DOL Salary Requirement Update

On April 23rd, the Department of Labor released the final minimum annual salary requirements to classify employees as exempt from overtime.

The salary amount will increase effective July 1, 2024, again January 1, 2025, and the rule puts into place auto increases every three years starting January 1, 2027.

  • Current minimum annual salary: $35,568 ($17.10 per hour)
  • Minimum annual salary effective July 1, 2024: $43,888 ($21.10 per hour)
  • Minimum annual salary effective January 1, 2025: $58,656 ($28.20 per hour)

Employers with employees who are currently classified as exempt from overtime should take the following steps.

  • Review affected positions under the white-collar exemption duties test to verify it meets criteria to be exempt. (DOL Exemption Test Resource)
  • Determine amount of hours worked over 40 in a work week.
  • Evaluate if those positions should transition to hourly or increase the annual salary.
  • Communicate early with employees impacted so they understand how this may impact their earnings.

For more information on this topic visit the Department of Labor’s site or contact your KT advisor.

April 29, 2024

Utilizing AI for your HR Needs

Over the past few months, I have enjoyed experimenting with the free version of ChatGPT. This artificial intelligence (AI) tool provides an efficient way to generate content for routine human resources (HR) tasks applicable to any employer. My first use was to generate new interview questions for an entry-level accounting position, the second was to create a to-do list for my husband. I received great time saving results from both!

Here are a few ways that you can utilize AI to quickly supplement your HR function:

  • Job Descriptions
  • Interview Questions
  • New Hire Process Checklist
  • Exiting Employee Process Checklist
  • Employee Handbook Policy Listing
  • Standard Personnel Policy Drafting
  • Stay Interview Questions
  • Payroll Review Checklist
  • Benefit Open Enrollment Communication Templates
  • Employee Offer Letter Templates
  • Performance Improvement Plan Templates
  • To-Do Lists for Compliance Tasks

All the above options are ways to streamline your HR function or perform the fundamentals if you are an HR team of one.

As an important reminder, AI is a tool. Everything it produces should be proofread, verified for accuracy, and modified to meet your business needs. I encourage you to take a few moments to explore what AI can do for your business.

November 2, 2023
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Join our Team – Work Seasonally for KT!

Effectively managing personnel for KT’s Tax department provides the staffing challenge of finding the ever-elusive seasonal employee. For the 2024 tax season, I am taking this challenge as an opportunity to share why seasonal positions are our best kept secret.

KT annually employs seasonal tax and administrative professionals to supplement our workforce from January through April. We welcome applicants to work onsite in our offices located in Gillette, Rapid City, and Spearfish, or in the case of an experienced tax professional, remotely.

Why only work four months out of the year?

  • January through April is cold! Take this time to earn some cash, so you can enjoy spring, summer, and fall in the Black Hills.
  • Great opportunity to secure future full- or part-time employment.
  • Continuing professional education provided to gain or maintain licensure.
  • We feed you twice a week!
  • You become part of a team that works hard and plays hard. This includes celebrating in Deadwood after the April tax deadline and inclusion in Firm events throughout the remainder of the year.
  • You will be an integral part of serving our clients.
  • Compensation that rewards performance to return year after year.

Who are we seeking?

  • Parents working around childcare/school schedules.
  • Retired individuals.
  • Students taking courses online or in between semesters.
  • Business owners who operate during peak tourist times.
  • Individuals looking for a professional employment setting to enhance their skills.

If you feel our seasonal opportunities are a fit for you, please contact Kristy or Steph at 605-342-5630 or apply through our Careers page.

September 13, 2023

Performance = DOA

Addressing employees who are not meeting your performance standards is a challenging feat. And unfortunately, no one has come up with a pill, magic wand, or corrective recourse. That means to be successful, you must learn how to effectively address performance issues.

Below I have outlined the don’ts and the do’s when addressing performance problems in the workplace.

