Don’t Overlook the True Value of Your Employee Handbook

January 19th, 2017 by

Employee handbooks are a vital part of outlining and communicating your company policies while creating a “picture” of your company culture and mission.  All companies–regardless of their size, industry, or number of employees should have an employee handbook in place, be it hard copy, e-version, or on-line. A company handbook can be as robust and detailed or as simple and short as needed depending on your business and culture. Let’s review several of the major purposes and benefits of having a company handbook.

Legal Protection: A handbook should outline the company’s position on important legal or regulatory issues such as At-Will Employment, anti-harassment or discrimination policies, wage and hour compliance or drug testing policies. Should one of these situations become a workplace issue, an employer can support their actions based on what is outlined in their handbook. Handbooks are a great tool in helping set employee expectations.

Company Culture/Mission: A handbook provides employees with an understanding of the company’s mission and culture. By placing an emphasis on aspects of employment that the company values (volunteerism or code of conduct) the employees will have a better idea of the culture that is desired and supported by senior management. Understanding the company’s culture will allow employees to have clear and consistent expectations of conduct and performance.  The handbook is also a great place for the CEO to “tell the story” of the company to help employees understand why the company exists.

Guide for Employees: An employee handbook should be written with the employee in mind. The handbook should outline policies, practices and other key information that is pertinent to the employee.  Providing relevant and pertinent information to employees allows employees to understand and manage that what is important to them (such as benefits, pay cycle information, vacation schedules, etc.) as well as develop an understanding of the expectations and consequences of their actions.  An employee handbook can also serve as a source for creating positive employee relations such as internal dispute resolution rather than through an external source such as government agency.

Guide for Supervisors/Managers: Managers and supervisors need reference materials in order to help them lead their teams. Having an understanding of policies such as PTO (how to earn it, when to use it, what happens if it isn’t used at the end of the year) is just as important as reviewing the company’s discipline policy or time management policies. A handbook is a great starting place for supervisors and managers but they should refer to specific company policies and or consult with their HR team.

CAI members have access to handbook guides to help you get started. Our Advice & Resolution team also provides complimentary handbook reviews and our HR On Demand team can work with you to create a custom handbook for your organization.

Emily’s primary area of focus is providing expert advice and support in the areas of employee relations and federal and state employment law compliance as a member of the Advice & Resolution team for CAI. Additionally, Emily advises business and HR leaders in operational and strategic human resources areas such as talent and performance management, employee engagement, and M&A’s. Emily has 10+ years of broad-based HR business partnering experience centering around employee relations, compliance & regulatory employment issues, strategic and tactical human resources, and strong process improvement skills.

How HR Can Balance Compliance and Engagement

January 17th, 2017 by

Whether you are an official HR professional or the person tasked with HR duties at your organization, your organization needs two primary things from you: Compliance and Engagement.  Call these terms what you want, but both are important to company health, growth, and survival.  Compliance is a straightforward term I think.  I’m using “engagement” to refer to all the things you do to attract, retain, reward, motivate, and develop employees and leaders. We should strive for a good balance.  Focusing too much on compliance creates a workplace no reasonable person would want to work at.  Total compliance isn’t achievable anyway.  Focusing too much on “engagement” without much regard to compliance could create unwelcome charges / litigation that can also damage your brand.  Whether you’re a generalist or a specialist, this balance is important.

We often see companies out of balance.  This imbalance is painful for employees, HR and Management and leads to many unwanted outcomes.  Turnover, low morale, poor communication, inability to find people, etc.  These things have many causes, but often at the root is the imbalance.  For example, many times when I talk to a company that “can’t find good people” I find their recruiting processes feel more like a compliance exercise than one aimed at attracting good people.  Only 3% of EEOC charges relate to “hiring,” yet many companies focus more on screening people out to avoid liability than screening good people in.  I had one client tell me they couldn’t change anything in their recruiting process without first getting it approved by their legal counsel.  Anything!  Again, imbalance.

How can you achieve balance?  Acknowledging your imbalance is the first step.  It may be that you’re the one out of balance, too focused on one these worlds at the expense of the other.  Or it may be you’re pretty balanced but your management team is out of balance.  I recently had an HR person tell me his management team didn’t care anything about compliance.  Either way, fixing the imbalance should be near the top of your list.

