Give more time to your best employees – not your worst

March 3rd, 2015 by

The following post is by Bruce Clarke, CAI’s CEO and President. The article originally appeared in Bruce’s News and Observer Column, The View from HR.

Bruce Clarke, President and CEO

Bruce Clarke, President and CEO

We hear managers complain that too much time is spent on people problems. The same issues repeat with the same people. All the while, their best performers are quietly getting the job done.

Why do we let recurring problems keep us from mentoring, growing and rewarding the right people?

Managers make their livings solving problems. They do not like to fail and, believe it or not, they do not like to fire people.

They often overrate their ability to change employee behavior. Plus, they worry too much about getting the job done if they finally do remove a problem employee.

Put all that in a blender and you get lots of time spent on lots of problems that will never be resolved. More importantly, not enough time will be spent on the right people.

Turnover is not expensive; turnover of your best people is expensive. Ignore your best people, and another employer will spend quality time with them.

Here is a revolutionary idea: Spend at least as much time on the top 20 percent of your workforce as you do on the bottom 20 percent.

Reprioritizing time

Think about your neediest employee. Think of the hours spent with them, with your own manager getting advice, or with other employees complaining of the problems caused. Think about waking up at night worrying about how to solve those issues.

Now take that same number of wasted hours and imagine how you might use them with one of your best performers, someone who has the potential to grow, innovate, implement and maybe even take your role one day. How could you help them get ready to do more and learn more?

What if you involved them in more of your projects? Could you take them into negotiations or client problem-solving sessions? Would they learn from helping you to hire the next members of the team?

How about attending a conference together, talking about what they like doing and want to do next, helping them obtain short assignments in other areas, resolving work flexibility hurdles and doing anything that makes them more valuable and more loyal?

Less on problems, more on best

The managers who say they have no time for such things are often the ones who cannot find great applicants or retain their best people. They want a magic cure with little change in their own behavior when the truth is that the best people demand the best from their manager.

If you are a high-performing employee with an inattentive manager, maybe the problem is too many poor performers taking too much time. Be upfront about your need for a mentor, for regular discussion about your own growth and for opportunities to try new things. If you like the work and the culture, it is worth your effort. If you fail to get the help you need, you might have your answer.

Spend far less time on problem employees and much more on your best. Your life as a manager and your organization’s performance will both improve.

AAP: Changes to Veteran Self-Identification Solicitation

February 26th, 2015 by

CAI’s Manager for Affirmative Action Services, Kaleigh Ferraro, shares important information regarding AAP requirements and solicitation of self-identification information from veterans.  Make sure you are compliant.

Kaleigh Ferraro, Manager, Affirmative Action Services

Kaleigh Ferraro, Manager, Affirmative Action Services

On September 25, 2014, the Veterans Employment and Training Service issued a final rule changing the reporting requirements for employers covered under the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA).  This final rule rescinds the VETS-100 report and changes the annual veterans report from VETS-100A to VETS-4212.  This reporting change will allow employers to report on aggregated protected veterans rather than the individual veteran classification.  There will also be the option to report on veteran hires and total hires either by the EEO-1 categories or in total.

Since this changes, federal contractors and subcontractors subject to AAP requirements have been asking how this affects their solicitation of veteran classifications during the hiring process.  Regulation changes to VEVRAA effective in 2014 required contractors to solicit veteran status both pre job offer and post job offer.  The solicitation was different pre-offer versus post-offer.  The pre-offer form requested only for applicants to voluntarily self-id as “protected veteran” while the post-offer form requested individuals to identify as specific veteran classifications.  Since the VETS reporting in 2015 will report on aggregated veteran data, the post-offer requesting specific classifications seemed unnecessary.

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) responded on January 20, 2015 with guidance regarding the self-identification forms and solicitation.


  1. Federal contractors and subcontractors may use the same self-identification form for per-offer and post-offer solicitation during the hiring process. This form will invite applicants to voluntarily self-identify as “protected veteran”. There is no need to request specific veteran classification
  2. Contractors may continue to request specific veteran classification post-job offer if they choose to do so.


