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Business Articles

Timely and relevant business advice and news curated by the Chamber. Offering essential information, we will help you succeed and stay current.

May 21, 2018

Article of the Week

Seven Steps to Developing a Replacement Plan

If there's one activity that has more of an impact than succession planning and talent pools, it's replacement planning, although the term is frequently used in conversations about succession planning. They are two different things. A replacement plan identifies "backups" for positions. Traditionally, it focuses on top-level positions, but it can be done for any key position in the organization.

Replacement planning is often mentioned in conjunction with succession planning because it identifies individuals who can assume roles at some point in the future and shows how ready they are for that role. But replacement planning doesn't have to be defined as a subset of succession planning.

Having individuals identified as backups just makes good business sense, for a variety of reasons. As much as we don't like to mention it, employees can become unexpectedly seriously ill or have an accident and be unable to work. The organization needs to find someone to take over their responsibilities—even temporarily.

A certain amount of turnover is healthy for the business, as are certain types of turnover (for example, the dismissal of a toxic employee). Since organizations don't always get to control the timing and circumstances, having a staffing backup plan (aka replacement plan), makes sense. And recruiters will want to have a say in how that plan is developed.

If your organization has a formal succession plan, you might already have replacements identified. Or it could be an added step in the existing process. For organizations using talent pools for employee development, here are seven steps that can guide a replacement planning activity:

Step 1. Identify key positions. While every job is important, certain roles within the organization would significantly impact the business if left open for a long period. According to SHRM, the average time to fill an open position is 42 days. Using that as your benchmark, which positions must be filled in less time? Ideally, we'd like every job to be filled quickly, but identify those that must be a priority. Those key positions are a place to start. You should have much of this information from your workforce plan.

Step 2. Identify the critical skills for each position. You're seeing a theme here—you've got this information from your staffing analysis. List the qualities that anyone holding this position must have. Not a wish list: Remember this is a replacement plan. If someone had the basic skills, then he or she could learn the other skills or knowledge required for the position.

Step 3. Assess the skills of current employees. Again, your staffing analysis should contain this information. If not, you can obtain it in the form of training records, performance reviews, coaching feedback, and 9-box grids. It might also be helpful to look at the skills of freelancers and consultants who currently partner with the organization or at former employees who might be interested in returning.

Step 4. Match the critical skills to the current skills of employees. This step is when organizations might be tempted to think that backup employees are currently in the department—for instance, the accounting manager is the obvious backup for the accounting director. However, a recent transfer might be interested in returning to his or her former department. Keep the planning activity focused on skills, not current job titles.

Step 5. Pay attention to jobs that don't have matches. This exercise will possibly surface some jobs that need immediate attention—meaning there is no replacement available. It's better to find out this information during a planning activity than when you're trying to fill an opening. This is why recruiting needs to be a part of the conversation so there are no surprises.

Step 6. Develop a plan to address gaps. This plan might include development programs, mentoring, coaching, and contingent staffing—or a combination of all these programs. With replacement planning, the organization doesn't have to identify a single replacement. Use talent pools to develop transferable skills for many positions.

Step 7. Evaluate the plan. On a regular basis evaluate the plan to make sure the company's needs can still be met. For key positions, the individuals currently holding those roles can be tasked with helping identify their replacement and train them. This goal could become part of their performance review.

While organizations are working hard to hire, engage, and retain the best talent, it would be naïve to think employees never leave. Replacement plans provide the organization with the comfort that a last-minute resignation, retirement, or employee illness will not leave the company disadvantaged.

Replacement plans do one other thing. They give the organization a sense of the investment they will need to make should a backup be necessary. Whether it's temporary or long term, employees asked to assume greater responsibilities need support. Regular replacement planning activities make the organization keenly aware of the support the affected employees will need to be successful.

May 14, 2018

Article of the Week

Five Emotionally Intelligent Habits For Handling Work Frustrations

Unless you lack basic social skills, it’s hard to imagine getting in trouble for expressing positive feelings at work. Sharing enthusiasm and encouragement  is usually beneficial to everyone around you. It’s the feelings on the other end of the spectrum that most of us struggle with. We’ve all gotten frustrated or overwhelmed at work.

Maybe someone less qualified gets a promotion you worked hard to earn. Or a coworker takes credit for something you did. The slackers on your team land a major project opportunity, despite the countless hours you spent working on the proposal. Or worse, the idea you submit gets rejected and criticized. These situations will make even the most even-tempered people feel angry, frustrated, disappointed, resentful, and afraid. But it’s not the situations themselves that make or break us, it’s how we respond to them. And that just takes practice. Here are five emotionally intelligent habits that can help you keep your cool.


Obviously, it’s not that easy. We feel before we think. But even a couple seconds’ buffer can make a huge difference. If you can practice giving yourself just a short moment to think about your reaction, you can gain a lot more control over what happens next. We all know people whose angry outburst has cost them their goodwill, promotions, and career opportunities, and have generally held them back in life.

Feeling a strong emotion of any kind should send you a cue: I need a second to think. If you have to remove yourself from a situation temporarily, do it. The crucial first step is simply noticing those negative feelings early enough to decide not to react just yet.


