Archive for September, 2011

Addressing Poor Performance in the Workplace

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

sleep at jobEmployees can exhibit poor workplace performance in more than a few ways. Some consistently arrive late and leave early, others are busy updating their social media accounts, and a few frequently struggle with closing their sales. No matter the types of problem performers your business has, continuing to let them under produce will harm your organization’s success.

Acknowledging and confronting poor performers are often challenging tasks for managers to execute. Weak sales, unsatisfactory customer service and decreased employee morale are a few of the consequences of ignoring low achievers.  To strengthen your business’ credibility in hiring top talent, address a poor performance issue immediately.

First identify the underlying cause that is making an employee perform inadequately. Many managers automatically assume that employees are solely responsible for their less than stellar work ethics. When investigating the situation, you might conclude that the employee is overly stressed from his to-do list, one of his immediate family members is seriously ill or he received incorrect information when he was trained. Once you narrow down the reason, you can proceed with a tailored improvement plan.

Incorporate the following actions into your improvement plans to accelerate productivity in low-achieving employees:

  1. Use specific examples when discussing occurrences of poor performance. Do not exaggerate or use the opinions of others when confronting the employee.  Ex:  “Joe, I’d like to address your tardiness. I have witnessed you being late more than five times during the past two weeks.”
  2. Take care to ensure that you know the best communication method for approaching your problem performer. No one handles feedback in the same manner, especially negative feedback. Proper communication can alleviate emotional outbursts or feelings of resentment.
  3. Create an environment of constant feedback and clearly communicated expectations. Waiting around to give feedback can lessen an employee’s sense of urgency to correct a mistake. Feel free to ask employees to repeat their understanding of your feedback, as well as the goals you want them to attain.
  4. Document each conversation and review session that you have with problem personnel. Be exact with dates, goals, deadlines, expectations and feedback. Capture both positive and negative results from the improvement process. This will help you evaluate whether the employee can turn his work efforts around.

If you do not see favorable results after maintaining an employee improvement plan for several weeks, your organization could consider moving the employee to another position that suits his abilities better. If this is not an option and all other efforts to improve productivity have failed, termination could be an effective solution.

To explore additional methods for handling poor performers, please contact an account manager at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746 and inquire about CAI’s class called Managing Problem Performance.

Photo Source: hawken king

Delegate for Efficiency and Employee Empowerment

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

folderDelegation is a concept that benefits organizations in two specific ways:

  1. Senior leaders and managers experience more time to focus on high-level activities, such as strategic planning and new business exploration, which helps them build a more successful business.
  2. Employees receiving delegated tasks strengthen their skills, obtain diverse experience and demonstrate their capabilities to their supervisors, allowing them to feel empowered and engaged at work.

Although the advantages of delegation help multiple staff members prosper, many leaders do not implement the process for fear that tasks will not be completed adequately, or they have improper knowledge on how to delegate effectively. Leadership requires you to utilize the talents and experiences of the individuals who work at your company. If executed correctly, delegation can help your business and your employees achieve tremendous results. Below are key tactics for initiating a plan for delegation:

  1. Create a Culture for Delegation: Cultivating a workplace that stresses the importance of delegation helps everyone succeed. Employees will feel appreciated and be more productive when they are assigned new projects or receive feedback on their work.
  2. Assess Your Goals: Whether you have one task to delegate or a myriad of them, the end result will be better if you lay out a clear plan of how the project should be handled and what the desired outcome should be.
  3. Identify Workers’ Strengths and Weaknesses: Delegation offers employees the opportunity to flex their skills and take ownership on important tasks outside of their usual assignments. Be sure you know your employees’ strengths and weaknesses to appropriately match projects. This will help reduce unfavorable results.
  4. Establish a Work Plan and Communicate Expectations: Managers who do not delegate often fear that their subordinates will not be able to perform the job like they would. However, if you strategize a workflow plan with your employees, they will understand the overall goal. Communicating clear directions and hard deadlines will also yield a good outcome. Asking your employees to repeat their understanding of the project will help you determine if they grasp what is being asked of them.   
  5. Oversee Progress and Rate Results: Delegation can fail if you do not organize a monitoring method for the projects that you assign.  Periodically requesting updates and providing feedback will help you see if employees are reaching their goals or if additional assistance is needed. When projects are completed, you can review the goals to see if they met their marks.  Praise your employees if they achieved suitable or exceptional results. If your employees failed to produce satisfactory work, use the experience as a learning opportunity. 

It is also imperative to add that there are several tasks that should not be delegated to a subordinate. Some of these duties include: personal requests assigned specifically to you, providing feedback to other employees, high-level tasks for which you have the expertise, disciplinary undertakings and crisis situations.

For more information on how to delegate productively, please contact an account manager at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746 and inquire about CAI’s class called Steps to Delegating Effectively.

