Archive for August, 2013

Are You Paying Your Employees Enough Money?

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

In today’s video post, CAI’s Vice President of Membership, Doug Blizzard, discusses the importance of pay to employees.

Doug says that in the last decade the conversation of pay has drifted away from just pay towards the total rewards employees receive. This is partly due to economic issues.

CAI recently released the results of its 2013 Wage and Salary Survey. Sixty-eight percent of survey participants said that their philosophy is to pay employees at or above market rates, and 42 percent of those respondents included benefits in their definition of pay.

Doug suggests that “at market” should primarily mean base pay. He encourages employers to not make the common mistakes of overlooking or devaluing the importance of pay to your employees’ motivation. He says if you devalue pay, you will pay more in the long run.

If you’d like assistance with compensation planning for your company, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

3 Tips for Managing Your Employees Who Are Introverts

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

ChangeIntroverts are individuals who keep their thought process and emotions internalized. Sometimes introverts may come across as shy or uncomfortable in social environments, including the workplace.

While their talents may not be as pronounced as the ones from your extroverted team members, your introverted staffers are just as beneficial to your organization. Help your introverts reach their full potential by utilizing the strategies below at your workplace:

Match tasks with employee

Be aware of the personality traits that many introverts have when assigning new tasks to your employees. For example, an introvert would likely excel at developing a more efficient work process for a problem area in your company, and an extrovert would probably be the best person to plan a social gathering for your employees.

Move out of the comfort zone

Extroverts are more likely to be outspoken and dominate in a meeting while introverts are more likely to be reserved in their contributions to a discussion. So everyone has a chance to be heard, help introverts engage in the discussion. Whether you directly ask them their thoughts or have them create a short presentation expressing their viewpoints, encouraging them to get out of their comfort zone will help everyone see the assets they bring to the workplace.

Make leadership opportunities available

While they don’t typically like to be the center of attention or at the front of the room, introverts do make great leaders. They are known to be thoughtful, humble and respectful of others when given leadership positions. Don’t pass all of your supervisory roles to your extroverts. Be sure to ask your more introverted staff members if they have any interest in your available leadership opportunities.

If you’d like additional advice for managing your employees who are introverts, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Victor1558

Know What Regulations To Consider For Your Corporate Wellness Plan

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

The post below is a guest blog from Twyla Hutchins, RN, BSN, COHN-S who serves as Health Management Officer for CAI’s employee benefits partner, HCW Employee Benefit Services.

Twyla-HutchinsAs more companies add wellness programs to keep healthcare claim costs down, they should consider what compliance regulations need to be followed for successful program implementation. Otherwise, workplace wellness plan savings can vanish due to penalties resulting from a failure to follow the rules.

There are a few key rules to remember when setting up and monitoring a corporate wellness program that can reduce the likelihood of violations allegations for employers. Here is an overview of what to factor into an employee wellness program.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA prohibits employment discrimination against disabled individuals and limits the circumstances in which an employer may require physical examinations or answers to medical inquiries. For wellness plans to comply with ADA guidelines, voluntary medical exams and inquiries are permitted if:

  • Participation in the program is voluntary;
  • Information obtained is according to the confidentiality requirements of the ADA; and
  • Information obtained is not used to discriminate against an employee.

The gray area here is determining exactly how “voluntary” is defined, as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which oversees ADA complaints, has not issued formal guidance. However, if the wellness program requires an employee to complete a health risks assessment to become eligible for the group, the health plan would violate the ADA. Additionally, a wellness program that complies with HIPAA’s wellness regulation may not meet the requirement of the ADA.

COBRA

COBRA allows employees who lose their health benefits to choose to continue benefits provided by their group health plan for limited periods of time under certain circumstances. For wellness programs that provide physical examinations, cholesterol screenings, flu shots and similar benefits that qualify as medical care, these offerings can trigger the program to be a group health plan and thus incur COBRA responsibilities for participants.

Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Taxation

If you are offering incentives to reward employees who reach or surpass certain wellness plan goals, some may be considered taxable income, such as cash or gift cards. Other incentives may avoid taxation, including lower employee premium contributions, smaller deductibles for employees, and employer contributions to company savings and retirement accounts.

