Engaged Workforce

Agile and social models are changing performance management, rewards, coaching, goal-setting and development. How you engage with your workforce will directly correlate with how to maximize the productivity of employees whilst giving the best possible opportunities for development.

The HRO Dating Game

Employee Incentive and Employee Recognition Outsourcing

by Margo Alderton

Welcome viewers, we mean readers, to the all new HRO Dating Game. This episode will feature two of our most eligible bachelors, representing Employee Incentive and Recognition firms, and one lovely bachelorette looking for just the right Incentive mate for her HR department. To start off the game, lets ask each of the contestants to introduce themselves and tell us what theyre looking for in the perfect outsourcing partner.

Bachelor #1: CHESTER ELTON (VP Performance Recognition, OC Tanner)
Our companys mission is to strengthen other companies through recognition. We focus on the strategic, simple, and measured. Strategically, we help you think about what you want to accomplish with competition. Then we make it simple and train you how to use different programs and how to take measurements. Those measurements are like a snapshot of an organization that shows you where you are in employee engagement at that point in time. We take a snapshot when you start and after you have implemented a program. Then last, but most important, we communicate. We do that through the recognition experiencemaking sure every award you present is tied to your companys values.

Bachelor #2: JOHN MILLS (EVP Business Development, Rideau)
We help companies recognize, reward, and retain employees. If you were to consider recognition as four parts of a puzzle, at Rideau, we have all the parts. First, we manufacture our own products and put together tremendous rewards. Second, we have the internal communication (marketing, graphics, and others) to promote all types of recognition programsbasically, were a one-stop shop. Third, the administrative technology we have developed over the last ten years allows customers to manage programs seamlessly and efficiently using an online tool. And last, we have a dedication to Internet technology. We have 25 in-house programmers who manage 250-300 Web sites for our clients. So if you were to have a relationship with us, you would be involved with a company that can put it all together in a cohesive package.

Thank you contestants for your introductions. Now, lets move on to the question and answer part.

Bachelorette: Whats the best reason for employers to offer Employee Incentive and Employee Recognition Outsourcing?

Bachelor #1, OC Tanner: The best reason to outsource is that you are outsourcing to the experts. Its the old build-versus-buy debate. Why build something from scratch when you can buy it?

Bachelor #2, Rideau: I think it is because it allows the corporation that is providing recognition to focus on their core competencies. Todays HRO providers are outsourcing to a specialist, someone who knows what it is like to manage the process from A to Zallowing the corporation to concentrate on business internally.

Bachelorette: If I were an HRO sourcing consultant working with a Fortune 500 customer to prepare an HRO RFP, what is the one thing that would make me take time out of my busy day to go to lunch with you?

Bachelor #1, OC Tanner: The most compelling reason is that I would bring a practitioner who has used our system with me on that lunch and would tell you about the return on investment on our strategic recognition system, and youd be hearing it not from me but from someone who has actually used the system.

Bachelorette: Bachelors, many Enterpriselevel HRO companies have yet to include Employee Incentive Management and Employee Recognition in-scope in any of their HRO contracts. What are they missing?

Bachelor #1, OC Tanner: I think they are yet to come around to the impact that outsourcing recognition can have. And I think they need to be looking toward the recognition providers to give them direction when they make reference to employee motivation, and caring about the employees, and trust. I think it is simply a lack of focus on their partsthey really dont have a tremendous amount of expertise in this area, which can leave them twisting in the wind somewhat.

Bachelor #2, Rideau: I agree. The challenge is also that there are so many different domains in outsourcing, some get overlooked. Recognition is one of those areas that should be at the top rather than the bottom. But unfortunately, some companies dont see the big picture when it comes to recognition and how valuable it is to employees. A lot of providers also overlook the fact that, at the end of the day, recognition programs can generate dollars for the outsourcing industry.

Bachelorette: My friend, who likes big challenges, has been given two job offers: one at an employee recognition outsourcing firm and one at Martha Stewarts company. Which job should she take and why?

Bachelor #2, Rideau: I would suggest she take the job at the HRO firm, and chances are, based on current events, she would probably get a lot of HR and staff from Marthas business!

Bachelorette: When I asked my grandfather what employee recognition meant, he answered that, to him, it was two guys who picked out the gold watch for your retirement party. Can you tell me the two most important ways that employee recognition has advanced since my grandfathers era?

Bachelor #2, Rideau: The most obvious way it has advanced is in the way that people perceive it. In the past, it was a default gifteveryone got a gold watch and a handshake. But today, I think employees think recognition is more than a gold watchits the experience that comes with it. From our perspective in this industry, employees have been given a lot of lip service and employers have not grasped that it is the concept that is important. Another way it has changed is the advent of technology. It is now a global community. People can shop online and select gifts online, which has made it easier to implement programs and allow companies to spread them across the country.

Bachelorette: Bachelor #1, same question, and to add, how will employee recognition continue to advance over the next 5 to 10 years?

Bachelor #1, OC Tanner: I think John really nailed it when talking about the way recognition has changed. Nowadays, its more of an experience.There is more wrapped around it. Its not just the gold watch.There is a lot of recognition that is implied strategically throughout the year, whether it be an online e-card or picking up lunch for the crew. It is important to include performance recognition systems not when you are out the door but throughout an employees career your first-year anniversary, your fifth-year anniversary, your first promotionthese are all seminal moments in a persons career. Employee recognition is not just about retirement. Its about contribution, team building, the whole experience, and all these things should be celebrated. It has evolved from being a gold watch to being a lifestyle choicetrips, spas, entertainmentand its not just at the end of your career, but throughout your career. I think it will evolve in the future in that there will be very tangible ways to measure the impact that recognition has on employees. Finding and keeping good employees will be increasingly important to employers over the next few yearshow you measure the engagement and your return on that is going to be critical. And as you see more companies like Hewitt come into it, you will see more metrics.

