Archive for February, 2014

Employee Engagement Starts and Ends with the Boss

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

In today’s video blog, CAI’s Vice President of Membership, Doug Blizzard, discusses employee engagement. Why aren’t my employees engaged?—is a question he often receives from CAI members. He says that many studies on the topic show that 60 to 70 percent of employees are not engaged with their organization. High numbers of disengaged employees mean companies are losing productivity.

Engaged teams are more profitable and more productive than teams that are not. Doug also notes that companies with disengaged teams face several challenges, such as higher turnover, increased absenteeism and more safety incidents.

Doug says the first step in getting your team engaged is realizing that engagement isn’t happiness or satisfaction. Engagement is really talking about the emotional commitment an employee has to his organization and its goals.

According to different studies, 70 percent of engagement is determined by an employee’s primary manager or boss. Doug explains that failure of the boss to execute good management has by far the biggest impact on engagement.  He says that everything employers do for their business will be interpreted by, reinforced,  ignored and even torn down by your supervisors and managers.

Doug says the message is clear: if you really want to engage your employees, start by developing your supervisors and managers.  If you’d like additional guidance on increasing employee engagement, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Treasury Issues Final Regulations, Announces Another Delay of PPACA’s Employer Mandate

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

The post below is a guest blog from Lindsey Surratt, JD who serves as Compliance Officer  for CAI’s employee benefits partner Hill, Chesson & Woody.

Now and Later ChoiceAfter more than a year of anticipation, on Monday, February 10, 2014, the US Treasury Department issued final regulations and announced yet another delay of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s Employer Shared Responsibility provision, which requires employers with more than 50 employees to offer health insurance coverage to full-time workers or pay a penalty.  Notably, the final regulations include welcome transition relief for employers with fewer than 100 full time equivalent employees and for employers with 100 or more full time equivalent employees.  Employers with fewer than 100 full time equivalent employees will not be required to offer health insurance coverage to full time employees until January 1, 2016.  Employers with 100 or more full time equivalent employees must offer coverage to at least 70% of their full-time employees in 2015.  This will increase to 95% in 2016. Other important changes and clarifications include the following:

  • COMMONLY OWNED ENTITIES: The final regulations have retained the rule applying the aggregation rules under the IRS Code to employers.  This means that all employees within a controlled group of corporations or affiliated service groups will be counted for determining the applicable large employer member’s size.  However, penalties will still be calculated on an entity-by-entity basis.
  • ROUNDING: When calculating full time equivalent employees, employers may round to the nearest one hundredth.
  • HOURS OF SERVICE: Equivalency methods for calculating an employee’s hours of service do not require that an employee must have actually worked one  hour during a day or week to be credited with 8 or 40 hours respectively for that period.  Employees must be credited with hours of service  for all paid hours.
  • VOLUNTEERS: Hours worked by  a “bona fide volunteer” are not treated as hours of  service.  A bona fide volunteer includes any volunteer who is an employee of a government entity or an organization described in section 501(c) that is exempt from taxation under section 501(a) whose only  compensation from that entity or organization is in the form of (i)   reimbursement for (or reasonable allowance for) reasonable expenses incurred in the performance of services by volunteers, or (ii) reasonable  benefits (including length of service awards), and nominal fees,   customarily paid by similar entities in connection with the performance of  services by volunteers.
  • STUDENT EMPLOYEES: Hours of service for section 4980H purposes do not  include hours of service performed by students in positions subsidized through the federal work study program or a substantially similar program of a State or political subdivision thereof. However, the final regulations do not include a general exception for student employees. All      hours of service for which student employee of an educational organization (or of an outside employer) is paid or entitled to payment in a capacity other than through the federal work study program (or a State or local government’s equivalent) are required to be counted as hours of service.
  • ADJUNCT FACULTY: Employers of adjunct faculty are required to use a  reasonable method for crediting hours of service.  However, the IRS and Treasury have proposed multiples that might be applied to credit  additional hours of service for each credit hour or hour of classroom time assigned to the adjunct faculty member.
  • DEFINITION OF FULL-TIME EMPLOYEE:  The hours of service threshold for  a full-time employee remains at an average of 30 hours of service per  week.
  • SEASONAL EMPLOYEES:  A seasonal employee means an employee in a position for which the customary annual employment is six months or less.
  • BREAKS IN SERVICE: The length of the break in service required before a  returning employee may be treated as a new employee is reduced from 26  weeks to 13 weeks (except for educational organization employers).
  • AFFORDABILITY SAFE HARBORS:  Employers are not permitted to use the prior year’s  Form W-2 to determine affordability under the Form W-2 safe harbor.  Additionally, no accommodation was provided for tipped employees under the Rate of Pay safe harbor.  The IRS and Treasury advise employers with tipped employees to use either the Form W-2 safe harbor or the Federal Poverty Line safe harbor.
  • PARTICIPATION:  In the large group market, a minimum participation requirement cannot be used to deny guaranteed issue.
  • STAFFING AGENCIES:  Health insurance coverage offered by a staffing agency to its employees (in the typical case in which the staffing agency or PEO is not the common law employer of the employee) may be treated as an offer  of coverage made on behalf of the client employer if the offer of coverage  meets certain requirements.
  • PENALTY CALCULATION: The following two questions in the IRS Q&A also make an important change to the way penalty amounts will be calculated for employers with 100 or more full time equivalent employees in 2015. Notice the (minus 80) and (minus up to 80) parentheticals in each answer below:

