Archive for February, 2013

3 Tips for Achieving a High-Performing Workplace

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Today’s post features CAI’s Director of Member Development, Doug Blizzard. In this video, Doug dives deep into the topic of positive people practices and how they have a substantial effect on company success. Doug points to a Cornell study that found that companies implementing effective people management strategies experienced 22.1 percent higher revenue growth, 23.3 percent higher profit growth and a 66.8 percent reduction in employee turnover.  

Sounds like this should be easy, right? Positive people practices, lead to engaged employees, leading to better business results. Doug says wrong. According to recent research, nearly two-thirds of US employees aren’t fully engaged at work. Doug lists the following reasons as to why some employees aren’t as engaged: asking your team to do more with less, passing business costs to employees and not giving proper management training.

Despite the less than thrilling numbers on engagement, some companies are able to achieve high-performing workplaces. Doug says they get there without above market compensation, better benefits, or flip flop Fridays. 

How do they do it? He gives three reasons:

Create a compelling vision for the company

Define why your company exists and communicate that clearly to your employees. Doug says a strong company vision is magnetic and motivating. The why is what compels people to want to work for you rather than just having to work for you.

Build a culture for the 95 percent

If your people practices are weak, you will not build a high-performing organization. He says that a company’s people systems can build, support or destroy a winning culture.  In the video, Doug asks you to take an honest look at your people policies.  Are they designed for the 95 percent of employees that want to do a good job or for the 5 percent that misbehave? Try designing for the 95 percent and you’ll likely see company morale, employee effort and performance improve.  Doug says the 5 percent will leave or you’ll help them leave. 

Practice positive management everyday

Doug says that front-line manages are the most critical link for almost everything your employees do.  Most people quit their supervisor, not the company. Research finds that poorly managed work groups are 50 percent less productive and 44 percent less profitable than well-managed groups.   Make sure your people managers are effective and watch performance improve, he says.

For additional guidance on achieving a high-performing workplace, please contact Doug Blizzard at 919-713-5244 or

Defining a Full-Time Employee

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

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

HCW 2 26 2013Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), employers with more than 50 full-time equivalent employees will have to provide affordable benefits to all full-time employees who work 30 or more hours a week by 2014. Failure to do so can result in an assessment of $2,000 per year for each full-time employee, excluding the first 30 full-time employees.

What exactly qualifies as a “full-time employee working 30 hours a week” under federal guidelines? While the IRS has issued Notices 2011-36 and 2011-73 that easily clarify the Employer Mandate for most cases, employees working variable hours present a special challenge.

 Variable Hour Employees

The IRS Notice 2012-58 says employers can determine plan eligibility for new and ongoing variable hour employees this way:

1) Choose an initial measurement period between three and 12 months to average employee work hours.

2) If a new variable-hour employee averages 30 or more hours per week during this initial measurement period, then you have 30 to 90 days to offer and enroll the individual on the medical plan.

3) For those working less than 30 hours on average, benefits do not need to be offered, but the position must be measured periodically for redetermination.

These regulations include other employer options with time frame selections for measuring which employees qualify as full-time ones.

Whatever criteria is chosen, employers with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees will need to closely and consistently track the various measurement periods. Those same companies with employees working less than 30 hours a week will need to reassess their procedures around these positions while staying within compliance of PPACA requirements starting in 2014 and monitoring whether the status of those employees need to be reclassified due to changing circumstances.

What Should Large Employers Do?

As it is expected that the majority of employers with 50 or more full-time employees will continue to offer benefits to recruit and retain top talent.  To stay competitive and in compliance with PPACA, you should:

1) Evaluate the level of benefits you are providing and see if they remain financially feasible.

2) Understand the new markets created by the healthcare exchanges.

3) Reorient your employees toward more prudent usage of your programs. 

4) Establish an effective and efficient system that avoids time-consuming paperwork to keep track of classifications.

