Different Ways You Can Express Gratitude at Work

(Article originally authored by HR/Advantage Advisory, Powered by Clark Hill)

Individual achievement and competition are rewarded in US workplaces through bonuses and promotions up the chain of command. In our efforts to remain “professional,” we don’t often talk about emotions like gratitude, forgiveness, compassion, and generosity. Appreciation is often a once/year event.

As Don Draper famously stated, “that’s what the money is for!”

What would the impact be of a culture in which employees are acknowledged routinely and regularly for their achievements–not only by their supervisors, but also by co-workers?

Especially in a year that has proved divisive, it is important to find ways to come together. As stated in Business Management Daily, Dr. Richard Weissbourd, a psychologist and lecturer at Harvard University, “in a society that has become so splintered and self-focused, gratitude is a common bond and offers one of the best ways for us to connect with one another.”

Throughout the year, Clark Hill PLC (HR/AA is a division of Clark Hill) holds Town Hall Meetings where the firm communicates and celebrates promotions, business wins, and goal achievement. For the year-end meeting in 2020, the firm decided to do something different. As Roy E. Sexton, Director of Marketing, described it recently, “our executive team at Clark Hill identified gratitude as the core theme for our year-end Town Hall.

We organized a survey to collect examples in our colleagues’ own words and had them submit video shout-outs.” Employees–the IT team and administrative staff who kept the firm’s wheels turning, fellow attorneys who had been quick to jump in to help when someone was sick or absent–heard heartfelt, personalized, and public descriptions of the impact of the “behind the scenes” work that they had done.

As an observer, it was uplifting. As Roy described it, “the results were phenomenal. People felt seen and heard and, most importantly, appreciated.”

As you decide whether you would like to reconsider how appreciation is expressed in your organization, here are some things to keep in mind:

Positive feedback is more impactful than negative feedback

According to taketheleadwomen.com, more than half (53%) of employees admit they would stay longer at their company if they felt more appreciation from their boss.

In fact, four in five (81%) employees report they’re motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work, higher than the 38% of employees who say they’re motivated to work harder when their boss is demanding or the 37% of employees who say they’re motivated to work harder because they fear losing their job.

And in a related Glassdoor survey, 53 percent of employees admit they would stay longer at their company if they felt more appreciation from their boss.

81 percent of those polled said they would work harder for a more grateful boss and 93 percent said a grateful boss is more likely to be successful because their subordinates would support them.

Recognize that we all need help creating new habits

It may be necessary to rethink the messages we give managers. In a Harvard Business Review article, authors Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman state, “perhaps it starts with the perception that the really good managers are the tough graders who are not afraid to tell people what’s wrong.

Possibly, they believe that giving people positive feedback will encourage a subordinate to let up or coast. Maybe they are emulating their prior bosses who gave little praise, but who pointed out any mistake or weakness. Some may believe it a sign of weakness to praise subordinates.

Maybe they just don’t know how to effectively deliver appreciation or praise.” Managers describe the stress involved with giving feedback to direct reports in revealing numbers: 21% avoid doing so at all and 37% admit they also avoid giving positive reinforcement.

And it isn’t just managers who are reluctant to show appreciation. In a survey quoted in Forbes, 10 percent of respondents said they express gratitude to their colleagues every day and 60 percent said they express gratitude at work once year–or never!

Get creative and "Tailor the Gesture"

At Clark Hill, birthdays, anniversaries, and “comings and goings” are acknowledged in a weekly update. When a family member passes away, a firm-wide notification is sent, allowing employees to send expressions of sympathy.

This simple gesture acknowledges that employees are “whole people” with lives apart from work and is a way of encouraging connection and appreciation between employees that is easy to implement. One employee noted in the Town Hall that she’d received 75 sympathy cards as a result of the firm-wide notification.

When it comes to individual expressions of gratitude, the most impactful acknowledgements recognize our differences in strengths and skills and the ways we want to be acknowledged, even if it is different from our own. Administrative professionals might want to be acknowledged and rewarded for their writing or public speaking skills.

