Use Multiple Channels of Communication to Recognize Employees

October 6th, 2015 by
Renee' Watkins, HR Advisor

Renee’ Watkins, HR Advisor

In today’s post, Advice and Resolution team member Renee’ Watkins shares some new strategies to reach and recognize your employees.

A recent survey conducted by the IBM Smarter Workforce Institute illustrates the importance of using multiple channels for recognizing employees for their accomplishments and contributions.

Over 19,000 workers in 26 countries participated in the survey, which produced the following key observations:

  • 76% of employees who receive recognition are engaged in their jobs, whereas only
  • 28% are engaged in their jobs who do not receive recognition
  • 51% of employees without recognition indicated they intended to leave, whereas only
  • 25% who receive recognition were intending to leave their employer

Obviously, recognition of employees is an excellent productivity and retention strategy.  However, many organizations continue to rely solely on written and verbal recognition methods.  According to the survey, 58% of employers use emails for employee recognition.  This may not be the best way to reach today’s Millennial workforce.

The workforce of today includes many members of Generation-Y, who have grown up with the notion of instantaneous information access in almost every aspect of life- including work.  Their expectation is to work with an organization that embraces the technology available to them and utilizes that technology to communicate wherever possible.

While there is no substitute for a face-to-face, verbal “thank you” to an employee, there are a number of channels for recognition which can be used in order to get the recognition to the employee faster, especially as our workforce continues to become more widespread geographically.

The use of Smartphones, online recognition applications and peer-to-peer videos are excellent ways to provide more timely recognition and reinforce employee engagement.  These methods allow for social recognition as well among fellow employees and peer work communities.  Feedback, such as congratulations from other team members, can be almost immediate and multiplies the overall effectiveness of the recognition.

In order to engage, retain and improve the productivity of our workforce, recognition strategies have to evolve to effectively communicate with the changing workforce of today.  There are numerous communication channels available today which take advantage of social, mobile and other technologies utilized by Generation-Y and, in many cases, Generation -X.  Using multiple channels of communication can offer interactive, frequent and immediate communication.

What recognition channels are you using to recognize your workers?  Are you using enough channels?  Are you using the right channels?

If you’re struggling with these questions and are searching for ways to help your business evolve its recognition process, please call our Advice and Resolution team today at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Create a Flexible Work Environment With These 6 Tips

October 1st, 2015 by
Molly Hegeman, VP of HR Services

Molly Hegeman, VP of HR Services

In today’s post Molly Hegeman, CAI’s Vice President of  HR Services, shares helpful strategies for companies looking to offer more flexible scheduling to its employees.

When CAI first surveyed about flexible schedules in 2012, 48% of companies responded that they offered some form alternative work schedules.  In the 2014 NC Policies and Benefits Survey, that number had grown to 52%. In a recent discussion that I had with a group of HR professionals in Jacksonville, NC, this market trend got a lot of interest. Alternative work arrangements are definitely gaining popularity with employees, as evidenced by feedback in the Employee Opinion Surveys that CAI conducts.  All levels and types of employees are voicing a greater interest in flexibility with their hours, the work environment, etc.

With the convenience of mobile and wireless devices, many employees can work nearly 24/7. It seems only right that we should recognize the efforts of employees who check and respond to emails, complete a project after hours, etc. by giving them flexibility with their time.  So, what does that mean for employers?  More specifically, how do you make it work, especially in traditional organizations?

It used to be that companies would only allow a policy to exist if it affected all employees. I don’t think that’s practical anymore. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe all employees should be treated fairly. But fairly does not mean equal in all situations. For example, you may be able to offer a work from home schedule to an employee whose work is fairly independent and not contingent upon physically being in the office. That may not be practical, however, for the receptionist whose main job function is physically greeting customers/clients. It’s probably not reasonable for the organization to set up a virtual/Skype situation.  But, that employee could be afforded the option of a modified work shift and/or remote phone coverage (leaving only limited in person reception duties to be rearranged when needed).