CAI can help you achieve balance.  We have the people, tools, and resources you need to balance things out.

  • Our Advice & Resolution team is authoring over a hundred practical guides on most every HR related compliance issue. You’ll find thoughtful insights from our senior Advice & Resolution advisers based on their subject matter expertise, years of experience, relationships with regulators, and daily interactions with our valued members.
  • Strategic HR services.  As a CAI Member, you have unlimited access to senior HR executives who can help you assess, plan and solve operational and strategic organizational issues. Beyond assessments and advice, they also offer a series of 1:1 virtual coaching sessions to help you implement new initiatives.  They bring expertise in areas such as: Realigning HR to better support the business; Aligning people to business goals; Succession planning; Developing robust leadership pipelines; Creating a results based and high performing workforce; Attracting, developing, and retaining top talent; and Improving organizational capability.  

A membership in CAI can help get your company balanced…find out how we can help you and your organization today!

Doug Blizzard brings a wealth of knowledge to CAI, serving as Vice President of Membership. During his first 15 years at CAI, he led the firm’s consulting and training divisions and counseled hundreds of clients on HR and Employee Relations issues. If he isn’t speaking at North Carolina conferences, teaching classes on Human Resources or consulting clients on EEO and Affirmative Action, Doug is leading the company’s membership services.

For Millennials, Lack of Loyalty May Be a Sign of Neglect

January 12th, 2017 by

The prevailing wisdom is that, in general, Millennials express little loyalty to their current employers and many are planning near-term exits. During the next year, if given the choice, 25% of Millennials would quit his or her current employer to join a new organization or to do something different. That figure increases to 44 % when the time frame is expanded to two years. (Source: Deloitte’s 2016 Millennial Survey)

This “loyalty challenge” is driven by a variety of factors, for example:

  1. Millennials feel underutilized and believe they’re not being developed as leaders.
  2. Millennials feel that most businesses have no ambition beyond profit, and there are distinct differences in what they believe the purpose of business should be and what they perceive it to currently be.
  3. Millennials often put their personal values ahead of organizational goals, and several have shunned
    assignments (and potential employers) that conflict with their beliefs.

Millennials have recently inched past the other generations to corner the largest share of the US labor market and a growing number now occupy senior positions. They are no longer leaders of tomorrow, but increasingly, leaders of today. We also recognize that Millennials are taking their values with them into the boardroom.

While many Millennials have already attained senior positions, much remains to be done. More than six in
ten Millennials (63 %) say their “leadership skills are not being fully developed.” Unfortunately, little progress is being made in this area. When asked to rate the skills and attributes on which businesses place the most value (and are prepared to pay the highest salaries), Millennials pointed to “leadership” as being the most prized.

Millennials fully appreciate that leadership skills are important to business and recognize that, in this respect, their development may be far from complete. But, based on the current results, Millennials believe businesses are not doing enough to bridge the gap to ensure a new generation of business leaders is created. Need help with workforce strategy and planning? CAI can help!

Tom Sheehan brings 20+ years of extensive, broad-based strategic, tactical and practical HR experience to CAI’s Advice & Resolution team.  He advises HR and other business leaders on talent management, organizational effectiveness, employee engagement, M&A’s, and employee relations. 

FMLA – Needed to Care For a Family Member

January 10th, 2017 by

The FMLA allows leave for an eligible employee when the employee is needed to care for certain qualifying family members (child, spouse or parent) with a serious health condition. (The definition of son or daughter includes individuals for whom the employee stood for or is standing “in loco parentis.” The definition of parent includes individuals who stood for “in loco parentis” to the employee. The term “in loco parentis”, Latin for “in the place of a parent”, refers to the legal responsibility of a person or organization to take on some of the functions and responsibilities of a parent.  Under FMLA, it specifically references a relationship whereby an individual takes on the role of “parent” to a child who is under the age of 18, or an adult (18 years of age or older) who is incapable of taking care of themselves due to a mental or physical disability.  No legal or biological relationship is necessary, provided the individual can satisfy the “in loco parentis” requirements under FMLA. 