An executive may want to be thanked for consistent good manners, not goal achievement. It is important to assess whether employees would like a public gesture of appreciation or a private note. Some people don’t want to be publicly thanked. Gift cards, flowers, embossed buttons, company activities, tickets to a show, professional cleaning services, time off–tailor the gesture to the employee’s preferences.

Creating a culture of appreciation may feel awkward at first, but it will pay off in the long run. Let us know if you have created a program or process that works–and call us if you would like some help in changing your corporate culture to reflect an “attitude of gratitude.”

Sources: Business Management Daily, “Keep Gratitude at the Forefront” Harvard Business Review, “Why Do So Many Managers Avoid Giving Praise” Forbes, “ Benefits of a Year Round Attitude of Gratitude in the Workplace” Greater Good Magazine, “How Gratitude Can Transform Your Workplace” Taketheleadwomen.com, “You’re Welcome? 7 Ways to Show Gratitude at Work”  

The views and opinions expressed in the article represent the view of the author and not necessarily the official view of Clark Hill PLC. Nothing in this article constitutes professional legal advice nor is intended to be a substitute for professional legal advice.

Young man having Zoom video conferencing call via computer.

Top Ten Tips To Have More Effective Meetings

(Article originally authored by HR/Advantage Advisory, Powered by Clark Hill)

What words come to mind when you think of workplace meetings?

Efficiently run meetings help facilitate communication, collaboration, productivity and learning.

Especially when employees work remotely and are meeting via Zoom, it’s important to bring employees together and reinforce teamwork.

It’s no surprise that inefficiently run meetings are one of the most common annoyances in the workplace.

We're sure you can recall meetings that could have been conducted more effectively, or better yet – could have been eliminated and handled via email or phone call.

Start maximizing your organization’s resources and time by implementing the following ten tips.

  1. Define Your Objective. Determine what you are trying to accomplish before you decide to schedule a meeting.
  2. Meet Only When Necessary. Ask yourself the following questions: Is it possible to achieve your objective(s) via email? Or phone call?
  3. Prepare and Distribute Materials. If you want your attendees to review documents or materials prior to a meeting, provide them at least 72 hours in advance.
  4. Know Who’s Going to Lead the Meeting. This may seem like an obvious step, but it is frequently missed. If the idea to meet was yours, chances are, you should lead.
  5. Have a Clear Agenda. Prior to the meeting, the leader should have a clear agenda prepared. Always communicate the purpose and then the agenda.
  6. Start and End on Time. It’s always important to respect others’ time.
  7. Be Mindful of the Invitation List. Only invite those whose input is necessary. When in doubt, ask colleagues if they would like to attend.
  8. Keep the Discussion on Track. If the conversation veers off-topic, the meeting leader must jump in and re-direct. Make sure to involve individuals who don’t normally participate (junior level or introverted employees, for example, who may need to be called on directly).
  9. Close the Meeting with Action Items. Determine action items, who will own each action item and the time frame for deliverables.
  10. Follow-up to Ensure Results. Monitor the status of action items and reach out to participants to offer assistance, as necessary. Be sure to thank participants as deliverables are completed.

You’ll be able to get the most out of your meetings by keeping these best practices in mind.


nj transit train in black and white

What to Know About New Jersey Transit Commuter Tax Benefits (Updated Oct 2020)

Updated: October 26th, 2020

On March 1, 2019, New Jersey established a transit benefit ordinance that requires employers to offer employees pre-tax commuter transit benefits, consistent with certain qualified transportation fringe benefits, as defined in Section 132(f) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Effective August 17, 2020, the New Jersey Division of Wage and Hour Compliance adopted rules for the transportation fringe benefit ordinance. Click below for a file that highlights the rules, NJ requirements and other important information for employers:

Originally Published: February 22nd, 2020

Every day, thousands of workers across New Jersey travel to work, whether it be by car, bus or train.

A new pre-tax benefit signed into law in March 2019, however, will force employers to provide transportation benefits to employees, subject to certain conditions.

What Is The New Jersey Commuter Tax Benefits Law?

The New Jersey Commuter Tax Benefits Law (Senate Bill No. 1567) is a new law that will force employers to offer pre-tax transportation fringe benefits to employees if they employ more than twenty people.

