Resilience—Thriving in a Challenging Work Life

Three keys to staying strong, positive, and successful

By Jim Hornickel

Resilience is a combination of skills and character traits that allow you to bounce back, cope with change, and function above the norm despite significant stress or adversity.

We all have resilience. The question is, to what degree? You’ve chosen a professional life in business, and every day business is challenging. Now that can and should be a positive thing. At Bold New Directions, we have a motto that keeps us challenged on a personal level: “If you’re not living at the edge of your life, you’re taking up too much space!” But living at the edge, whatever that means for you, demands ever more resilience.

Here are three keys for constantly growing your resilience—your ability to bounce back day after day.

1. Grow Your Self-Awareness

That sounds so basic—and it is. But most of us haven’t been trained to constantly look inside ourselves, so we do it somewhat haphazardly. In order to meet all of the external challenges you encounter daily, your internal state needs to be strong. You have to stay tuned in to your thoughts, feelings, and body sensations.

No one ever told me I was in charge of my thoughts. I thought I just had them passively. But think about times when you “put your mind to something.” That’s what I’m talking about—only doing it all the time.

For example, notice when your thoughts are negative. Is that getting you what you want? Probably not. And notice how you feel when you have negative thoughts. Angry, frustrated, blaming—none of which can possibly produce positive results. When you have negative thoughts and feelings, your body will also be affected, with headaches, sour stomach, lower back discomfort, and a host of other stress-related disorders.

So put a brake on negativity and shift your thoughts to the positive. I can handle this! or That’s possible! are sayings you can use to turn negative thoughts, feelings, and body sensations around in your favor.

2. Engage Your Purpose

Did you ever go to an ATM, take out $100, spend it here and there, and then wonder, Where did I spend all that money? Do your days ever seem like that? Where the heck did the time go?

Work life is full of things to do, and we can get quite caught up in endless activities. The problem is that we often get off track. Being off track leads to stress, and stress lowers your resilience.

Periodically reminding yourself of your small and large goals will keep you on track. Start your day with a clear purpose, or agenda. Written goals are much more powerful than those you try to keep in your head. Keep your self-awareness alive so that you notice, for example, when you are lingering in the break boom, surfing the ’Net just a little past your business reason, or procrastinating on a project that doesn’t excite you.

Take the “helicopter view.” Take a moment to rise above the details of your busy day to see if your activities are in line with your stated purpose. If not, shift your thoughts and actions back on track. The more successful you are at doing this, the better your accomplishments feel and the more resilience you have.

3. Boost Your Creativity

I have asked thousands of people in our training programs to raise their hand if they think of themselves as creative. Only about 10% of professionals do. I attribute that to either poor self-perception or the need to get better at thinking outside the box. Problems come your way every day, and the better you are at finding multiple options for solving them, the stronger and more successful you are.

Here is a fun but practical exercise you can do to help move your brain from I can’t think of anything else to What else can I think of to do? We call it, “There Are 18 Ways to Do Anything!”

Round one: When faced with a problem, ask yourself to find different ways of solving it. Here’s how it works.

Ask yourself, for example, How do I get to San Francisco? By plane, of course! Ah, but the pilots are on strike. So, how else can I get there? By train! But all seats are sold. How else can I get to San Francisco? By car! The car is in the shop…See where this is going? You can get to San Francisco by bike, walking, swimming, hot air balloon, donkey, Roller Blades, riding lawn mower—far more than 18 ways, in fact. If you open up your mind to being creative, you will find many ways of solving your problems.

Round two: Do this by yourself, or better yet, with your team. Ask team members, How many ways can you think of to use a paper clip? (By the way, the record is 44.)

Grow your self-awareness, engage your purpose, boost your creativity—these are just three ways of becoming more resilient. In today’s constantly challenging work life, you need every tool and trick to remain strong, positive, and successful.

Jim Hornickel is cofounder of Bold New Directions, a consulting firm specializing in corporate training and employee development. He can be reached at jim@boldnewdirections.com. Learn more from Jim about increasing your resilience at CBIA’s Annual Supervisors Conference, June 24, in Cromwell.