This is the logical next step. Being able to name how you’re feeling takes away some of the power our most unpleasant emotions have over us. Describing a feeling gives you some distance from it, allowing you more clarity. And chances are you can assign a name to the experience you’re having more quickly than you can choose the right response to it.


The worst thing to do is commiserate with others who hold the same grievances you do–the colleagues who will share in and urge you to hold onto your negativity. Misery loves company. While indulging in it may feel good at the time, it isn’t productive and will keep you stuck in a vicious cycle. The more emotionally intelligent approach is to find someone who’s a great listener and removed enough from the situation to offer an unbiased objective point of view. This is usually someone who has no stake in the circumstances one way or another. When explaining what happened, try to share only the data, not your opinions or feelings.


Try to look at the situation from someone on the outside looking in. Make an honest attempt to try and see things from the perspective of everyone involved. Suspend judgment if you can, and come up with as many possible explanations for what occurred as you can think of–no matter how unlikely they might seem.

This exercise is difficult, but it can help you identify alternative explanations for the situation that’s made you so upset. The tough question is, “What was my part in this–both the positive and the negative?” There may be valuable learnings in this, but at the very least, this habit gives you some time to cool off and redirect your frustration somewhere else.


Ask yourself how much this will matter to you one year, five years, or 10 years from now. Consider your long-term goals and plans and think about how this all fits in with where you want to be in the future. Is this really a battle worth fighting, or will it serve you better in the long run to let it go and move on? What will be the likely outcomes of the choices you make from this point on, and how will they help or hinder you?

Feeling upset may seem like something that happens to you–an onrush of negative emotions that you can’t control. But by practicing these techniques, you may begin to see that you still have a choice: You can’t prevent yourself from feeling aggravated, but you can often control what you do about it.

May 7, 2018

Article of the Week

What Makes Up a Small Business Credit Report?

A business credit report is an essential tool for banks, lenders, suppliers and credit grantors in assessing the creditworthiness of small businesses. The information contained in a report provides crucial details needed to make informed credit decisions.

It illustrates a company’s ability to meet its contractual obligations based on payment history and public records. The data in a small business credit report is vital to getting the funding you need to successfully run and grow a business. It impacts the following financial decisions:

  • How much business credit a supplier will extend to you
  • What repayment terms you’ll receive
  • What interest rates you’ll pay
  • How much credit or funding a bank or lender will extend to you
  • How your customers view your business
  • What insurance premiums you’ll pay

Business credit reporting agencies — such as Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Commercial, and Equifax Small Business — collect data on millions of businesses and compile the data into a business credit report. All the information collected in a company’s report is used to calculate a business’ credit rating.

The typical information that makes up a small business credit report includes:

  • Company information including number of employees, sales, ownership, and subsidiaries
  • Historical data of the business
  • Business registration details
  • Government activity summary
  • Business operational data
  • Industry classification and data
  • Public filings (liens, judgments, and UCC filings)
  • Past payment history and collections
  • Number of accounts reporting and details

Typically, all business credit reports have the same type of information. Although each business credit reporting agency has its own process for collecting and verifying data, the main data sections are pretty standard.

The first thing that displays on a small business credit report is the business profile or company information section. This section lists the company’s legal name, address, incorporation details, ownership, subsidiary details, and number of employees.

Other standard information listed in the business credit profile section includes financial data. This data includes annual sales and may include a financial statement.

The payment history section shows a company’s payment history for the past several years. This includes invoice activity, outstanding balances, payment terms, and credit limits.

The public records section lists legal filings, bankruptcies, collections, and UCC filings. If a business has legal judgments or collection accounts reporting in this section, a creditor may view the business as being in financial distress and may be hesitant to work with it.

Finally, based on the information listed in a small business credit report, each business credit agency will issue a business credit score or rating that predicts payment behavior.

Business credit reports and scores are a measure of a company’s financial stability. The main goal for small business owners should be to establish records of timely payments with all of their financial obligations in order to establish a strong business credit report and score. 

April 30, 2018

Article of the Week

How to Design a 21st Century Time-Off Program

At Moz, a software company in Seattle, employees get a paid paid vacation. That’s not a typo. In addition to receiving 21 days of standard paid time off, each employee is given $3,000 a year to spend on airfare, gas, hotels, meals, pet-sitting and other vacation-related expenses.

“We got the idea from another company and thought it would be a great way to reward our team,” says Rebecca Clements, head of HR at Moz, which has about 150 employees.

​It’s a different way of thinking about time off—as is allowing employees to “trade” traditional holidays like Christmas for days off of their choosing. That’s the approach that music-streaming company Spotify recently rolled out in an effort to recognize the cultural and religious diversity of its more than 2,000 employees. 

Both policies are a far cry from the days when two weeks’ vacation and eight fixed holidays were the norm. With tough competition for talent, a shifting legislative landscape and the most diverse workforce in generations, progressive company leaders are rethinking how to keep employees happy both inside and outside the office. In fact, last year nearly a third of organizations increased their overall benefits, which include a mix of time off, health insurance and other perks, according to the 2017 Employee Benefits research report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). And a SHRM report on 2017 holiday schedules indicates that 30 percent of employers now offer paid floating holidays other than personal days and standard holidays. 