DON’TS – Things I would not recommend:
• Be passive aggressive.
• Talk about the issue with everyone but the employee.
• Wait to address the issue until it is time for promotion or compensation increase.
• Rate them as average until they are moved to a new supervisor.
• Create an environment that motivates them to quit.
• Respond or react emotionally.
• Make an employment decision before you have all the facts.

DO’S – Things I do recommend:
• Diagnose the problem. The best advice I received is to use the equation Performance=DOA.
o D – Does the employee have the desire to do the job?
o O – Have they had the opportunity to meet your expectations?
o A – Do they have the ability?
o The answers to these three questions need to align to equal performance.
o Once you diagnose the root of the issue, then you can decide how to respond.

• Be prompt in addressing the issue. Why give it time to get worse? A lag in response can also lead to headaches if you decide to take employment action in the future.

• Create a conversation checklist. Go into the meeting to discuss the issue with a plan. Be direct but human and assume most employees do not intentionally want to perform poorly.

 I want to speak with you about this specific issue.
 Here is what I observed.
 Here is what I expect. (Have the policy or procedure to reference if there is one.)
 What is causing the expectation to not be met? Ask and then listen, this is where you diagnose.
 This is how we work to correct the issue.
 Set a timeline for improvement and define the improvement metrics.
 Here is what will occur if there is no improvement.
 This is how we will communicate as we work towards a successful resolution.

• Document. If it is not in writing, it did not happen. Documenting the conversation, issue, and action items ensures the employee is receiving the message correctly. It can be easy to not hear or hear something different during a conversation. Documentation also is your foundation for any future employment action and the communication tool for their next supervisor or others to reference performance history.

• Act if no improvement. Follow your progressive disciplinary policies to take the next steps. Sometimes the employee is just not right for the job. Do not let that affect the rest of your employees or the success of your business.

In short, be ready to diagnose, prepare, listen, document, and act, and do so with empathy. By following these recommendations, you will see improvements in your employee performance review process.

June 20, 2023

Workplace Wellness

In July 2022, I joined the Ketel Thorstenson team. When our CEO asked me to focus on workplace wellness, I knew I had landed in the right place. Not because I wanted a discounted gym membership or to make employees eat more broccoli, but because our CEO recognized the importance of investing in employees. 

Workplace wellness is a huge concept; it’s an action, a noun, a feeling. How as an employer do you take what has become an essential focus in today’s business world and do it right? Regardless of the size of employer you are, I would argue wellness is not about benefit additions. Wellness at work is about how your employees feel about work (yes, feelings), perceive their value, and experience purpose in what they do. While I champion any employer who can supply monetary wellness benefits, I encourage you first to focus on what only requires your intentional focus.  

Intentional focus on a healthy workplace will yield retention and recruitment of the right fit for your business. Here are seven recommendations to improve the wellness of your workforce as you roll into 2023. None are breakthrough discoveries, but they are tried-and-true efforts that will make a difference. 

  1. Ask employees what motivates them to work for you and capitalize on this; I am confident this is not money. If they like their coworkers, focus on diversity, equity and inclusion. If they like those they serve and support, increase their opportunities. If they like learning, train them! 
  1. Ask your employees what makes their job difficult. Fix what you can, and address what you cannot.  
  1. Seek out people who make work difficult or unpleasant for other people and speak to them. One great performer making work miserable for everyone else is not worth retention.  
  1. Communicate and support avenues for employees to share where they may need help. If mental health or outside of work influences are causing stress, have an open discussion, suggest resources, follow up and support.  
  1. Walk the talk. Whatever you say you support at the top of your organization, embody it yourself. If you want to reduce sugar intake for your employees, stop buying donuts for meetings and supply healthy options in the breakroom.  
  1. Over communication. Anxiety is the simple concept of looking ahead at things unknown and not feeling in control. Making you envision stress and worse case in your mind. Tell employees everything you can as soon as you can. 
  1. Check in. Put an intentional reminder in your calendar to make sure you touch base with everyone you supervise on a routine basis. Ask them how they are doing, what they need, and express appreciation. 

