Archive for December, 2011

Goal Setting is Critical for Employee Engagement and Company Success

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Tuesday’s post featured information for conducting productive employee performance reviews. In addition to the four key elements listed in that post, employee goal setting is another important part of the review process. Goal setting is helpful for managers and employees. Managers have multiple opportunities to provide employees with feedback during this process, and they are able to identify their employees’ strengths and weaknesses. Employees can see how their individual contributions affect and support their company’s bottom line when they begin making goals. If goal setting is done correctly, managers have measurable results to verify that employees met or did not meet their assigned goals, which is helpful when determining rewards and future career paths.

Appropriate goal setting can motivate employees to produce stellar work. Managers should help their direct reports create suitable goals for their positions. Assisting workers with goal setting keeps managers informed about the personal and professional interests their workers have.

 Successful companies have their employees set goals frequently—quarterly, monthly or even weekly—not just once a year. Here are a few tips to help goal setting run smoothly:


1. Know What You Want Accomplished

Employee goals should align with company goals. Managers should inform their staffs that their roles are essential for bringing the company success, and they should help their staffs tailor goals that will bring additional success.

Managers may have several goals that they would like their employees to accomplish, but they also need to consider the goals their employees would like to attain. Simply ask employees what they would like to achieve, and if their objectives are appropriate, help them create action plans. Employees are more likely to be engaged in their work when they see how their efforts benefit them and their company.

Sometimes managers and employees are overzealous with the amount of goals they create for themselves. All goals should support the overall company mission, so strive for quality instead of quantity when establishing them.

2. Can They Reach Them?

Unrealistic goals benefit no one. In order for employees to be happy at their workplace and produce good work for their employers, they need to receive fairness with demands and expectations. Goals that are too high or impossible to reach will leave employees feeling helpless. Keep their morale high and stress low by tailoring goals to their skill set, position and career growth. Goals should be both challenging and attainable.

When employees are satisfied with their specific goals, have them strategize ways to accomplish them. Break large goals into several projects and help employees set deadlines and determine adequate progress for each one.

3. Be Present

Goals are often unmet because of a lack of supervision from managers. This problem is easily avoidable if managers and employees agree to meet and discuss the progress of each goal frequently. Micromanaging is not necessary, but receiving consistent updates will help managers keep their employees on track, as well as help them identify and work through potential obstacles.

Managers should use update meetings to provide employees with constructive criticism and evaluate goal progress. During these meetings, managers also should take time to encourage and praise employees for their efforts. These meetings are helpful for forming stronger manager-employee relationships because of the constant exchange of feedback and shared desire to achieve great results.


Employees who consistently meet or exceed their goals should be rewarded because they are showing commitment to their work and their organization. Not offering rewards will result in employee frustration, which has the potential to decrease productivity and increase turnover.

If employees do not meet their marks, managers should schedule time to meet with them to discuss the reasons why they fell short. Employees have to take responsibility for their work. Managers can inform employees of their disappointment if goals were attainable. After acknowledging disappointment, managers should help employees rework their goals or brainstorm strategies to make them more achievable.

Please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746 for additional tips on successful employee goal setting.

Photo Source: hanspoldoja, Miiish

Four Key Elements for Conducting Productive Employee Performance Reviews

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

With the New Year quickly approaching, managers are preparing for regular performance reviews with their direct reports. Employees at all levels may feel anxious as they receive or share a review. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that many organizations are getting rid of formal review processes because of the anxiety they bring to their employees. The article also included information from an academic review based on more than 600 employee-feedback studies. The data revealed that two-thirds of performance reviews had zero or negative effects on employees after they received the feedback.

Performance reviews, however, are critical for keeping employees on track with their individual goals and the overall goals of their company, and managers can conduct them in a mutually beneficial method. Because reviews often determine future career paths and merit increases, it is important for managers to spend adequate time preparing for them. Productive reviews with clear expectations, specific examples, constructive criticism and future action steps leave employees feeling motivated to achieve their set tasks.

Several ingredients make an efficient and beneficial performance review for managers and their employees. Use the four below to keep workforce morale high and plan for greater business success:


Great reviews start with great planning. Reexamine goals discussed in past reviews and collect specific examples of times the employee excelled and times the employee needed to improve throughout the year. Use this information to guide your review and help convey the expectations you have for the individual.


Constructive criticism is necessary for all great performance reviews, but positive feedback is just as essential. Research shows that employees have a need to feel valued, so take an opportunity during the review to recognize them for the hard work they have contributed to the company. If an employee has performed exceptionally well, reward them with a merit increase or a non-monetary perk if budgets are tight. Rewarding employees for their efforts will help keep turnover low.


