Archive for July, 2013

The Best Option for Onboarding Your New Employees

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

In today’s video blog, CAI’s Vice President of Membership, Doug Blizzard, asks you to recall the onboarding stories of Jane Regret and Tom Happy. He then explains that whether a new hire decides to stay with your company depends on the rest of your procedures for onboarding.

Doug suggests designing a complete onboarding process for your new employees to experience. During the process, new hires should acquire the necessary knowledge, skills and behavior to become effective organizational members.

When implemented effectively, Doug says a strong onboarding process can lead to higher job satisfaction, better job performance, faster production time, greater commitment and less stress.  He believes the best onboarding practices are written and include the following items:

  • Welcome activities
  • One-on-one time with supervisors and company leaders
  • Explanation of company culture
  • A mentor or buddy
  • Accessible resources
  • Customized training and professional development
  • Clear feedback and guidance

If you would like additional information for executing a sound onboarding program, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.


Mandating Direct Deposit in North Carolina

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team answers several questions from members daily. One question that the team members often receive deals with employee pay— Can employers in North Carolina mandate that their employees be paid by direct deposit?

john g editIn today’s post, Advice and Counsel Team Member John Gupton provides an answer to this common employer question:

Yes. The NC Department of Labor (NCDOL) considers direct deposit as merely another legal form of payment. Under the NC Wage and Hour Act (NCWHA), an employer may select any legal form of payment, so long as payment is made in full on the designated payday, subject to authorized deductions and legal withholdings. Acceptable forms of payment include cash, money order, negotiable checks and direct deposit into an institution whose deposits are insured by the United States government or an institution selected by the employee.

It is entirely up to the employer whether or not to pay its employees by direct deposit. An employer can make the payment of wages by direct deposit a condition of employment without violating the NCWHA. An employer can also require that its employees use a particular financial institution so long as that institution is insured by the United States government. However, from an employee relations perspective, it would be best to allow your employees to use their own financial institution if you are going to require that they be paid by direct deposit.

To learn more about this issue, please visit the NCDOL’s website and review the section on Direct Deposit Enforcement

You can also call the Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746 for your questions regarding direct deposit.

45 Percent of NC Employers Offer Alternative Work Schedules for Staff

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

In today’s video post, CAI’s Vice President of HR Services, Molly Hegeman, shares more insights from the 2012 Policies & Benefits Survey. More than 260 employers from across North Carolina participated in last year’s survey.

Molly reveals that the number of North Carolina employers offering alternative work schedules has increased. Forty-five percent of NC employers now offer alternative options for their employees’ workday routines. These options include flexible hours, working remotely and compressed work weeks. Molly says that compressed workweeks are especially popular in the summer.

There are a number of reasons why employers should incorporate alternative work schedules as part of their benefits package. Employees are requesting more flexible work weeks and looking for employers who offer them. Nontraditional work schedules also help create a balance between work and home life that employees need.

Organizations that offer alternative scheduling have the opportunity to decrease absenteeism and distracted employees. Molly says that a greater commitment and engagement from the workforce is achieved when these programs are offered.

For more information on offering flexible work weeks, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

SCOTUS Strikes Down DOMA – What Employer Group Health Plans Can Expect Next

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

The post below is a guest blog from Lindsey Surratt, JD, who serves as Compliance Officer for CAI’s employee benefits partner, HCW Employee Benefit Services.

DOMA ringsThe Supreme Court of the United States has invalidated Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) – a landmark decision that will result in significant changes to the employee benefits landscape for same-sex couples legally married in a state.  Section 3 of DOMA amends the Dictionary Act in Title I, Section 7 of the United States Code to provide a federal definition of “marriage” and “spouse.”  Section 2 of DOMA, which was not challenged in United States vs. Windsor, allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed under the laws of other states. Section 3 of DOMA reads as follows:

“In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.”