Incentives such as cash and prizes are considered taxable unless they qualify as “de minimis” in value by the Internal Revenue Service. As with the EEOC and the “voluntary” designation, what qualifies legally as “de minimis” is unclear, with amounts ranging from $10-$50 in gifts being offered by businesses with wellness programs that they believe fit this definition.

State Laws

North Carolina is one of 31 states with a lawful products protection law prohibiting discrimination against employees who use products such as tobacco outside the workplace. Employers can prohibit smoking on company property, however, as well as refuse to provide smoking breaks or other accommodations to smoking employees.

If an employer uses a wellness program that is part of an employee welfare benefit plan subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), then North Carolina’s lawful products law may be preempted. Employers that are considering charging tobacco users a higher premium for health insurance should be aware of these issues.

HIPAA

Rules for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) require that, a group health plan may not discriminate against any individual or dependent because of a “health factor.” Health factors include health status, medical condition (including both mental and physical illness), claims experience, receipt of healthcare, medical history, genetic information, evidence of insurability, and disability. A group health plan may vary benefits, however, including premiums based on whether an individual has met the standards of the wellness program, if the wellness program itself meets certain requirements.

This is a tricky distinction to make, and the rules of what qualify continue to change. HCW is developing tools and a webinar to explain further the impact of HIPAA and its new rules that go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014. These items will be available in the near future.

Be cognizant of all these regulations and how they can affect your employee wellness program. If you need more immediate information on any of these considerations, contact HCW at (919) 403-1986 or visit us online.

Working While on a Leave of Absence

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Pat Rountree 5x7 300dpiCAI’s Advice and Counsel Team answers several questions from members daily. The team often receives questions concerning leaves of absence, such as this one:

Should we allow employees to work from home while on a Leave of Absence?

In today’s post, Advice and Counsel Team Member Pat Rountree offers guidance for this employer issue:

There are several considerations in answering this question:

1) Most importantly, what are the employee’s medical restrictions while on leave and what is your policy?

You do not want to require or allow the employee to perform any work that would violate their medical restrictions. If they want to continue to work on projects at home, monitor emails to keep up with what is going on, or manage employees remotely, it will be determined by your policy/practice if the work is within their restrictions. It will also depend on their job and whether work from home is possible during leave.

2) Is the employee exempt or non-exempt?

If they are exempt and on unpaid leave, under wage and hour laws, you may be required to pay them for the entire week if they work any part of the week unless they are on FMLA (the only time you can pay only for hours worked for partial days) or there is available a permissible deduction for a full day’s absence (not a partial day absence).

If they are non-exempt and you allow them to work they must track, and you must pay them for, all hours worked.

3) Are they on company-paid leave (salary continuation, exhausting paid time under an FMLA policy, etc.)?

If they are on company-paid leave, they are being paid by you so there is no Wage and Hour violation if they work.

4) Are they receiving third party payments (short-term disability or Workers’ Compensation)?

If so, supplemental pay may affect their eligibility for third party payments. Check your disability insurance plan document to see if this is allowed. If on Workers’ Compensation leave, you would report any earnings.

Remember, if the employee is on a company leave of absence, the employee must volunteer to work and it must be approved by management. However, if the employee is working while on a leave of absence, then, in reality, they are not on a leave of absence but working remotely. This may have other unforeseen implications, for example, if out on a FMLA absence, the time they are working should not count against the employee’s FMLA time.

If you have questions regarding leaves of absence, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919‑878‑9222 or 336‑668‑7746.

 

Five Tips for Companies Dealing with Social Media Oversharing

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

The following is a guest post from Paige Holden. She is the Director of Communications for XONEX Relocation and Holman Moving Systems. She is also the lead editor and regular blogger for Mastering Mobility: HR’s Guide to Relo. This article was originally written for Software Advice, a company that reviews and recommends HRIS solutions to companies seeking to streamline their HR functions. 

social media sharingSocial media sharing has changed almost every aspect of the workplace. Acting as the great equalizer, employees may have just as much visibility on the web (and sometimes more) as their employer.

And now that younger workers are entering the workforce–a generation that grew up with these social media tools and personal transparency as the norm–HR departments that have traditionally kept a tight lid on sensitive information are faced with a new challenge: how to keep confidential and proprietary information under wraps.

