Nothing makes me feel better than being able to really help someone.
Whether it be personally or professionally, I get a great sense of accomplishment when I make a positive impact on people. I tell people nearly every day, “Let me know how I can be a resource for you.” At Merit, I get to be a resource and help people all of the time. This success story is just one example, but the mentioned business could be replaced a host of others in similar circumstances:
A friend of mine named Dave directs a successful architectural firm with 19 employees. In the five years we had known each other, I'd educated Dave time and again on the benefits of using a PEO like Merit Resources. (FYI-- a PEO stands for Professional Employer Organization... Here's a link to the trade organization NAPEO). Dave was already outsourcing payroll and handling employee benefits for his staff on his own, so it never even occurred to him that HE could benefit from a PEO. One random day, Dave was going through his Employee Handbook and noticed that it hadn’t been updated in years, and it hit him, “Why not outsource my payroll to someone who can also help with HR?” So Dave called me, and we handled a smooth transition to Merit.
In addition to payroll, he now had a human resources go-to team to ensure he was compliant with ever-changing employment laws. His handbook was updated, his PTO tracking was taken care of, and he didn’t have to deal with any HR. Dave was so happy that he was already referring his own clients to Merit. But then it got even better for him.
Dave had still been handling all of his employee benefits internally: health, dental, life, 401k – a very strong benefits package. I kept on him:
“Why don’t you let Merit handle your benefits administration, and take even more work off of your plate?”
It’s a good thing we had the conversation. Dave would have been looking at a 30% increase on his small group health renewal, which had a fairly high deductible (and this is even BEFORE 2014 with the implementation of much of Obamacare). By utilizing Merit, Dave’s employees now had access to 9 different health plans, and access to Large Group Employee Benefits saved him over $15,000 a year! Merit is now also administering the firm’s dental, vision, and life insurance, in addition to their 401(k) plan.
This is just one success story where I feel gratification. Dave’s firm was only looking for an HR resource. Merit was able to be that resource, and a whole lot more. I only hope I can help many more businesses like Dave's grow and succeed.
* Matt Nuetzman is a Director of Business Development for Merit Resources. You can contact Matt by clicking below.
Lately our Human Resource Specialists have been getting lots of questions about employment and labor law and that got us to thinking, How can we help make employment even EASIER for you? Here are Merit Senior Living we are committed to providing you with the tools and resources you need to be efficient, knowledgeable professionals in your work lives. That’s why we want to know your employment and labor law questions.
Perhaps you have questions regarding FMLA, FLSA, or even ADA? Maybe at this point you are just wondering what all of those acronyms even mean!?! I don’t blame you; employment law can be very confusing. So if you are in human resources, management or any other line of work and have questions about employment and labor law, let us know! Simply click on the button at the bottom of this post and fill out the form on the subsequent landing page with your question. We will respond to your question via the email address you provide so you can keep the information confidentail. Once we get a list of questions we'll create a FAQ page with all the great content, we will not post your name on the specific questions. Obviously, each situation is unique and the responses we provide are not intended, to be construed as, or should be interpreted as legal advice. Our responses are our opinions based on years of experience in the labor and employment law field and our knowledge and application of the laws.
As our tag line says here at Merit Senior Living, “We make employment easy”…and we want to. So ask away!
Kate Risa, PHR, is a Merit Senior Living Human Resource Specialist.
Over the last month, I’ve had the chance to connect and hear directly from Executives leading the charge in the Senior Living industry. Much of our discussions have centered on the executives perception their communities Human Resource functions. One common statement I heard was, “Our HR system is functioning fine.” As any intrigued person would do, I asked questions, only to learn that I failed to ask the right ones. I have been plagued with these lingering questions for the past two weeks:
How do they define “HR”?
What did they mean by “system”?
“…fine” compared to what?
Maybe you are an executive who has made these statements yourself. These blind statements can be heard in many industries, so don’t worry if you are not with the majority of my senior living audience. Our HR system is functioning fine… Honestly, this statement does little to paint an attractive picture of what executives have on their mind when they think of the human resources department. But is it true? Human Resources is not the prettiest of functions in an organization, but it is the most critical to its success. It is responsible for the culture of your organization. It plays a role in every part of the employment continuum. But, what does fine mean?
Fine, as compared to what?