Employees who show up to work, want to be a part of your organization and keep your doors open are invaluable. Invest in the benefit of their wellness by providing your time, listening, and following up with support. You cannot control an employee’s wellness, you cannot make them eat right or work out, but you can affect how they experience 40 hours of their week.

January 9, 2023

Helping Staff Deal with Burnout

Have you seen a change in your staff’s behavior lately?  Do they seem less engaged?  Are your top performers no longer meeting your expectations?  Have you seen an uptick in sick days or requests for time off?  If so, your staff may be feeling the effects of burnout.

What is employee burnout?  It’s defined as a response to prolonged exposure to emotional, physical, and interpersonal stressors (like a pandemic or staffing shortages) that cause staff to feel constantly tired, fed up, annoyed, and as if nothing they do makes a difference.  Sound familiar?

Burnout can negatively impact your entire team or one staff member.  No matter if it’s one person or many people, it can negatively impact your business.  The first step to combat burnout is for supervisors and managers to understand the signs of burnout.  Here are just a few.

Physical symptoms of burnout

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • Loss of productivity
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of appetite or change in eating habits
  • Lack of sleep

Mental symptoms of burnout

  • Constant worry and anxiety
  • Inability to focus clearly
  • Increased mental distance or apathy

Emotional symptoms of burnout

  • Feelings of negativity or cynicism
  • Irritability
  • Emotional fragility or heightened sensitivity
  • An increased tendency to start arguments or make harsh comments

Once you understand the signs, the next step is to help staff deal with burnout.  There are a few things supervisors and managers can do to help their staff through these tough times.

Get to know your staff one-on-one.  Even though your entire staff maybe experiencing burnout, it is important to have individual conversations and try to get to know your staff individually.  Schedule a one-on-one with every staff member, ask them questions about their life, ask them how things are going at work, what is causing them frustration, and how you can help them.

Be an advocate for your staff. One of the most important roles a supervisor or manager has is to serve as an advocate for their team.  This means your focus is to ensure your team is taken care of and supported.  So, if you can, offer flexibility with their schedules, grant their time off, manage their workloads, and be open to new ideas.

Provide access to resources.  One easy way to help staff is to provide access to resources.  This can be as complicated as providing your own wellness programs and guides or as simple as pointing them in the direction of those who can help.  Keep in mind you are not expected to be a mental health professional; instead identify creditable resources.  A great resource is the South Dakota division of National Alliance on Mental Illness (namisouthdakota.org).

Demonstrate compassion and empathy.  It’s not only staff who deal with burnout, supervisors and managers do as well.  There are bound to be times you feel frustrated with your team or the outcome of a situation.  In these situations, remind yourself to view the situation through the lens of compassion and empathy.  Ask yourself, what is truly the root cause of the situation and how best can I approach my team?  What’s best for the team? Remember, the answer may vary by individual.

Take care of yourself!  As I mentioned above, staff aren’t the only ones experiencing burnout.  You do too.  So, prioritize taking care of yourself; set boundaries, take time off, and ask for help.

Dealing with staff member burnout is challenging. However, supervisors and managers can do things to identify the signs early and be proactive about addressing them. By taking action you’ll hopefully be able to minimize the negative impact burnout can have on your team and business.

January 12, 2022

OSHA COVID-19 Workplace Vaccination or Testing Emergency Temporary Standard

Today, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released its highly anticipated Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) regarding a workplace vaccination mandate. The official regulation will be published with The Federal Register on November 5, 2021.

Which employers must comply with the regulation?

The regulation impacts all employers with 100 or more employees at any time while the ETS in effect.

