Archive for May, 2012

Best Practices for Getting Your Workplace Investigation off to a Good Start

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

During CAI’s 2012 Employment and Labor Law Update, attorney Bob Sar from the Ogletree Deakins law firm recommended several best practices for conducting successful workplace investigations. To minimize retaliation risks from related investigations, Bob lists three actions that organizations can take to protect themselves:

  • Establish a strong anti-retaliation policy
  • Develop a standard interview process
  • Document employee performance regularly

Bob shared with conference participants the four ultimate goals of a workplace investigation:

  • To determine if a problem exists
  • To protect the company
  • To provide an opportunity to demonstrate fairness
  • To encourage internal dispute resolution and reporting of problems

Employers should investigate all employee complaints, even if the complaining employee doesn’t want an investigation started. Bob advises employers to also investigate off-the-record complaints and never promise employees absolute confidentiality during the course of an investigation.

Once you have cause to investigate a workplace complaint, follow these three steps to start an effective investigation:

1. Determine if it’s necessary to implement immediate action on parties currently involved or soon-to-be involved.

  • Examples include suspension, separating employees, sending a status report to company leaders.

2. Select the best candidate to be the investigator.

  • Consider the following factors when choosing an appropriate candidate: how is his or her demeanor? Is this person empathetic? Does gender matter in regard to the complaint? Can he or she be impartial?

3. Review all documentation related to the complaining employee, the accuser and the actual complaint.

  • Consistent documentation is key for an effective investigation. Collect information from several sources, including employee personnel files, company policies and handbooks, and past complaint files. Reviewing emails and electronic files are helpful to the investigation as well.

Once you’ve selected your investigator, alerted people who should know about the investigation and collected necessary documents, you can proceed with employee interviews with the victim, the accused and witnesses to determine the outcome of the complaint.

For additional information and tips for conducting workplace investigations, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Nina Matthews Photography

4 Reasons Why You Should Take Your Vacation Days

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

I hope everyone enjoyed a relaxing and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend—free from work and even email! Taking vacation is underutilized by many employees, and the reasons why vary. Some workers believe that they must always be in work mode to get a promotion or even keep their jobs. Others plan poorly and realize at the end of the year that they didn’t take enough vacation and that their allotted days have expired.

Forgoing your vacation days isn’t advantageous. Taking time to unplug from work is helpful for both employees and employers because several benefits emerge from taking regular time off. Here are some of the top reasons why you should use your vacation days and encourage your staff to do the same:

Maintain Health

    • Leaving the office for several days reenergizes your mind and body. Worry and tension is released when you’re not focused on your responsibilities at the office, allowing you to sleep better, concentrate longer and be happier. Studies reveal that vacations can also reduce feelings of depression.

Prevent Stress

    • Always pushing yourself and working past your limits without breaks causes stress. The high-anxiety atmosphere you create for yourself will ultimately catch up with you, whether the result is business failure or poor health. Take your vacation throughout the year to decrease workplace stress and keep it at a manageable level.

Inspire Creativity

    • Vacations are great for inspiring creativity because your brain isn’t focused on the long list of tasks and projects you left at the office. Time off allows your brain to recharge from your busy workweek. A good recharge is especially beneficial to employees who have positions requiring creative and innovative thinking

Improve Job Performance

    • Taking your vacation time helps you return to the office fresh and motivated to take on your goals and workplace challenges. With your stress levels down and your brain fully charged, your productivity and job satisfaction will increase. Additionally, you will have a more positive outlook, which will help you nurture and maintain better relationships with your coworkers.

Cut the number of long days you spend at the office and raise your number of requests for time off this year. For any questions regarding vacation time and its many benefits, please call CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Nicolas Mamberti

Why Your Employees Want to Leave and How You Can Prevent Their Departure

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Losing a top-performing employee significantly impacts an organization. Research indicates that the search to find, hire and train a replacement costs more than a third of the new hire’s salary. Not only do you experience financial implications from the loss of top talent, but your culture could also be affected. The former employee takes his knowledge and skills with him, leaving his remaining coworkers left to pick up the slack from his open position. Heavier workloads can cause stress, decreasing job satisfaction and employee morale for your other team members.