So what’s an organization to do when it hasn’t previously offered flexible scheduling or remote work arrangements?

  1. Understand the options like flex time (schedule-based: compressed work week, flex hours, etc.) and flex location (location-based: telework, working remote).
  2. Consider why you would introduce flex work arrangements and what problem you are trying to solve (downsizing office space, employee morale, etc.).
  3. Ensure your management team supports schedule and/or location-based flex arrangements
  4. Define eligibility and the business situations that support the flex arrangements (even if you start in selected departments within your organization)
  5. Establish guidelines and procedures for your employees and managers to follow
  6. Continuously evaluate the flex arrangements and impact on employees, morale, productivity, business needs, etc.

In a world where there are competing interests and demands on all of us, why not consider the opportunity to help support your employees’ work-life effectiveness?  Whether you introduce small changes or a full program, the positive reaction and response from your employees (and managers) will be returned ten-fold. Flex work arrangements are a great strategy in attracting, retaining and motivating your workforce!

Want more information on our survey findings? Need help creating or updating your flexible schedule policy? Feel free to contact me, Molly Hegeman, directly at (919) 713-5263 or

The Do’s and Don’ts of Managing a Multigenerational Workforce

September 29th, 2015 by

“Never in history has a workforce had four generations working together —until now.”

                –Dr. Kevin Snyder, 2015 Compensation & Benefits Conference

Diverse business group meetingSo who are these four generations working so closely together? In most offices, you will find the:

  • Matures- born from 1925 to 1946
  • Baby Boomers- born from 1946 to 1964
  • Generation Xers- born from 1965 to 1980
  • Generation Yers or ‘Millennials’- born from 1981 to late 1990s

Each generation comes with their unique set of stereotypes and stigmas. While the Matures are seen as loyal but lousy with technology, the Millennial crew seem to attract the opposite perception. While many of these stereotypes are exaggerated, it is undoubtedly true that each generation possesses a distinct set of characteristics from one another.

For many managers, this could sounds like a bit of a headache. After all, who wants a bunch of groups with differing ideas, schedules, and motivations working together? It may sound like a nightmare, but it could actually be an advantage if these differences of habits are leveraged correctly.

To effectively manage your workplace, follow these Do’s and Don’ts  to ensure the generations are working in tandem, and not against, one another.

Do know what each generation is looking for

Knowing your audience is a huge key to success. By understanding what each generation is looking for in a job, you can better manage their expectations and vastly improve their career contentment. Conduct surveys that poll your employees on what they find most rewarding about work. If you find that a large share of your Millennial employees are looking for a strong work culture, organize team lunches or wellness activities for them to take part in. If you find that many of your Mature employees desire one-on-one guidance, try to give them the extra personal attention that fulfills them. With a greater understanding of what makes each generation tick, you will be creating a more engaged, dynamic and productive workplace.

Don’t encourage generational separation

We all enjoy talking to someone we have a lot in common with, and shared age is a great and easy way to bond with a fellow employee. While many employees seem to naturally bond with coworkers of similar ages, it is important to discourage any extreme separation based around age in the office. By combining the varying tastes, attitudes and experiences of the multiple generations at your disposal, you will be fostering a healthy and collaborative dialogue between your employees. Though there is always a potential for conflict, your business would be missing out on the greater potential for new and dynamic teamwork by keeping the generations from working together.

Do recognize their varying strengths

Maybe you have a Millennial employee who’s great with technology, but not so effective when it comes to face-to-face interactions. Or the opposite situation could be true of a Boomer who thrives in personal interactions with others, but understandably lags behind in the tech department. Rather than spreading your employees too thin and expecting the Millennial and Boomer to become well-versed in their respective areas of weakness, recognize their independent strengths and leverage them together. If that means having the Millennial put together the PowerPoint and the Boomer giving the presentation, so be it. By appealing to each of the generation’s strengths, and not holding them hostage to their weaknesses, you will be doing your business and your employees a huge favor.

