Take Your Time — Even Under Pressure: The 4 Secrets of Successful High-Growth Hiring

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So business is booming, and you need to expand your team to keep up? Congratulations! And be careful.

You should make all hiring decisions with care, but this is especially true for hiring decisions during periods of high growth. Bringing new employees into your growing startup is a momentous and somewhat intimidating process. Your employees are your greatest asset; they decide the direction of your company’s future and act as the building blocks of company culture.

Getting the right candidates into the right seats at a moment of massive growth is a make-or-break move. Follow these four best practices to make sure your high-growth company is staffed by rock star employees:

1. Keep Your Standards High

When your small team is drowning in work, it’s all too tempting to lower your standards to fill a position quickly just to get some extra hands. However, you have to resist this temptation.

Filling a position with a candidate who isn’t a good fit can have much worse repercussions for your company than leaving the position vacant for a little while longer. Estimates of the cost of a bad hire vary, from 30 percent of the hire’s salary to as much as $240,000, but no matter what the price tag is, it’s one your company can’t afford at such a critical juncture. It pays to take your time when hiring, even during periods of rapid growth.

2. Prioritize Attitude and Soft Skills Over Technical Skills

Employees can always learn technical skills on the job, but it is more difficult to teach someone soft skills. Moreover, working successfully in a high-growth setting requires a specific type of attitude. Only employees with the requisite grit, agility, and willingness to help can drive the company to capitalize on its moment.

The employees who will add value to your growing company are those who are prepared to lend a hand where it’s needed, even if it’s not part of their job description. They should demonstrate top-notch critical thinking skills and take initiative to solve problems. These kinds of personality traits take more time to cultivate than technical skills, and that’s time your organization doesn’t have at this stage.

That said, it can be very difficult to assess a candidate’s soft skills. Here are a few creative tips you can use to get a better read on your applicants:

  1. Ask candidates to list the soft skills they think would be required for success at your company. Look for detailed responses.
  2. Have candidates rank themselves on a list of your company’s most valued soft skills.
  3. Have references rank candidates on a list of your company’s most valued soft skills.
  4. Administer online tests that evaluate soft skills.
  5. Ask a candidate how they feel they could improve their soft skills.
  6. Host a group interview with some type of gamified simulation that puts candidates in a position to showcase their soft skills.

Remember: Attitude is everything when it’s all hands on deck.

3. Acknowledge Your Biases and Keep Them in Check

It’s important that anyone involved in any hiring decision be honest with themselves about their unconscious biases. Everyone has some degree of bias, and the sooner you recognize it, the sooner you can take intentional action to overcome it.

Unconscious biases can destroy your company’s chances of finding a valuable employee by turning you off from certain perfectly capable candidates for irrelevant reasons. This needlessly puts a kink in your talent pipeline when you need candidates the most.

Check your biases with these practical steps:

1. Cut Gendered Language From Job Descriptions

Certain words can be subconsciously perceived as masculine- or feminine-coded, even if no specific gender reference was intended. For example, many people perceive “assertive” to be masculine, while “nurturing” is often taken to be feminine. Try using a gender decoder tool to help you detect implicitly gendered language in your own job posts.

2. Don’t Ask for Unnecessary Qualifications

Is a bachelor’s degree really absolutely necessary, or could relevant experience be enough? When you really reflect on it, you often find that the criteria you think you need aren’t really required to do a great job.

3. Use Blind Screening Software

A 2004 study found that job applications with “white-sounding” names like “Emily Walsh” and “Greg Baker” received nearly 50 percent more callbacks than applications with “black-sounding” names like “Lakisha Washington” and “Jamal Jones.” According to the researchers, simply having a “white-sounding” name is roughly the equivalent of having eight additional years of work experience!

This is where blind screening software comes in. It strips applications of demographic data, allowing hiring teams to focus exclusively on a candidate’s relevant qualifications for the role.

4. Get Comfortable With Delegating

In a small company, leaders are often involved in all hiring decisions. As the company grows, this becomes more and more difficult. If company leaders insist on offering their input on every new hire, they could end up slowing down the recruiting process at a time when it needs to move even more quickly than normal.

Learning to trust others with big decisions is a scary but critical step in expansion. Before you can get comfortable with giving control to others, you need to find a trusted partner. Make sure to delegate hiring duties to your most capable team members. If you need additional help, it may be worth considering outsourcing options. In periods of high-growth, that investment can be very well worth the price.

A version of this article originally appeared on the IQTalent Partners blog.

Chris Murdock is the cofounder and senior partner of IQTalent Partners.

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Culture Quake: 4 Things That Will Shake Up the Work World in the 2020s

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If you thought the 2010s were a disruptive decade for workplace culture, wait until the 2020s arrive.

In the next 10 years, you can expect the trends that rocked workplace culture — like the proliferation of remote and flexible work options, social activism, and millennial job hopping — to keep on rocking it. Alongside these, however, we’ll also see more seismic changes that will turn old thinking on its ear.

We’ve already had some hints about what these changes will be, as they began to appear on the fringes in the latter part of the decade. In the 2020s, they stand a good chance of becoming the new normal.

Here are our predictions for the trends and events that will bring the biggest shakeups to the work world in the next decade, along with some surprising side effects of these changes:

1. Pay Transparency

We are already halfway there, with sites like Glassdoor adding salaries to job postings and nations enacting laws to foster gender pay transparency. We think the demand for pay transparency will only grow in the 2020s, and firms will see the benefits transparency can bring to job satisfaction and retention.

In the beginning, getting companies to adopt pay transparency will be like ripping off a band-aid: painful, but it will promote the healing of a lot of simmering workplace resentments. By the end of the 2020s, pay transparency will be the new normal, and as a result, the average company will likely see more job satisfaction and better retention.

Surprising Side Effect: It was hard for top-level execs to justify earning many multiples more in salary than the managers who reported to them in the 2010s, but it’ll get even harder in the 2020s. Look for a more level paying field between managers and the C-suite as a result.

2. The Blurring of Business/Community Boundaries

The social activism that sprouted in the 2010s will flower into a very different form of business mission and purpose as the next decade rolls on. In 2019, the Business Roundtable fired the shot heard ’round the world on this topic, declaring that businesses need to serve more than shareholder interest — they need to serve all stakeholders, including their employees and the community at large. This declaration was driven by the increasing demands among employees and consumers that organizations take a stand on social issues.

In the 2020s, companies will make serving their communities an integral part of how they do business; more businesses will respond publicly to pressing social concerns and support community schools and social services. How this plays out will be interesting to see, especially considering how the increasing popularity of remote work puts more employees in their communities for longer periods.

Surprising Side Effect: The more firms connect with their communities, the more loyal customers they’ll gain and the more sustainable they’ll become — which, in turn, will actually drive more shareholder value anyway.

For more expert HR insights, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

3. Healthcare Sets Employees Free

Nations like Canada already experience the business benefits of universal healthcare. It is highly likely, given Americans’ embrace of the Affordable Care Act and the promises made by many political candidates, that some form of universal healthcare will come to the US soon.