According to OSHA an employer must count each individual employee no matter how many hours they work or where they work. For example, an employer with 50 full-time employees and 50 part-time employees meets the 100 employee requirement. Likewise, an employer who has 75 employees working in an office and 25 employees working remotely from home meets the 100 employee requirement.

The employee count does not include independent contractors, individuals hired through a staffing agency, or those who do not work in the United States.

When counting employees, you count all employees as of November 5, 2021. If you have 100 or more employees as of that date, you must comply with the ETS and must do so going forward even if your count drops below 100. If your employee count is currently below 100 but increases to 100 or more during the time of the ETS, you must comply from that point forward.

What do we need to implement?

Employers need to get their employees vaccinated by January 4, 2022 or implement a weekly testing requirement for those who are not vaccinated. Employers also need to require all employees who are not fully vaccinated to wear a mask by December 5, 2021.

Impacted employers provide written documentation that outlines their vaccination policy to their staff prior to the January 4, 2022 deadline.

Employers must gather appropriate documentation from those who are fully vaccinated. Documentation includes a copy of their vaccination card, medical immunization records, or a copy of an official document from the health care provider that administered the vaccination. All documents are confidential and should be kept in a secure location.

Are there any employees who do not need to follow the policy?

Yes. Employees who work 100% at home or outdoors, do not need to follow the policy. An employee who works at home must not come into the office or interact in-person with co-workers or customers. They cannot be working in a hybrid at-home/in-office situation.

For those working outdoors, they must spend a minimal amount of time in an indoor setting and must not spend time in a vehicle with co-workers. This does not include those working in construction where a substantial portion of the structure is in place, such as walls and ceilings.

What’s required for those who are not vaccinated?

OSHA has outlined what is acceptable and not acceptable regarding testing for those who are not vaccinated.  Testing has to be implemented no later than January 4, 2022.

  1. The test must be done weekly or within 7 days from the previous test.  New hires must provide a test result prior to starting. If a positive test is presented the employee must follow the appropriate CDC guidelines.
  2. Tests used must be FDA approved. The test can be a rapid test (an antigen test), a PCR test (polymerase chain reaction) or over-the-counter (OTC) self testing kits. The ETS allows for the use of OTC self-tests that are observed by employers or authorized telehealth providers. Self-administered and self-read rapid tests are not acceptable under the ETS.
  3. Testing does not have be covered by the employer.
  4. Employers must gather appropriate documentation of all test results. All documents are confidential and should be kept in a secure location.

The ETS also requires those who are not vaccinated wear a mask when indoors and when occupying a vehicle with a co-worker. Employees are not required to wear a mask when they are alone in their offices, when eating/drinking, pulling mask down for identification processes, or when they are wearing a respirator or facemask for their work function.

What else do I need to know?

The ETS does outline some requirements for employers when it comes to allowing and paying staff to get vaccinated. These requirements must be in place by December 5, 2021.

  • Employers must provide paid time off to employees when they get vaccinated. Employers must provide up to 4 hours of paid time off per vaccination. This time cannot come out of any leave plans you currently have.
  • Employers must provide time off for those who have a negative reaction to the vaccination. This leave can be taken out of leave the employee already accrues (sick leave, PTO, etc.).

Employers are required to provide a written policy to all employees prior to the implementation of any processes. This must include information on vaccinations, testing, and face masks.

While legal challenges are likely to come, it is best to start this process to ensure you comply when the regulations take effect. Failure to do so may result in significant fines and penalties.

For more details on the ETS visit OSHA’s website at https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus/ets2.

We will continue to monitor this situation and post additional information as it becomes available; watch our social media.

November 4, 2021

Career Fair & Meet The Firm Tips

For many junior and senior accounting students September and October are busy months. They are taking mid-term exams, working on large projects, settling into the new routine of school, and, for most, beginning their search for an internship or full-time position. These searches begin at a career fair or meet the firms event.  For a majority of students, attending these events might be the most stressful part of their fall. 

