Launching into Laughter: National Fruitcake Toss Day Extravaganza!

A celebration that will have you laughing, tossing, and embracing the delightful absurdity of life – National Fruitcake Toss Day! Every January 3rd, fearless fruitcake enthusiasts from around the world come together to partake in a hilarious tradition that involves catapulting these notorious holiday treats into the wild blue yonder. If you’ve ever wondered what to do with that unwanted fruitcake that’s been sitting in the back of your pantry since the dawn of time, wonder no more! Strap on your safety goggles, flex those throwing muscles, and join us as we dive headfirst into the wacky world of fruitcake tossing.

The History of National Fruitcake Toss Day:
The origins of this whimsical holiday are as mysterious as the elusive perfect fruitcake recipe. Legend has it that a group of friends, tired of receiving the same fruitcakes year after year, decided to turn their holiday burden into a source of laughter. Thus, National Fruitcake Toss Day was born! Over the years, the event has grown into a lighthearted celebration of camaraderie, humor, and the timeless art of tossing fruitcakes.

Organizing Your Fruitcake Toss Extravaganza:
Now, you may be wondering, “How do I get in on the fruit-flinging action?” Fear not, intrepid reader, for organizing your very own Fruitcake Toss Day event is easier than you think! Here’s a step-by-step guide to launching your celebration into the stratosphere:

1.Gather Your Supplies:

  • Fruitcakes (the denser, the better!)
  • Safety goggles and protective gear
  • A designated tossing area (preferably outdoors)
  • Measuring tape for distance records
  • Laughter and a sense of humor

2. Invite Fellow Tossers:
Spread the word far and wide! Invite friends, family, neighbors, and even that quirky colleague who has a penchant for peculiar pastimes. The more, the merrier!

3. Set the Tossing Rules:
Establish ground rules to keep the event safe and entertaining. Consider categories like “Longest Toss,” “Most Creative Toss,” and “Precision Toss.” Don’t forget to award prizes for the winners!

4. Create a Festive Atmosphere:
Amp up the fun with decorations, music, and festive attire. Encourage participants to dress in their most outlandish fruitcake-themed costumes.

5. Capture the Moments:
Designate a photographer or set up a DIY photo booth to capture the laughter, joy, and absurdity of the day. Share the memories on social media to inspire others to embrace the fruitcake-tossing madness.

The Benefits of Fruitcake Tossing:
Besides the sheer joy of watching fruitcakes soar through the air, this quirky tradition offers some surprising benefits:

  • Stress Relief: Unleash your frustrations and worries with each toss.
  • Community Bonding: Forge connections with others who share your appreciation for humor and whimsy.
  • Environmental Friendliness: Give those ancient fruitcakes a purpose beyond taking up space in your pantry.

So, there you have it – the recipe for a perfect National Fruitcake Toss Day celebration. Embrace the absurdity, let laughter reign supreme, and revel in the joy of flinging fruitcakes with abandon. Who knew that these holiday doorstops could bring so much merriment? This January 3rd, grab your fruitcake, rally your friends, and join the ranks of tossers who refuse to take life too seriously. Happy tossing!

Fostering Growth and Empowerment: National Mentoring Month

National Mentoring Month, celebrated annually in January, is a dedicated time to recognize the transformative power of mentorship and its positive impact on individuals and communities. Established in 2002 by the Harvard School of Public Health and MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, this initiative aims to raise awareness about the importance of mentoring and encourage individuals and organizations to get involved in supporting the next generation.

The Origin of National Mentoring Month:

The roots of National Mentoring Month can be traced back to the efforts of organizations and individuals committed to addressing the needs of young people facing challenges. Harvard School of Public Health, along with MENTOR, recognized the potential of mentoring to contribute to the personal and professional development of young minds. This led to the creation of National Mentoring Month as a platform to mobilize individuals and organizations in fostering meaningful connections.

Objectives of National Mentoring Month:

1. Raise Awareness: One of the primary goals of National Mentoring Month is to increase public awareness about the positive effects of mentoring on youth development. By highlighting success stories and the benefits of mentorship, the campaign seeks to inspire more individuals and organizations to become involved.

