Archive for February, 2016

Will Employees Be Working for Free on Leap Day?

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

February-29While February is known for its famously short 28 days, every four years the month extends itself an extra day on the 29th of February. This year, this extra day will fall next Monday. While many employees may wish for a Leap Day Holiday off of work, most will still make their way to the office. But the question remains: Is Leap Day good or bad for employees? Well, that may depend on who you’re asking.

For hourly, non-exempt workers, coming into work on Leap Day may be a welcome occurrence: their employers will pay them for hours worked, and if they work an extra day this year, that’s roughly eight more hours of paid work on their paychecks this year than in a non-Leap Year.

Sounds like a win-win, right? Well, for salaried, exempt employees, the situation might be a little different.

If salaried workers earn a set amount each year irrespective of hours worked, yet there’s one extra day of work this year, does that mean they are working for free on Leap Day? The answer to this question can be puzzling, and it turns out even employment experts cannot come to a general consensus on the issue.

Daniel Schwartz, an employment attorney, believes employers could be getting a day’s worth of work for free from their employers.

“For the extra day, the employer really isn’t paying anything more for an exempt worker. The annual salary is just that, and the paychecks just reflect the portion of the year. Many employers thus get a ‘free’ day of work from exempt workers because they are not paying anything more than in non-Leap Years,” he wrote on the Connecticut Employment Law Blog.

Frank Heinz, a reporter from NBC, begs to differ.

“The short answer is no, you aren’t working for free on Leap Day … you’re just working for less than normal,” Heinz writes.

“Let’s assume you make $50,000 per year in a non-Leap Year.  If we take that salary and divide it by the 261 work days, that breaks down to $191.57 gross income, per day,” he goes on to explain. “During a Leap Year, with 262 work days, that breaks down to $190.84 gross income, per day.  That means during a Leap Year you will make .73 cents less per day in order to fund your salary on Feb. 29.”

But what the issue really may come down to is how your company’s pay schedule is set up.

A typical year will have 52 weeks plus one day, but a Leap Year has 52 weeks plus two days.  If your company’s designated payday falls on this extra day, it could mean an additional paycheck for your employees.

More than likely, employers will build this extra day into the yearly salary, and reduce a worker’s paycheck installment in order to make it all come out even at the end of the year.

However your business structures its payroll, whether it’s through weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly installments, it is imperative for HR professionals to take the time to examine whether their employees’ pay will be affected by the upcoming Leap Day.

If you find that it will alter your pay structure, be prepared to discuss the issue and how your business will respond with your employees. It is, after all, their right to know how their pay could be affected.

For any further questions on how Leap Day might affect your payroll, don’t hesitate to give our Advice & Resolution team a ring at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746. Have a Happy Leap Day everyone!

When Worksite Plans Work

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

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

Voluntary benefits or worksite plans refer to the insurance products that can be offered by employers on an individual or group basis to pay individuals for a variety of life events such as getting injured in an accident, being diagnosed with a serious health condition, or being admitted into the hospital. Examples of these plans include critical illness, cancer, accident, hospital indemnity, and permanent life insurance…to name a few of the most popular.

Enrollment in voluntary or worksite plans continues to increase rapidly as more and more employers are offering, and employees are asking, for these benefits.

The number of carriers offering these benefits has also increased drastically. While traditional players in this market space (such as Aflac, Allstate and Colonial) continue to offer quality products, many of the insurance carriers who have previously focused on “core” group benefits such as term life insurance and disability insurance have now started to offer a variety of worksite plans. The growth of new players in the market has created competition where plan premiums are going down while benefits go up. Even more importantly… these carriers are actually paying when a claim is submitted!

The value of these worksite plans and the hassle-free payment of claims was something I was skeptical of until I received a firsthand experience in their benefits. This past April, HCW offered a critical illness/cancer policy as well as an accident plan for employees to purchase. Who knew that taking ten minutes out of my day to meet with an individual enrollment specialist ended up being worth over $12,500 to my family this year?

Our enrollment specialist educated me that the critical illness and accident plans both offered an annual wellness screening benefit that if submitted each year would almost entirely cover the cost of my annual insurance premium. Since I was interested in experiencing first hand why so many employees throughout the country were purchasing these plans I decided to sign up, thinking I would have no use for the benefits but at least my premiums could be offset by the wellness reimbursement.