Here are a few time tips that might help ease some of the stress of attending a career event.

Be Prepared

It’s never easy walking up to a stranger and introducing yourself, let alone asking them for a job.  Having a short prepared introductory speech will help. Develop and practice a 30 to 60 second pitch that tells the recruiter who you are, what skills you have, and what your career goals are. This will make that initial interaction go more smoothly.

Just like for any class you’ll need to do some homework before you attend the event. Figure out which companies are attending and which ones you want to talk to. Then prioritize that list and do some research into the companies. Having a plan will make your experience more enjoyable.

While the recruiter will probably ask you most of the questions it is always good to have a few prepared questions of your own. I recommend asking the same questions of every company, this will give you the opportunity to determine which company is best suited for your needs/goals.

Dress the Part

A career event is not only your opportunity to get to know companies that are looking for talented students, but it’s also their opportunity to begin the interview process. So dress like you are going to an interview; don’t just swing by after class in your jeans and sweatshirt. Dress professionally.

Also, leave the purse and briefcase at home, these will only be a hindrance to moving easily through the crowd and having your hands open for that important handshake. I do recommend bringing with you a folder that has copies of your resume to and handout if needed.

Show Initiative

Remember the recruiter is there in order to meet the students, so take the initiative and walk up to them. Be confident and friendly, maintain eye contact, have a firm handshake, and focus on that recruiter; don’t think about what company you are going to next.

You’ll meet and talk to a number of different people at a career event and sometimes remembering it all can be difficult. I recommend taking notes or jotting down some thoughts about the company as soon as you leave their table. Taking a few seconds to write some thoughts and impressions down will help you in the long run. One networking trick is to ask for a business card and make notes on the back. This way you’ll remember the person and company.

Allow Plenty of Time

Going to the event should be a priority, not an afterthought. Take the necessary time out of your day to attend; make sure you have plenty of time to talk to all the companies you want to and not feel rushed. 

Follow-up

If you spent a significant amount of time talking to a particular recruiter and you want to continue the conversation after the event, make sure to get their business card. After the event follow-up by sending a thank you note or email. Letting them know you are still interested in the company and opportunity to work for them. This is a great way to stand out from the crowd of individuals they meet at the event.

With these few tips your next career fair or meet the firms event will be stress free and, hopefully, enjoyable.

September 13, 2021

Career Fair Tips

For most the month of September means end of summer, cooler weather, and the beginning of football season.  For us at Ketel Thorstenson it means recruitment season!  Over the next few weeks we’ll be spending time on a number of college campuses looking for interns and full-time hires.

For some of you, the recruitment process starts with an on-campus career event.  While these events are great ways for you to get to know the different accounting opportunities firms offer, starting a conversation with a recruiter can be difficult.  In order to help you out, here is a simple three step process for developing a unique introductory speech.

Step 1.  Do Your Homework

The first step is to research the firms that will be at the career event. Focusing on what services the firm provides, their culture, and the recent or current events they have going on. By knowing more about the firm and what is currently happening at their offices you’ll be able to find a unique way to connect with the recruiter.  Maybe their mission statement or core values resonate with you.  Or they have an office in a city you’ve always wanted to live in.  Maybe they provide a unique service that you find interesting or want to know more about.

The information you find will help you develop a unique introductory speech that will help you stand out from the crowd.

Step 2. Review Your Resume

Step two is all about you.  This is the time to review what you want to convey to the recruiter.    The obvious information is going to be your name, what year you are in school, when you anticipate graduating, the degree you are getting, and what type of opportunity you are looking for (internship vs. full-time position).  To go beyond the obvious think about what you want to do when you are done with school, what size firm you want to work at, how working for the firm would help you get your dream job, and where you see yourself in 5 to 10 years.

By looking inward you can better understand what you are looking for thus determining the purpose of attendance the event.