Bachelor #2, Rideau: Id like to add that ompanies will realize that recognition programs cant be treated as an expense but are more of an investment in the company. Currently, they might ask why are we spending money on recognition? But as the industry evolves and we find out how much it costs to train and recruit, rather than lose employees, they will see it as a investment.

Bachelorette: If you were a matchmaker trying to match me with your rival Bachelors firm, tell me the one thing that would really sell me on the other Bachelor?

Bachelor #1, OC Tanner: This sounds odd, but I recently saw one of Rideaus presentations at a conference, and I have to say, they have a wonderful capability in making these remarkable medals. If you were looking for extraordinarily high-quality recognition pieces in the area of performance, there is nowhere better to go.

Bachelor #2, Rideau: I would say from an industry perspective, OC Tanner is a very solid and good competitor. They have defined this industry in the last year. They have been the largest in the business, they define recognition experience and stay with their beliefs, and they have helped grow this industry in North America.

Bachelorette: Bachelor #1, what is your favorite Employee Recognition success story and why?

Bachelor #1, OC Tanner: I think one of the great recognition success stories we have seen is Avis rental car. It was simply this a light went off in management. They asked their employees What are some of the issues you are having with your group? When one man said I have a problem with safety, they said, Do this: pick out your three best employees and recognize them with rewards and see what happens with the safety issue. In three months, what happened was the safety rate improved. And the employees and managers realized this was due to recognizing and rewarding behavior. They realized this isnt just something thats nice to do, its good business. It engages and values employees in a way a paycheck just cant relay. The organization got it, not just from a humanitarian standpoint but from a business standpoint.

Bachelorette: Bachelor #2, if we were out on a date and I introduced you to my friends, how would you describe what your company does?

Bachelor #2, Rideau: We are in the business of helping companies optimize people, performance, and profit.

Bachelorette: What one thing would you say to change the mind of a CEO who thinks that he could never outsource his in-house Employee Recognition Department, because he feels that his inhouse team is the only one who can serve his workforces unique culture?

Bachelor #1, OC Tanner: The important thing for him or her to understand when you outsource the system is that you outsource the maintenance. We work in partnership with the company to make sure the system is strategic and reflects their values while keeping their corporate identity. Its really all about how impactful it is. And sometimes, you cant see the forest for the trees. When youre doing it all in-house, you need an outside perspective. You need to leverage all that knowledge thats available and not stay inside a little box.

Bachelor #2, Rideau: I would remind the CEO that what he or she is letting go of are the parts of the program that are really not the companys core competency. What we are is an extension of their HR department. We are branded to our customerall our 800 numbers, all our Web sites. To an employee, it looks like they are dealing with their HR department, but they are really dealing with us.

Bachelorette: And last question in our HRO Dating Game is, of course, a relationship question. Bachelors, what is most important element in an HRO relationships?

Bachelor #2, Rideau: Shared communication and trust. With any good relationship, you start with communication. We aim to over communicate with our client. When we first put a program together, we put together a diagnostic and make recommendations, and from then on, we communicate.

Bachelor #1, OC Tanner: Its trust, absolutely. If you dont trust the vendor, I dont care how interesting the offerings are. When we make a promise, we follow through. You can trust what we say.

So there you have it HR bachelors and bachelorettes. Who did our bachelorette choose? Stay tuned for a future issue of HRO Today. And for those HR departments that are tired of wading through the HRO dating pool, if youre looking for a matchmaker to help you meet and mate the perfect HRO provider, contact HRO Today magazine at info@outsourcingtoday.com to become the next contestant on the HRO Dating Game.

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Passive Enrollment in 401(k)s

Passive enrollment may be automatic in many ways, but it still requires action.

by Maria J. Petrino, Larry Heller

The concept of passive enrollment appeals to many 401(k) plan sponsors. Surveys show an increasing number of sponsors adopting this approach also referred to as automatic or negative enrollment. Passive enrollment is essentially the opposite of conventional enrollment, where employees do not make any contributions to their company’s 401(k) plan until they submit specific instructions. Passive enrollment allows the employer to automatically enroll employees into its 401(k) at specified contribution and investment percentages immediately upon hire or upon meeting eligibility requirements. These specified (default) percentages remain in effect until the employee instructs otherwise. Passive enrollment has the potential to benefit both the employer and the employee. But there are communications requirements and pitfalls worth avoiding that plan sponsors should note before implementing.

With all employees contributing (at least upon their initial eligibility), the plan will likely produce more favorable nondiscrimination test results. Meanwhile, employees may come to appreciate that salary deferrals are an easy way to save for retirement, without having a significant effect on take-home pay.

However, there are potential downsides. Its automatic nature may confuse some employees as to their options for changing the default contribution and investment percentages. Others will question whether the plans default investment options take the proper amount of investment risk (perhaps too little for younger employees or too much for older ones). Furthermore, IRS Revenue Ruling 2000-8 requires that, upon hire, the plan administrator must advise all employees affected by passive enrollment of the following:

  • the default salary deferral percentage automatically applicable to their pay (typically 3% or 4%);
  • their ability to change the initial default contribution, and specifically how and when to do so; and
  • their right and the timeframe to opt out of making contributions altogether (meaning a change to 0%).

The plan administrator must provide similar notifications annually to all employees who remain in a passive enrollment status i.e., those who never revised the defaults initially applied to their contributions.

The Revenue Ruling sets these requirements only for the contribution percentage aspect of these automatic contributions, not for their investment. But these notification requirements present an excellent opportunity for the plan sponsor to highlight the plans investment options. This is especially true since plans with a passive enrollment provision must provide at least one default investment fund usually either fixed income or low-risk equities until the employee specifies otherwise.

