Archive for November, 2013

Take Lessons from Your Peers to Improve Your Company

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

In today’s video blog, CAI’s Vice President of Membership, Doug Blizzard, explains how solutions and processes from your peers can help you improve your organization.

Doug acknowledges that companies are currently doing more with less. Because employers and HR professionals are working with limited resources, Doug offers them a suggestion: learn from the best practices of other companies. Maybe you’re looking to refresh company culture, update a specific policy or introduce a new method of getting work done. Learning from your peers is a great way to gain new ideas and see the results of different workplace initiatives.

Doug advises you to seek out best practices from other employers, as well as share the best practices of your organization. He makes an important note that you should always modify a best practice or initiative from another company to fit your workplace specifically.

So where do you find best practices? For seven years CAI has recognized and honored companies that have implemented HR/people practices that have positively impacted their business results through its Ovation Awards for HR Excellence.

CAI is currently taking nominations for its 2014 awards until Friday, December 20.  Nominating your company for an Ovation Award is quick, easy and free! Visit to nominate your company today, and tell us why your HR/people practice deserves to win.

Benefits of winning a 2014 award include enhancing your employer brand, presenting your practice at the 2014 CAI HR Management Conference, receiving recognition and publicity for your organization and free registration to the 2014 CAI HR Management Conference. For any questions regarding the Ovation Awards, please contact Doug Blizzard at

How Communication And Education Can Reduce Drug Costs

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

The post below is a guest blog from Steve Byrd who serves as Principal, Health & Welfare Consultant  for CAI’s employee benefits partner Hill, Chesson & Woody.

hcw pillWith the cost of healthcare increasing steadily, everyone is constantly looking for ways to reduce claims and slow the trajectory. Since the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), discussion over how much healthcare utilization actually costs has become a central focus for both providers and consumers. One often overlooked method of lowering costs is better prescription drug management.

One of the most trusted relationships that can exist is one between a patient and a physician. When a drug is prescribed, there is rarely any second-guessing or further questioning from the patient. While it goes without saying that the doctor has the patient’s best interests in mind, it may be that there are other, more cost effective solutions that should also be considered.

The first and most obvious cost saving measure is to ask for generic prescriptions. Generic drugs can cost fractions of what name-brand drugs cost and are identical in their chemical makeup. Name brand drugs are more expensive because the pharmaceutical company has to pay for research and development, marketing, and then try to make a profit. However, once the patent on that drug expires, companies can come in and produce them for much cheaper without having to conduct the research or safety studies. This results in much lower costs to the healthcare system.

If there is not an available generic, ask for a free sample. Pharmaceutical companies are constantly supplying physicians with samples of their drugs in hope that they will prescribe them. If you are treating a short-term problem, a free sample may keep you from filling your prescription at all.

In some instances generics are not available. In these cases, ask for less costly therapeutic equivalents. This may be a different chemical or drug, but the treatment result is the same.  Instead of one more expensive prescription, you may get another, cheaper, prescription that has the same effect on your condition.

It is also important to shop pharmacies and utilize savings found at retail stores. Even though a patient may pay a small copay for whatever prescription they are having filled, the actual cost of the drug can vary from pharmacy to pharmacy, and even from location to location of chain pharmacies. Most people tend to fill all of their prescriptions at one pharmacy without ever following up on the cost. This may result in paying higher prices for the same drug. It is also important to shop at retail stores, especially for generics. Stores such as Costco, Wal-Mart, and many chain supermarkets will often fill generic prescriptions for less than the copay. This results in double savings: the customer doesn’t spend as much out of pocket and there is no pharmacy claim against the health plan.

Healthcare insurance costs are going to continue to rise. In order to minimize the impact that these rising costs have, it is becoming more critical for the consumer to use the system effectively and efficiently. It is essential to communicate with your employees the importance of good prescription drug utilization. To help keep costs under control, inform employees of potential cost saving measures, supply them with good consumer guides such as Healthier at Home, and keep them aware of how good utilization affects insurance rates.

There are a variety of ways to communicate with employees. Many companies are turning to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to get the message out. Other methods such as lunch and learns, email communications, and face to face meetings are also effective in educating your workforce. No one solution is going to be a silver bullet, and maybe your employees need to be communicated to in a variety of ways.

Hill, Chesson and Woody works as a partner with our clients to develop communication strategies that ensure their employees understand their benefits and cost-effective utilization.

19 Low Cost Ways to Recognize Employee Achievements

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

employee recognitionRecognizing your employees for the work they produce for your company is a great way to increase their engagement and the overall morale of your organization. No matter the size of your budget, creating special moments for your team members is possible.