Now more than ever, employers need to have a plan in place to deal with office gossip and complaints that, in the past, were confined to the relative obscurity of the break room. These rumors and gripes can now go viral, impacting a company’s reputation–and perhaps even their bottom line.

So what can companies do to prepare themselves for online oversharing? I’ve outlined five strategies businesses can employ to stay on top of the online conversation:

1. Be Aware

The first step to managing social media behavior is to know that Pandora’s box has been opened. Conversations that used to happen at the water cooler are absolutely happening online today. It’s human nature to want to learn as much as possible about the things that affect you—and workplace issues fundamentally affect us all, in different ways, every day. Salary, health benefits, relocation benefits and inter-office politics are ripe for discussion and debate.

Often, the knee-jerk reaction is to over-regulate, but this can square companies against employees’ freedom of speech—a losing battle from both a legal and reputational perspective.

2. Have Departments Collaborate to Monitor the Conversation

Foraging into social media without proper experience or knowledge is a bad idea. If companies want to have a larger and more influential presence on the web, departments should collaborate for optimal results. Social media monitoring is a great opportunity for the HR and communications (or marketing) departments to work together.

3. Look for Patterns and Address Issues Accordingly

Identifying common types of conversations and complaints can help you figure out employees’ main concerns so you can take steps to resolve them.

Having a broad view of the conversation can also help HR managers identify trouble spots in the company and give management teams real-time feedback on workforce issues, which is a great tool for tweaking policies and mitigating any discontent.

4. Develop and Execute a Social Media Policy

A good social media policy will remove any guesswork when it comes to what should and shouldn’t be shared on social media, and remind employees why certain things should remain private.

5. Create Layers of Transparency

The million dollar question is whether or not social media and oversharing will push companies to be more transparent. The answer is yes—both internally and externally.

As we continue to move forward into the digital age with employees who demand open lines of communication, HR managers will have to take a good, hard look at corporate culture. Is it shifting? Are employees’ needs changing? Most importantly, is HR changing with them? Sometimes it’s easier to tune out the noise. But the reality is that the world is changing quickly, and companies that are open and engaged will have a distinct competitive advantage, especially as it pertains to recruitment and retention.

Photo Source: Victor1558

8 Ways to Motivate Your Employees When Funds Are Low

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

carrrotsMotivating employees to be more engaged and productive is a common concern for employers. Organizations will often reward employees with raises or promotions for their previous good work in hopes that they’ll be even more productive. While raises and promotions are good incentives for increasing engagement and efficiency, the funds or new positions are not always available.

So what can employers do to motivate employees when funds are low? Several things! Research shows that money and job titles are not always top motivators. There are other ways to show your staff members that their contributions matter.  Below is a list of ways to boost morale and productivity without blowing your budget. Try incorporating some at your workplace:

  • Give your top employees an extra day of paid time off
  • Whether it’s in writing or said out loud, make sure you thank your staffers for their efforts
  • Schedule lunch and learns to explore topics that are of interest to your employees
  • Start committees to improve your workplace community and invite your high potentials to serve as committee members
  • Purchase gift certificates to a movie theater or restaurant and give them to deserving employees
  • Invite your green employees to shadow under or be mentored by your high-level managers as a form of professional development
  • Throw invitation-only appreciation events for employees who completed big projects or took on more work
  • Coordinate a food or ice cream truck visit at your workplace and treat your employees to free food or dessert

CAI members provided many of the tips above through CAI’s list serve, a member benefit that enables participants to ask peers at member companies for advice, recommendations and best practices for their organizations. Recent topics members have discussed on the list serve include vacation policies, executing performance reviews, short term disability coverage and many more. For additional information about a CAI membership and signing up for the list serve, please contact an account manager at 919-878-9222 or 336-667-7746.

Photo Source: Leo-setä

 

4 Questions to Answer Before Tackling the Affordable Care Act

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

In today’s video blog, CAI’s CEO, Bruce Clarke, offers employers advice for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). He suggests that your next few group health benefit renewals should be less about rates and more about fundamental decisions and choices.

Bruce says renewal meetings should be more like strategy meetings. Some tips for conducting productive meetings include asking these four questions:

  • Has the ACA dramatically affected your company or workforce?
  • Are your satisfied with your current plan design as it is?
  • Does the act open new options to you that would improve your plan?
  • Are you getting a specialist’s advice on all of your options?