When exercising passive enrollment, the employer loses some of ERISA Section 404(c)s protection against participants legal action, because the Department of Labor views default investment elections as the employee not having exercised control over their account. Therefore, while reinforcing the long-term benefit of plan participation, salary deferrals, and (where applicable) the company match, the plan sponsor may want to include additional advice to employees about their passive enrollment process, such as:

  • the default investment fund(s) that will apply to their contributions;
  • the funds available in the plan and how to transfer from the default investment fund;
  • procedures and timeframes for changing investments;
  • the value of assessing their personal financial situation and risk tolerance, and how to do so; and
  • how and where to obtain more information on the plans investment options.

In short, initial and ongoing employee communications about passive enrollment is far from a passive exercise for the plan sponsor and the plan administrator. However, passive enrollment can consistently yield higher participation levels if plan sponsors think carefully and innovatively about how to weave it into the plans overall design and administration.


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The PEO Bunch

PEO Case Studies: Here’s the story of several happy HRO families.

by Margo Alderton

Picking the right HRO partner is a deciding factor in improving your company’s chance of success… or, seen the other way, lowering your risk of failure. What makes a successful pick? Where are the pitfalls? These case studies tell all.

Conventional wisdom says that small- and mid-sized businesses fail 90 percent of the time. In the introduction to the reality TV show The Restaurant, the 90 percent failure rate is thrown around as casually as a plate of deli meat. The actual number is quite different, quite dependent on your choice of partners, and especially sensitive to your pick of an appropriate HRO provider.

Statistics from Professor H.G. Parsa of Ohio State University, as quoted in USA Today May 6, 2004, found that the actual three-year failure rate for restaurants is 59 percent. For small- and mid-sized businesses overall, the number is 50 percent over five years according to David Birch, a small-business research expert. Yet for those small businesses who choose HRO services from professional employer organizations, or PEOs, the anecdotal evidence is that the failure rates are much lower, probably as low as 15 percent for companies with less than 500 employees and 5 percent for 500+ employee companies, according to HRO Today’s informal survey of PEO top management.

What are the factors that go into picking the right HRO provider for small- and mid-sized businesses? How are companies that go the HRO route different from their go-it-alone counterparts? What is the experience of those who have partnered with a PEO? What are the risks and rewards? For these answers and many more, HRO Today turned to some of the leading PEO providers and their clients for frank answers and very revealing lessons. Here are their stories.

Finding Precisely the Right Partner
For Precyse Solutions, a successful HR outsourcing was all about finding the right partner.

Finding the Right Partner at the Right Time
A time and a place for HRO: for this growing company, HRO was a question of when, not if.

Man Bites Dog: Small or Large Provider?
Regus knew that one day they were going to outsource HR. The question was, what type of company could best meet its needs?

A Shot of Employee Satisfaction
Jose Cuervo Internationals HRO satisfies its highly discerning customers & Cuervos employees.

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The PEO, Finally Re-Invented as HRO

Brining the shine back to the PEO industry.

by Jay Whitehead

For 20 years, PEOs have been more sizzle than steak. Over-charged customers, faulty IT, scams, and catastrophic failures have overshadowed the successes. Finally, one company has broken through to the Holy Grail. But which one?

I have seen the future of the PEO, and its name is enterprise-level HRO for small business. It is a future I have predicted before. But until now, the reality was one brick shy of a load. Providers have lacked sufficient scale and adequate risk-management. They have lacked a mature management team and transparency in their IT systems and finances. And most importantly, they have lacked a broad, satisfied, and sustainably-priced client base.

For the first time, I see one company with 8,000 happy customers and 140,000 satisfied serviced employees. It has customers in more than 40 industries and in 50 states, paying more than $1,600 per employee per year, a price that is reasonably in line with value received. I see strong scale economies, with capacity for two or three times more customers. I see open financials and technology. I see an experienced management team befitting of an industry leader. I see both coemployment and non-coemployment choices for clients. I see a sales leader focused on ramping up to 15 percent net annual growth from new sales and cutting the cost of customer acquisition from its current $1,250 per employee to much lower numbers. I see the future. It has finally come. Hallelujah.

Certainly, because one company has done it, others will surely follow. Now more small business customers can be on a level HR playing field with the Fortune 500.

This news is quite convenient for us. Imagine, this clear winner emerged just in time for HRO Todays special feature on the segment (see the center gatefold).

The PEO, an acronym for professional employer organization, has been around since the late 1980s. The niche has always held bucket-loads of promise. It serves a great unmet needfor HR services and affordable benefits for small business. It spawned a high-flyer stock or two and some spectacular train wrecks. The business attracted some scoundrels. Some of those bad guys ended up in jail. Our center gatefold timeline of the PEO industry tells the tale of some horrors, near-disasters, and even flashes of brilliancea story of evolution in action. It is not unlike the history of 19th century British banking. After all, it took British banks nearly a century to figure out how to make a profit.

I have been waiting for this moment for a long time.

After a decade of publishing technology magazines such as PC, CRN, and UPSIDE, in 1993, I started a company called Payroll Options, as a division of public staffing company Uniforce. It converted 1099ers of Sun Microsystems, Wells Fargo Nikko Securities, and Silicon Graphics, among others, to W-2 employees, and leased them back. We cut employment tax and other risks for big company clients. Although I did not know it at the time, Payroll Options was a PEO. Then I started another one, ABE, now a big winner for Californias Nelson Personnel.

In 1995, as VP of Sales for TriNet, a PEO, I perfected that companys focus on venture-capital backed technology clients. In 1997, as CEO of EmployeeService.com, I invented a new employee service model for small and mid-sized business, the ASO (Administrative Service Outsourcing) or non-coemployment HRO services. I raised $20 million in venture capital and landed 150 dot-com clients. At peak, EmployeeService profitably served 20,000 employees. When the dot-com bomb burst in late 2000, so did the company. But my vision of HRO for small- and mid-sized businesswith both coemployment and non-coemployment options still burns strong.

