Archive for December, 2010

2011 Mileage Reimbursement Rates Increasing

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

The Treasury Department has increased the standard mileage reimbursement rates effective January 1, 2011 ( although only a one cent increase)  to 51 cents per mile for business miles driven. Additional increased mileage rates are as follows:

  • 19 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes
  • 14 cents per mile driven for service of charitable organization

More information is availalbe at,,id=232017,00.html

2011 New Minimum Wage Rates

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

While the federal minimum wage rate is unchanged ($7.25)  a number of states and municipalities have increased their minimum wages (sometimes called living wages) effective January 1, 2011.  Employees should review all pay rates and compensation programs based on minimum wage to ensure compliance with the new rates including sales compensation plans based on “commission only” or “draws” to ensure compliance.

Arizona -  $7.35                                                             Ohio – $7.40

San Francisco – $9.92 Oregon – $8.50

Colorado – $7.36                                                           Vermont – $8.15

Montana – $7.35                                                             Washington (state) – $8.62

Join the conversation – do you think the federal minimumwage will increase in 2011?

OMB Watch reports drastic increase in OSHA citations for 2010

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

A new study by OMB Watch finds that the Obama administration has noticeably increased enforcement of workplace safety laws, and supporting data also showed that the administration was making consumer health and environmental regulations enforcement tougher.

In 2009, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued more than 68,000 citations – more than twice the amount of citations issued the previous year by the Bush administration. In 2010, the drastic trend upwards continued with citations skyrocketing at almost 114,000 by the middle of July.  You do the math and you can see how many citations might be issued in 2011 – maybe triple that amount and add a few more.

OMB Watch reported seeing similar trends at other agencies but none were quite as steep in comparison to the previous administration. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) increased the average amount for a fine against the Clean Water Act by nearly one-third during the Obama administration’s first 18 months; however, the penalties for serious violations were issued at a slightly slower rate compared to that of the preceding administration.

Please read more about OSHA safety compliance and how KPA can help you find a solution to support your dealership’s safety culture.

Do Well By Doing Good- Employee Volunteer Programs Give Back Big Dividends

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

Volunteering as a group is a great team building activity or even a holiday party replacement.  Recently the marketing department at KPA sponsored a fund raiser (“Holiday Soup Kitchen”) at the headquarter office for the Food Bank of Larimer County and the Community Food Share of Boulder County. Beyond raising over $400, which was matched by the company, the fundraiser gave the marketing team to work together on a project of their choosing;  highlighted latent talents (we have some good cooks at KPA); provided a fun opportunity for all of the headquarters staff to get together during the holiday in a casual atmosphere while helping other less fortunate in the community.   Developing or expanding your organization’s volunteer program is a sure fire way to increase employee’s morale, reinforce corporate values,  show corporate responsibility and make your company more appealing to possible new hires.   64% of all executives say employee volunteer programs contribution to the company bottom line. Among executives at large companies, 84% see direct bottom-line benefits according to the Center for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College and Business Civic Leadership Center.

Ready to start doing well by doing good?  Check out these resources:

If you are curious about the KPA Holiday Soup Kitchen- it is a very simple fundraiser to put on.  A department or group of employees the executive staff for example) volunteers to bring in various homemade soups, breads and desserts.  Soups are great for office parties because they can be kept warm in a crock pot and you don’t need access to a full kitchen. Publish the event so that everyone plans to “eat in” on that day.  Employees donate what they chose to- no pressure- while enjoying the company of others.   Simple, fun and effective!

Join the conversation: Does your company have an employee volunteer program, and if so what are some ideas for volunteering?

5 New Year’s Resolutions for Improving Employee Morale

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Here are 5 resolutions for 2011 that are guaranteed to improve employee morale and motivation.  If improving morale and motivation isn’t part of your professional resolutions for 2011 you might consider that the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that U.S. companies lose $3 billion a year to the effects of negative attitudes and behaviors at work.  Creating a positive and productive workplace is incumbent on everyone, employees and management alike, but should be a special focus for HR managers.

1) Ensure that management develops and shares goals with the employees.
The goals should be (SMART) specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.   Make sure that each employee understands what their contribution is to the goals.  Create short term (next 90 days), mid range (this year) and long term (where will the company be in three years).

2) Clarify roles and job descriptions.
Make sure that each employee has an accurate job description, understands their role in the company and how they contribute to the overall success of the organization.

3) Develop or expand an employee volunteer program.
Gather a group of employees and think of ways your company can “give back to the community.” Consider offering paid time off to volunteer- even a half day sends a message that the business cares about the community.   Volunteering together is a great team building event.