State Governor Phil Murphy signed the bill into law on March 1, 2019, and it will go into effect from March 1, 2020, or perhaps slightly earlier.

With the passing of the new law, New Jersey became the first state in the Union to compel employers of a specific size to offer pre-tax transportation fringe benefits to all employees.

The purpose of the bill, according to a press release from the Governor’s office, is to reduce the financial burden that employees face during their daily commute to work.

The new bill will compel employers to provide capped benefits covering the costs of highway travel, public transit, and parking for employees.

Which Types Of Businesses Are Subject To The New Law?

Every business or organization that employs over twenty people in the state is subject to the new law, with two exceptions: federal government-level employers and employers already covered by existing collective bargaining agreements.

In short, private firms, non-profits, local governmental employers, and charities will all need to abide by the new rules. At this stage, there appear to be no other exceptions.

Employers with fewer than twenty employees do not have to abide by the new rules.

Furthermore, organizations with greater than twenty employees with union representation do not have to comply with the new regulations set out in the New Jersey Transit Commuter Tax Benefits bill automatically.

Current rules state that they can keep their existing collective bargaining agreements, provided that they were in effect on or before March 1, 2019, until they expire.

If collective bargaining negotiations took place after that date, then organizations must include a discussion of Transit Benefits in their talks.

What Benefits Do Employees Get From The New Law?

The new law states that employers must offer pre-tax transportation benefits to employees covering the following areas (consistent with Section 132(f)(1) of the IRS Code).

These include:

  • Commuter highway vehicle benefits
  • Transit passes
  • Qualified parking

The new benefit is a “pre-tax” benefit. Status as a pre-tax benefit means that employers can deduct the perk from their employees’ pre-tax earnings – only then applying the federally-mandated tax to the remainder.

The bill, therefore, provides employees with tax relief.

The current allowable limits for benefits levels under federal law is $265 per month for transit passes and commuter highway vehicle combined and an additional $265 per month for qualified parking.

These figures, however, are subject to change from March 2020 and subsequent years.

What Are The Penalties For Non-Compliant Businesses?

As the law stands, the Labour Commissioner responsible for ensuring that businesses comply with the new law can issue citations for companies that do not follow the rules.

The fines for those who do not offer their employees access to pre-tax transportation benefits are:

  1. A penalty of between $100 and $250 for the first instance of non-compliance. The penalty is only imposed if the employer does not comply with the law within 90 days of the original citation
  2. A further penalty of $250 for every 30 days (after the initial 90 days) that the employer does not comply with the citation

The state, therefore, strongly encourages businesses to comply with the law by imposing regular fines on those that don’t.

Currently, the law states that the Labor Commissioner cannot impose penalties more than once every 30 days.

How Long Do Companies In New Jersey Have To Comply With The New Law?

The status of the law is as “inoperative,” meaning that firms face no penalties for non-compliance with the law.

That, however, will change from March 1, 2020 – or earlier.

Companies may have less time than they expect to comply with the new pre-tax fringe transportation benefits.

While the latest that the new rules can come into effect is March 1, they could come into force earlier at the discretion of the New Jersey Labor Commissions.

Companies should apply the new fringe benefits in a manner consistent with their existing practices for similar perks.

The Labor Commissioner has not yet implemented these new benefits rules (February 13, 2020), but that will change soon.

How Should Businesses Prepare For The New Jersey Transit Benefits?

The state legislature passed the New Jersey Transit Commuter Benefit into law in March 2019, but it won’t go into force until March 2020.

This delay gives employers vital time to prepare their HR teams and administrative systems for the new rules.

Our advice is for firms to do their research on the new benefit program requirements.

You need to ensure that you understand precisely how to apply these new rules to your employee compensation calculations.

Legal authorities recommend that you take steps now to build a Transit Benefit program ready for launch when the rules come into force.

Using third-party vendors specializing in these services can give you a head start will allow you to comply with the new law from March 1, 2020.

Educating yourself on the new law should also be a priority. Having the right knowledge will let you respond to employee queries about the benefits.

If you’re unsure at any point, then again, seek advice from third-party employee benefits solutions companies.

Consultants will answer specifics not covered here in this article.

The new benefit is a tool that you can use to attract and retain employees.