2. Recruit Mentors: National Mentoring Month serves as a call to action, encouraging individuals from all walks of life to consider becoming mentors. Whether in schools, community organizations, or workplaces, there are countless opportunities to make a difference in someone’s life through mentorship.

3. Promote Mentoring Programs: The month-long celebration also emphasizes the importance of structured mentoring programs. Organizations are encouraged to establish or expand mentoring initiatives that provide guidance, support, and encouragement to those in need.

Setting Up a Mentoring Program:

For organizations looking to establish a mentoring program, here are key steps to consider:

1. Identify Objectives and Goals: Clearly define the objectives and goals of the mentoring program. Determine the specific needs of the mentees and how mentorship can address those needs.

2. Create a Framework: Develop a structured framework for the mentoring program, including guidelines for mentor-mentee interactions, frequency of meetings, and the expected duration of the mentorship.

3. Recruit Mentors: Identify potential mentors within the organization or community. Look for individuals with relevant experience, a passion for helping others, and strong interpersonal skills.

4. Training and Support: Provide training for both mentors and mentees to ensure they understand their roles and responsibilities. Ongoing support and resources should be available to address any challenges that may arise.

5. Matchmaking: Thoughtfully match mentors and mentees based on compatibility, shared interests, and specific needs. This process contributes to the success of the mentorship by fostering a positive and productive relationship.

6. Evaluate and Adjust: Regularly assess the effectiveness of the mentoring program through feedback and performance metrics. Use this information to make adjustments and improvements as needed.

National Mentoring Month serves as a powerful reminder of the impact that mentorship can have on individuals and society as a whole. By establishing and supporting mentoring programs, organizations can contribute to the growth, empowerment, and success of the next generation. As we celebrate National Mentoring Month, let us reaffirm our commitment to making a positive difference in the lives of others through the invaluable gift of mentorship.

A Fresh Start for the Team: Acknowledging Employee Contributions on New Year’s Day

As we bid farewell to the old and welcome the new, New Year’s Day marks a time for reflection, resolutions, and a fresh start. While many individuals focus on personal goals, it’s equally important for organizations to take a moment to celebrate the efforts of their employees. Below we highlight five examples that play a crucial role in fostering a positive work environment.

Consistent Team Collaboration:
In the fast-paced world of business, it’s easy to overlook the everyday teamwork that keeps the wheels turning. Acknowledge those team members who consistently collaborate with their colleagues, share ideas, and contribute to a positive and inclusive work culture. Recognizing the value of teamwork can go a long way in boosting morale and promoting a sense of unity within the organization.

Innovative Problem-Solving:
Innovation is the lifeblood of any successful business, and employees who consistently offer creative solutions to challenges should be celebrated. These individuals may not always be in the spotlight, but their ability to think outside the box and find novel approaches to problems can significantly impact the organization’s success.

Mentorship and Knowledge Sharing:
Employees who go above and beyond to mentor their colleagues or willingly share their knowledge contribute to the growth and development of the entire team. Recognize those who invest time in helping others learn and grow, as their efforts not only benefit individual team members but also contribute to the overall knowledge base of the organization.

Positive Workplace Culture Contributions:
Creating a positive workplace culture is vital for employee satisfaction and productivity. Employees who actively contribute to this culture, whether through organizing team-building activities, promoting a healthy work-life balance, or fostering inclusivity, play a crucial role in shaping a positive and motivating environment. Acknowledging these efforts reinforces the importance of a supportive workplace culture.

Adaptability and Resilience:
In today’s rapidly changing business landscape, adaptability is a key trait. Employees who demonstrate resilience in the face of challenges, adapt to new technologies, and embrace change should be recognized for their contributions. Their ability to navigate uncertainties and stay focused on the organization’s goals is invaluable.

As the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, take a moment to not only set personal resolutions but also to appreciate the collective efforts of your team. Recognizing and celebrating the often overlooked contributions of employees can strengthen the bond within the organization, inspire continued dedication, and set the stage for a successful and collaborative year ahead. A fresh start for the team begins with acknowledging and valuing the diverse contributions that make the workplace a dynamic and thriving community.