Identifying the reasons why an employee might consider leaving is key in preventing attrition. Contrary to what many leaders believe, money is not the sole or even top motivator for an employee. Many factors contribute to an employee’s decision to leave his current workplace. Some factors are out of your control, but you can heavily influence many. Here are some of the top reasons employees leave their organizations:

  • Demanding positions—long days and working on the weekends
  • Boredom—not enough challenges to keep engagement
  • Inadequate compensation—raises are currently frozen or given to someone less qualified
  • Management disorganization—constant turnover and restructuring in several departments
  • Few opportunities—having little input on decisions cause feelings of unimportance
  • Too competitive—rewarding internal competitiveness instead of cooperation
  • Lack of recognition—feelings of not being valued ignite from infrequent to no acknowledgement

Here are steps you can take to retain your workforce:

  • Set goals—help employees stay motivated by giving them something to work towards
  • Empower them—allow them to lead and don’t micromanage their efforts
  • Show you care—take time to get to know your employee’s life outside and inside of work
  • Offer training—opportunities to gain more knowledge and develop new skills increases engagement
  • Constant feedback—let them know which tasks they’re doing well and which need improvement
  • Be appreciative—thank employees and make sure you frequently let them know they’re valued
  • Give perks—if you can’t offer a raise,  pay for lunch every Friday or grant flexible schedules

For more strategies to retain your top talent, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Victor1558

How Healthcare Costs Are Being Impacted Regardless of the Pending Reform Decision

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

The post below is a guest blog from Jon Dingledine who serves as VP of Consulting for CAI’s employee benefits partner, HCW Employee Benefit Services.

As we await the June Supreme Court decision on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), have healthcare costs already been impacted?  Regardless of the verdict, medical providers, insurance companies and employers are taking steps to respond to the trend of increasing costs.

Employers

A recent Mercer survey found that 57% of companies anticipate asking employees to pay a greater share of the cost of coverage. More than half of those companies will increase the cost of dependent care at a greater rate than the increase for the cost of employee-only coverage. Raising employee costs in this way merely shifts the increases to employees and does nothing to lower the true cost of coverage.

For employers to impact the cost of their health plan, an increased emphasis on wellness and disease management programs will help make positive gains in the overall health of their employees and their dependents.  Also, a greater focus on communication and the introduction of cost transparency tools will help employees make better decisions on where to access care and reduce medical costs.

Providers

In many areas of the country, the consolidation of physician practices is helping to increase provider efficiencies and their quality of care.  Similarly, Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) are gaining popularity because they work together to coordinate patient care and reduce medical errors that result in more healthcare expenses. Nearly 20 percent of original Medicare patients discharged from the hospital are readmitted within 30 days — something that could have been avoided if their care outside of the hospital had been aggressive and better coordinated.

ACOs are being financially rewarded by the government’s Medicare Shared Savings Program if they lower the growth of healthcare costs while still meeting performance standards on quality of care and putting patients first. As such, ACOs are now exploring how these same practices can be used for all of their patients.

Insurance Companies

Insurance Companies are not sitting still while the jury is out. Healthcare reform requires that an average of 85 cents of every healthcare dollar received be spent directly on claims costs. The remaining 15 cents per dollar can be used to cover their administrative expenses, and carriers are scrutinizing how they spend that money.

To help impact the bigger portion of healthcare costs — the 85 cents spent directly on claims — insurers are taking an active role in aligning their interests with those in the provider community and employer groups. By focusing on transparency and quality pricing tools, including the facilitation of working relationships with ACOs and Patient-Centered Medical Homes, lower costs can be achieved for the benefit of all involved.

On June 14, HCW Employee Benefit Services is hosting a Healthcare Costs StormTracker panel discussion featuring the leaders of North Carolina’s five major insurance companies (Blue Cross Blue Shield, UnitedHealthcare, Cigna, Aetna and Wellpath). Panelists will answer questions regarding the pressures that insurers are facing in the wake of current rising healthcare costs, what their organizations are doing to make the future better for employers that are offering health plans to their employees and what strategies companies can use to prepare for the future of rising healthcare costs . Register to attend at: http://bit.ly/HCWStormTracker.

Enhance Your Health and Productivity with Work-Friendly Exercises

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Have you been feeling stressed or tired after finishing your work week? Are you finding it hard to concentrate in staff meetings? Is a routine task taking you longer to complete? If so, here’s a remedy to try: exercise!

Research shows that exercise provides people with a number of benefits. In addition to weight loss and preventing diseases and injuries, regular exercise can improve your job performance. Feeling stressed? When you exercise, you produce endorphins that help fight away stress hormones. Trouble focusing? A consistent exercise routine helps you concentrate better and learn faster. Still tired after waking up? Frequent exercise improves your quality of sleep so that you fall asleep easier and stay asleep longer.