“There’s just more openness to the fact that people need flexibility, and when they have that flexibility, they are more engaged, more productive and more likely to stay with the organization,” says Mikaela Kiner, founder and CEO of Uniquely HR, a consulting firm based in Seattle.

While there’s a generational component at play as well, that’s only part of the picture. “It does have something to do with Millennials, but I also think that all generations in the workforce are looking for more flexibility,” says Sylvia Francis, SHRM-SCP, total rewards manager for the Regional Transportation District in Denver. 

After the lean years of the recession, burned-out employees of all ages are looking to strike a better balance between work and personal time. “Boomers and Xers … want to travel or spend more time with grandkids,” Francis says.

In addition, the nature of employment is itself changing, with most people staying in jobs for 18 to 36 months. Packages that limit employees’ time off until they’ve hit a certain level of tenure don’t reflect that reality and are often a turnoff to potential employees, says Alice Chin, founder and CEO of Your Other Half, a Philadelphia-based small-business consultancy.

That’s why many organizations now offer a 15-day bank immediately, Chin says, and some are moving to unlimited vacation packages in which employees—and their managers—can decide how much time they can take while still getting their jobs done. Here are several other approaches that progressive leaders are trying.

Combined PTO Banks

A growing number of employers are switching to paid-time-off (PTO) banks that don’t differentiate between sick leave and vacation time. Data tracked by consulting firm Mercer’s annual Survey on Absence and Disability Management, a poll of more than 450 U.S. employers, found strong growth in PTO banks—63 percent of employers used them in 2015, up from 38 percent in 2010.

At the same time, new state and local laws governing sick leave could put a cap on the growth of PTO banks. California and New York City, for example, have legislation requiring employers to provide employees with a certain amount of paid sick leave. 

“I think we will see PTO bank use leveling off a bit based on what happens at the state and local levels,” says Rich Fuerstenberg, senior partner with Mercer in Princeton, N.J. Such laws do not preclude the use of PTO banks, but they do make their administration a bit more complex.

The benefits can be attractive, however: 54 percent of employers that implemented a combined PTO program said unscheduled absences dropped by up to 10 percent when they started the new policy, according to a survey by the Alexander Hamilton Institute. Four percent found that those absences dropped by more than 20 percent.

A combined policy also means less tracking for HR and obviates the need some employees may feel to “prove” when they’re sick, Francis says. 

“We made the switch because our people were not using their sick time and were complaining about not having enough time off,” says Kerry Wekelo, managing director of HR at Actualize Consulting in Reston, Va. “So we combined to a total of four weeks’ paid time off versus two weeks’ vacation and two weeks’ sick time,” Wekelo says of her 50-employee company, which offers corporate financial consulting. “Our people love this, and, even as we hire new recruits, they rave about starting at a firm with four weeks’ vacation.”

But a combined model doesn’t work for everyone. It’s often unpopular among employees who have high health care utilization needs and are thus forced to use a disproportionate share of their time off on their medical needs. Try surveying employees to see if the bundled option appeals to them, Wekelo recommends.

Something else to consider: Under many state laws, employers with a single PTO bank are required to treat accrued but unused balances as vacation pay when workers’ employment ends, says Marjory Robertson, assistant vice president and senior counsel at Sun Life Financial in Wellesley Hills, Mass.

“A potential benefit of keeping sick days and vacation days separate is that, in most states, employers are not required to pay out sick days upon termination of employment, as long as the sick days policy is clear that no such payment is owed,” Robertson says. This is true even under paid-sick-leave laws, she says, although companies may have to restore the unused balance if the employee is rehired within a specific time.

For that reason, some employers that implement PTO banks opt to give employees fewer total days than they had previously. “The reasoning behind this is that, in most cases, 100 percent of PTO is paid out at separation where sick time is usually not, so the payoff liability for employers may be greater than with a sick/vacation policy,” Francis says. 

Another issue with banked systems is that they may incentivize employees to come to work when they’re sick so they can optimize their vacation options. Offering generous short-term disability coverage or a self-insured program can help reduce the likelihood of this occurring, Robertson says. 

Forced Time Off

Research shows that people are more productive when they take breaks, yet many employees are reluctant to fully unplug because they fear doing so will put them behind. “I believe that employers are offering more time off, but I also believe that employees are more willing to work when they have time off,” Robertson says. “Technology has made it easy—some say too easy—to remain connected while away from the office.”

That’s why some leaders are finding creative ways to send a strong message to employees that vacation time should be just that.  

For example, Bart Lorange, CEO and co-founder of Denver-based software company FullContact Inc., pays his 325 employees to take a vacation. The arrangement is similar to that at Moz: Workers receive $7,500 annually after one year of employment, provided they use the funds for a vacation and agree not to connect to work while they’re off.

“The idea for the policy came from my own personal experience with going on vacation,” Lorange says. “I’ve seen people [who] take advantage of the policy come back recharged and focused, which makes for very happy, productive employees.”

There are no predetermined amounts of allowable time off, but each employee is required to take a minimum of three weeks each year. There are no accrued hours or carry-over time from one year to the next. 

“With approval, you determine when you need time away from work,” Lorange says. “There are no strings attached to this program.” 

