Archive for November, 2012

6 Tips to Keep Your Company Holiday Party Stress-Free, Safe and Fun

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

With radios blasting seasonal tunes and shopping centers offering big discounts, it’s crystal clear that the holidays are upon us. Throwing your workforce a party during this merry season is a great way to celebrate the time of year and show your team that you appreciate what they do for the company.

A holiday party offers staff members the opportunity to mix and mingle outside the office, which encourages employee interaction and conversations. With all the employee engagement benefits a holiday party can bring, it’s important to note that holiday parties can also have a negative effect on the company if ground rules aren’t set.

Here are six suggestions to consider when planning your holiday celebration:

Give plenty of options

There are two things you should try to accomplish when throwing a holiday party for your team members: to reward them for their efforts and to create a memorable and fun experience for them to have. Spend time preparing for details like location, food and drink options, and entertainment. Leave them excited for next year’s party.

Interject some fun

Whether it’s inviting holiday carolers to sing to your staff or playing a holiday themed icebreaker to get to know spouses and guests, encourage your employees to enjoy themselves. Your staffers are expecting to have a good time with their coworkers.  Get great reviews by planning activities and surprises throughout the night.

Make a drink maximum

Not that you can’t have a good time without alcohol, but offering employees of legal age a drink is generally part of the holiday festivities. To protect your party committee and to advise your employees, provide your guests with no more than two drinks. Getting sloppy at the company Christmas party—whether it’s a seasoned manager or a recent hire—isn’t a win for anyone.

Say thank you

The holiday party happens at the end of the year, which is perfect timing for you to recognize the contributions your staff made during the last 12 months. There are several ways to show your appreciation. A speech highlighting specific accomplishments, awards given to stellar performers, and gift cards for the entire team are only a few ways to recognize your team during the celebration.

Keep work talk to a minimum

Other than congratulating your team for a great year, talking about work should be avoided. Your employees want to have fun and celebrate the season with their coworkers. Use this event to get to know your team members and their friends and spouses better. You can discuss work when you return to the office.

Know how everyone is getting home

Making sure your staffers get home safely is an important part of the planning process. Arrange hotel stays for your team members who don’t work in your local office. Organize cab rides for employees who bought additional drinks and don’t plan to drive home. Be aware of how each employee leaves the party.

For more holiday party ideas for your company, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Qtea

 

The Importance of Explaining Your Healthcare Plan to Employees

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

The post below is a guest blog from CAI’s employee benefits partner, HCW Employee Benefit Services.

Have you heard your employees ask: “Why do I have to pay more for my healthcare plan this year?” or maybe, “I’ve been to my doctor only for my physical this year and passed it, so what’s the problem?”

The answer to these questions is complex, and your employees need the right information from you for a credible response.

To be effective in explaining healthcare plan costs to employees, you need to emphasize the following:

1)      Healthcare costs continue to rise. We all know this, but the exact figures bring home the stark impact of what is happening.

2)      Efforts to control these costs have produced few savings. No reform launched so far to address the situation has made a significant dent in keeping fees down. The impact of the Affordable Care Act may change this, but there are already indications that at least some features of it will place additional reporting and projecting burdens for insurers. That will likely mean the costs of those activities will be passed along to your employees through their healthcare plans.

3)      There is no easy solution. Healthcare costs may not improve until the overall health of U.S. citizens improve. While there have been various efforts to encourage groups to diet and exercise more, we lack a national effort designed to curb our bad habits, which is hurting us.

Obesity in particular raises the risk of many diseases that are expensive to treat, and the results are increased premiums for all of us to cover. Higher healthcare costs will naturally follow when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Another factor is that the existing healthcare system favors quantity over quality in terms of service. The emphasis for physicians is on patient volume rather than outcomes, satisfaction and cost savings for patients. This setup encourages excessive services and treatments for patients, which leads to expensive healthcare plans for employers.

To lower the costs of healthcare, we need to overhaul changes in these areas in a unified effort. Improved patient outcomes, more efficient delivery of care and reduced health risk factors are all components that must be combined with lower costs per unit in order to lower the total cost of healthcare.