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Now in Effect

Effective June 27, 2023, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations for qualified employees affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless the employer can demonstrate that providing an accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer’s business operations. Several state laws already provide similar protections and now federal law ensures similar protections in all states.

Generally, to qualify for protection under the PWFA, an employee or applicant must be able to perform the essential functions of the position, with or without a reasonable accommodation. However, an employee or applicant will still qualify under the PWFA if: (1) any inability to perform an essential function is for a temporary period; (2) the essential function could be performed in the near future; and (3) the inability to perform the essential function can be reasonably accommodated.

More specifically, the PWFA makes it an unlawful employment practice for employers to:

  • Fail to provide a reasonable accommodation for a qualified employee’s known limitation related to the pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition (unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer’s business operations);
  • Require a qualified employee to accept an accommodation without a discussion about the accommodation between the employee and the employer (i.e., without engaging in the interactive process);
  • Deny a job or other employment opportunity to a qualified employee or applicant based on the individual’s need for a reasonable accommodation;
  • Require a qualified employee to take leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided that would let the employee keep working;
  • Retaliate against a qualified employee or applicant for reporting or opposing unlawful discrimination under the PWFA or participating in a PWFA proceeding (such as an investigation); or
  • Interfere with any individual’s rights under the PWFA.

This law is regulated by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and has a website dedicated to information and guidance about PWFA. Employers should also review their handbooks and related policies, as well as train supervisors, managers, and other responsible staff about how to handle PWFA.

Paid Leave Oregon Update

On September 3, 2023, the window for Paid Leave Oregon insurance claims is scheduled to open. The Oregon Employment Department continues to work diligently to provide guidance and information for employers and employees to consider.  Earlier this week an update was provided by the Oregon Employment Department. The highlights are below.

Benefit Amounts for July 2023- June 2024

Each year the Oregon Employment Department has responsibility to review the minimum and maximum weekly benefits amounts. These calculations are based on Oregon’s State Average Weekly Wage and are effective from July 1 through June 30 of the following year. The State Average Weekly Wage increased from $1,224.82 to $1,269.69. For Paid Leave Oregon, the minimum weekly benefit amount is 5% of the State Average Weekly Wage, and the maximum is 120%. This translates to a new minimum weekly benefit amount of $63.48 and the maximum weekly benefit amount is $1,523.63. For additional information about the calculation of an employee’s benefit please review the Employee Guidebook (pages 12-16).

Employee Guidebook

Oregon Employment Department has provided a guide to the important insurance coverage for employees. As with any new program there is a substantial number of questions, and this guide provides answers to those things employees need to know.

The topics covered in the guidebook are:

  • About this guide
  • About Paid Leave Oregon
  • Covered employees
  • Employer obligations
  • Equivalent plans
  • Covered types of leave
  • Paid Leave Oregon Benefits (leave amount, length of leave, benefits amount, job protection, difference from other leaves)
  • Benefit application
  • Receiving benefits
  • Paying taxes on benefits
  • Working while on leave
  • How to change your information
  • Your rights (appeal and complaints)
  • Contact information

We believe it is important for employers to read the information being shared as you are likely the first place employees will go for answers. This guide also directs employees to their employer for certain information that will be needed to file a claim, including the employee’s date of hire and usual work schedule per week.

Also, don’t forget your organization needs an internal policy to support the availability, use, and notification requirements of this employee benefit. We have developed a Policy Pack with background, policy sample, form sample, and other considerations. Find it here.

Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA changes)

In our alert on June 16, 2023, we shared information about changes to the benefit year which would allow better alignment between PLO and OFLA. There was as error in the date. Effective immediately, organizations (after providing a 60-day notice) can change the benefit year to meet the PLO language (the 52 weeks beginning on the Sunday immediately preceding the leave) or it can be maintained as currently identified in your policies. However, by July 1, 2024, all organizations must change their benefit year to align with PLO. We apologize for the error.

