a man in a position of power shaking hands over his desk with a woman

Conducting a Pay Analysis

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

According to Kenneth Eade, a lawyer and author, “In any negotiation, the one who first gives a number is the loser.” Effective negotiation combines nerves of steel, a willingness to walk away, and a thorough knowledge of the needs of the other party, some of which may be impossible to achieve when one is anxious to secure employment. But regardless of these challenges, most job applicants try to negotiate starting salaries, with only 39% of men and 42% of women accepting their salary offer without negotiation, up from March 2016, when 52% of men and 68% of women accepted their salary without negotiating.

The reasons for salary differences within a job group vary. Whether it is because of the unique difficulties of negotiating salary during a job search or bias by managers in the hiring and promotion processes, the fact is that in most organizations, some pay inequity exists. Although progress has been made since the mid-1960s when civil rights legislation and the Equal Pay Act attempted to level the playing field, average wages for white men are still 46% more than for black men, women earn 79% for every dollar that a man earns, and black women receive 64% of what the average white man earns.  In addition, workers aged 55 to 64 years see an adjusted gender pay gap of 12.3%, more than double the national average.

There have been attempts recently to try to regulate pay equity: Colorado, California, and a dozen other states require employers to file reports that address the issue and 14 states prohibit questions about salary in the interview process. This trend, combined with the fact that pay is one of the largest expenses that an organization incurs and the unsettling news that a third of millennials are willing to share their salaries (compared to 8% of baby boomers), often publicly on sites like Glassdoor, has caused corporate America to pay attention.

A formal audit of an organization’s pay practices, whether it is driven by ethical concerns or the threat of litigation, is usually conducted by an outside consulting firm or internal HR department with the assistance of counsel. It is important to partner with legal counsel to try to protect the audit and its findings from discovery in litigation. As Lisa Reimbold, Senior Attorney at Clark Hill, states, “We are seeing an increase in Equal Pay Act Claims as states, such as California, are starting to amend the statutes to make it easier for employees to bring these claims. Today, courts are looking more closely at job duties and less at job titles when evaluating Equal Pay Act claims. Getting ahead of these claims, by auditing your payroll and evaluating your comparable workers can prevent costly litigation and damages.”

A few tips to keep in mind if you determine that it is time to analyze your company’s salaries:

  • Remember that the cost of remedying the issue will not be as great as the cost of losing valuable employees who are upset about feeling unfairly treated.  According to a recent Korn Ferry study only 5% of employees end up eligible for increase after an audit. Most employees receive increases of 4-6% and the costs average just .1% to .3% of salary budget.
  • When you pull data from your HRIS system, include job title, department, job grade or level, hire date, gender, race, job location, hours worked, salary, performance scores, education level and years of experience.
  • Analyze data for each job separately. It may be appropriate to look at competitive data for the job to determine if you are in line with the external market.
  • Adjustments may be made over time or immediate, depending on the findings. and may be shared with the employee as a “market adjustment” separate from merit, cost of living or promotional increases.
  • In order to keep your salaries in line going forward, make sure that job descriptions are accurate and up-to-date, so that any differences in salaries can be justified by education, experience and skills requirements.
  • Every hiring, compensation and promotion decision should be audited by a central function such as HR to ensure that it does not create inequity.

HR/AA is happy to assist with an analysis, which may include consultation with our Clark Hill colleagues to ensure that your pay system is in line with the market and addresses any internal equity concerns.  We also assist with ensuring that your hiring and promotional practices are documented and in line with best practices.


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.

a stack of four thick binders

Conducting a Human Resource Assessment

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

A regular review of your human resource operations is imperative in order to keep your company in compliance and reduce the possibility of penalties and liability. Specific areas to review may include I-9s, nondiscrimination policies and practices, medical record/information privacy, record retention, and destruction and privacy of personal information.

I-9 Assessment – Noncompliance in this area can result in significant penalties for an employer. It’s in the employer's best interest to take proactive steps to review, document and correct I-9 form mistakes so files are in order ahead of any possible I-9 audit. I-9 forms, and supporting documentation, should be kept separately from employee personnel files.

Medical privacy – Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), employers have a legal obligation to protect their employees’ medical information. To this end, employee medical information should be maintained separately from employees’ personnel files. This includes information related to medical exams, FMLA, disability claims and ADA requests for accommodation or related information.