Juggling work and life is a task that many people find challenging, but finding the time and dedication to focus on exercise is well worth the reward.  If your time is scarce, break up your exercise routine into 15 minute increments throughout the day. If motivation is your problem, enlist a coworker or friend to be your exercise buddy. There are even ways to increase your fitness level while working. Here are a few:

  • Park in the furthest parking spot from the building
  • Always opt for the stairs
  • Swap your desk chair for a fitness ball to improve balance and strengthen your core
  • Instead of reaching your coworkers through email or by phone, walk to their offices
  • If you have a short commute, try walking or biking to work a few times per week
  • Drink multiple cups of water throughout the day
  • Go to the gym or walk outside during your lunch break
  • Maintain good posture when standing or sitting to keep core muscles working
  • Stand up while doing tasks, like talking on the phone or reviewing documents

Many workers sit at a desk for eight or more hours a day, increasing their risk for obesity, back pain, poor posture, tense muscles and early health issues. Incorporate a regular fitness routine into your schedule to enhance your health and career.

Please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746 for additional tips on exercise and work performance.

Photo Source: lululemon athletica

6 Things to Know about the NLRB’s Notification of Employee Rights from the 2012 Employment and Labor Law Update

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

On May 2 and May 3 CAI hosted its annual Employment and Labor Law Update at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh. More than 390 HR professionals and company executives participated in the two-day event. Experienced lawyers from Ogletree Deakins updated the audience on the most recent developments in state and federal employment law and how they affect North Carolina employers. Topics discussed at the conference included the ADAAA, conducting investigations, healthcare reform, E-Verify and more.

Participants were concerned and surprised by some of the recent changes from the NLRB, which attorney John Burgin shared. Burgin explained that the recess board under President Obama’s administration currently has a 3-2 pro-union majority, and the board’s effects are shaping how employers and employees can interact with each other. Here are six things you need to know about the NLRB and its Notification of Employee Rights:

1.       Notification of Employee Rights              

  1. Originally effective November 14, 2011 but implementation was delayed indefinitely by U.S. Court of Appeals on April 17, 2012
  2. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) requires most private employers to post employees’ rights
  3. All employers under jurisdiction of the NLRB are included, but the act excludes government, agricultural, railroad and airline employers
  4. Ruling applies to employers of unionized and non-unionized workforces

2.       Foreign Language Notice

  1. Where 20 percent or more of a workforce is not proficient in English, employers must post the Notification of Employee Rights in the language employees speak
  2. If workforce includes two or more groups constituting of 20 percent, employers must physically post information in each language or post notice in the language spoken by the largest group and distribute the notice to each employee in appropriate language

3.       Electronic Posting of Notice

  1. If an employer “customarily communicates” with employees about personnel rules or polices electronically, the employer is required to post the Notification of Employee Rights as prominently as other electronic notices to employees
  2. The information on the electronic version must be the exact copy of the NLRB’s poster or a link to the NLRB website that contains a copy of the poster must be present

4.       Under the NLRA, it is illegal for an employer to:

  1. Prohibit an employee from talking about or soliciting for a union during non-work time hours or from distributing union literature during non-work time hours, in non-work areas
  2. Prohibit an employee from wearing union hats, buttons, t-shirts and pins in the workplace except under special circumstance
  3. Question an employee about his or her union support or activities

5.       Responses to Posting Notification

  1. Employers still have the same rights under Section 8(c) to share their position and opinions in non-coercive manners
  2. Employers may inform employees about their rights to refuse to support a union—written or verbal

6.       Notification Options

  1. If it is eventually approved, consider the following options when posting the Notification of Employee Rights:

a.      Post the new notice

b.      Post the new notice and your own side notice

c.      Post the new notice and train supervisors on expectations and compliance

d.      Post the new notice and conduct meetings with employees to  build positive employer-         employee relationships

If you have additional questions regarding the NRLB and posting of the Notification of Employee Rights, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: avrene

Avoid these 4 Hiring Sins to Find the Right Candidate

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

The post below is a guest post by Greg Moran, the CEO of Chequed Employment Testing, a Predictive Talent Selection suite to help organizations hire better. You can follow Greg on twitter @CEOofChequed.

In the hiring process the main objective is fairly obvious–find the best candidates for your open position. Whatever the position is, finding the right person for the job is important whether it’s the front desk assistant, head of HR or the customer satisfaction associate – each plays a strategic role.

This is why even just one bad hire can seriously impact a business on a variety of different levels. What I find amazing is while the impact bad hires can have on any organization is fairly well known, so many continue to commit serious errors in their hiring process; committing hiring sins if you will. If your organization is hiring or you’re involved in the hiring process,  make sure your not committing these hiring sins.