You may, therefore, want to engage in a publicity campaign advising current and prospective employees that you now offer the perk.

Finally, if you manage or own an affected company, then you must monitor the New Jersey state’s website for updates or revisions.

The law, for instance, may come into force earlier than expected. Benefits caps may also change.

If you have any questions about implementing these benefits in your business, contact us at ABS.

2020 HR Trends: HR Advantage Advisory Update

(Article originally authored by HR/Advantage Advisory, Powered by Clark Hill)

The US workforce has encountered unprecedented changes over the past few months. Forecasts from the fourth quarter of 2019 on business trends for 2020 became irrelevant by the time the pandemic arrived a few months later.

Recently, several HR experts from the Forbes Human Resource Council gathered to discuss the trends they expect to see in the second half of the year.

1.) Diversity, Equity and Inclusion - Although not new, the current climate of racial injustice and inequality has brought the topic to the forefront.  Employers will need to use fresh ideas and strategies that are relevant to the here and now. Some examples provided by TalentLyft include celebrating diverse holidays, establishing mentorships for underrepresented groups and using inclusive language when communicating – e.g., people versus ladies and gentleman and they versus him/her in handbooks.

2.) Improvement of the Employee Experience and Workplace Culture – Employers are more aware than ever before of their employees’ personal needs and well-being. They must understand what motivates employees to be productive and re-imagine traditional work processes. Flexible work schedules, telecommuting town hall meetings and frequent remote one-on-one meetings with managers and co-workers will continue.

3.) Technology Improvements – With the drastic shift of employees to a remote work environment, better collaboration tools, remote connectivity platforms (i.e., VPNs) and stronger IT infrastructures will be more important than ever. Additionally, enhanced employee training will be essential so that employees are better equipped to transition both in and out of office effectively with little to no disruptions.

4.) Changes in Benefits - COVID-19 could force fundamental changes in how employers and employees share in the cost and value of benefits. According to a recent SHRM publication, some of the most common changes employers are considering include: expanding virtual/telehealth programs (32%), enhancing mental health support (25%), increasing cost-sharing expenses like deductibles, premiums and copays (20%) and adding voluntary benefits (16.5%).

5.) Caution in Hiring - The pandemic has caused many organization to quickly shift gears. Some companies were forced to close their doors for good, while others have found it necessary to lay off employees to keep their doors open. Employers will continue to be very cautious in their hiring practices over the next several months.

6.) Growing Importance of Working From Home - Companies will continue to allow employees to work from home as uncertainty regarding the resurgence of the coronavirus and the creation of a vaccine continues.

Additionally, working from home may be an enduring outcome from the pandemic as companies are able to see that productivity and engagement has not suffered and they are able to realize cost savings from lower office expenses.

Sources: Forbes, “13 Human Resources Trends Expected in H2 2020” SHRM, “Planning 2021 Benefits Changes for the COVID-19 Era” TalentLyft, “10 Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Ideas You Can Implement Today”

HR/AA consultants are available to work with you on a project and/or interim basis to assist you with understanding, implementing and administering best practices related to the current COVID-19 challenges we are facing.

three 1095 reporting forms with a stack of cash, pen and calendar

New Jersey ACA 1095 Reporting & Mandate Filing Deadline

If you are an employer and provide your staff with health insurance coverage, you need to be aware of the New Jersey state individual mandate that comes into effect for Tax Year 2019.

The changes relate to New Jersey 1095 reporting and mandate filing.

The Tax Year 2019 is the first year that the New Jersey Health Insurance Market Preservation Act (Market Preservation Act) comes into force.

The New Jersey Health Insurance Market Preservation Act is a continuation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The ACA requires employers that supply their employees with healthcare coverage to file a report to verify this.

This law aims to provide third-party verification and ensure that everyone in the state has an adequate level of health coverage, or if applicable, an exemption.

The New Jersey Health Insurance Market Preservation Act ensures that New Jersey residents are purchasing health coverage and that the state’s health insurance market remains stable enough to provide New Jersey residents with affordable healthcare coverage.

Who is Affected by New Jersey ACA 1095 Reporting and Mandate Filing?

The New Jersey ACA 1095 reporting and mandate filing relates to individuals that pay New Jersey’s income tax.

