Archive for June, 2010

Talent Management: 4 Practical Steps You Can Take Now

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Recent survey data released by Mercer offers a peek into the timing and competitiveness of what is likely to be an upcoming war for talent.  You may be saying to yourself, “War for talent?  What?  Our business is still suffering from the recession!”  Point taken.

Yet, to ensure the long-term success of your organization, now is the time to start focusing on keeping the top talent in your organization on your bus, and planning to invite other top talent in the marketplace to climb on board with you.

In May 2010, Mercer polled HR and talent management leaders at more than 400 U.S. organizations as part of its annual Future of Talent Management survey.  As to the current status of the businesses:

  • 22 percent were never out of growth mode and were not significantly affected by the economic downturn
  • 15 percent have emerged from the recession and are in growth mode
  • 37 percent are emerging from the recession and preparing for growth
  • 25 percent are still in recession mode

So, even if you are among the 25 percent of companies still in recession mode, 75 percent of businesses are already planning to acquire your top talent and/or the additional talent in the marketplace that could help drive your business results in the future.

In addition, more than half of the surveyed employers (51 percent) rate talent management as a top priority in their organization today, and 76 percent expect it to be a top priority within the next three to five years.  Even more telling, a full 97 percent expect an increase in competition for key talent in that same three- to five-year horizon, with 58 percent anticipating a significant increase in competition for the key talent their organizations need to succeed.

What types of talent management activities can you undertake now to help you retain your best employees and position your organization to be an attractive option for future employees?

  1. Identify the top employees in your organization.  Talk to them and tell them they are an essential part of your future.  Ask them what is most important to them in the employer-employee relationship.  It may not be what you think.
  2. Determine what measures you can take now to reward employees who have remained solid performers as your organization has been affected by the recession.  If pay raises are not possible, use your discussions with employees to identify non-monetary rewards that will be perceived as an excellent benefit.
  3. Start looking for skill gaps in your organization.  Does each one of your employees have the training they need to be successful in their job?  What will it take to get them there?
  4. Plot out a growth strategy.  If your business grew by 10 percent, what workforce adjustments would have to be made to accommodate that growth?  What would be your priority order for hiring?

Photo Source: DSR

Communicating Policies for Drug Tests in the Workplace

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Even though drug tests for employees have been around nearly 100 years (the Ford Motor Company performed them as early as 1914), the policy remains controversial. If you are making random drug testing a part of your workplace program, the U.S. Department of Labor recommends that you take the following actions to lessen the negative reactions it may receive:

  • Treat your employees with dignity and respect, and honor their privacy.
  • Create a drug testing policy that specifies the type of drug testing used, the testing’s frequency, and the names of the substances for which the employee will be tested.
  • Provide fair and consistent methods for employee selection for drug testing.

Make sure your employees understand the reason(s) why you are implementing drug testing. It could be in order to follow mandates that already exist within the industry, or to bring yourself in line with what your competitors are doing, for example. Let them know drug testing is not meant as punishment for them either. The goal of a drug free workplace program is to provide the opportunity for employees to obtain treatment, overcome their substance abuse issues and return to work. It is meant to help them, not hurt them.

If your employees question the use of drug testing even after taking these measures, let them know that North Carolina law allows employers to conduct controlled substance examinations within certain guidelines. An employer can require that an applicant or employee submit to a drug test as a condition of hiring or of continued employment, and refusal to take it can result in termination or dismissal from consideration of employment.

To ease their minds further, you can have your employees review the state’s administrative rules about the procedural standards to be followed when drug testing. The 22-page document is available at

As with all HR policies, drug testing programs that have clearly communicated procedures and conditions that are discussed, reviewed and uniformly applied to all employees will be much more effective than those that do not follow these steps.

For more details, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel team at (919) 878-9222 or (336) 668-7746.

Photo Source: micahb37

HR Professionals: The “Compliance Police” or “Business Partner?”

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Over the last few years, there has been a deluge of commentary on the concept of the HR professional being a “strategic business partner.”  A Google search of the phrase “business partnering” yields more than 2.3 million hits.  More tellingly, a Google search of “HR strategic business partner” yields an astonishing 3.83 million hits!  Those numbers are higher than the combined total hits for searches of “Twilight” and “Lady Gaga!” (Ask your kids.)