An employee review must include participation from the manager and the employee. Give employees time to reflect on their own performance and let them prepare for answering questions related to their current work flow and future company activity. Allow for two-way communication when conducting performance reviews. Employees should be able to offer suggestions on how they can improve their work. They also should  feel comfortable to complain or mention items that could be hindering their performance.

Action Plan:

Once past performances are analyzed, it is important for managers to work with their employees to create an action plan for the next couple of months. These action plans should be revisited and updated frequently during the year. Monthly and annual goals should be included in these plans. Projects to strengthen professional skills and accelerate career growth also should be included into employee action plans. Having these plans will be helpful when preparing for your next employee performance review.

For more information or tips for conducting productive and motivating performance reviews, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Highways Agency

Coaching Your Managers Will Bring Business Success

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

“Do you view workplace interruptions as an opportunity to reconnect, to learn about problems and to sense the need for an idea or support? Or, do you see interruptions as the reason you must work late and take projects home?” CAI’s CEO Bruce Clarke asks his readers in his latest N & O Column, “The View from HR.”

In his December 18 edition, Bruce praises the message Doug Conant, the CEO of Campbell Soup Company, provides in his book Touch Points. Doug’s message infers that consistent, supportive and genuine communication between two people can work as a motivator and a problem solver.

If you polled all of your managers with direct reports, how would they respond to Bruce’s question? Managers hold several roles and are responsible for the work and career progress of the employees they supervise. Managers who view workplace interruptions positively encourage connections with their employees.

“Connecting is more than communicating,” Bruce says. “Telling somebody what to do is communicating, but connecting around their challenges is connecting. Communication is the foundation, but think how much powerful it is to truly connect!”

Echoing the importance of connecting with employees, featured an article based on a survey conducted by Bersin & Associates. The coaching-focused survey shows that organizations that effectively prep their managers to coach are 130 percent more likely to achieve stronger business outcomes. These companies are also 33 percent better at engaging their workforce.

Help your managers communicate and connect with their employees better. Having strong connections between coworkers at your workplace will raise employee morale, increase productivity and affect your bottom line positively. Here are a few areas that your managers should be coached in: 


Communicating effectively is a key trait that all managers should possess. Clear communication will help their direct reports understand expectations the first time they receive them, which will help bring greater and timelier success for projects.  Managers that have two-way communication with their staff are aware of individual strengths and weaknesses, and they can help determine the tasks best suited for their employees. Good communication also helps managers uncover problems early to find reasonable and lasting solutions.


Managers with direct reports should be good leaders because they are responsible for many items within an organization. Those with good leadership abilities will handle stressful situations by remaining calm and continuing to work to deliver results. Managers with strong leadership skills will make decisions with confidence and serve as exemplary examples of dedicated employees. They will support their company’s overall culture and work to help attain the goals of their supervisors and employees who report to them.


Managers should know that teamwork is essential for creating success, and they should understand how their team’s efforts contribute to their company’s bottom line. As a member of their departmental team or overall organization, they need to have good interpersonal skills to relay and receive information. Managers need to know how their team members work separately and together. They need to delegate tasks appropriately to help their team run efficiently. Additionally, good managers should be able to resolve conflict between team members quickly and effectively to keep productivity high.


A major cause of disengagement in employees is the failure of their employer to recognize the contributions that they provide. Good managers with engaged employees give positive and constructive feedback frequently. They actively listen to the concerns of their employees and try to foster environments that motivate their staffs to produce high-quality work. They help their employees feel valued because they say “thank you” often and reward them for their accomplishments. Managers who understand employee recognition also invest time in developing their employees’ skills and helping them reach their career goals.

CAI provides a number of options for companies looking to strengthen their coaching efforts. Please visit CAI’s Coaching page or call a member of CAI’s Learning and Development Team at 919-878-9222.

Photo Source: clogozm

Healthcare Reform Likely to Encourage Employers to Consider Self Funding

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

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

Provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) are causing shifts in the marketplace on all sides of the issue. Insurance carriers, employers, providers and consumers are each reacting to the government’s regulations that are designed to get everyone insured, control costs and improve health outcomes.

Three specific provisions of reform — medical loss ratio, the modified community rating and guaranteed issue of medical plans — will encourage organizations to consider a move away from fully insured funding to self insurance. Currently, only 13 percent of organizations with less than 100 employees fund their employee health plans in a self funded manner.