38.  For 2015, if an employer with at least 100 full-time employees (including full-time equivalents) that does not offer coverage or that offers coverage to fewer than 70% of its full-time employees (and their dependents) owes an Employer Shared Responsibility payment, how is the amount of the payment calculated? For any calendar month in 2015 or any calendar month in 2016 that falls within an employer’s non-calendar 2015 plan year, if an applicable large employer with at least 100 full-time employees (including full-time equivalents) does not offer coverage to at least 70% of its full-time employees (and their dependents), it owes an Employer Shared Responsibility payment equal to the number of full-time employees the employer employed for the month (minus 80) multiplied by 1/12 of $2,000, provided that at least one full-time employee receives a premium tax credit for that month.  See questions 24 and 25.

39.  For 2015, if an employer with at least 100 full-time employees (including full-time equivalents) offers coverage to at least 70% of its full-time employees, and, nevertheless, owes an Employer Shared Responsibility payment, how is the amount of the payment calculated? For an employer with at least 100 full-time employees (including full-time equivalents) that offers coverage to at least 70% of its full-time employees in 2015, but has one or more full-time employees who receive a premium tax credit, the payment is computed separately for each month. The amount of the payment for the month equals the number of full-time employees who receive a premium tax credit for that month multiplied by 1/12 of $3,000. The amount of the payment for any calendar month is capped at the number of the employer’s full-time employees for the month (minus up to 80) multiplied by 1/12 of $2,000. See questions 24 and 25.

The 227 pages of guidance issued contain many clarifications and additional rules – the bullets in this posting only provide highlights from the final regulations.  Please consult your legal counsel regarding the impact these rules might have on your organization.  You may find the Treasury Fact Sheet and the final regulations for further details.  Politico and the Washington Post were the first to report. Hill, Chesson & Woody will continue to report additional insight into the impact of these final regulations on our Healthcare Reform Digest.

Delivering Organizational Outcomes Through Strategic HR

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

CAI’s Managing Director of Strategic Members Services, Joe Bongiovi, breaks down HR in today’s video blog. He receives several calls from members asking about strategy and human resources and how the two fit together.

Joe thinks of HR in three circles: Strategy—the strategic part, Process—the operational part, and Transaction—the tactical part.