State Must Act Now to Forestall Future Fiscal Crises

New budget will only begin to solve long-term, structural problems

“How wisely states manage their money determines their ability to do business, which, in turn, impacts the quality of life of their citizens—affecting everything from the tax burden that residents face to the results they are getting for their tax dollars. States that plan for the future and use evidence to make decisions are able to do more with less.” (Pew Center on the States)         

By Bill DeRosa

For years, Connecticut has been unable to resolve numerous pressing fiscal issues. They include personnel costs that have risen well beyond private-sector levels, the alarming growth of unfunded liabilities for state employee post-retirement benefits, the escalating cost of debt service, and a tax system so heavily reliant on high-income earners that state revenues were hit exceptionally hard as the recent downturn in the financial markets took hold.

From 1990 to 2010, our state budget grew by 168%, from about $7 billion to $19 billion, outstripping inflation and population growth by a wide margin. (Over the same two decades, the state’s population grew by only 9%—from 3.27 million to 3.57 million.)

Some of the biggest cost increases in the last 20 years have occurred in state employee retiree health benefits (up 926%); debt service, i.e., paying off state borrowing (670%); Medicaid (253%); state employee pensions (181%); and the corrections system (175%).

Costly Consequences

The results of Connecticut’s inability to slow the growth of government—and government spending—have been well-publicized. The state began the year with a projected $3.67 billion budget deficit for 2012, a figure later adjusted downward to $3.2 billion by the Office of Policy and Management (OPM). In April, OPM announced that a switch to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, or GAAP, would add $1.52 billion to the deficit. In a report to the legislature’s Finance and Appropriations committees, OPM Secretary Ben Barnes recommended that the $1.52 billion be repaid over 15 years, starting in 2014.

Prior to the GAAP revision, data published in the Wall Street Journal showed that Connecticut’s budget deficit was the eighth-highest in the country when measured as a percentage of the state’s proposed FY 2012 budget.

Far more daunting than short-term deficits are Connecticut’s long-term, structural fiscal problems—namely, $70.2 billion in unfunded liabilities, which gives the state the worst per capita debt load in the nation.

The largest portion of that debt—$24.6 billion (35%)—comes from unfunded state employee post-retirement health and life insurance benefits. Other major contributors are bonded debt ($19.5 billion) and unfunded state employee pension benefits ($11.7 billion).

The New Budget

To close Connecticut’s near-term deficits, the legislature passed and the governor signed a two-year $40 billion budget that imposes nearly $4 billion in new taxes over two years (including the hospital provider tax)—the largest tax increase in the state’s history. It also increases spending by $500 million in FY 2012 and $900 million in FY 2013.

Tax provisions include increases in the personal income tax, which will hit Connecticut’s small and midsize businesses particularly hard because so many of them pay their business taxes through the personal income tax. The budget also raises the state sales tax to 6.35% and boosts the corporate income tax surcharge from 10% to 20% for income years 2012 and 2013.

“We are disappointed that lawmakers passed a budget without making additional spending cuts that could have reduced the size and scope of the tax increases,” says John Rathgeber, CBIA president and CEO. “The fact that sales and income tax receipts have been much stronger than expected in recent months makes such a steep tax hike unnecessary and the legislature’s haste in passing it all the more frustrating.”

Based on recent growth in state tax revenue, state Comptroller Kevin Lembo has projected that Connecticut will end FY 2011 with a $500 million budget surplus. In addition, estimates are that the new budget’s tax package will result in $1 billion in surpluses over the next two fiscal years.

“Those numbers essentially mean that Connecticut citizens and businesses are being overtaxed,” says Rathgeber. “And it couldn’t come at a worse time, as the state’s economic recovery continues to lag the nation’s and jobs continue to be lost.”

The state Department of Labor reported that Connecticut lost 6,000 jobs in March, bringing employment down to January levels.

The new state budget also depends on $1.6 billion in state employee concessions, a figure reached in a tentative agreement between Gov. Malloy and state employee union leaders on May 13. (The governor’s original proposal called for $2 billion in concessions.)

Information available at press time suggests that the agreement begins to address some of the long-term liabilities associated with state employee pensions and retiree healthcare benefits. Precisely how it achieves near-term savings, however, was not yet clear. Ratification of the deal by individual bargaining units was expected to take several weeks.

More Work to Do

Joe Brennan, CBIA’s senior vice president of public policy, cautions that the new state budget will not, by itself, solve Connecticut’s broader fiscal problems.

“Now that a budget has been passed, management of state government is going to continue, and what shape that takes—how programs get measured, departments get restructured, and services get delivered—will be the critical issue going forward.

“Much needs to be done on the administrative side. We can’t lose sight of the fact that we have to move ahead with fundamental changes to the way our government works and handles its fiscal affairs.”