HRO Today magazines mission is an extension of that visionto bring the promise of outsourced HR services to all business and government, big, midsized, and small.

It makes sense that it has taken a few years longer to grow a clear winner in the small-business HRO space than it did for several heavyweights to emerge in the large-market HRO space. To be sure, acquiring one 30,000-employee client requires much less selling, management effort, and expense than selling 2,000 clients of 15-employees each.

Proof of the wonderful promise of small-business HRO is the fact that you have read this entire column just to discover the winning companys name. Now here comes the payoff. Just go to your browser and type in GevityHR.com.

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Case Study: A Silicon Valley Giant Moves Mountains (and Employees)

How effective relocation outsourcing helped Agilent Technologies (a spinoff of HP) build a new, global company.

by Lin Contino, Sarah Fenson

Its March 1999, and < ?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Silicon Valley legend  Hewlett-Packard (HP) announces it will  spin off its measurement businesses to form  a new company, Agilent Technologies, Inc.  One of the thousands of decisions to be  made is how to relocate employees around the world  while not disrupting business. Add to the mix 422  relocation suppliers, 40 countries, a fixed budget,  and the loss of the virtual security and enormous  resources of HP, and youve got a good idea of the  challenge at hand.  < ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

 

As we prepared the business case, it became clear  that leveraging the variable costs of an outsourced  relationship, versus the fixed costs of internal staff,  would save us money.  Whether we were moving one employee, or 1,000,  we had to deliver a complete, end-to-end, international  solution. We simply couldnt devote our staff  to the day-to-day management of this essential, but  non-strategic, role. 

 

Unable to justify the HR staffing levels we  were accustomed to at HP, and aware that  global relocation management wasnt a core  competency, our team evaluated a dozen service  providers, ultimately choosing Cendant Mobility  for all relocation administration and supplier  management. Cendant provided the crucial compliance  know-how in each country where Agilent  does business and enabled the HR team to focus on  other responsibilities. 

 

Outsourcing also allowed us to reduce by 422  percent the number of suppliers we had to manage.  We now had only one supplier to manage. Not only  were many of our previous suppliers already part of  Cendants GlobalNet program, Cendant agreed to  manage select, regional providers not in the  GlobalNet program that we wanted to maintain  in our cadre of suppliers. Many of our direct costs  have decreased due to streamlined supplier management  and better leveraging capabilities. We were also able to free up IT dollars for core, revenue generating  activities by using our providers systems via  our own intranet. 

 

The ability to maintain a small internal staff  has been a boon to HRs bottom line. As our  outsourcing model stabilized, we were able to  progressively reduce our internal resources. The  current relocation team consists of three part-time  regional relocation managers and an expatriate tax  manager, each concentrating on vendor management,  policy development, exception review, and  escalation management. 

 

Today, this team monitors service levels on a  quarterly basis, evaluating employee and manager  satisfaction via a Web-based survey, and consistently  finds that the satisfaction level is climbing and, in some cases, is higher than scores received prior  to outsourcing. 

 

Open and frequent communication maintains our  productive vendor relationship and outsourcing  environment. The relocation managers meet with  Cendant account managers weekly to discuss status  reports, issues, and opportunities. We also have a  monthly global meeting so that policy or process  issues can be resolved. 

 

FAST FORWARD 

 

Today, only four years after its inception,  Agilent boasts a streamlined relocation team,  integrated technology, marked cost savings, increasingly  satisfied managers and employees, and an  approach that flexes with the ebbs and floods of  employee relocations. 

 

By continuing to improve operations by leveraging  external competencies and efficiencies worldwide,  we are better able to focus on what we do best to  retain and gain competitive advantages in the markets  we serve. Success in outsourcing has meant success  in our core businesses.    

 

Lin Contino is the Global  Relocation Manager for  Agilent Technologies.  You can contact her at  lin_contino@agilent.com.  Sarah Fenson is Leadership  Communications  Representative for  Agilent Technologies.    

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Reducing Relocation Costs

Leading companies suggest their top relocation cost-saving ideas.

by Fran Kastengren

In todays economic environment, relocation budgets are not protected from the microscopic view of upper managements request for reductions. Companies are seeking creative methods to reduce costs including working with relocation consultants, outsourcing relocation functions, and researching techniques and ideas that present savings without diminishing service.

Runzheimer International, a consulting company with more than 70 years of experience in employee mobility, interviewed leading companies to uncover cost-saving ideas that are being presented to next-level management. If you are currently (or considering) outsourcing your relocation functions, working with a consulting firm, or just looking to make internal changes to save costs, you might want to consider these ideas.

POLICY EDUCATION AND LANGUAGE

The ultimate goal of a relocation policy is to facilitate the companys need to have a valued employee be productive in a new job in a new location by covering the costs associated with the move without over payment. Long gone are the days when no expense was too great if it made the transferee happy. Language in the written policy must set clear parameters in order to reduce over payment and to deter employees from negotiating for more money or assistance.

Relocation professionals should also consider extending policy education beyond the transferee to the hiring managers. One professionals training presentation included review of policy in relation to:

  • Cost to relocate employees into the division;
  • How inconsistency in delivering benefits creates concerns about discrimination; and
  • Why an exception to policy may set precedence for future relocations and hinder the goals of the program.

The training was intended to stop hiring managers from making promises that would not be supported by the company.

INITIATING PAYMENT CAPS

Reviewing your most costly moves may uncover excessive payments to employees. Evaluating these costs may help determine potential caps, and determining a maximum amount for a particular benefit can reduce the companys cost while at the same time treating all employees consistently. One area to consider is loss-on-sale policy.

Loss on Sale

Home market values have continued to appreciate at a faster pace than inflation. As long as this trend continues, loss on sale will not be a topic of discussion. And since it is not currently an issue, now would be a good time to initiate a cap in the relocation policy.