Because healthcare reform is reducing competition in the market place, an environment of rising healthcare costs is being fostered. Since reinsurance carriers are not bound by loss ratios or modified community ratings, employers with healthy employee demographics that shift from a fully insured medical plan to a self funded plan potentially will be able to improve their cost position and have more plan design flexibility.

Based on the current PPACA regulations, we believe more small employers will explore self funding as an option. Taking into consideration your organization’s demographics, risk tolerance and goals for self funding is a necessary step that will ultimately determine if this type of funding is a viable option to stem the tide of healthcare reform.

For more information or to discuss your organization’s funding type, please call Hill, Chesson & Woody at (919) 403-1986.

Talking Workplace Culture with Jack Daly

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Experienced business leader and nationally-known speaker Jack Daly is scheduled to present a keynote session at CAI’s 2012 HR Management Conference on February 21, 2011 at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh. His dynamic presentation focuses on workplace culture and the key components that employers need for designing environments that increase productivity and achieve business goals. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jack, and he shared great advice on the importance of maintaining a positive workplace culture with me.

There are two ways to look at culture, according to Jack. The first view has employers creating workplaces where employees want to work as oppose to have to work. The second develops an environment where workers do not just come to work with their minds and bodies, but they also bring their hearts.

“Because if we win over the hearts,” Jack said, “they will do things well beyond what we could ever direct them to do or command them to do.”

Finding elements that go after people’s hearts is key to establishing a positive workplace culture. To ensure that your culture is durable, Jack said four factors must be included: recognition systems, communications systems, personal and professional development systems and empowerment processes. A company that recognizes the efforts of its employees, communicates to them effectively and challenges them to make important decisions is a healthy and enjoyable place to work.

For any organization that is struggling to indentify or create its culture, Jack has a suggestion for its leadership:

“Go into the [workplace] trenches and become one of the many that are employed in the company, and then ask, ‘what would make me feel wanted and loved in this company?’”

Having members of leadership connected to entry and mid-level positions will help them see the importance of the four mandatory factors, as well as find several methods to incorporate each factor in business planning.

Culture at some companies just happens and evolves. Jack said that data, however, shows that organizations that critically think about their culture and design a great work environment for their employees are crushing the economy, their business sector and their competitors. The specific areas these companies are surpassing their competitors in are revenue, exit-value of the company, profitability and job growth for employees.

“The revenue line alone is worth over three times what it would be if you didn’t spend time thinking through culture,” Jack said.

Maintaining a positive culture is just as important as designing one. Assigning accountability and delegating roles to make sure the program lasts longer than six months is necessary for it to become part of the company’s fabric, according to Jack. He suggests that company leaders regularly ask questions like, “what actions have we been taking on our culture?” and “where have we missed opportunities for our culture?” Putting culture on the agenda of monthly staff meetings will guarantee the frequency of these types of conversations.

Outside factors can negatively affect a culture that is currently performing well if leaders lose control of their responsibilities. Jack has noticed that many companies spend less time on culture in bad economies than they do in good economies. He said this is the exact opposite of how they should react because leadership’s anxiety about business performance will negatively impact employees. In a good economy, there are more opportunities for raises and job security, so workers are more relaxed and happy. When the economy is tough, their anxiety levels go up. They then manifest their anxieties in their work and with customers, which can potentially impact business negatively.  

Making culture a priority, holding people accountable for their roles and incorporating the four main factors will ensure that employees give their hearts and their best work to their organizations, which will help increase the bottom line. When asked about businesses that ignore these concepts, Jack said:

“…you’re going to save some money and cut some expenses in the short term, but the long-term viability of your company is severely at jeopardy.”

To gain more valuable information on culture and to see Jack’s presentation, register for CAI’s 2012 HR Management Conference here:

Keep Stress Under Control at Your Workplace

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Stress is a top factor that drives high-potential talent to competitors. Recent research indicates that many employers are unaware that their employees quit to find positions that are less stressful. The current state of the economy and holiday season can cause added stress to workers. Companies should check in with their staffs to gauge their stress level and take measures to try to lessen it.