Future Crisis?

Without those fundamental changes, Connecticut’s massive unfunded liabilities portend big problems down the road, putting tremendous pressure on future state budgets.

Connecticut is not the only state facing the specter of future budget trouble. In a study released last year, the Pew Center on the States reported that the unfunded obligations for state employee retirement benefits alone had added up to $1 trillion nationally by the end of FY 2008. How did that happen? The recession played a role, but not necessarily the starring role.

“To a significant degree,” the report notes, “the $1 trillion gap reflects states’ own policy choices and lack of discipline: failing to make annual payments for pension systems at the levels recommended by their own actuaries; expanding benefits and offering cost-of-living increases without fully considering their long-term price tag or determining how to pay for them; and providing retiree healthcare without adequately funding it.”

For Connecticut, restructuring state employee compensation and benefit plans as part of a concession agreement would begin to address the issues, but much more will need to be done.

Otherwise, says Peter Gioia, CBIA vice president and economist, Connecticut’s citizens and businesses could pay a heavy price.

“State unfunded liabilities introduce long-term risk in terms of potential tax increases,” he says. “Policymakers need to address ways of either lowering these unfunded liabilities or paying for them. If they pay for them, that means tax increases, which will either directly or indirectly impact business by lowering disposable consumer income and spending in the state.”

Avoiding the Crisis

Connecticut’s long-term fiscal problems are so severe that solving them, says Brennan, will require a fundamental change in thinking.

“State policymakers need a new mind-set—one that admits that government can’t solve all our problems and that balances the desire to fix everything with the need to keep government affordable. Our elected officials must understand that there are better ways of doing things, that we don’t need a larger bureaucracy or more commissions. There’s no reason the state can’t adopt many of the best practices developed in the private sector to deliver government services more effectively and more affordably.”

Among the first steps the state must take, says Gioia, is finding ways of making pension and retiree healthcare benefits—particularly healthcare benefits—less costly.

“The extent to which the tentative agreement between the governor and state employee unions accomplishes that goal remains to be seen,” he says.

Second, Gioia proposes, the state needs to rebalance its long-term care system. According to a study by the Connecticut Regional Institute for the 21st Century, that system accounted for $2.5 billion (13%) of Connecticut’s total annual expenditures in 2009.

“With all possible speed, the state must move away from nursing homes, or institutional care, to home- and community-based care when it’s appropriate and when clients want it, which most do.”

Such a move would result in significant savings, because the cost of home- and community-based services is about half the cost of institutional care.

Finally, Gioia argues that the state must get smarter about the way it delivers services. That would involve a combination of measures, including increasing the span of control in state agencies from one manager to six employees closer to the one-to-14 ratio that exists at the federal level.

It would also mean instituting lean business practices and results-based accountability (RBA) across state agencies.

RBA demands that outcome measures be used to ascertain whether a program has actually achieved its intended goals

and therefore used taxpayer dollars wisely. For example, are social services programs really providing the supports that directly lead people out of dependency and into more self-sufficient lives? Are transportation projects really allowing faster movement of people and goods within and through Connecticut? Is our education system fully preparing students for productive lives in the real world?

“State agencies should be measuring the results of what they do, not just documenting the fact that activities are taking place,” says Gioia, adding that only small parts of Connecticut government have implemented RBA so far, while other states, such as Washington, Utah, Virginia, and Texas, have used outcome measures to a much greater extent.

“Those states know what they’re spending their money on and what the results are for their citizens.”

Peter Kent, former CBIA board chair and chairman and CEO of Bicron Electronics in Canaan, adds that whatever changes the state makes, they must be significant and sustainable.

“The state must learn about, embrace, and train its employees in best practices and lean operations in all areas. That will enable our government to do a much more effective, cost-efficient job at serving its customers—the taxpayers of the state of Connecticut.” [Read more...]

CEOs Rank Connecticut’s Business Climate Near Last

Chief Executive magazine has released its 2011 rankings of the best and worst states for doing business. Connecticut’s ranking—a dismal 44th among the 50 states—remained unchanged from last year. More than 500 CEOs nationwide were surveyed for this annual measure of states’ business friendliness.

Only Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Illinois, New York, and California were ranked behind Connecticut. Rhode Island climbed four places from last year and was ranked 39th.

At the top of this list were was Texas (also tops in 2010), followed by North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, and Georgia.

