Apprenticeship Programs [Video Blog]

Posted on Jun 5, 2019 6:00:00 AM

Finding qualified job candidates can be frustrating and time-consuming, especially when you’re searching for skilled workers. If this sounds like your situation, it may be time to consider an apprenticeship program.

Apprenticeships are growing in popularity across the United States, and with good reason: these programs benefit workers and business owners alike. Employees learn necessary skills while earning a paycheck, and employers develop a staff of qualified workers trained to their specifications.

This steady flow of talent can help companies maintain productivity and workflow. For example, when a senior employee retires or leaves, a trained apprentice might be ready to fill that opening right away. Apprenticeships are also useful in building loyalty among the employees you train, and in bolstering your reputation in the community. This is especially true if your program partners with a local school.

Apprenticeship programs are popular in many fields. Some are industries with a long history of apprenticeships, including skilled trades like electricians, plumbers, machinists, and builders. A few of the other top areas for apprenticeships are nursing, pharmacy, and information technology. All told, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that more than a thousand occupations currently use apprenticeships.

Every apprenticeship program is unique, but they are generally governed by similar guidelines and regulations. They typically last one to six years, during which time your apprentices will be working and learning. This means on-the-job training combined with formal education such as high school or post-high school classes; online courses; or in-person courses at an on-site classroom or training center.
Apprenticeships can be run by employers; sponsored by professional associations; or administered by employer/labor partnerships.


Apprenticeship programs must comply with state and federal laws. Some industries also have management or labor organizations that set standards and supervise apprenticeship training. Make sure you understand and comply with any laws, regulations, or standards that apply to your program before you put it in place. These include:

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA): This law requires that apprentices are at least 16 years old and sign an agreement to learn a skilled trade.

• Wage regulations: Apprentices can be paid less than minimum wage. Usually, they begin at a third to half of the rate for skilled professionals, and their wages increase as they learn. Laws may require raises at given intervals, such after the first six months.

• State laws: Individual states may have laws about the number of working hours allowed and the minimum wage required. If an apprentice ever performs the work of a professional—say, during a worker shortage—the pay must usually be a professional rate.

A written agreement is useful for clarifying the terms of the apprenticeship for both the employer and the apprentice. This document should specify how the apprenticeship works; how long it will last; pay rates; and what work qualifies for pay.

The Department of Labor is a great resource for employers interested in apprenticeships. You can even formally register your apprenticeship program with the agency. The Department’s Office of Apprenticeship will then work with you to design a training program and curriculum that fits your business. They will also help connect you with job seekers in your industry. You may even qualify for state tax benefits. You can learn more about apprenticeship by visiting the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration.

You may not have considered apprenticeship as a staffing solution in the past. But it’s an option worth thinking about, especially if you’re having a tough time finding skilled professionals. Apprenticeship programs are a valuable investment in your employees, your industry, and the future of your company.

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Do's and Don'ts for ADA Reasonable Accommodations [Video Blog]

Posted on May 22, 2019 6:00:00 AM

The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law in 1990 to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities. In 2008, the law was updated to broaden the definition of disability. Among other things, the law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for disabled individuals during all phases of employment. Failing to comply can result in costly lawsuits and enforcement actions.

Let’s look at some simple Do’s and Don’ts that can help you avoid common mistakes about reasonable accommodations:

DO begin with the decision to educate yourself. Knowledge of the law will help you prepare, so you can protect your company from liability.

DON’T end the conversation too quickly if you can’t easily identify a reasonable accommodation. These might include working part time, reassigning the employee, or providing an unpaid leave of absence.

DO keep job descriptions up to date, including essential functions. You have a responsibility to reasonably accommodate an employee who can’t perform an essential function. But you are not obligated to eliminate an essential function, such as lifting, standing, or working long hours. Accurate job descriptions can help legally prove which functions are essential and which are not.

DON’T take a manager’s word that a specific function is essential. This can be contested if the issue goes to court. Employers should investigate for themselves and decide whether a function is essential.

DO create and distribute a reasonable accommodation policy to show your commitment to ADA compliance. The policy should direct all reasonable accommodation requests to Human Resources, not supervisors. HR professionals are better equipped to deal with the nuances and legal risks of handling ADA requests.


DON’T overuse the undue hardship provision to deny accommodations. Factors such as cost or other employees’ reactions are generally not acceptable reasons for refusing an accommodation.

DO train supervisors to refer reasonable accommodation requests to HR. In addition, they should know how to handle ADA situations in job interviews and daily work with employees.