At Moz, the only requirement employees must meet to receive their $3,000 vacation money is to spend it on time off away from home, whether it’s for a solo day trip or a multiweek family getaway. Workers can apply the money to trips taken using PTO or for weekends away, Clements says.

“There is a little admin work—gathering receipts, submitting a reimbursement request in our accounting system—but this is a widely used benefit,” she says.


At Autodesk Inc., a San Francisco-based IT company with 9,000 employees worldwide, full-time U.S. workers can take a paid six-week sabbatical every four years, says Jill McChesney, senior PR manager for the company. The time off can be used for travel, quality time with family and friends, or however else employees see fit. 

“This program is designed to give employees time away from work [so they can] return to work not only refreshed but also excited about new ideas and ready to tackle new challenges,” McChesney says.

So far, nearly every employee has taken a sabbatical, she says. The perk is offered in addition to PTO, which consists of eight hours of vacation for each complete calendar month worked.

Keeping in Time with the Law: Do’s and Don’ts 

While your company may feel like its own municipality, it still has to follow the law. For example, there are eight states and 32 jurisdictions with paid-sick-leave laws in place. Here are do’s and don’ts for staying in compliance.

DO identify any requirements regarding how sick time is tracked. Elisabeth Giammona, SHRM-CP, senior HR manager with an e-mail security startup in San Francisco, recommends asking questions such as:

  • Does such time need to be accrued, or can it be given all at once at the beginning of the year? 
  • Are there restrictions regarding how much can be used at once?
  • Are there limitations on whether it can be rolled over? 

DON’T forget to find out who’s covered. Under paid-sick-leave laws, employers must permit employees to use the leave not only for their own illnesses but also for those of covered family members, says Marjory Robertson, assistant vice president and senior counsel with Sun Life Financial.

The time can also be applied to routine medical appointments for either the employee or a family member. “Many of these state and local laws broaden the definition of covered family members beyond what the [federal Family and Medical Leave Act] requires—parent, child, spouse—to include grandparents, grandchildren, in-laws and siblings,” Robertson says.

DO consider the impact of changing paid-family-leave laws. California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Minnesota and the District of Columbia have paid-family-leave legislation, as do San Francisco and Montgomery County, Md.

DON’T neglect federal legislation. For example, many people may not realize that the tax reform bill that was passed in December contains a paid family and medical leave provision, Robertson says. “It does not mandate that employers provide paid family and medical leave,” she explains, “but creates a tax credit for employers who provided between two and 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave that provides at least a 50 percent wage replacement benefit.” 

As a result of the shifting legislative landscape, employers of all sizes will be looking to adapt and expand their paid-time-off benefits in the near future, Robertson says.  

Floating Holidays

Although there are no laws requiring employers to provide floating holidays, some leaders are rethinking the traditional one-size-fits-all approach to paid holidays, says David Woolf, Philadelphia-based partner with the Labor and Employment Group. It’s a strategy that acknowledges the increasing diversity of today’s labor market, he says.  

“This depends on the workforce and is more common where the workforce is more diverse religiously,” Woolf says.

According to SHRM’s 2017 Employee Benefits research report, 82 percent of employers don’t permit any such exchanges and 90 percent observe the traditional holidays by closing their offices.

​Agricultural giant Monsanto offers workers one floating holiday annually, says Sue Allen, North American HR compliance lead, in addition to 13 other paid holidays. The holiday, which doesn’t carry over to the next year, can be used to celebrate Hanukkah, Ramadan, Good Friday, Kwanzaa or any other day a worker chooses.

Perhaps that’s his or her birthday. Or maybe it’s just a Tuesday. After all, for many people, having a day off can make any day a holiday.

April 23, 2018

Article of the Week

Three Sayings To Avoid When Giving Constructive Feedback

Kat Boogaard,

Dishing out constructive criticism isn’t quite as tough as being on the receiving end of it. But, let’s face it–providing that feedback can still present some challenges.

Ultimately, your goal is to correct a behavior and help that specific person become better at his or her job. And, in an ideal world, you’d be able to do so in a way that didn’t make you seem overly aggressive or condescending (while also avoiding any tears or blow-up arguments).

We all know that can be a dangerously thin tightrope to walk. Fortunately, I’m here to set you in the right direction. Stay far away from these cringe-worthy phrases when you’re offering that hard-to-hear feedback, and you’ll come off as supportive–rather than smug and superior.

1. “YOU ALWAYS . . .”

Always. It seems like such a small and innocent word, doesn’t it? It has a sneaky way of creeping into all sorts of types of feedback. But, I can’t be the only one who instantly bristles as soon as this word escapes someone’s lips.

What’s so bad about it? Well, think about what “always” actually represents: It means there’s a mistake that has happened on a frequent enough basis that you can chalk it up as something that person repeatedly does.

Maybe that’s true. However, constructive criticism is hard enough to swallow without being made to feel like you’ve been screwing the same thing up for all of eternity (and nobody bothered to let you know until this very moment).

So, do yourself a favor and skip the dreaded “a word.” It’s not doing you (or that other person) any favors.


Receiving somebody else’s input on how you could be better might be helpful–but, it can also be somewhat embarrassing. We all like to think that we’re knocking things out of the park in the office, and being told otherwise can feel disheartening.