Were the executives just trying to get me off the phone or were did they really not know how their HR system worked?
I’ve racked my brain for too long, and as a result I’ve listed a few perspectives that can be considered for these blind statements below:
How do you define HR?
Put yourself in the shoes of your employees and think of what they would say. Typically HR is thought to be one individual who everyone goes to with questions regarding: 401K, open enrollment, paycheck discrepancies, coworker disputes, workers’ comp claims, etc. SHRM, or the Society for Human Resource Management defines Human Resources as the function dealing with the management of people employed within the organization. Grab the Daniels, the Beam or your favorite bottle of wine, a blank piece of paper, and write your answer. How do you define HR?
What did they mean by system?
HR is one of the most complex, interconnected, typically underserved, and minimally staffed areas in an organization. It’s responsible for the culture of the entire organization. It rests on the shoulders of only one or a few people. But what does system mean!? Merriam-Webster defines system as regularly interacting or interdependent group of items forming a unified whole. Payroll, benefits, workers’ compensation, and HR duties (handbooks, training, and talent management) are interdependent and regularly interact with each other.
Fine compared to what?
Everyone has their definition of fine. The feeling of fine changes weekly, daily, if not hourly, depending on the mood of the individual. When asking the question, “fine compared to what?” induces a myriad of responses. The word is rolled off the tongue as easily as answering the question, “How are you today?” Everyone has used or heard this before and everyone knows that “I’m doing fine” doesn’t mean anything.
So, what did these executives mean by, “Our HR System is functioning fine.”?
One thing comes to mind: if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. I’ve found that community HR departments – typically the Executive Director and HR Manager – are so buried in the tactical duties of keeping the ship afloat strategic thoughts rarely rise to the surface. If you were to wait until HR is broken before giving it attention, good luck. The best organizations know that keeping HR top of mind breeds success. Here are some of the many strategic thoughts HR Managers should have the time to think about:
Developing strategies to reduce employee turnover, increase employee morale, and engagement
Researching methods to hire the right employees and spend time to foster relationships with top talent in the industry
Formulating relevant and timely training curriculum for managers and employees
Identifying approaches to minimize generational gaps with employees
What others are saying about their HR System?
Merit Senior Living annually facilitates Merit University, which is a training event for community HR Managers and Executive Directors, with our partner Greystone Management. This year’s University provided ample opportunity for me to interview a few HR Directors to get feedback from their perspective. Here are a couple of those opinions:
“In my previous employer I was doing everything. It makes your day very long and very tiring sometimes. When you have all the tactical and administration things to do, you are so bogged down by the paperwork and the pushing of the paperwork that you don’t really get to hear the employees, see the employees, and listen to what they need and what they need from the organization. [By having Merit Senior Living as a partner] it allows you to really listen to what is going on, to be in the moment and aware of what we’re lacking as an organization. I’m able to come up with ideas and actually execute them within a reasonable time frame.”
--Kat Pigott, Director of Human Resources, Edgemere Retirement Community
“Before [Merit Senior Living] I didn’t have anyone to touch base with outside of an attorney. As an HR Manager you don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off of, now we call and ask what our Merit Senior Living contact thinks about a situation. You can focus on other areas of your business and let the experts focus on specific HR issues.”
--Faye Tidwell, Business Office Manager, The Woodlands of Furman
“When you are one HR person in a large community sometimes you feel like you are taking it all on and it’s a battle you have to fight alone. Our Merit Senior Living team has really helped to not feel so alone and provide us with the knowledge to make educated decisions and ones that are not going to lead us down the road of legal issues.
--Lara Blackert, Human Resources Manager, Santa Marta Retirement Community
These are words verbalized by your friends in the industry. By individuals in the very same roles you may be in. Ask yourself if your HR System is functioning fine. Think of the last time you did a thorough analysis of your: payroll processing, benefits plans, turnover ratio, or training effectiveness. Now, imagine the changes you would be able to make, or the increased resident satisfaction you’d receive by providing the time and support for HR to focus on strategy, not tactics.
If there was a better way…
Is it true? How do you know if your HR system is functioning fine? If there was a better way than waiting until something breaks, would you be willing to invest the time to learn more?