We have updated our Paid Leave Oregon Policy Pack on our website. If you previously purchased the Policy Pack (or downloaded it as an Advantage Plan client), you should have received a separate email from us earlier today with the updated Policy Pack attached.

25 or More Oregon Employees, Keep Reading

The 2023 Oregon Legislative session will be ending soon. When it does, we will do a comprehensive report on the changes that each employer needs to think about. There is one piece of legislation that needs your attention quickly.  Many of you are aware of the benefits window opening for all employees to use their Paid Leave Oregon (PLO) insurance. The goal with that implementation was to align, as closely as possible, with the existing unpaid protected leave provided by the Oregon Medical Leave Act (OFLA). (Quick reminder: OFLA applies to all employers with 25 or more employees in Oregon.)  The alignment of these two requirements has not been easy.

Senate Bill 999 has amended OFLA and several of the effective dates to align with the opening of the PLO benefits window.  The changes are as follows:

  1. Effective 9/3/2023: The definition of “family” member is changing to include siblings and “any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with a covered individual is the equivalent of a family relationship.” Both BOLI and the Employment Department are directed to write rules regarding factors that would establish an affinity. Each organization will want to review any forms they are using for the purposes of OFLA and amend them to include these additions.
  2. Effective 9/3/2023: Expansion of job protection to a role within 50 miles (rather than 20) of the former position (if their former position does not exist), and if multiple roles remain available then the closest role (to their former positions) must be offered first.
  3. Effective 9/3/2023: If the employer elects to cover any part of an employee’s health, disability, life, or other insurance coverage while the employee is on leave (since employers will not be able to take deductions from Paid Leave Oregon benefit payments), the employer may deduct this advancement upon the employee’s return to work, so long as the amount deducted per pay period does not exceed ten percent (10%) of the employee’s gross pay.
  4. Effective 7/1/2024: The one-year benefit period will include all of the options that have always been in place, and the addition of the same option we find in PLO which states “a) the 52 weeks beginning on the Sunday immediately preceding the date on which family leave commences.” Organizations are not required to change. Employers should consider changing if they want better alignment with PLO. If an organization chooses to change their one-year benefit period, they are required to give employees 60 days’ notice prior to the effective date of the change.