Untreated stress can negatively impact an employee’s job and health. Stressed out workers experience low morale and are less productive. Those who are stressed can also feel frustrated, irritable and exhausted. They can have trouble focusing and may become ill or fatigued easily. To alleviate these symptoms, try using the methods below:

  • Respect employees’ work/life balance. Allow them to tend to and handle personal issues or problems by granting them time off or creating flexible work arrangements.
  • If possible, help them out on their weekly or monthly tasks. Some companies schedule for a dry cleaning service to pick up, clean and return clothes to each employee at the office. Other organizations, like Google, provide their workforce with an on-site laundry facility.
  • Tightened budgets add to the stresses of work. Help employees save a few dollars by ordering lunch occasionally or stocking the office refrigerator with sodas and snacks.
  • Employees without clear direction of their career path can become frustrated and stressed. Help them avoid these feelings by working together to set career goals and encouraging them to make progress on achieving them.
  • Ask for employee input on how to redesign work systems to make everyone’s job more productive, and cut out inefficient and repetitive work processes. Putting fewer items of greater importance on a worker’s plate will help increase his or her job satisfaction.

Engaging and retaining top talent is important for maintaining a successful business. By creating a company culture that recognizes the efforts of each individual worker, people feel appreciated and morale is raised, which helps drive productivity no matter the economic climate. Helping your workforce reduce its stress will help keep morale high. For more information and tips to help keep your employees’ stress under control, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: alancleaver_2000

Defining Your Workplace Culture

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Creating a positive workplace that values and motivates your workforce will help you weather any business obstacle. Employees who view their workplace positively are more likely to invest in the company, produce high-quality work and be brand ambassadors. Even in a tough economic climate, a positive culture will encourage employees to continue giving their best work because their leadership is committed to doing the same.

A positive company culture is key to business success and survival. CAI’s CEO and President, Bruce Clarke, explains that there is no silver bullet for establishing an engaging company culture in his latest News & Observer column, “The View from HR.”  He says that workplace culture decisions should be made with purpose and an end in mind. There are many options for creating a more positive workplace, but Bruce cautions employers from copying the culture of others and creating one based on cool behaviors or conservative options. Instead, employers should look to their employees, business vision, goals, and values to develop a lasting company culture.

“It is a powerful thing when whom you hire, how you work and what you are as an organization weave together in concert to meet your business objectives,” Bruce says.

Although there is no special recipe for creating a positive and productive company culture, there are several elements that should be included:

  • Cooperation—All employees, including management, should be involved in the culture-making process.
  • Communication—Use effective communication methods to inform staff about the culture initiative and frequently update them on its progress.
  • Creativity—Challenge employees to change the way they think. Encourage brainstorming and risk taking to guide the process.
  •  Accountability—Set goals and expectations for the project early. Make sure everyone knows their part and hold them accountable for following through.
  • Commitment—Holding regular meetings to discuss company culture is a good method to ensure continual support for the initiative.

You can get more information on developing your company’s culture at CAI’s 2012 HR Management Conference, which is scheduled for February 21 and February 22 at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh. The conference aims to teach HR professionals and other top executives strategies in culture and talent that will help them crush their competition. Learn more and register today at


Tackling ADA and FMLA at the 2011 Triad Employment Law Update

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

CAI hosted its annual Triad Employment Law Update at the Koury Center in Greensboro on November 9.  More than 150 HR professionals and company executives attended the conference to receive important updates on the latest developments in state and federal employment laws and regulations.

The sold-out conference featured presentations from law firm and conference partner Constangy, Brooks and Smith, LLP. Presentation topics ranged from correctly calculating compensable employee work hours to knowing how employees’ use of social media affects organizations.

Robin Shea, attorney and partner for Constangy and a conference favorite, presented information on two pertinent employment regulations: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

As a regular presenter at the Triad Employment Law Update, Robin says, “The conference is a great, cost-effective, and enjoyable way to ensure that your company is up to date on the latest developments in labor and employment law.”

Evaluations from the conference showed that guests enjoyed the speakers because they were knowledgeable, provided great information and kept them engaged. Multiple conference attendees commented positively on Robin’s presentation. She tried to keep her focus on the practical side of staying compliant while also making sure to entertain her audience. Knowing that employers have many questions related to ADA and FMLA, Robin avoided being overly legalistic and technical when she presented.

“Before the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) changes took effect in January 2009, the ADA had become almost a dead letter — it applied to such a narrow population of individuals that employers didn’t have to worry much about ADA compliance. Now that the definition of ‘disability’ has expanded so dramatically, the ADA has become extremely significant, and employers are rusty in applying it,” Robin said when asked why employers have so many questions related to the two acts.

She warns employers against punishing employees for absences that qualify as FMLA events 99.99 percent of the time. If a company does decide to take action for the remaining .01 percent, Robin suggests consulting an employers’ association or legal counsel beforehand.

Robin says the most important concept for understanding the ADA is that virtually every employee is “disabled” according to the definition found in the law.