These are the kinds of questions our clients asked themselves. And when they took the time to think about how their system was functioning, who was responsible for managing it, and the effects of equipping them properly, the answers they found were enlightening.
"There is a lot of advice I would give to someone considering a PEO like Merit senior Living. Number one is to recognize the tools and resources they will give to an organization. Having those resources are key to an organization, and when you limit those you can fail. What Merit Senior Living has offered the most was all the resources that are available: training, payroll, administration, law, EEOC, FMLA compliance... All of those tools are very important to an organization. Their support, in general, and in addition to the training, was a huge benefit to our team and was another factor in why our turnover was reduced from 40% to about 17%.”
--Lara Blackert, Human Resources Manager, Santa Marta Retirement Community
Merit Senior Living has evidence to prove that HR can be a profit center. Ask me how.
Charles Brubaker is a Director of Business Development for Merit Senior Living - His Contact Information can be found here.
Last week I stumbled across a great piece by Elzabeth Ecker that was published in SeniorHousingNews called Senior Living Shoppers Say Community Staff is No. 1 Selling Point. Ecker points out that prospective residents consider a vast assortment of factors when considering a senior living community, but the most important factor is the staff.
While this information is not shocking, it does drive home a valuable reminder to communities that developing your staff will make or break your community.
“In the “information gathering” process of choosing a community, more than 80% of those having gone through the process report that the attitude and knowledge of a community’s staff ranks as a “5 out of 5″ in importance when choosing a community, according to a survey released this week by A Closer Look.”
We really couldn’t agree more. We believe happy employees are the number one way to make sure your residents are happy as well. Our goal for our community partners is to save time and money and allow them more time to focus on their residents. We provide world-class employee services using fully-integrated, state-of-the-art technology and industry best practices to communities of all sizes. Partnering with Merit Senior Living improves staff engagement and reduces turnover. We do this by:
Freeing up onsite HR staff to focus more on strategic HR initiatives
Providing manager training for leadership development
Providing multiple benefit options
Providing turnover reports and analysis
Providing tools and resources of “big” organizations
These best practices have helped our clients reduce turnover while growing occupancy levels and ensuring a happy, engaged staff. Let us take care of your employee administration so you and your team can focus on what matters most: Happy residents! It’s that simple.
Becky Latham is a Director of Business Development for Merit Senior Living - Her Contact Information can be found here.
We’ve had several questions from our clients recently regarding the right way to deal with social media in the workplace. Some have been concerned with being connected from HR and social media, especially when concerned with security and compliance. After all, whether your company is 5 employees or 50, there’s nothing more annoying than a lawsuit or a PR black eye, especially when such a thing could have been avoided with just taking a few safeguards.
Keep this in mind as you create your HR company policy toward social media… Social media is here to stay.
Though all the fear and caution is warranted (and necessary), you have to realize that Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn are where your customers are going to get information and communicate with their customers. Most regulated industries, after all, are closed, private and hierarchical, whereas social media flies in the face of this with its open, transparent and democratic structure. Finding the right balance between compliance and marketing is key.
Best Practices for HR and Social Media
Now that you’ve decided to take the plunge (or in some cases dive deeper), make sure that you’re following a couple best practices for posting things online.
Create a company persona… Develop a voice that’s true to your brand. Try to imagine the sort of person you’re trying to reach online. What sorts of music do they listen do, what do they do for fun, where do they live, do they have kids? Think about creating a company persona in order to keep the same voice alive whenever you have multiple administrators posting on your accounts. This is a key first step! You want to sound human – someone that’s approachable that you wouldn’t mind hanging out with. For continuity’s sake, it’s important to keep a voice that’s true to your brand.
Don’t just set rules. Set expectations! Now that it seems like social media is here to stay, make sure that your staff members are encouraged to use social media, not discouraged.
Work with your HR and legal departments. Get to know the rules of your industry and the boundaries for posting things online. Make sure that the privacy of your clients and staff is the focus of your policy.
When in doubt, take it to private channels. This is in reference to someone contacting your company via social media to answer a client question or a prospect trying to get more information from your company. There’s no shame in asking the client or prospect to contact you via phone or email, right? You want to make sure to stay current and quick off the draw to be responsive to questions on your social channels, all the while making sure that you can keep private questions out of the public domain.