DON’T discuss details of an employee’s disability with his or her manager. The manager needs to know only about the accommodation being provided. An exception would be a disability that affects how the manager will interact with the employee, such as a hearing impairment.

DO consider other laws applicable to an employee’s disability. For example, a disability under the ADA often also qualifies as a serious health condition under FMLA, so FMLA provisions might come into play.

DON’T outright reject a request because it seems impractical. Follow the process and work toward a resolution.

DO make sure to properly document all accommodation requests, particularly those that are denied. Careful documentation will help you defend your decision in the event of future litigation.

DON’T be tempted to eliminate essential functions of a job, even for a limited time. This can make it harder to argue later that the function is essential for the current or any future employee.

DO take responsibility. Employers are ultimately responsible for investigating possible accommodations. If an employee doesn’t offer suggestions after a request, do try to find an accommodation for them.

DON’T take performance into account when deciding if an accommodation is reasonable. All workers should be treated the same in this process, whether high performers or underachievers.

In closing, remember that the burden has shifted to employers to provide reasonable accommodations and to show care in handling disability issues in the workplace. Keep your organization in compliance by learning about the ADA and the ADA amendments act. This can help protect you from costly lawsuits and penalties down the line.

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7 Steps to Creating a Mentoring Program [Video Blog]

Posted on May 8, 2019 6:00:00 AM

Mentoring programs are a great way to build a knowledgeable, productive, workforce. They’ve been shown to boost employee satisfaction and engagement, and to reduce turnover. Whether it’s to ease the transition for new hires or to develop skills in longtime employees, mentoring makes sense for companies of all types.

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5 Tips for Managing Chronic Complainers [Video Blog]

Posted on Apr 24, 2019 7:00:00 AM

Managing employees can be a challenge, especially if one of them is a chronic complainer. Most of us know the type: employees who always see the glass as half empty. Nonstop gripers disrupt their colleagues and create a toxic environment for everyone. At the same time, these employees may be good at their jobs or have special skills you need, which makes the situation even trickier to handle.

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Managing Employees Through Winter Weather [Video Blog]

Posted on Apr 10, 2019 8:00:00 AM

The science of predicting snowstorms has grown increasingly accurate. Still, meteorologists sometimes get it wrong, warning of "snowmageddons" that never materialize, but whose threatened arrival cause businesses—and even entire cities—to shutter needlessly. So what’s an employer to do when snow is in the forecast?

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Five Childcare Benefits for Working Parents [Video Blog]

Posted on Mar 22, 2019 7:00:00 AM

Time and again, working parents identify childcare as their top concern. As a manager, you recognize that the benefits you offer have a strong effect on how job candidates view your company. Your ability to attract working parents may come down to whether you offer childcare help as a benefit.

Indeed, childcare can be a crippling expense for working parents, with costs for at-home care averaging more than $28,000 a year in the United States. Easing this burden with strong workplace initiatives can help you attract and retain employees. The following strategies can enhance your appeal to employees with children.

1. PTO and flexible scheduling. Paid time off is often used to attract talent, especially millennials. However, it should also be pitched as a family-friendly benefit to working parents. Parents need time off for things like children’s medical appointments, unexpected illnesses, family vacations, and school events. Generous PTO and flexible scheduling make juggling work and home life much easier for families.

2. On-site childcare. This option may be expensive; it will also require considerable buy-in from management. However, on-site care addresses many concerns shared by working parents and could prove to be a “make-or-break” retention benefit for your workforce. Research shows that employees perform better and come to work more regularly when using on-site childcare. Employees also report that on-site childcare improves their ability to concentrate on their jobs.

3. Childcare subsidies. On-site childcare may not be possible. But consider enticing working parents by paying a portion of off-site childcare costs. With childcare ranking as one of largest expenses working families face, offering a subsidy can tip the scales in your favor when employees are weighing career options.

4. Childcare referrals. Even if you can’t afford on-site childcare or a subsidy, you can still help. Consider offering childcare support by establishing a resource network for your employees with children. Gather recommendations and information about local childcare providers and options, and make it readily available.

5. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). Many working parents find it hard to balance work and home life, especially after the birth of their first child. This stress can take a toll on their emotional health and work performance. You can help employees navigate this challenging time by offering counseling through an employee assistance program. An EAP is a voluntary, work-based program that offers free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services to employees. EAPs address a broad and complex body of issues affecting mental and emotional wellbeing. You can choose the right EAP vendor for your organization’s needs and tailor the program to your workforce. EAPs are usually entirely paid for by the employer. Their benefits are offered to employees as well as their families.

