Archive for April, 2012

4 Tips to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Bruce Clarke, CAI’s CEO, started his latest edition of his N&O Column, the View from HR, with a quote:

“People are emotional first and rational second: Logic makes people think; emotions make people act.”*

Bruce says that having strong Emotional Intelligence is key to personal and professional success. Emotional intelligence (EI) describes a person’s capacity for controlling his or her own emotions and recognizing and understanding the emotions of others. EI also reveals how people react to others’ emotions and how they manage their various relationships.

In today’s business world, having a great EI is a strong competitive advantage against colleagues and peers who don’t. Employees with high EIs are beneficial to their organizations for many reasons. They build great relationships with their coworkers and clients, they’re graceful and collected in high-stress situations, and they’re able to understand and react appropriately to the actions of others.

Bruce says that business leaders with strong EIs are more successful in hiring, managing growth problems, leading people and teaching others. Refining your own emotional intelligence will help you become a better employee and leader at your organization. Try the following 4 tips to improve your EI:

1.       Analyze Yourself

Be mindful of your own emotions and how you respond to different emotional situations. Be honest with yourself to determine your strengths and weaknesses, and how they might affect others. Work to take responsibility for all of your actions. Be open-minded, and stay positive in different business scenarios.

2.       Really Listen

While others are talking, instead of listening, many people are thinking up their response. People with high EIs are able to focus on what the speaker is actually saying. Try to direct your attention on understanding what the person is communicating. Summarize what you think you heard to the speaker, and ask him or her questions to clarify if needed.

3.       Be Aware of Body Language

Understanding body language and nonverbal communication will help you identify how someone is truly feeling. Practice recognizing whether someone’s body language matches up to what he or she is actually saying, and react accordingly. Watch for facial expressions, tone of voice, and body and eye movements.

4.       Identify What Causes You Stress

Whether it’s an overload of work or sick children at home, there are a number of factors that can cause us stress. Identify the things that cause you the most stress, and recognize that you hold the power to bring yourself back to a calm state of mind. Practice constructive coping mechanisms, like exercise and meditation, to bring you back down when your stress levels are running high. Avoid taking your stress out on others.

Cultivating your Emotional Intelligence takes patience and time. For more strategies, you may consider participating in CAI’s class called Leveraging Your Emotional Intelligence.

*Quote from Reuven Bar-On, Ph.D. and the Emotional Quotient Inventory.

Photo Source: Victor1558

Pay or Play Mandate 2014 – Do You Have Your Head in the Sand?

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

The post below is a guest blog from Dax Hill who serves as the Principal, Health & Welfare Consultant for CAI’s employee benefits partner, HCW Employee Benefit Services.

There is a book titled “Hope Is Not a Strategy.”  I believe this statement to be particularly true regarding the Healthcare Reform “Pay or Play” mandate.   This regulation will require great attention as employers determine their future path in offering employee benefits.

As you are probably aware, the following penalties will apply to employers with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees, effective 2014:

1)      If you provide no group medical insurance: you will pay a $2,000 per employee per year penalty.  The first 30 employees are exempt from the penalty.

2)      If you provide unaffordable insurance coverage:  applies to employees making between 100% and 400% of the Federal Poverty Level (400% of the FPL equates to a single employee making ~$44,000) AND EITHER your group medical insurance plan provides less than 60% value OR payroll deductions for employee-only coverage are more than 9.5% of the employee’s W-2 income.  If one of these employees receives a subsidy through the state exchange, the penalty will be subject to the lesser of:  1) a $3,000 penalty per employee receiving a subsidy through the insurance exchange OR  2) $2,000 for all employees (the first 30 employees are exempt from the penalty).

Have you asked yourself the following questions?

  • How will the government penalties impact us if we don’t offer group medical insurance?
  • What will be the financial impact if some employees opt out of our group medical insurance plan and purchase individual coverage through the state insurance exchange?
  • Should we drop our employer-sponsored coverage all together and direct our employees to the exchange?  If we go this route, how are we going to differentiate ourselves as an employer?
  • Or, are we better off continuing to offer our group medical insurance plan?