CEOs graded states on a variety of factors, including taxation, regulation, workforce quality, unemployment rate, and living environment.

Sound Advice for Connecticut

States with punitive tax and regulatory systems were punished with lower rankings. The magazine noted, “While state incentives are always welcome, what CEOs often seek are areas with consistent policies and regulations that allow them to plan, as well as intangible factors such as a state’s overall attitude toward business.”

Offering advice to states that want to keep and attract business investment, one CEO told Chief Executive, “Do not overtax business. Make sure your tax scheme does not drive business to another state. Have a regulatory environment and regulators that encourage good business—not one that punishes businesses for minor infractions. Good employment laws help too. Let companies decide what benefits and terms will attract and keep the quality of employee they need.”

Considering those remarks, it’s not surprising that Connecticut ranks near the bottom when it comes to business-friendliness. That ranking is not likely to improve as long as the General Assembly continues to consider and approve anti-business bills and pass tax increases that penalize small and midsize businesses.

Click here for more on Chief Executive magazine’s 2011 state rankings.

2012-2013 State Budget: Tax Increases Will Have Big Impact on Business

The $40 billion biennial state budget signed by Gov. Malloy in April relies on tax increases of $2 billion in Fiscal Year 2012 and $1.8 billion in FY 13.

It also depends on $1.6 billion in state employee concessions, a figure reached in a tentative agreement between the governor and state employee union leadership on May 13.

Gov. Malloy’s original budget proposal had called for $2 billion in concessions. The difference will be made up through “a mix of additional spending cuts and existing budgeted revenues,” said the governor.

Complete details of the agreement had not been released at press time, and ratification by individual state employee unions was expected to take several weeks.

Tax Increases

Many of the tax changes, particularly the personal income tax increase, will impact businesses. In Connecticut, small businesses that are formed as S corporations, limited liability companies, or other similar structures pay tax on their business income under the personal income tax, not the corporate income tax.

Under the new budget, the state’s personal income tax has a new top rate of 6.7% that would begin at lower income thresholds ($500,000 for joint filers).

Significantly, for joint filers with incomes exceeding $700,000, lower marginal rates will not apply and taxpayers will pay the higher rate from dollar one. Moreover, the previous top rate of 6.5% will trigger at $400,000.

To add to the burden, the new income tax rates are retroactive to Jan. 1, 2011.

Among the budget’s many other tax provisions are those that:

• Increase the corporate income tax surcharge from 10% to 20% for income years 2012 and 2013 (the throwback rule was rejected)

• Increase the sales tax to 6.35%, applicable to all taxable sales

• Expand the list of services and items to which the sales tax will be applied

• Reduce the residential property tax credit off the personal income tax from $500 to $300

• Impose a two-year, $72 million tax on electric generators

• Introduce an Amazon sales tax on online purchases shipped to state residents

• Create a 7% luxury tax, starting with the first dollar (on clothing costing more than $1,000, jewelry above $5,000, cars above $50,000, and boats above $100,000)

• Reduce the estate tax exemption from $3.5 million to $2 million

• Change the cap on the insurance premium tax credit from 70% to 30% for 2012 and 2013.

The Spending Side

The budget contains about $250 million more in spending than what the governor had proposed (much of it to obtain additional federal Medicaid reimbursement), but it offsets the increase with other reductions. Overall, lawmakers trimmed some state employee positions and expenses but added back some programs the governor had slated for cutting.

Revenues Rising

Against the backdrop of massive tax increases, the state comptroller says

that state revenues have climbed by $414.9 million since April—raising expectations for a state fiscal year-end balance of $509.6 million. With the tax increases, the new budget is projected to produce

a nearly $1 billion cumulative surplus over the next two fiscal years, raising questions about the need for such a steep tax hike.

Economy Struggling

At the same time, the state’s unemployment rate climbed back over 9% in March—above the national average of 8.8%—with the state’s labor markets reporting a loss of 6,000 jobs.

The impact of the recession continues to be felt sharply by Connecticut employers, who are already facing at least $70 million in new unemployment compensation taxes and possibly more.

For more information, contact CBIA’s Bonnie Stewart at 860.244.1925 or bonnie.stewart@cbia.com. ■

Research Identifies Six Traits of Success-Oriented Small Business Owners

Findings provide possible clues to why many firms fail while others thrive

According to a report from The Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute, six dimensions characterize small business owners who projected revenue increases and business expansion even as the recession peaked.