If being a strategic business partner is that prevalent on the web and in the business press, then why don’t most HR professionals you meet today consider themselves as strategic business partners?  Is it an “us” problem?  Or is it a “them” problem?  Perhaps it is a little of both.

HR professionals, when asked to explain what they do, often use phrases like “policy police” or “employee counselors.”  The view that HR serves to staff and take care of staff, or to make sure the “i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed,” is still held by many in management.  Unfortunately, this view has been a longstanding perception in industry.

The HR function grew out of the need for large organizations to handle employee concerns and companies to ensure that they had the right people in the right jobs.  As sweeping new employment laws were enacted in the 1960s and 1970s, organizations looked to the HR function to make sure they were compliant.  Though this is a relatively simple history, it serves the purpose of showing the prevailing view of the HR function that still pervades organizations today—making it more challenging to become a strategic partner.

But, we can’t blame it all on “them.”  While it is true that the perception of HR as a compliance function exists, it is also true that many HR professionals are unable to fill that role of a business partner.  Is it because they don’t have the skills needed?  Perhaps, in some cases.  But more often than not, it is simply because the HR professional does not have the knowledge of what a business partner is nor the language to speak to upper management.

To be a strategic business partner requires you to understand the core of what your organization is and what it does.  You don’t make widgets or “serve” your customer.  You add value to the customer.

What is your organization’s “value added?”  How does the HR function work to support your organization’s mission statement?  How does HR add value to the customer?  How does HR serve as a source of sustainable advantage in the marketplace?

These are important questions that HR professionals need to know.  By truly understanding these questions, the HR professional is more equipped to speak to upper management and show the value added of HR beyond compliance, drug testing and benefits administration.

HR can, and should, serve as a source of competitive advantage—something that helps set your organization apart from your competitors.  If the HR professional can do that, they can get that proverbial “seat at the table.”

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Do Your Managers and Supervisors Have the Skills They Need to Succeed?

Friday, June 18th, 2010

The skills that make an employee an excellent individual contributor or practitioner do not often translate to success as a supervisor or manager.  Being responsible for the motivation and performance of a person or team requires a whole new skill set.

The resulting skill gap is highlighted in a survey conducted by the Tracom Group in 2007.  That survey of 166 executives, 337 managers and 377 staff focused on how managerial responsibilities, specifically communication and conflict management, affect company performance.  In the study, 84.8 percent of executives said communication skills were deficient among first-level managers, while 81.9 percent of managers and 85 percent of staff pegged poor communication as a cause of poor productivity in the workplace.  In addition, 69.4 percent of the managers surveyed said their ability to better handle conflict would improve their team’s performance.

Of course, management development training is one of the most effective ways to enhance the communication and conflict resolution skills of managers.  Unfortunately, one of the areas companies cut to minimize expenses during the recent recession was employee training.  As a result, many supervisors and managers do not have the skills necessary to properly drive business performance and lead their teams to success.  In a late 2009 survey conducted by the American Society for Training & Development of 1,179 companies, 31 percent of those companies cited managerial/supervisory skills as one of their greatest skill needs.

A March 2010 study done by Rainmaker Thinking further demonstrates the impact supervisors and managers have on overall performance.  In the research, those companies that focused their efforts on increasing supervision and management, and creating a performance-based culture driven by supervisors and managers, had better results throughout the recession than companies that pursued other strategies such as cost cutting or innovation.

It’s clear that without the proper training, supervisors and managers will not be set up to succeed in their role.  Many will become frustrated with their inability to produce results.  Even worse, their techniques may leave the company liable to lawsuits.

As the economic recovery takes hold, organizations will be relying heavily on their managers to meet new customer demand and to keep their employees engaged so that they will stay with the company.  To meet that challenge, employers must evaluate their supervisors and managers and invest now in the skills they need to excel in their role.

Photo Source: DSR

Hours Paid For Holidays: Are They Counted When Calculating Overtime Pay?

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

The short answer: No, unless overtime hours are worked on such days, or your policy states that paid time off is counted as hours worked when calculating overtime.

