All posts by Kristen Frasch

New Target-Date Fund Guidance

In case you didn’t see this latest guidance from the federal government on target-date funds, also known as life-cycle funds, take a look and bookmark!

The guidance, issued jointly by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Security Administration and the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission, is intended to help investors and plan participants understand the operations and risks of target-date fund investments.

For all the new ways the current administration seems to be adding to HR leaders’ administrative responsibilities (double-use of word intended), this guidance truly does appear to make your job a little easier by supplying, in one place, the information you need to help your retirement-plan participants navigate some complicated territory.

Workers are Wearing Your Health on Their Sleeves

Probably pretty intuitive, but definitive nonetheless. A new study from Gallup-Healthways shows people working for employers that are in a hiring mode tend to have brighter outlooks on their own personal lives than those working for companies in the midst of layoffs.

No duh, right? Fair enough. But when you consider that as many as two-thirds (68 percent) of the 20,000 employed adults polled who were working at growing companies said they were thriving in their personal lives versus less than half (49 percent) working at downsizing organizations, it does cause pause to wonder: Is there something more HR can and should be doing during layoffs to help the survivors stave off depression? Translated: absence, loss of productivity, possible long-term disability?? (The ratings, by the way, were based on the Cantril Scale, which many organizations use to determine individual well-being.)

Granted, there’s not a whole lot HR leaders can do with this except maybe drum up even more satisfaction detectors and morale boosters than you already have in place to counter the layoff-survivor blues — or get some going if you have nothing at this point.

But consider this too: Even the simple fact that a reorganizing company is spending time, energy and money to ensure the survivors don’t go into emotional tailspins carries the subliminal message that things there can’t be that bad. Right?

New Law Advisory from the DOL

Just wanted to make sure everyone saw this recent release from the U.S. Department of Labor about a new disability nondiscrimination law advisory — part of its new elaws Web site, an interactive site developed to help employers and employees understand their rights and responsibilities under numerous federal employment laws. Might want to check this stuff out and report back to us with your impressions and feedback! In fact, we’d appreciate it!

Biometric Brouhaha Boiling On

Sentiments from either side of the proposed biometric national ID card debate are getting more and more heated, as this recent story from the Society for Human Resource Management underscores.

Aside from the politics involved in the idea of including the card in an immigration-reform bill, HR professionals are also “casting a wary eye,” according to the story. The ACLU predicts employers could pay as much as $1.2 billion to issue the cards and workers would have to pay $105 to $139 eachto obtain them. Expanded to the entire U.S. workforce, the program could translate to a cost of $285 billion.

ACLU Legislative Counsel Christopher Calabrese tells SHRM the bureaucracy behind such a program “would involve new government offices across the country, tens of thousands of new federal employees and the construction of huge new information-technology systems.”

Other opponents predict long document-presentation lines, inevitable information errors and bureaucratic red tape. Employers “would have to purchase expensive biometric readers, train HR workers to be immigration agents and endure delays in their workforce,” Calabrese says.

But nothing else could be as fraud-proof and sure to enhance homeland security and reduce the number of illegal immigrants living and working here, card proponents say.

My prediction: This cauldron has a heckuva lot more cooking time ahead.

Get Your Wellness Kicks on Route 66

Hey, yet another wellness initiative — this one from a company called Health Enhancement Systems; and this time, on a highway I traveled as a Southern California kid and miss to this day. Have long been yearning a return for a road trip; never really considered walking it. Wonder, though, as these wellness programs take employees further and further away from their work for longer and longer periods, if some HR leaders aren’t getting just a little more apprehensive about looking into them. Just wondering.

Helping Employers Improve Kids’ Mental Health

It’s nice to see the National Business Group on Health continuing to take on workplace challenges that matter with solutions that can make a difference.

Its latest release announcing a new publication designed to help employers improve their child and adolescent behavioral services really caught my eye.

Personally, I know of several families touched by a child in need of help. I also know of several tragedies involving young people who didn’t get the help they needed fast enough. And I also know how a parent’s concern over such a child or adolescent can be so distracting at work it becomes debilitating — so of course, this new guide can only help employers.

 I’d venture to guess that child and adolescent mental-health issues touch most all of us in some way. Kudos to NBGH!!

Trains and Automobiles — but no Planes

As for the High Cost of Travel post, I actually sat in on an HREOnline Webinar on Tuesday with Jackson Lewis’ Michael Lotito as co-presenter and he could only join us by phone because he was stranded in London.

Definitely felt the impact of the ash when he was telling us, before the Webinar began, that Englanders are getting very frustrated over Gordon Brown’s unkept promise of extra ships and trains to get people where they need to go. I guess that wouldn’t have helped Lotito though.

What Doesn’t Get Reported

It always impresses me how much we journalists are forced to leave in our reporter pads and memory cells when we cover events or conduct interviews.

Take this one session I wrote about from our recent Human Resource Executive Forum® in New York. The session — focusing on re-engaging workforces after the recession to carry them through the recovery and beyond, and moderated by Charlie Tharp — was well attended and well run (thanks in large part to Tharp on both accounts).

When American Express CHRO Kevin Cox started describing the day he got the call from a fellow senior executive about what the federal government actually had in mind in terms of new rules and oversights for bailout-funded financial institutions — including Amex — when it comes to executive compensation, you could have heard a pin drop. There were silently nodding heads all around me. Basically everyone seemed to be hanging on his every word.

I was spellbound, too, by Cox’s full transparency about that moment and the feelings he had. I used his quote about his company’s “near-death experience” but there was so much more he said, about the helplessness he felt when other senior leaders came to him asking if there was any way around this new chokehold from the nation’s capital. He talked about feeling completely powerless to do what he was supposed to do as the head of HR. He described where he was at the time the call came in — on vacation — and what it was like staying on his cell phone for the next few hours, getting patched in here and patched in there.

What really impressed me, too, were the expressions on the faces of fellow HR practitioners in the audience. You could see it, feel it in the air. They not only seemed to share the pain, many — I sensed — had already experienced something similar in waking up to the new reality, the new sheriff in town, the new less-than-supportive “take” on corporate America they could feel emanating from D.C. 

We’ll actually be looking at this new reality through the eyes of some of the nation’s most powerful employment attorneys in our June issue, so stay tuned for that. For now, take it from me, within this country’s HR circles, the impact of the “new deal” in Washington is palpable.