Study Design

The institute’s analysis is based on a comprehensive study, The Guardian Life Index: What Matters Most to America’s Small Business Owners, which surveyed owners of 1,100 businesses with two to 99 employees.

The index identified 60 critical factors that correlated with success-oriented owners who projected 2009 revenues of more than 10% over 2008 in combination with the intent to expand their businesses in 2009–10. Insights from the research may help explain why, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, only 51% of small businesses endure for five years or more.

The six dimensions, based on the 60 factors, paint a nuanced portrait and provide a deeper understanding of the success-oriented small business owner:

• Collaborative. Success-oriented small business owners learn how to delegate effectively and build strong personal relationships with their management team, employees, consultants, vendors and customers. They are more committed “to creating opportunities for others.”

• Self-fulfilled. Success-oriented small business owners place a high value on the personal fulfillment and gratification that their companies provide them, relishing the self-determination and respect that come from being their own boss and being in control of their personal income and long-term net worth. They are more desirous of “doing something for a living that I love to do,” “being able to decide how much money I make,” and “being able to have the satisfaction of creating something of value.”

• Future-focused. Planning for both the short- and long-term future are key traits that characterize success-oriented small business owners. They are more focused on cash flow and more likely to have “a well thought out plan to run our business for years into the future” as well as “a well thought out plan to run our business day to day.”

• Curious. Success-oriented small business owners are more open to learning how others run their businesses. They actively seek insights into best practices regarding management; business innovation; prospecting; and finding, motivating, and retaining employees.

• Tech-savvy. Technology is a key point of leverage for success-oriented small business owners. They more intensely value their company’s website and are significantly more likely to “rely a great deal on technology to help make our business more effective and more efficient.”

• Action oriented. Finally, success-oriented small business owners are more proactive about building their businesses. They are more committed to “taking the business to the next level,” “differentiating ourselves from our competitors,” and “having something to sell when I’m ready to retire.” They also see adversity as “a kick in the rear to help move you forward.” Not surprisingly, they are less concerned than other small business owners about the overall state of the economy.

A detailed research monograph that further explains the six dimensions and 60 factors associated with success-oriented small business owners is available at smallbizdom.com.

Protecting Your Leave of Absence Policies

Tips for preventing abuse and dealing with unscrupulous employees

By Marah Block

Your years of experience as an employer have probably taught you that most of your employees are dependable and trustworthy. But everyone runs into personnel challenges now and then, especially when it comes to managing time off. Perhaps you’ve faced situations similar to these:

• One of your machinists says that he needs to schedule regular physical therapy appointments during work hours. You know that most physical therapy centers offer convenient early morning and evening appointments, but he insists the only sessions available are Fridays at 3 pm.

• An account manager tells you that she needs every Monday off for court appearances. Because of her spotty attendance record, you suspect she may just be trying to extend her weekend.

• One of your sales reps requests time off to care for a child with a chronic medical condition, but unconfirmed reports of his whereabouts lead you to suspect that he’s using the time for other purposes.

• An employee on workers’ comp receives medical clearance to go back to work but informs you that she’s not fully healed. You worry that she may get hurt again but aren’t sure of your obligations.

If you’ve faced any of these scenarios, you’re not alone, according to John Letizia of New Haven law firm Letizia, Ambrose & Falls P.C. Letizia discussed employer and employee rights regarding leaves of absence at CBIA’s Annual HR Conference on May 3 in Rocky Hill.

Letizia reviewed the ins and outs of FMLA, workers’ comp, ADA, and military leave and offered ways to handle employees who try to abuse the system. He said that while most employees abide by the rules, the abusers keep employers on their toes.

Letizia insisted there’s only one approach to take when it appears someone is taking advantage of a leave situation.

“You have to appear as a good guy,” he said, encouraging attendees to make sure documentation reflects how well they’ve treated an employee while he or she is on leave. “If you don’t, you’re going to lose [your case].”

Homework Matters

Letizia pointed out that employers who do their homework have the best chance of successfully managing employees who take advantage of leave. His suggestions include:

• Make sure leave policies are clear. If your employees don’t understand them, how can they follow them?

• Get proof that an employee is violating your policies or being dishonest. Are you allowed to check into someone’s medical information? No. Are you allowed to see if a worker lied about the limited availability of doctor’s appointments? Yes.