So, which approach are you taking?

  1. “Let’s wait and see…hopefully this will all go away” approach while waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision before analyzing what type of impact the Play or Pay mandate will have on your company.
  2. “This doesn’t apply to my organization” so I have no reason to consider options related to this mandate.
  3. “Let’s plan now in order to determine which options would provide us with the best possible outcome,” I want to make sure I have a great plan to make this a competitive advantage as possible for my organization.

While 2014 seems so far away, it is not.  Many employers are currently planning for the future and determining which option provides the most favorable outcome based on today’s regulations.  HCW is helping employers quantify those scenarios.  These are just a couple of different scenarios employers are considering:

1)      Stay the course on our current medical insurance plan.

2)      Drop coverage and pay the penalty for all employees. This could be most disruptive and provide no perceived value to the employees.  Additionally, higher compensated employees might not be eligible for any subsidy, which would be a negative impact.

3)      Offer a high/low option for all employees and base the premium contribution on the base plan.

4)      Adjust the “employee-only” premiums in order to meet the 9.5% threshold and prevent any penalties.

5)      Redistribute the premiums from Family to Employee-only coverage to meet the 9.5% threshold.

6)      Have employees work less than 30 hours in order to avoid penalties.

7)      Add all employees to the plan and adjust other forms of compensation to balance the budget.

So, will you Pay or Play? There are many more solutions to consider.  The key is to QUANTIFY possible solutions that align with your culture and the direction of your organization.  This will enable you to make educated decisions around this important benefits strategy.  It’s time to think strategically and not rely on hope.   What steps have you taken to map out a plan?

Employers, Reap the Benefits of Telecommuting

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Telecommuting has become a popular work option for many employees as advances in technology increase. More employers are realizing that producing work in the office isn’t the only way to successfully complete assignments. Not only does this workplace alternative decrease gas emission and conserve energy, which Sunday’s Earth Day celebrators can appreciate, but it offers both companies and staff members a number of benefits.

Here are a few reasons why you should consider letting your employees work remotely:

1.       They are more productive

With fewer office distractions and interruptions from coworkers, employees have more time to focus on getting their work done. Eliminating their daily commute also reduces workers’ stress levels and adds more time to their schedule, helping them be more productive.

2.       Your employees will be happier

Research indicates that telecommuters are less stressed, eat more home-cooked meals and sleep more than their in-office counterparts. These factors also contribute to telecommuters’ decrease in sick days. Having the freedom to work flexible schedules, helps your employees achieve work/life balance and a greater quality of life.

3.       You’ll incur less overhead costs

Fewer employees in the workplace means less money spent on creating and furnishing office space. Your operation costs, including electricity, water and air conditioning will also go down when fewer employees frequent the office.

4.       Your pool of eligible job candidates will increase

Offering flexible work arrangements allows you to choose candidates who may not perform as well on a traditional 9-to-5, in-office schedule. Candidates may include disabled or new parent job seekers.

Like any workplace initiative, telecommuting can also bring challenges to employers and employees. Here are a few to be aware of:

1.       Who should work from home

Not every job at your organization is conducive for a remote-work schedule, such as a receptionist. Additionally, not every employee is cut out to or desires to work from home. Employees who have strong self-discipline, have shown accountability and don’t mind blending work with life are ideal telecommuters.

2.       Feelings of isolation from your telecommuters

Because remote workers don’t visit the office often, they may feel isolated from your team and company culture. To prevent these feelings, frequently touch base with your telecommuters by email, phone or Skype.  Invite them to come into the office if they’d like to talk with you face-to-face as well. Be sure they are invited to staff socials so they have chances to interact with their coworkers.

3.       Onboarding new hires who want to telecommute

The first few months of work for new hires include learning their jobs, meeting their coworkers and getting familiar with expectations. Telecommuting during this time may be challenging for them. Once they become comfortable in their positions, revisit their request to work remotely.