Use company guidelines as guides to posting things. Consult your company guidelines and employee handbooks to post things. Stay away from posting personal information about clients and employees, but don’t be afraid to show your personality online.
Create an editorial calendar. Get buy-in from sales staff and customers as to what they want you to talk about. Schedule general gist of the posts and topics, but not necessarily the posts themselves, leaving some room for spontaneity. You’ll then be able to earn compliance approval weeks in advance from when you post things.
Change the Conversation!
Are your compliance people still not convinced that you can pull it off? Then change the conversation! Talk about your community involvement… Talk about your employees… Talk about something that you know your customers and employees will like! Here’s an example of a post that we made on Facebook a while back talking about some of Merit’s community involvement.
Don’t have time for all this stuff? It takes less time to do than you might think. If you have an editorial calendar set up and some guidelines from your HR department, it can take as little as five minutes per day. Here’s a sample of what you could do:
Minute 1-2: Post original content : Post a photo, video, article, blog post, poll question, etc.
Minute 3: Respond to public responses.
Minute 4-5: Contribute to conversations: Comment on other’s responses on Twitter, Facebook and respond to posts in LinkedIn groups
In future posts, we'll fill you in on HR Compliance and social media. In the meantime, as your company’s HR and marketing teams figure out how to deal with the complexities of social media, remember that if done correctly social media is your friend and can be a valuable piece of your company’s values and mission.
Feel free to contact us if we can help you with your social media policy by clicking the button below.
Why would a HR professional ever want their organization to outsource all or part of their HR functions to a PEO? Wouldn’t that result in job elimination for the community’s HR department?
Understandably, that is a common misnomer in the HR field. But before dismissing the idea of HR outsourcing for your organization, take into consideration all the benefits to the organization and the community’s existing HR staff.
First, let’s define a PEO. PEO is short for Professional Employer Organization. The official definition is a “business model through co-employment that enables companies to cost-effectively outsource certain human resource functions, employee benefits, payroll/payroll tax and workers' compensation. Clients of PEO’s focus on their core competencies to maintain and grow their bottom line”.
It’s important for those considering a PEO arrangement to understand that co-employment does not mean loss of control of your employees. You maintain day to day direction and control. The PEO becomes a behind the scenes co-employer for administrative purposes.
As HR professionals, many of us spend our time on the necessary, yet tedious and sometimes laborious activities such as:
FMLA admin and tracking
Benefit billing reconciliation
Benefit adds, terms, changes
Unemployment responses and tracking
Handbook creation and updating
New hire reporting
And just wait until all the additional health care reform administration is fully in place!
But as HR professionals, most of us would rather be working on strategic HR activities that are value driven and that have a positive impact on the organizations bottom line. The “in the weeds” administrative details of HR, typically take us away from mission critical initiatives, such as:
HR professionals are also charged with keeping up with the myriad of employment regulatory compliance and protecting the organization from undue exposure.
Many HR outsourcing arrangements bring the ideal solution to the HR professional and in turn, the organization by:
Removing many transactional functions
Providing access to a “corporate” HR department and multiple areas of specialized expertise
Sharing in many employment risk areas. The PEO has “Skin in the Game”!
In addition, many times the PEO can bring a bigger and better benefit packet to your community resulting in lower turnover and happier employees. Happier employees results in happier residents. At the end of the day, that’s our goal in senior living, right?
Lisa Welshhons (SPHR) is the President of Merit Senior Living and has over 13 years working with senior living communities.
This week is Nurses Week and the the month of May has been deemed Older Americans Month by President Obama. We couldn't think of two groups who deserve more regcognition.
Nurses Week is special for us because our client communities have large populations of nurses as employees. Their jobs are tough and often thankless, so we especially like their recognition. Nurses week runs from May 6, Nurses Day, to May 12, which is Florence Nightingale's birthday. Ms. Nightingale was widely known as the founder of modern nursing. Thanks for being awesome Nurses!
President Obama believes May is a perfect month to recognize our older Americans: "Our seniors deserve the best our country has to offer. This month, we pay tribute to the men and women who raised us, and we pledge anew to show them the fullest care, support, and respect of a grateful Nation."
This years older Americans theme is "Unleash the Power of Age," which encourages older Americans to stay engaged and be active in their own lives and communities. We especially like the direction LeadingAge has given with regard to encouraging older Americans to stay active with the following:
We hope you take the time to properly recognize the nurses and older Americans in your communities this week. Let us know if there are any ways we can help recognize your residents or nurses.