With that in mind, the last thing you want to do is pile on the negative comments and make that person feel ganged up on or gossiped about.

Maybe other colleagues have noticed that your direct report never refills the printer’s paper tray–and they haven’t been shy about pointing it out to you.

That doesn’t mean that you need to relay the details of every single complaint when talking to that employee. In the end, it shouldn’t matter how many people have witnessed an incorrect behavior. What matters is that the person is aware that she needs to fix it.

3. “IF I WERE YOU . . .”

Constructive criticism is generally better received when it’s rooted in fact–as opposed to just opinion.

Remember, not everybody works the same way, which means that just because you’d do something differently doesn’t necessarily mean the way that other person is doing it is wrong and warrants correction.

This phrase has a way of coming off as particularly patronizing, and will likely only inspire people to tune out the rest of your feedback. When in doubt, just skip the personal judgments.

Offering constructive criticism isn’t quite as anxiety-inducing as needing to listen and implement it–but, it comes pretty close.

Fortunately, it’s more than possible to provide helpful feedback in a way that doesn’t make other people immediately cringe or roll their eyes.

Where do you start? By making sure you skip these three phrases. Do that, and you’re that much more likely to offer criticism that’s actually constructive–and not the least bit condescending.

April 16, 2018

Article of the Week

Psychological Safety Ensures Job Well-done

By: Rose Miller, Pinnacle HR

There's a popular commercial from a well-known chip manufacturer. The scene starts in a boardroom with a manager describing a new plan or idea to the group.

One team member at the table raises his hand and shares an idea. Next scene — same boardroom except the member who raised his hand with a new idea is gone.

The commercial explains how that wouldn't happen at its company, that it supports the person who "thinks differently" and tells the audience how their company excels by encouraging free thinkers.

The first company did not practice the theory of psychological safety whereas the message in the commercial was in support of it. What is psychological safety? From Wikipedia:

"Psychological safety is a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking. It can be defined as 'being able to show and employ oneself without fear of negative consequences of self-image, status or career."

In psychologically safe teams, members feel accepted and respected. In a psychologically unsafe workplace, managers are autocratic — my way or the highway type of managers. This type of organization builds teams who resemble themselves, as in what many describe as an "old boy network." There are government leaders who believe psychological safety is unimportant. They don't hesitate to use the word "stupid" to describe anyone who objects or disagrees with their circle's opinion.

Silicon Valley companies were the first adopters of the theory of psychological safety. It makes common sense to understand that rapidly changing and evolving companies must create an environment of free thought. Magic happens in free thought.

Managers in a psychologically safe workplace are accessible and encourage questions and debates.

They demonstrate that mistakes can become learning opportunities. They commonly share what they have found works and share past struggles and how they overcame them. They solve problems and lead with vulnerability.

Show of hands. Where do you want to work?

This doesn't mean there isn't accountability. All levels are held accountable to the plan's outcomes and its team members. In a psychologically safe system, you'll find performance improvement plans instead of discipline processes.

When a manager becomes aware of an issue with an employee's performance, there are two ways to deal with it. Do you try to improve performance or is it a disciplinary issue?

These are two distinct processes. Performance improvement manages poor performance and discipline deals with bad behavior. Poor performance can be a learning opportunity. But everyone enjoys when bad behavior is eliminated. Managers' knowledge of which to use supports psychological safety.

Here are some tips on developing psychological safety in your workplace:

  • Create mechanisms in which senior management is available and accessible to all employees.
  • Create inspiration by telling stories of challenges met and lessons learned.
  • Be secure enough to allow managers to be empowered in their roles.
  • Encourage managers to ask questions.
  • Encourage managers to share their mistakes and share ideas on how to overcome them.
  • Hold yourself and others around you accountable.

For managers:

  • Copy the leader's behavior in creating a psychologically safe environment.
  • Be secure enough to allow employees to be empowered in their roles.
  • Never discipline employees for reporting a problem.
  • Encourage the sharing of ideas without fear or intimidation.Learn the difference between performance improvement and discipline.Hold yourself and your team members accountable.

See the theme? HR leaders are advocates for creating psychologically safe environments. Studies have shown it can be the key to effective teams.

Your company can take steps to ensure that employees feel not only empowered in their roles, but they also feel safe to strive for professional growth where every member of the organization achieves their goals.

April 9, 2018

Article of the Week

Highlights of the New York State FY 2019 Budget

Read the full statement from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo here.

The budget builds on the state's record of delivering for New Yorkers by making the highest ever investment in K-12 education, enacting a nation-leading women's agenda, advancing 21st century transportation solutions, protecting taxpayers against federal tax changes, strengthening the middle class and making strategic investments in New York's future to drive growth and create opportunity for all. For the eighth consecutive year, the budget is balanced and holds spending growth to 2 percent or less.

