By Margery Weinstein
Review of Optometric Business
June 2, 2021
Recruiting, training and managing employees is a huge challenge for most practices. Human resources guidance that is available to you whenever you need it is a significant advantage. Knowing what to do to best care for employees, while preparing them to care for patients, frees up your time and mind, enabling you to focus on being a doctor. Here are the details on the game-changing, on-demand HR help, IDOC HR Now, that may change how you approach workforce management.
“IDOC HR Now, powered by Mineral, previously ThinkHR, is an on-demand new member benefit that helps save time and money researching and implementing complex HR requirements, allowing the practice to remain compliant as rules, laws and state requirements continually change,” say Geronda Wollack, SHRM-CP, Human Resources Services Administrator, IDOC, and Amy Alvarez, SHRM-CP HR Consultant, IDOC.
IDOC HR Now is a benefit that comes as part of IDOC membership and includes:
1. A dedicated hotline staffed with HR experts for quick turnaround on information about Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), COVID-19, employee investigations, wages, workers comp, handbook, and legal and state-specific requirement questions. Advisors are available via the web, phone or through a mobile app.
2. Unlimited access to standardized forms, document templates, checklist and legal alerts. This includes a paid time off request form, offer letter template and employee evaluation policy, among other resources.
3. A customizable handbook builder for every state and locality.
In addition to better equipping employees to care for and serve patients, the expert support from IDOC HR Now gives practices a chance to become more efficient.
“The time commitment and cost ODs incur just by interpreting laws or outsourcing the building of a handbook can be overwhelming. Even with office manager support, practice owners express interest in freeing up their time to focus on strategic approaches to grow their practice. By offering IDOC HR Now as a benefit to ODs, time and savings is granted and confidence is increased regarding compliance, with the abundance of HR resources that come with this new member benefit,” say Wollack and Alvarez. “The IDOC HR Now support for independent practices serves as a nice complement to IDOC HR Consulting. HR Consulting will remain an offering by IDOC based on membership selection to go deeper in the areas of recruiting and management effectiveness, for example.”
ROB spoke with two doctors who are making good use of IDOC HR Now to more effectively manage and train employees while ensuring the practice complies with HR laws.
Creating Opportunities for Employees
Sharon Powell, OD
East Fishkill Eye Care
“One of my greatest HR challenges is making sure employees are treated fairly, so they want to continue working here. I have employees who want to learn and try new things, and I want to use that to my advantage, providing them with new learning experiences,” says Dr. Powell, who notes how helpful IDOC HR Now has been in providing the resources she needs to give employees and the practice exactly what is needed.
For example, Dr. Powell, explains, she used the expertise of IDOC HR Now when planning the details of a continuing education benefit she would like to start offering employees. She learned there was a lot to consider and delineate before putting this benefit into effect. She now knows that she will have to stipulate exactly how much study time at work employees will be permitted, which employees will be eligible, the grades in the courses that will be required, how the courses will be paid for (what the practice will pay for and what, if anything, the employee will pay for) and what the protocol will be if an employee ends up leaving the practice mid-course.
IDOC HR Now has been especially helpful to Dr. Powell during the pandemic, for example, giving her guidance on the financial support for the practice that might be available to pay employees who take a day off to get vaccinated through the Families First Coronavirus Act (FFCA), so they don’t have to use their vacation time.
The people behind IDOC HR Now also were helpful in enabling Dr. Powell to accommodate an employee who has to take time off from work to care for a family member. She learned how to help the employee maximize her benefits through the Paid Family Leave (PFL) law in New York State, so she could take the time she needed. For instance, Dr. Powell learned that the employee does not have to use all the time guaranteed her through PFL at one time. This has given the employee and the practice the ability to better balance work and personal obligations.
As a new practice owner, who opened her office about six months ago, Dr. Powell has found the resources on the basics of small business operation invaluable, along with the many ready-made form-letter templates. She was quickly able to find out how to set up time sheets and the letters that need to be sent in an array of situations, including when hiring or terminating an employee, or when an employee stops showing up to work without giving notice.
“My time is saved—I can’t stand looking through a million websites to find answers about HR,” says Dr. Powell. “It’s super-efficient to be able to ask a question and HR experts get back to you with very pertinent answers. I can focus on seeing patients, not on doing HR research.”
Serving Employees Well While Staying HR Law-Compliant
Heidi Ying, OD
Vestal Eye Care Associates
“There are so many laws that are changing in our state that it’s hard to keep up with and even harder to understand all of them. Running a practice means wearing many hats, but becoming an HR expert is tough to do. Not clearly understanding the law may mean being non-compliant. That would be illegal and unfair to the practice and our staff,” says Dr, Ying, who points out the clear-cut guidance she receives from IDOC HR Now.
She says the on-demand help from IDOC HR Now guides her in the details of all laws impacting workforce management, so she knows the practice is legally in compliance. “One example is having the folks at IDOC HR explain, and at times interpret, the laws to make sure that the practice is in compliance, such as with our state sick pay laws. What are the options (there are a few) when it comes to sick pay policy? Another example is our state vaccination policy and those gray areas in which we would ask IDOC HR experts if it’s recommended to bring our COVID vaccination policy up during the hiring process. The IDOC HR people would recommend or not recommend these ideas and explain the reasons behind their recommendations,” says Dr. Ying.
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Along with making sure the practice is able to both manage and treat employees well, while staying within the law, IDOC HR Now is helping Dr. Ying update her employee manual. She wants to ensure employees fully understand and accept all the policies she has put into place with the help of the HR experts. “It’s a work in progress, and IDOC HR has a nice ‘wizard’ that is updated often, so we have a template to work with for both federal and state law idiosyncrasies.”
Dr. Ying says that staying on top of HR law has the added benefit of being able to show her community that she’s running a topnotch, reputable business. “It’s a perception and image issue of whether a practice has itself together,” she says. “Who wants to come to a practice that does not know what it’s doing?
During challenging times like the ongoing pandemic, a service like IDOC HR Now makes a world of difference to practice owners, says Dr. Ying: “I find this new service at IDOC HR to be extremely helpful. It takes a major difficulty in running a practice during a pandemic off my plate.”