Unfortunately, just two months after purchasing these products I sustained an injury while playing basketball with my children which required surgery, a lengthy stint on crutches, and physical therapy. Then less than two months after my accident, my wife was diagnosed with a condition that also required surgery and treatment. The money received from our policies helped pay for childcare, out-of-pocket medical care, and even had a little left over to pay for a family trip to celebrate our recoveries.

While both my wife and I would prefer to go back in time, give the money back, and not have these events happen, having the financial payments from the accident and critical illness plans certainly helped ease the burden during this time. I am thankful that my employer decided to offer these benefits, and required that I spent a few minutes meeting with an individual enrollment specialist to better understand the benefits being offered.

If you have questions about worksite plans, and if they might be a good option for you, contact HCW’s Enrollment Services & Voluntary Benefit Solutions Team.

 

Is Your Succession Plan Transparent?

Thursday, February 18th, 2016
Rick Washburn, A&R Manager

Rick Washburn, A&R Manager

In today’s post, Advice & Resolution Manager Rick Washburn discusses the importance of creating a transparent succession plan for your business and fostering an open dialogue between managers and employees regarding career development.

Succession planning is at the very heart of any talent management program.  Done properly it is the process of identifying and/or developing talent for future business needs.

Is your succession plan transparent?  Do your business leaders have open dialogues about employee development, high-potential employees, and the like? Transparent succession plans create trust and the employee buy-in necessary to help the business retain top performers and reduce turn-over.  These plans also facilitate open discussions about career paths and development opportunities and helps leaders ensure that they do not unknowingly force top performers down paths that they would rather not go down.

The best succession plans, according to a 2012 Aon Hewitt study, drive proactive development of leaders and create distinct competitive advantages.  These plans are as transparent as possible and encourage trust and integrity, while minimizing internal politics.   In a 2010 Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) Leadership survey, 77% of the respondents said it was highly desirable for them to be formally identified and acknowledged as high-potential employees.

Transparency is also a key component of an organizations’ engagement and retention strategies. Leadership development plans that are communicated directly to succession plan participants is a vital element of these strategies.  Employees appreciate the time and effort that is being invested on their behalf both today and in the future.   According to a 2014 Towers Watson survey, more than half of the employers surveyed reported having difficulty retaining high-potential employees.  Letting your employees know that their skills and experience are valued dissuades top performers from leaving.

As mentioned above, it is also important to discuss career aspirations with employees to determine their level of interest in opportunities within your business.  A specific skill may not align with an employee’s ambitions.  Being upfront and open with employees leads to both more effective succession plans and more engaged leaders in your business.

So then, why do many employers struggle with the question of how and when to tell high potential employees (HIPOTS) they are high potentials?  One reason may be because of the risks of disengaging other employees who aren’t considered as HIPOTS.

To avoid this problem, Barry Conchie, a Gallup Senior Scientist and coauthor of the bestseller Strengths Based Leadership recommends that “Before a company says anything to its high-potential leaders, it must determine the criteria that it will use to identify top leadership talent.  Those criteria must be explicit and public. It’s important for people to know what qualifies them to be on the list.”  Conchie notes that many companies select leaders based on personality traits or likability, not demonstrated leadership talent.  This can damage engagement among other employees who think they should be leaders but were not picked.

Another barrier is that once you tell someone they are a HIPOT, if they don’t feel the love from you in terms of development, assignments, and even compensation some are apt to look elsewhere.   Notes Conchie, “you have to pay them what they’re worth or they’ll leave…They have to feel special because they are special. There are harsh economic realities here.”

For any assistance in developing or improving upon your business’s succession plan please give Tom Sheehan (919-325-4113) or myself (919-713-5247) a call today.

Key to Employee Engagement Lies in Understanding Human Behavior

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

friendshipatworkIn today’s post, Advice and Resolution team member Renee’ Watkins shares how getting back to the basics of understanding human interaction at work may be the key to strengthening employee engagement.

Employers spend a lot of time and money on employee engagement strategies, hoping they are doing all the right things to make a positive impact and maintain strong relationships and loyalty among their workforce.  Still, many studies suggest employee engagement on average is low.  This is an indicator that employers are either not doing enough to keep their employees engaged, or what they are doing is simply not effective.

There are some specific and very basic fundamentals surrounding human behavior and how they influence engagement.  Even seasoned professionals can forget from time to time and neglect to stick with these basics which can lead to an ineffective engagement effort.

Examine the fundamental truths below to see how they compare to your engagement strategy. If you are doing one of these, is it working?  If it isn’t, can you change it?  If it is, can you do more of it?