The tactical level of HR management includes things that need to get done, including paying employees and staying compliant with state and federal laws. The process level includes tasks that help the organization stay efficient and proactive, such as succession planning and paying for performance.  The strategic level of HR helps drive business outcomes, which may include organizational design, strategy development and change management.

In the video, he explains in detail both the traditional view and alternative view on how the three circles of HR fit together. Joe also explains why the alternative view is more successful in driving business outcomes.

If you have any questions or would like to talk to a member of CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team, including Joe, please call 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Professionalism – Establishing Your Emotional Patience

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014
Jay Rifenbary

Jay Rifenbary

The following is a guest post from Jay Rifenbary. Jay, a professional speaker and trainer, is president of Rifenbary Training & Development and author of the best-seller, No Excuse! – Incorporating Core Values, Accountability and Balance into Your Life & Career. He has expertise in the areas of personal and professional development, servant leadership, and communication training.

How do you define your level of professionalism? Is it based on your patience, performance under pressure, manners, personal charisma, beliefs, or is it a deeper sense of awareness and commitment to take the high road in all you do? Certainly how you physically and emotionally handle yourself under stress and pressure, and how you effectively communicate in the midst of any stress and pressure contributes to an understanding of how emotionally patient, and how professional you are.

To exude professionalism is to display a personal pride in yourself with an understanding that being humble is also part of the process. A person exemplifying genuine professionalism is never arrogant and understands that their professional behavior can have a positive, calming, and educational impact on those around them.

Professionalism is defined as, “professional character, spirit or methods.” I believe all three of those elements relate to the behavioral component of professionalism as much as the occupational component. A doctor may be exceptional in his or her specific field of practice, but if they lack professionalism it will have a detrimental impact on the doctor-patient relationship. If a coach knows his or her sport, but displays a lack of professionalism, it will ultimately negatively impact team morale and performance. Professionalism is not the job you do, it is how you do your job. As German philosopher Goethe said, “Behavior is a mirror in which everyone displays his own image.”

As it relates to character, you do not respect someone who cannot maintain their level of professionalism in demanding situations, and they lose credibility. Who wants to associate with, or respects, an unprofessional individual? In respect to those in public service, it is completely evident how a lack of professionalism can destroy a career in an instant.

The development of one’s professionalism is significantly influenced by one’s past, upbringing and family relationships because of possible dysfunctional and codependent behavior patterns that were established growing up. When there is a history of emotional turmoil a defense mechanism is established to avoid any further similar emotional turmoil in the future. As an adult, this defense mechanism rears its ugly head when a situation may exist that triggers those past harmful emotions.

For example, if you are vulnerable to a feeling of inadequacy because of how you were parented, and a situation or dialogue presents itself where you feel inadequate, you are less likely to maintain your professionalism.  As a child, if you perceived others not valuing who you were and developed a need to be appreciated, when a situation or dialogue presents itself where you feel unappreciated you are less likely to maintain your professionalism. As a result in both instances, you become emotionally impatient as evidenced by potentially abusive verbal and physical behavior.

In evaluating your professionalism ask yourself, “In what situations am I, or have I, been the most emotionally impatient or unprofessional? What are the roots of that emotional impatience? Do I, and have I, taken ownership for the aftermath of my behavior where I have been emotionally impatient? Taking personal accountability, and implementing the core vales that reflect the positive characteristics you believe in, is key to enhancing and maintaining your professionalism. The more those beliefs are virtuous, to include decency and respect, the greater level of professionalism you will display.

Professionalism is also an educational process. There are certain behavioral characteristics that can be taught which contribute to a greater level of individual professionalism. Manners, proper etiquette, appropriate attire, effective communication, respectful behavior, and consideration of others are all areas that can be taught in the process of becoming more professional. An individual’s level of professionalism is a culmination of putting into practice the values, experiences, successes and failures of one’s life. Be that professional and positive example every day in all you do. It is an example that is sorely needed and will be respected by those you parent, manage, lead and love.