The longer, more in-depth answer: If an employer pays holiday pay, there are no provisions in either North Carolina Department of Labor laws or the Federal Labor Standards Act which require the hours paid for holiday pay to count as hours worked for purposes of calculating overtime pay. Only hours actually worked are counted when figuring overtime pay.

Remember, holiday pay is not considered hours worked, so it is not part of calculating overtime hours for employees. Employers should not designate it as overtime when it occurs as part of a regular schedule, to prevent any misconceptions or confusion by their workers.

Keep in mind that when calculating how many hours a nonexempt employee actually works in a week, you do not have to count holiday hours towards the 40-hour workweek as pay. For example, say your employee usually works eight hours a day Monday through Friday and receives Monday, July 5 off for the upcoming holiday. He or she then works regular hours the rest of that week plus eight additional hours on Saturday. While his or her paycheck for the week would note a total of 48 paid hours, counting the eight hours for the holiday observed on July 5, he or she actually worked only 40 hours (eight hours five days including Saturday) and thus would not receive any overtime pay.

For more details, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel team at (919) 878-9222 or (336) 668-7746.

Photo Source: HAM guy

2011 Eligibility Changes for PHR, SPHR and GPHR Create Sense of Urgency

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

This is it! The eligibility rules will change in 2011 for the Human Resources Certification Institute exams for the Professional in Human Resources (PHR), Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR).

The December 2010 testing period will be the last chance for many HR professionals to sit for the PHR or SPHR exams, or they may have to wait years.  It will also be the last opportunity for most HR professionals to take the GPHR exam, ever.

If you’ve been delaying professional certification until a better time, this is what you’ve been waiting for.  The new rules, going into effect Feb. 1, 2011, will require PHR candidates to have four years of exempt-level HR experience. SPHR applicants must have seven years experience.

Candidates may subtract two years for a bachelor’s degree (any major) and another year for a master’s degree (any major). Thus, master’s degree holders need only one year of professional experience for the PHR and four for the SPHR. This is in contrast to the current requirement of applicants needing only two years of exempt-level HR experience with no allowance for bachelor’s or master’s degrees.

Starting in 2011, GPHR candidates must have four years of professional HR experience, with two of the four being international experience. They may subtract one year for a bachelor’s and another for a master’s. Candidates must still possess two years of experience during which they spent 51 percent or more of their time in global HR. They will no longer be able to obtain the GPHR first and then seek an international assignment.

So, if you have thought about pursuing GPHR certification, you may have no other choice than to give it a try this year. If not, you may never get another opportunity. Don’t worry – if you earn the GPHR credential before the qualifications change, you can’t lose it in the future unless you fail to re-certify, even if you don’t work in global HR.

Our April 2010 survey indicates that 60 percent of open HR positions in the United States “require” or “prefer” professional certification, while only 13 percent of eligible professionals are actually certified. The bottom line is there has never been a more critical time for HR professionals to attain their professional accreditation.

CAI’s highly successful PHR, SPHR, and GPHR programs are designed to give candidates the highest probability of gaining accreditation. With classes in Raleigh, Greensboro and online, CAI is here to help anyone wishing to go for the gold.

Photo Source: dcJohn

CAI offers readers the chance to contribute resourceful blogs around 300-500 words each, written from your point of view to share your professional expertise. Topics can include HR advice and successes, employee retention tips, auditing and metrics, and workplace tips. If you are interested in guest blogging, contact us for more information.

Obama’s National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force and Equal Pay Initiative: Equal Chance for a Pay Audit For You?

Monday, June 7th, 2010

“We’re going to crack down on violations of equal pay laws -– so that women get equal pay for an equal day’s work,” announced President Obama in his State of the Union address on Jan. 27, 2010. He made good on that promise the following month by unveiling his National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force and Equal Pay Initiative to “improve compliance, public education, and enforcement of equal pay laws.”

This is a serious development that employers must consider as to how it can apply to them. One of the key members of this force is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which has added more than 100 positions over the last year that can review discrepancies. It is a major initiative.

If the federal government runs a pay audit, finds violations of the laws and successfully prosecutes a company for them, the penalties can be severe. They include, but are not limited to, having a third party impose new pay practices on the business and fine the firm for back pay and interest for up to three years.