If you need to provide additional information to your employees, contact HCW Employee Benefit Services. We provide employers with those details so they can illustrate what factors are increasing healthcare costs, as well as what employees can do to help their organization keep health plans affordable.

(Photo:  Phil Sexton)

Have You Evaluated Your Workplace Attitude?

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

How you come across at work has a pretty powerful influence on your organization whether or not you realize it. They people you interact with, especially staff members you work with regularly, are affected by the way you treat them, including your responses to their questions, the feedback you give them and empathy you show towards them.

Being callous, miserable or self-centered won’t help your popularity around the office and will likely damage your professional reputation. No one wants to work with the office grump, whiner, gossiper, complainer—the list goes on. Don’t let a negative trait you might have completely define your office persona.

Try to incorporate these four tips into your workday to have a more positive influence on your organization:

Be Polite

Choosing to use words like “please” and “thank you” will improve your workplace reputation. Giving your coworkers respect, whether it’s with their time, ideas or feelings, will help you win the same treatment from them. Be nice when you can and try to always help an employee who is truly in need.

Think on it

People have a tendency to talk before they think. With today’s technological advances, talking before you think turns into emailing, tweeting, calling or blogging.  If an employee has made you upset or folks didn’t want to use your idea for a project, don’t retaliate by immediately firing off a response to their actions. Because of your emotions, you might not realize the tone you’re conveying. Think your thoughts through and how your words will affect the receiver and your place at the company.

Ask for Help

Asking for assistance from colleagues is a simple and expected workplace occurrence. Unfortunately, some employees would rather miss their deadlines, give poor excuses or blame others before admitting that they can’t do everything by themselves. Complete your work, and if you need extra assistance for a project, swallow your pride and ask. If employees are constantly seeking assistance, they should talk to their managers about adjusting their workload.

Recognize Effort

Improve your workplace relationships by recognizing the contributions each one of your team members makes to the organization. Appreciate the effort and time your employees spend delivering results for your company. By acknowledging their hard work, you will likely gain their trust and commitment to keep up their great job performance.

For more tips to improve your workday and on-the-job performance, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: sektordua

7 Takeaways from the 2012 Triad Employment Law Update

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Last Wednesday, Nov. 7, CAI hosted its annual Triad Employment Law Update at the Koury Center in Greensboro. More than 160 HR professionals and company executives attended the conference to receive the latest updates in state and federal employment law.

Lawyers from Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLP shared presentations with attendees on a number of topics related to recent changes in regulations. Some of the topics covered included updates from the new NLRB, best practices for immigration law compliance and changes from healthcare reform.

Below are seven key insights from the informative law update:

NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) Social Media Policy

  • Employees using social media to complain about their employers may be engaged in protected concerted activity under NLRA
      • Protected posts: seeking advice from coworkers, calling supervisors names, criticizing company actions
      • Unprotected posts: don’t involve other employees or individual gripes, criticizing the company’s clients and complaints to third parties
  • The board continues to offer policy guidance on a variety of social media cases

EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) Issues Final ADAAA (American’s with Disabilities Amendments Act) Regulations

  • Eliminated “per se” list of covered disabilities
  • Rejects minimum duration rule that results in short term condition being a disability

New EEOC Regulation on Age Discrimination

  • November 16, 2011—EEOC approves final regulation
    • Now easier for plaintiffs to prove age discrimination in disparate impact cases
    • Facially neutral practices that adversely impact older employees is discriminatory unless employer can prove “reasonable factor other than age”

OFCCP (Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs) and Proposed Rule on Hiring Goals for Disabled

  • Proposed rule requires federal contractors to set a goal that 7 percent of each job group should be persons with disabilities
    • Require applicants to self-identify as disabled

Correct Your I-9s

  • In general, never do a new I-9,  no matter how bad the errors
    • Common errors that can be fixed: employee didn’t sign, employee didn’t date, employee didn’t fill in “A” number, employee didn’t fill in expiration date, employer didn’t fill in date of hire, employer didn’t fill in street address of company
    • Errors that can’t be fixed: not completing form within three days of hire and missing information from former employees