Jay is a keynote speaker for the 2014 HR Management Conference scheduled for March 5 and Mach 6 at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh. At the conference, he will share additional tips for establishing emotional patience and more. Visit today to register, view full agenda and review speaker information and presentation topics.


A Short Guide for Handling Workplace Relationships

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

Business people discussing.Managing workplace relationships is a good topic to discuss with Valentine’s Day coming tomorrow. Most people focus their attention on romantic relationships, but knowing how to manage workplace friendships is just as important.

Having close relationships with some of the people you work with will have a positive effect on your work life, and because you spend so much of your time at work, friendships with your coworkers are likely to occur.  Some of the benefits workplace friendships provide include:  a more enjoyable work environment, better cooperation with group activities and positive outlets to release stress.

It’s also important to realize that workplace relationships can have negative effects on your work performance if you are not cognizant of potential distractions and harmful issues that could arise.

Try following some of these tips to ensure positive friendships at your company:

  • Remember that the primary reason you are at work is to do the job your employer pays you to do. Make sure your attention is focused on your assignments and not socializing with your coworkers.
  • Avoid sharing too much personal information with your workplace friends. Some information is not appropriate to share, such as salary or health issues. You also don’t want information you revealed privately to be shared, or,  worse, used against you
  • Try not to gossip. Discussing rumors about your manager or another coworker to your office buddy has the potential to taint your reputation or contribute to a toxic work environment. Be kind, treat others with respect, and report concerns or complaints in a more appropriate way.
  •  Don’t do your friend’s work. Certainly helping your coworkers when they are in need is a great display of teamwork. However, always helping a teammate finish his assignments because of his poor time management or other issues will harm your      productivity at work.
  • Spending all of your free time with your favorite coworkers is not recommended. Evade tension, jealousy or concerns of favoritism by switching up who you go to lunch with or talk to during your breaks.

Please call CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746 for any questions regarding workplace relationships.

Photo Source: goldenray_eu

6 Workplace Perks Competitive Job Seekers Want from Employers

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Business meeting.In order to recruit, secure and retain high-performing employees, companies have to start thinking more competitively in regard to talent. Many companies are doing well as the economy continues to recover. With more companies growing and looking for new employees, highly-qualified job seekers have more freedom to pick and choose the right company for them.

Today’s job seekers believe work/life balance is achievable and will want to work for an employer who agrees. Below are some of the workplace perks top performers will be searching for:

Positive Culture

Your company‘s work environment is a critical factor in determining whether a job candidate accepts an offer or a high-achieving employee decides to stay. Employees want to work for organizations that respect both their work and life obligations. If you would describe your workplace culture as anything but positive, it’s time for your team to make adjustments and consider the number of ways you can increase employee morale and overall job satisfaction.


More job seekers are looking to work at companies that offer flexibility, and with more access to technology, working remotely is becoming an option for many employees. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to flexibility, but there are several options including: arriving late, leaving early, working from home, four-day work weeks, etc. Finding ways to make sure business gets done while your employees are content is now easier than ever before.


Allowing your employees to feel empowered is a win for them and a win for you. People don’t want to feel powerless. Giving your employees autonomy in their roles will help them feel a greater sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. You’ll also be able to cross more items off your do-to list when you give your employees more power. Delegating authority and trusting employees are qualities a well-trained manager should possess.

Opportunities for Growth

Your high-performing employees and enthusiastic job candidates want to work for a company with goals that align with their goals. Be open to discussing growth opportunities with your current staffers and those who may be joining your team. Opportunities for a promotion, raise or special project are likely to keep your staff members engaged. Employees want to know whether or not there is an open path for growth for them at your company.

Receive and Give Feedback

Receiving consistent positive and constructive feedback is essential for keeping your employees engaged. When employees don’t receive feedback, several negative repercussions can occur, such as employee frustration, bad manager-direct report relationships, or employees leaving. Your team members want to know that they are valued. So in addition to offering them feedback, you should also request their feedback on different company decisions. Whether it’s their job structure, a company wellness incentive or a new employee in the department, asking for their feedback shows that you fin them and their opinions valuable.