“Be sure to consider all requests for reasonable accommodations. ‘Consider’ does not mean ‘grant,’ but do not reject any accommodation request out of hand,” she says about staying compliant.

Employers need to be aware of all the components that make up FMLA and the new ADA. Robin says that the federal government is looking for new test cases, so companies should handle these employee occurrences seriously and properly. She says that if you are not sure on what to do, ask for help before you do anything irreversible.

Constangy lawyers shared additional information on subjects important to employers. They also answered specific workplace questions from conference participants in the “Ask an Attorney” segment of the event.

“In our current regulatory and litigation climate, the value of this [conference] cannot be overemphasized” Robin says.

For more information on recent updates on FMLA and ADA or other employer related laws, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746. To get details on the next Triad Employment Law Update, please contact an account manager at the numbers above.

Photo Source: D. Begley

Onboarding Strategies for Getting Seasonal Workers Up to Speed

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

The post below is a guest blog from Kyle Lagunas.

Kyle Lagunas is the HR Analyst at Software Advice. On the surface, it’s his job to contribute to the ongoing conversation on all things HR. Beyond that, he makes sure his audience is keeping up with important trends and hot topics in the industry. Focused on offering a fresh take on points of interest in his market, he’s not your typical HR guy.

During peak periods – around the holidays, tax season or over the summer – it’s critical that businesses can easily manage the addition of temporary employees and quickly get them up to speed. And from recruiting and training to offboarding, seasonal employees can put your human resources software and processes to the test. Not only do you have to find and hire the right people, you have a very short time to train them and get them connected to your organization.

An effective, streamlined process for hiring and onboarding employees is essential to any organization’s success – especially those that rely on seasonal help. Here, I’ve outlined a few ways to go above and beyond your normal onboarding process to get seasonal employees geared up and ready to go.

Employee Integration: The Heart of Onboarding
According to ForbesWoman columnist and onboarding expert Emily Bennington, every employee in an organization should be integrated into the company on several levels – regardless of the length of employment. But because of the time constraints associated with onboarding seasonal workers, you’re going to need a concentrated game plan. How familiar with your products do they need to be to handle the register? Take a look at your existing onboarding process, and then adjust and condense it so you can achieve your optimal level of integration.

5 Key Factors of a Strong Seasonal Workforce
Some people may assume I’m focused on training when I say “onboarding,” but the fact is that the employee experience starts in the recruiting stage. With this in mind, here are a few key strategies to help you throughout every phase of the process:

Tailor your recruiting strategies. Your recruiting efforts should be tailored to meet the specific needs of a seasonal workforce. It’s important to make the details of the opportunity clear from the get-go. I would also be wary of how you communicate potential for further employment, as you don’t want folks making assumptions.

Perform due diligence. Don’t skimp on due diligence in collecting legal papers and monitoring employees’ schedules. “A lot of people short-circuit processes like verifying work eligibility or tracking hours correctly. It should go without saying, but you really need to be sure you’re following the law,” says John Rossheim, a senior contributing writer at

Provide proper training. According to Bennington, onboarding should focus on integrating new employees in three areas:

  •  Technical Skills: To what depth of expertise do seasonal employees need to be trained to perform their jobs?
  • Company Culture: How thoroughly do seasonal hires need to understand company policies and values?
  • Social Integration: In what ways can you connect seasonal employees to your organization so they feel like they are part of the team?

Furthermore, Rossheim suggests designing your seasonal workforce “to accomplish the task at hand, rather than haphazardly training everyone to do everything they may possibly have to do. Specialize rather than throwing everyone into the same bucket.”

Know your capacity upfront. Whether you have a general human resources management system or a hodgepodge of spreadsheets and checklists – it’s important to know your capacity. Can your back-office system efficiently handle an increased volume in applicants and new hires?

Make them part of the team. Seasonal employees can easily feel isolated if an onboarding program doesn’t successfully connect them to the organization. According to Eddie Baeb of Target Corportate Communications, Target is focused on engaging seasonal employees and making them feel just as valued as anyone else from day one. With nearly 40 percent (about 35,800) of seasonal team members joining as permanent employees last year after the holidays, they’ve got this down.

Offboarding Offers an Opportunity for Improvement
You may have discovered a few star performers you’d like to bring onto your team permanently. For the rest, though, Bennington says “there’s definitely an opportunity to establish brand ambassadors.” Offboarding provides a chance to make a lasting positive impression while gaining insight into the worker’s experience.

Standard offboarding practices include surveying workers on their experience. Bennington suggests going beyond surveying and having one-on-one exit interviews with select employees to get more candid responses.