An employee must be needed to provide care for his or her spouse, son, daughter, or parent because of the family member’s serious health condition in order for the employee to take FMLA leave. “Needed to care for” encompasses both physical and psychological care. It includes, for example:

    • Providing care for a qualifying family member who, because of a serious health condition, is unable to care for his or her own basic medical, hygienic, nutritional or safety needs, or is unable to transport himself or herself to the doctor, etc.;
    • Providing psychological comfort and reassurance that would be beneficial to a child, spouse or parent with a serious health condition who is receiving inpatient or home care; or
    • Filling in for others who normally care for the family member or to make arrangements for changes in care (transfer to a nursing home, for example).

The employee need not be the only individual or family member available to care for the qualifying family member. The need to care for could result in an employee’s need for intermittent leave or a reduced leave schedule to care for a family member where either the condition of the family member itself is intermittent or the employee is only needed intermittently (ie., other care is normally available or the care responsibilities are shared with others, family or third party).

For questions or issues regarding FMLA and how it pertains to employees within your company, CAI’s Advice & Resolution team, can help. Learn more about becoming a CAI member here.

 

CAI’s Advice & Resolution Advisor Renee Watkins is a seasoned HR professional with a diverse background in Human Resource. Renee provides CAI members with practical advice in a wide range of human resource functions including conflict resolution, compliance and regulatory issues, and employee relations.

Enjoyment: the Spark that Ignites Passion & Enthusiasm

January 5th, 2017 by

The following post is from motivational speaker, Steve Rizzo, who will be a keynote speaker at CAI’s 2017 HR Management Conference: The Shifting Landscape | Rethinking Talent Organization & Culture.

Did you know that studies have shown that those who make conscious choices to enjoy themselves and laugh throughout the day are more
creative, productive and resilient to challenging situations?  They are also more likely to easily find solutions to complex problems.  In other words, focusing on your happiness makes you smarter.  How smart are you?

The greatest benefit of genuinely enjoying the day is that you generate a massive amount of positive energy.  It’s manifested in passion and enthusiasm, and both are very contagious. Put another way, enjoyment is the spark that ignites passion and enthusiasm.  Read that again and remember it.  C’mon, I said read it again!

I’m not claiming that by making a commitment to enjoy the day that you won’t be confronted by challenges.  Of course, you will!  There will always be obstacles of some kind to overcome.  True, there will be times when chaos and negative forces surround you, but you don’t have to let them inside.

It may not be easy at first, but as you condition yourself to prepare for the day ahead with gratitude, joyful statements, positive visualization and by focusing on what’s working, rather than fixating on what isn’t working, you will notice that stressful outside forces don’t bother you as much.  Ultimately what you are doing is creating the ability to bounce back and that’s an all-important life skill.

It comes down to this: the unexpected is waiting for you.  Countless outside factors can make or ruin your day, many of which are not in your direct control.  So, it makes sense to seize control of what you can – no matter whether you’re in an up or down period, remind yourself that true happiness (and inner peace) is your number one priority.  And focusing on what makes you grateful puts you on the path to that happiness and the ability to enjoy the day.  And that is exactly why you have to make the shift to start your day in a good mood and maintain your feelings of appreciation throughout.

Even one situation a day in which you are able to invoke your grateful feelings and choose to be happy in the moment can have a tremendous impact on your life.  I don’t mean to suggest that you become the Dalai Lama, but if you do, please smile and bless the rest of us.

One last point (I promise), is the necessity to take action with passion and enthusiasm, instead of just going through the motions.

When times are tough, it is passion and enthusiasm that push you to go that extra mile.  Passion and enthusiasm propel you into a zone where you feel confident, courageous and victorious.  Failure is not an option and every mistake is viewed as a do-over.  When something doesn’t turn out the way you planned, you don’t even consider defeat.  You’re in such a high state of mind that you’ll find yourself saying, “Okay, that didn’t work.  What do I have to do to turn this around?  Who can I go to for help?” and,” I know I can do this!”

So, always nurture your passion and enthusiasm. Allow yourself to get excited about it. Feel it, sense it, smile about it and embrace it! Talk to it! Visualize your goals and dreams with it!