Highlights of the FY 2019 Budget:

  • State Operating Funds spending is $100.1 billion - for the eighth consecutive year, holding growth to 2 percent (State Operating Funds exclude Federal funds and capital).
  • All Funds spending $168.3 billion for FY 2019.
  • Protects New Yorkers from negative federal tax implications with new state tax code.
  • Continues the phase-in of the $4.2 billion Middle Class Tax Cut to deliver relief to six million New Yorkers - saving households $250 on average and $700 annually when fully effective.
  • Increases Education Aid by approximately $1 billion (3.9 percent), to a record total of $26.7 billion for the 2018-19 school year and a 36 percent increase since 2012.
  • Requires school districts to provide information on how they allocate funding to schools in order to increase transparency.
  • Invests $25 million to expand prekindergarten and after school programs.
  • Implements the nation's most aggressive program to combat sexual harassment.
  • Extends the storage timeline for forensic rape kits from 30 days to 20 years.
  • Institutes landmark protections to ensure New York's elections remain free from outside influence and cyberattacks.
  • Provides $7.6 billion in State support for higher education in New York - an increase of $1.5 billion or 25 percent since FY 2012.
  • Invests $118 million to continue the successful Excelsior Scholarship.
  • Includes $1.2 billion for strategic programs to make college more affordable and encourage the best and brightest students to build their future in New York.
  • Establishes a first-in-the-nation opioid stewardship payment on manufacturers and distributors of opioids to fund the fight against the opioid epidemic.

Keeping New York Economically Competitive

Protect New Yorkers from Federal Tax Changes: The recently enacted federal tax law has negative fiscal implications for many New Yorkers. By gutting the deductibility of state and local taxes, the law effectively raises middle class families' property and state income taxes by 20 to 25 percent. New York is fighting back against the federal plan and the loss of both income tax deductibility and property tax deductibility. To combat the assault, the FY 2019 Budget: 

  • Expands Charitable Contributions to Benefit New Yorkers: The FY 2019 Budget creates two new state-operated Charitable Contribution Funds to accept donations for the purposes of improving health care and education in New York. Taxpayers who itemize deductions may claim these charitable contributions as deductions on their Federal and State tax returns. Any taxpayer making a donation may also claim a State tax credit equal to 85 percent of the donation amount for the tax year after the donation is made. In addition, the legislation authorizes school districts and other local governments to create charitable funds. Donations to these funds would provide a reduction in local property taxes (via a local credit) equal to a percentage of the donation. 
  • Creates Alternative Employer Compensation Expense Program: While Federal tax reform eliminated full State and local tax deductibility for individuals, businesses were spared from these limitations. Under the FY 2019 Budget employers would be able to opt-in to a new ECEP structure. Employers that opt-in would be subject to a 5 percent tax on all annual payroll expenses in excess of $40,000 per employee, phased in over three years beginning on January 1, 2019. The progressive personal income tax system would remain in place, and a new tax credit corresponding in value to the ECEP would cut the personal income tax on wages and ensure that State filers subject to the ECEP would not experience a decline in take-home pay. 
  • Decouples from Federal Tax Code: The FY 2019 Budget decouples the state tax code from the federal tax code, where necessary, to avoid more than $1.5 billion in State tax increases brought solely by increases in federal taxes.
  • Continue the Phase-In of the Middle Class Tax Cut: The Budget supports the phase-in of the middle class tax cuts. In 2018, average savings will total $250 and, when fully effective, six million New Yorkers will save an average of $700 annually. Once fully phased in, the new rates will be the lowest in more than 70 years - dropping from 6.45 to 5.5 percent for incomes ranging from $40,000 - $150,000 and 6.65 to 6 percent for incomes ranging from $150,000 - $300,000. The new lower tax rates will save middle class New Yorkers $4.2 billion, annually, by 2025
  • Grow County-Wide Shared Services Initiative to Deliver Savings for Taxpayers: New York State will build on progress to reduce local property taxes for millions of New Yorkers and take the next step forward to provide local governments with new tools to put money back in the pockets of middle-class families. The FY 2019 Budget includes $225 million to fund the State's match of savings from shared services actions included in property tax savings plans. The Budget also continues the county-wide shared services panels for another three years and amends a statutory hurdle that prevented localities from sharing some specific services.   
  • Create a Voluntary Retirement Savings Program: The Budget authorizes the New York State Secure Choice Savings Program - a voluntary-enrollment payroll deduction IRA for employees of private employers that do not already offer retirement savings plans. This program will give millions of New Yorkers who currently have no access to an employer-provided retirement plan the opportunity to save for retirement, all while alleviating the burdens on participating New York employers of creating and sponsoring a retirement plan on their own. Participation is voluntary for businesses and employees. 
  • Continue the Local Property Tax Relief Credit: The Property Tax Credit, enacted in 2015, will provide an average reduction of $380 in local property taxes to 2.6 million homeowners this year alone. By 2019, the program will provide an additional $1.3 billion in property tax relief and an average credit of $530. 