4.       Providing opportunities of growth and advancement

Make sure you are offering telecommuters opportunities to grow their skill set and learn new knowledge to benefit their careers. As you do with your workers who are in the office, set up goals with your remote staffers. If they meet or exceed their expected results, reward them appropriately.

Telecommuting is a privilege that can be taken away if desired results are not achieved. Including language in your employee handbook regarding your telecommuting policy is recommended by experts. Setting expectations and responsibilities for your workers who elect a more flexible schedule will help you ensure success for them and your company.

Please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746 for more tips on implementing a telecommuting program at your organization.

Photo Souce: Victor1558

4 Things Employers Should Know About the ADAAA

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act  (ADAAA) in 2008 with the intent to focus trials on whether discrimination occurred instead of whether an impairment is a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). With the burden of proof now shifted to the employer, it is important for HR departments to be aware of and up to date with the act’s revisions. Knowing the details of the ADAAA will help your organization stay compliant with the law and avoid a lawsuit and accompanying fees.

Here are four things you should know about this act—

1. The definition of a disability is broader.

The original ADA stated that a disability was anything that substantially limits a major life activity. Now that the list of “major life” activities has expanded, more employees are covered under the revised act and can potentially claim a disability.

2. Mitigating factors do not determine whether an employee has a disability.

Under the ADAAA, mitigating measures, which can reduce or eliminate a disability’s effect can’t be considered when an employer or a court is determining whether an employee has a protected disability. Eye glasses are the one exception to this rule.

3. The definition of “reasonable accommodation” is unchanged.

The act clarifies that only individuals who have an impairment that limits a major life activity and a record of the impairment are eligible to receive reasonable accommodation. It is important to note that employers have flexibility under this section of the act. They are not required to fulfill the employee’s exact request if suitable alternatives are available.

4. Documenting is your best protection.

As with most human resources situations, documenting all steps in your process is key to protecting yourself against an unfavorable lawsuit outcome. Before making any reasonable accommodations for your employees, you should request from them documentation by a medical professional affirming their disability. Document all the steps you take in ensuring that your company is doing its best to accommodate employees without undue hardship on its end.

With the ADAAA in full effect, employers should review their handbook policies regarding disabilities and requesting reasonable accommodation. Your company’s employee handbook should include the new definition of a disability. Training your managers with direct reports on how to adequately respond to disability mentions and accommodation requests will also help you stay out of the courthouse.

Labor and employment lawyers from Ogletree Deakins will discuss the ADAAA in more detail at CAI’s 2012 Employment and Labor Law Update on May 2 and May 3. In addition to a review of the ADAAA, conference presenters will give participants updates on the most recent news and changes in state and federal employment laws. Additional topics include: workers’ compensation, healthcare reform, FLSA exemptions and more. Register for the conference today:

Photo Source: Leo Reynolds

Is Your Company Prepared for America’s Ageing Workforce?

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Many labor studies and workforce statistics indicate that the American workforce is ageing. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that 4.6 adults will turn 65 each minute during 2012, and by 2025 that figure will increase to eight adults each minute. Knowing that America is graying rapidly, it is surprising that many employers have not prepared for this demographic change when planning for their future business ventures.

Ignoring reports revealing that baby boomers are interested in working past their retirement age and will stay at companies that offer flexibility will leave your company vulnerable to disorganization and revenue loss. Older workers offer a number of benefits to their employers. They are hardworking, loyal and professional. Older employees also boast vast networks of business contacts and extensive experience in their line of work.

Research shows that many baby boomers have no plans to fully retire and are interested in staying plugged into their career fields. If you’re interested in retaining the company knowledge that your older workers have acquired and the strong work ethics they incorporate into each of their projects, make sure you are keeping their needs in mind when you’re planning for company succession and total rewards packages. Listed below are a few items that older workers would like to see from their employers:


Employees approaching retirement age are not interested in working the typical 40-hour week. An increasing number of companies are receiving requests from their older workers to have more flexible work schedules.  Many workers at this age desire a high-quality of life and would prefer to work part time. To accommodate requests, organizations are implementing a number of measures to achieve productive, part-time schedules. Accommodations include reduced hours, telecommuting and job sharing.