While many decry the costs, we shouldn’t overlook the potential benefits, especially when it comes to entrepreneurship. When employees no longer feel tied to a job because of health benefits, they’ll be free to pursue the careers they’ve always wanted. A culture of innovation will flourish after universal healthcare becomes a reality. Employees will set out on their own to start new companies, and greater numbers of small businesses will open. If the plan to pay for universal healthcare is a net positive for small businesses, they will hire more workers.

Surprising Side Effect: Companies will have to work harder than ever to recruit and attract talent, making culture even more important to an organization’s success. In addition, salaries, retirement benefits, and other financial perks may increase. Perhaps souped-up health benefits (like concierge medical services and comprehensive screenings) will be a part of that.

4. Regular Hustle vs. Side Hustle

As the 2010s drew to a close, more and more employees chose to take on side jobs. Whether or note the economy and salaries improve, side hustles will remain popular in the 2020s, especially among younger employees who cut their teeth as freelancers and are used to having a second job to fulfill creative needs or pay the bills.

Employers will find that they not only need to attract employees with a stronger purpose, but they’ll also need a strong raft of benefits and ways to keep talent happy if they want their workers to be loyal to just one job. Without minimum-hours requirements for healthcare eligibility (see previous trend), we’re likely to see more and more employees asking for part-time arrangements. Companies may be forced to pay higher wages to those willing to work full-time, or they may have to come up with new and creative solutions to enable job sharing.

Surprising Side Effect: As the number of side-hustlers grows, so will demands to rein in the tax bite on freelance and side jobs. Side-hustlers will argue that business gets a break by not having to pay them benefits, so they should get a break as well. Lawmakers will likely concede by the time the decade draws to an end.

Leaders should prepare for these trends to become business as usual. Put in the work now to make sure your workplace culture is poised to keep up with and take advantage of these major workplace shifts, both in the next decade and beyond.

David Shanklin is managing director, culture solutions, for CultureIQ.

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Your Employees Are Crying at Work Because They Feel Unappreciated

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If you’ve ever cried at work, it turns out you’re not alone. In fact, you’re in the majority. According to Monster, 80 percent of us have cried at work.

But why are so many of us shedding secret tears? According to a new survey from my company, enterprise gifting platform Snappy, a lack of appreciation may be to blame.

Employees should feel good where they spend nearly half their lives, but roughly one out of three respondents to our survey said they have cried at work because they felt unappreciated. That makes sense: Everyone wants to feel like they’re making an impact at their job and being recognized for their efforts. The tears could easily be avoided if companies put more thought into employee appreciation.

When Employees Are Down, Your Culture Suffers

When employees feel the need to bring out the tissue boxes, not only can it put a damper on the work environment, but it can also wreak havoc on your company culture as a whole, leading to higher turnover rates and decreased motivation.

According to Gallup, only a third of US workers strongly agree that they have received recognition for doing good work in the past week, and those employees who do not feel recognized are twice as likely to want to quit their jobs in the next year. On the flip side, those employees who do receive recognition feel a greater sense of accomplishment, and they also feel more valued at work. This has significant benefit for the company: To quote Gallup, “Recognition not only boosts individual employee engagement, but it also has been found to increase productivity and loyalty to the company, leading to higher retention.”

One way to make sure employees feel appreciated this holiday season is by giving them gifts. Snappy found that 8 out of 10 employees would feel more appreciated and motivated during the holiday season if their employers gave them holiday gifts.

But it can’t be just any gift. According to Snappy’s survey, 77 percent of employees would rather choose their gift than have a gift picked out for them, and nearly as many (72 percent) would like their employers to stay away from gifting company-branded items. Workers much prefer to receive personalized gifts over cookie-cutter ones like water bottles or mugs with company logos on them.

For more expert recruiting advice, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

Managers who can’t decide what to give their employees often take the gift card route, but 79 percent of Snappy’s survey respondents said receiving a gift card is less meaningful than a gift. Managers often hope employees will be happy with the ability to choose whatever gift they want, but they fail to realize that gift cards put a price tag on the recipient’s value. When you hand an employee a $25 gift card, you run the risk of sending the message that all their  hard work is only worth $25 to you.

When considering how much (or how little) thought is put into giving a gift card, it’s unsurprising that $1 billion per year is spent on unused gift cards. Often, we forget who gave us the gift card in the first place, or we lose it only to find it months later wedged in between couch cushions. Either way, a gift card conveys little to no long term appreciation from manager to employee. Failing to adequately convey recognition with an office holiday gift is a huge missed opportunity, given that managers should be looking to deliver appreciation whenever and wherever they can.

Keep the Appreciation Going All Year Long

In a 2018 Snappy survey, 96 percent of respondents agreed that recognition in the workplace leads to a stronger company culture. With record-low unemployment rates, organizations need to put employee appreciation and company culture front and center in order to attract top candidates and retain talented employees already on staff.

If a lack of appreciation is a problem at your company, it might be time to consider implementing a formal employee recognition program to help address the issue. Appreciation can be expressed in more ways than end-of-year gifts, and companies would do well to stay up to date with current trends in the benefits and rewards space. There are countless holidays throughout the year focused on recognition and appreciation; celebrating just a few of them can give you a simple and effective way to put your employees’ hard work in the spotlight year-round.

It is difficult to ensure every team member feels the recognition they deserve, especially for companies with a large number of employees on staff. When managers show their employees they care with individual, personalized gifts, your workers will feel more valued — and more motivated to perform at their best.

Hani Goldstein is CEO and cofounder of Snappy.

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5 Key Reasons HR Pros Need to Understand Data Analytics

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We have more employee information available to us today than ever before, and that’s a great thing. Data analytics is vital to performance management, leadership development, and finding talent. No wonder 71 percent of companies see people analytics as a high priority, according to Deloitte.

I have been in leadership and management roles for more than 15 years. I’ve worked with numerous HR colleagues to build and strengthen teams. I understand firsthand how incredibly important data is to the process. For hiring managers and leadership teams who may need some more convincing, however, I hope the following five reasons demonstrate why data analytics matters to your organization:

1. There’s a War on Talent

While we’re all familiar with the “war for talent,” perhaps the more accurate name for the current recruiting environment would be the “war on talent.” As Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Adam Yearsley argue, this war mindset has resulted in organizations “repelling and alienating employees more successfully than harnessing their skills.”

If employers are to truly wage a war for talent, they have to start by learning what current, former, and potential employees think about them. This information forms the foundation of predictive analytics, which can help an organization determine where to recruit the best candidates, how to identify and attract those candidates, and how to keep people happy and engaged once hired.

As talent management expert Megan M. Biro notes, “To really leverage human capital now, we need to turn to the data that is constantly forming, streaming, reforming. Passive and active candidates, onboarding, training, engagement, retention, attrition, performance, recognition: It can all be predicted with big data.”

When you have data indicating that certain departments have higher turnover than others, you can investigate further and implement changes. If you receive consistent negative feedback on the onboarding process, you can make modifications. If you receive positive feedback on leadership and development in one department, you can replicate those practices elsewhere.