Employers that provide health coverage for employees that pay New Jersey’s income tax are required to verify this via 1095 forms.

This new law applies to both full-year New Jersey residents, along with part-year New Jersey residents.

Both types of residents will require a 1095 form to be filed confirming their health coverage.

In 1095 filing terms, a part-year resident is defined as a primary enrollee that has lived in the State of New Jersey for at least 15 days of any month during Tax Year 2019.

It is crucial that employers located out of state also comply with the new rules.

Businesses that operate outside of New Jersey but employ New Jersey residents must also comply with 1095 reporting, so they need to be aware of the mandate and its requirements.

This is a crucial point to note, as it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that they file 1095 forms for every employee that requires one.

What Forms and Information are Required by the State?

1095-A forms are issued by the federal government to those who purchased an individual plan at HealthCare.gov or the Health Insurance Marketplace.

To meet the requirements of the new mandate, New Jersey requires that for Tax Year 2019, Form 1095-B, and 1095-C are filed to the state.

Form 1095-B, Health Coverage or Form 1095-C, Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage should be filed for employees that are either part-year or full-time residents in New Jersey.

The form that is required will depend on several factors, including the size of the company and the type of coverage plan that it offers.

Which Forms are Required From Fully-Insured Employers?

Form 1095-B, Health Coverage is generally used for employees working for companies that are fully insured.

This includes companies that are Applicable Large Employers (ALEs) employing over 50 full-time workers or equivalent, and to companies that are Non-Applicable Large Employers (Non-ALE) and employed less than 50 full-time employees during the previous calendar year.

Employers that are enrolled on a multi-employer plan and fully-insured will typically also need to file Form 1095-B.

Which Forms are Required From Self-Insured Employers?

If employers are self-insured, they will need to file either a Form 1095-B or a Form 1095-C depending on the criteria they meet.

Self-insured employers that are a single company and an Applicable Large Employers (ALE) member will be required to file Form 1095-B or Form 1095-C.

Self-insured companies that have employed fewer than 50 employees over the past calendar year, and are therefore classed as Non-Applicable Large Employers (Non-ALE) will be required to file a Form 1095-B for each employee covered by the plan.

Companies that are self-insured and are part of a multi-employer plan will need to file a Form 1095-B for each employee that is covered by the plan.

When is the Deadline for Submitting the Forms?

Coverage providers must send out the required 1095 form to their primary enrollees by the fixed deadline, which is March 2, 2020.

The deadline for transmitting 1095 forms back to the New Jersey Division of Taxation is March 31, 2020.

Where do the Forms Need to be Sent?

Completed forms will need to be sent electronically to the State of New Jersey; it is not possible to send paper copies.

To submit your forms, you will need to use the Division of Revenue and Enterprise Services’ (DORES) MFT SecureTransport service.

Transmitting the forms via DORES is the required method for anyone filing more than 100 forms. An MFT SecureTransport service account is required to submit the forms.

If you do not have an account currently, you can request one by contacting DORES, who will also be able to offer guidance for submitting the forms, if needed.

When submitting your forms, you will need to ensure that the file size is below 12MB.

Otherwise, you will need to split the submission into smaller files. Zip files are not an acceptable way to transmit your forms.

Once files have been submitted via the MFT SecureTransport service, a submission receipt will be issued to the email address associated with the MFT Secure Transport service account to confirm that your submission has been received.

If you have less than 100 forms to be submitted, this can be done one form at a time, by using the Fillable Form NJ-1095 instead if you wish.

What are the Coverage Provider’s Responsibilities?

To comply with the New Jersey Health Insurance Market Preservation Act, coverage providers must ensure that all applicable employees are sent 1095 reporting forms by the March 2, 2020 deadline, and that the forms are submitted to the New Jersey Division of Taxation by the March 31, 2020 deadline.

Both fully-insured and self-insured employers will need to contact their insurer or multi-employer plan to be sure that the 1095 forms will be submitted before the deadline.

Employers must remember that they are responsible for ensuring that forms are submitted on time.

There was also a recent update in NJ regarding New Jersey transit commuter tax benefits.

You can read our post on the topic by following this link.