For more information on affirmative action and the recent changes within it, be sure to sign up now for our FREE one hour webinar AAP: What You Need to Know About Recruiting and Applicant Tracking on March 24, 2015.

Our affirmative action team at CAI is dedicated to helping you with all of your affirmative action needs. Whether it’s designing an AAP plan for your company, doing a full audit on an existing plan, or simply answering a few questions, please contact me directly at 919-713-5241 or

10 HR Practices that Destroy Small Business Productivity – Over-Limiting Sick and PTO Policies

February 24th, 2015 by

In today’s blog, Doug Blizzard, CAI’s Vice President of Membership, shares his first practice that destroys productivity for small businesses. He highlights over-limiting sick and PTO policies in this video session.

There is no perfect solution for sick time according to Doug. However, poorly designed policies encourage staff members to come to work sick or risk losing pay. Sick employees are likely not at the top of their game and are more likely to commit costly mistakes and infect their coworkers.

Instead over-limiting sick and PTO time, Doug suggests some alternatives. He says as a leader, model the behavior you want. If you don’t want people to come in when they’re sick, you shouldn’t come in sick.

He also encourages offering unlimited sick leave, which empowers workers to use their judgment and also serves as a valuable recruiting tool. Additional suggestions he gives include allowing employees to carry over unused time off from year to year and creating a trained pool of Per Diem workers.

If you would like help thinking through your sick and PTO policies, please give a member of CAI’s Advice and Resolution team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.


Anthem Cyber Attack – The Importance of Data Security

February 19th, 2015 by

The post below is a guest blog from Ellen Tucker who serves as Principal, Health & Welfare Consultant for CAI’s employee benefits partner Hill, Chesson & Woody.

security hcwAnthem, Inc., a Blue Cross and Blue Shield company providing health insurance in 14 states, has reported a data breach. Anthem is one of the country’s largest health insurer and the database that was hacked included names, birth dates, social security numbers, street addresses, email addresses and employment information for over 80 million current and former members. It does not appear that health records were accessed. The personal information could be used to steal the identity of millions of Americans in what may be the largest healthcare security breach in history. This brings heightened concern regarding the ability of health insurance companies to protect electronic medical records and claims data.

This breach has caused concern among employer groups insured by other BCBS plans. If they have employees in any of the Anthem states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin) or otherwise have employees or family members who have used providers in those states, they could be affected. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) confirmed that Anthem is a separate company with a separate technology system, and the breach occurred in their system – not BCBSNC’s system. At this time, there is no indication that a breach has occurred at BCBSNC. BCBSNC has multiple layers of data security in place, and they actively monitor their systems on a regular basis. BCBSNC said they are in close communication with Anthem and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association as the investigation continues. They are working with Anthem to determine whether the breach of their system impacted any BCBSNC members who live in or received care in Anthem’s area.

Clearly, health insurance carriers are vulnerable to data breaches that have affected retail companies and financial institutions. Any business that has personal information desired by hackers could be at risk for a cyber attack. Additionally, insurance carriers, brokers, and in some cases, employers must be aware of the responsibility they have regarding security for information that is considered protected health information (PHI) under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). PHI includes any individually identifiable health information created or received by a covered entity that relates to the past, present, or future mental/physical health of an individual, including provision for healthcare and payment for healthcare. Covered entities include group health plans, including employer-sponsored self-funded health plans, health reimbursement accounts, health flexible spending accounts and fully-insured health plans if they have access to PHI. Examples of PHI include any health information and an identifier such as a name, address, date of birth, telephone number, fax number, email address, Social Security number or medical record number.

In general, the privacy rules require a covered entity to make reasonable efforts to ensure that when it uses, discloses, or requests PHI for permitted purposes, only the minimum necessary to accomplish the intended purpose is used, disclosed, or requested. To comply with the security rules there must be administrative safeguards, physical safeguards and technical safeguards. Administrative safeguards include training employees who handle PHI, policies and procedures restricting access to PHI only when appropriate, and designating a security officer. Physical safeguards include protection of electronic systems and devices (laptop computers, cell phones, flash drives), and limiting physical access to facilities. Technical safeguards include automated processes used to protect data and control access, encryption and passwords, and software to record and examine access to information systems that store PHI.