Don’t assume the generational stereotypes

As we said above, many of the generations possess differing ideals, skills and habits from one another. While it is important to recognize and leverage these varying strengths when you can identify them, do not assume that an employee will lack a certain skill or experience simply because it is not usually ascribed to their generation. By pigeonholing your employees to certain spheres along generational lines, you could be wasting heaps of potential. Be open-minded about each generation, and allow their strengths and experiences to present themselves in due course rather than forcing them into a box in which they may not belong.

If you would like to further discuss how you can more effectively manage a multigenerational workplace, please call our Advice and Resolution team today at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Are You a Micromanager or a Macromanager?

September 24th, 2015 by
Renee' Watkins, HR Advisor

Renee’ Watkins, HR Advisor

In today’s post, Advice and Resolution team member Renee’ Watkins shares some tips for adopting a Macromanaging mindset when overseeing employees. 

Are you a Micromanager?  Do others consider you to be?  Hopefully, the answer to both of these questions is “No.”  The term Micromanager is widely thought to be one of the most unflattering labels you can have if you manage people.  Micromanagers typically involve themselves so deeply into the smallest details of every project they manage it actually inhibits productivity and creates a very unpleasant workplace for the team as a whole.

Granted, not being a Micromanager is better than being a Micromanager.  But is there something even better?  Yes!  A Macromanager.

Macromanagers deal with employees more efficiently, taking advantage of their individuality and contributing strengths to the overall team.  Macromanagers provide a work environment which allows a team to work together and empowers them to not only make decisions, but to also make mistakes and to learn from both.  This creates a bi-directional feeling of trust, while maintaining a sense of employee engagement and generating results.

How can you become a Macromanager?  How can you make the transition all the way from Micromanager to Macromanager?  Try implementing these four traits of a Macromanager:

Focus on The Big Picture – Micromanagers get too deep in the weeds of a project rather than looking at things from a 10,000-foot viewpoint.  To be a good Macromanager, focus more of your energy and attention on the organization’s direction and strategy for the future.  In doing so, you can develop creative ideas on how to get there and trust your team to use their collective strengths to work out the details for success.

Understand Your Audience – Micromanagers tend to micromanage everyone, even those who do not need it. Macromanagers may occasionally need to provide more detailed guidance to a team member who is less experienced. When you see that team member begin to “get it,” step back before entering “Micromanager Mode.”  Have a stronger member of your team work with and mentor the less experienced employees.

Observe – Watch the progress of your team, keeping your distance.  As an experienced manager, you will recognize the cues that tell you when to engage and when to hold back.  Your responsibility is the successful completion of the project overall, so you should always be involved as a manager, mentor, advisor and member of the team.  Successful people surround themselves with successful people.  Give your team room to succeed and let them know you are there if they need you.

Welcome Feedback – Find a way to ask questions regarding progress without coming across as “interfering.”  As the manager responsible for overall success, you have the right and the responsibility to know what is going on.  Make sure your team understands you are not there to judge or to criticize, but to offer help and observations if and when needed. Open communication should be encouraged.

As a manager, you have larger responsibilities to the organization.  If you ever find yourself getting too deep into the weeds of any one project, you should ask yourself, “What should I be doing in my job that I am not doing?”  Chances are there is something else you should be focusing more time on.  Your employees will thrive and progress more quickly with your guidance rather than your direct involvement.

If you have any more questions regarding the importance of macromanagement, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Resolution team at 919‑878‑9222 or 336‑668‑7746.


The Talent War Revisited

September 22nd, 2015 by

In today’s video blog, CAI’s Vice President of Membership, Doug Blizzard, shares the many ways in which small companies can stay competitive in the all-important Talent War. Though many small businesses feel their larger counterparts have an advantage in attracting and retaining top talent, Doug feels there are certain strategies that will work well for any company, regardless of size.