The latter system can vary given your operation’s scope, number of employees and individuals who are involved in monitoring this item.

To learn how to set up processes that work best for measuring and following the qualifications for full-time employees, contact Hill, Chesson & Woody at Additionally, we have several healthcare reform webinars available on-demand on our website to assist you in understanding the provisions and how they impact employers.

Employers, Use Caution When Dealing with Unpredictable FMLA Leave

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

FMLA leaveThe Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a topic on which many HR professionals are knowledgeable. Preparing for a situation that requires an employee to take FMLA leave isn’t a major problem if the time off was scheduled in advanced.

Robin Shea, attorney for Constangy, Brooks & Smith and writer of the Employment and Labor Insider blog, suggests that problems occur when an employee who’s in a critical-but-inflexible position (like a customer service representative) needs intermittent leave under the FMLA unexpectedly.

In her article, Employer’s Bane: Unpredictable FMLA leave. Is there a solution?, Robin empathizes with employers on the implications that unexpected leave can have on their business. She writes:

Where the absences are unpredictable, it’s impossible for the employer to plan, and because the employee’s position is critical, there is no way to “let things slide” until the employee is able to come back.

She acknowledges that dealing with intermittent FMLA leave is no walk in the park. However, Robin cautions employers from executing solutions that yield bad results like a lawsuit. She uses the example below to inform employers of the consequence of mishandling FMLA leave:

One seemingly logical solution to this problem is to say to the employee, “Look, we recognize your need for FMLA leave, but we really can’t handle frequent unpredictable absences in your position. So here’s what we’ll do. We will temporarily reassign you to another position that better accommodates recurring periods of leave. We’ll leave your pay and benefits unchanged. Then, when you’re able to come back to your old job and attend on a regular, predictable basis, we’ll put you back in that position.”

 “Sounds great — thank you! What’s the new job?” (employee)

 “Uh, men’s room attendant. It’s a non-essential position, so it will be immaterial to us whether you ever show up for work or not.”

 This rubs employee the wrong way, especially since she’s a woman. Employee goes to U.S. Department of Labor and files a complaint. You lose, because the “temporary reassignment” option applies only if the leave is foreseeable.

After revealing another failed attempt to deal with this HR headache, Robin points out that there isn’t much employers can do to protect themselves.

When Robin has a client that is in desperate need for a solution, she suggests “requiring the employee to take “block” leave but counting only the “necessary” time against the employee’s 12-week FMLA entitlement. Any other time can be covered by PTO or short-term disability or workers’ comp, or just regular pay, and it cannot be counted against the employee for FMLA or attendance purposes.”

She also says that employees have the option to “tough it out” and grant the employee time off on the terms in which he or she suggests. Robin acknowledges that these aren’t good options and ends her article by saying, An employer should be able to keep its business running when an employee has to miss a significant amount of work on an unpredictable basis. I wish the DOL would provide employers with some workable solutions that are legal. But I’m not going to hold my breath.”

What are your thoughts on this tricky HR issue?

Photo Source: Muffet

New FMLA Posters Must Be Up by March 8, 2013

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

John GuptonIn CAI’s Monday member newsletter, Advice and Counsel Team Member John Gupton shared new regulations published by the US Department of Labor (DOL). The DOL issued a final rule implementing two important expansions of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA):

  1. Provides families of eligible veterans with the same job-protected FMLA leave currently available to families of military service members, and it enables more military families to take leave for activities that arise when a service member is deployed.
  2. Modifies existing rules so that airline personnel and flight crews are better able to make use of FMLA’s protections.

The new FMLA rule implemented Congressional amendments to the FMLA permitting eligible workers to take up to 26 workweeks of leave to care for a current service member with a serious injury or illness. Congress also created qualifying exigency leave, which permits eligible employees to take up to 12 workweeks of leave for qualifying exigencies arising out of active duty or call to active duty in support of a contingency operation of a family member serving in the National Guard or Reserve. The final rule also includes amendments clarifying the application of the FMLA to airline personnel and flight crews. Until the amendments, many flight crews did not meet FMLA eligibility criteria due to the unique way in which their hours are counted.