Continual Learning

A cost-effective way to increase job satisfaction at your organization is to provide your employees with additional training and education that will benefit their careers. Investing in your employees means that you are also investing in your company. Here are some inexpensive ways to help your employees and new hires continue to learn information from their fields: Encourage them to join professional groups and associations, set up a company mentor program, purchase subscriptions to industry-related literature, or sign them up for professional training.

For additional help on retaining employees or increasing company loyalty, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Passive Income Dream.Com

Executive Exemption and its Supervision Requirements

Thursday, February 6th, 2014
Pat Rountree, HR Advisor

Pat Rountree, HR Advisor

CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team answers several questions from members daily. The team often receives questions concerning the different exemptions under FLSA and how to ensure correct compliance, such as this one below:

If a supervisor supervises one employee and two independent contractors, would he or she be eligible for the executive exemption under FLSA?

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

The executive exemption has several tests that must be met:

  • The employee must be compensated on a salary basis (as defined in the regulations) at a rate not less than $455 per week;
  • The employee’s primary duty must be managing the enterprise, or managing a customarily recognized department or subdivision of the enterprise;
  • The employee must customarily and regularly direct the work of at least two or more other full-time employees or their equivalent; and
  • The employee must have the authority to hire or fire other employees, or the employee’s suggestions and recommendations as to the hiring, firing, advancement, promotion or any other change of status of other employees must be given particular weight.

The requirement that the supervisor regularly direct the work of at least two full-time employees or their equivalent refers to employees of the employer under the FLSA. The US Department of Labor Wage and Hour handbook states that “only other employees of the employer may be considered when determining if the two full-time employee equivalency is met; supervision of volunteers, employees of independent contractors, or any other ‘non-employees’ (trainees, interns) in relation to the employer are not considered for purposes of this test.”

Also, to clarify, full time is generally considered to be 40 hours per week.

If the supervisor does not qualify for the executive exemption, you may want to consider whether he or she would meet the administrative exemption.

For more information on the executive, administrative, and other white-collar exemptions, see elaws/ esa/ flsa/ overtime/ menu.htm.

8 Ways to Engage and Reward Employees Through the Cold Weather

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

winter weatherWith Valentine’s Day approaching at the end of next week, the season of sharing love and being cold is upon us. Showing love, compassion or empathy shouldn’t be reserved for only your family or friends. As an employer, it’s important to also show kindness and understanding with your employees.

Making your employees feel valued affects job satisfaction, staff performance and retention levels positively. There are several things you can do to reward your employees for their hard work and to also keep them engaged. Here are eight ways you can show your staff some love during the coldest time of the year:

  • Buy tickets for your employees to attend a local sports event. Basketball and hockey games are two winter sports that are always fun to watch.
  • Send each of your employees a personalized Valentine’s Day card. You can include candy, a gift certificate or even cash.
  • Coordinate an ice skating friends and family event. You can rent out a local ice house for a few hours and supply participants and their family members with a pair of ice skates.
  • Treat your staff to a winter-weather breakfast. Warm goodies like an egg casserole or blueberry muffins will pair nicely with hot chocolate, warm apple cider or freshly brewed coffee.
  • Buy tickets to a winter or love-themed movie, and encourage your staffers to see the movie with their friends or family members.
  • Have a clear and accurate work plan for dealing with inclement weather, such as snow or hail.  Being flexible with adverse weather conditions will be appreciated by your employees.
  • Throw a Valentine’s Day party for your staff. Hold the get together in the afternoon and supply sweet treats for a fun social break.
  • Keep an ample supply of free snacks and drinks in your break room or kitchen for employees who don’t want to go out in the cold to satisfy their hunger.

For additional tips on engaging or rewarding your employees, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: alex_ford