Organizations may implement a cap equal to a percentage of home sale (original purchase), a percentage of the loss, or a flat amount. A common policy may state: Occasionally, due to economic conditions, property values decline. If this causes you to incur a loss on the sale of your existing home, Company may reimburse you for the loss. This vague policy indicates the company would pay for loss on sale regardless of the size of loss; it also does not address capital improvements. Table 1 demonstrates the financial ramifications of this. This is a simple calculation, and it does not address improvements made to the home during the five years.

If the relocation policy addresses loss on sale, clearly defines capital improvements, and notes maximum disbursement, not only is interpretation limited, financial liability is also reduced. A better policy may say: Occasionally, due to economic conditions, property values decline. If this causes you to incur a loss on the sale of your existing home, Company may reimburse you for the loss. Eligibility for reimbursement is based on: the property value at the time of purchase (established by a pre-purchase appraisal, or contract purchase price, whichever is lower); plus contributory value of capital improvements, if any; less the current market value (sale contract). The contributory value of capital improvements, as determined by the appraisers, may be higher or lower than the actual cost of the capital improvements. The maximum compensation for this relocation benefit is 25 percent of your annual pre-move salary. Table 2 shows the calculation for this more clearly written policy. The mid-level manager would be reimbursed for $21,500 and incur a $3,750 loss based on the company-calculated loss on sale. The executive would have a non-reimbursed $19,000 loss, based on the calculation.

Table 3 shows the same example using a percentage of home cost. In this case, the policy would need to be changed to read: Occasionally, due to. The maximum compensation for this relocation benefit is 10 percent of the contract purchase price of the home. In this example, the calculated loss-on-sale benefit for both the mid-level manager and the executive would be within the policy limit.

It is important to compensate for a loss on sale. This information is presented as an example of what organizations are reviewing to protect themselves in regard to the loss-onsale benefit.

CHANGING EXPENSE REPORTING

Replacing direct expense reporting with a lump-sum program is another way for companies to realize savings. A typical lumpsum program bundles all travel, meal, and lodging expenses associated with the home finding, final move, and temporary living benefits.

The typical transferee takes 8 to 12 weeks to relocate and often completes 6 to 12 expense reports. Add the approval process and the cost to prepare the check or direct deposit for the transferee, and a lump-sum program can eliminate both expenses and headaches. Companies interviewed who are not currently using a lump-sum program are looking to start during their next fiscal year.

Some Runzheimer clients who are currently using a Lump-Sum Program are implementing reductions. One company, who averaged $7,600 per lump-sum payment, recently reduced the number of temporary living days from 45 to 30 for homeowners and to 15 for renters. They also reduced the home-finding trip by one day. Because of these minor changes, they expect to reduce the average payout to $6,785 and save an estimated $125,000 in relocation expenses.

One major food processing company has changed their lump-sum program several times since the inception. They started with a calculation that was very generous and, over time, reduced components. The employees continue to be satisfied with the lump-sum amount provided.

Table 4 demonstrates changes made for the homeowner calculation for the home finding trip. Reducing the home finding nights by one was a minor change. Switching from a 5-star hotel to a different class also enabled significant savings. The size of the car was another minimal change that resulted in significant savings.

Table 5 identifies changes that were made to the temporary living portion of the calculation. A majority of the savings are due to the reduction in temporary living days. Efficient arrangements to ship the employees personal vehicle makes seven days of car rental more realistic.

Table 6 demonstrates changes made to the final move. The increase in the threshold used to determine when air travel may be used allows for savings on airfare. Also, the change from the IRS business mileage rate (37.5 cents/mile) to the relocation mileage rate (14 cents/mile) provides for a minor savings in this category.

Going forward, satisfaction among transferring employees should continue to be measured. As transferees are surveyed, companies must evaluate this program to determine if the policy is too lean or if they have an opportunity to make even further reductions.

Cost savings and administration ease are just a few of the benefits of a lump-sum program. Companies adding a lump-sum program may start by offering a choice to their employeeseither direct expense reimbursement or a lump-sum payment. After a test period, companies usually eliminate the direct expense option because a majority (more than 80 percent) select the lump-sum payment over direct reimbursement.

Companies considering initiating policy changes, payment caps, or changes to expense reporting (such as lump-sum programs) may want to speak with a relocation consulting company or service provider about establishing goals and implementing new programs. In an era of increasing globalization and projected declining trained workforce, no one predicts relocation costs will be moving anywhere but up.

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The Baker’s Dozen

The Industry’s Top Full-Service Relocation Providers

by Elisa Williams

This list was developed by contacting 15 of the largest full-service relocation companies. Participating companies were asked to fill out a questionnaire providing data on their own services and on those of their main competitors. Numbers were averaged to come up with an industry average for each company that was then compared to the companys self-reported data. Although there was some variation between each companys self-reported number of employees transferred (usually higher) and the industry average (usually lower), there was no difference between the self rankings and industry rankings. Thus, the Bakers Dozen was determined

1.
Cendant Mobility
Last Years Rank: 1
Transferred Employees 2003: 82,000
URL: www.cendantmobility.com

Services: Supporting more than 2,000 clients worldwide. Offering consulting, intercultural training, mobility management, global supplier management, reporting, program admin, and technology solutions for move management. Support for international and domestic relocation includes home sale and home marketing assistance, household goods shipment, property rental management, closing services, home finding and destination assistance, rental assistance, mortgage services, expense admin, policy counseling, consulting, and group move management. Specialized expertise in cross-cultural and language training and global workforce development. Integrated, scalable technology to support international assignment compensation. Relocation management services to membership organizations (members receive assistance with home finding and purchasing, home listing and selling, and moving and mortgage services.)