Nominate an older adult in your community who demonstrates the positive difference elders can make.
Host an event in your community celebrating people as they age.
Use social media to promote Older Americans Month activities.
Our employee assessment partner, Profiles International suggests that:
"engagement refers to the degree which employees connect to their work and feel committed to their organization and it's goals"
They continue to say that people who are highly engaged act and feel in the following ways.
They . . .
- feel excited and enthused
- are less aware of the passage of time
- devote discretionary effort to their work
- identify with their tasks
- think about questions or challenges posed by their work in their spare time
- resist distractions and find it easier to stay focused
Five Reasons You Want Engaged Employees
1. They are more productive
2. They stick around longer
3. They are more innovative
4. They are more collaborative
5. They are more customer focused
Do you agree that each of these five reasons impact your bottom-line?
A 2011 Gallup Employee Engagement Index shows that 71% of American workers are not engaged in their jobs.
On a scale of one to 10, how engaged are your employees?
Are you interested in finding out?
Our Workplace Engagement Survey (WES) allows you to see how highly engaged, engaged, disengaged, and highly disengaged your employees are for a minimal per employee investment. The WES will tell you their level of satisfaction with their jobs and management, as well give you recommendations for steps you can take to improve your employee engagement levels.
Click on the image to the right and download a sample report of the WES.
Your employees are your greatest asset. Their level of engagement and connection to their work impacts their productivity, the experience you give your customers, and your organization's bottom-line.
How engaged are your employees?
Jason Kiesau is the Director of Recruiting and Employer Services at Merit Resources. You can email Jason here.
Iowa Network Services Acquires Merit Resources Creating a Partnership between Iowa-Based Organizations to Expand Business Services
May 1, 2013 (West Des Moines, IA) – Iowa Network Services (INS) announced today the acquisition of Merit Resources, a Professional Employment Organization (PEO) that provides a full complement of employment services to small- and medium-sized businesses and Senior Living Communities in Iowa and throughout the nation. Merit is one of only 4 percent of PEOs that are accredited by the Employer Services Assurance Corporation (ESAC). Merit operations and management will remain unchanged.
The acquisition of Merit reflects INS’ continued commitment to expand service offerings and leverage network connectivity to the business community. Since 2007, INS has been diversifying operations. In 1987 the focus was exclusively on serving the Independent Telecommunications Companies with voice and long distance services. Twenty-five years later, INS has expanded product offerings to include the state’s largest fiber optic network, digital video services, a data center, cloud, wireless, and a host of other related communications solutions.
“Our corporate mission statement clearly talks about simplifying operations for our customers. We have intentionally looked for businesses outside of our core communications services that enhance business productivity, mitigate risk and improve performance. The acquisition of Merit is no exception to that,” said Ron Keller, President/CEO of INS. “Not only are we proud to be associated with Merit, we are excited to deploy their human resources (HR) outsourcing services to our Independent Telecommunications Companies and a whole host of small- to medium-sized businesses. We are creating a wonderful partnership between two well-established, successful, Iowa-based organizations.”
Merit has been based in Des Moines, IA since 1989 and is the largest PEO in the state. Today, Merit provides valuable HR solutions to more than 400 clients and 11,000 worksite employees across 40 states.
“We are excited to join the INS Family of Companies,” said Joel Duncan, CEO of Merit Resources. “The combined suite of voice and data services that the INS communications group provides to business is compelling. Our cultures, target markets, and unrelenting focus on customer intimacy are closely aligned. Our clients and employees will benefit from the greater depth and resources in communication technology and talent from INS, while Merit will prove to be a valuable partner in providing HR services to the Independent Telecommunications Companies and hundreds of enterprise customers served by INS.”
Merit has focused on “Making Employment Easy” for small- and medium-sized businesses. ESAC-accredited PEOs demonstrate financial stability, ethical business conduct and adherence to operational standards and regulatory requirements. Merit currently offers Bundled HR Services, Specialty Senior Living HR Services, Ala-Carte Recruiting, Employee Assessment and Time Attendance services through its 75 trained and credentialed HR staff.