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) passed detailed breach notification requirements as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. A HIPAA breach is the acquisition, access, use or disclosure of PHI that is not permitted and which compromises the security or privacy of the PHI. Affected individuals must be notified within 60 days of when the incident is known or should be known. There are also notification requirements to Health and Human Services, and to the media if more than 500 people are affected. Violation of the security and privacy rules can result in significant penalties, particularly as a result of the tiered increase in the amount of civil money penalties enacted under HITECH. Penalties range from $100 – $50,000 for each violation up to $1,500,000 in a calendar year.

Affected employers must decide their role in responding to the Anthem data breach. If the plan is fully insured, Anthem is likely responsible for notification to affected individuals. If the plan is self-funded with Anthem as the TPA, the Service Agreement and Business Associates Agreement should be reviewed to determine whether Anthem or the employer is responsible for notification. Employers that are not affected by the Anthem data breach should still assess their responsibilities regarding PHI under HIPAA and HITECH and take any necessary steps to ensure compliance


Innovate or Stagnate: Living your Passion

February 17th, 2015 by

The following post is from Peter Metzner. Through seminars and consulting, Peter helps leaders, teams and organizations better engage and align staff to business drivers and their overall mission. He is sharing his presentation Innovate or Stagnate: Leadership Skills for Today at the 2015 HR Management Conference on March 4 and March 5 at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh.

Business PeopleI once heard at a Symposium that:  “Genius is focused passion”.

To grow, to develop and become the best at your “art” is a meaningful calling or vocation.  Joseph Campbell writes: “Art is the making of things well.  The aim of Art is the perfection of the object”.

He also writes: “if you follow your bliss, you will always have your bliss money or not. If you follow money you may lose it and you will have nothing” (J. Campbell Reflections on the Art of Living” p. 39)

Ideally, to successfully innovate; we need to feel passionate about and love what we do. We also need to feel our work – our “art” is beneficial to others.    That is the rocket fuel that can propel us to new heights.

What keeps teams or individuals from performing optimally?

Sadly only 30 percent of employees in America feel engaged at work, according to a 2013 report by Gallup.  For many, work is a depleting, dispiriting experience, and in many ways, it’s getting worse.  Demand for our time is increasingly exceeding our capacity — draining us of the energy we need to bring our skill and talent fully to life. “Increased competitiveness and a leaner, post-recession work force add to the pressures. The rise of digital technology is perhaps the biggest influence, exposing us to an unprecedented flood of information and requests that we feel compelled to read and respond to at all hours of the day and night”.   (

To maintain engagement it is important to have enough rest and renewal to be productive. Over- work, stress and a lack of capacity leads to burnout.  Interpersonal conflict, unaware leadership and not feeling valued or appreciated add to the malaise that cause disengagement, lack of commitment and turnover.

When individuals and teams feel connected to a shared vision and mission that is inspiring and larger than themselves, positive energy and action is released. When relationships are trusting and safe enough to give and receive feedback and engage in constructive conflict; everyone becomes “smarter” than anyone one.  With trust, along with collaborative working relationships; individuals and teams have a greater sense of autonomy, input and buy in to their activities.  Harvard psychologist Kurt Lewin PhD, writes:  “When we are in a supportive environment we are much better equipped to deal with the complexities of our working lives”

As times change; technology advances and new applications and markets will emerge. Yet we need to always keep the timeless qualities that made us successful in the first place. Excitement, energy, common purpose and dedication come from feeling that we are doing what we do best, being challenged to be better in the service of something larger than ourselves.  A real and often forgotten challenge to keeping engagement and passion alive is not only to encourage but to ensure that the work-life balance of staff is maintained.