2. An Efficient HR Department Helps Your Bottom Line

The HR department is a key part of running any organization and an essential component in ensuring properly managed expenses from a profit and loss standpoint. The costs involved in hiring, firing, training, developing, teaching, and leading employees are not ones to discount.

In a 2018 Forbes article, strategic business advisor Bernard Marr explains how data can further optimize and streamline the HR department to help it make better decisions, better understand and evaluate the business impact of people, and make processes and operations more efficient and effective. Data, as Marr puts it, “improve[s] the overall well-being and effectiveness of the company’s employees.”

In short, data analytics helps your HR department reduce costs, increase profits, and improve your staff. Those are results you cannot neglect.

For more expert recruiting advice, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

3. You Have to Know Where You’ve Been to Know Where You Can Go

Having access to past company metrics can be profoundly helpful. An organization that wants to grow needs to learn from its past to create its future. As the saying goes, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

“The job of leaders … is to inspire collective efforts and devise smart strategies for the future,” business historians John T. Seaman, Jr., and George David Smith write in a 2012 Harvard Business Review article. “[H]istory is a rich explanatory tool with which executives can make a case for change and motivate people to overcome challenges.”

To understand the story of its past, an organization needs to collect and analyze relevant data, which it can then utilize to develop future strategies. Whether recruiting talent or improving employee engagement, you must know (and use) the KPIs that tell you what works and what doesn’t.

4. To Build a Productive Workforce, You Must Build a Happy One

An often neglected metric of an organization’s success is the happiness of its workforce. Happier workers can be as much as 20 percent more productive, according to one study.

Data analytics can help you evaluate the happiness quotient of your staff. Perhaps more importantly, it helps you find candidates who are likely to be happy in a specific role. Hiring a new employee is less financially efficient than retaining existing talent, so finding someone who is a good fit from the start saves time, effort, and money.

Data about a candidate’s skills, experience, IQ, and aptitudes are classic hiring tools, but in-depth data about personality traits can help predict a candidate’s happiness on the job. A happy workforce equates to a strong, productive, and loyal team. You’d do well to utilize all the data possible to ensure the people you hire will like what they do.

5. Tracking Performance Can Help You Proactively Address Problems

Data analytics can track both individual employee performance and overall organizational performance. If several employees from the same department are experiencing issues, the fault may not be that of the individual employees. Instead, data analytics will make it clear if you need to examine specific processes in that department and make appropriate changes. If multiple departments face similar problems, you’ll need to look closely at your entire company’s workflow.

Using performance data allows you to catch significant issues and obstacles early on. That foresight makes it much easier to restructure and repair your organizational methods before the problems become crises.

Whether your goal is to optimize onboarding, level up recruiting efforts, or increase overall engagement, analytics will help you make the data-driven decisions that ensure success for your organization. Most companies already prioritize people analytics. If you aren’t doing so yet, now is the time to change that.

Michael Z. Stahl serves as executive vice president and chief marketing officer of HealthMarkets.

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Recruitment 2020: 5 Ways the Field Will Change Next Year

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It’s that time of year again, when trend lists flood the internet. For recruiters and talent acquisition pros, this is a necessary ritual. So much can change in the span of a year, and keeping up with the latest developments can be a daunting task.

Sometimes, however, the changes are not as extreme as people would have you believe, and the coverage, frankly, is unoriginal. You’ve certainly seen enough lists heralding the dawn of artificial intelligence (AI) and the arrival of must-have chatbots.

This year, we’re cutting out the fluff and getting to the trends that really matter. We’ve consulted not a crystal ball, but real recruiters who are living the real changes. So, how is recruiting really going to evolve in 2020? Let’s dive in.

1. Candidate Experience Becomes Candidate Empowerment

Over the last year, everyone was talking about what a good candidate experience is and how to create one, but ultimately, it all boils down to treating your candidates well. Not so radical a notion, is it?

Candidates want to be empowered. If you think about it, that’s one of the key reasons they’re looking for a new opportunity in the first place: If an employee doesn’t feel empowered by their current employer, they’ll start searching for a company that will empower them. Once they’ve recognized employees are doing this, companies need to shift their focus toward empowering employees and showcasing that empowerment in the recruiting process.

Traditionally, it has been the job of the recruiter to make initial contact with candidates and continuously engage them throughout the process. However, any healthy relationship has to be a two-way street, and that includes the candidate-recruiter relationship. Why not empower candidates by encouraging them to reach out through your social channels, careers page, and in conversations? You can use interactive tools, such as live video streams, webinars, or Twitter chats to make it even easier for candidates to reach you. The key is to choose a medium that allows for two-way conversations.

When you build a relationship with candidates, they feel empowered. Candidates who feel empowered become employees who feel empowered. Empowered employees are more engaged and more likely to stay put.

2. AI Mania Gives Way to Solid Recruitment Tech Stacks

Few industries have remained untouched by the technological boom of the past 20 years, and the whole field of HR has been upended by the advent of new technologies. Automation, including the use of AI and machine learning, has ushered in a new age of recruitment and hiring.

However, AI isn’t the only technology changing the way we think about HR. A solid recruitment technology stack that specifically fits your needs and solves your hiring challenges can dramatically improve your company’s recruiting efforts.

One of the best ways to build out a robust recruitment tech stack is to create a “technology backbone” encompassing the most important tech elements of your recruitment process. For most recruiters, that includes a marketing platform, an applicant tracking system, and an onboarding system. Various other add-ons may assist in the recruiting process, but marketing jobs, keeping track of applicants, and onboarding hires remain the essential components.

Until the time comes when machines can truly supplant human logic and decision-making, recruitment will be left to qualified HR professionals. Rather than focusing exclusively on AI, companies need to be taking advantage of all available tools.

For more expert recruiting advice, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

3. Automation Drives Personalization

Finding that careful balance between a tech-enabled, highly digital experience and a high-touch, human-oriented experience is a key recruiting challenge for today’s companies. Employers that make applicants feel as though they’re getting personalized, one-on-one treatment have an edge over their competitors, but offering that treatment can be time-intensive and cost-prohibitive.

While automation does streamline the hiring process in many ways, personalization is what makes a candidate feel like an individual rather than just another job seeker in the pipeline. Media offers a prime example of an industry embracing personalization through technology. Spotify serves up tailored playlists based on a user’s musical tastes, and Netflix is famous for its personalized content suggestion. These efforts capture and maintain attention by catering to each audience member’s specific preferences.

What might this kind of personalization look like in recruiting? Employers and recruiters can adopt new techniques and technologies to customize the communication experience in the same way as Spotify and Netflix, thereby significantly improving the candidate experience without losing the streamlining power of automation. From using the channels that candidates prefer — such as social media, SMS, WhatsApp, or email — to sharing content that is relevant to each candidate, recruiters should take active steps to personalize the hiring experience.

