3 Important Issues to Address Before the New Year

The New Year is typically a time of reflection and change. Not only do we move our calendars forward, but many work-related functions re-set.

Here are three important topics you should discuss with your staff prior to 2012 to ensure that there are no unwelcome surprises:

1.  Payroll tax.

Though the House recently passed H.R. 3630, a bill that would extend the two percent reduction in workers’ payroll tax and self-employment tax that’s scheduled to expire at the end of 2011 through 2012, President Obama has vowed to veto the bill. Absent the adoption of new legislation extending the cut, workers will see smaller paychecks. According to data released by the White House, the average American family making $50,000 a year will pay $1,000 in extra taxes in 2012.

The government offers a Web tool that allows workers to calculate the impact the tax increase will have on their income: http://www.whitehouse.gov/economy/jobs/we-cant-wait. Be sure your employees are anticipating this change, and that your payroll administrators are vigilant about monitoring the political situation to ensure you’re withholding the correct amount.

2.  Benefit changes or cost increases.

 Data recently released by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust indicates that annual premiums for employer-sponsored family health coverage increased to $15,073 this year, up nine percent from last year. Workers paid an average of $4,129 and employers $10,944 of the annual premiums. Researchers found that premiums increased significantly more than wages (2.1 percent) and general inflation (3.2 percent). If your employees will bear an increase in the cost of their health insurance or if components of the plan¿such as deductibles and co-pays—will change, educate your workers on the details. For some families a $500 deductible is a financial stretch. It’s important that it does not come as a surprise to them.

3.  Your collective plan for success.

January is a perfect time to communicate your business plan for the upcoming year with your employees. Make it a point to sit down with each member of your team and convey to them your vision for success. Help them set priorities for their work year and discuss the role they will play as your business grows and prospers. Reflect on the previous year and celebrate the accomplishments of the business and each individual worker.

Though this may seem like a big time commitment, it will be very beneficial in helping foster enthusiasm among workers whose efforts are a key factor in your success. High performing workers need reassurance that there is a career plan and a bright future for them with your business. Failure to provide this can lead to them looking elsewhere for opportunities.

The holiday season can be hectic, but taking time to communicate important issues to workers and keeping them informed of your plans is important. The effort you expend in advance of the New Year will go a long way toward ensuring your continued success.