When you fervently hold on to your vision with passion and enthusiasm you will access s higher guidance system, which will lead you to a pathway of new circumstances, opportunities, and serendipitous events.  Do whatever it takes to make sure that its flame is always burning. If you do, I promise that you will come to know what so many truly successful people have come to know: That passion and enthusiasm are forces that will take you to a better place in business and in life.

I’m repeating myself, I know, but I really want you to get this.  (Plus, it’s my article and I’ll do what I want!)  Enjoyment is the spark that ignites passion and enthusiasm.  Remember that always.

In 2017, make a resolution to yourself. Learn the secrets to true happiness in your personal life and at work. Join 400+ HR executives, managers, professionals and company leaders at CAI’s HR Management Conference in Raleigh, NC, on March 8-9, 2017. My keynote presentation will be “Get Your Shift Together: How to Think, Laugh and Enjoy Your Way to Success in Business and Life.” I’m looking forward to meeting you!

4 Ways Managers Can Help Improve Employee Performance

January 3rd, 2017 by

When a manager says “meet me halfway,” what do they mean?

Halfway is never the goal in our work or personal lives. We want 110 percent from each other, right?

In the workplace, meet-me-halfway is shorthand for “I have to decide if you are worth more investment of my time and energy, and if you do not meet me half way, I have my answer.”

Poor performers are so for a variety of reasons. Putting problems clearly on the table, along with solutions, is difficult. Meet-me-halfway can be a useful clarifying tool.

Managers may use these four questions to decide whether a poor-performer will meet them halfway:

Have you contributed in any way to these poor results? An employee who says they have no part to play in their poor work is unlikely to do the things needed to improve. Giving a chance to acknowledge fault is a good way to advance a stalled conversation about improvement. Surprisingly, there are poor performers who will deny any part in the problem. In that case, you have your answer and it may be time to move on.

What are you ready (and able) to do differently, starting now? This question allows a more detailed conversation around specific changes which must be made. Forcing an employee to generate their own list (rather than seeking yet another agreement to your list) is better at this stage. It shows you if they are listening if they understand what good work looks like and if they care. Answers such as “I guess I just need to do what you ask me to do” are not good. On the heels of several performance discussions, and this meet-me-halfway conversation, lazy or passive responses show you do not have their attention or commitment.

What can I do differently to help you succeed? If you get an admission of some fault, and that fault is reinforced by a thoughtful description of the ways behaviors must change starting today, it is time to seal the deal with a genuine offer of your help. The offer does two things. It firms up the commitment to change and gives you a measurement tool for the coming days/weeks.

How will we both know you are meeting performance goals? This is the time to clarify ultimate expectations and timelines. Performance cannot stay at half-way; that was just a place to meet and recommit to something much better. The timeline will depend on the performance gap, the failed efforts to date, the perceived chance for success and such. Whatever that timeline and performance definition, they should both be very clear.

Employees who know or sense their manager is dissatisfied with their work should bring it up. “How am I doing?”, “What can I do to get better at this role?”, “What do you see as the difference between my work and the very best work done in this area?” Make the topic of your performance a welcome and natural one for you both. You will both benefit.

Bruce Clarke serves as CAI’s President and CEO, and has been with CAI since 2001. Bruce practiced labor and employment law with the national labor law firm of Ogletree Deakins for 18 years. He is listed in The Best Lawyers in America and was selected as one of North Carolina’s Legal Elite by Business North Carolina Magazine. Bruce is 100% committed to helping companies maximize employee engagement and minimize workplace liabilities.

HR’s Role in Helping Employees with Financial Literacy

January 2nd, 2017 by

Remember this movie from 2006? Looks like the “failure to launch” group is coming back around. According to recent data from Trulia*, nearly 40% of young adults lived with their parents, grandparents, step-parents and other relatives last year. This is the highest point in 75 years.

As Human Resource professionals, can we help reverse this trend? I believe we can, as many of us are starting to recognize the importance of financial literacy in the workplace. When employees manage their money well, everyone wins.