Driving Economic Growth & Development 

  • Continue the Successful Regional Economic Development Councils: In 2011, the State established 10 Regional Economic Development Councils (REDCs) to develop long-term regional strategic economic development plans. The Budget includes core capital and tax-credit funding that will be combined with a wide range of existing agency programs for an eighth round of REDC awards totaling $750 million.  
  • Launch Next Round of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative: The Downtown Revitalization Initiative is transforming downtown neighborhoods into vibrant communities where the next generation of New Yorkers will want to live, work and raise families. The FY 2019 Budget provides $100 million for the Downtown Revitalization Program Round III. 
  • Advance Industrial Hemp Production: The State will continue the investment in Hemp research, production, and processing made in FY 2018 through a broad, multi-pronged program. The FY 2019 Budget provides $650,000 for a brand-new $3.2 million industrial hemp processing facility in the Southern Tier. New York State will import thousands of pounds of industrial hemp seed, ensuring that farmers have access to a high-quality product and easing the administrative burden on farmers. Further, New York State will invest an additional $2 million in a seed certification and breeding program, to begin producing unique New York seed. Finally, New York will host an Industrial Hemp Research Forum in February, bringing together researchers and academics with businesses and processors to develop ways to further boost industry research in New York. 
  • Drive Investment in Life Sciences: The Budget includes $600 million to support construction of a world-class, state-of-the-art life sciences public health laboratory in the Capital District that will promote collaborative public/private research and development partnerships.
  • Extend and Strengthen the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit: The FY 2019 Budget agreement reauthorizes the State Commercial and Homeowner rehabilitation tax credit programs through 2025 and allows the State commercial credit to be used independently of the federal credit. 
  • Establish $175 Million Workforce Initiative: The FY 2019 Budget establishes a new approach for workforce investments that would support strategic regional efforts to meet businesses' short-term workforce needs, improve regional talent pipelines, expand apprenticeships, and address the long-term needs of expanding industries—with a particular focus on emerging fields with growing demand for jobs like clean energy and technology. Funds will also support efforts to improve the economic security of women, youth, and other populations that face significant barriers to career advancement.

Expanding the New York Youth Jobs Program

The New York Youth Jobs program encourages businesses to hire unemployed, disadvantaged youth, ages 16 to 24, who live in New York State, with a focus on the following cities and towns: Albany, Buffalo, New York, Rochester, Schenectady, Syracuse, Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, Utica, White Plains, Yonkers, Brookhaven and Hempstead. Due to the success of the program, which has helped connect 31,000 youths to jobs, the Budget increases the credit amounts by 50 percent, from $500 to $750 per month for up to the first six months, and from $2,000 to $3,000 for each employee who is employed for additional time periods after six months with a maximum full time hire credit of $7,500.  

Expanding Access to Higher Education

  • Invest $7.6 Billion for Higher Education: The Budget provides $7.6 billion in State support for higher education in New York - an increase of $1.5 billion or 25 percent since FY 2012. This investment includes $1.2 billion for strategic programs to make college more affordable and encourage the best and brightest students to build their future in New York.
  • Launch the Second Phase of the Excelsior Free Tuition Program: For the 2019 academic year, the Excelsior Scholarship income eligibility threshold will increase, allowing New Yorkers with household incomes up to $110,000 to be eligible. To continue this landmark program, the Budget includes $118 million to support an estimated 27,000 students in the Excelsior program. Along with other sources of tuition assistance, including the generous New York State Tuition Assistance Program, the Excelsior Scholarship will allow approximately 53 percent of full-time SUNY and CUNY in-state students, or more than 210,000 New York residents, to attend college tuition-free when fully phased in. 
  • Boost Funding for SUNY and CUNY: The Budget provides SUNY and CUNY with more than $200 million in new resources to support the operations of the university systems while maintaining low predictable tuition ensuring access for all to a quality education.  
  • Support Students Attending New York's Private Colleges: The Budget includes $22.9 million for the second phase of the Enhanced Tuition Award program, providing up to $6,000 in financial assistance including match funds and a tuition freeze to make college more affordable for residents attending private colleges in New York.  To leverage more participation, the program was modified to provide more flexibility in the matching requirement for colleges. The Budget also provides $4 million to expand the New York State Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Scholarship Program to students attending private colleges in New York.  In addition, the Budget includes $30 million for competitive grants to support strategic capital investments at independent colleges to improve academic programs, enhance student life and provide economic development benefits to the college community. 
  • Prohibit State Agencies from Suspending the Professional Licenses of Individuals Behind or in Default on their Student Loans: The FY 2019 Budget includes legislation expressly prohibiting the suspension of professional licenses of individuals behind or in default on their student loans. Currently, there are 19 states that allow for the suspension of a professional license for people who are behind or in default on their student loans, with one state allowing for the suspension of an individual's driver's license. This practice severely limits the ability of people to support themselves and their families, and to ultimately pay back their student loans, creating a further financial death spiral. By expressly prohibiting the practice, the Budget ensures that current and future New Yorkers are protected.

Investing in Education Equity

The FY 2019 Budget reflects the state's strong commitment to education equity through a $1 billion annual increase in Education Aid - 3.9 percent growth - to a record total of $26.7 billion for the 2018-19 school year and a 36 percent increase since 2012.