“When we are completely caught up in something, you become oblivious to the things around you, or to the passage of time.  It is this absorption in what you are doing that frees your unconscious and releases your creative imaginations”.   Rollo May, The Courage to Create

This is the place where synchronicities and “magic” happen.

In addition to innovation through engagement, the 2015 HR Management Conference will feature presentations on making technology choices, insights on the future of work, strengthening organizational performance and more. Visit to view the complete agenda and read more about conference speakers. Register today!


4 Tips for Improving Relationships with Your Coworkers

February 12th, 2015 by

Business people discussing.Depending on the environment you work in, you could spend a lot of time with coworkers or hardly any at all, but no matter the level of teamwork that your job involves, it is important to have healthy relationships with coworkers. Relationships with coworkers can help shape the work environment, company culture and company morale within an organization.

Workplaces are filled with a wide variety of personalities, so some relationships may be formed more easily than others. Try not to be dissuaded if a relationship doesn’t form right away with all coworkers. Every friend you have started as a stranger at some point, so do not be discouraged if it takes time to build relationships at work. Here are four ways to improve relationships with your coworkers:

Be honest and communicate

Do not be afraid to let your coworkers know that you want to get to know them so that you can work better together as a team. It is important that you communicate this honestly so that your friendly encounters are not interpreted as something else. It will also help you know how invested you can be with coworkers that may have differing styles of workplace behavior or are not used to working on a team.

 Find a common interest

Most friendships and personal relationships you have outside of work all start with a common interest, so try finding common interests with your coworkers. The common interest can be a number of different things such as you both like the same sports team or you enjoy the same type of music as another coworker. These common interests can spark conversations and lead to more conversations about other things outside of the office, strengthening your personal friendship with your coworker.

Get to know coworkers on a personal level

Now that you have established a common interest with your coworker, you can start to take it a step further so that you get to know them on a more personal level. You can do this by communicating more frequently and being an active listener. You can also begin to develop a friendship outside of the office as well, but this can take time, so make sure you do not jump into this too fast. Try inviting a coworker to have lunch with you one day or take a coffee break together. It is a good way to get out of the office, while still maintaining boundaries.

Be respectful of yourself and others

We have discussed ways to strengthen relationships with coworkers that lead to knowing them on a personal level, yet you may have coworkers that want to keep office relationships less personal. Be respectful of coworkers that want to keep office relationships strictly work-related. You can have healthy relationships with coworkers without making it personal.

Maintaining healthy relationships with coworkers can contribute to workplace success, yet also be mindful that there should be boundaries with these relationships. Having friendly and honest intentions is important so that relationships are not taken too far or become unprofessional. Keep in mind that you are building these relationships to help the success of your company.

For additional tips for improving relationships with your coworkers, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.


How Millennials Are Changing the Workforce

February 10th, 2015 by

The following post is from Dr. Kevin Snyder. A speaker, author and millennial consultant, Kevin has a passion for sharing information on employee engagement. He is sharing his presentation Engaging the New Frontier: How Millennials Are Changing the Workforce at the 2015 HR Management Conference on March 4 and March 5 at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh.

Portrait of three office workers.Millennials. Millennials. Millennials.

When you think about that term, what comes to mind? Depending on your age, your primary news and media source or what type of music you listen to, your answer will most likely vary.

Who are the Millennials? Quite simply, Millennials are those individuals born between the early 1980’s and early 2000’s. They are also called young professionals, Generation Y and Digital Natives who have grown up and been influenced in an extremely unique era – technology, 9/11, the Great Recession, unemployment, social justice, etc. Like every generation that has preceded them, they are unique to the culture, environment and defining moments in which they were born. It should be no surprise then that they will communicate and lead in different ways.

If your age is between 20 and 35, you’re a Millennial. If not, you likely have a Millennial child. If neither of these apply, you most definitely have Millennials in your office or within an organization you are involved. Millennials are both the college graduates passionately seeking work and they are also the 35 year-old mother of 3 who is a Director of Human Resources.