By examining and tweaking the steps taken to attract top candidates, Doug believes small businesses can stay ahead of the competition for talent. In order to thrive in the Talent War, Doug says small businesses must:

  • Make the talent want to work for you: Offer competitive pay and benefits, make the workplace as flexible as possible
  • Freshen up your recruiting process: Look for new, dynamic ways to uncover passive candidates
  • Build a strong work culture: Set out a clear vision, work toward it with powerful leadership

While there is no sure-fire plan to attracting top talent, taking some of Doug’s advice will likely lead to positive results. For more advice on finding talent for your company, take a look at some of Doug’s 24 previous video blogs, where he spends a lot of his time expanding upon this issue. For more specific questions or assistance, please call our Advice and Resolution team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746 with any related questions.

Cadillac Tax May Force Employers To Eliminate FSAs

September 17th, 2015 by

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

What does the future hold for Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) and why ask this question now?FSA

With many employers now comfortable with the “pay or play” regulations and 6055/6056 reporting requirements, companies are beginning to shift their focus on the “Cadillac Tax” and are realizing FSA contributions will accumulate to the cost thresholds – potentially leading to increased employer taxes. In 2018, the Cadillac tax imposes a non-deductible 40% excise tax on employers to yearly amounts over $10,200 for plans covering an individual and $27,500 for those plans that cover more than just one person.

A recently released study by the Kaiser Foundation determined that 16% of employers would be subject to the 40% excise tax in 2018 – assuming 5% medical inflation. However, when the Kaiser Foundation included FSA contributions, the percentage of employers that would be responsible for the Cadillac Tax surged from 16% to 26%. Additionally, the study determined that 42% of employers would be impacted by the Cadillac tax by 2028 – which has led to some individuals calling this far reaching tax the “Camry tax” instead.

Employers are already reviewing options to limit the liability associated with the excise tax – including the possibility of eliminating their FSA. This would be unfortunate to employees, since many individuals rely on the pre-tax benefits of the FSAs to help offset healthcare expenses incurred throughout the year. For 2015, an employee can contribute up to $2,550 to their FSA on a pre-tax basis.

Not only will the Cadillac tax be a financial burden, but the coordination and calculation of the excise tax could be overly cumbersome for employers. Among the requirements of the Cadillac tax, the employer will be responsible for determining and notifying each coverage provider’s share of the pro-rata tax along with the IRS. We’ve outlined additional complexities in our most recent Healthcare Reform digest post if you would like more information on the calculation and payment details.

Companies are going to do everything possible stay under the Cadillac Tax thresholds in order to avoid the 40% non-deductible excise tax. If the current regulations stay in place, one of the first employer benefits to go by the wayside will be their FSA – leading to further financial strain for employees.

How to Keep Your Employees Excited About Coming to Work

September 15th, 2015 by

In today’s post, Advice and Resolution team member Renee’ Watkins shares some helpful tips to keep your workforce engaged!

Renee' Watkins, HR Advisor

Renee’ Watkins, HR Advisor

Actions often speak louder than words, and the simplest, unexpected and sincerest actions at the proper moment can make a significant difference in someone’s day.  Everyone appreciates being recognized in a tangible way with additional compensation or a certificate of appreciation for a job well done.  Studies have shown, however, employees equally appreciate a heartfelt “Good Morning” from a manager to make their day more pleasant.  Here are a few other simple things to get your employee excited about their job and the organization they are a part of:


  • A Pleasant Beginning – employee attitudes throughout the day are influenced with how their day starts. Something as simple as “good morning” or a smile from a supervisor can set the tone for the rest of the day.


  • Take An Interest – take an interest in their lives, acknowledging a sick relative or a graduating son or daughter. Employees are people first, before employees.


  • Pay Special Attention – recognize your employees for doing a good job and offer to help them grow. Likewise, be candid with your employees when they are not measuring up and offer to help them improve.


  • Show Flexibility – offer a work shift change or additional time off to an employee who is dealing with a temporary change in their personal life to give them time to adjust.


  • Demonstrate Consideration – start a meeting later if an employee is running late to work due to traffic or a sick child. Consider your own feelings if the situation were reversed. Respect given is respect gained.