Sin 1: Measuring the wrong traits

Many companies look to assess their top performers as benchmarks for incoming recruits. While this thinking is correct often the approach and decision of what to measure is flawed. When establishing an effective benchmark, the most important part is to know the difference between your strongest and weakest employees.

Most of your recruits will share many traits with your top performers, but they could also share too many with your weakest hires. This is the fact that many often overlook  and the results can be catastrophic. If you’re only focused on what they can do well, there’s a high probably you’ll get blindsided when they turn out to be an organizational cancer.

When creating benchmarks and choosing what traits to measure, be sure that you outline all their traits to find only those that best correlate with top performers and differentiate them from the rest.

Sin 2: Skipping the Reference Check

The main purpose of contacting candidate references is to get insights that you can’t get from other components of your hiring process. Granted, we’ve all had reference calls that never get returned, the reference provides little value or they’re overwhelming concerned about legal implications that they don’t provide anything. While this can and does happen, it’s not a reason to completely abandon the reference check all together!

Most of the time, you can actually get responses and valuable data if your process is done the right way. The best way to accomplish this is to automate the process as much as possible and drive candidates to prompt their references to respond. Think about it: If the person can actually vouch for the candidate then they should be able to contact them!

Sin 3: Putting too much weight into Interviews

All too often companies look to the interview as the golden opportunity with which they can appropriately and completely assess a candidate.  Sadly this is true even though hard numbers dating back decades prove that interviews are, for the most part, ineffective. As early as 1984, John and Rhonda Hunter’s University of Michigan study demonstrated that interviews increase the likelihood of choosing the best candidate by less than 2%.

Why less than 2%? Because companies typically conduct interviews as though they’re Wednesday night chats over a game of Bridge, performing minimal research beforehand regarding the types of questions that will be most beneficial. Although, we have to point out that Bridge would likely provide you a more objective assessment of even the most charismatic of individuals than would an interview.  Interviewers too often become vulnerable to inaccurate first impressions and gut feelings.  Keep in mind interviewees can be very talented actors when it comes to portraying the ideal candidate.  Highly structured assessments that are based on scientifically validated job profiles can see through such facades much more easily while simultaneously minimizing interviewer bias.

Sin 4: Filling a position is the end

This hiring sin is especially easy to overlook as a faulty misstep.  When we finally fill the vacant position, we often view it as a success and continue on to the next HR situation.  However, the opportunity for feedback that follows filling a vacant position is immensely important; it’s the time when you can track how well the new hire is performing to see if your pre-hire tools worked appropriately or if they need further refinement.  Doing so turns the hiring process into a cumulative learning experience and allows you to better prepare for all future hiring occurrences.

While there is no foolproof method yet for hiring the perfect candidate, science and technology are getting us a lot closer.  It’s time to abandon our old ways and become devout believers in hard data and proven statistics. Our success, and that of our companies, depends on it.

Photo Source: Victor1558, Victor1558

Continuous Education Helps You, Your Employees and Your Business Thrive

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Today is National Teacher’s Day. After you take a moment to appreciate the great teachers who helped you achieve success by pushing you to offer them your best, reflect on the importance of your education. The projects you delivered, exams you lost sleep over and personal connections you made established the foundation for your next life chapter, whether that was higher education or the workforce.

Once you earn your degree, diploma or certification, educating yourself shouldn’t end. Learning new skills and knowledge while you’re in your career will enhance your job performance and professional growth. By seeking out additional industry information and cultivating your assets, you benefit yourself, your team and your organization. More employees with increased expertise and experience assist your company in remaining productive and competitive.

Picking up new information is now easier and more convenient than ever. Technological advances and the internet can help you learn at your workspace and stay within your budget. Share these eight ways to boost your business intel with your coworkers and direct reports:

  1. Read industry-related literature, such as magazines, journals, books and blogs.
  2. Sign up for educational webinars and watch them with multiple staff members to maximize their value.
  3. Attend trade shows and conferences related to your position. Then share the information you learned with your supervisor and direct reports.
  4. Join industry-related Linkedin groups, like CAI’s HR-focused group. These groups allow you to connect with experts and peers in your field, review group discussions and share relevant information.
  5. Join a professional association, club or group. These venues allow you to network, share knowledge and discuss workplace challenges with other members. These groups also look for volunteers to hold their leadership positions, which is another great way to grow your skills.
  6. Sign up for training classes in your career field or job level. Let experienced trainers teach you valuable information that you can take back to your company to apply.
  7. Ask to sit in on meetings with your senior management team. Although you might not be able to participate in the discussion, you will receive a better understanding of how your organization runs.
  8. Set up a mentor program at your organization. Pair greener staff members with employees who have been with the company for several years and encourage them to meet and learn from each other frequently.