Employment Engagement Truths

  1. All the goodies, gimmicks and giveaways in the world are no substitute for a rewarding work experience.
  2. Spoiled employees, like spoiled children, become childish and entitled.
  3. Every action, no matter how small, can affect employee engagement. An email, an interaction or a simple note can have a definite impact.  Take nothing for granted.
  4. You build, or tear down, employee engagement one conversation at a time.
  5. Ask your employees for feedback on employee engagement and listen to what they have to say.  They are a valuable resource and know best what it takes to engage them.
  6. If you do not ask for feedback or you choose to ignore it when provided, you may not find what creates employee engagement until it is too late.
  7. Do not solicit input from your employees unless you plan to use it.
  8. Engagement is a two-way street.  Employees are not going to care about your goals unless they feel you actually care about theirs.
  9. It is one thing to make an employee feel like they matter, it is another to empower them to actually matter by making a difference in the organization on a daily basis.
  10. Your business is not a rehab center for troubled employees.  You can only do so much.  You are not a therapist, you are a manager.
  11. Avoid feelings of uncertainty among your workforce.  Uncertainty leads to fear and fear tends to focus on oneself rather than the common goals of the team or organization.  Communicate and be transparent as much and as often as you can.
  12. Give specific reasons for any directive.  It is always easier to deal with a “What” when you have a “Why” to back it up.
  13. Focus on what you can control, not on what you cannot.
  14. Finally, look in the mirror and ask yourself what it would take for you to continue to remain engaged in your company.  Put yourself in the shoes of your workforce.

Before you invest an inordinate amount of time and money into expensive employee engagement practices, see how getting back to the basics will work for your business. Stick to these simple truths and you may find that higher employee engagement is attainable without all the headaches of those expensive strategies!

For more information on engaging your workforce, please contact our Advice & Resolution at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

The Key to Aligning HR to Your Business? Understanding Your Corporate Strategy

Thursday, February 11th, 2016
Doug Blizzard, VP of Membership

Doug Blizzard, VP of Membership

In today’s post, CAI’s Vice President of Membership Doug Blizzard discusses the importance of setting a corporate strategy to begin the process of aligning HR to the business.

I’ve talked with several senior HR executives recently about a conundrum they face.  They want to align HR to their business, however there doesn’t appear to be a business strategy in place to align HR to.  When they inquire about said strategy they hear things like “we are pursuing a growth strategy” or “our primary strategy is reflected in the budget” or even better “the world is changing too fast to really have a formal strategy.”

I’m not here to make the case for aligning HR to the business.  That case has been made a hundred times over and there are thousands of companies that have figured that out and they lead their industries every year.  I’m also not going to talk about how you can align HR to the business.  That’s a much broader subject.  Click here for more on that or see the reading list I prepared for you below.

I do want to talk about the first step in aligning HR to the business and that is setting a corporate strategy.While more enlightened companies have given HR a seat in the boardroom and the opportunity to help shape their corporate plans, the vast majority will expect HR and other departments to fall into line once a business strategy has been mapped out.  And some number of those companies don’t have a formal corporate strategy, particularly smaller companies in growth mode.

Here are three steps you can follow to help you understand your corporate strategy:

First, just because you haven’t seen a corporate strategy doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.  Unfortunately many companies don’t involve HR and some don’t trust or value HR’s contribution to the strategy.  Other companies hold corporate strategy very close to the vest.  It’s easy to go negative and second guess executives when you feel uncertain about how and why decisions are being made.  Check your own negative attitude and pursue further.

Second, the most straightforward and perhaps logical path to understanding corporate strategy is to just ask the CEO.  If you can talk to the CEO by all means do so.  Be prepared however to explain why you need to know.  The simplest explanation: I need to understand where we are going so I can make sure our workforce has the skills and competencies necessary to both get us there and keep us there.  Also I need to make sure we have the necessary leadership, culture, work systems, performance capabilities, rewards and incentives and governance to achieve our goals.    Now of course if your company doesn’t look to you to do any of the things I just mentioned then your bigger issue is building credibility for the HR function.  Click here for ideas on how to do that.

Now the CEO may not give you a formal plan so be prepared to ask questions to help you shape the HR implications of the ideas he/she has in their head.  Which brings me to an important point, asking the CEO about strategy isn’t a hallway conversation.  You should schedule a meeting.  If you don’t report to the CEO, by all means talk to your boss first.  They may have all the answers you need, or they may block you.