  • Require Transparency in Education Spending: New York State spends more money per pupil than any state in the nation, and the FY 2019 Budget includes new provisions to require funding transparency. Under the budget agreement, for the 2018-19 school year, 76 large school districts that receive significant state aid shall report school level funding allocation data to the public, SED and DOB.
  • Expand Community Schools: The FY 2019 Budget continues the state's push to transform New York's high-need schools into community schools. This year, the Budget increases funding for community schools by $50 million, to a total of $200 million. This increased funding is targeted to districts with struggling schools and/or districts experiencing significant growth in homeless pupils or English language learners. In addition, the Budget increases the minimum community schools funding amount from $10,000 to $75,000.
  • Promote the First 1,000 Days of Life: The Budget supports the development of a new initiative to expand access to services and improve health outcomes for young children covered by Medicaid and their families. Studies show that the basic structure of the brain is developed within the first 1,000 days of life. 
  • Expand Access to Prekindergarten: The Budget includes an additional $15 million investment in prekindergarten to expand high-quality half-day and full-day prekindergarten instruction for 3,000 three- and four-year-old children. 
  • Continue the Empire State After School Program: The FY 2019 Budget provides $10 million to fund a second round of Empire State After School awards. These funds will provide an additional 6,250 students with public after school care in high-need communities across the State. Funding will be targeted to districts with high rates of childhood homelessness.
  • Grow Early College High Schools: To build upon the success of the existing programs, the Budget commits an additional $9 million to create 15 new early college high school programs. This expansion will target communities with low graduation or college access rates, and will align new schools with in-demand industries.

April 2, 2018

Article of the Week

Unconscious Bias In The Workplace: You Can't Afford To Ignore It

We all bring unconscious biases into the workplace. These deeply subconscious attitudes span race, gender, appearance, age, wealth and much more. They influence everything from the car you drive to the employee you promote and the one you don’t. And because they are so reflexively triggered without our knowledge, they are virtually unconcealable.

Our ancestors, products of evolution, survived because grouping people helped them evade murder. In 2018, this function is, of course, much less useful. Our brains are predisposed to demographic bias, but we can mute certain predispositions.

Nonetheless, these hidden drivers can impact many areas of business, from impairing diversity and retention rates to promoting a disconnected culture. Unconscious bias also undermines recruiting efforts and employee development, which can be destabilizing to an organization. Exacerbating these detriments are the fact that the majority of mid- to high-level placements in an organization are sourced through referral. The underlying like-likes-like dynamic can create a compounding, degenerative effect on an organization’s diversity.

The question business leaders need to ask is, “Where is unconscious bias in my company and what is the impact?” and it’s vital that it be asked.

According to McKinsey's Delivering Through Diversity report, "Gender, ethnic, and cultural diversity, particularly within executive teams, continue to be correlated to financial performance across multiple countries worldwide." Yet, they also show a continued neglect of diversity across organizations.

The report also showed companies with the most ethnically diverse executive teams are 33% more profitable. A Catalyst study found that companies with more women in executive positions have a 34% higher return to shareholders than those that do not. What’s more, companies with the most women directors have a 26% higher return on invested capital than those with the least. And 37% of surveyed employees believe that gender diversity means better business results.

These studies and countless others show that with the myriad business benefits from diversity -- better innovative drive, creativity, recruitment and retainment efforts, and increased market share -- business leaders must act now not just to diversify their organizations but to minimize the unconscious biases still so pervasive.

That said, diversity for diversity’s sake is not enough to effect real change. Hiring employees with varied perspectives and backgrounds is merely a stepping stone to a united culture. The rest of the answer lies in facilitating inclusiveness whereby everyone is valued and group differences are embraced. The result is empowered employees who openly share their diverse perspectives: a win for the company.

Various parties can take their own measures to assist in building this type of environment. After all, inclusion is not what you think; it is how people feel. It is in the eye of the beholder, not the intender.

But again, like so many other organizational dynamics, the most effective measures start at the top. C-suite executives should promote inclusion by inviting and expecting their executive teams to speak openly and honestly with one another. However, the effectiveness of such conversations requires authentic awareness, which can be gained through established tools and programs. Below are key areas to explore as an executive team in creating your organization’s diversity and inclusion programs. They're part of Tiara Coaching's Conscious Inclusion program, which I tested in its earlier stages.

1. Define diversity and your executives' perception of it.

Have all participants reveal their perception of your company's diversity and inclusion strategies and ask them to write down how they would like to see their organization embrace each concept. Then, have them bring forward how they perceive themselves and their peers on this scale. To create self-awareness, assess how the persons they interact with most frequently perceive them on these dimensions. Some dimensions upon which to base these activities are:

• "Others think I understand their views."

• "Others think I am open-minded."

• "I am known for leveraging others’ strengths."

2. Establish goals and a plan for achievement.

Based on the work done in prior steps, have participants identify action items to ensure success. Real change demands stepping outside of comfort zones. To develop greater competency, for example, participants can take a class on listening or inclusive leadership, read books and listen to podcasts that will inform them about other cultures, offer different arguments to social issues, and more.

3. Summarize findings and actions and create accountability.

This last step encapsulates everything they have uncovered and the journey from there. Participants can select an “accountability partner” who will mutually check in progress. Milestones and dates will reinforce this accountability.

The domino effect of minimizing unconscious bias in the workplace will be profound not only for an organization's bottom line --but also for corporate culture. Business leaders have the unique power to spearhead real societal change by creating and promoting empathy, openness and vulnerability. Inclusive training, new inclusion processes and awareness tools will spur innovative and connected workplaces never before seen.

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