Data shows that the US is experiencing a skills gap between available positions and available talent. When older workers retire, they take with them company experience and expertise, which is impossible to replace. For your employees who are contemplating retirement, ask them if they’d be interested in working for the company as a part-time consultant. In this setup, they will be able to reduce their hours and continue to apply their knowledge while your organization still has a valuable and reliable company resource on staff.

Health Plans

A company’s health care plan can be a determining factor on whether an employee decides to retire or stay with his organization. Many older workers may remain in their position longer than they’d like for fear that they’ll lose their health benefits. Feeling trapped in their jobs could result in their disengagement and reduced productivity. Meet with your benefits provider and work to offer a wellness and benefits program that will suit all of your employees, including your older workers.

Don’t lose your high-value talent and the company knowledge they carry with them because of poor workforce planning. If you would like additional information on succession planning or managing an aging workforce, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: skilledwork_org

6 Steps to Boost Employee Happiness and Productivity

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Just as April’s showers bring May’s flowers, the time you spend on cultivating your employees directly affects how successful they are in reaching their goals.  Proper time spent on setting your employees up for success not only benefits their workflows, but it also helps your overall organization maintain positive business results.

The six strategies below will help your staff members bloom to their full potential. So, implement these tips, and watch them flourish:

Make Expectations Clear

Give your employees clear instructions and desired results before they start an assignment. Doing this will better ensure that you both will be satisfied with the outcome. By being specific with your expectations, you will save your employees from the confusion and frustration that typically comes with vague directions.

Train Them Well

Offering your employees the opportunity to strengthen their skills or improve their industry knowledge benefits you as much as it benefits them. They will use the information they learn from training classes or webinars to elevate the quality of work they complete for your organization. Help them find appropriate training opportunities for their positions.

Offer Them Adequate Resources

Making sure your employees have the necessary resources to perform their job well is critical. If an employee doesn’t have the tools he needs to complete his projects, his motivation to improve his productivity will decrease. Ask your employees what they need to get their jobs done. If their answers are reasonable, you should do your best to accommodate them.

Practice Effective Communications

You can likely blame miscommunication for several mishaps that have occurred in your workplace. Knowing how to effectively communicate to your employees will help you achieve greater productivity, increased employee morale, and, of course, fewer mishaps. Learn how each of your employees likes to communicate, and use those methods when interacting with them.

Keep Them Empowered

Research indicates that empowered employees are more likely to be satisfied in their jobs and stay loyal to their employers. Help your employees feel empowered by delegating important tasks to them. Let them know that you trust them with more responsibility, and they will appreciate your trust and try hard to not disappoint you.

Let Them Achieve Work/Life Balance

In addition to projects and deadlines they have to keep up with at work, employees have responsibilities outside of the office that may include their family, place of worship or charitable organization. Check in with your employees to make sure their workloads allow them time to enjoy activities that are not work related. Granting them time to breathe will keep them positive and productive at the office.

For additional tips to help your employees grow and succeed in their careers, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Keith Williamson

4 Lessons in Staffing From the Apple Store

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

The post below is a guest blog from Kyle Lagunas.

About the Author: Kyle Lagunas is an HR Analyst at Software Advice, an online resource for HR and talent management software buyers guides, demos and more. He reports on trends and best practices in human resources technology.

Apple is running a seriously smooth operation in their retail stores. Each employee has a distinct role to play, understands that role, and does his/her part to deliver the level of service we’ve come to expect from this powerful brand. All of this requires serious alignment of brand, business goals and people process.

