impactnews: Letter from Kelly Mitchell, Principal of impactHR

As we head into the Holiday Season and the end of the year, I want to express my gratitude to all of our customers, partners and friends whom we’ve worked and collaborated closely with through 2015. To be sure, it’s been an exciting year at impactHR and in the field of human resources. With this edition of impactnews our final one of the year, I’d like to offer a brief summary of some of the trends, changes and opportunities all of us at impactHR have seen and been a part of through the year.

One quick housekeeping note: we introduced impactnews last April to give you an easy way to keep up to date with current trends, policies, tips and best practices in human resources – all relevant to companies and organizations in the Baltimore-Washington region and across the country. If you have a minute, please send me an email at with any feedback and suggestions you may have for how we can improve this newsletter and make it even more of service to you and your colleagues in the year ahead.

In regard to 2015, one important HR trend I’ve seen is an increased awareness and appreciation for effective, efficient HR management practices by the companies and organizations we work with. In these times of fast-moving changes in the way we conduct business, it’s paramount that organizations take key steps to ensure their HR function has a well-designed foundation of processes, procedures and technology to help you maximize the performance of your employees.

In addition, we’ve seen employers this year emphasize recruiting and retaining talent – and not just all talent, but talent clearly aligned with their organizations’ values and mission. It’s a matter of working to find the right people to hire and making special effort to ensure they stay by providing them opportunities to advance, challenging them in their work and giving them ownership of their core responsibilities.

Another trend of great interest to me is that many of the small businesses we work with are modernizing their HR functions – and not just for internal reasons but to optimize their competitive positions in the marketplace. We were very glad to see these businesses make strategic decisions to invest in their HR practices and programs as a direct way to manage its HR infrastructure and accelerate their business growth.

Also this year, companies and organizations in a range of industry sectors are working more with specialty firms like impactHR for customized services while moving away from large, “one stop shop” vendors. Without doubt, smaller, specialized services firms are more capable of understanding the concrete, specific business needs of an organization and its people. Specialty firms are better equipped to provide laser-like focus on addressing and improving their business challenges, such as HR, to help steer their organizations onto a growth path.

With these few thoughts in mind, please allow me to say that impactHR has had a tremendous year working with our clients. And we’re extremely appreciative of and grateful for all our relationships with our clients, partners and friends. We take great pride in our relationships with our clients. It’s gratifying to know that whenever they need HR support and consulting, we are their firm!

Thank you as always and all my best wishes,

Kelly Mitchell, MS, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

impactAlert: US Department of Labor Sets July 2016 for Possible Release of Final Overtime Rule

For the Obama administration’s recently proposed rule changing eligibility for overtime pay, the public comment period (which ended last September) saw more than 250,000 comment submissions. Under the proposal within the Fair Labor Standards Act, salaried workers making up to $50,400 would be eligible for overtime pay – up from the current level of $23,660. With the comment period over, the administration can proceed to implement the rule without Congressional action. Just late last month, the U.S. Department of Labor announced it is targeting July 2016 – several months ahead of the presidential election date – for release of its final rule, according to HR Morning. Employers would have 60 days from that release date to comply.

Here are some key steps employers can take to prepare for the final overtime rule’s eventual implementation:

  • Determine which of your currently exempt employees could be affected
  • Consider whether you should re-classify each employee as non-exempt or raise their salary to the new exempt level
  • If you expect a lot of your employees will become non-exempt, consider hiring additional workers to minimize overtime costs
  • Set a plan on how you will communicate these changes to your employees to mitigate any impact on staff morale

Learn more

The HR Audit: a Tool to Assess your Present and Future

If you’re considering an audit of your HR management practices, look at it this way: an HR audit is a tool to assess the present and a roadmap to the future. Or, as Teresa Daniel, professor of human resources at Sullivan University, says: an HR audit is about “listening outside the box.”

Either way, employers should undertake an annual audit of their HR management practices. The primary reason is an audit will identify areas where your processes may not be in regulatory compliance and will illuminate ineffective management practices.

An audit is a relatively inexpensive process that enables businesses to evaluate employee management practices and identify areas for growth. Through an audit, companies and organizations can assess where they are, uncover issues that they have and determine how they can best align their human resources practices to strategic business goals.

To be sure, just mere mention of the word “audit” makes many employers uncomfortable.  While employers see the value in auditing their financials, most do not consider the risks related to noncompliance to labor laws or inconsistent HR management practices. An HR audit is a quality control check on the HR management activities in a company and determines how well the activities support the organization’s overall strategy. In other words, the audit should answer the question, “Are your HR practices in compliance and are they helping, hindering or having little impact on what your organization is trying to accomplish?”

The HR audit process includes several key steps:

Develop the Audit Questionnaire
Develop a document that identifies the key areas of HR management practices with a list of specific questions related to each area.

Collect the Data
Collect and review all pertinent written documents, forms, communication materials and personnel files.

Conduct Interviews
Gather input from the management team regarding their HR needs, issues, challenges and their day to day management practices of HR and employee related issues.

Summarize the Results
Consolidate the information collected. Benchmark the results with market data. Determine which practices are good and which practices need improvement. Recommend specific solutions for improvements.

Obtain Approval from Senior Management
Present the preliminary results and recommendations to senior management individually. Point out how these recommendations will support their needs. Obtain their support and approval.

Create Action Plans
Create an implementation plan so that there is actually something that will result from the audit.

Foster a Climate of Continuous Improvement
Commit to constant observation and continuous improvement of the company’s policies, procedures and practices.

HR management practices can make a significant difference in a company’s business results. Human resource audits, like financial audits, are essential to keep your organization running effectively and are valuable if they help you defend against legal challenges and aid in the achievement of the company’s goals. A human resource audit of your company will provide a clear “roadmap” for developing and implementing effective human resource strategies, practices and policies to further the overall goals of the company.

For more on HR audits and how to undertake one, contact us at impactHR.

U.S. Jobless Rate Declines Further in November 2015

The U.S. unemployment rate continues to cycle downward to its current rate of 5% in November 2015 – an improvement from 5.8% in 2014 and 7% in 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The District of Columbia’s jobless rate fell to 6.6% in November 2015 from 7.7% a year earlier (though its current rate is still considerably higher than the national rate). Maryland’s jobless rate is 5.2% currently – down only slightly from 5.5% one year ago. Virginia’s current rate is 4.2% compared with 4.8% at this same time in 2014. For a look nationally, North Dakota had the lowest unemployment rate in November 2015 (2.7%) followed by Nebraska (2.9%). New Mexico had the highest rate in the nation at 6.8%. Learn more

Happy Holidays!

Happy holidays from all of us at impactHR – and we wish you and your family a happy, healthy new year!

Follow impactHR on Twitter, LinkedIn

Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn and stay current with all of our activities, information, impactAlerts, news, tips, best practices and more!