Archive for September, 2014

Delivering Great New Employees – Part 1

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Doug Blizzard, CAI’s Vice President of Membership, kicks off his next series of blogs focused on recruiting great employees in today’s post. He begins by sharing a survey that found that delivering on recruiting had the biggest single impact of any HR activity on revenue and profit.

 

In the video, Doug challenges HR professionals by asking them how they are delivering on recruiting. He encourages them to ask their supervisors specific questions that will reveal how strong their company’s recruiting process is. Review the video for the specific questions to ask your team members.

 

Doug says at many companies the recruiting process is more like an administrative task designed for compliance than a process designed to recruit top candidates. He then lists several helpful tips to make everyone’s recruiting process better.

 

Look out for Part 2 of the series. Doug says he’ll be sharing more tips—some that are a little out of the box. If you’re interested in improving your recruiting process, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Resolution team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746. The team in now available 24 hours each day throughout the week! Please give us a call!

Daily Challenges In HR And How You Can Overcome Them

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

In today’s post Molly Hegeman, CAI’s Vice President of  HR Services, shares helpful information about focusing on your important projects and job duties.

Molly Hegeman, VP of HR Services

Molly Hegeman, VP of HR Services

One of the biggest challenges we face as HR professionals is prioritizing our time. We must balance our day-to-day responsibilities with the organization’s strategic initiatives as well as manage sudden and urgent employee relations issues. With all the responsibility on our plates it can be easy to lose sight of our priorities and remain focused on what’s really important. So how can we stay on track?

Keeping a constant reminder of the importance of employee engagement and satisfaction is paramount.  Engagement is the emotional commitment employees have to the organization and its goals, and their willingness to put forth effort toward its success. Satisfaction, on the other hand, represents an employee’s attitude and expectations about their job and employer. It’s more about how an employee approaches his/her job than the actual duties performed.

Over the past several years, CAI has seen an increase in the overall satisfaction of employees surveyed through its employee opinion surveys.  In fact, the greatest satisfaction level, at 88%, is in identification with the company.  Benefits and working conditions follow close behind at 86% and 84% respectively.

In HR, it is important for us to put time and energy into nurturing our culture and holding managers accountable for helping our employees remain engaged and satisfied.  In all our projects and ongoing HR initiatives we should:

  • help employees remain challenged in their jobs
  • help employees foster a sense of purpose in their roles
  • keep a positive and supportive attitude
  • encourage a balanced lifestyle
  • build strong and trustworthy relationships with co-workers and manager

So the question now is how to do all of these things?

The Rule of Three

In almost all areas of life, the “rule of 3” applies, and productivity is no exception. Ask yourself at the beginning of the day, “what three things do I want to accomplish today?” Then work toward those goals. When making your list, try not to focus necessarily on tasks so much as outcomes or results.

 

Keep a list of everything you’re waiting on and everything you need to do

Keeping a list is the best way to keep up with everything you have to do/everything you’re waiting on other people to do.This may seem a bit obvious, but trying to keep up with everything you’re responsible for can be taxing to say the least and in a world filled with technology, it’s unnecessary to try. Sticking with old school methods, I suggest writing everything on a Post-It or creating a To Do List format that works for you. Embracing technology, you could consider putting it in an app on your phone/tablet or both. Remember, there’s always an app for that!

 

Be clear on the intent and purpose of your activities rather than being distracted by less significant items

Leverage internal resources with the help of your strongest managers and employees, or seek outside support to bring in the resources needed to elevate your effectiveness and contributions to the organization. And most importantly, learn the power of delegation!

 

Looking to get a few things off your list? CAI’s HR On Demand team is designed to do just that! Is there something we can help you with? Please Contact us today at (919) 713-5263 or molly.hegeman@capital.org.

Leading Through a Crisis

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

In today’s post, Advice and Resolution team member Renee’ Watkins identifies poor leadership qualities and imparts information on how to rise above them during chaotic times.

Renee' Watkins, HR Advisor

Renee’ Watkins, HR Advisor

In the life of every business, there will be times when the organization will experience a crisis and the quality of its leadership will be tested. Strong, mature and experienced leadership during a crisis is certainly preferred. Poor leadership can quickly turn a crisis into a catastrophe. Even if the organization survives the crisis, the lasting effects of poor leadership can be felt long after the crisis is over.

Below are some of the behaviors that can define poor leadership, and how to overcome them:

Excessive Optimism

Being optimistic about solving a problem is all fine and good. However, some leaders are too optimistic that a problem will either solve itself over time or that someone else is handling it once it has been identified. Action is necessary to solve any problem and many problems cannot be solved overnight. Strong leadership involvement, with the ability to make decisions and take action, is necessary to demonstrate attention to any crisis.

