Centerpiece

It happens all the time: An employee approaches someone from HR to ask for help. But occasionally, HR pros find their work conversations veering dangerously toward inappropriately personal topics—from how to handle retirement investments to life-and-death health care decisions.

Although high-income taxpayers entered 2013 with a cloud of uncertainty hanging over their heads, this much was clear: You’ll have to contend with a new 3.8% Medicare surtax on investment earnings. The new surtax was included in the 2010 health care law upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

It’s been a month since many of your employees made New Year’s resolutions to quit smoking in 2013. Are they sticking to their plans? The fact is, you should know. Plenty of evidence reveals that an employer can play a big role in helping employees snuff out their last cigarettes.

Hourly employees’ use of smartphones (as well as online email access from remote locations) has boosted worker productivity. However, it has also substantially increased the risk of off-the-clock-work violations.

You might spend more time navigating in Word documents than you actually do creating or editing content. Unlike pilots and boat skippers, we’re not taught to navigate the sea of text we encounter every day in our documents. Some handy tips:

If you’re still tracking your time for projects or clients with a spreadsheet, it’s time to transition to a modern tool, program or application such as one of these suggested by columnist Lindsay Olson.

Every company wants managers who can efficiently identify, define and resolve problems. Don’t assume that management applicants with top references and experience have great analytical skills. Instead, find out for yourself by asking some of these questions.

Nervous public speakers tend to rush. They mumble, mutter and stammer their way through their speeches, yearning to finish and get off the stage. Yet there’s a simple technique that calms anxious presenters: the well-timed pause. Use these guidelines to decide when to apply one.

Federal labor law requires HR professionals to do a lot of different things. Writing job descriptions is not one of them. Because this arduous task is optional, many organizations skip right over it. That’s not wise. There are many practical and legal reasons to draft (and up­­date) job descriptions.

Hurricane Sandy ... the derecho last June ... employers must be prepared for a variety of disaster scenarios. Two very practical matters employers must deal with in the aftermath of a disaster: workplace cleanup and paying workers. Federal law affects both.