Every working parent is different. No one solution can address all your employees’ needs. But recognizing the importance of childcare is essential. Offering support and solutions can go a long way toward attracting and retaining valued employees.

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Employee Pay During Weather Closures [Video Blog]

Posted on Feb 15, 2019 7:00:00 AM

In extreme weather, safety concerns, closed roads, and states of emergency might lead you to shutter your business temporarily. But do you have to pay your employees while you're waiting for the storm to pass?

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Managing Your Team Through A Crisis [Video Blog]

Posted on Dec 21, 2018 9:26:24 AM

Managing employees through a corporate crisis is one of the biggest career challenges you can face. Sudden change, uncertainty, and anxiety about the future can take a toll on productivity and morale. It’s your job as a manager to do the best you can to prevent this from happening.

Keeping your team motivated during tough times isn’t easy. However, strong leadership, good communication, and empathy can make all the difference. Let’s look at a few strategies for helping your team navigate a crisis.

1. Lead by example. Your team will follow your cues, so remain calm and upbeat. Encourage employees to continue to do their best work. Stick to your usual routine and schedule. If your department normally meets for a status review on Tuesday mornings, keep that date and time on the calendar.

2. Communicate. Your managerial communication skills are of utmost importance during difficult times. Explain the circumstances to the best of your knowledge. Be honest and forthright and share what you know. This will show employees you are sensitive to their need for information and have their best interests at heart. Address issues as they arise, and update your staff regularly as new developments occur. This is a situation where keeping employees well informed is of utmost importance.

3. Listen. There’s an old adage that states, “talking is silver and listening is gold.” Keep in mind that being a good listener is every bit as important as sharing information. Employees need to feel that they are being “heard,” especially in times of crisis, so sharpen your active listening skills. Give your undivided attention to any employee coming to speak with you. Try to understand his or her perspective. Maintain an open-door policy that lets your team know you’re approachable. Consider holding town hall-style meetings that allow management to address and hear from all employees at once. This way, no one feels left in the dark. Acting on questions raised in these meetings will let employees know they’re still valued, and that their concerns matter.


4. Ask employees for help. Encourage teams to brainstorm solutions to different problems. The collaboration will engage employees at a time when their bonds to the organization may be strained. Plus, your employees might save the day with innovative ideas that management hasn’t considered.

5. Acknowledge hard work and jobs well done. Employees who go above and beyond during times of adversity should be publicly recognized and rewarded (monetarily, if possible). Even token gifts have proven to be a powerful motivator and morale booster.

Setbacks and corporate crises are an unfortunate part of the business landscape. They are unpredictable and certainly not pleasant. You may not be able to control the ultimate outcome of the situation. But these strategies can help your organization move forward during difficult times.

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Insuring Against Small Business Risks [Video Blog]

Posted on Dec 6, 2018 7:00:00 AM

An optimistic attitude is a must-have for any business owner. But planning only for best-case scenarios can lead you into trouble. A single unfortunate incident can take away all you’ve worked to build. A fire…a flood…a wrongful termination lawsuit….an employee injury....the list goes on. The good news is that you can protect yourself and your company by carefully managing these risks.

A well-designed risk management program is key to the long-term security of your business. This often comes down to having the proper insurance coverage for specific risks.

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Meeting 1-on-1 to Discuss Benefits [Video Blog]

Posted on Nov 22, 2018 7:00:00 AM

Employee benefits programs are a big part of attracting and retaining top talent. You’ve likely worked hard to develop a competitive package that meets your employees’ needs. But you may be undermining your hard work by not communicating effectively with your employees about their benefits.

In many companies the annual benefits review meeting is a time-honored tradition. Groups of employees attend with colleagues to listen to a speaker and prepare to enroll. But group benefits meetings come with some serious drawbacks. Not every employee attends, and those who do may not participate fully. Employees may be uncomfortable asking personal questions in a crowd. Also, the needs of each employee and his or her family are unique, and may not be addressed in a general presentation.

Successfully educating employees about benefits comes down to effective communication. With this in mind, many employers are moving away from group benefits meetings and offering one-on-one guidance instead. These programs help employees better understand their options, and ultimately make smarter benefits decisions.

One-on-one benefits counseling is easy to administer. Employees simply sign up for a time slot to discuss offerings with HR, and perhaps even with financial professionals. The employee and these experts go over specific issues about medical care, retirement, and other needs that can be met with voluntary benefits.

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