September 1, 2012

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Utah Business Staff

September 1, 2012

DAMRON: As you are offering options, talking about the impacts to the business and the people and really being able to show that it’s been thought completely through helps put it back into the frame of mind of what the true impacts are.

SORENSON: It takes the HR person to be more of a business partner, not just the person who comes in and does open enrollment.

Can any of you comment on immigration, the E-Verify program, challenges you are having with compliance and if you are able to find enough workers?
WHALEN: E-Verify is mandatory. There is still a lot of confusion about that. It is a mandatory new-hire task that you need to, as an employer with 15 or more employees, be undertaking in Utah.
The immigration debate in Utah took an interesting turn with the last legislature where basically any attempts to tweak or repeal what had been passed the last two years became a “don’t touch that.” So we have gone on status quo with that, and the creative guest worker pilot program that was passed a few years ago is due to go into effect in 2014 with or without the federal government’s permission. Now, whether realistically that can happen or not remains to be seen.
There are certain industries that are particularly hard-hit with the crackdown on worksite enforcement of immigration and a stronger focus on making sure employers are only hiring people who have current authorization to work in the United States. It is hurting them and they are having a hard time finding workers and filling those jobs. In Utah I keep hearing a hope that the pilot guest worker program really does get the federal government’s “OK.”
The other piece that has been a struggle for many employers is the more high-skilled foreign workers, the H1B visas and so on. This year, those visas did not get snapped up quite as quickly as in years past, and I think the recession and the world economy is having an effect, where we don’t have as many foreign nationals trying to come to America and/or remain in America to find jobs. But for larger companies, especially in engineering and so on, the number of available visas remains a significant issue.

DAMRON: We face that issue with the highly skilled workers in the engineering sector. And last year we met the max much more quickly. In fact, this year, I think we still have some that are available to us. But last year we had to turn people away.

DUNNING: When Homeland Security does an I9 audit, when it finishes looking at what you have done, it then says, “Now we want to see your contracts with subcontractors to make sure they include a provision that your subcontractors are in compliance.”
Interestingly, in the instance where I was involved, Homeland Security was incorrect with respect to one of the individuals it identified as not having proper identification. And Homeland Security was good about saying, “This is preliminary; you need to ask for additional papers because we’ve rejected the first ones.” And the person brought the additional papers and Homeland Security verified that the person was authorized to work. So you have to be careful if you find yourself in that situation.

WHALEN: That is important to keep in mind. E-Verify does seem to be working very smoothly in terms of the technological infrastructure, but we have heard of a couple of different situations where the results that came back were incorrect and the employee was, in fact, authorized to work. So nothing is perfect and you may need to do a little extra homework.

Do any of you use HR metrics, and have any of you created some sort of reporting format that allows you to demonstrate your effectiveness in your HR department?
SORENSON: We have regional dashboards. For each region, meaning North America, Latin America, the Middle East, et cetera, the dashboard shows hires, terminations, cost categories, direct or indirect labor, attrition, overtime, reward and recognition, head count, transfers—everything you would want to know in terms of the workforce. That is monthly and quarterly.

DAMRON: We do something that is very similar to that. And when we have our cyclical programs, we also measure what the impact of that was, if we saw enrollment in any particular area go up significantly.

SORENSON: We do a lot of work with Mercer. So if we see something, either from the annual employee survey or some trend happening like attrition, we would engage with Mercer and do a much deeper study. Was it demographics? What is the age group or professional level of people that are leaving and why are they leaving? It’s creating a system where somebody external does the exit interviews—why are people leaving and where did they go to? Because that’s stuff you don’t even get in HR. They’re not going to tell you where they are going, if they’ve got another job, that kind of thing. We engage heavily in that. That is the only way to steer a group like ours.

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