Nondiscrimination – Remember that supervisors may have access to employee personnel files in order to make employment decisions. Therefore, only information relevant to employment decisions should be kept in the personnel file. This includes pre-employment documents like a job description, resume, employment application, offer letter, and employment documents such as performance appraisals, records of attendance, awards or citations of performance and training records. Anything not relevant to the job should be kept separately from the personnel file, including EEO records.

Record retention - Employers must follow state and federal laws governing retention of human resource records. With electronic records becoming more of the norm, it is important for employers to ensure that access to electronic files is limited and has effective security controls. It is a very good idea to have a written policy in place outlining your company’s retention policy, process and schedule.

Record destruction – In addition to a records retention policy, employers should also have a policy related to the destruction of employment records. In some instances, federal regulations require specific methods of destruction for certain records.

All employee files, whether they are stored in a physical or electronic format, should be kept in a secure location with limited access. The following documents should be kept separately from the employee personnel file:

  • I-9 forms and copies of identification
  • Investigation notes and reports
  • Drug/alcohol tests and back ground checks
  • Payroll records containing protected information like social security number or garnishment orders
  • Medical records including, but not limited to, FMLA documents, request for ADA accommodations, medical exams, disability benefit records/claims, worker’s compensation, health information related to the employee’s family member(s).
  • Confidential records containing protected information like date of birth, marital status or religious beliefs
  • Consumer related credit information and reports and financial data.

If you would like assistance to conduct an HR Assessment for your organization, please reach out Alliance Benefit Solutions at (732) 908-7500


  • Dresser & Associates, “Personnel Records: Audit: Why audit personnel files and records maintenance procedures”
  • SHRM, “Complying with Employment Record Requirements”

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.

businessman on a remote call looking worried

Difficult Communications During COVID-19

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

Having difficult conversations about work performance, attendance, and inappropriate behavior is often a challenging task, but with a large number of employees working remotely, it can be even more difficult. The steps outlined below may help you to better prepare for a difficult conversation with employees.

  • Gather Facts and Determine a Strategy – It’s important to gather your facts in order to provide a clear message. Often times, employees may not realize their performance or behavior is an issue, so be prepared to provide them with specific examples and how it impacts the department, company goals, sales, etc. If you would normally engage a witness when meeting with the person face-to-face, you should do the same for a virtual meeting. In these cases, it’s a good idea to let the employee know that someone else will be attending the meeting. Also, try to consider other factors that may affect where and when the meeting should take place: Are you in the same time zone? Does the employee normally work in a private location in their home? Or are there family members that may overhear the conversation?
  • Be Aware of Technical Limitations – Other than the basic glitches like an unstable internet connection or lagging audio, be aware of your body language. Sit up straight and maintain eye contact through the meeting. Positioning the video feed as close to your camera as possible will give the appearance that you are making direct eye contact with the individual. Be attentive and don’t try to multi-task by checking your text messages or emails. It may even be a good idea to shut off your phone and email, so you’re not distracted by the pinging as new messages arrive.
  • Listen and Encourage Two Way Communication – Allow enough time for the employee to ask questions and discuss corrective action. Make sure they know that you are available after the meeting as well if they have additional questions. Also make sure that you follow up on a regular basis to provide feedback and updates on their progress.

Remember, keeping the lines of communication open with your employees from the start may keep you better informed and aware of facts that you may not be privy to otherwise. According to SHRM’s Culture Report, 4 in 10 employees indicate that their manager fails to frequently engage in honest conversations about work topics. Encouraging a culture of open and transparent communication can help managers see the whole picture. For example, a manager who would normally label an employee “lazy” because they consistently show up late for staff meetings may not make that same judgment if they are aware that the employee has been helping their child who is struggling with a challenging online class that occurs prior to the staff meeting.

In addition to struggling with communication through video conferencing, there is also a very real barrier trying to communicate effectively when wearing a mask and socially distancing. The tips below may help to alleviate some of those issues:

  • Move to a quiet place, if possible, to hold a conversation.
  • Make sure you have the individual’s attention and face them when speaking.
  • Speak a little louder and slower than usual.
  • Use your hands or body language to help get your message across, or use non-verbal cues like a thumb’s up to let someone know you understand.
  • If necessary, communicate in another way by writing your message on a white board or scheduling a Zoom call.

Alliance Benefit Solutions is ready to work with you. Give us a call today at (732) 908-7500!


  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, “Communicating Effectively While Wearing a Mask and Socially Distancing”
  • SHRM, “Difficult Conversations: More Difficult Than Ever”
  • GoCo, “5 Tips for Handling Difficult Conversations on Zoom (Or Any Video Call)”

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.

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.


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.