Listed below are encouraging, empowering and easy ways to recognize and reward employees at no or low cost to the employer:

  • Encourage and recognize employees who pursue continuing education.
  • Create and post an “Employee Honor Roll” in break rooms or feature it in the company newsletter.
  • When preparing a status report, acknowledge individual contributions by using employee names.
  • Send Congratulations cards home or tape them to the employee’s office door.
  • Give a copy of the latest best-selling management or business book as a gift.
  • Encourage and recognize employees actively serving the community.
  • Drop in on the first meeting of a special project team to thank each employee for their participation.
  • Thank each employee for their involvement as a team member at the conclusion of a project.
  • Call an employee to your office to thank them and recognize them for a recent achievement.
  • Ask employees to identify specific areas of interest in job-related skills and have them spend a day with the in-house expert to learn more about the subject.
  • Immediately pass along any praise about someone to that person, preferably face-to-face.
  • Tape a few gift cards to the bottoms of chairs at an employee meeting.
  • Serve refreshments at the next team meeting.
  • Encourage the sharing of a team accomplishment by designating that team as mentors or advisors to other teams.
  • Ask upper management to attend a meeting when you plan to thank individuals and the group for their specific accomplishments and contributions.
  • Make arrangements for a team to present their completed project to upper management.
  • Write a letter of appreciation to an employee for his/her contributions, placing a copy in the personnel file.
  • Be sure to use positive nonverbal behaviors that reflect your appreciation.
  • Remember, a smile is contagious!

People like being appreciated. Simple things, particularly when made public to their co-workers, foster a supportive and productive workplace by openly recognizing employees. If you have questions regarding employee recognition, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919‑878‑9222, 336‑668‑7746 or

Photo Source: Texas State Library and Archives Commission


4 Tips for Hosting an Engaging Holiday Party for Your Employees

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

holiday party foodThrowing your team a holiday party is a great way for your organization to show appreciation for the hard work they contributed to your company throughout the year.

Holiday parties provide several opportunities for your staffers to mix and mingle away from the office, and they can help increase employee engagement. Coworkers will have fun meeting significant others or friends, and people in different departments or at different locations will be able to connect and get to know one another better.

Here are some tips for throwing a great end-of-the-year party to celebrate the accomplishments of your organization and your team:

If you have to talk about work, make it short!

Holiday parties allow you to become better acquainted with your employees and the people in their lives. Congratulating your team for a great year is fine, but going into details about projects or client requests should be avoided. There will always be time to discuss work when you and your team are back in the office.

Have fun with your coworkers

There are several ways you can interject fun at your staff holiday party. Make a list of things your team members will likely enjoy during the event. Whether you exchange gifts, set up a photo booth or invite carolers to sing to the group, encourage your employees to have a good time. Plan a few exciting surprises to have your employees talking well throughout the new year.

Limit the amount of alcohol you provide

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. Protect your party committee and your employees by providing your guests with no more than two drinks. Getting sloppy at the company party—whether it’s a seasoned manager or a recent hire—isn’t a win for anyone. If you’re serving alcohol, it’s also important to be aware of how each of your employees is getting home, especially if some decide to spend their own money on extra drinks.

Let them know they are appreciated

Make sure that a portion of your holiday party is spent recognizing the efforts your employees have made throughout the year. Appreciating your employees is an important part of the event, and there are a number of ways you can show your gratitude. Some examples include a toast highlighting specific accomplishments made by staff, giving each employee a gift card, and presenting awards to staffers in various categories related to work.

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

Photo Source: OakelyOriginals

What You Need to Know from the 2013 Triad Employment Law Update

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

TELU-HeaderCAI hosted its annual Triad Employment Law Update on November 5. The event was held at the beautiful Grandover Resort in Greensboro and more than 160 HR professionals and company executives attended the conference to obtain the latest updates in state and federal employment law.

The knowledgeable attorneys from Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLP gave several presentations related to the most recent changes in regulations. Topics the attorneys discussed included termination procedures, off-duty conduct, new decisions from the NLRB, health care reform and immigration issues.

Below are several important takeaways from this year’s conference:

The NLRB and Social Media Policies

  • Employees using social media to complain about their employers may be engaged in protected concerted activity under the NLRA
  • Policies cannot inhibit “protected concerted activity,” such as posting complaints
  • Board continues to issue policy guidance on a variety of social media cases
  • Recent rulings by NLRB’s administrative law judges have invalidated employer social media policies

Health Care Reform and Employee Benefits

  • The one-year penalty delay will allow employers to plan coverage issues more carefully, determine full-time employees, and project additional costs.
  • Do not put health care issues aside until next year – use this time to analyze, discuss, and plan to prevent surprises.
  • Suggested actions to take
    • Identify all common law employees (temps, interns, contractors, etc.)
    • Identify any possible variable hour or seasonal employees
    • Determine if plan provides “minimum value” and is “affordable”

Background Check Compliance

  • Employer can conduct own background check
  • If a consumer reporting agency is used to obtain consumer report, Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), as amended by Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act applies (FACTA).
  • Steps an employer must take:
    • Notify employee in stand-alone written notice that it is obtaining a consumer report and get employee’s written consent
    • Give employee notice of proposed adverse action (along with copy of report and FTC summary or rights form)
    • Wait a reasonable period of time before taking adverse action and give notice of same to employee

