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Human Resources: 6 Trends HR Departments Should Focus on in 2019

By January 12, 2019 April 16th, 2019 No Comments

A new year brings new issues for HR professionals to contend with.

Some challenges are similar to previous years – such as overtime uncertainty, while others are more unique and complicated – such as legal marijuana and employment.

Despite inherent difficulties, human resources professionals should stay tuned to these six trends to keep you ahead of the game in 2019.

Ignoring these trends will only set you back.

Here’s the 6 trends for 2019 that all Human Resources professionals should keep their pulse on:

  1. Opioids, Marijuana and the Workplace

  2. Leave-related Issues

  3. Wage and Hour Concerns

  4. New Technologies

  5. Upskilling Employees

  6. Soaring Health Care Costs

Opioids, Marijuana and the Workplace

Opioids have been concerning employers for the last few years, and quietly ravaging the country for even longer.

In 2017, they declared the opioid crisis a national emergency due to tens of thousands dying each year from prescription painkillers. Many of these tragedies started with a legal prescription after a common medical procedure.

Beyond their deadly risks, opioids also cause absenteeism and performance issues in the workplace. Opioids are difficult to detect in a drug test and even harder to perceive without one. Knowing this, it’s critical to modernize your drug policy to address opioids and offer resources for alternative pain management strategies.

Legal marijuana is also complicating drug policies. Similar to opioids, marijuana is increasingly difficult to detect, with the growing popularity of oils and edibles. Moreover, the drug is legal for medical use in 30 states, making tests legally tricky.

You may find it easiest to adjust your drug policy to focus on workplace performance. For instance, clearly prohibiting impairment at work or the promotion of drug use through paraphernalia. Adopting a zero-tolerance policy may backfire with state laws, so be sure to have legal counsel review your policy before enforcing it.

Leave-Related Issues

47 percent of employers were very challenged by cross-state leave laws. 43 percent found it extremely difficult administrating leaves in general, according to a recent xpertHR survey. With ever-expanding legislation, these percentages aren’t surprising.

Multistate businesses must contend with different state laws, but even smaller employers can find themselves juggling laws between localities. Without proper guidance, handling common requests like family leave, sick time and reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act can be a nightmare.

The first thing employers should do is determine which leave laws apply to them, remembering that certain localities might have different rules.

Other aspects, like which leaves can be used concurrently and proper leave documentation should come next.

And, of course, proper employee communication is a must – not just putting policies in a handbook, but posting leave notices as well.

Wage & Hour

Wage and Hour Concerns: It comes down to this question – do you hire more workers, or pay overtime? With overtime changes looming in the first quarter of 2019, you might think it’s easier to hire more workers at lower salaries. But, depending on your situation, that may not be true.

Many states are primed to raise their respective minimum wages in 2019. What’s more, the majority of those rates are already higher than the federal minimum. If you’re considering hiring more workers, check to make sure you know how much you’ll have to pay them in your state. The same goes for federal contractors.

As for salaried employees, it looks like we won’t know anything about the overtime rule until at least March 2019. This leaves the current overtime threshold at $23,660. Experts expect that number to increase between $32,000 and $35,000 – far lower than the $47,476 rate initially proposed in 2016. This means you should keep watching for regulatory updates in the coming months.

New Technologies

New Technologies: HR is always looking for new ways to streamline and improve its processes. In 2019, it appears that people analytics and recruiting technologies will be at the forefront of the trend, according to professional HR organization Toolbox.

People analytics is a way of tracking things like employee engagement data, training program effectiveness or ad placement success. The practice examines human data and crunches the numbers so you have a better idea of the return on investment.

Need to know if your employees feel appreciated? Want to discover which methods employees are using to communicate with each other? This is where people analytics can help.

Similarly, recruiting technologies are also looking at human data to help create efficiencies, namely in targeting and optimization. Advanced technology can help recruiters hone their efforts to find talent where they are, instead of waiting to stumble upon suitable candidates.

At the backbone of all these new technologies is advanced artificial intelligence (AI). The unseen wizards that run your most complex software are getting more intelligent each year. AI can help schedule appointments with recruiting candidates, create personalized experiences for users, and help employees with tasks like open enrollment, vacation requests and training. Soon, there won’t be much that AI can’t track and offer you solutions for.

Upskilling Employees

If you have a new task that requires new skills, do you hire a new employee for the job?

The current trend says NO – you upskill current workers. Upskilling is the process of training current employees in new skills and responsibilities. According to a McKinsey study, 62 percent of executives think automation will require them to retrain or replace over ¼ of their workforce.

Obviously, replacing employees is less cost-effective than offering more skills training, but is it easy? That depends on how you approach it.

As was previously mentioned, advanced AI is making training easier and more personalized for employees. AI can provide real-time feedback, recognize the areas in which employees need help and adapt to individual learning styles.

While advanced training software may be pricey, it’s certainly less than the cost of replacing a quarter of your workforce.

Group Health Insurance

Soaring Group Health Insurance Costs: Paying over $15,000 annually for each employee’s health care in 2019 sounds like a bad dream, but it’s a reality.

With group health insurance rates surpassing $680 and $20,000 for single and family coverage, respectively, employers are scrambling to cut costs wherever they can. Yet, that can be easier said than done.

Some companies are encouraging workers to utilize telemedicine or virtual care as a way to save on their group health insurance costs. By “visiting” a doctor online for minor health issues, patients can save a trip to the hospital. And, since it’s virtual, everyone saves money.

Another group health insurance cost-saving strategy is the consumer driven health plan (CDHP) model. This strategy empowers employees to control their health care decisions and choose care that best suits them. Since employees use a savings account to help offset costs from their high deductible health plans, they are incentivized to pick more affordable health care options.

This is where we step in.

The O’Neill Group has worked hard at developing long-term, cost-effective strategies to reduce group health insurance costs, while maintaining a competitive group benefits package for your employees.

The continuous rise of your group health insurance costs has no indication that it will slow down any time soon – leaving employers feeling out of control with their group health insurance spend.

Need guidance on your group health insurance plan, or further support and assistance for your human resources department? We can help!

The O’Neill Group is an insurance and risk management firm in Wadsworth, Ohio and offers group health insurance and Human Resources support to businesses across the state. Call us at (330) 334-1561 or email our Director of Group Health Insurance, Ty Reid at treid@oneillinsurance.com.

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