Informed Compensation Discussions

Do you feel a little lost in the world of compensation? You hear words coming out of someone’s mouth and you think you know what they are talking about but you’re not sure. Foundational to each discussion is understanding the terms related to the topic. While each organization might have different processes to gather information and procedures for applying the information, the terms describing compensation and related practices should be used with purpose. Below you will find a list of the most common compensation terms and processes with their customary meaning. Compensation doesn’t have to be a “black box”. Start off your next discussion a little more comfortable than you are now. Enjoy!
Annual Incentive Plan – An Annual Incentive Plan is the most common of all short-term incentive plan practices and includes a performance (merit) period of one year or less. It should complement the business strategy and be part of the overall strategy of the Total Rewards program. It is a non-discretionary award.
Benchmark Jobs – Benchmark jobs are commonly found in salary surveys and used to make pay comparisons, either internally or externally, for an organization. When selecting benchmark jobs, they should:
• Be important to your organization’s internal hierarchy,
• Represent all major job families, departments and levels, and
• Serve as an internal anchor for non-benchmark jobs.
A good goal is to match 70% of your internal jobs to the external marketplace. The more jobs that are matched, the closer the salary structure is to the external marketplace. Realistically between 50%-70% of your jobs will be found in the marketplace.
Bonus – A bonus is paid to recognize the achievements of an individual, team, department, operating unit, or a company. Payments may recognize a performance period (monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, annual) and are typically made in cash, but occasionally will be paid in equity or another form of award. A bonus may be discretionary or nondiscretionary and will have a lot to do with the laws of the state in which work is done.
Compa-Ratio – Compa-Ratio is a comparison of employee pay to the salary range midpoint.
Compensable Factors/Characteristics – Compensable factors/characteristics are used to evaluate jobs and develop a job worth hierarchy to provide fairness and equity throughout an organization. The Federal Equal Pay Act of 1963 defines the compensable factors/characteristics, and there are several states with their own set of factors/characteristics.
Compensation Benchmarking – Compensation benchmarking is best defined as the process of applying external market data to make fair and competitive compensation decisions. It may even influence the compensation strategy, policies, and practices.
Cost of Labor – The cost of labor includes all compensation, benefits, and payroll taxes paid by employers to employees and can be compared from location to location.
Cost of Living – The cost of living is tied to wages and represents the amount of money needed to maintain a certain standard of living as measured through housing, food, healthcare, and taxes and can be compared from location to location. Use cost of living data cautiously for compensation purposes as it can be much higher than the cost of labor in a location.
Grandfathering – Upon implementation of a new or revised compensation plan, grandfathering will protect the current compensation opportunity of existing employees when performing the same role in the organization and will support in minimizing employee relations issues to contribute to a successful program implementation.
Gross Up – A payment, such as a one-time award, may be grossed up so that an employee will receive the full amount even after taxes. In this instance, the company will bear that cost of the tax gross up.
Hours of Work (the math) – Assuming a regular, full-time equivalent at 40 hours per week, there are 173.33 work hours per month and 2,080 work hours per year.
Internal Equity – Internal equity is an important objective of the overall compensation program and can be accomplished when jobs are valued fairly and objectively both within a company and to the appropriate external marketplace. Employee compensation should be delivered based on fair and objective criteria (such as performance, merit, seniority, education, experience, and training) within the competitive marketplace to ensure the attainment of internal equity. Pay audits will support in the identification of internal equity issues. Several states have specific laws outlining criteria and process for internal equity.
Long-Term Incentive Plan – A long-term incentive plan is typically used to reward and recognize ongoing organizational achievements (typically ranging 2-5 years). Awards may be payable in cash or equity to the eligible management team (typically at the executive level).
Lump-Sum Merit – A one-time payment to recognize pay for performance, a lump-sum merit will not be folded into an employee’s pay. It is commonly used to recognize employees paid at the top of their salary range or as a cost savings strategy.
Market Pricing – Market pricing is a job evaluation methodology that creates a job worth hierarchy based on the “applicable market rate” for benchmark jobs in the external marketplace relevant to the business.
Market Ratio (Market Index) – Market Ratio is a comparison of employee pay to the market rate.
Merit Increase – A pay increase designed to recognize pay for performance.
Pay Transparency – Pay transparency is an approach to communicating compensation openly with employees. It typically includes the following: compensation plan documents, merit increase guidelines, market data sources, job descriptions, and employee communication for individual pay changes, including salary grade and range. Less frequently, companies might communicate other employees’ pay to all employees.
Salary Range – A salary range represents the minimum, midpoint, and maximum rates that a business is willing to pay employees performing a job. Typically, the midpoint or control point is set to provide market competitive, fair, and equitable salaries based on the competitive marketplace for a business.
Salary Range Maximum – The Salary Range Maximum is the point at which an organization would expect an employee to exceed in performance of essential responsibilities, be ready for promotion, or are highly experienced.
Salary Range Midpoint/Control Point – The Salary Range Midpoint/Control Point is the point at which an organization would expect an employee to meet essential responsibilities, be fully competent, experienced, and independent.
Salary Range Minimum – The Salary Range Minimum is the point at which an organization would expect an employee to need guidance and training to learn their essential responsibilities, grow towards proficiency, and be partially dependent on others for success.
Salary Range Midpoint Progression – The Salary Range Midpoint progression is the percent difference between midpoints.
Salary Range Spread – A salary range spread is the percent difference between the minimum and maximum.
Salary Structure Adjustment – A salary structure adjustment may be used in lieu of repricing an existing structure. In this case, a flat percentage (based on the market movement of salary structure adjustment projections) is typically applied to the midpoints of the existing salary structure to adjust them to the upcoming year. Salary structure adjustments are approximately 1% below the market movement of base salaries.