Financial literacy is the ability to use knowledge and skills to manage financial resources effectively for a lifetime of financial well-being. For many young professionals, they are not receiving a financial education. According to the National Council on Economic Education, only a handful of states requires students to complete a personal finance course in school.

That’s why work is becoming a place to provide education as employees experience life events: home purchases, retirement planning, family changes, and health changes. Using the workplace as a financial education classroom is a tremendous opportunity to increase productivity, engagement, and loyalty.

A report by the Personal Finance Employee Education Foundation clearly provides a business case for financial literacy programs in the workplace:

  • 30 million workers — one in four are suffering serious financial distress.
  • Nearly half of those who are financially distressed report that their health is negatively impacted by their financial worries.
  • 30% to 80% of financially distressed workers spend time at their place of employment worrying about personal finances and dealing with financial issues instead of working.

Employers have an opportunity and a responsibility to educate workers at all levels about financial literacy. The sooner an employee understands and applies the basic principles of financial literacy, the easier it is to achieve financial security.

There are several steps you can take to help employees become more financially literate. The first step is to put the right programs and systems in place. Becoming financially literate means understanding how to manage your income and expenses, handle debt responsibly, save and invest, and prepare for the unexpected. The more prepared employees are to adapt to changes in their financial lives, the more financially fit they will become.

Companies that implement financial literacy programs realize a return on their investment. While on the surface, this appears daunting to implement, employers have a strong incentive because of the strong correlation between financial stress and an employee’s productivity. Remember, most plan providers offer this service for free.

Financial literacy isn’t something that happens overnight. It takes time and effort. Making sure your employees get good information is the first step.

Tom Sheehan brings 20+ years of extensive, broad-based strategic, tactical and practical HR experience to CAI’s Advice & Resolution team.  He advises HR and other business leaders on talent management, organizational effectiveness, employee engagement, M&A’s, and employee relations.

 

How Effective is Succession Planning in your Organization?

December 28th, 2016 by

Succession is defined as the right, act, or process, by which one person succeeds to the office or rank of another.

How is the succession of your organizations’ talent happening?  Do some of your employees have implied “rights” to specific positions? Does their “time in grade” entitle those who have “paid their dues” to simply move into a vacated senior position regardless whether or not they are the most qualified or possess the most potential?

Does your organization use the “replacement” method of succession whereby a successor is simply chosen from a ‘short list” of employees that a select group of managers have compiled behind closed doors?

Or does your HR organization provide a collaborative process that brings leaders together to discuss designated positions and relevant potential talent as possible candidates? This of course, is the most effective and desired state.

If your succession process is not of the “desired state” mentioned above, then you are missing out on an incredible opportunity to enable your
business as well as potentially putting your business at risk by not filling opportunities with the top talent within your organization.

How do you get started?  Here are the first 3 steps:

  • As an HR business partner, you first need to be sure you completely understand your business and its current / future strategy and goals.
  • You then need to understand your organization’s key positions that drive and impact your business.  This includes not only key leadership roles but also positions with specialized skills that are challenging to find and or develop.
  • Next, and most importantly, you need to get buy-in from your GM/CEO, key leaders, etc. in the development and implementation of a succession process for your business. Although HR should own this process, succession is not a standalone HR “project” and needs to be done collaboratively and with the support, understanding, and buy-in of senior leaders and other key stakeholders.

Many small and medium-sized businesses fall into the trap of not implementing a succession plan, just like many people put off creating a will. While there are many other key considerations and variables that go into a developing a succession plan, don’t look at the process as insurmountable. CAI can help bring order to the process and partner with you along the way.

Rick Washburn leads the Advice & Resolution team at CAI. In his role, he advises executives and HR professionals on strategic and organizational issues, tackling subjects ranging from employee engagement to talent management. With his 25 years experience in HR management, Rick is uniquely poised to advice and lead businesses to successful HR strategies.

How to Retain Millennials

December 26th, 2016 by

It’s hard to think of an important aspect of management that is more neglected than individual development planning. As a consequence, companies typically pay the high price in the form of the loss of top young talent.

A Harvard Business Review article, “Why Top Young Managers Are in a Nonstop Job Hunt” conducted an analysis of young high achievers and concluded that many of the best and the brightest are not receiving the career development support they desire.