Denial

Some leaders are under the false impression that a problem is not already well-known throughout the organization and if they deny its existence it will no longer be a problem. News, especially bad news, can spread through an organization like wildfire. Strong leaders never underestimate the intelligence of their employees. The best strategy in a crisis is to come forward and provide your employees with as much information as you can, reassuring them you are aware of the problem and have a plan for resolving it.

Trial and Error Is NOT a Crisis Strategy

This approach may work well in the development of a new product line or in the research end of your business. Some leaders use this strategy as a way to resolve a crisis. When finding themselves in a crisis scenario, strong leaders resist their first reaction and assemble a team of top management to work out a plan – quickly and efficiently. A clear direction with measurable results will keep your employees engaged and confident.

Ignore Common Sense

Over-reaction or panic can make a bad situation worse. When faced with crisis, our instincts are to fight or flee, neither of which will help. Seasoned leaders will simply slow-down, look objectively at the issues and apply simple common sense as to how to handle the problem. Common sense may be as simple as defining the problem in smaller, more manageable pieces or seeking the advice of peers.

Manage in a Vacuum

Poor leaders will sometimes try to solve a problem on their own without enlisting the help of others. This can spell disaster in a crisis. A strong leader recognizes when they need help and knows exactly what skills they need in a particular situation. The objective is not just to solve the problem, but to solve the problem in the best way possible. Many problems have multiple solutions and these must be vetted to determine which is best.

Blame Others

Leaders who spend more time blaming others and less time solving the problem simply appear weak to their employees. There will be plenty of time after the crisis is over to determine where the process failed and how to prevent it from happening again. Now is the time for strong leadership to assume responsibility and make themselves accountable for resolving the problem.

Cracking the Whip

Trimming expenses, cutting benefits or demanding more productivity are sometimes the reactions from poor leadership simply because they do not know what else to do and think this will somehow magically fix the problem. It is not likely the entire employee population caused the problem and they know that as well. Knee-jerk reactions will send a message of blame and uncertainty across the organization. Instead, hold meetings with employees to recognize the issue at hand and to stress that everyone is in this together and that together a solution will be found and implemented.

It can be lonely at the top, but it does not have to be. The most successful people surround themselves with other successful people. Recognize there are people who can help you in a crisis and never assume you know all the answers. Treat your employees as intelligent, hard-working people who have as much interest in the organization’s well-being as you do. Slow down, think clearly and apply common sense to any problem to make it more manageable. Strength does not always show itself as fast and loud. Often a calm and deliberate approach is the best way.

Travel Time and the FLSA

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

In today’s video blog, George Ports, CAI’s Senior Executive of government relations and member of the Advice and Resolution team, shares helpful information for understanding the tricky subject of calculating compensable travel time.

George starts by saying some of the most confusing wage and hour regulations are those dealing with travel time for non-exempt employees. The question usually asked is, “is it or isn’t it compensable?” This confusion is due in part to the number of different situations involving travel.

George lists several scenarios that demonstrate a compensable travel time situation. For example, he says travel time to or from work is not compensable, but time that cuts across an employee’s regular work day is. He gives more examples in the video.

The video also includes information relevant with today’s technology-driven workplace. George shares the following information in the video: If an employee gets in his vehicle and receives special instructions on his cell phone or laptop before leaving home that time is compensable.

If you have questions about travel time or any other wage and hour regulation, please call CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Private Exchanges Are Here – Now What?

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

The post below is a guest blog from Jay Lowe who serves as Principal, Health & Welfare Consultant for CAI’s employee benefits partnerHill, Chesson & Woody.

hcw 9 12 14By now you have probably heard the term “Private Exchange.” Private exchanges are the hot new topic in the benefits world and something that employers should become familiar with as it may be an option to consider in the future. Private exchanges are nothing new. In fact, they have been around for about 20 years but without the fancy title.

The creation of the federal and state-based exchanges, where individuals can buy their own insurance, has brought new life back to the private exchange idea. Under this model, an employer is able to offer an à la carte selection of benefits for their employees to choose from. All of this is managed through a Human Resources Information System (HRIS) during annual open enrollment, or at the time of hire, and streamlines the administration process for the employer.