Millennials have been called many things – some accurate and some not. Some of the hype is designed to be controversial and sell magazines while some of it is utilized to foster positive discourse. Regardless, Millennials are a hot topic and understandably so. In 2015 they surpassed the Baby Boomers to officially become the generational majority. They now comprise the largest demographic in the workforce and their percentage continues to grow daily.

I have had the privilege of working in Student Affairs at several institutions for over 15 years. I have served as a Dean of Students and spoken for over 300 colleges and universities in all 50 states. During these visits, I have led hundreds of conversations, focus groups and surveys with Millennials asking questions about their goals, expectations and passions. What I have read and heard about Millennials in the media and near many organizational water coolers does not mirror my direct personal experiences. My passion for this topic sources from a desire to bridge the evident gap not just in the media but also in the workforce. How we speak about Millennials and our future generation is also how we are leading them now.

Why does this matter for you?

No matter what your business, organization or industry, Millennials are the future so it is beyond imperative to understand and be proactive about how to attract, engage and retain them in your organization. Your future success is influenced by learning about Millennials, how to embrace their creative strengths and how to make the most out from their involvement. In many organizations, they already hold high leadership roles and might even be your boss. That’s important. How Millennial-friendly is your organization?

Some organizations are getting it right and already reaping the rewards of engaged leadership and generational proactivity. Others are still living in the past, waiting for the cheese to reappear. Soon, those latter individuals and groups will ask themselves, “What happened? Who moved my cheese?” If you have read the popular book, “Who Moved My Cheese,” you already know the answer to that question.

There are important things every employer and organizational leader needs to know about Millennials to survive and thrive in the coming years. Understanding the characteristics and desires of Millennials will make a positive impact through corporate organizations, associations, churches, colleges and beyond. It does not have to be rocket science. Rather, it just needs to be intentional.

Join me at CAI’s HR Management Conference on March 4th and 5th where we will be having an interactive and enlightening conversation about Millennials. I’ll be presenting a session on Millennials and how to engage this powerfully unique generation in the workforce.

Find more information about Kevin at


Using Video Job Descriptions as a Recruiting Tool

February 5th, 2015 by

Advice and Resolution team member Renee’ Watkins shares how a Video Job Description can add a personal touch to your company’s next job opening.

Renee' Watkins, HR Advisor

Renee’ Watkins, HR Advisor

Video Job Descriptions (VJDs) are nothing more than a short video clip used to describe a specific opening to a potential applicant. These are not meant to replace the typical text narrative of the job description and desired qualifications. Instead, they are meant to enhance and present a more personal viewpoint of a job opening.

Text narratives are often developed using the actual responsibilities and duties of the position, coupled with the required and preferred experience and education levels, with some help and guidance from both Human Resources and the hiring manager. Today’s job applicant lives in a world of Facetime, Skype, YouTube and other communications involving face-to-face contact across a website or wireless network. To some, the written word has become boring and uninteresting.

A personal touch can be a great way to capture the attention of a potential job seeker. That can be accomplished by having an existing team member describe their experience with the company or by having the manager describe the position and their management style in a VJD. This type of medium establishes a personal rapport with the candidate as if the manager or employee were speaking directly to the candidate. It also makes an impression that your organization is progressive when it comes to technology and social media.

The many advantages of using VJDs to enhance your job descriptions include:

  • Message presented by someone working with or in this role on a daily basis
  • Projects energy and excitement about the position not present in the written word
  • Immediately establishes a connection between the applicant and the team
  • Candidates will typically watch a video but may only skim a narrative
  • Viewable and sharable on any mobile platform – extends reach to more people
  • Facility video tours can generate excitement and interest
  • Simple and inexpensive to create – does not require professionals
  • Consider enhancing your next few job opening announcements by creating a VJD as a link from the job description on your website career page and social media profiles.

Need some help with recruiting talent for your company? Please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746. The team is available 24 hours each day!

Advice for Handling Love at Work

February 3rd, 2015 by

The following post is by Bruce Clarke, CAI’s CEO and President. The article originally appeared in Bruce’s News and Observer Column, The View from HR.

love at workCupid may be especially busy on Valentine’s Day, but the icon of love is unstoppable year-round in the workplace.

