7 Things HR Professionals Need to Know about Employee Benefits

Employee benefits are an important part of employees’ compensation, and as such, they are subject to a number of requirements and regulations at the federal, state and local levels. Here are some of the most important things HR professionals should know about employee benefits.

1. 50 full-time equivalent employees is the threshold at which many regulations kick in.

The Affordable Care Act and many other regulations have designated 50 full-time equivalent employees as the number at which an employer is subject to them. Companies with fewer than 50 full-time employees or a combination of full time and part time employees that are equivalent to fewer than 50 full-time employees are not subject to as many regulations, although there may still be some.

2. Federal, state and local regulations all apply to businesses and can be different.

Following federal regulations is only one step in the process of compliance and can lead to costly fines or even your business being shut down for non-compliance. It’s important to understand all the regulations and laws your business is subject to if you want to avoid problems.

3. Employers should provide the best benefits they can afford for their employees.

Offering better-than-required benefits is good for your business in several ways: you will attract better quality talent, your employees will be happier working for you, and they will stay longer than they would at a job without good benefits.

4. Benefits are more than just health insurance.

While there are more laws and requirements regarding health insurance, benefits also include paid vacation time and leave, flexible work arrangements like telecommuting or a flexible schedule, bonuses, and more.

5. Health insurance is for more than just physical health.

New requirements such as the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act require mental health and addiction treatment benefits to be on par with medical benefits, so employers must be sure their chosen health insurance plan meets these requirements.

6. Not only must employers comply, but they must also report.

The federal, state and local oversight bodies won’t know you have complied with their mandates if you don’t report to them that you have done so. The paperwork may seem onerous, but it’s the only way to show that you are in compliance. Help is usually available for small business owners who don’t have experience filling out paperwork of that type.

7. HR training is available for businesses that need help figuring out employee benefits.

CCSU offers an HR Certificate Program: Benefits course that teaches HR staff about employee benefits, including how to use them effectively in recruiting, compliance with laws and requirements, and how to handle benefits vendors and brokers to get the best deal for your company.

The course helps HR staff earn certifications through the Society of Human Resources Management and include resources from other HR-related organizations as well. You can view open courses to see all the HR and other continuing education courses CCSU offers.

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CCSU Instructor Interview Series: Tom Pincince

CCSU’s Office of Continuing Education has teamed up with Tom Pincince, CCSU’s Assistant Athletic Director, to develop a social media education program that will be offered to middle and high school administrators and teachers. It focuses on encouraging safe student use of social media.

Mr. Pincince got involved with social media education after listening to a speaker talk to the student-athletes at CCSU. His goal with his outreach is to educate the younger audience on responsible social media usage, and he has presented on this topic to students at over 50 schools in the state. As a father of three daughters, ages 13, 11 and 8, safe and responsible social media use is a subject that’s near and dear to his heart.

The new program with the Office of Continuing Education is an extension of the work he has been doing with students. He also plans to reach out to Human Resources professionals and develop a similar program for the professional worker, helping them understand that things they post on social media can have ‘real life’ consequences when it comes to their careers. The goal of each program is to stress the importance of making good decisions on social media.

In terms of educating students, Mr. Pincince says, “I think all too often we sit around and tell our students ‘no’, and when it comes to social media education, I believe this is the wrong approach. Instead of saying ‘don’t do this,’ we need to help our students understand why making good decisions is so important, but also show them that there are so many positives when it comes to social media. I want to show them what ‘to do,’ not just ‘what not to do.’ I have spoken with parents and kids all over the state of Connecticut about this, and my feeling as a dad, first and foremost, is that open and honest discussion is important when it comes to educating our kids—and our students—about this topic.”

Mr. Pincince is excited to take his program to the next level with CCSU’s Office of Continuing Education. He is looking forward to a great partnership. If you’d like to learn more about Mr. Pincince’s work on social media education, please visit his website: www.takethisplayoff.com

8 Great Ways to Keep Your Brain Active as You Age

Research into brain degeneration like Alzheimer’s and dementia has shown that the degeneration seems to be connected to decreased connections between brain cells, which can occur as you age. Fortunately, there are things you can do to stimulate your brain and increase the connections between brain cells and keep our brains functioning as well as they possibly can.

Here are some fun and effective ways to keep your brain active and stimulated so that deterioration will be slowed or stopped completely.

1. Get enough sleep.

Sleep is the foundation of everything else you do—if you don’t get enough sleep, you won’t have the energy for other productive activities that can help stimulate your brain. Also, sleep is necessary to move a memory from short-term to long-term storage so you can recall it in the future. A short afternoon nap may also help long term memory and improve focus, even when you get enough sleep at night.