Photo Source: Ukeig

Attract, Retain and Engage: CAI’s 2011 Compensation and Benefits Conference

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

On August 31 and September 1, CAI invited HR professionals and company executives to attend its annual Compensation and Benefits Conference at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh. More than 180 guests participated in the two-day event. Learning different methods to approaching compensation and benefits and receiving legal updates were top reasons people attended.

“I want to improve my understanding of compensation as it relates to benefits. I want to gain more insight on the topic,” Yolanda Melvin, benefits administrator at PHE, Inc., said when asked why she decided to attend.

conferenceThe late summer conference aimed to help organizations attract, retain and engage their employees by offering innovative strategies to recognize and reward staff in any economic setting. For each of its conferences, CAI strives to provide attendees with speakers who present informative, relevant and captivating content. This year’s speakers ranged from a Lead Consultant in Engagement Assessment and Insight from Aon Hewitt to a Distinguished Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School.

Conference guests enjoyed five presentations that offered information to plan ahead for a changing workforce, different economy and competitive business climate. Speakers shared their knowledge on re-engaging a mentally and physically exhausted workforce and what rapidly changing demographic trends employers should be preparing for. CAI’s Director of HR services, Molly Hegeman, revealed the results of the company’s 2011 Wage and Salary Survey during the conference. CAI also ensured that attendees received an update on healthcare reform and learned different methods to communicate benefits issues with their workforces.

“I’m always interested in anything that has to do with the healthcare reform because it’s going to impact our company a lot,” Stephanie Moore, human resources representative at DAK Americas, said regarding the presentation she was interested in seeing.

In addition to participating in the main events, attendees had the opportunity to join several of the conference’s breakout sessions. Some of the session topics included:

  • Current Trends in Retirement Plans
  • The New Frontier: Expanding the Paradigm of Organization Well-Being
  • Making Incentive Compensation Work for You
  • Wage and Hour Compliance

CAI works to provide participants with a great experience while educating them on best practices for compensation and benefits.  Professionals who attend the conference get to network with other industry leaders while they analyze research findings, consult on total reward strategies and receive the latest updates on issues that will affect their businesses.

“I always like [CAI’s] conferences. It’s a lot of good information. It’s always relevant. I do a lot of the surveys for CAI, so it’s always interesting to see that the feedback from those surveys is presented in all of their conferences,” Moore said.

For more information on CAI’s annual Compensation and Benefits Conference or help with keeping your workforce engaged, please contact an account manager at 919-878-9222 or 336-669-7746 or visit

Three Reasons to Benchmark your Employee Benefits Plan

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

 Hill, Chesson & WoodyThe post below is a guest blog from Chris Tutino who serves as Communications Specialist for CAI’s employee benefits partner Hill, Chesson & Woody.

With January 1 annual renewals right around the corner for a majority of employers, how do you know if your employee benefits plan is in alignment with other plans around the country and state? What about within your company’s industry and size?

Early this year, we worked with our partner, CAI, on the 6th Annual N.C. Healthcare Benefits and Cost Survey. This benchmarking report is the only one of its kind in North Carolina and one of only a handful in the country. Typically, when a benefits plan is benchmarked, it is done against nationwide data. While this is better than not benchmarking at all, a statewide comparison provides a better data set and a more relevant look at who your organization is competing against.

There are a number of ways benchmarking benefits your company, one of which is the invaluable information gained by human resources managers and CFOs. And, in the wake of healthcare reform, experts agree that benchmarking has received a higher level of interest, albeit for different reasons.

Another reason to benchmark is because what used to be a way to look over the shoulder of your competition has turned into a means to determine whether to offer health benefits at all. And, if your organization does decide to offer benefits or is forced to do so because of healthcare reform, benchmarking allows you to see how your costs fall in alignment with like-sized companies in similar industries.

Lastly, employers who navigate healthcare reform effectively will emerge with plans that benchmark where they need to be in order to remain competitive, manage expenses in innovative ways, and do so with the confidence that options do exist should the plan ever become cost-prohibitive.

Check out the executive summary from the 2010/2011 NC Healthcare Benefits & Cost benchmarking survey to see how your company stacks up on some key metrics, today.

Help Your Employees Achieve and Maintain Work/Life Balance

Thursday, September 15th, 2011



The uncertain economy has caused many employers to maintain a lean workforce.  As a result, employees are often working additional hours to get their jobs done.  The expanded workweek may prevent employees from attending children’s events, socializing with friends or taking quality time for themselves.

As an employer, it is important to know the negative effects associated with an improper balance between work and life. People who spend most of their waking hours working are much more likely to suffer from exhaustion, stress and poor sleep habits. The side effects from frequent overtime hours could spiral into business hazards, such as regular absenteeism, decreased retention and poor work performance.