Reaching out on a regular basis is also one of the most effective ways to make a candidate’s experience more positive and personalized. Sending notifications about application status — or even just to say hello — will make a candidate feel like the company really cares about them as an individual. Plus, creating a more customized hiring process can help earn your company a good reputation, thereby encouraging more candidate referrals and building a pipeline of future hires.

4. Employer Branding Gets Authentic

When you think of branding, you probably think of your organization’s values and mission statement, its logo and design colors, and the value you deliver to your customers. That’s consumer branding, and it’s a big part of what makes or breaks a company, but it’s not the only kind of branding that matters. On the talent market, you need a strong employer brand as well.

So, what is employer branding? Put simply, it’s the way your company is perceived by potential new employees. Your company culture, the missions or causes you support, and your values all contribute to your employer brand. However, the success of any employer brand depends on the one thing you really can’t fake: authenticity.

Potential employees want to know what your people think about working for you, so be authentic by giving your employees a voice through blogs, video testimonials, and the like. Encourage your employees to generate their own content — the more spontaneous and natural, the better. Having a day away from the office? Take a camera, shoot a video. Give candidates the chance to see what it is really like to work for your company. That way, candidates can determine whether or not there is really a good fit.

Creating an authentic employer brand is a long-term and detail-oriented endeavor, but it will yield incredible results when done right.

5. International Hiring Makes Us Consider the Recruiting Challenges of Hyper-Growth

In 2019, we talked a lot about hiring internationally. As skills gaps grew, employers started looking further away from their front doors for qualified candidates. While the challenges of international hiring were clear, the benefits were undeniable.

However, as the recruiting community focused on the theory and process of international hiring, we neglected to address one of the major causes of international hiring: hyper-growth.

Recruiting in hyper-growth environments can be hectic. As the business becomes increasingly successful, the hiring grows exponentially. Hyper-growth often drives increased funding, the ability to sponsor visas, and the need for specialized skill sets, all of which in turn lead many recruiters to source international talent.

But hyper-growth comes with its own challenges that also merit consideration. How do you maintain your company culture when you add so many new employees so quickly? How can you prevent recruiter burnout in high-stress hyper-growth environments? In 2020, we suspect the conversation around this topic will go beyond the practicalities of international hiring to find clearer answers to these questions

Of course, not everything is changing in the world of recruiting. The general principles remain true: candidates are valued, tech and employer branding are important, hiring must be streamlined, and internal and external factors will always mess with the best laid hiring plans. However, understanding the evolutions within these principles will help recruiters stay nimble and alert in 2020.

Perry Oostdam is the CEO and cofounder of Recruitee.

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4 Not-So-Obvious Signs of a Successful Sales Candidate

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Five years of experience or more, a top earner in their last role, outstanding recommendations from previous supervisors — yes, these seemingly perfect sales candidates really do exist.

However, a candidate is not guaranteed to excel on your team just because their resume ticks all the boxes. Perfect on paper does not necessarily mean perfect in real life.

When looking for new sales talent, it’s critical that hiring teams don’t focus all their attention on stereotypically “perfect” sales resumes. Those other resumes hitting your inbox may not look as polished, but one of them could be just the candidate you need.

To find that diamond in the rough, though, you’ll need to dig beyond sales records and years of experience. Instead, look for these four not-so-obvious signs of an exceptional sales candidate:

1. They Put Their Passions to Work

The benefits of a sales career are clear. Candidates with proven track records of sales success earn high compensation and ample accolades for their work — but does the candidate care about what they’re selling, or do they just want the money and the glory?

In addition to looking at a candidate’s previous roles, it helps to assess their volunteer experience, as this can tell you a lot about how their values do — or don’t — align with your company’s. Even more than that, volunteer work can say a lot about a candidate as a person. A history of community involvement and volunteer work shows a candidate is willing to forgo pay and praise for a cause or product they are passionate about.

When considering sales candidates’ resumes, ask yourself: Does this candidate put their relevant sales skills to work for the greater good? Are they willing to go out of their way to help others? This information speaks volumes about how dedicated and passionate a candidate will be in a paid sales role.

2. They Have a Wide Variety of Work Experiences

The negative stigma surrounding job hopping is finally subsiding, and the majority of recruiters and companies no longer see job hoppers as risky hires. Today, in fact, job hopping is more often seen as a sign of ambition that signals a candidate is willing to take control of their career to achieve their goals.

According to Jobvite’s “2019 Job Seeker Nation Survey,” career growth is the No. 1 force driving today’s job seekers to search for new roles. Sixty-one percent of survey participants said career growth opportunities were an important factor when assessing new jobs, compared to 57 percent of survey participants who cited compensation as a key criterion.

In sales specifically, job hopping should be viewed as a sign that a candidate has taken the initiative to gain a wide variety of work experiences, which they can then put to work at your company. Sales candidates who have experience working with various people and products in different industries are more capable of adapting to new situations. Instead of worrying about tenure, look for consistent success in reaching sales goals and meaningful connections from job to job.

For more expert recruiting advice, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

3. They’re Willing to Travel

Sales roles can feel very draining and demanding when they require extensive time on the road, and current trends suggest more and more sales roles include significant travel. According to Salesforce’s third-edition “State of Sales” report, 48 percent of sales reps now spend more time meeting with customers and prospects in person than they did in 2015.

If you’re hiring for a role that requires travel, you need to make sure the candidate you choose can handle this unique lifestyle. The biggest clue to that is whether or not the candidate’s resume shows any evidence of extensive travel experience. That doesn’t have to be professional experience: Even if the candidate mostly travels for personal reasons, it can show that they are accustomed to and comfortable with spending time away from home.

4. They Take Time for Personal Growth

Unlike job hopping, employment gaps are still viewed in a fairly negative light by most recruiters and hiring managers. It’s easy to write a candidate off as not being committed to their career or having lost some of their professional sharpness, but in many cases, the opposite is true of sales pros who elect to take a sabbatical.

Many people take breaks from demanding careers to give themselves space for personal growth. They use this time off to develop new skills and explore interests. Sales candidates with career gaps may have newly developed and unique skills set they can use to take your sales team to the next level. Someone who took time to travel, for example, has broadened their worldview, thereby enhancing their ability to make meaningful connections with many different kinds of clients. Pausing a career to take courses is a sign that a person has discipline and the desire to continue learning. Those who take time off to manage their home or care for a loved one have developed exceptional organizational skills.

It’s easy to obsess over perfect resumes, but in doing so, many recruiters miss out on perfect candidates. In fact, the best signs of a strong candidate can sometimes be the least obvious ones. Take a closer look at the resumes in your pipeline — you might be surprised by what you find.

Karyn Mullins is president of MedReps.com. Connect with Karyn on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

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Rushing to Fill Seasonal Roles, Companies Risk Low Morale, Bad Customer Service, and Even Theft

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Retailers rejoice: It’s shaping up to be a stellar holiday shopping season.

According to the National Retail Federation, 2019 holiday sales may rise by as much as 4.2 percent over 2018, possibly reaching a total of $730.7 billion. Making the most of this revenue boom requires beefing up the sales-floor workforce, and the retail sector may need as many as 590,000 seasonal workers this winter.