Perfecting Termination Procedures

  • Some tips to consider:
    • It’s recommended to have someone of the same gender as the person being terminated included in the procedures for several reasons, such as safety and empathy
    • Terminating on Friday afternoon is not recommended because the terminated employee has many more opportunities to be in contact with family and friends after the work week, which might cause them embarrassment and frustration.
    • Don’t come off too apologetic and have policies and performance evaluations ready
    • Always cover how they will be able to collect their belongings if they are given the opportunity

Interviewing in the Hiring Process

  • Review the job description and make sure your questions match up to the duties and responsibilities
  • Avoid questions that might appear discriminatory or offensive
  • Avoid questions that could be construed as having illegal motivation
  • Structure interview questions and develop a scoring criteria
    • Consider using a licensed psychologist to help develop
    • Avoid telling applicants that they are hired during an interview
    • Don’t speculate about the possibility of employment, length of employment or otherwise
    • Remain consistent among applicants

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.

7 Helpful Tips for Conducting Difficult Conversations with Employees

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

difficult conversationHaving a difficult conversation with employees, either as a group or one-on-one, is never an easy thing to do. A negative performance review or a poor corporate earnings report can adversely affect employee morale and future productivity.

There are ways, however, to deliver bad news that can mitigate the impact it has on the employee and on the existing relationship with the messenger. The key is in leading the conversation with respect and sensitivity to how the news is likely to be received by the employee.

Here are seven tips that can help to guide the conversation effectively and promote a positive experience the next time difficult news needs to be delivered:

What Do You Want To Accomplish?

Decide on your objectives before you engage with the employee. List the points you wish to address and the outcome you are anticipating. If the discussion begins to drift from this path, return to your list of points and stay on track.

Empower the Employee

Give the employee an opportunity to present their side or to address the points you are making from their point of view. Show the employee your willingness to listen to what they have to say and they will be less likely to feel threatened or defensive.

Be Specific, Avoid Generalities

Make certain you cite specific events or behaviors without making general statements. Negative generalities can be interpreted as a personal attack. Specific incidents, on the other hand, can be improved upon and that improvement can be measured.

Observations, Not Absolutes

Sensitive issues should be presented as observations made from your perspective, not as absolutes. Observations can leave less room for argument in the discussion. However, be certain to only leave room for negotiation if you are willing to consider it. In cases of a termination, maintain a firm and direct stance without room for argument.

Accountability without Blame

Provide context when framing an issue that needs to be addressed. If a specific goal has been missed, suggest circumstances that may have contributed to the situation. The employee is still responsible for overcoming those obstacles, where possible, to meet the goal. Knowing management understands the situation beneath the surface will motivate the employee to improve going forward.

Turn the Conversation Into a Learning Experience

After the difficult news has been delivered, do not end the conversation on that note. Discuss with the employee how improvements can be made and help to create a plan of action going forward. Interject advice based on your own experiences in a similar situation. This will help the employee feel supported and will also demonstrate your willingness to assist them.

Dignity and Respect

Keep all conversations on a professional level, maintaining dignity and respect on both sides of the table. Even terminations, which are non-negotiable, can be presented in such a way to allow the employee to maintain their self-esteem and exit the meeting gracefully and without feeling defeated.

If you’d like additional help conducting difficult conversations, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746. You can also sign up for our e-Learning course, Difficult Conversations. Please visit our website at and look under the training tab.

Photo Source: Victor1558

Rally Your Troops for a Good Cause

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

In today’s post Pat Rountree, an HR Advisor on CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team, shares several ways that your organization can honor veterans and military service men and women this veterans day.

Pat Rountree 5x7 300dpi

Pat Rountree, HR Advisor

Veterans Day is November 11. There is still time to make plans to honor veterans and military service men and women and thank them for their service to our country to preserve our freedom. They give their time, leave home and family, often see things no one should have to witness, and know that they may face injury or even death. This is a great opportunity to support those in your community through some personal recognition, or anywhere through cards or donations.

Ideas for honoring service – employers can help by considering and hiring veterans. Go to to see resumes of veterans or to post your openings.

There are also ways to involve your employees:

  • Honor your own employees for their service. You can advise employees you want to honor them on Veterans Day and ask anyone who would like to participate to let you know. Certificates of recognition are available at
  • Give employees an opportunity to participate in an event or service opportunity for veterans. Attend a Veterans Day celebration and personally thank vets for their service.
  • Visit veterans at a VA hospital if one is in your area, or in hospices.
  • Send cards to veterans to thank them for their service.
  • Offer to match employee donations to the Wounded Warrior Project or other organizations that support veterans
  • Advise employees how they can volunteer personally to help veterans if they are interested, go to
  • Give a company gift to a veterans’ organization and make employees aware of organizations they can contact to give personally (examples: Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) or American Legion). There are a number of homeless veterans that need our help.

If you are interested in hiring veterans or need additional help with honoring the veterans and service men and women at your organization, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222.