4) Update the compensation strategy.
Conduct a review of all compensation plans (since many pay raises happen in the first month of the year this is a great time to resolve any inequity discovered in the review). Map the plans against prevailing wages in the industry and in the community. Consider paying above market in total compensation but maybe with a lower base wages and increased performance incentives. Your goal is to use compensation to encourage the performance and behaviors that will achieve the organization’s goals.

5 Establish individual training programs for each employee. Make sure that each employee has the opportunity to take at least one class, webinar, seminar or other training activity that relates to their individual professional development outside of skills training or mandated compliance training.  When funds are tight I’ve had success with creating “book clubs” where a department or group of employees read a book on a business topic that is of mutual interest and discuss over the course of several weeks.  The key is personal interaction with the manager or subject matter expert leading the discussion.  Here are some books to consider: Drive by Daniel Pink,    Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, and  The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time by Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd

Join the conversation: What are your professional New Year’s resolutions?

I2P2 Top Priority on OSHA’s Fall Regulatory Agenda

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

OSHA bannerAmong the other regulatory updates in OSHA’s semi-annual agenda that was released on December 20th in the Federal Register, the Injury and Illness Prevention Program (I2P2) was said to be at the top of OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michael’s priority list. We have been hearing a lot about I2P2 lately, but if you are unfamiliar with the program, it would require employers to find and fix hazards, and plan, implement, evaluate, and improve workplace processes and activities in the interest of protecting workers’ safety and health.

“OSHA believes that an injury and illness prevention program is a universal intervention that can be used in a wide spectrum of workplaces to dramatically reduce the number and severity of workplace injuries,” the agenda states. “Such programs have been shown to be effective in many workplaces in the United States and internationally.”

Other updates on regulatory actions including modernizing recording and reporting requirements, infectious diseases, OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), proposed combustible dust rule, proposal for an MSD Column on the OSHA 300 log, and the proposed Walking Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems (Slips, Trips, and Fall Prevention) rule. Find out more information at

Read more about how a KPA safety program help you meet compliance with the I2P2 standard.

Beyond Improving Profits – Safety Culture Is a Key Benefit for Employees

Monday, December 13th, 2010

Creating a positive safety culture is one of the most important things you can do for your employees. The benefits of a strong safety culture go beyond reduction in insurance premiums, limiting exposure to fines and lawsuits and reducing time lost to an accident. A safe and healthy workplace shows that you care about the well being of your employees. Employees are happiest and most productive in a workplace where they have a high degree of trust in management. A positive safety culture is an important factor in confirming management’s commitment to employees.

Notice I said creating a positive safety culture is important for employee well being not just creating safety programs. Safety programs provide the structure required to manage safety in your organization and are a key component in developing a rewarding safety culture, but a good safety culture also emphasizes a shared vision between management and employees, strong employee involvement, and behavioral based safety training.

There are several key elements to creating a positive safety culture:

  • Management, at all levels, must be involved and participate in the safety program to show they genuinely care about the well being and safety of every employee.
  • Management and employees must participate together in collaborative problem solving to identify safe and unsafe behavior.
  • All employees should receive high quality safety training (consider hiring an expert third party) and follow training with ongoing coaching and on the job training from all levels in the organization.
  • Operational processes and policies must be established that ensure that safety is always at the forefront of any action or activity.
  • All employees must be empowered to report and when necessary act on unsafe behavior, and identified issues must be quickly addressed by management.

To learn more about creating and maintaining a strong safety culture check out these free resources: or

Join the conversation: What do you believe to be the most important element in creating a positive safety culture?

How Much is Employee “Slacking” Costing Your Company?

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

The December issue of HR Magazine published by the Society for Human Resource Management is full of information about employee slackers, can they be saved and how much “slacking” costs your company.    Several things really stood out as I read through the various articles:
1) Employee time waste is apparently a given- one survey by estimates that the typical worker wastes about 2 hours a day- and the cost is a staggering $759 billion a year nationwide!    Those two hours a day of wasted time sound about right to me-  after years of  creating project plans I estimate that an employee has about 32 productive hours in any given week.

2) While there are employees who are just plain lazy the majority of employees are slacking off because they don’t feel engaged, they don’t think what they do matters, the rewards offered doesn’t match their “intrinsic” motivations or they have become demoralized because “co-workers slack off without consequences”.   These are all areas that good HR practices can address and improve on.