Employers need to take steps in advance of any possible federal audits. You should review in-house any pay equity issues that may exist between male and female employees and determine whether they can be defended legitimately. If not, you should correct them immediately. This review should involve consideration of all of your company’s policies and procedures as well as a statistical analysis of compensation data.

CAI offers details on how your company can perform an in-house audit for possible pay inequities. To learn about them, or for additional information on the initiative and its impact on your business, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel team at (919) 878-9222 or (336) 668-7746.

Photo Source: Kanav Gupta

Five Things N.C. Employers Need to Know About Wage and Hour Regulations

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Earlier this year CAI invited Jim Taylor, Administrator for the N.C. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Bureau, and Richard Blaylock, North Carolina District Director for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, to participate in a Members Only event – Ask the Expert: Understanding and Managing Wage and Hour Issues.

Wage and hour regulations and compliance can be difficult for any employer to keep up with and understand. Below are five things N.C. employers need to know about the many aspects of wage and hour compliance:

1. For-profit companies cannot accept volunteers. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not permit volunteers in for-profit private companies. Even though employees may be willing to volunteer their time, the FLSA considers work performed as a benefit to the employer and views this as an employment relationship.

2. A working lunch is compensable work time. If an employee is eating lunch at his/her desk and while eating makes business calls, conducts business, etc., this would be considered compensable work time – they are working and therefore should be compensated.

3. Meetings and training time count as compensable work time. For a lecture, meeting or training to not count as compensable work time it must meet the following criteria: a) outside normal work hours; b) attendance is voluntary; c) not job related; and d) no work is performed. Let’s use wellness lunch and learns as an example. If the attendance/participation affects your employment, including discounts on healthcare premiums, the time is not voluntary and would be paid time.

4. Commission plans should address what happens when an employee quits or is terminated. If the agreement does not specify, an employee could receive commissions on sales indefinitely. Be specific about terms and conditions regarding the commissions.

5. Overtime should be paid on the “regular rate,” not the base hourly rate. Examples of pay that should be included in the regular rate are commissions, incentives (attendance, quality), other non-discretionary bonuses and shift premiums. The regular rate is a rate per hour even if the employee is paid a different way (total pay/total hours).

For more information about the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act, visit  You may also contact a member of the CAI Advice and Counsel team at (919) 878-9222 or (336) 668-7746.

Photo Source: jessica mullen

The Effective Use of Last Chance Agreements

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

You have an employee who has been productive for your company in the past but has shown signs lately of not being at his or her best. More frequent absenteeism and/or tardiness as well as erratic behavior with staff and customers all have become part of your worker’s traits, and you fear he or she may have a problem with drugs or alcohol. You want to keep that employee rather than terminate him or her, given the accomplishments, but addressing that situation may not be as easy as you hope.

Under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), you cannot discriminate against any employee you believe is disabled, and that includes one you think has a substance abuse problem. In most circumstances, it is unlawful to require an employee to undergo medical testing or treatment. That includes forcing them to enter rehabilitation or monitoring their stay if they enter rehab voluntarily. The situation appears hopeless.

There is a legal solution that many businesses employ for this situation – in fact, it is effective even if the employee’s poor performance is not due (or found not due) to substance abuse, if that is the case. It’s called a Last Chance Agreement.

By having an employee sign a Last Chance Agreement, your worker agrees to the following:

  • To enter a rehabilitation program
  • To allow the company to monitor his or her rehab plan for success
  • To return to work after successfully completing the rehab program and follow the requirements set by his or her rehab counselor or the company’s substance abuse policy
  • To understand that any future misconduct (e.g., a positive drug test) will result in immediate termination

For employees without a substance problem, the Last Chance Agreement can be used to make them understand they need to improve their job performance and/or behavior, and that failure to do so can result in termination. Whatever the case, this agreement will either spur a better work ethic by the employee, or will serve as documentation to the Employment Security Commission that the employee had full knowledge of the consequences of his or her failure to improve and that termination could result from that failure.

For additional information on Last Chance Agreements please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel team at (919) 878-9222 or (336) 668-7746.

Photo Source: matsuyuki