There’s just one hitch: With US unemployment at a 50-year low, it has become that much more difficult for retailers to find the candidates they’ll need.

Making great seasonal hires is hard enough in the best of circumstances, as the tight timeline of the shopping season leaves little room for the kind of deep deliberation that accompanies hiring at other times of year. Organizations have to move even more quickly than usual to snap up great talent before their competitors do. With seasonal candidates in shorter supply, some companies are choosing to take well-intentioned shortcuts, scaling back on the vetting process to get more people in the doors and working in less time.

“The pressure of the season can fuel a strong sense of urgency among hiring managers to make quick decisions, often without taking a deeper dive into the background [of potential employees],” explains Yves Lermusi, CEO of reference-checking software company Checkster.

Skimping on the background screens may mean more fully staffed stores, but it can also have some very negative consequences that defeat the whole purpose of building a seasonal workforce.

A Higher Risk — and Harsher Cost — of Bad Fits

As a new report from Checkster points out, inventory shrinkage is estimated to cost US retailers more than $45 billion each year. While inventory shrinkage often signals theft, that threat isn’t necessary external. The 2014 “Global Retail Theft Barometer” report found that, in the US, retailers are more likely to have their goods stolen by employees than outsiders: 42 percent of inventory shrinkage among US retailers is caused by employees, compared to the 37 percent carried out by shoplifters.

Not all seasonal workers are thieves, of course, but Lermusi notes that “the seasonal worker hiring process is more at risk [of bad hires], as it is not as consistent as the ongoing process.” And even if a seasonal hire isn’t looking to steal, that doesn’t mean they’ll be a great employee. Inventory shrinkage isn’t the only risk of a bad holiday hire — and it may not even be the most costly risk.

“Poor hires can have a negative impact on your brand because of bad customer service and the lowering of overall morale in your organization,” Lermusi says. “These risks are more impactful but harder to measure in terms of financial impact.”

The quality of a company’s seasonal retail hires can make or break its holiday season. Great retail associates create great customer experiences, encouraging shoppers to spend more and spread the word about how well they were treated. Bad hires, however, can drive customers away. Word spreads quickly in the social media age, and one person’s story of a negative experience with a store may influence hundreds or even thousands of readers.

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Plus, the hire’s attitude can influence their team members. A hard worker with a positive mindset subtly encourages other associates to adopt similar behavior, but a hire who doesn’t pull their weight can quickly drag the whole team down.

“It is paramount for retailers to do everything they can to weed out potentially bad employees before the damage is done,” Lermusi says.

Digging Deep Without Losing Time

Many retail hiring managers look at a report like Checkster’s, shrug, and resign themselves to the risk. “It would be nice if we could vet more thoroughly, but I don’t really have time to add extra steps to the hiring process,” they think. “I need to staff my stores as quickly as possible. That’s the top priority.”

It’s an understandable mindset, but it’s not exactly an accurate outlook. As Lermusi says, “there are many tactics that can ensure a successful hire,” even when the stakes are high and time is short.

“The single most important action is screening,” according to Lermusi. “A company’s best defense against hiring fraudsters is through a complete background and reference check, and temporary seasonal positions are no exception.”

Organizations can dig into seasonal candidates’ backgrounds without slowing themselves down by opting for automated reference-checking solutions rather than checking references manually.

If adopting new software simply isn’t feasible, hiring managers still have options. Lermusi says that the same best practices for sourcing quality long-term hires apply to seasonal hiring. Start by asking your best employees for referrals and recruiting existing customers, as these are two talent pools with a higher chance of yielding trustworthy, qualified hires. Beyond that, Lermusi also recommends reaching out to retirees and conducting face-to-face or video interviews to get a better read on each potential hire.

The holiday shopping season may be a time of great stress and urgency for retailers, but that doesn’t mean the hiring process has to suffer.

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Success Starts With Self-Love: How to Appreciate Yourself

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Article by Michael Pietrzak

John was born on Thanksgiving Day in 1954, but for him, life wasn’t much to be thankful for. A birth defect caused John to wear painful leg braces, and his first-grade teacher told his parents he would never read, write, or amount to anything in life. (Dyslexia and speech impediments, both of which John had, weren’t well understood in the ’50s.)

Accepting that he was worthless, John dropped out of school at age 14 and moved to Hawaii to live in a tent. After a near-death experience, fate brought John an enigmatic 93-year-old mentor who changed his life with a single statement: “Each of us, no matter how seemingly worthless, has genius within us.”

John’s self-image radically improved. He began to read voraciously. He put himself through college, where he graduated magna cum laude. Today, Dr. John Demartini is one of the world’s top human behavioral specialists, a sought-after speaker, and the author of more than 40 books.

Fear and Loathing in the Modern World

“I tell you, my man, this is the American Dream in action!” — Hunter S. Thompson

Most of us born in the West had a much easier start in life than Dr. Demartini, but we still laugh to think we have genius within ourselves. In fact, many of us suffer from low self-esteem.

At a personal development seminar I attended in 2016, one speaker asked the crowd, “How many of you feel like you’re not enough as human beings?” In a stadium packed with successful professionals, 95 percent of the audience raised a hand.

Epidemics of depression, anxiety, addiction, and social isolation are spreading. In a society that idolizes celebrities, athletes, and experts, why do we have so much trouble appreciating the most important people: ourselves?

How to Spot Low Self-Esteem

“A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.” — Mark Twain

Poor self-esteem is subtle. People don’t generally interrupt your morning coffee to tell you how much they suck, nor do we often notice it in ourselves. Instead, unhealthy self-opinions manifest in sneaky ways:

• Depression, anxiety, and body image issues: At times the symptoms are overt, but sometimes you would have no idea a successful person was battling inner demons.
• Perfectionism: Perfectionism doesn’t stem from having high standards, but from wanting the approval of others. The fatal failing of this behavior is that, in striving to be flawless, you’ll always fall short.
• Constant anger: People often use anger to mask their pain. If you’re angry, you don’t need to deal with your shame, hurt, or guilt. It’s a way to pretend the opinions of others don’t actually affect you.
• People-pleasing: A genuine desire to serve others is commendable, but people-pleasing goes beyond service. It becomes a desperate attempt to get from others the love and respect we’re not giving ourselves.
• Addiction: Our society says moderate drug and alcohol use is harmless fun, but these behaviors can be the doors we use to escape from a reality in which we don’t like ourselves very much.
 Narcissism: Know people who are reeeal big on themselves? This self-promotion likely serves to cover up a deep sense of inadequacy. People who are genuinely confident don’t need to tweet about it.

Once you spot one or more of these traits in yourself, you can work to remove them. But then again, what’s the point? Doesn’t achievement require a little suffering?

What’s Self-Love Got to Do With It?

“[L]ove of one’s neighbor is not possible without love of oneself.” — Hermann Hesse

I see you over there, rolling your eyes. I know you. You’ve never missed a credit card payment, your ride still has that new-car smell after five years, and you get too few back-pats from the boss for staying late. Give yourself a hand, because civilization needs you to function.