  • Sensitivity Matters – help employees who need a change at their workstation to be more comfortable. A change in office climate or a new chair can show how much you notice their environment and how much you care.


  • Be A Part of the Team – show up to employee group functions such as group lunches, birthday celebrations or after-hours gatherings to which you are invited to attend. Supervising the team includes being a part of the team.


  • Keep Your Perspective – do not take your stress out on your employees. Put things in perspective, take a deep breath and smile. If you remain at ease, they will remain at ease also.


  • Open Your Door – maintain an open door for your employees to come to you with a problem or idea. Listen intently, and offer a solution or advice if you can. If you cannot help, show appreciation for their coming to you. If they have a good idea, help them to move it forward.


  • Say Thank You – thank your team members as often as you can for the job they do. Expressing your appreciation will lift your team to new heights, and success will follow.


If you have questions regarding employee engagement, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Resolution team at 919‑878‑9222 or 336‑668‑7746.

Who Needs Training? Well, You Do.

September 10th, 2015 by

The following post is from Colleen Cunningham, CAI’s Vice President of Learning Services. She leads the company’s Learning and Development department.

training processWe all do, actually. Leaders of top performing organizations of all sizes have this focus in common – they know that in order to continue to grow their bottom line, they must invest in their people, and that means training and development. A 2014 study completed by the Association for Talent Development (formerly the American Society for Training and Development) found that companies were spending an average of over $1,200 per employee on learning expenses.

If your company has made the decision to create an employee training initiative, the first step in the process contains three key elements:

  1. Company Strategic Priorities and Goals
    • It is essential to have and to be familiar with the company’s strategic priorities and goals. Each training solution should support these bigger organization goals. Furthermore, the ability to articulate how the training solution links to strategic priorities both today and the future will be crucial
  2. Key Stakeholder Buy-In
    • A critical part leading to the success of any training initiative will be the support and buy-in of key stakeholders in the organization.
  3. Definition of Roles and Responsibilities
    • To ensure success, it is important to define the roles and responsibilities of those responsible for and influenced by the training initiative.

Why are these things important? Setting goals, gaining buy-in and defining responsibilities all help to tie the training to the bigger picture. They help contribute to maximum impact of time and investment (ROI). They provide clarity and ensure accountability at all levels. These elements ultimately help position the training as important and ensure everyone understands “the why.”

Review of Key Questions to Consider:

•What are the company’s strategic goals?

•How will we connect and articulate how the training initiative supports strategic priorities?

•Do we understand the business challenges and how the solution will align with culture, values and needs?

•Do we have an executive sponsor or champion and are we maximizing his/her engagement?

•How will we ensure our management team and senior leaders are all on the same page and support the training?

•How can we ensure that it is not viewed as an “HR or Training thing”?

•How will we get buy-in and ensure everyone understands “the why”?

•What obstacles do we need to anticipate?

•Who is responsible for what?

CAI can help your organization grow and succeed by developing your most important asset – your people!  We offer an abundance of training options to meet the needs of your business.  We specialize in management development, HR, professional development and computer training. Visit our training page for more information.



Is the Nine to Five Dying?

September 8th, 2015 by

recruitingIs the traditional nine-to-five work schedule a thing of the past? It appears a lot of workers seem to think so.  A recent CareerBuilder survey of more than 1,000 IT, financial services, sales, and business workers reveals 63 percent of workers believe the traditional nine-to-five model is an “outdated concept.”

The survey, which was conducted online by Harris Poll from May 14 to June 3, shows how a large share of today’s workers are operating under a much more flexible work schedule than in the past.

And while many bosses may fear the loss of the traditional work frame, they need not panic just yet. While it is true that many employees no longer see the point of coming into the office five days a week, that doesn’t necessarily mean employees have lost interest in their work.

“With improvements in technology that enable employees to check in at any time, from anywhere, it makes sense to allow employees to work outside the traditional nine-to-five schedule,” said Rosemary Haefner, Chief HR Officer of CareerBuilder.