In addition to the newest regulations, the DOL released a new FMLA poster. Employers covered by the FMLA must put up the poster no later than March 8, 2013. At CAI, we are in the process of revising our combined Federal poster for members. However, the updated poster will not be available for distribution to our members before the March 8, 2013 posting deadline.

For more information, including the new rule, a military leave guide, fact sheets and other materials, visit You can also call CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746 to go over the FMLA updates.

Don’t Break Hearts When Drafting Your Company’s Policy for Office Romance

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

workplace loveHappy Valentine’s Day! The day dedicated to love can sometimes create an HR nightmare. Handling office romance, especially ones involving inappropriate behavior, can be tricky. Protecting your company against possible liabilities is weighed against your employees’ right to happiness. Today, most HR professionals recommend creating a policy to address office relationships.

In his recent post, Max Mihelieh, writer for, asks various HR professionals their opinions on the best way to deal with love in the workplace.

Max starts by highlighting a survey from CareerBuilder:

A survey reveals marriage is a common outcome for dating co-workers as 31 percent of office romances end up in matrimony. Still, if nearly a third of all romances started in the workplace result in marriage, it also means two-thirds end in a breakup.

Because two-thirds of workplace relationships end, including guidelines to address harassment or discrimination issues that might occur from an ugly break up is important. Expect the best, but prepare for the worst when drafting your policy.

Research indicates that the newest generation in the workforce thinks dating coworkers is okay. Max shares insights from a Workplace Options survey:

84 percent of millennials said they wouldn’t have a problem with dating a co-worker. … [T]he study also demonstrates how employee attitudes about dating co-workers are changing, as 36 percent of Generation X workers think dating a co-worker is acceptable.

For an on-the-job perspective, Max asks for the opinion of Susan Heathfield, a management consultant and the writer of the human resources page at

[She] says she has been lucky to have avoided any major romantic relationship issues with her employees. Her thoughts on office dating have changed, she says. She now believes it’s acceptable for most employees to date. “Have a romance. If it impacts the workplace or your performance” disciplinary action will be taken, she said while speaking about her own employees.

Because workers spend a majority of their week at work, finding a love connection there isn’t unimaginable. Be realistic with your company’s relationship policy. In Max’s article, Heathfield suggests tailoring your document to address the “outliers”—the handful of employees who decide to not act professionally around their significant other when working.

For more advice on tackling office relationships, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Barbtreck

3 Elements to Consider When Creating Job Titles

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

best bossBruce Clarke, CAI’s CEO, tackled the issue of employee titles in a recent CAI list serve discussion. He said:

Titles can be a hot topic in a company, with some believing they do not matter and others believing they are very important.  I’m not sure I ever met anyone who truly did not care at all about their title, even in tech startups.   It is useful shorthand for what you do and where you fit.   It is also true that titles have both internal and external purposes.

How do your employees and senior management view titles at your organization? Can employees work to elevate their titles or are they permanent identities? There is no right or wrong way to judge titles. Whether they describe what a worker does or show authority in an organization, titles should share a few common elements. Do your titles incorporate the three points below?


First and foremost, a company job title needs to define the employee’s role at the organization. There are many reasons why descriptive titles are important. They eliminate confusion by helping coworkers recognize and identify who does what in the workplace. Clients also know who to reach out to when titles are clearly defined.


Create titles that give your employees power over a certain area (small or large) of your organization. Titles that are carefully selected can help workers feel valued, encouraging them to produce their best work to represent themselves and the company. Weak titles can create employee resentment, which tends to lead to poor performance or turnover.


Make sure your titles actually relate to the position, experience, authority and knowledge of your employees. A title that does not do this can undermine the talent and success an employee has achieved in his or her career. Avoid offending your employees by spending adequate time developing their job titles.