Section 3 of DOMA provided the federal definition of “marriage” and “spouse” for purposes of all federal statutes and regulations that controlled over 1,000 federal laws in which marital or spousal status is addressed as a matter of federal law.  Specifically with regard to employee health and welfare benefits, same-sex spouses legally married within a state will now qualify for the following, among other federal benefits:

  • FMLA leave to care for their same-sex spouse if the spouse experiences a serious health condition
  • Premium contributions* and reimbursements on a federal tax-favored basis
  • No FICA or FUTA tax on employer coverage provided to the same-sex spouse*
  • An independent right to elect COBRA for employer-sponsored group health plans*
  • HIPAA special enrollment rights* when a same-sex spouse loses coverage under another employer sponsored      plan
  • Ability to use pre-tax funds from a DCAP to pay for care of a same-sex spouse’s dependent

*The decision in United States vs. Windsor does not appear to require employers to offer eligibility for the employer’s group health plan to same-sex spouses legally married in another state if the state in which the employer’s insurance contract is written does not recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.  This issue may remain a matter of state law.  Employers should review the laws of the state(s) in which they operate to determine the impact of this decision on the eligibility provisions in their insurance contracts and plan documents.  Generally, the benefits indicated by an asterisk above would only apply if same-sex spouses are eligible for coverage under the employer’s group health plan.

Individual states still seem to have the ability to define “marriage” and “spouse” for purposes of state law, and to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed under the laws of other states.  As a result, employer group health plan sponsors should review the definition of “spouse” contained in their carrier contracts and other plan documents.  Employer plan sponsors may also face administrative challenges, particularly if the employer operates in multiple states which may have different marriage laws or laws defining “marriage” or “spouse” differently from other states.  For example, health insurance benefits may be provided on a tax-favored basis for purposes of federal income tax, but not necessarily for state income tax purposes.

In the coming weeks, it is expected that the IRS will release guidance regarding the elimination of Section 3 of DOMA and the resulting federal tax implications.  The Department of Labor may also release guidance to align FMLA regulations with the Supreme Court decision.  The employee benefits landscape in this area will undoubtedly continue to change as the debate continues on both a state and national level post-United States vs. Windsor. Click here to read the Supreme Court opinion in United States vs. Windsor.  You may visit the Oyez website for more information on the case, including a link to the oral arguments, visit Oyez.  NPR has also published an interesting article on how the end of Section 3 of DOMA may impact coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, including whether insurance companies will be required to offer plans that cover same-sex spouses in states that do not recognize same-sex marriages performed under the laws of other states, and how affordability of health insurance coverage will be determined for same-sex spouses.

There is certainly more to come as the federal and state governments, as well as legal scholars of various specialties, continue to analyze the Supreme Court opinion and its impact on employer group health plans. Your organization may need a specific plan around. Please contact Hill, Chesson & Woody to help you prepare.


Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono /

4 Tips to Increase Workplace Productivity Over the Summer

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

summer productivityProductivity at your organization has the potential to lower during the summer months. Many factors are responsible for this decrease in efficiency. Some common culprits include employees taking time off, clients venturing on long vacations, and hot temperatures occurring. Although these factors will always be present during this time of year, there are some solutions you can incorporate to reduce a loss in productivity. Try the four tips below at your organization today:

1)      Encourage employees to take vacation

Summertime is the ideal opportunity for your team members to use their vacation days. Remind them to take some time off to spend with their family or friends away from the office. Your employees will be away for a short period of time. When they return, they’ll be rested, recharged and ready to be productive at work.

2)      Prepare backup plans

Vacation season tends to mean that there are fewer people in the office. Having fewer people around doesn’t mean that you can’t continue projects in an efficient way. Meet with employees before they take time off to discuss any assignments that need to be completed while others are away. Using teamwork will help your organization meet deadlines.

3)      Treat your employees to fun

Yes, achieving high productivity over this summer is important, but so is having fun! Plan something fun for your employees to show them that you appreciate the efforts they have made during the first half of the year.  Treating them to lunch or taking them out to a baseball game are great ways to keep them content and engaged with their employer.

4)      Be flexible when possible

Use flexibility during the summer months to keep workplace productivity high. Compressed work weeks and adjustments to start and end times are two ways to offer your employees more flexible schedules. Many companies allow their staffers to leave early on Fridays to take advantage of the summer weather and spend time with their loved ones and friends.

Summer is a fun season and may cause employees to become preoccupied with other items, like vacations or summer childcare. Keeping morale high and delegating where needed helps organizations run efficiently in the summer months. For more tips to increase your company’s productivity, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-669-7746.

Photo Source: Nazareth College

5 Strategies for Impacting Employee Performance and Productivity

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

The following is a guest post from Carol Hacker. Carol is the President and CEO of Hacker & Associates. She specializes in helping HR professionals and teaching managers, supervisors, team leaders, executives and business owners how to meet the leadership challenge. She’s the author the bestseller, Hiring Top Performers-350 Great Interview Questions for People Who Need People.