• Write it down. Make every effort to document details, including the number and pattern of absences, conversations with an employee about leave, how his or her situation is progressing, and any observations from supervisors. In certain situations, it may be possible to communicate with doctors about an employee’s injury, the progression of recovery, and changes in the doctor’s medical opinion.

• Confront bad employees. If someone’s leave situation enables him or her to steal time or money from you, you’re entitled to take action.

• Make light duty work available. It’s common knowledge among HR professionals that the longer an employee is out on leave, the more accustomed to being away he or she becomes. It’s in your best interest to always have a light duty position available to help get an employee back into a work routine as soon as possible. ■

Marah Block is a writer at CBIA. She can be reached at marah.block@cbia.com.

Pre-Approved Retirement Plans: Tips for Employers

Understand your plan and ensure that it’s effective and complies with the law

Like many other employers, you may have purchased a pre-approved plan from a pre-approved plan sponsor and adopted it as your employees’ retirement plan. Regardless of the type of plan, you are ultimately responsible for making sure it complies with all legal requirements. Here are a few tips to help you meet this responsibility.

Service Agreements

Your service agreement outlines plan responsibilities for you and your pre-approved plan sponsor. Ask yourself these questions to make sure you fully understand your service agreement:

• Who is responsible for updating the plan document with changes in the law?

• Who will administer the plan—the pre-approved plan sponsor or a third party?

• Who gives any required plan notices to the participants?

• Who files required forms and returns with the IRS or the Department of Labor?

• Who determines whether nondiscrimination testing will be required?

• Who conducts any required nondiscrimination testing, and when will the testing be done?

• Where will the plan accounts be maintained? What are the fees for those accounts?

• How will the funds be invested? What are the associated fees?

• If something goes wrong and the plan becomes noncompliant, how will the pre-approved plan sponsor or a third party assist in bringing the plan back into compliance, and at what cost?

• What information do you have to give the pre-approved plan sponsor, and when?

• What other services are you entitled to under the agreement? Does it include an annual compliance check?

• What fees will you be charged by the pre-approved plan sponsor or third party?

• What are your remedies if the pre-approved plan sponsor doesn’t provide the services detailed in the agreement?

Adoption Agreement

If you signed an adoption agreement outlining your plan feature choices, this becomes part of your plan, and you must follow its terms when operating the plan. Make sure you completely understand the features you have chosen in the adoption agreement. An adoption agreement may specify:

• When employees are eligible to participate in the plan

• Types and amounts of contributions allowed by the plan

• How employer contributions are allocated

• A vesting schedule

• Distribution options

Keep a copy of the pre-approved plan and refer to it for definitions and provisions that relate to your adoption agreement.

Communication

Pay close attention to all communications from your pre-approved plan sponsor and administrator. Make sure you fully understand these communications and promptly provide any requested information. Keep the opinion or advisory letter for your pre-approved plan and promptly sign any plan amendments sent to you by your pre-approved plan sponsor (if a signature is required). If your sponsor signs amendments on your behalf, send copies of these to your plan administrator.

Coordination with Payroll

Make sure your payroll processor has a copy of your plan and any amendments and understands and correctly implements them. For example, make sure your payroll processor:

• Uses the definition of compensation specified in your plan for contribution purposes and maximum limitations

• Deducts the correct amount of employee contributions in a timely manner

• Deducts the correct amount of any loan repayments

Promptly notify your payroll processor of any newly eligible employees who have enrolled in the plan as well as any required elective deferral suspensions for employees who have taken hardship withdrawals.

Review Your Plan

Ask your pre-approved plan sponsor if the plan has been updated for current law. Also, periodically review your plan document and plan operations to answer questions such as:

• Is your existing plan still right for your business? Often, employers have a plan that is too complicated or is not providing the right benefits for their employees.

• Are there features you can add to your plan to further benefit your employees? For example, should you consider adding an automatic enrollment feature or designated Roth accounts?

• Is your plan operating according to the plan document’s terms?

The IRS provides many free resources to help employers with their plans. Click here for more information. ■

Your Questions Answered

Do you have a question related to employment law, wage and hour issues, or human resources? Members can get free information from CBIA’s experts by calling 860.244.1900.

By Mark Soycher and Lynn Atkinson
CBIA human resources experts

Q: In discussing cost-saving strategies with employees, it was suggested we could save a bundle on electricity by cutting back on air conditioning this summer. Another employee objected, however, claiming it would be an OSHA violation if the temperature got too high. Is there a safety standard regarding permissible workplace temperature?