BUYERS CHOICE
CENDANTS BEST 3 SERVICES:
1. Ability to provide single-source,one-stop solution with total, end-to-end support for the mobility process
2. Self-service Web portals
3. Online, global T&E system

2.
Prudential Real Estate & Relocation Services
Last Years Rank: 2
Transferred Employees 2003: 41,000
URL: www.prudential.com/prm

Services: DomesticConsulting, concierge, partner assistance, policy development, cost accounting, amended value sales,buyer value option, guaranteed home sale, home finding, mortgage, marketing, policy counseling, rental, temp living, transitionmanagement. GlobalConsulting, candidate assessment, intercultural and language training, global workforce development, com-pensation admin, cost projections and management, ongoing assignment support, policy counseling, repatriation and reassign-ment, destination services, education consulting, partner assistance, tenancy management, visa and immigration, short-termassignments, global business briefings, mortgage.

BUYERS CHOICE
PRUDENTIALS BEST 3 SERVICES:
1. Cost tracking
2. Home sale
3. Policy explanation and familiarization to relocating employees

3.
Weichert Relocation Resources
Last Years Rank: 3
Transferred Employees 2003: 23,000
URL: www.wrri.com

Services: Assignment management; consulting; cross-cultural and language training; cost-of-living analyses; destination services; lump-sum and financial admin; gross-up processing; group move; home finding, marketing, and sale; household goods and inventory management; mortgage; payroll; policy consulting; property management; rental; repatriation; spouse career services; supplier management; tax services; temp living; tenancy management; visa and immigration.

BUYERS CHOICE
WEICHERTS BEST 3 SERVICES:
1. Tax services
2. Expertise with home sales program
3. Reporting capabilities

4.
Primacy Relocation
Last Years Rank: 5
Transferred Employees 2003: 21,000
URL: www.primacy.com

Services: Corporate ProgramPolicy consulting, cost projections, immigration, compensation/tax/payroll, expense audit reimbursement, repatriation, reporting. Real EstateHome sale, property management, leasing. DestinationCulture programs, cost of living analysis, orientation, temp housing. HR ConsultingPolicy development, candidate assignment, global business assignment, spousal programs, risk management, benefit admin.

BUYERS CHOICE
PRIMACYS BEST 3 SERVICES:
1. Web-site technology
2. Reporting
3. Expense services

5.
SIRVA Relocation
Last Years Rank: 6
Transferred Employees 2003: 20,000 (With an additional 100,000 assisted through SIRVA moving companies.)
URL: www.sirva.com

Services: ConsultingBenchmarking, policy evaluation, cost analysis, program development. Relocation Management Expense management and tax evaluation; group move; internal training; lump-sum benefit admin; Web-based reporting and financial services; quarterly financial review; SLAs; lease cancellation; property management; appraisal values; home finding, marketing, buying, and selling; moving. DepartureHome marketing, lease cancellation, agent recommendations, management. DestinationCounseling, orientation, home finding, rental, temp living, partner career assistance, concierge. Global Solutions Assignment planning and admin, relocation and repatriation, compensation and payroll, tax services.

6.
Executive Relocation
Last Years Rank: 10
Transferred Employees 2003: 16,000
URL: www.executiverelocation.com

Services: GlobalCustomized Web site/Internet-tracking system, plan admin, candidate assessment, cultural and language training, home finding, household goods transportation, repatriation. CorporatePolicy review and admin, group move, tax grossups, equity advances and funding, expense tracking and reimbursements. DepartureMarketing assistance, buyer value option, home sales, household goods transportation. DestinationHome finding, mortgage assistance, temp living.

7.
GMAC Global Relocation Services
Last Years Rank: 7
Transferred Employees 2003: 15,000
URL: www.gmacglobalrelocation.com

Services: GlobalSupply chain management and transition management of assignees. ConsultingResearch, policy development, joint venture, M&A, workforce reduction, other HR. DomesticComprehensive program management for departure and destination including financial admin, plus GM vehicle assistance, mortgage, and credit services. InternationalRange of services for host and home locations to more than 110 countries.

8.
Royal LePage Relocation Services
Last Years Rank: New to list
Transferred Employees 2003: 13,000
URL: www.rlrs.com

Services: ConsultingPolicy; group move; market, location, and property studies. DepartureHome marketing and sale (with guaranteed buyout program); moving coordination. DestinationHome search and purchase assistance; rental; temp living; education, elder care, career, and community connection programs. InternationalRelocation programs including orientation and training. Accounting and AdminFunds management and invoicing, supplier management, performance reporting.

9.
AmeriCorp Global Relocation
Last Years Rank: 8
Transferred Employees 2003: 9,000
URL: www.americorp.com

Services: CorporateEducation, policy development, benchmarking, recruiting and retention, reporting, group moves, cost of living analysis. Departure Counseling, needs assessment, lease cancellation. DestinationCounseling, needs assessment, orientation, career assistance, dependant care, pet transport, rental, mortgage, purchasing, home value program, closing assistance. GlobalMove manager, single booking agent, freight, audit process. InternationalPolicy consultation, candidate selection, visas, tax and Social Security, property management, transportation of goods.

10.
Paragon Relocation Resources, Inc.
Last Years Rank: 9
Transferred Employees 2003: 8,000
URL: www.paragonrri.com

Services: Program AdminInternational and domestic relocation; global and short-term assignment; recruitment; relocation benefits; home marketing, sale, and finding; property management; mortgage; rental; temp living; spouse assistance; outplacement; transportation of household goods; travel management; tax program. Global RelocationAssessment surveys, communications, program and relocation center development, supplier selection, staff augmentation, training, global business entry and expansion management. Group MoveOrganization re-engineering, move planning, employee demographic study, communications, orientation, business continuity planning, facility move management.
BUYERS CHOICE
PARAGONS BEST 3 SERVICES:
1. Responsiveness
2. Accuracy
3. Employee relationships

11.
ReloAction
Last Years Rank: 4
Transferred Employees 2003: 8,000
URL: www.reloaction.com

Services: DepartureMarketing, market value purchase, home buyout. DestinationConsulting, home finding, renting, executive assistance, affordability analysis, mortgage. AdminOutsourced admin, household goods management, temp living. Relocation Accounting (domestic)Cost estimator, expense management, tax reporting, lump-sum admin, closing cost reimbursement, employee loan admin. Consulting (domestic)Policy analysis, development, and review; group moves; training. International Pre-departureCandidate assessment, cost estimate, work permit, home sale, cultural and language training, partner counseling. OtherOngoing assignment support, repatriation, international consulting.