Carol Hacker portraitCommitment and pride are characteristics that are difficult to measure when interviewing prospective employees.  However, once you’ve found people who have great attitudes and hire them, it’s up to you to take it one-step further and build commitment.   If you’re limited in what you can pay, or opportunities for advancement are scarce, how do you get employees to focus on performance and productivity?

First, are you willing to work at bringing out the best in your employees?  It’s a full time job.  Most employees want to be successful, but they sometimes lack the skills and know-how.  Without structure, systems, and attitudes, employers will never be able to develop and retain every manager’s dream—motivated employees.

Second, the reality is, once fair wages are set, more money or better fringe benefits have a negligible impact on employee loyalty on performance and productivity.  There are a number of ways to build employee loyalty, but none of them come without effort.

Your goal is to get your employees to emotionally commit to you and the goals of your organization—admittedly, no easy task—but proven to be doable if you’re willing to work at it.  The ideas contained herein are not meant to be all-inclusive.  However, they represent a cross-section of ideas that I hope you find helpful.

Behind the success of any thriving business are a number of key principles related to employee performance and productivity.  The late Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, said it well:  “There are two things people want more than sex and money–recognition and praise.”  With that light-hearted, but powerful thought, I’d like to share some ideas that HR professionals can use and share to keep top-notch employees committed and loyal to the task and the organization:

1.   Let them know they count.  Don’t fail to overlook the use of low-cost or no-cost incentives as a way to show appreciation.  Why?  Because everyone needs to feel valued from your managers to your office personnel, and beyond.  A simple “thank you” can go a long way to get commitment from the people that you depend upon day in and day out.

 2.   Include “fun” in your organization’s core values that should already include respect, trust, excellence, balance, ethics, adaptability, empowerment and calculated risk-taking.  Don’t give it “lip service.”  Live each and every one of your core values to the fullest!

3.   When someone leaves your company don’t ignore the fact that the loss of an employee puts a burden on your other employees.  Anticipate the fact that your existing employees will be willing and able to pick up the slack for only so long before they become frustrated.  You then run the risk of losing them too.  Show your appreciation for the fact that they are holding things together until you can hire someone to replace the person(s) who left.

4.   Promote new responsibilities when there’s no place to be “promoted to.”  Many organizations have limited room for advancement.  However, it doesn’t have to mean the end of the challenges.  Get input from your employees and together decide what new responsibilities they might be interested in pursuing.

5.  Promote from within whenever practical.  Most people would like the opportunity to be considered for other jobs within the organization.  Overlooking your current employees and going outside your company for new hires is a real morale buster.

People naturally want to grow in their work and in their lives.  Give your employees the opportunity to do both while having fun.  For more tips on increasing employee performance and productivity, please join me at CAI’s 2013 Compensation and Benefits Conference on September 19th and 20th at Raleigh’s McKimmon Center. I’ll be presenting two breakout sessions during the conference, 10 Strategies for Impacting Performance and Productivity, and How to Make Performance Evaluations Stress Free and a Win-Win. Visit to see additional conference topics and to register for the event.

Create a Succession Plan to Accurately Predict Your Company’s Future

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

July Quote Blog 2013

Alan Kay, the father of the personal computer said, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

What does the future of your organization look like? How will your organization proceed in the next five or ten years? If you don’t have the answers, you should get started on inventing your future now. The best way to do that is with a succession plan.

Maintaining business success in the years to come depends on whether your current leadership team creates a plan outlining which of your top-performing employees will step into leadership and newly created roles when the appropriate time comes. The retirement of one of your top managers or a decision of permanent maternity leave from a key specialist are examples of why succession planning is critical for keeping your business running smoothly. Review the advantages of succession planning in more detail here:

Succession planning is hard to complete if you can’t pinpoint key employees who can take over high-profile positions in your company when the time comes. Retaining hardworking employees is essential to foretelling your company’s future.  If you’re having trouble holding on to your company’s stars, you may need to revise your retention strategy. Here are some tips that can help you decrease turnover and increase loyalty among your workforce:

Creating a succession plan is an involved process that should include your senior leadership team and have input from the heads of all of your business departments. The goal of your succession plan is to identify, recruit and prepare your talented employees for important company positions they will eventually lead. Succession plans can vary based on the size and industry of an organization. However, most plans share several basic strategies. Check them out here:

For more information and additional tips on succession planning, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746,

**Workplace Insights will take a break for the Independence Day holiday. New posts will return next Tuesday, July 9. Please have a happy and safe holiday!