Finding the right people to work in the stores is half the battle. There are things that Apple’s retail arm does particularly well in organizational development–things any organization could learn from:

  1. Make Work Meaningful. When your employees know that what they’re doing matters, it’s easier to inspire them to do their best. And no one appreciates this more than the employees staffing the stores, who are on the front lines of the customer relationship.
    Apple would be hard-pressed to deliver their standard of service in retail unless their employees were satisfied with the level of employee engagement.
  2. Free Up Your Leadership. When your workforce is deployed effectively–with minimal room in the process for bottle-necking–managers spend less time wondering who should be where and more time keeping the machine in ship shape. Apple Store employees are busy delivering Apple-grade customer service, so it’s up to leadership to maintain the same level of awesome day after day. They’re doing more than managing the operation–they’re coaching staff, leading training, and driving sales.
  3. Know your roles! Tightly-defined roles ensure that your employees knows exactly what he or she is expected to do, what others do–and what other roles they could move into.
    Those boldly-colored tees Apple Store employees wear aren’t just for looks–they designate the distinct role each employee plays. From Experts who assess visitors’ needs, and direct them to the right place–to Geniuses who speak your language when something’s wrong with your precious MacBook–everyone in the store knows his or her place.
  4. Retain With Growth Opportunities. Many organizations are struggling to retain top talent, but how many offer a great opportunity for college grads to make something of themselves? Despite having a great job portal on their site with multiple open positions, Apple prides itself on promoting from within. For the twenty-something Expert with a Master’s degree who’s manning the entrance to an Apple store today (I could name more than one), that’s pretty encouraging.

A Lesson for Your Grinding Gears
Organizational development at this caliber doesn’t just happen–but it’s a necessary part of a thriving company culture like Apple’s. Getting to that level requires open dialogue between senior leadership and business partners–and human resources and recruiting. You’ve already got Experts, Specialists, Geniuses and Creatives in your organization. It’s up to you to find them, engage them, and let them know you want them to grow with you.

Photo Source: nechbi

The 2011/2012 NC Healthcare Benefits & Cost Survey Offers Employers Local Data

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Employers in North Carolina are curious to know how their benefit plan design and premium costs compare to other local companies. The NC Healthcare Benefits & Cost Survey shares local benchmark data from North Carolina companies, which differs from most benchmark surveys that focus on national data.

CAI and HCW co-developed the 2011/2012 NC Healthcare & Benefits Cost Survey. The state-wide, annual health plan benchmark survey offers North Carolina employers information that is most critical in managing their employee benefits plan.

More than 700 N.C. companies participated in the survey with a majority of participants located in the Research Triangle region of the state. Small to medium-sized employers with less than 1,000 employees nationwide accounted for the majority of survey participants.

The survey also captures organizations from several different industries to give employers multiple views for benefit and policy trends. The top five industry groups include Durable Manufacturing; Professional, Scientific and Technical; Healthcare and Social Assistance; Finance, Insurance, Real Estate, Rental and Leasing; and Non-Durable Manufacturing.

Of the survey participants, 539 employers reported offering a Traditional Plan only, 76 employers offered a Consumer-Driven Health Plan (CDHP) only, and 100 employers reported offering both. Below are key insights from the two different plans.

Key Findings: Traditional Plans

  • 22 percent of employers with traditional plans offer a non-rollover Health Reimbursement Account (HRA)
  • 76 percent of employers with a traditional plan have a PPO plan, 18 percent have a POS plan and 4 percent have an HMO plan
  • Average Health Plan premium cost for single coverage is $5,436.36 per year
  • Average Health plan premium cost for family coverage is $15,595.08 per year
  • Employer contributes to 83 percent of single-coverage premium costs
  • Employer contributes to 54 percent of family-coverage premium costs

Key Findings: Consumer-Driven Health Plans (CDHP)

  • 77 percent of employers with  a CDHP have a Health Savings Account (HAS)
  • 23 percent of employers with a CDHP have a rollover Health Reimbursement Account (HRA)
  • Average Health Plan premium cost for single coverage is $4,701.72 per month
  • Average Health plan premium cost for family coverage is $13,312.92 per month
  • Employer contributes to 85 percent of single-coverage premium costs
  • Employer contributes to 56 percent of family-coverage premium costs

Please find more information on NC healthcare benefits and costs from the local survey here.