2. Exercise regularly.

Exercise can help just about everything about the way your body works, including brain function. Concentration, mood, and quality of sleep are all related to brain function, and they are all improved by 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise five times per week.

3. Be more social.

Being with people you enjoy releases hormones that improve your mood and can even prevent depression, but socializing also improves brain performance and has been shown to decreased risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia.

4. Do puzzles.

Puzzles stimulate the brain in different ways than other activities do, and different types of puzzles can even exercise different parts of the brain. Puzzles are available in newspapers, on apps and websites, and in books you can purchase. Jigsaw puzzles are also good for brain stimulation.

5. Read.

Reading keeps your brain working continuously, even when the reading material isn’t particularly challenging. Reading novels requires remembering details, noticing foreshadowing, and understanding the various elements of the story. Non-fiction usually requires remembering facts and details so that the writing makes sense.

6. Eat a healthy diet.

A healthy diet can help you think more clearly by providing nutrients that enhance brain function. Whole foods are better than processed foods because they are higher in nutrients and lower in chemicals, fats, and other harmful substances. Supplements can also help to fill in dietary holes when they do occur.

7. Use all your senses.

When you use more of your senses as you learn something new, more of your brain is involved in making the memory permanent. The sense of smell, in particular, can be powerful in activating memories, even long-buried ones.

8. Be a lifelong learner.

Taking courses and learning about subjects that interest you has been shown in studies to improve mental functioning as you age. People with higher levels of education have lower incidences of brain-deteriorating diseases, but even continued learning later in life has positive benefits. New brain cells and connections can form even after years of not being used very much.

CCSU offers many courses for continuing education to help older learners continue learning and keep their brains active. Join our mailing list to get updates about new courses.

6 Advantages of Learning a New Language

In an increasingly multicultural world, knowing more than one language can come in handy. Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, or your company operates in a global market, being multilingual is an asset in both your personal and professional life. Here are some advantages of learning a new language.

1. Exercise for your brain.

Students of foreign languages score better on standardized tests, and older learners’ brains grow in ways that signify higher intelligence when they learn a foreign language. It takes considerable effort to learn a foreign language, which gives your brain a good workout and teaches it to work in different ways. The bottom line is, learning a foreign language exercises your brain and keeps it working the best it can.

2. Increased professional opportunities.

Learning another language can open up opportunities for jobs in a different country or working with people from other cultures within the U.S. Some jobs even require employees to be bilingual, and if you’re fluent in another language, you can also work as a translator. For other jobs, being bilingual is a plus and can get you higher pay or other benefits, or it can give you an advantage in being hired, even if it isn’t a requirement.

3. A better time on vacation.

Being able to speak the language fluently will earn you respect in many foreign countries, and you will be able to communicate with locals to learn about attractions and good places to eat that tourists aren’t typically privy to. Also, understanding people when they speak to you will make you feel more at home and comfortable, and can help if you need to deal with an emergency situation while you are there.

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4. Help with rational thinking.

Learning a second language helps with decision-making by letting you come to a meaningful conclusion more quickly. The act of going back and forth between two languages enhances rational thinking abilities as well.

5. Improvement of memory.

Having to remember words, phrases and sentence structures from two or more different languages improves the memory of learners and can even help to stave off Alzheimer’s and dementia. This advantage can be especially beneficial for older people in the target age for these diseases.

6. You learn English better.

Learning the grammar and mechanics of an additional language often helps reinforce people’s knowledge of English grammar in the process. Conjugating verbs in another language requires an understanding of how to conjugate English verbs, and so on.

There are a few different ways to learn a new language. Immersing yourself in the culture where that language is spoken is one way to learn, but not many people can afford to move to a different country just to learn a new language. There are online programs and software that teach foreign languages, but many people find they don’t have the self-motivation to follow through and learn a language alone without any support or interaction.

CCSU offers customized language training programs that work around students’ availability and needs. Contact us for more information about how you can learn a new language with individualized support and guidance. Join our mailing list for updates on all the courses we offer.

CCSU Instructor Interview Series: Dylan Bernard

Dylan Bernard is an instructor with the CCSU Office of Continuing Education’s “Tech It Out” summer program.  Since June 2016, Mr. Bernard has helped with various “Tech It Out” classes, including 3-D Modeling, Power to Move, and the recent Sea-Perch course. His students have learned about biomedical engineering, how to make toys more accessible for children with disabilities, and how to create an underwater ROV.

Mr. Bernard graduated from CCSU in May 2017 with a degree in K-12 Technology and Engineering Education. He became involved with the “Tech It Out” program as a student and plans to continue teaching communications technology classes at the Portland School District this fall. He feels that CCSU prepared him very well for his teaching career.