A: For general industry, there is no safety standard specifying an acceptable temperature range. The variability of work processes and environments, even within a single work site, makes government regulation of workplace temperatures impractical. Employees may experience high temperatures due to a variety of factors, including:

• Degree of ventilation

• Production operations or machinery that causes radiant heat

• High humidity

• Direct contact with hot objects

• Strenuous physical activity

• The need to wear personal protective equipment (PPE)

Worker sensitivity to heat will also vary due to age, physical fitness, acclimatization, metabolism, use of alcohol or drugs, medical history or condition, and the type of clothing worn. On a typical day in almost any workspace, you’ll see workers in various stages of comfort relative to temperature—some in short sleeves and still warm, others with sweaters and still cold.

Nonetheless, OSHA does view hot work environments and heat stress as recognizable hazards. (The agency has recently announced an aggressive campaign to prevent heat-related illness in outdoor workers.) Heat stress is most often regulated under OSHA’s General Duty Clause, which requires employers to furnish employees with “employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”

Although no standard exists to provide precise quantitative heat exposure levels, the OSHA Technical Manual used by the agency’s compliance safety and health officers contains a detailed section on heat stress, including signs and symptoms, preventative measures, and how employers are evaluated for compliance. More resources for preventing heat stress, including fact sheets and “Quick Cards” for employees, are available from OSHA.

As with other workplace hazards, OSHA’s approach to protecting workers against heat stress emphasizes first examining engineering controls, including making the work environment cooler by increasing ventilation, shielding equipment, and modifying work processes. Second, the agency recommends considering administrative controls and work practices, such as providing worker training, modifying schedules and production targets, and increasing monitoring and fluid intake. Finally, depending on the work environment, PPE can help reduce heat stress on the job.

Although some may minimize complaints of excessively hot work environments, the fact is that heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke are serious health risks. So consider putting heat-related education, assessment, and monitoring high on your list of summer safety topics.

Cutting back on air conditioning may indeed be an appropriate strategy for reducing costs, but doing so to an extreme can expose workers to hazardous conditions and your company to OSHA enforcement headaches.

Q: We observe July 4 as a scheduled holiday, but we may need to have a few employees work that day. Are we required to pay them overtime?

A: There’s no requirement to pay employees overtime when they work on a holiday unless the additional hours result in the employee working more than 40 hours that payroll week.

Many employers do, however, pay employees time-and-a-half—plus the day’s holiday pay—when they work on a scheduled holiday. Some employers also count holiday time off as hours worked when they compute overtime for a week in which a holiday falls.

CBIA’s new Benefits Survey Report contains a wealth of information on compensation practices in Connecticut. To purchase the report, call 860.244.1900 or click here.

School-Business Partnerships Spell Success for Employers, Future Workforce

CHOICES program encourages students to think about career paths, plan for the future

By Lesia Winiarskyj

The transition from high school to college, and from classroom to career, can be bumpy. CBIA’s Education Foundation and member companies are helping Connecticut’s class of 2011—and future grads—make a smooth go of it.

Throughout the school year, engineers, business analysts, information services professionals, and others have taken time out of their busy schedules to serve as mentors, role models, and tutors for high school students.

“Wednesdays have become the highlight of the week for me,” says Bill Durante, a manager at Otis Elevator who tutors Hartford students in engineering and math. “I enjoy working with young people and building relationships. They’re now asking about my company and my job. It’s wonderful—more rewarding than I ever would have thought.”

It’s About CHOICES

Durante is not alone. More than two dozen employees from Otis, Hamilton Sundstrand, Pratt & Whitney, Aetna, ASPIRA, CBIA, Capital Community College, and ESPN have lent their time, insight, and expertise to students at New Britain High School, Hartford’s Academy of Engineering and Green Technology (AoEGT), and Wilby High School in Waterbury. And though the goal is to ensure an educated future workforce, the focus isn’t strictly on academics.

In April, volunteers conducted a series of interactive workshops, called CHOICES, that empower teens to set personal and professional goals for themselves and make the kinds of decisions that will help them reach those goals. CHOICES sessions take teens through real-world exercises in self-discipline, time and money management, and career and retirement planning.

“The workshops are highly interactive,” says Dayl Walker, a program manager for CBIA’s Education Foundation, which coordinates the workshops with a grant from UPS. “Each session illustrates how decisions that young people make now can have a profound influence on the rest of their lives. CHOICES motivates students to anticipate, plan, and take charge of their future.”