To you, work and accomplishment are the ultimate successes. Yes, you love your family, but you believe the best way to serve them is to bring home the bacon.

It speaks volumes, then, that so many millennials whose immigrant parents worked 17 jobs to pay for their medical degrees at Harvard are opting out of 40 years of 100-hour weeks in order to enjoy life more. It’s not that they don’t appreciate their parents’ toil, but that they see the insanity of the game.

Our failure to be kind to ourselves has created all the world’s problems: the rampant overconsumption that now threatens the survival of our species, the consumer junk we blow all our disposable income on hoping to fill the void we should fill with genuine self-love.

Accomplishment is noble but empty without fulfillment. Self-love is not an optional frill, it’s the core of life. When it comes to appreciating yourself more, there are two key habits to adopt: words and deeds.

Habit No. 1: Self-Talk

“Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.” — Don Miguel Ruiz

“Honey, I love you, but you just don’t measure up to my expectations, you embarrass me in public, and you’re not making enough money.”

You wouldn’t talk to your partner this way, yet I bet you don’t hesitate to say such things to yourself. If you want to appreciate yourself, you need to start with the way you talk to yourself. Your mindset determines how you experience life.

Thought creates reality. When your self-talk is healthy, life will seem beautiful. Conversely, negative thoughts cause negative emotions and make life hell.

According to psychologist Dr. David Burns, negative self-talk manifests in distorted thoughts. Some common examples include:

• All-or-nothing thinking happens when we evaluate events as black and white. Example: I lost the sale; my career is over.
• Overgeneralization is a belief that one instance of failure means you will always fail. Example: I asked a woman out and she said no; I’ll be forever alone.
• Mental filters cause us to focus on a single failure and ignore our many successes. Example: I missed that one free throw; I’m not cut out for basketball.
• Disqualifying the positive happens when we turn a good thing into a bad thing. Example: You receive a compliment and think, “They’re patronizing me.”
• Mind reading happens when you pretend to know what someone else is thinking. Example: My audience looks tired. I must be boring!
• The fortune-teller error takes place when you convince yourself that you just know something will go wrong. Example: I’m definitely going to fail this exam.

Low self-esteem always starts with negative self-talk. Pull this thinking up by the weeds and you’ll eliminate negative moods.

A word of caution: In your quest for a healthy self-image, avoid taking a wrong turn down the road to narcissism. Healthy self-esteem does not require that you feel superior to others. All players lose that zero-sum game. Don’t confuse loving yourself with loving your ego.

Habit No. 2: Self-Care

“A field that has rested gives a beautiful crop.” — Ovid

Practicing healthy self-talk is how you start to appreciate yourself, but it’s not enough on its own. If your boss constantly told you how great you were but forced you to work 18-hour days, the praise would become worthless.

Action needs to follow your words. Think of positive self-talk as the foundation for healthy self-esteem and self-care as the structure you build on top of that foundation. First, you tell yourself you’re worth it; then you prove it.

Self-care is the act of recharging your battery and topping up your tank. Each of us has unique needs, but we all know intuitively what fills us up. There’s no shortage of self-care ideas out there if you need inspiration. Google usually returns a list like: get a massage, eat healthy, or go for a walk.

Rather than write a prescription for you, I’d like to share some strategies to help you create space in your life for self-care. But first, a word of warning.

Adulting Is Not Self-Care

Self-care is not self-maintenance. You know that getting a regular checkup and brushing your teeth will make a better you, but self-care includes only those activities that truly give you joy and recharge your energy — things that simultaneously plant your feet on the ground and lift your soul to the clouds.

In my case, an hour walking alone in the woods takes me out of the fray of an ambitious to-do list and moves my focus to my heart. I re-enter civilization with new ideas and energy, but also with the peace of knowing my biggest challenges are trivial in a 14-billion-year-old universe. If you don’t come away feeling at least half this good, you may be choosing the wrong self-care acts.

Beware: Numbing is also not self-care. The right acts will make you feel more — more alive, more connected, more calm, more excited, and more appreciative. Self-care that numbs you can’t recharge you. Escaping into TV, alcohol, or Instagram can be a welcome break from work stress, but too much escaping is about as wholesome as eating a box of cardboard and can be a quick route to self-loathing. If you’re drawn to this kind of escapism, it may signal a need to change your relaxation habits.

Self-Care Strategies

These practices will help you create space for self-care in your life. Pick whichever works for you.

1. The Artist Date

“If we don’t give some attention to upkeep, our well is apt to become depleted, stagnant, or blocked.” — Julia Cameron

In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron teaches two fundamental self-care practices: morning pages (journaling) and the artist date (or “me time,” if you prefer). These work for everyone, not just artists.

Cameron defines the artist date as “an excursion, a play date that you preplan and defend against all interlopers.” Two hours a week is enough for such a date.

What do you do in this time? Anything you want! The only rules are you have to do it alone and it has to be fun. The activity doesn’t need to be edifying (e.g., taking a class or reading), and it works better when you chase your curiosity. In this space, you can start to hear your inner voice again, the one that’s always there, ready to tell you how to be good to yourself.

2. The Deloading Phase

“Music is the silence between the notes.” — Claude Debussy

Top athletes tend to claim they’re always giving 110 percent, but they know results do not come from constantly running at the redline.

All effective training includes a deload phase, usually a week, during which you scale back your efforts. In my own weightlifting, this means loading up with only 50 or 70 percent of my training weight. It feels ridiculous, like throwing around a sack of feathers, and my mind fights it. However, all things have a rhythm, including your body, which needs a lighter week to “prepare … for the increased demand of the next phase.”

Work life guru Tim Ferriss has applied the deloading concept to his professional activities. He batches intense periods of similar tasks (writing blog posts and recording podcasts, for example), which he balances with periods of what he calls “unplugging and f—ing around.”

Like Ferriss, I defend my deload time. By working less, I accomplish more. Build a deload phase into your calendar now (it doesn’t have to be an entire week), and you’ll learn that by slowing down from time to time, you can go faster overall.

3. Just Play More

“[S]eriousness is someone speaking in the context of the possibility of tragedy.” — Alan Watts

Jane McGonigal turned her recovery from a concussion into a game, then a graduate school project, and then a viral TED Talk with 6 million views. Today, she’s the world’s foremost advocate of play.

When we face failures and challenges, we feel overwhelmed, anxious, and maybe depressed, McGonigal says — but “we never have those feelings when we’re playing games.”

In the same way that it’s impossible to experience negative feelings when we’re filled with gratitude, play can help us trade self-flagellation for self-love. When we play games, we experience “eustress,” or positive stress, which makes us feel optimized and energized. On the other hand, the stress caused by real-world problems can dominate our consciousness when we neglect self-care.

Play is a human need, a loving act of self-care that can make our lives feel less like work. Psychologist Dr. Neil Fiore suggests scheduling play before work each week as a prescription for procrastination. It worked for Albert Einstein: It is said that, when stuck on a problem, he would play the violin.