Hiring Is A Big Deal – Use The Right Tools

According to a 2020 Harris Poll, 70% of employers check out applicants’ profiles as part of their screening process, and 54% have rejected applicants because of what they found. Social media sites like Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram offer a free, easily accessed portrait of what a candidate is may be like, potentially yielding a clearer idea of whether that person will succeed on the job—however, one should be asking if what is seen has anything to do with the job?

Very little of what you find is predictive of performance. What information is discovered is ethically discouraged or, in some cases, legally prohibited from being taken into account when used to evaluate candidates or make your hiring decisions. So extreme caution should be used when accessing this information.

There were three studies conducted offering employers’ insight into recruiting concerns and flaws. In the first of the three studies, the researchers examined the Facebook pages of 266 U.S. job seekers to see what they revealed. Some of the information that job seekers had posted (education, work experience, and extra­curricular activities) covered areas that organizations routinely and legitimately assess during the hiring process. But a significant number of the profiles contained details that organizations will be legally prohibited from considering, including gender, race, and ethnicity (evident in 100% of profiles), disabilities (7%), pregnancy status (3%), sexual orientation (59%), political views (21%), and religious affiliation (41%). Many of the job seekers’ profiles also included information of potential concern to prospective employers: 51% of them contained profanity, 11% gave indications of gambling, 26% showed or referenced alcohol consumption, and 7% referenced drug use.

This may give you a peek into why recruiters love social media—it allows them to discover all the information and details they aren’t allowed to ask about during an interview. Remember, our interviews need to focus on behaviors within the work context.

In a second study, the researchers explored whether such information affects recruiters’ evaluations. They asked 39 recruiters to review the Face­book profiles of 140 job seekers (obtained from a previous larger study) and rate each candidate’s hireability. The researchers then mapped the recruiters’ ratings against the content in each profile. Although the recruiters clearly took heed of legitimate criteria, they were also swayed by factors that are supposedly off-limits, such as relationship status (married and engaged candidates got higher marks, on average, than their single counterparts), age (older individuals were rated more highly), gender (women had an advantage), and religion (candidates who indicated their beliefs got lower ratings). Factors such as profanity, alcohol or drug use, violence, and sexual behavior lowered ratings; extracurricular activities had no effect on scores.

In the final study, the overall outcome: neither group’s assessments of the candidates accurately predicted job performance or turnover intentions, indicating that hiring representatives stand to gain little from probing applicants’ online activity. Details on the third study can be found with the information below.

There are better options! Steps and actions within your control and job preview. Please consider your candidate experience from beginning to end. Think of the questions you are asking: focus on questions that provide insight to the applicant’s emotional intelligence, to their soft skills that make them successful in the job, situational and behavioral questions focusing on their behaviors of the past, as well as cultural questions to confirm the applicant is in alignment with the values and mission of the organization. Ask about work related pet peeves, what motivates them, best work environments, greatest accomplishments, etc. Think about what they are bringing to the table today and what they bring that will benefit the organization in the future so that you are hiring for today and for tomorrow. Ask them what they want to learn. Seriously, you want to develop your employees over time. What do they want to learn? How do they want to learn it? How do they think they learn best? What can they teach others? Wrap this up with your onboarding process and training. Please do not forget or rush this step. This time sets the stage for the employment relationship which equals retention.

Side Note: participants in the studies willingly granted the researchers permission to view their Facebook pages—but as we know in many cases hiring managers don’t need to ask, because profiles are often public. What’s more, previous research found that a third of U.S. recruiters request access to candidates’ Facebook pages, and the vast majority of job seekers comply. As we know, that is changing. More than 20 U.S. states now prohibit employers from asking applicants to pull up their social media pages during an interview or to share their usernames and passwords. EU regulators go a step further, forbidding hiring managers from viewing a candidate’s social media unless that person explicitly consents.

About the research: “What’s on Job Seekers’ Social Media Sites? A Content Analysis and Effects of Structure on Recruiter Judgments and Predictive Validity,” by Liwen Zhang et al. (Journal of Applied Psychology, 2020)