With the re-emergence of the private exchanges we will begin to see the shift to a true defined benefit strategy from employers who implement this. Heath Insurance Underwriter indicates that in order for private exchanges to be successful, they must find ways to continue to be competitive. This is especially good news for small employers (under 50 employees) as options are reduced and premiums begin to rise. In a recent New York Times article, Accenture predicts that by 2018 enrollment through private exchanges will surpass that of the state and federal exchanges. However, this will come at a cost. Benefits in the private exchanges are expected to become leaner as companies try to stay within budgets.

What’s important to understand is that this is not a new concept, just a re-branding of an old idea. Private exchanges are risk pools that should be considered just like any other risk pool: weighing out the pros and cons for your organization. As we move forward into the post-Reform world, we will continue to see new players enter the marketplace with their own versions of private exchanges. There is good news, though. The market is evolving under Reform to meet the needs of employers.

 

Is the EEOC Way off with this new “wellness” lawsuit? Not Really.

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

The post below is a guest blog from Robin Shea who serves as Partner for Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLP, CAI’s Partner for the 2014 Triad Employment Law Update. This post originally appeared on her blog Employment and Labor Insider.

Robin Shea, Partner at Constangy, Brooks & Smith

Robin Shea, Partner at Constangy, Brooks & Smith

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit against Wisconsin-based Orion Energy Systems, Inc., over its wellness program and its treatment of ex-employee Wendy Schobert, who was not a fan of the program. The lawsuit contends that the program’s health risk assessment is an unlawful “medical examination” and that the company retaliated against Ms. Schobert for failing to have a positive attitude about it. Both the medical examination and the retaliation, says the EEOC, violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

If you’ve been keeping an eye on this wellness/ADA issue — as I have here, here, here, and here — you know that the EEOC has not been as forthcoming with guidance as we’d ideally like, although in May it promised that we’d be getting something soon. That having been said, if the EEOC’s allegations in this lawsuit are correct,* then Orion may have a problem.

*All we have now is the lawsuit and the EEOC’s press release. We have not heard Orion’s side of the story.

According to the lawsuit, participants in Orion’s wellness program had to use a range-of-motion machine, provide their medical histories, and have blood work done. As we discussed last week, the ADA says that this kind of information can be requested of current employees only if it is “job-related and consistent with business necessity” or if the information is requested in connection with a voluntary wellness program.

Because Orion obtained the information for “preventive” reasons, it was not JRACWBN (Job-Related and Consistent With Business Necessity) in the least. But it was clearly obtained in connection with a wellness program.

And Orion’s wellness program was “voluntary” . . . technically speaking. Employees didn’t really have to participate — as long as they were willing to pay 100 percent of their health insurance premiums out of pocket. If an employee participated in the program, the company paid 100 percent of the premiums. If an employee did not participate, the company paid zero percent of the premiums. The EEOC says that the cost of health insurance premiums at the times relevant to the lawsuit was $413.43 a month for individual coverage and a whopping $744.16 a month for family coverage. And on top of that, Orion assessed a $50 a month penalty to non-participating employees.

So, yeah, you could decline to participate if you were Donald Trump. But most people presumably went with the program because they couldn’t afford not to. And that is why the EEOC says Orion violated the ADA’s “medical examination” provisions — it was asking for medical information that was not JRACWBN, and even though the information was obtained in connection with a wellness program, the program wasn’t truly “voluntary” because of these draconian penalties.

The “retaliation” part of the lawsuit is more routine. Ms. Schobert didn’t like the wellness program, and she not only refused to participate, but she also allegedly tried to get other employees to resist, I’m guessing like the Penn State wellness debacle that got so much publicity last year. According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, HR called her in and asked her to adjust her attitude. When she didn’t, they fired her.

This Orion suit will be one to watch, and employers should be looking forward to getting some concrete preventive guidance from the EEOC about wellness programs and the ADA — particularly the “voluntariness” issue. My ultra-conservative view has been that rewards are probably all right, but that penalties are dangerous. And an employee can always argue that an employer’s refusal to give a non-participant a “reward” is, in effect, a “penalty” for non-participation. Especially when we’re talking about monthly health insurance premiums of $400-700 a month.

It appears that I am not the only one on the employers’ side who is wary about aggressive wellness programs and the ADA.

Finally, it’s worth keeping in mind that Ms. Schobert was terminated in 2009, and so the Affordable Care Act was not at issue. The ACA wellness provisions do not address the issue of voluntariness. But they do specifically authorize employers to grant significant economic “rewards” to employees who achieve results (for example, by reducing their Body Mass Index) in so-called “health-contingent” wellness plans.

All the more reason that employers need help from the EEOC in knowing the agency’s position on the interplay of the ADA wellness restrictions (as well as those that apply under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act) and the ACA.