The article stated, “Dissatisfaction with some employee-development efforts appears to fuel many early exits.  We asked young managers what their employers do to help them grow in their jobs and what they’d like their employers to do, and found some large gaps.  Workers reported that companies generally satisfy their needs for on-the-job development and that they value these opportunities, which include high-visibility positions and significant increases in responsibility.   But they’re not getting much in the way of formal development, such as training, mentoring and coaching – things they also value highly.”

There are two primary reasons that companies neglect the individual development process:

1. We tend to focus most on the here and now

Managers naturally tend to be most focused on essential day-to-day operations and less interested in longer-term activities perceived as having less immediate payback.

2. There’s just no time for it

This is another poor excuse.  There’s always time for important activities.  If you believe that development planning is a valuable managerial function, HR must make it a priority and create an expectation that ‘building talent’ is an obligation for all leaders.

Here is why development planning makes good business sense:

1. People care if you take a genuine interest in their future 

Development planning should be something a manager takes a real personal interest in – not an HR-driven mandate.

2. It helps builds loyalty, and loyalty increases productivity

Taking an honest interest in someone builds loyalty.  Employees feel as though the company is investing in them. Loyal employees are more engaged, and engaged employees are more productive. Talented people naturally want to advance, and appreciate the support in the process.

3. Capable ambitious young employees want training, mentoring and coaching

They want to gain skills.  They want to become more versatile and valuable to an organization. If your company doesn’t provide it, enterprising employees will go elsewhere for it.

Key HR Action takeaway:  Development planning doesn’t have to be elaborate or costly.  At its core it’s mostly a matter of good managers taking the person-to-person time to understand their employees, recognizing their skills and opportunities, and documenting them in an agreed-upon Individual Development Plan.

If you’re struggling with creating effective Individual Development Plans CAI can help.

Tom Sheehan brings 20+ years of extensive, broad-based strategic, tactical and practical HR experience to CAI’s Advice & Resolution team.  He advises HR and other business leaders on talent management, organizational effectiveness, employee engagement, M&A’s, and employee relations.

Two Considerations For The Marketplace Open Enrollment Period

December 20th, 2016 by

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

The Affordable Care Act provides the ability for individuals to buy coverage regardless of any underlying medical condition.  This guaranteed issue provision has provided millions of Americans the access to health care that was not there before.  Many who had access to group coverage have also shifted either themselves or dependents to individual plans when their group plans were too expensive or did not provide the coverage they needed.

This year’s annual Open Enrollment Period for the Marketplace has opened and we are seeing, on average, a 25% increase to the cost of individual plans.  This cost increase is forcing many who are enrolled there to re-evaluate if an individual plan is still the best option for them when other group coverage is available through an employer.  When making this decision around where to be covered, there are two important items that should be understood about moving onto or coming off of an employer-sponsored health plan.

First, the annual Open Enrollment Period for the Marketplace is not considered a qualifying event under the IRS guidelines to allow someone to drop their individual policy and enroll in an employer-sponsored group plan.  There seems to be a common misconception around this with both employers and employees.  As the costs for individual plans continue to rise, many are looking for ways to move back to an employer’s plan.  The only instance in which someone could leave their individual plan and move onto their employer’s group plan is if the group plan is in an open enrollment period.

Another thing to consider is that the Marketplace Open Enrollment Period is not a qualifying event that will allow someone to drop a spouse or dependent from their group plan (unless the group plan’s annual open enrollment period coincides.)  So those who may be considering moving a dependent to an individual plan would not have the ability to do so at that time.  However, a special provision in the rules does allow an employee the ability to make a mid-year revocation of their group plan (outside of the group’s open enrollment) and enroll in Marketplace coverage.  In order for an employee to move a spouse or dependent to an individual plan during the Marketplace Open Enrollment Period, the employee must also drop coverage for him or herself too.

Given the rising costs of individual plans it seems unlikely that many will want to shift away from the group coverage.  It is important for employers to know the rules around allowing employees to come on and off of their plans outside of their annual open enrollment period.  Employees should understand the potential pitfalls of shifting away their group plan as that could create the opposite impact of what they are trying to achieve.