Avoiding Whistleblower and Retaliation Claims

  • Whistleblower: employer violation of law, rule or regulation
  • Retaliation: related to employee’s individual rights
  • The following are protected from retaliation:
    • current employees, former employees, job applicants and associates of those employees who engage in  protected activity
  • Three elements make up a claim:
    • Protected activity, adverse action and causal connection
    • Employee must have a good faith belief that there was a violation of a law when they engaged in protected activity (Title VII)

Effects of Healthcare Reform

  • Several mandates and changes become effective
    • Implementing external review processes
    • W-2 reporting of the value of employer provided health benefits
    • Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) to be given to all participants at enrollment and at each subsequent annual open enrollment
    • Automatic enrollment for employers with more than 200 full-time employees will be required for new full-time employees, with an opt-out notice
    • Health flexible spending account limit will be $2,500

For further assistance on staying compliant with state and federal employment laws, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

4 Reasons Why You Should Add a Veteran to Your Team

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Every November 11, we celebrate Veterans Day to honor and thank those who serve or have served in the US military. Veterans have sacrificed their lives to protect our country while giving up their time, moments spent with loved ones, and sometimes their physical and mental health. Although Veterans Day has passed, we can still celebrate our American Heroes. They are great at protecting our country and when they return from being away, they also make great employees. Let’s recognize the skills that these individuals possess. Here are four reasons why a veteran should be on your team:

Team Player

Veterans are trained to work in environments made up of teams. They know how to follow orders and when they should give them. Because they worked so closely with others during their military career, veterans take feedback well and are willing to help a coworker in need.

Accountable

Those who serve sacrifice their lives so we are protected and maintain our freedom. They take their job seriously and understand that they are responsible for the safety of their team and their country. They will use that same accountability to complete their projects and hit their goals for themselves and their employer.

Results Driven

People in the military will accept nothing but their best when carrying out a mission. They know that people are depending on them, so they don’t tolerate mediocre results. This mindset will not leave them when they’re working at your company. Expect great outcomes from a newly hired veteran.

Calm and Collected

Our service men and women are very familiar with situations of extreme pressure and danger. Because veterans are trained to handle tough moments and decisions with grace, their experiences will help you lead your company to success.

Let’s thank our Vets for their service and sacrifice, and let’s help them find jobs. If you have hired a veteran after Nov. 21, 2011 or plan to hire one before Dec. 31, 2012, you maybe be eligible for a tax credit. Find more info here: http://www.benefits.va.gov/VOW/.

Photo Source: US Army Africa

Positively Contagious

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

The following is from Jon Gordon’s newsletter, Soup: A Recipe to Nourish Your Team and Culture. Jon Gordon is a business expert whose principles have been put to the test by NFL, NBA and college teams, Fortune 500 companies, school districts, non-profits and hospitals

The Swine Flu is not the only thing you catch at work. Turns out you are just as likely to catch someone’s bad mood and negative attitude. Yes, the latest research demonstrates what we’ve all known to be true, emotions are contagious. Researchers call them emotional contagions and they impact our work environments, productivity, teamwork, service and performance in significant and profound ways.

As we know all too well, one negative employee can pollute an entire team and create a toxic work environment. One negative leader can make work miserable for his/her team. An employee in a bad mood can scare away countless customers. Complaining can act like a cancer and spread throughout the entire organization and eventually destroy your vision and goals. And pervasive negative attitudes can sabotage the morale and performance of teams with great talent and potential.

That’s the bad news… but there’s also good news.

Positive emotions are just as contagious as negative emotions. One positive leader can rally a group of willing people to accomplish amazing things. One Chief Energy Officer who sits at the welcome desk can positively infect every person who walks in your business/school/workplace. One positive team member can slowly but surely improve the mood and moral of her team. And pervasive positive attitudes and emotions at work can fuel the morale and performance of your organization.

Emotional contagions are the reason I say that everyone in the organization contributes to the culture of it. You are not just a creation of your culture but rather you are creating it every day through your thoughts, beliefs and actions. What you think matters. How you feel matters. And the energy you share with others, whether it’s positive or negative, really matters.

