Winter 2010
Vol 3, No 1
iVision Human Resources
quarterly newsletter

Happy New Year...or does it feel like that anymore? Every company we have worked with this month has said the holidays seem a long time ago and we are right back into the swing of things in 2010. For many of us, we are still figuring out this economy, how to use our employees effectively and still maintain or grow the business.

Because of that, we have decided to focus this newsletter again on workforce planning. Every business has a workforce plan of some kind or another even if they don't know it. Having the plan is one step, maintaining it and integrating it into the company culture and way of life is another. This article will give you some strategies on how to accomplish this.


Also, I will be presenting at the 2010 Women Entrepreneurs Conference on February 18. This is a full-day program designed to provide women entrepreneurs with essential steps to business success, including legal, tax/business planning, marketing, communications, human resources, and social media strategies. For more information, please visit


Finally, Heide Lidstrom-Olson, owner of All in One Accounting, is a our guess contributor this quarter. Her business provides  small and growing businesses CFO and accountant services. You can contact her for more information at

Julie McDonald

Industry & Legal Update
COBRA Health Coverage -Subsidy Extended

The government has extended the COBRA subsidy from 9 months to 15 months. To find out what this means for your company, call us for more information on notification requirements.

Something to make you go hmmm...

"We have no patent on anything we do and anything we do can be copied by anyone else.  But you can't copy the heart and the soul and the conscience of the company. "

-Howard Schultz, Chairman of Starbucks

In This Issue
Beyond the Workforce Plan
Use Tax Information

Quick Links

iVision website


HR Q & A

Question: What basic Human Resource policies should I address for my company?
 Answer:  Small business owners should make sure they cover the basic issues in their policies:
Equal Employment Opportunities, Employee classifications, workdays, paydays and pay advances,
overtime compensation, meal periods and break periods, payroll deductions, vacation policies, holidays,
sick days and personal leave,
performance evaluations, performance improvement, termination policies
Submit your question on any HR topic.
If it's featured in our newsletter we'll treat you to a cup of joe!
Beyond the Plan: Put your Workforce Plan in Motion
iV color logo

The ups and downs of the economic cycles have had a tremendous impact on small businesses.  This may also have impacted your workforce in positive and negative ways.   Being able to proactively hone in on talent within and outside your company allows you to more efficiently forecast future needs.

We have discussed workforce planning in previous newsletters but putting it in motion and maintaining the plan is the most difficult piece to accomplish. There is no standard format or formula that each company follows.  It may contain only a succession plan or be a full restructure of your company with a recruiting plan.  Each of the elements of workforce planning- recruiting, retention, redeployment, leadership and employee development are easy to implement on their own but putting them together to have a "Workforce Plan" can be a daunting task. 

Everyone can agree that business can be very cyclical.  There are periods of growth and periods of recession; which tend to occur every couple of years depending on the industry and economic marketplace.  Preparing an approach for these different phases is a way to lessen the impact or prepare for abundance when it comes to the talent in your company.

What impact can a Workforce Plan have on your company?

1.    Eliminate surprises by having a rapid talent replacement strategy - the capability to rapidly define vacant positions due to sudden or unavoidable turnover so your company doesn't miss a beat.

2.     Proactive preparation for business cycles -Smooth out your business cycles by having processes in place that can ramp up or down your talent inventory to work effectively during good and lean times. This can come in 3 ways:

a.    No delays - to ensure the company can meet its goal by employing the right amount of people

b.    Have the right skills- having the brightest people for the job with the right skills efficiently operating and an optimal level to meet your goals

c.    Employee development-being able to ramp up quickly on new projects because the company has trained and/or cross-trained its workforce to meet new project needs

3.    Early problem identification -If you have a way to identify a shortfall or abundance of talent, it will be easier to minimize the potential damage.  Having a process in place to "alert" manager of these issues can make things seem minor instead of turning into a major crisis. 

4.    Prevention of costly issues -problems can be costly and expensive to fix.  The following strategies are ideal:

a.    Lower turnover rates - employees are continually being groomed for new opportunities that fit in their career interests and capabilities.

b.    Lower labor costs -capability is developed to rapidly reduce labor costs or the replacement of labor without the need for large scale layoffs.

c.    Managing headcount-trying to avoid the need for layoffs ensures the company won't have a surplus of headcount

So you want to put the plan into motion?

  To realize those impacts listed above, work through the following plans and forecast to put these in place at your company.

1.    Talent Forecast -Process for predicting upcoming changes in demand and the supply of talent. This is broken down by:

a.    Estimate increases or decreases in company growth, output and revenue.

b.    Estimate the change of talent needs as a result of the growth. 

c.    Projections of future vacancies

d.    Estimate of internal and external availability of talent

2.   Talent Action Plan - outlines what actions need to take place by HR, Owners or Managers. The plan is designed to attract, retain, redeploy and develop the talent that the company needs in order to meet the future needs. The goals include who is responsible, the budget, timetable and measureable results.  

3.   Integration Plan All stakeholders and managers must be in agreement and have a responsibility to integrating the plan. Metrics may need to be put in place to ensure that the follow through is taking place.  

- In order to be successful, the plan needs to be fully implemented into the company.   The day to day operations of the company can quickly overcome a well thought out plan when it comes to executing it.  This needs to become the company's new way of thinking including how it's communicated, supported and rewarded. 

Back to the top
Use Tax Information
by Heide Lindstrom-Olson, Owner All in One Accounting

If you buy a taxable item for your own use without paying sales tax, you probably owe use tax.

The tax rate is the same for both sales and use tax, and the same exemptions apply. Use tax is due on taxable items and services used in Minnesota if no sales tax was paid at the time of purchase. The general use tax rate is the same as the state's general sales tax rate, 6.875 percent. All general local sales taxes also have a corresponding use tax at the same rate.

While sales tax is collected by the seller and paid to the state by the seller, use tax is self-assessed and paid by the purchaser (end user). The purchaser pays the tax directly to the state.

Keep track of your purchases subject to use tax and report them when you report your sales tax. Also, keep a record of the purchases on which you paid use tax, noting the date reported and paid.

Some cases when use tax is due:

You buy taxable items by mail order, from a shopping channel, over the Internet, etc., and the seller doesn't collect Minnesota tax from you.

You buy something exempt intending to resell it in your business, but instead take it out of inventory for business or personal use.

A seller in another state or country does not collect any sales tax from you on a sale of an item that is taxed by Minnesota's law.

A Minnesota seller fails to collect sales tax from you on a taxable item.

An out-of-state seller properly collects another state's sales tax at a rate lower than Minnesota's. In this case, you owe the difference between the two rates.

Important Note:

You will not receive a notice to remind you to file your return or pay the tax due, so it's important to know the due dates listed below.

Monthly filers - 20th day of the following month.

Quarterly filers - April 20, July 20, October 20 and January 20.

Annual filers - February 5 of the following year.

Annual filers must file on a calendar-year basis, not fiscal.