About Iowa Network Services
Iowa Network Services (INS) Family of Companies is the only Iowa-owned and based company that offers carrier-class voice, data and business services. INS is privately owned by a group of 122 Iowa Independent Telecommunications Companies that has served rural Iowans since 1989. Telephony, core network transport, Internet, dedicated fiber, Internet Protocol video, data center facilities, network management, technical support services, information technology, and HR outsourcing are among the many products and services offered to communications companies and enterprise businesses nationwide. The INS Family of Companies includes Alliance Technologies, Inc., an information technology company; Alliance Connect, a statewide competitive local exchange company; and Merit Resources, a Professional Employment Organization. INS is also affiliated with iWireless, a statewide cellular partner with T-Mobile. For more information, visit www.IowaNetworkServices.com.
Like most, I’ve never been shy to talk with others, research strategies, or get my tail in gear for retirement. Yet, the Money magazine article, “101 Ways to Build Wealth," contained a lot of quick tips that got me considering my future even more. One tip in the 45-54 range refers to investing in REITs (Real Estate Investment Trust), which is another investment vehicle that’s yielded solid returns over the years. Along with other investments, personally I’ve invested in Health Care REITs, and other publicly traded Senior Housing companies, such as Capital Senior Living, Brookdale, and Emeritus (to name a few). While being a part of an industry that caters to seniors and their retirement years, it has given me a greater understanding of the necessity for planning and the inherent complexities once you’ve reached that stage in life. The thought I had while reading the Money article was to invest in the industry that will provide me the retirement I desire, and not just from a financial perspective. Not only is the senior housing industry a lucrative option for the investment-minded, but I also hope that by investing in this industry, it will remain a viable option for when it’s my time to retire.
Acknowledging that most of us in the Senior Housing industry have been given a unique opportunity to see both sides of the coin, I’ve been witness to the aging of grandparents and parents and by being a part of Merit Senior Living. One of Merit’s main types of clients is Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs). These cover a wide range of housing, hospitality and health-care services and sounds like an excellent option for my parents, as well as for my future.
Borrowing the definition from, “Today’s Continuing Care Retirement Community,” by a task force of CCRC executives, “a CCRC is a residential alternative for older adults… that provides flexible housing options, a coordinated system of services and amenities and a continuum of care that addresses the varying health and wellness needs of residents as they grow.”
The CCRC task force goes on to say that residents “are keenly aware of the fact that management’s ability to fill a vacant unit directly affects the ability of a CCRC to operate on a sound financial basis and the level of fees that residents must pay in order for the operation to remain sustainable.”
This hit home. It reminded me that through Merit Senior Living, I have a responsibility to my client’s residents. As an organization Merit may be removed from the direct contact with residents; however, our purpose is to ensure healthy & happy employees and sound financial operations. In-effect, we’re guaranteeing the livelihood of thousands of seniors. When put that way, it gives me a lot of pride in my organization and the services we provide.
Human Resource Directors
It also gives me a lot of respect for Human Resources directors. Typically my time is spent showing senior executives that their HR staff is over leveraged, they’re unable to devote enough time and attention to the area that impact residents the most… their employees! The HR staffs we work with typically spend considerable time on: payroll, tax administration, health insurance, benefits administration, claims administration and loads of other transactional HR duties. These duties - this stuff is distracting, and time consuming, which takes the HR staff away from focusing on activities or plans to benefit their employees. Studies show employee happiness is imperative to resident happiness. They should be the workforce-centered, strategically-minded executive partner, versus being stuck in the weeds, barely able to see a few steps in front of them.
Culture of Low Turnover
Researching investment vehicles such as Health Care REITs, or publicly traded Senior Housing organizations, the main focus is on financials. At the same time, a critical piece to understand (in any organization) is how they utilize the HR department to create a culture of low turnover. When we lose sight or get caught in the weeds, areas of importance falter. One key area in senior housing is high caregiver turnover. As a future resident, I want to know if your employees are happy & healthy, and they are taken care of with proper benefits and compensation. Because, not only do I want to be with a financially sound, sustainable community, I also want the opportunity to get to know your staff and build a relationship with them.
In what way are you moving from an over-leveraged, internal HR cost-center to a strategically-oriented HR profit-center?
Charles Brubaker is a Director of Business Development - His Contact Information can be found here