When Guilt Attacks!

“There’s no problem so awful that you can’t add some guilt to it and make it even worse.” — Bill Watterson

For those of us who believe our work equals our worth (all of us), you can bet you’ll feel some guilt when you first adopt a policy of intentionally creating me time. The decision to take the afternoon off to be “selfish” will meet mental resistance at first. For example: “I’m a mother of three kids under 5 who need me all the time! How could I just abandon them to go get a massage?”

You do it by recognizing that self-care is child-care. You cannot pour from an empty cup. Want to be a great mother/father/employee/partner? Then take an artist date to go play during your deload week. The people around you, and your work, will benefit from a happier, more creative, and more effective you.

Appreciating yourself might sound like a luxury you can afford only when all the chores are done, but having compassion for yourself is the most practical, responsible approach to life because it lets you serve at your maximum potential.

A version of this article originally appeared on SUCCESS.com.

Michael Pietrzak is a mindset and habits coach to entrepreneurs. He founded So You Want to Write? Inc., which helps writers improve and get published. Michael is passionate about weightlifting, great books, and playing guitar.

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What Are You Willing to Be Fired For?

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When we work hard on something we believe in, it’s called passion. When we work hard on something we don’t believe in, it’s called stress. – Simon Sinek

When searching for the next dream job, we often consider factors like the type of work we will be doing, compensation, and title. Too often, we fail to dig deeper and learn what it would truly be like to work in that organization, what the cultural norms are, and whether they align or conflict with our own core values. Alignment will allow you to show up fully at work and thrive. Misalignment can create conditions for stress, underperformance, and disengagement, which may ultimately lead to you quitting or being fired.

Knowing your own core values — those fundamental beliefs that guide your behaviors and decisions — allows you to set boundaries. Boundaries, as defined by loveisrespect, are “where we personally draw the line between what is and is not okay with us.” They indicate how we want to be treated by ourselves and by others. For example, if you value family connection, you may set a boundary that you will not regularly work into the night or on weekends. If the norm of a company is that all hands should be on deck all of the time, that company may not be a fit for you. Whether or not a company is going to respect your boundaries should be a primary concern during any job hunt.

Stand Up for What You Believe In

Whether you are fulfilled in your current role or on the hunt for a new opportunity, defining your core values will help you operate with strength and clarity every day. You will be able to define the choices you make, the company you keep, and what you are willing to stand up for despite the consequences.

Here’s a real-world example. In one particular company, I (Nancy) faced a circumstance that involved my boss asking me to deploy a large marketing campaign that would hurt the business while my boss would personally and financially benefit. Fear set in. This was my boss, so if I didn’t do it, I could be fired for insubordination. But if I did the marketing campaign, it would be unethical. I felt paralyzed.

I had to ask myself what my core values were. At first, I thought of the core values of the company, not my personal values. This wasn’t right. So I sat down with a piece of blank paper and tried to come up with my own, but the words I wrote were not connecting with me. They were nice words, but they didn’t feel authentic.

Finally, for more clarity, I asked myself one simple question: “What are you willing to be fired for?”

Being fired was my biggest fear and, given the scenario, a reality staring me in the face. If I had values that were more powerful than my biggest fear, what would they be? The moment I asked myself this question, the answers came naturally without hesitation: family, freedom, and physical strength.

Was I willing to follow through with the campaign if it meant compromising these three values? The answer was no. If I didn’t follow through with the campaign, would I be willing to get fired over it? The answer was heck yeah!

Boom! I was suddenly grounded in what would become the most powerful foundation of my life. These were my new parameters, my boundaries: family, freedom, and physical strength.

Rather than saying no to the campaign ask, I chose to leave the company entirely. I left without hesitation and immediately found balance with my core values. Since then, I have encountered a handful of similar situations and applied my core value filter each time. Decisions became easier; I was in control of my own destiny. These values are now part of my personal identity. People know they can count on me to always stand up for what’s right instead of taking the easy route.

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4 Ways to Connect With Your Core Values

How present are you to your values? How intentional are you in making choices that align with your values? How intentional have you been in the past? To find out, consider the degree to which your choices and actions have led you to fulfillment, engagement, presence, and strength — or frustration, fatigue, smallness, and inauthenticity.

Here are four exercises you can use to get in touch with your core values:

1. Analyze

Create a checklist of questions that reflect your values to ask yourself when making a decision. Rate on a scale of 1-10 how well the decision would reflect what is most important to you.

2. Envision

Fill in the blank: I have made the decision to ________.

Now, look 10 years — or perhaps just one week — into the future. From the eyes of your wise and knowing self, what is happening? Is this really what you wanted? How are you feeling? Are you operating at your best?

3. Connect

Engage those who know you best, those who hold the vision of who you truly are and won’t be derailed by your shoulds, fears, or sabotaging thoughts. Ask them how well your choice would reflect who you are.

4. Ponder

Take a minute. A day. A week. Consider what you really want. If it’s a new job, think — and be honest with yourself — about the must-haves, the nice-to-haves, the extra-cherry-on-tops, and the can-not-tolerates.

How does this potential opportunity fit with your criteria? If it aligns, fantastic. If it does not, don’t try to justify, downplay, or acquiesce. Consider the consequences down the road (see the envisioning exercise above). There is an opportunity out there that will give you what you need and want. Be patient.

Living your life without active consideration of your core values is like paddling a rudderless boat. You might be moving, but you are not moving with purpose. Defining your values will give more meaning to your work, make difficult decisions easier, and lend clarity to your actions in the face of challenges.

Nancy Richardson is the founder and principal strategist of Dragon Lady and CEO of Mom ‘n’ Pop ShopRochelle Davidson, CPCC, ACC, is chief embolden officer at Rochelle Davidson Coaching. Their new book, Work Freely: Love Your Job. Love Your Life., is available at WorkFreely.co, Amazon, and other fine booksellers.

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Planning for 2020: Year-End Deadlines and Considerations for Employee Retirement, Health, and Welfare Plans

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As the end of the year approaches, employers should be aware of important year-end deadlines and considerations related to their retirement and health and welfare plans. We have compiled a list of these deadlines, and we provide guidance on how to comply with recent plan changes.

Changes to 2020 Plan Limits

The IRS recently published cost-of-living adjustments for 2020. Employers should make any necessary changes to the payroll system to apply the new IRS limits for 2020, and they should update participant communications as necessary.

• The employee salary deferral limit for 401(k), 403(b), and 457(b) plans increased from $19,000 to $19,500. The age 50 catch-up contribution limit increased from $6,000 to $6,500. A detailed list of the 2020 retirement plan limits can be found on the IRS website.

• The contribution limits for HSAs increased from $3,500 to $3,550 (single) and from $7,000 to $7,100 (family). The age 55 catch-up contribution limit remains the same for 2020 at $1,000.

• The contribution limits for healthcare FSAs increased from $2,700 to $2,750.