Members discuss several HR-related issues on CAI’s list serve. As a member benefit, the list serve enables participants to ask peers at member companies for advice, recommendations and best practices for their organizations. Some topics recently discussed by members include strategies to boost employee morale, time off for the birth of a child and internship guidelines. For additional information about a CAI membership and signing up for the list serve, please contact an account manager at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Kumar Appaiah

9 Ways to Show Your Employees Some Love

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

show love in workplaceValentine’s Day is a week away so it’s the perfect time to show your team members a little love. Demonstrating to your employees that you value and appreciate the work they put in each week will yield a positive outcome. Employees are more satisfied in their job when they know their efforts are appreciated and are making a difference for the company. High job satisfaction rates lead to more engaged workers, and more engaged workers increase business productivity.

Try some of the ways below to share the love with your team members during February and the other months of the year:

  1. Write personalized Valentine’s Day cards to each of your employees and include reasons why they are important members of your team.
  2. Have a Valentine’s Day social during lunch. Provide the main dish, but encourage your staffers to bring in Valentine’s Day themed desserts.
  3. Plan a group outing for all of your employees. Whether it’s bowling or volunteering, the outing will be a good bonding experience.
  4. When requesting items from your staff, use “please” and “thank you” to show your respect for them.
  5. Greet your employees with a smile as they arrive at work for the day.
  6. Decorate your facility with holiday decorations, such as red and pink streamers and paper hearts.
  7. Spend some time during the week to chat with each of your team members to see how they’re doing. Ask them about work and their family.
  8. Give each of your employees a gift card to use for lunch, gas or other purchases they frequently make.
  9. Treat employees to a family-friendly get together, like a weekend pizza party or Friday evening movie.

For more employee engagement or recognition tips, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: mozzercork

4 Ways to Improve Your Workplace and Increase Business Productivity

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

workplace resultsEvery employer wants its organization to run efficiently and produce great results. A likely way to achieve this goal is to ensure that your team members are engaged and content with their roles within your workplace. There are a number of strategies you can implement that will create an environment that encourages your employees to work harder.

Try the four strategies below to improve employee engagement and drive the business results you want:

Be Transparent

Transparency is an essential element for a business that wants to be successful. There are several ways you can promote transparency at your organization. Instruct your managers to communicate frequently with their direct reports about their progress and opportunities for growth. Make sure everyone is receiving positive and constructive feedback. Don’t shy away from answering questions about company finances, improving benefits or other topics that are top of mind to your employees.

Allow Flexibility

Incorporating flexibility into your workplace will be beneficial to your business. More access to technology has made working from home or remotely an option for some employees. Allow them to work from home if their child is sick or leave early on Fridays if they put in extra hours at the beginning of the week. If possible, be flexible with your employees’ start and end times. Finding ways to make sure business gets done while your employees are content is now easier than ever before. 

Recognize and Reward

Having a successful business is dependent on many factors, including how satisfied the employees who work for you are. An easy way to turn unhappy workers into more content ones is to recognize the contributions they’ve made that have positively impacted your organization. Rewarding great work can come in several forms: free lunch, an office, a promotion, a bonus, a salary increase, extra time off, etc.

Offer Opportunities

Employees work harder when they have an attainable goal to work towards. Chances for a promotion, raise or special project are likely to keep your staff members engaged. Inform them of the different opportunities available to them, and help them create a path to secure the results they want.

For more strategies that will accelerate business results at your workplace, join us for CAI’s 2013 HR Management Conference on March 6 and 7 at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh. Keynote speakers include business experts and best selling authors, Daniel Pink and Jon Gordon. Attracting high-performing talent, aligning HR with business strategy and managing remote workers are some of the additional topics speakers will cover at the conference. To see a full conference agenda and register for the event, please visit

Photo Source: Victor1558