12.
EDS Relocation
Last Years Rank: 11
Transferred Employees 2003: 7,000
URL: www.eds.com/relocation

Services: Global Relocation Management and Technology SuiteProgram admin, supplier selection and management, employee counseling, departure services, destination services, expense admin, household goods management, property management, group move, vehicle assistance, student relocation. Global AssignmentAssignment management, visa and immigration, intercultural services, spouse support, language training, tenancy management, transit insurance. ConsultingGlobal policy consulting, benchmark studies, trends report, M&A and joint ventures planning, group moves, global HR strategy and workforce planning.

13.
Cornerstone Relocation Group
Last Years Rank: 12
Transferred Employees 2003: 4,500
URL: www.crgglobal.com

Services: ConsultingPolicy development and review, benchmarking, group move. DepartureHome marketing, home sale. DestinationHome search, mortgage, temp living, rental, family assistance programs. GlobalOrientation, settlement services, home search, temp living, cultural and language training, consulting. AccountingExpense management and tax reporting, funding, lump-sum admin, closing cost reimbursement. AdminTransportation assistance and outsourced admin.
BUYERS CHOICE
CORNERSTONES BEST 3 SERVICES:
1. Policy consulting
2. Total program management
3. Home sale assistance

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From Sea to Shining Sea

Case Study: Creating a national health portal for employees.

by Maria T. Norman

An outsourcing partnership delivers e-health portal to Northrop Grumman employees in all 50 states.

Following 16 major acquisitions since 1994, Northrop Grumman, the second-largest defense contractor in the United States, had grown from roughly 40,000 employees to 120,000. Along the way, we also inherited nearly 350 different health and welfare plans and 16 different pension plans. And, although we have been outsourcing a significant portion of our administration for the past 10 years, we did not bring all of our acquisitions together onto one common administrative and design platform until recently.

The catalyst for this consolidation was our 2001 acquisition of Litton Industries. We used this acquisition as an opportunity to redesign all of our benefit programs for several reasons. First, we hadnt redesigned most of our programs for several years and were facing pension issues. And, as we realigned newly acquired employees into different areas within Northrop Grumman, the benefit programs needed to make more sense across the entire company.

Integrating our acquisitions gave us the opportunity to redefine health care at Northrop Grumman. This was a huge undertaking that required a threepronged approach: plan redesign, health care resources, and engaging our leadership and employees from the beginning. Because of the magnitude of the task, we couldnt do it alone. We needed the help of our main outsourcing vendor, Towers Perrin, an HR consulting and administration services firm, to actually make it all happen.

Integral to the changes we were making, and a key piece that we outsourced to Towers Perrin, was the creation of a Web portal to promote health care consumerism (which has the potential to help stem rising health care costs.) We looked at consumerdirected health plans but realized they would only touch those employees who selected them. We wanted to provide health care tools and resources for all of our employees. One of our key messages was that health care was changing dramatically. For employees, the message was that, whether or not we took all of these 350 different health and welfare programs and merged them into one, we were still going to have to address health care cost increases.

In making the decision to outsource the e-health portal, we recognized both the complexity of the task as well as the fact that we were still in the process of implementing our redesigned flexible benefit, recordkeeping, and defined benefit programs. We chose Towers Perrin, in partnership with WebMD, a leading provider of Web-based consumer-focused health care information, because we believed that they would be able to provide us with a solution that would meet our needs.

With our input, Towers Perrin developed an entire health online strategy for Northrop Grumman. They delivered an e-health portal that contains all of the critical health care information needed to help our employees become better health care consumers. Those resources include Health Online, a medical plan comparison tool, online open enrollment, and care management.

In early 2003, we introduced our new Web site NG Benefits Online to our employees, following an intensive communication effort. Through NG Benefits Online, employees can now access a wealth of information and enroll in their benefits with just one click of a mouse. A customized consumerism guide highlights all of the new resources now available.

At Health Online, employees can take a health risk assessment, visit a condition center, maintain their family health records, and use tools to compare drug costs or determine the quality of different hospitals. Care management provides a nurse advice line, a disease and case management option, and a list of centers of excellence. We also use the information employees provide in their health risk assessment to match them with appropriate disease management programs.

We have had very good results to date and view our new e-health portal as an ongoing endeavor to get employees to pay attention to health care costs and their part in managing them. Towers Perrin has provided user statistics that underscore the success of our portal, including the fact that 90 percent of our employees enrolled in their 2004 health care benefits online, 40 percent used the medical plan evaluation tool, and 17 percent registered at Health Online. Based on these encouraging results, we will continue to work with Towers Perrin and WebMD to provide our employees with the best tools to help them become even better health care consumers and managers of their health program costs.

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A New Appetite for Learning

Corporate training and e-learning are poised for a rebound.

by Jean-Marc Levy

Corporate training budgets are notorious for being the first ones to be slashed by organizations in difficult economic times. The last two years proved no exception to the rule, and providers of corporate training services have had to learn new survival skills during dismal years for their industry. For the survivors, though, there is finally some indication that the corporate training market is recovering and is expected to grow robustly over the next several years.

According to research firm IDCs U.S. Corporate and Government eLearning Forecast2004-2007, all three segments of the corporate training market covered in the survey (e-learning, business skills training, and IT education services) should see substantial growth during the next five years. In particular, strong increases in e-learning spending should continue to outpace the already robust growth expected for the broader training market.

