-

That's the difference in thought between someone who owns their own business and someone who doesn't.

bflynn's picture

[quote="terrih"]Getting vision insurance back after it had been cut last July; on the other hand, no more across-the-board match on 401(k) contributions. Instead of sick leave & vacation, switching to a PTO system.

Thanks for all the input![/quote]

It sounds like nothing too radical.

An approach that I've seen used before that was pretty effective - it sent these messages, not necessarily in these words or emphasis:
- These are small changes.
- They're necessary so we can be a profitable company.
- The alternative to not making these changes was layoffs.
- We are proud to be able to continue to provide you a stable job and make this a stable company.
- Let's get back to work.

I think there could have been ways to improve this. Hopefully, this won't be much of an issue and you can refocus on work.

Brian

terrih's picture

One thing the Bloviator was saying was that "they could start counting weekends toward PTO! There's nothing in here that says they can't!" To which all I could say was, "Oh, pu-LEEZE."

One thing that's more negative than I realized at first -- the old policy was to get 2 weeks of vacation after your 2nd anniversary with the company; now you don't get the equivalent until your fifth year. I have one DR in particular who is coming up on her 2nd anniversary and was really looking forward to the extra vacation time. :cry:

juliahhavener's picture

Now that one hurts, Terri!

Will those who already get 2 weeks' get to keep it? Will your DR make her 2 year anniversary before year end?

Our company counts time a bit differently - 2 week's vacation and 3 or 4 floating holidays (I can't remember which); these are use-it-or-lose-it and follows the calendar year. We also have flex time (68 hours, I think - I could be wrong) that follows the fiscal calendar. Flex time is the bank you use if you have an unscheduled absence (illness, etc). If you do not use your flex time, it is paid out after the end of the fiscal year.

For example:
I take 2 weeks vacation and use floating holidays. I only call in sick for 3 days. If I started out with 68 Flex hours and end up with 44 Flex hours unused, I will get a check mid-November for those 44 hours.

It's a great way to encourage people to schedule their time off AND to take their vacation time AS vacation time. At the same time, it doesn't specifically penalize the single parent who has no one else to pick up the kids from school when they are sick, etc.

TomW's picture

[quote="rthibode"]Thanks Tom, nice clear explanation. It sounds like someone who's been sick a lot gets "punished" by not getting vacation.[/quote]

I'm curious... what's the alternative when someone goes over their allowed sick time? Most companies I've worked for don't pay you for days off once you go over your sick time. (though they do allow you to take a vacation day if you choose)

rthibode's picture

Will Duke wrote

[quote]Consequently, why should we distinguish between sick and vacation as a benefit?[/quote]

I can see that from the owner/manager's point of view. I guess I'm seeing vacation as more of a human need for rest, relaxation, recharging the batteries, time with family, etc. Arguably, someone who's been sick needs this as much or more than someone who hasn't. I've heard that in the US vacations are not as valued as elsewhere, so this may partly be a cultural difference. At the same time, when one person takes a full vacation and tons of sick leave, it is frustrating to me to see others work far more for the same money & benefits. I can see both sides on this one.

TomW wrote

[quote]I'm curious... what's the alternative when someone goes over their allowed sick time? Most companies I've worked for don't pay you for days off once you go over your sick time. (though they do allow you to take a vacation day if you choose)[/quote]

We get 120 days per year of sick leave, then long-term disability kicks in. After 7 consecutive business days, you have to show a doctor's note if asked. Sick leave cannot be rolled over at the end of the year. I don't think too many people need to use vacation days when they're sick. Gotta love the union.

terrih's picture

Julia,
[quote]Will those who already get 2 weeks' get to keep it? Will your DR make her 2 year anniversary before year end? [/quote]
Alas, no and no. Although whatever vacation time you haven't used by the end of this year will carry over and get turned into PTO. And any unused sick leave will be put into a special bank to be used if you get sick enough to use up your PTO... one time only, when it's gone it's gone.

I think the only time PTO will ever be paid out is at termination (except in case of gross misconduct... or if you walk out without giving 2 weeks notice)

ccleveland's picture

[quote="rthibode"]We get 120 days per year of sick leave[/quote]

Wow! None of my jobs have had a "limit" on sick leave; however, not very many people take more than a half a dozen days all year. I'm up to six this year, which is a lot for me.

CC

dhkramer's picture

[quote="ccleveland"]

Wow! None of my jobs have had a "limit" on sick leave; however, not very many people take more than a half a dozen days all year. I'm up to six this year, which is a lot for me.

CC[/quote]

My firm allows 10 sick days per year. That's pretty standard. I expect your previous employers either didn't enforce the policy, which is common, or you were never sick enough to run into the limit.

kklogic's picture

To the original post -

I would take this as an opportunity. This person hasn't sugar-coated their feelings on the topic -- so you can deal with the core objections. I've had similar interactions with our HR person. I respond best when she explains everything in detail (so I think you're doing the right thing by learning all you can) and then says, "you know, I can see why you're unhappy with it. It's not ideal, but unfortunately, it's the hand we were dealt." She used to try "towing the company line," which really, really annoyed me and made me feel even more negative towards benefits changes. By dealing with my unhappiness directly, I felt like she was being more above-board and I accepted the benefits package more readily.