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Political changes, COVID pandemic to influence HR planning in 2021

Here’s what are the “best” companies to work for offering their employees today: paid time off for volunteer work, new hire referral bonuses, fitness facilities, telecommuting options and health care coverage that starts the first day, among other benefits.

These standards, among other human resources-based concerns, were hot topics at Central Penn Business Journal’s 2020 Human Resources Virtual Summit.

According to Peter Burke, president and co-founder of the Best Companies Group, a Harrisburg-based company, paid time off, remote work options, and health care benefits drive employee engagement by giving value to a company’s employees and responding to their modern needs.

Burke’s group surveys more than 700,000 employees at 6,000 workplaces across the U.S. and Canada, to identify and recognize the “best places to work.” Through these surveys, the company has found that the employees value employers who care what employees are thinking. They show this care by surveying their employees and using the results to make positive change, he said.

These companies also define a set of corporate values, Burke said, and communicate to their employees that they are valuable. One of the ways to convey that value to employees is by encouraging employee engagement and feedback, he said.

“Have you asked employees if people like the work that they do lately?” Burke asked. In fact, one of the top drivers of employee engagement is liking the type of work they do, he said. Another is having confidence in the leadership of the organization.

Doug Jones, president of Faulkner Subaru, a car dealership in Harrisburg, encourages employee engagement by offering his employees opportunities to participate in charitable events and help out in their community. This helps create a positive work atmosphere, he said.

“If you want your employees to be engaged,” Jones said, “you have to engage your employees. They will follow your lead.”

Earlier at the symposium, Catherine E. Walters, a partner at Bybel Rutledge, advised HR professionals to “buckle up,” for the ride ahead and the industry changes that will come with the change from the Trump to the Biden administration. Walters believes some changes made by President Trump made to employment regulations will be reversed by the Biden administration.

She also believes the low wages in certain industries, such as day care, retail work and apparel manufacturing, will continue to be a target of concern and possible reform.

Telework will continue to be a “hot topic” for HR managers in 2021 as well, Walters said.

“Telework became par for the course due to COVID,” she said. “It’s a good time to talk through remote workplace considerations…I don’t believe that (the telework) level will continue once COVID abates, but we won’t go back to our pre-COVID levels.”

Steven P. Maher, senior wealth adviser at Domani Wealth, a Pennsylvania-based wealth advisory service, advised employers to consider the generational needs of their employees when it comes to advising them on retirement plans.

Gen Z’s, Gen X’s, millennials and boomer employees, have different financial situations to consider, he said. Younger employees may not know where to go for advice on retirement planning while older employees might feel “stressed out,” not knowing when they can afford to retire.

Maher recommends employers hold meetings to educate employees on their options, with offshoot topics for each generation.

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