You can be a germ and attack your organization’s immune system or you can act like a dose of Vitamin C and strengthen it.

So the next time you head into work with a bad mood you might want to stop before you walk in the door and consider what your boss would say if you had the Swine Flu. She would tell you to stay home until you are healthy and not contagious. And in that moment, as you stand at the door you have choice: You can go home so you don’t infect anyone with your bad mood, or you can choose to get healthy right there, change your attitude, and decide to be positively contagious.

I’ll be sharing more information on how to maintain a positive, engaged and productive staff at CAI’s 2013 HR Management Conference. Join me at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh on March 7 and 8.

 Jon Gordon

Four Tips to Remember When Documenting

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Whether you’re about to give an employee performance review or investigate a harassment claim, how you document is important. Documenting employee actions provides necessary support for a number of workplace decisions: pay increase, termination, suspension, promotion, etc. Proper documentation helps you make better decisions for your company and your workforce. A good written account may also reduce your risk of legal liability.

Here are four things to not forget when putting things down on paper:

Use Specifics

All employer documents have the potential to be at the center of an employee complaint or lawsuit. Knowing this, it’s best to use as many specifics as possible—so that if a third-party reads the document, they know exactly what has happened. Include all parties involved, exactly when and where the event happened and how you intervened.

Be Immediate

Once you’ve given a performance review or dealt with a complaint, you should document the details while they’re still fresh in your head. You could lose crucial details even waiting just a few days after the incident occurred. Make the document work for you instead of against you.

Be Clear

Because your documents have the possibility of reaching a courtroom, being as clear as you can be will work in your favor. For example, if you have poor handwriting, type up your document. If you are unsure about an incident, don’t lie or embellish—say that you are unsure. Honesty and a good effort will help you.

Be Consistent

Treat all employees equally. If you are going to write someone up for blatantly disobeying a policy, you have to write up everyone who breaks that same rule. Same goes for a positive example—praise employees when they deserve it and mark it on their performance reviews. If you don’t follow this rule, you could get slapped with a discrimination suit, especially if your documents can’t clear your name.

For guidance on documenting specific circumstances, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Victor1558

CAI’s 2013 Ovation Awards: You Can’t Win If You Don’t Enter!

Thursday, November 1st, 2012
CAI’s Bruce Clarke with 2012 Ovation Award Winners

Has your company recently implemented an HR/People practice that produced positive results for your team and business? If your answer is yes, you should nominate your company for one of CAI’s Ovation Awards for HR Excellence.

In 2007 CAI pioneered the awards to recognize North Carolina employers and the HR/People practices they established at their companies. Winners of the awards receive many benefits:

  • An enhanced employer brand
  • The opportunity to share your practice at the 2013 CAI HR Management Conference
  • Recognition and publicity for your organization
  • A nice award to show your employees, customers and visitors
  • Free registration to the 2013 CAI HR Management Conference

CAI’s Ovation Awards include three categories: small company (less than 200 employees), mid-size company (200 to 700 employees) and large company (more than 700 employees). Nominating your company is free and easy! You can either submit a nomination online or send an email to doug.blizzard@capital.org, making sure to provide the following information about your HR best practice:

  1. Number of employees at your organization.
  2. Describe the problem or opportunity that your best practice addressed.
  3. Describe your solution.
  4. Describe how your solution positively impacted business results.

Nominations related to any area within the HR industry will be accepted. Some examples include: a fitness or wellness initiative, an employee engagement tool, implementing flexible schedules and strengthening your hiring process. The deadline for submitting your nomination is Friday, Dec. 14, 2012.

Award recipients will receive their prize at CAI’s 2013 HR Management Conference scheduled for March 6-7, 2013. Winning companies will also share their beneficial practice during a 1-hour presentation at the conference.

Winning a CAI Ovation Award for HR Excellence is a great way to highlight the strategies that are working for your organization. Be among winners like Caterpillar Building Construction Products Division (large, 2012) and Eye Care Associates (small, 2010)—nominate your company today!

For any questions related to CAI’s Ovation Awards or your specific nomination, please contact Doug Blizzard at doug.blizzard@capital.org.  See more past winners here.