Robin Shea is presenting at the 2014 Triad Employment Law Update on November14th at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro. In addition to receiving information on new decisions from the EEOC and DOL, attorneys from Constangy, Brooks and Smith, LLP will provide you with the most recent updates in state and federal employment law. Register today at www.capital.org/triadlaw.

2014 NC Policies & Benefits Survey Reveals Total Rewards Practices of NC Employers

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

survey dataDuring last month’s Compensation and Benefits Conference, Molly Hegeman, CAI’s Vice President of HR Services, shared information on what NC employers are doing in regard to their total rewards packages. Her presentation included statistics from the 2014 NC Policies & Benefits Survey. The only local survey of its kind shares employers’ answers to 320 questions related to workplace policies and employee benefits practices.

This year’s survey had participation from 384 employers located throughout North Carolina. Forty-four percent of participants are located in the Research Triangle region, 25 percent are in the Charlotte area and 17 percent are located in the Piedmont/Triad region with the remaining participants in the East/Southeast region.

Some key findings from the survey revolving around health and welfare benefits include:

  • Nearly all employers provide medical insurance to their employees. About 78 percent of employers offer a traditional PPO plan, about 27 percent offer a consumer driven HAS plan.
  • Regarding employer contribution to the insurance premium, on average, employers pay 80 percent of the premium for employee only PPO coverage and 55 percent of the premium for family PPO coverage for full-time employees.
  • About 71 percent of employers do not offer domestic partner benefits. In turn, about 18 percent of employers do offer domestic partner benefits regardless of sex of partner. About 11 percent offer benefits with sex restrictions.

The survey also covered time off and results revealed several things, such as:

  • About 72 percent of employers have a PTO policy. On average, employers provide 6 days of PTO upon hire, 13-14 days of PTO after 1 year of service, 15 days of PTO after three years of service, 17-18 days of PTO after 5 years of service and 20-21 days of PTO to employees after 10 years of service.
  • About 68 percent of employers have a formal sick plan that is separate from a PTO policy. On average, employers provide 9 sick days to full-time employees per year.
  • On average, employers provide 9 paid holidays to full-time employees and 5 paid holidays to part-time employees per year.
  • About 9 percent of employers offer a maternity leave policy separate from short-term disability or FMLA.

Pay practices is another subject the survey tackled. Participant responses include:

  • About 61 percent of employers indicated a pay philosophy of paying employees at or above market rate. In turn, 34 percent have no formal pay philosophy.
  • To determine compensation decisions, about 77 percent of employers use external market analyses, about 70 percent use internal job evaluations, about 58 percent use skill or competency-based methods, and 11 percent have no formal method.
  • The most common type of base pay increase employers give is performance based according to up to 83 percent of employers. About 22 percent give an across the board increase, about 17 percent give a cost of living increase, and about 6 percent give some other type of increase.

CAI provides this survey every two years. Other topic areas the survey covers include retirement plans, workplace culture, recruiting and staffing, termination and HR metrics.

The 2014 NC Policies & Benefits Survey can be purchased from CAI’s store here. If you’re interested in participating in next year’s survey, please contact a member of CAI’s survey team at cai-survey-team@capital.org.

 

 

Advantages of a Virtual Job Fair

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

In today’s post, Advice and Resolution team member Renee’ Watkins shares the many benefits of hosting a virtual job fair.  

Renee' Watkins, HR Advisor

Renee’ Watkins, HR Advisor

Hosting a physical job fair can be an expensive undertaking for any company. Unless you already have your own well-equipped facility, there are fees for facility rental, equipment, furnishings, insurance and even security. Depending on the overall success of the event, the cost of a single recruit can be very large indeed.

In fact, Recruiting Scope, an online resource for professional recruiters, determined in a recent study the average cost per recruit at a successful, in-person job fair can be as high as $121. Compare this with the average cost per recruit of $19 by hosting a “virtual” job fair.

Virtual job fairs provide an online environment using a variety of mediums like teleconferences, online chats and webcasts to join recruiters and candidates in an interactive experience. Information like resumes and online applications can be exchanged digitally and reviewed in real-time.

In addition to the dramatic reduction in cost per recruit, a virtual job fair also allows you to reach a larger group of potential candidates far outside the restrictions of your own geography. Imagine having a global audience attend your next job fair! A well-known global professional services firm presided over a virtual career fair that spanned 40 countries and more than 10,000 candidates in a two-day period.