CAI is here to help you navigate through the changes and opportunities that health care reform will bring. Please call a member of the Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746 with any questions.

Gain Pertinent Information About Health Care Reform at CAI’s Compensation and Benefits Conference

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Health care reform creates new challenges for companies that want to offer their employees competitive benefits as part of their total rewards package. CAI’s 2013 Compensation and Benefits Conference on September 19th and 20th at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh will offer you and your company assistance in understanding the challenges that health care reform will bring, as well as the opportunities it can create.

2013C+B_Flash3 cropYou’ll delve deep into the complexities of health care reform when keynote speaker Tracy Watts shares her presentation titled Health Care Reform, Exchanges and Defined Contribution Medical Plans…WHAT’s THE BUZZ? You’ll also be able to participate in the conference’s specific track of health care breakout sessions, which include the following topics:

The Affordable Care Act: What You Need to Know
Sandy Reynolds – Associated Industries of Massachusetts

Healthcare Reform Decision Stampede: What have your employees herd?
Joy Binkley & W. Hunter Walton, JD – HCW Benefit Services

Managing Group Health Insurance Plans Post-ACA
Sandy Reynolds – Associated Industries of Massachusetts

In addition to the special track of health care breakout sessions, the conference will also feature a track of Advanced HR sessions and a track of “How-to” sessions. Some of the topics in those tracks include:

Top 10 Strategies for Impacting Performance and Productivity
Carol Hacker – Hacker & Associates

Creating and Implementing Career Frameworks – Ways to Improve Employee Motivation and Meet Business Needs
Angelita Becom & Robin Kegerise – Sibson Consulting

How to Identify Employees vs. Independent Contractors and Other Wage and Hour Regulations
Randy Bazemore – Horizon Labor Law Specialist, Inc.

How to Create Positive ROI with a Wellness Strategy
Carole Eidson – Precision Fabrics and Tom Revels – iHEALTH Analytics

Other topics presenters will discuss at the conference include:

  • NC Salary and Benefits Trends
  • Increasing Employee Engagement
  • Solutions to Improve 401(k) plans
  • Conducting Stress-Free Performance Evaluations
  • Benefit Planning for Different Generations
  • Showing Employees Appreciation

To register for the conference and find more information on presenters and session topics, please visit www.capital.org/compconf.

Improve Employee Efficiency by Updating Your Workplace Practices

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

August Quote blog

Albert Einstein once said, “If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts.” Is this quote applicable to your workplace? Is your organization meeting its business goals? Are you making all of your deadlines? Are your employees engaged and is their productivity high? If you can’t answer yes to all of these questions, you may need to reconsider some of your workplace practices.

A positive company culture and a helpful set of workplace guidelines will help you reach your business goals. They will also help you create more positive relationships with your employees, which will raise their job satisfaction and morale. There are a number of steps your organization can take to incorporate constructive employer practices. Check out a few examples below:

Give constant feedback

No matter their age or tenure at your company, your employees want to know how their work performance measures up. Regularly informing your employees about their work performance is beneficial for your organization because you’ll learn more about your employees and the workload they can or can’t handle. For five ways to offer feedback to your employees, please visit here: http://blog.capital.org/employees-will-seek-consistent-feedback-in-the-new-year/.

Be clear and transparent with communication

An organization that has issues with clearly communicating to their workforce will have a hard time reaching success. By practicing transparency and good communications, you’ll gain trust from your employees. They’ll likely be motivated to be more productive as well. Find out the most common causes of workplace miscommunication here: http://blog.capital.org/five-common-causes-of-miscommunication-in-the-workplace-and-how-to-avoid-them/ and find solutions that will help you communicate effectively here: http://blog.capital.org/are-you-communicating-effectively/.

Invest in training for your managers

Researchers have found that many times the reason why employees leave or aren’t as productive is because the people leading them aren’t doing a good job. Managers and supervisors have several items on their plate, but one of their most important items is developing and overseeing their direct reports. Before you promote your next manager, make sure you offer them proper training. Here are some ideas: http://blog.capital.org/ongoing-training-helps-managers-reach-success/.

For additional help on increasing workplace productivity and meeting your company goals, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.