Statistics show that one-third of employees will date someone at work and up to 20 percent will find their spouse or partner at work.

Managers should recognize that people will fall in like or love at work, and there is no law or best practice requiring you to prevent or end these relationships (good luck with that, anyway).

Most employers understand this dynamic, but know the emotions involved can cause real workplace problems if mishandled.

Events are hard to predict. Office romance is known as a disproportionate cause of workplace violence.

When one or both romantics are married to other people who may also work for the same company, you have a potentially explosive situation.

Perceptions of favoritism may cause problems, too. Employee morale is easily jeopardized, especially if one of the lovebirds is a manager with the power to promote and give raises to his or her favorite Valentine.

What does your company policy say about consensual workplace romance? You need to stay in compliance or get guidance.

Less than 15 percent of policies prohibit workplace romances, but all employers want to ensure there is no harassment or pressure.

Stay focused on your policy and on the workplace impact of behaviors. Private conversations with the individuals involved to clear the air and state the company’s position without preaching can be difficult but very important.

Put the burden on the employees to prevent bad situations. Carefully consider with HR any issue around the transfer or termination of one or the other.

Romantic employees: Be the one to deliver the news (and not become the subject of water cooler talk or a security camera tape). People will know before you think they know, and they love to gossip. Be the one with a proactive plan to give your managers, focused on policy and preventing complications.

Granted, your situation may be different from others’. But think about how management and co-workers are likely to react, not just how you want them to react.

Photo Source: Lori Branham

Follow the DOs and DONTs of Background Checking in 2015

January 29th, 2015 by

The following post is from CAI’s Kevin von der Lippe. He serves as CAI’s private investigator and leads the company’s reference checking department. Kevin has some helpful tips to keep you on the right track in 2015.

Kevin von der Lippe, Private Investigator

Kevin von der Lippe, Private Investigator

With the start of the New Year, most of us are happily looking toward the future and have already began adopting our newly appointed “good habits” for 2015.  So, now that you’re back on path of good intentions, make sure you’re hiring practices are as well! Make sure you’re following the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) when requesting your background checks in 2015 before you’re caught on the wrong end of a class action law suit!

Unfortunately, 2014 was a hard year for some… blindsiding several uninformed businesses with more than a few unwelcomed class action lawsuits for disobeying the FCRA.  Why you ask? Because in 2007 the Supreme Court ruled[1] that if a company displays willful acts of disregard for the FCRA, then such companies may be sued for punitive damages without proving actual damages.

And in 2014, suing is exactly what they did…

November 2014, Publix Super Markets settled their class action lawsuit for $6.8 million.  In October, Dollar General settled their suit for a little over $4 million. And after being sued by a former employee in September, Cannon Solutions America, Inc. settled for an undisclosed amount.

All from technical flaws.

Many of these cases are brought forth over the company either not obtaining proper permission from the applicant or by not providing proper notice to the applicant pending a negative hiring action.  In both cases the law is clear.

You must obtain permission – with very specific wording – on a stand-alone release form before you conduct a background check.  The release form cannot be clouded by having extraneous information, or by asking the applicant to waive his or her rights.

If you receive a background check with negative information, which gives you too much heartburn to move forward with the job offer, you must provide the applicant with a chance to review the report and dispute any inaccuracies before you make your final hiring decision.  How to comply with the process is clearly spelled out in the FCRA.  You must provide your applicant with a copy of the report, a summary of their rights under the FCRA, and a pre-adverse action letter that tells them the contact information for your background checking company.  Some states may require some additional information (NC requires a Security Freeze document).  You should then give your applicant a “reasonable amount of time” to review the report and make a dispute.  We believe that five business days will be sufficient in many cases.  Afterwards you must provide the applicant with a final adverse action letter that states they are no longer a candidate, and again provides the background checking company’s contact information.

For more information, or to see a sample of the FCRA documents, please visit our website, or contact Kevin von der Lippe at (336) 899-1150.

[1] Safeco vs. Burr 551 U.S. 47 (2007)