Qualified Retirement Plan Considerations

• Safe Harbor Notices for 401(k) and 403(b): If a 401(k) or 403(b) plan provides for a safe harbor match or non-elective contributions, the plan must provide an annual safe harbor notice to participants at least 30 days (but no more than 90 days) before the beginning of each plan year. For calendar year plans, the deadline is December 2, 2019.

• Automatic Enrollment Notice: If a plan has an automatic enrollment or re-enrollment feature, the plan must provide an automatic enrollment notice at least 30 days (but no more than 90 days) before the beginning of each plan year (i.e., December 2, 2019, for calendar year plans).

• Qualified Default Investment Alternatives (QDIA) Notice: If a participant-directed plan intends to rely on the QDIA safe harbor relief from fiduciary liability, the plan must provide an annual notice at least 30 days (but no more than 90 days) before the beginning of each plan year (i.e., December 2, 2019, for calendar year plans).

• Eligible and Qualified Automatic Contribution Arrangements (EACAs/QACAs): An EACA or QACA generally cannot be added to a plan mid-year. Therefore, if an employer intends to add an EACA or QACA to its plan for the 2020 plan year, a plan amendment must be adopted before the beginning of the 2020 plan year. Participant notices must also be provided at least 30 days (but no more than 90 days) prior to the start of the year (i.e., December 2, 2019, for calendar year plans).

• Required Minimum Distributions: Employers should confirm with the plan’s recordkeeper that post-age 70.5 minimum required distributions for former employees will be distributed no later than December 31, 2019. Employers are also encouraged to inquire with the recordkeeper whether there are any “lost” participants (e.g., no current mailing address on file). This is an important fiduciary issue for the Department of Labor (DOL), mostly in the context of defined benefit pension plans, but the rules generally apply to 401(k) and other defined contribution plans as well.

• Uncashed Distribution Checks: If a participant or beneficiary received, but did not cash, a distribution check in 2019, the plan should treat the distribution as having been made in 2019. Based on recent IRS guidance, the distributee should be taxed on the distribution in 2019, withholding on the distribution should be reported and paid to the IRS in 2019, and the distributee should be provided a Form 1099-R for 2019.

• Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) Loan Repayment: Some ESOP companies have had the practice of making ESOP loan repayments by book entries without actual transfers of cash. Recent IRS guidance stated the IRS position that book entries alone, without a corresponding transfer of assets to the plan, will not support the employer’s deduction for the contribution. When making the 2019 loan repayment, an ESOP company should cause an actual transfer of cash from the company to the ESOP as a contribution, followed by an actual transfer of cash from the ESOP back to the company as a loan repayment.

• Adoption of Discretionary Plan Amendments: If an employer implemented discretionary changes during the plan year, the plan generally must be amended to reflect those changes no later than the last day of the plan year (i.e., December 31, 2019, for calendar year plans).

• Remedial Amendment Period Amendments for 403(b) Plans: Plan sponsors of 403(b) plans have until March 31, 2020, to self-correct plan provisions that violate the Internal Revenue Code 403(b) written plan rules by adopting plan amendments for legal compliance and operational changes.

• Hardship Distributions: For plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2020, plans must eliminate the six-month suspension on contributions following a hardship distribution. While amendments are not required until December 31, 2021, operational changes are needed to comply with the rule by January 1, 2020.

• Hurricane and Wildfire Relief: Plan sponsors that have taken advantage of IRS relief from certain requirements applicable to loans and hardship withdrawals for victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria and participants impacted by California wildfires must amend their plan documents to conform to plan operations no later than December 31, 2019, for calendar year plans.

• Revenue Share Accounts and Forfeiture Accounts: Revenue sharing payments received by a plan and forfeitures incurred during the 2019 calendar year must generally be used or allocated to plan participants no later than the close of the current plan year (i.e., December 31, 2019) and should not be carried over to the following plan year.

• Provide Annual Funding Notice to Defined Benefit Plan Participants: An annual funding notice (AFTAP) of the plan’s funding status must be provided to participants within 120 days after the end of the plan year for large plans and by the due date of the Form 5500 annual report for small plans (100 or fewer participants).

• Bifurcated Benefit Distribution Options: For plans with bifurcated distribution options that do not require anti-cutback relief (for which an amendment was required by December 31, 2017), an amendment must be adopted by December 31, 2019.

• Interest Crediting for Cash Balance and Other Hybrid Plans: Plan sponsors of cash balance plans and hybrid plans may need to amend their plans no later than the close of the current plan year (i.e., December 31, 2019) to reflect the updated mortality tables for 2017.

For more expert HR insights, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

Nonqualified Retirement Plan and Executive Compensation Considerations

• Elections for Deferrals: Except in the case of certain performance compensation and certain new plan entrants, participants in a nonqualified deferred compensation plan that is subject to Section 409A of the Internal Revenue Code generally must make deferral elections (including payment elections) prior to December 31, 2019, for any amounts that otherwise would be earned during the 2020 calendar year. Plan sponsors are encouraged to provide eligible employees with a reminder of any restrictions and advance filing requirements the plan may impose.

• Section 6039 Returns and Information Statements: Employers must comply with certain deadlines for any transfers of stock during the 2019 calendar year (a) to employees or former employees in connection with the exercise of incentive stock options or (b) from employees or former employees purchased in an employee stock purchase plan. Specifically, information statements for 2019 are due to employees and former employees by January 31, 2020, and returns must be electronically filed with the IRS by March 31, 2020.

•  Specified Employees Under Section 409A: If a public company employer uses the default specified employee identification date under Section 409A (i.e., December 31), the employer must determine which individuals are specified employees at any time during the 2019 calendar year.

Health and Welfare Considerations

• New HRA Options: Effective January 1, 2020, employers may offer two new HRAs to employees: (a) an individual coverage HRA (ICHRA) and (b) an excepted benefit HRA (EBHRA). Under an ICHRA, HRA funds may be used to purchase individual health insurance coverage or Medicare. Under an EBHRA, HRA funds may be used to purchase excepted benefits such as dental and vision benefits. The ICHRA and EBHRA options provide employers with additional flexibility in offering employee health coverage without requiring the HRA be integrated with an employer-sponsored group health plan.

• Cross-Plan Offsetting: Cross-plan offsetting occurs when a third-party administrator (TPA) mistakenly overpays an out-of-network provider under one plan, and then to recover such amounts, underpays that same provider under another plan. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that it was not reasonable for a TPA to rely on generic grants of administrative authority to interpret a plan as authorizing cross-plan offsetting. The court noted that cross-plan offsetting creates “tension with ERISA,” and the DOL takes the position that it violates ERISA Sections 404 (duty of loyalty) and 406 (prohibited transactions). Self-insured plan sponsors may want to determine whether their TPAs engage in this practice and, if so, further evaluate the risk and update their plan language as necessary.

Craig Kovarik is a Kansas City-based partner with Husch Blackwell LLP.

Alan Kandel is a St. Louis-based partner with Husch Blackwell LLP.

Myriem Bennani is an attorney in Husch Blackwell LLP’s Milwaukee office.

Molly Callender Hobbs is an attorney in Husch Blackwell LLP’s Denver office.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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