Taking steps to help your staff members achieve work/life balance will provide your organization with a number of benefits. The following are some of the positive changes companies that value and incorporate work/life balance initiatives have seen:

  • Improvement in productivity
  • Increase in employee satisfaction
  • Reduction in tardiness and absenteeism
  • Greater company loyalty and teamwork
  • Decrease in stress, sickness and exhaustion

There are a number of ways that an organization can ensure that their employees are maintaining work/life balance. Depending on the size of the organization, the staff members and the budget, implementing some of the ideas below could be helpful in reaching work/life balance for the entire company:

  • Childcare and eldercare assistance
  • Flexible work hours
  • Company wellness programs with onsite workshops
  • Reduced cost for fitness memberships
  •  On-site and off-site professional development opportunities

Employees can also make an effort to improve their quality of life. Encourage staff members to take ownership of their work/life balance by asking them to speak up if they receive too much work or feel strained to keep up with a project deadline. They can also utilize some of the practices below to make the most of their time inside and outside of work:

  • Set deadlines for projects to help maintain the amount of time spent working on them
  • Prioritize tasks by their importance and work to complete the more pressing assignments first
  • Take breaks between long periods of work to help regain focus
  • Exercise, eat well and sleep at least seven hours each night to sustain energy
  • Avoid discussing work when spending quality time with family and friends

Organizations that emphasize work/life balance improve their bottom line and create a positive environment for all of their staff members. To discuss various approaches for accomplishing a work/life balance initiative at your workplace, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: lululemon athletica

A Rising Concern: Discriminating Against the Unemployed

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

JobseekerJobseekers are up against many challenges as America continues to face its worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Their frustrations peak when they see job postings that include language such as, “No unemployed candidates will be considered” or “Only the currently employed should apply.” This type of wording is currently prevalent on several job boards, including the big players, like Monster and Indeed.

Fourteen million Americans are currently unemployed, and six million of them have been without a job for more than six months according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP). Because the number of jobs the government was hoping to create fell below estimates, unemployed Americans who are seeking positions are playing on an intensely competitive field. In its briefing paper that highlights unemployment discrimination, NELP states that there are nearly five unemployed job seekers for each job opening. To make matters worse, organizations that range from hotels, restaurants, advertising agencies, law firms and universities are limiting unemployed jobseekers’ opportunities by only encouraging people who have jobs to apply to their positions.

Why the Catch-22?

With high unemployment lasting for the past three years and unemployment periods averaging up to nine months, it appears that this exclusionary concept is perpetuating the vexation of 14 million Americans.  NELP reports that more than half of the job postings with discriminatory language against the unemployed come from staffing agencies, but other industries, which include white collar and blue collar jobs, also participate in the practice.

Employers and staffing agencies that look for candidates who are currently working cite a number of reasons for barring the unemployed. Some employers place the blame on recruiting firms that they utilize, claiming that they were unaware of the language and tactics they used to attract talent. Others say the discriminatory practice is an easy way to filter the plethora of applications that they receive. Still, others suggest performance reasons, including a deterioration of skills because of their unemployment, as well as the possibility that they were not laid off because of the recession, but because they were unable to do their jobs well.

Finding Solutions

As expected, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is investigating measures it can take to prevent employers from discriminating against the unemployed. Proving that the restrictive language that employers use violates discrimination laws will be hard according to legal experts. Unlike race or gender, the unemployed is not a protected status. However, research is showing that unemployment discrimination is disproportionately negatively affecting blacks, Hispanics and older people. If substantial evidence is found that this language adversely affects various populations, the EEOC might have a case to make discriminatory ads illegal.

The American people are also discontent with employers using discriminatory measures during the country’s most devastating recession. A survey conducted for NELP by Hart Research Associates found that 80 percent of participants thought the refusal to consider unemployed job applicants was very unfair and 10 percent saw it as somewhat unfair. More than 60 percent of those who participated were in favor of proposing legislation that would make it illegal for companies to discriminate against qualified candidates because they are unemployed.

jobseekerRepresentatives Rosa Delauro (D-CT) and Henry Johnson, Jr. (D-GA) introduced the Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011 on July 12 to address the growing concern of employers’ practices. If passed, the bill would prohibit employers and recruiting agencies from refusing to consider applicants who are qualified but are not currently employed. In April New Jersey passed a bill similar to the US representatives’ proposed legislation, and now it is illegal within the state to use language that excludes the unemployed in job advertisements.