Step 3. Develop Your Speech

The final step is to put the information you gathered in steps one and two into an introductory speech.  The speech shouldn’t be long, but a concise introduction of who you are and your connection to the firm.

Maybe something like “Hi, I’m Amanda.  I’m currently a senior and plan on graduating with my Bachelor’s degree in May 2019 with plans to go on to get my Master’s.  Once I have enough credits I do plan on sitting for the CPA exam and my goal is to work for a mid-sized CPA firm in the Midwest.  I was on your website and noticed the firm recently opened a new office in South Dakota; that’s got to be exciting.  I’m very interested in finding out more about what your firm is offering for internships at any of your locations; but I am very interested in an opportunity with your newest office.  Are you currently looking for interns?”

Now practice your speech until you feel comfortable with it.  Maybe ask a friend or family member to help.  Don’t forget practice makes perfect, it also can help reduce some of the nervous energy most students feel when attending a career event.  Best of luck!

Our team is getting ready to be on a college campus near year and are eager to talk with you about our internship and full-time opportunities.  For the full list of college events we’ll be at go to our website, https://www.ktllp.cpa///careers/student-careers/.  See you all soon.

September 7, 2018

Succession Planning: Ensuring Your Business is Around for Years to Come

As the working population ages, many of us will be faced with the retirement of our management leveled staff.  Unfortunately, most businesses aren’t prepared to handle the void these retirements will leave.  To ensure a smooth and successful transition, a well thought out succession plan is necessary.

Succession planning is much more than just having a pool of applicants to choose from.  It’s a process that ensures the business has the breadth and depth of talent necessary to fulfill and continue its mission.  Succession planning allows a business to not only fill critical roles, but also to allow for knowledge transfer and continuity of culture.

When developing a plan remember the following.

  • It’s not only about the CEO. What would you do if your Controller left or your Vice President of Operations retired?  Would that department continue to run at full capacity?  Think beyond the top and look at the critical roles that are necessary to make your business run smoothly and provide the best service to your community.
  • Job descriptions are essential. Make sure you have well-developed job descriptions for each of the critical roles.  A well-developed description will contain the position’s key skills, responsibilities, competencies, and requirements.  Having a well written description will allow you to better find the ideal candidate.  The job description should be reviewed regularly to make sure it accurately represents what the role requires.
  • It only works if the right people are involved. Don’t leave the planning up to one person or department.  Develop a committee that includes the key players from your business; CEO, Human Resources, Finance, Board of Directors, etc.
  • Have a plan, set dates, set expectations, and determine who will do what. Once you’ve set up your committee and put succession planning on the forefront, next you’ll want to have a plan in place.  Make sure to divvy up the responsibilities, set deadlines if necessary, and determine who has the authority to make decisions.
  • Assess your current staff and find your gaps. Are there staff members that show potential, who are your top performers?  Find these individuals and begin to groom them to take on these critical roles.  Continue to assess your staff to see if anyone new should be added to this list.  If you find gaps, begin a recruitment process in order to fill the gap.  Remember, it may be easier to find someone who needs a little grooming than an experienced person to fill a critical role.
  • Mentoring and training programs can prepare staff. If you are going to “hire from within” then make sure to develop your staff so they can best take on the new role.  Have in place a fully developed mentorship and training program; both can groom high performers for critical roles within your business.  They are also great retention tools.
  • Focus on retaining top performers. Retention is important for any employee, but it is extremely important for top performers who are part of your succession plan.  Make sure they are engaged and know they are a valued member of the business.  Perform “stay interviews.”  Ask them what makes them stay with the business, what causes them frustration at work, what their career aspirations are, and what motivates them.  Then use this information to develop a plan to retain that staff member.
  • Budget for additional costs. Budget for the financial impact you’ll see from implementing a succession plan.  You may see an increase cost in recruitment, training, retention, and compensation.

Having a succession plan will make sure your business is around for years to come, giving you the ability to continue to serve your community and its needs.

January 3, 2018