Seeing Is Believing

In one exercise, students role-play high school dropouts, high school graduates, and those with postsecondary degrees or training. Participants quickly see that the greater their level of education, the more career options they have.

“After the session about job choices,” said one student, “I’m determined to finish high school and go on to college.”

In another activity, students unfurl a scroll—almost as wide as the room—representing a timeline of their lives, from early childhood to post-retirement years. Tenth-grader Devon Hazel said, “I was surprised to learn how four years of high school will impact the next 45 years of my life.”

“What makes these lessons stick,” says Walker, “is that the presenters are motivated by a genuine concern for young people. Most of them belong to affiliate groups at their companies—African American Forum, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Women’s Leadership Forum, Gen Y. They’re not teachers, counselors, or even professional presenters. They’re everyday working people, many of whom grew up in the same neighborhoods, walked the same halls, and graduated from the same schools as these kids.”

Industry-Driven Education

Though school is almost out, teachers and students will keep their skills fresh all summer long through paid, professional internships and externships at various Connecticut companies.

“Teacher externships help instructors develop the kinds of engaging lessons and curricula that reflect the needs of today’s workplace,” says Mary deManbey, a program manager for CBIA’s Education Foundation. “Student internships show students firsthand how the work they’re doing in the classroom relates to the real world.”

Businesses and organizations that have hosted student/faculty interns or will be doing so this summer include AI Engineers; Associated Spring; The Birch Group; Edwards, Angell, Palmer & Dodge; Electric Cable Assembly; Habco; Hamilton Sundstrand; Hartford Public Library; Metropolitan District Commision; Milone & MacBroom; Promec; Telaid; UTC Power; and Whitcraft.

If your company is interested in a school-business partnership, CBIA’s Education Foundation can provide the support, training, and resources to help you succeed. Contact dayl.walker@cbia.com or mary.demanbey@cbia.com.

For updates on CBIA’s education and workforce development programs, visit CBIA’s Education Foundation.

Lesia Winiarskyj is a writer/editor at CBIA. She can be reached at lesia.winiarskyj@cbia.com.

Economic Growth Hinges on Reduced Government Intervention

Study explains why the requirements of economic growth are changing and how policymakers must adapt

Following the 2008 global financial crisis, many economists and market observers hastened to declare that the era of free markets was over. America and the world, they said, were trending toward greater reliance on government controls.

Contrary to those predictions, the changing nature of economic growth means that prosperity is actually more, not less, reliant on free, competitive markets, according to Frontier Economics: Why Entrepreneurial Capitalism Is Needed Now More than Ever, a report released by the Kauffman Foundation.

“Over the past generation, world economic policy has been dominated by greater reliance on market competition,” said Brink Lindsey, the study’s author and Kauffman Foundation senior scholar in research and policy. “Notwithstanding the recent financial crisis, there are good reasons to believe this trend will continue well into the future.”

Lindsey’s analysis focuses on the evolving requirements of economic growth as countries grow richer. “Imitative growth,” which comes from applying existing knowledge, becomes less important; “innovative growth,” which comes from new ideas, becomes more important. The world economy has entered an era of “frontier economics,” Lindsey says, as growth is increasingly something that takes place at the technological frontier.

According to the paper, when countries are poor and less advanced, the economic future is relatively predictable. The example of rich countries allows policymakers in less developed countries to peek into the future and see the economic changes that need to be made. Consequently, there is less need for market competition to guide the course of development. But as countries successfully pursue “catch-up growth” and approach the technological frontier, the future grows increasingly uncertain. Now innovation, rather than imitation, is the key to continued progress, and the ceaseless trial-and-error experimentation of competitive markets becomes indispensable.

Meanwhile, the nature of the technological frontier keeps changing. Over the course of the 20th century, the central economic challenge was the fulfillment of basic material needs through mass production and mass distribution. As mass affluence spreads and deepens, though, the future course of economic development becomes increasingly unpredictable. Only wide-open competition among countless rival new ideas can solve the puzzle of increasing consumer welfare.

The richer nations get, the more they “rely on innovation to keep growth going and, therefore, the more we need free-market policies that foster the creation of new businesses and the implementation of new ideas,” Lindsey said. “If we are to…launch a new, 21st-century boom, it is in the direction of freer, more competitive markets that our policies must turn.”

Visit the Kauffman Foundation for more information. ■