“Working with the professors in the education department has been extremely beneficial because not only did they teach us about the technology and equipment, but they also taught us how to teach those tools, software, and equipment. I was able to take and incorporate a lot of what we did in class into my future classes.” He continues on to say that, “working with Continuing Ed has helped to build off what I’ve already done at CCSU, and with my cooperating teachers at my student teaching placements in Plainville.”

When asked to sum up how he felt about his time as a CCSU student and “Tech It Out” instructor, Mr. Bernard, a self-proclaimed “major Star Trek fan,” borrowed a quote from Jean-Luc Picard:

“Seize the time. Live now. Make now always the most precious time.  Now will never come again.”

Expert Interview Series: Sotiris Makrygiannis of Eliademy About Simplicity in Virtual Education

Sotiris Makrygiannis, the founder of Eliademy, is an international expert on mobility and educational technology. We recently spoke with Sotiris to learn more about how virtual education is evolving and improving.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Why did you decide to create Eliademy?

The story of Eliademy is filled with passion and determination for a better world. Our history is documented in multiple public articles, but today I would like to tell something that we never said before. Eliademy was created in a dark kitchen room 50km away from the arctic circle in a town called Kuusamo, Finland. Two friends came together and brainstormed about how to change education, and we agreed on one word: simplicity. We wrote down our predictions about what was going to happen in the next 10 years and set a course to become a “catalyst” for the transformation of education.

I’m happy to report that we predicted that we would become a top brand in five years, and we have done that in four. Our goal is to make education more accessible and affordable for all – not by ourselves, but by forcing all the market players to move toward that direction.

What do you think are some of the most important technological advances in the last ten years that have impacted the ability to create and offer online courses?

None.

What we are experiencing is a change in demographics. Teachers are more familiar with content creation tools and feel more comfortable with being online. The change is not in the technology; HTML has been there all the time. The simplicity of interfaces, however, has played a huge role.

We had video recording before, but today many shy people are now willing to record their teachings and post them online. We had live conferencing before, and today people are using more of these tools on daily basis. We had online services before, but they were over-complicated and offered way too many options and buttons. The concept of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) is not new; Feynman Lectures on Physics from the 1960s is an example of course that you could find on tapes that were available to anyone. So even MOOC is not “new,” but rather a clever marketing way of rebranding something that was there for decades.

Complete this sentence: “The most unusual or innovative online e-learning course that I have ever seen offered or created is…”

By Facebook and Google search and ADs algorithms. The sad part is that is promoting consumerism right now; otherwise, typing a question into Google’s search engine will eventually lead you to learn something new every day if you consciously pay attention and skip all the ads. It’s a shame that this is happening with a motive to sell you something. But if we will keep talking about it, those great developers at Google and Facebook will get the point of what it means “not being evil.” (At least I hope so, for the sake of our kids’ minds.)

What are some of the elements of online courses that help keep the attention of students?

Students will spend 11 minutes in a learning platform on average and across the many platforms that I have studied. Typically, six minutes of those will be watching a video, one minute will be spent on navigation, and the rest is allocated for answering quizzes or reading a text. Every minute taken away from social media is a good minute, so we included live web conferencing in our platform so teachers can also see and discuss course material in real time with their students.

These days, how do traditional brick-and-mortar universities view online courses? 

I think there is a bit of denial here that this transformation will not touch them nor change them. I think is wrong to resist and deny – or even worse, take actions just to claim that you are doing something in that area. Look at television broadcasters. They are failing rapidly. Who is on the rise? The new star armed with a single camera who can create entertaining videos and spread them via YouTube.

I believe in the power of an individual, and if universities don’t find those individuals and empower them, these institutions will eventually transform into something else. It could be that they become incubation centers for entrepreneurs or just centers for certification and testing – but definitely not as content distributors like they are today.

What do you think the “next frontier” is in the evolution of online courses and e-learning in general?

The human interaction between a mouse and a monitor is limited to a certain bandwidth. We have the technology to send photons charged with information directly to our eyes and also do direct connections to our brains. Those are technologies developed years ago for military helmets of aircraft personnel, where you need the highest level of efficiency between a machine and a human. Once we are convinced that this approach is safe (hopefully after a good amount of testing), then I believe the direct input of information into the brain is the next frontier.

All the information crowdsourced right now will not go to waste, but will somehow visually transformed and transferred to humans as experiences. All that artificial intelligence talk makes no sense since teachers are emotional human beings and not calculators. Thus, in order for AI to be able to teach, it needs to be emotionally stable and aware. We at Eliademy still believe in teachers and helping them acquire skills to become better educators, and all machine learning initiatives are focused on that front.