For more tips on improving your work performance through ongoing education, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-66807746.

Photo Souce: Victor1558

Looking to Add High Performers to Your Organization? Find Candidates with These Traits.

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Your employees have a significant impact on whether your business thrives or dies, but building a strong workforce is not an easy task. Choosing the right people to fill your open positions should be done with care and an overall goal of company success. People considered high performers should be your most desirable candidates. These workers are critical for achieving positive business results because they exceed company expectations, serve as role models to other employees, make solid decisions and continually offer innovative ideas.

If you’re looking to build a powerful staff, look for prospective employees with the following qualities:

Energy and Optimism

Top performing employees are energetic. They work efficiently when assigned new projects and are eager to turn in completed work before or by their deadlines. When they finish a project, they quickly move on to the next one. They also remain positive while at work by not harping on mistakes or worrying about unfavorable outcomes. The energy and optimism high performers exude reach other staff members, which helps the whole company boost productivity.

High EI and Great Communicator

High Emotional Intelligence is often engrained in high performing employees. They use their talent to successfully understand and react to the actions of others. They easily make great relationships with their coworkers, and they are able to remain calm and help others stay calm during stressful situations. Another strength they share is strong communication skills. Top employees effortlessly express their ideas and communicate frequently with their supervisors to ensure they deliver desired results.

Self Starter and Continuous Learner

Stronger performers are almost always motivated to do their best. They are autonomous workers who manage their time effectively to  produce high-quality work for their managers and organization. These employees take the initiative to try new workflow processes and suggest ways to improve business productivity. They want to cultivate skills they use regularly and also gain new knowledge in their field. Both of these characteristics will prove beneficial to your company.

When you attract top performers to your organization, work hard to ensure they have the support and resources they need to be successful. Failing to do so will most likely result in their resignation. For more information on finding high performers to add to your staff, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 33-668-7746.

Photo Souce: Victor1558

6 Inexpensive Ways to Celebrate the Success of Your Workplace Teams

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

In many parts of the world, people welcome the first day of May with lively carnivals and family-friendly festivities to celebrate the springtime holiday known as May Day. While many people celebrate the warm-weather event, employers should take some time to consider how they celebrate success created by their company teams.

Recognizing the individual contributions an employee makes is a critical factor in determining whether he plans to stay with your organization for the long run.  Just as individual recognition is important, acknowledging great efforts made by collective teams and departments is also important. Team members spend significant periods of time collaborating with each other, and their willingness to be productive and achieve success on a team should be celebrated.

Commending your teams for a job well done doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are six low-cost ideas to celebrate deserving teams at your company:

1.       Write handwritten notes to all team members

Taking the time to write your employees a handwritten note is a unique way to show them your appreciation for their efforts. Employees can also easily display or share the positive feedback found in their notes.

2.       Make a company newsletter announcement

If you’re proud of a particular workplace team, share your feelings in your company newsletter or on your company intranet. The honored team will enjoy the public recognition that you give them. Others who aren’t on the team will have the opportunity to learn what made the honored team successful.

3.       Celebrate with senior management

Inform senior management of the great work your direct reports are completing. Let the executive team know the exact details of the project you assigned and how your employees produced great results. Having your team present the execution and results of their project to management is a great way to show members of leadership that you’re proud of your team, and they should be, too

4.       Give them flexibility

Allow members of deserving teams flexibility in their schedules after they wrap up a successful project. They can use the flexibility you grant them in a number of ways. Maybe they’ll take a longer lunch or leave early on Friday to go to the beach with friends. Either way, they’ll be thankful.

5.       Throw an appreciation party

Whether it’s a pizza party or an ice cream social, plan a bash to show your teammates that you’re grateful for their hard work. This get-together can be solely for your outstanding team members, or you can host the whole staff so they know what they should be working towards.

6.       Plan a company picnic

If your staff continually achieves strong, positive results for your company, show your gratitude by organizing a company picnic. Let employees invite their families so they can enjoy the excitement and celebration as well. You should plan games, prizes, and a speech or mention of your appreciation for their contributions.

For additional ideas to celebrate the success of the teams within your organization, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Jason Pratt