Because unemployment rates have yet to come down and job creation has become stagnant, employers should take caution when considering posting language about an available position.  The EEOC and NELP are only two of many organizations that are analyzing the procedures of companies that discriminate against the unemployed. If your organization would like information on creating fair, informative and correct job descriptions, please contact a member of Advice and Counsel at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Jared Hatfield, bpsusfp

Strategies for Creating Highly-Efficient Teams

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

You have worked on teams since grade school. Some of your experiences with teams have been rewarding, leading to success, and some have been unpleasant, leading to unresolved conflicts and missed opportunities. As an HR professional, you know that there are many teams within your organization, which is the largest team. Knowing how to shape teams to benefit the productivity of your company will help employees reach business goals more creatively, collaboratively and efficiently.

Back in grade school, there was always at least one member of the team who did not want to pull his weight. In a company setting, laziness should not be permitted. A well-engineered team can accelerate problem-solving and propel innovation to create unprecedented success for your organization. So, it is important for all staff members to play their parts.


Try implementing some of the techniques below to invoke positive team-building skills at your organization:

  • Create measurable goals. Unattainable goals will take a team nowhere. Base team objectives on prior business performance and the strengths of each member. Aggressiveness for obtaining goals is good, but being unrealistic in aspirations will waste time.


  • Establish expectations. Delegation and accountability are essential for maintaining a great team dynamic. Make sure everyone knows their role and what they are responsible for in order to meet deadlines and achieve results.


  • Advocate for open communication. One of the greatest benefits of team work is the diversity and creativity that comes from bringing people of various backgrounds and skill sets together. However, this also means that conflict can occur. Encourage each team member to express their opinions and ideas freely while also listening and respecting the views of others.


  • Do not settle. It is excellent when teams assemble strong workflows that yield many positive outcomes. Having success is satisfying, but you can always work harder to attain better results or develop a more productive process. Periodically hold discussions with team members to see if there are areas in which the group can improve and grow.


For more information on forming effective teams at your workplace, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Highways Agency

Reasons to Say Goodbye to an Employee

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011


CAI’s President and CEO, Bruce Clarke, recently shared a few surefire reasons to terminate an employee to Fox Business News. As the economy slowly recovers, it is important to maintain a great employee culture through increased morale and engagement. Ensuring your company has team players dedicated to their work is also important when trying to maintain success in tough economic times. If any of your employees do the following, it might be wise to consider letting them go:

  1. Excessive Tardiness: There are times when tardiness is unavoidable, but if an employee constantly arrives to work more than a few minutes late or takes a longer than average lunch break, he is doing a disservice to your organization. Issuing a warning to employees who have an unreasonable amount of tardies may work to alleviate the problem. However, if warnings do not work, firing is an option.
  2. Being a Debbie Downer: Employers and employees are already trying to survive the recession, so a staff member with a bad attitude can create chaos for everyone. Leaner staff and fewer resources mean that people have more to do, and an employee who is a not a team player will not last long. Gossip, inappropriate comments and vulgar language are among several items that senior management should not tolerate.
  3. A Social Media Dependency: The internet has made connecting with people a simple process. Socializing through any of the network-based websites, such as Facebook and Twitter maybe fine in moderation. However, if you have employees that do more tweeting and connecting than completing their actual assignments, it is time to bolster your company’s social media policy. Watch out for employees who post unfavorable information about their colleagues or place of work. This type of communication is grounds for firing.

For more information and tips related to employee termination, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Paul Stevenson

NC Companies Projected to Increase Salary Budgets in 2012

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

CAI’s 2011 Wage & Salary Survey revealed that many North Carolina companies will be rewarding their employees with annual salary increases in 2012. Eighty percent of the nearly 500 organizations surveyed anticipate raising employee pay in 2012 by an average of 3.0 percent.


National Predictions Match NC

CAI has conducted its annual Wage & Salary Survey for more than 20 years, and it remains the most comprehensive and in-depth survey conducted of North Carolina Employers. This year’s survey represented 535 facilities in the state. Survey data was collected between April and May of this year. The results from North Carolina employers align greatly with salary data on a national scale. WorldatWork’s 2011-12 Preliminary Salary Budget Survey showed projections of 2.9 percent in 2012. Similarly, the Hay Group received results showing median pay increase of 3.0 percent in 2012.


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Projected Salary Increases for 2012



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 Trends to Watch

The 2011 survey results indicated that only 19 percent of the participating facilities planned to not give annual salary increases in 2012. This statistic is lower than the 2009 results, which showed that almost 50 percent of participating organizations did not provide staff salary adjustments.


Survey results also revealed that there will be a limited use of “cost of living” or “across the board” increases where all employees typically receive the same percent increase. Now organizations are divvying up raises based on the performance of staff members to acknowledge and reward their high performers.


Additional Survey Data

The complete CAI 2011 Wage & Salary Survey includes company wage structure, pay practices and compensation philosophy, base pay increases for 2011, base pay projections for 2012 and detailed pay data for up to 358 jobs common to North Carolina employers. 


CAI is the premier provider of comprehensive survey data on the pay, policies and benefits provided by NC employers.