With this ability to access their work documents, calendars, and emails remotely, many of today’s workers see little to no point in sitting behind an office desk to complete their work.

In fact, 50 percent of those surveyed say they “check or respond to work emails outside of work” and nearly 40 percent say they continue to work outside of office hours.

While businesses obviously cannot allow the nine-to-five model to dissolve completely, this growing trend reflects the clear need for more flexibility within employees’ schedules.

“Moving away from a nine-to-five work week may not be possible for some companies (yet), but if done right, allowing employees more freedom and flexibility with their schedules can boost productivity,” said Haefner.

While the long-term effects of moving away from the traditional workweek remain to be seen, there does seem to be an attractive set of benefits to offering employees greater workplace flexibility:

  • Improved sense of loyalty: Employees are likely to be more attached and committed to a workplace that takes their needs for flexibility into consideration, thus resulting in
  • Greater retention: Employees will be more likely to stay in their positions if they feel content and satisfied with the work schedule
  • Heightened morale: Employees will feel more engaged and fulfilled with their work when they are working with a schedule that best suits their needs
  • Around the clock inspiration: Rather than having an employee simply turn “off” of work at 5 o’clock, giving your employees a flexible schedule will allow them to remain open to new ideas and inspiration at all hours of the day.

The nine-to-five isn’t going to disappear any time soon, but it will likely begin to change little by little to match today’s changing technological landscape. The CareerBuilder survey is beginning to show us those little changes, and businesses need to be prepared to adapt to meet them.  With the popularity of the traditional workweek waning and the benefits of workplace flexibility becoming more apparent, businesses may need to “get with the times” before losing out on top talent to more accommodating firms.

If you have any questions about how you can create a more flexible workplace within your company, please call our Advice and Resolution team today at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Job Descriptions in ADA Legal Challenges

September 3rd, 2015 by

CAI’s Advice and Resolution team member Pat Rountree shares valuable information regarding job descriptions and compliance with the ADA

Pat Rountree, HR Advisor

Pat Rountree, HR Advisor

The terminology essential functions of the job has been around since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1993.  However, the significance of making sure that you have current job descriptions for each position that lists the essential duties, physical, and mental requirements greatly increased with the recent amendments to the ADA.  Also, technology advances have resulted in a faster pace of job change over the last several years.

Employment law attorneys continue to stress that job descriptions that identify the essential functions of the job are the first line of defense when employers are trying to defend undue hardship decisions on inability to make accommodation, and terminations for inability of employees to do the job.

At the most recent CAI/Ogletree Employment and Labor Law Update, Attorney Gretchen Ewalt recommended that employers use the employee performance review time to go over the job description with the employee annually and determine if changes need to be made to accurately reflect the current job responsibilities.

Another recommendation in light of recent case law is to document in the job description if the job requires the employee to be present at the worksite and to document the reasons why.  It may sound ridiculous—of course attendance at work is required.  However, with requests for accommodation to work from home, it is important to document when actual presence at work is required as in the EEOC vs. Ford Motor Company.  The employee, a resale buyer, requested to work from home as an accommodation, but the employee’s lack of availability for impromptu meetings on important issues was an undue hardship for the employer.  The court sided with the employer and noted in their decision, in most jobs, especially those involving teamwork and a high level of interaction, the employer will require regular and predictable on-site attendance from all employees.  To read the full court decision, see

Obviously with the advance of technology, working from home may be a reasonable accommodation for some jobs.  However, for those jobs that require person-to-person contact on the job, it is important to document.

How long has it been since you actually reviewed job descriptions with incumbents to determine that they are still valid?

Considerations in determining essential functions include:

  • The importance of the function to the overall job
  • The number of employees available to perform it
  • The time spent on the function
  • The degree of skill required

Other kinds of evidence that EEOC will consider include:

  • The actual work experience of present or past employees in the job
  • The consequences of not requiring that an employee perform a function
  • The terms of a collective bargaining agreement.

For additional guidance on this topic, please reach out to CAI’s Advice and Resolution team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.