A virtual job fair can also speed up the recruiting process, creating opportunities to conduct video interviews with viable candidates without the typical expenses of travel, etc. by either side.

Other reasons to explore a virtual job fair include:

  • A physical job fair presents a limitation on time spent with each candidate, as there are many candidates to see in a short amount of time. To fully qualify a recruit, you want to maximize the level of engagement before bringing them in for a face-to-face interview to ensure a good fit for the position and the corporate culture. Virtual interviews can provide that level of engagement.
  • Interviewing across a virtual channel can be a more comfortable and secure setting for both the candidate and the recruiter. A virtual interview process also enables for the candidate to speak with multiple persons within your organization at the same time or in succession. This is a process not often possible during a physical job fair due to time and scheduling constraints. Depending on the skillset and background presented, a recruiter can pass a candidate along down multiple paths within the organization, virtually, to gain a greater amount of feedback.
  • Another excellent use of a virtual recruiting center is the delivery of a consistent corporate message. With a physical job fair, there is a finite amount of information you can make available to candidates. Different information may be applicable to different candidates. With a virtual recruiting center, information can be built over time and divided along career paths for ease of navigation. Tips on resume presentation and interview skills can be made available. Online surveys and quizzes to help candidates determine their desired career paths are also a popular feature. Updates can be made as well, without the expense of reprinting materials.
  • While physical job fairs have a static beginning and ending date, virtual job fairs can be continuous, providing a constant stream of new applicants from which to actively recruit.

It is important to note, having a career page on your corporate website is not the same as a virtual job fair. Virtual job fairs are advertised through a number of online channels and media. They are specifically designed to emulate a physical job fair and to provide a similar experience to candidates. Career pages are typically very passive in nature with regard to recruiting, whereas virtual job fairs are both active and interactive with respect to the candidate’s experience.

Similar to a physical job fair, a virtual job fair can be the first impression of your organization a candidate receives, and therefore the experience can be extremely important in the recruiting process.

Favoritism in the Workplace Isn’t Always Bad

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

The following post is by Bruce Clarke, CAI’s CEO and President. The article originally appeared in Bruce’s News and Observer Column, The View from HR.

Bruce Clarke, President and CEO

Bruce Clarke, President and CEO

Most view favoritism as undeserved special treatment of an employee by a manager.

“My manager has favorites” is a common concern. It is demoralizing to watch a co-employee be showered with special treatment when you know the individual spends more time on Facebook than on workbook.

Favoritism has a bad reputation. Every workplace would be better off if managers had more favorites. Here’s why.

Too much of the time, managers spend their day dealing with the 5 percent or 10 percent of their staff that cause problems, have problems or are problems. Performance issues, abuse of time off, interpersonal conflicts, time wasting, repeated instructions, petty complaints and so on make for a hard day and waste a lot of time. In a way, these are really a manager’s set of favorites if you judge favoritism by time spent.

Why not look at favoritism as building, rewarding and mentoring the top 25 percent of the workforce? Yes, I mean the people who show each day that they are there for the right reasons and, given a moderate amount of help to understand their role and how to grow, they learn and perform.

I am suggesting that managers make a list of their favorites and develop individual plans to reward and grow these favorites. Special employees should be treated in special ways. These are the ones that deserve your flexibility and advocacy for pay raises. Most important, they are the ones that truly deserve your TIME.

There is nothing more important you can give rising stars or high performers than your time. Do you know their career goals? Do they know what options are open internally? Do both of you have a plan to get them there? Do you even know why they stay with the organization and how to keep that glue sticky? Ask. Set aside time just for these conversations.

A good way to start is the one question meeting. “Tell me how I can help you get to where you want to be in this role and in future roles here at MegaCompany.” Let the conversation go where it needs to go. This is the employee’s meeting. Some will quickly tell you a specific plan or maybe they have considered leaving to reach that plan elsewhere. You will obtain a wealth of good information for your plan to make them the right kind of favorite.

Employees: if your manager is too busy on the wrong favorites, set up a time to meet for the purpose of discussing your role and your growth in the workplace. Make it very positive and focused on both better results for your team and better results for you. Develop a regular conversation with your manager around proactive problem prevention, efficiency and results.

I have to bring up this last point. Somebody is thinking, “But I have to treat everyone the same, right?” Wrong. You must avoid discrimination for unlawful reasons, but you are a malpracticing manager if you treat every employee the same regardless of his or her contribution and effort. Your best employees deserve your best, and that means special treatment in pay, smart policy exceptions and your TIME.

What’s the worst that can happen? Maybe other employees will see how to become your favorite and deserve the same special status!