Three recent transactions, all taking place within weeks of each other earlier this year, illustrate the different ways in which investors and strategic buyers are placing new bets on the corporate training market.

TECHSKILLS

In January, Chrysalis Ventures led a B-round investment in TechSkills, the Austin-based national provider of IT certification, medical education, and general businessskills training. Chrysalis was joined in this round by OCA Ventures and Tobat Capital, both current investors in TechSkills.

TechSkills is extremely well-positioned to take advantage of the rebound in corporate training spending with an offering specializing in blended-learning solutions that combine instructor-led training with elearning solutions. With 30 learning centers across the country and more than 100 courses focused on skillsbased training or certification, TechSkills clearly hopes to bridge the gap many businesses are expected to face during the next five years as the U.S. educational system comes about 6 million graduates short of the anticipated demand for skilled labor.

INTREPID LEARNING SOLUTIONS

A few weeks later, Seattle-based Intrepid Learning Solutions announced an additional round of investment led by new investor Rustic Canyon Partners. Existing investors Madrona Venture Group, Buerk Dale Victor, and Staenberg Venture Partners also participated in the new round of financing.

Unlike TechSkills, with its proprietary training centers, Intrepid Learning is a provider of outsourced training services who takes over the management of existing corporate training departments for large clients (like Boeing) and applies a proprietary learning delivery system aimed at improving employee performance in a cost-effective manner. This model should appeal to larger organizations that have invested heavily in corporate university models and are now seeking to run these cost centers more effectively.

TRINITY LEARNING

Finally, in February, publicly-held Phoenixbased Prosoft Training and Berkeley-based Trinity Learning announced that they had agreed to merge their businesses.

The merged company combines Prosofts line of certification products and services for IT and communications professionals with Trinity Learnings current training and certification offerings. Prosofts Certified Internet Webmaster certification program, in particular, is a very well-recognized professional certificate covering IT job-role skills (in Web-site design, e-commerce, network administration, security, application development, and programming) and has been earned by individuals in more than 100 countries.

According to Harvard professor David A. Garvin, an expert on learning organizations, At the core of active learning is a deceptively simple requirement: Students must be personally invested in the learning process. Trinity Learning, Prosoft, and the roster of fund managers who invested in TechSkills and Intrepid Learning are in fact betting that investing with their wallets will bring rewards well beyond sheer learning for their investors and shareholders.

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Does Your DC Plan Need a Check-Up?

An occasional review of its moving parts is usually a good idea.

by Larry Heller


Recent scandals — ranging from questionable timing of stock trades to questionable communications to employees about the stability of their 401(k) plan investments — have brought to light a truism that benefits consultants have been gently sharing with plan sponsors for a very long time. Once in a while, just like you and your car, even the most uncontroversial of DC plans needs a check-up.

In technical terms, this check-up would ask, “Are you adhering to your fiduciary responsibilities to plan participants?” In plain English, it asks “Have you or anyone else looked lately to see how your plan’s administrators — i.e., your payroll system, recordkeeper, trustee, and anyone else with their hands on your plan’s data and/or its assets — are doing their jobs?”

Although plan sponsors typically think first of reviewing investment products, the operational review these questions suggest, sometimes called an “audit” (though not at all an accounting function), warrants attention and explanation. Such a review is often inspired by one of three general circumstances:

  1. preparation for an impending merger or acquisition, where the acquiring or controlling entity wants to confirm the operational stability of what it’s taking on;
  2. response to one or more major, visible breakdowns in, for example, recordkeeping accuracy, communications, payment timing, etc.; or
  3. responsibility of management (recognized, documented, and legally required) to monitor the benefits and related services provided to employees, even if nothing in particular has apparently gone wrong.

In other words: this exercise can be defensive, reactive or proactive, any of which is better than it being nonexistent.

There are many behind-the-scenes administrative aspects to DC plans. Some are very technical and some, rather mundane. The failure of any one of them can escalate into costly customer service problems, potentially with legal implications. The fundamental objectives of any operational review are almost always to confirm that:

  • the day-to-day operation of the plan is in keeping with its rules (i.e., what is written in the plan document, any formal administrative documentation, SPDs, and any other formal employee communications); and
  • no aspect of the plan’s operation is out of compliance with federal law (e.g., IRS contribution and pay limits, permissible hardship withdrawal circumstances, etc.).

While collecting and assessing an adequate variety of tell-tale participant test cases and plan-wide data and documentation to meet those two primary objectives, you might also want to confirm, for example, that:

  • participants’ accounts are accurately updated with appropriate investment results;
  • deposits into plan assets are correctly timed in relation to corresponding payroll deductions or participants’ instructions;
  • the timing and amount of payments to plan participants properly relate to their submitted requests;
  • generic and personalized communications regarding any particular transaction — whether on paper, a Web site, or an automated telephone voice response system — are accessible (and helpful) to current and former employees and beneficiaries as soon as they are first eligible to make the transaction or state an interest in doing so; and
  • statistical reports provided to benefits management on plan utilization and customer service activity are accurate and informative.

Even if you didn’t have contracts or service level agreements with your administrative service providers, wouldn’t you want an objective appraisal of at least how these aspects of your plan’s operations are working, if not a more in-depth review of data management and customer service? It’s true that technological advancements and growing industry-wide expertise have rightfully led the DC plan administrative function to be taken for granted by many (think “commodity”). However, imperfections in any of the functions listed above can and still do spawn from payroll data problems, complex plan design, and customer service overload.

If identified, these imperfections would not necessarily lead to plan qualification or compliance issues (although they could). But any of them could be signs of potential or actual administrative breakdown and, possibly, someone’s failure to meet their fiduciary obligations to plan participants. If that is happening, or if significant required documentation (or charters or policy statements) turns out not to exist, wouldn’t you prefer to know that sooner rather than later?

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