Want to stay on top of the rapid changes in online education? Join our mailing list.

Expert Interview Series: Marsha Weisleder of Langevin Learning Services Inc. About How to Effectively Train Trainers

Marsha Weisleder is a course leader for Langevin Learning Services with over 20 years of experience as a training professional who has trained thousands of clients. We recently had a chance to sit down with Marsha to hear her thoughts on best practices for trainers and coaches, the challenges they face, and the ways they help their students achieve their potential.

Why is Langevin better than other “train-the-trainer” coursework providers?

Langevin Learning Services is the world’s largest and most renowned “train-the-trainer” company in the United States, Canada, and abroad. Originating in 1984, we have trained thousands of clients from Fortune 500 companies and government agencies from over 100 countries. Our courses are skill-based, highly interactive, and relevant, and also incorporate real world scenarios. Our material is drawn from years of experience in the training industry and is based on well-documented research. Our main goal and focus are consistent: to improve performance on the job. We offer a one-year unlimited post-course follow-up service, and we always receive rave reviews from our clients.

If a trainer were to say to you, “Conducting real-world training sessions is more valuable for a trainer’s growth and development than taking additional ‘train the trainer’ courses,” how might you respond?

Yes, trainers can learn on the job. But think about having the ability to learn and apply best practices in a safe and controlled learning environment – all while getting valuable, constructive feedback from your peers and course leader. Which is better? I would choose the latter.

What are some common course design pitfalls that make training sessions less interesting? How can the trainer eliminate these from the curriculum?

Can you say, “Death by PowerPoint?”

Over the years I’ve been working with clients, I still see training materials that are basically a data dump or slide show featuring instructors standing at the front of the room reading slides to the group. Instead, let’s focus on tasks and the things people do in their jobs. Let’s present the information in an interactive way and give the participants plenty of opportunities for practice. As we say at Langevin, “Never do for the learners what they can do for themselves.” You know it’s a great course when the learners are working harder than the instructor.

Other than participants who are being forced to take a training course they don’t want to take, what are some other examples of “difficult participants,” and how should the trainer handle these individuals?

Unfortunately, it’s a long list. You’ve got the latecomer, the cell phone addict, the dominator, the know-it-all, the skeptic, and the sidebar talker, just to name a few.

Fortunately, there are simple strategies we can use to handle them. Typically, we start with subtle interventions where it’s not as obvious that we’re dealing with the issue. For example, if I have someone engaging in a sidebar conversation, I could move closer to that individual while I’m presenting, I could take a silent pause, or I could use that person’s name in a sentence. (You’d be amazed how often people react to hearing their own name, even if they’re talking.) I could even change up the table groups.

Now, if these subtle techniques didn’t work, I would then move on to a more direct approach with a private discussion. I would say the following, “I’m so glad that you’re here and I appreciate all of your insights in class. It’s just that when there are sidebar conversations, I get distracted. It would help me if we could limit them to break time. What do you think?” This type of language is respectful and nonconfrontational, and it always does the trick!

Finish this sentence: “The biggest difference between how adults learn and how children or teenagers learn is…” 

that adults bring a vast amount of experience with them. That means they want to speak, participate, and contribute to the session. Adults also want courses that focus on real-life problems rather than academic material. They don’t like their time being wasted. This means that trainers must use real world scenarios with a strong how-to focus.

What are some additional challenges that virtual trainers must face that don’t affect conventional trainers?

The biggest challenges are not being able to see the participants, managing a new learning platform, and dealing with possible technical issues. With regards to seeing our participants, we’re so used to making eye contact and interpreting body language. Luckily, we have other ways of reading our participants in the virtual classroom, such as feedback icons and comments in the chat pod. As for the new platform, it’s important to do your homework and master the virtual classroom software and tools so you can assist your learners. Finally, with technical issues we can mitigate unexpected issues by creating a troubleshooting guide. Most importantly, we should stay calm as we assess the situation.

What are some of the intangible benefits that a person might receive from completing a training workshop?

Participants walk away with renewed self-confidence that they can do their jobs better. They leave energized, refreshed, and ready to tackle challenges with a new perspective. All of this leads to higher employee engagement and morale.

Over the next decade, how much of a role will continuing education and professional development courses play in shaping future business leaders?

Continuing education will always play a vital role in shaping tomorrow’s leaders. Few of us are born to lead. So what do great leaders do differently than the rest? They continue to develop their skills so they can reach their full potential. They embrace learning so they can grow and take on new challenges.

I love this quote, “The key to success is to never stop learning. The key to failure is to think you know it all.”

Start your “never stop learning” journey today by viewing open courses.