3)  High productivity is not about having people work long hours or rewarding employees for having enough natural talent to do enough to look good when they know they could do better.  A highly productive worker is a person working at their peak performance, feeling like a contributor and being rewarded for behaviors that convey “passion and dedication rather than simply natural talent”.  (Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck  (Balantine Books, 2007) Dr. Dweck, a professor at  Stanford University and expert on motivation,  believes that because the tendency is to reward natural talent rather than hard work in this country we have trained an entire generation to give up when the going gets tough.  Her research also shows that companies that reward smarts and natural talent more than commitment create a culture of “slackerism”.  As employers we want to hire smart people but we also want those smart people to work hard.

So wondering how much employee slacking is costing your company? Take the total number of employees in your company x 2 hours x average hourly rate= a rough estimate of cost of employee slacking off.    Is that number enough of a motivation to make  2011  the year you get going on those HR programs and best practice and start reducing this huge waste of your most important asset- your employees?

To learn more about improving motivation – both yours and your employees go to  I highly recommend Dr. Dweck’s book.

To learn more about hiring and retaining the best employees download the free KPA webinar “How to Hire the Right Employees” at

References: HR Magazine, December 2010, “Taking Up The Slack” by Adrienne Fox and “Slacker Management” by Ben Leichtling

National Emphasis Program on Recordkeeping (NEP) targets manufacturing, larger worksites, and facilities with high injury rates

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

On September 28, 2010, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a revised directive to its federal pilot National Emphasis Program (NEP). The instruction to NEP to inspect the accuracy of the Occupational Injury and Illness recording and reporting requirements for establishments in selected industries such as manufacturing, larger worksites, and employers with higher injury rates than in the initial criteria, and to ensure appropriate enforcement of these requirements if employers are found to be underrecording injuries and illnesses.

OSHA launched its “National Emphasis Program on Recordkeeping” last year after various academic studies revealed that many companies were underreporting or incorrectly reporting workplace-related injuries and illnesses. Through the NEP, OSHA plans to enforce this type of inaccurate reporting.

The significant NEP changes include:

  • Broadening the industry targeting, with an emphasis on manufacturing.
  • Removing the deletion criterion for establishments that have recalculated days away, restriction, and transfer (DART) rates greater than 4.2. The new DART rate criterion for establishments under the program is greater than 4.2 and less than 8.
  • Increasing comprehensive training of its compliance staff to identify and correct violations of the recordkeeping regulation.
  • on company records from the 2008 and 2009 calendar years.
  • Focusing on company records from the 2008 and 2009 calendar years.

The NEP pilot program will continue through February 2012.

Read more here about this directive.

Prevent Employee Fraud With Pro-active Approach

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

What you don’t know about employee fraud is hurting your business.  Consider the Honda dealership in Ohio that lost between $500,000 and $1 million over the course of four years due to theft by a long term employee or the two dealerships in Lousiana that both hired the same controller- she stole over $100,00 from each of them.   While trust is a crucial element in the employment relationship it would be wise to put in place other measures to ensure that employees are not defrauding the company.  The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) reports in the 2010 Global Fraud Study that the median loss caused by occupational fraud was $160,000, with nearly one-quarter of the frauds involving losses of at least $1 million.  The criminal activities lasted an average of 18 months before even being detected.  The study also found that businesses with fewer than 100 employees suffered the greatest percentage of employee theft of all the companies studied.  Smaller employers are excellent targets for employee fraud because they tend to place a greater value on “personal relationships” and have less anti-theft controls in places.

Employees commit fraud because they can, because they can justify the fraud or theft and when they have the means to commit the fraud.  Strong internal controls and good accounting practices along with a positive workplace culture will go a long way to reducing fraud.

Simple steps that HR can implement to reduce or eliminate employee fraud include:

  • Establish and enforce policies on employee ethics, fraud prevention (internal controls) and compliance with state and federal laws regarding Red Flags, Customer Information Security and 8300 Cash Handling
  • Perform background checks including reference checks and county criminal history checks before you hire and again when you offer a promotion or change of duties
  • Provide training on fraud prevention to all managers and employees
  • Establish a “hotline” or other method for employees to report fraud
  • Create a positive workplace culture-treat employees fairly in regards to promotion and discipline
  • Prosecute when you discover employee fraud – don’t just terminate the employee and allow the problem to continue at the next employer

Consider hiring a forensic accounting firm and have them perform the following activities at least on an annual basis:

  • Preparing bank account reconciliation on a surprise basis
  • Reviewing cancelled checks
  • Performing physical inventories
  • Analyzing parts inventory activity

Additional information and excellent resources on workplace fraud prevention can be found at