Third, if you’re unable or unwilling to talk to the CEO, or your boss doesn’t like the idea and can’t provide any insight, what can you do?  Well if you’re a publicly traded company you can find information in annual reports, investor statements, etc. Here are some other ways you can uncover your corporate strategy complements of CAI friend and world renowned HR thought leader Dr. David Ulrich:

  • Read positive and negative analyst reports
  • Read magazines, newspapers and articles about your company
  • Read magazines, newspapers and articles about your industry
  • Attend industry trade shows
  • Master internal market reports
  • Learn how internal market reports are generated
  • Visit customers in their buying context
  • Visit customers in their product or service utilization context
  • Study competitors in detail
  • Be personally involved in market research
  • Track financial analysis of market segments
  • Attend marketing meetings
  • Attached product development meetings
  • Attend sales meetings
  • Invite customers, analysts and shareholders to address training programs
  • Invite customers, analysts and shareholders to attend training programs
  • Invite customers, analysts and shareholders to address management meetings
  • Invite customers, analysts and shareholders to address HR meetings
  • Invite customers, analysts and shareholders to address meetings of line operators
  • Know what you don’t know

Your company desperately needs to have HR strategies woven into every fabric of the business.  Your path to do that may be difficult but it’s worth it.  Don’t hesitate to reach out to myself, or Rick Washburn orTom Sheehan for help in aligning your HR practices to your business.

For additional guidance about how to craft your business strategy, please contact our Advice & Resolution at at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746. If you have any suggestions about ways to align HR to business strategy, let us know in the comments!

Drive Productivity in 2016 Through Wellnesss

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016
Renee' Watkins, HR Advisor

Renee’ Watkins, HR Advisor

In today’s post, Advice and Resolution team member Renee’ Watkins shares how wellness initiatives can be used as a key driver for employee engagement and productivity this year.

Human Capital Media (Workforce magazine’s research group), in conjunction with Virgin Pulse, has released its latest report on the top areas of focus for employers in 2016.  Nearly 89% of the 1,000+ HR professionals surveyed indicated improving productivity among the workforce was their top priority in 2016, and over 97% agreed that employee wellness programs have a strong impact on improved productivity.  Click here to download the complete survey.

More employers are seeking ways to either implement or improve wellness programs within their organizations to help achieve their business objectives in the coming year.  According to the survey, 60% feel it will improve employee engagement, 53% feel it will increase productivity, and 52% feel it will add value to their existing corporate culture.

The number of key executives included in the survey would also indicate wellness programs are no longer simply viewed as a way to reduce the rising cost of healthcare benefits.  Such programs are now being regarded as a way to achieve other objectives of the business going into the new year.

By investing now in improved wellness programs, employers are able to assist their employees in achieving a better work-life balance model so they can focus on their work while at work.  The return on this investment will reach far beyond the anticipated savings on health benefit premiums.

virgin+pulse+report

Nearly 40% of larger companies and nearly 30% of small companies are reporting increased spending on wellness programs for the coming year, demonstrating a keen awareness that employee wellness is a key driver of business success.

As with the approach of any new year, it is incumbent upon organizations to reflect on the initiatives of the prior year to analyze what worked and what did not when it comes to meeting business objectives.  Perhaps this would be a good time to seek ways to either implement or improve your wellness programs.

Please share your plans for 2016 below regarding your wellness program, ideas for improved productivity and employee engagement.  Also, consider joining our Health & Wellness group on myCAI to collaborate and learn from others.

For any further information about wellness initiatives at work, please give our Advice & Resolution team a ring at at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Veni. Vidi. Lusi: I came. I saw. I played.

Thursday, February 4th, 2016
Dawn Daria, Co-founder of Skoyz Wellness

Dawn Daria, Co-founder of Flow Circus

In anticipation of CAI’s upcoming HR Management Conference, one of this year’s speakers, Dawn Daria, shares how a little play time at work can go a long way in optimizing performance. Make sure to register by Friday, Feb. 5th to get early bird pricing for the Conference!

As a co-founder of Flow Circus, Dawn aims to promote whole person wellness to boost employee engagement, productivity and company culture. She is an award-winning educator and author, and works with co-founder Paul Miller, a nationally touring comedy juggler, to create memorable team building experiences that serve to break down barriers and create authentic connections between employees.

Somewhere around middle or high school (and now it seems even elementary school), play time is no longer valued as essential to learning. Instead, we encourage students to get serious, work hard, and focus. But in the process we lose sight of the fact that no matter what our age, play creates physical, intellectual, emotional, and social well-being critical for effective and efficient performance. The focus for creating healthy and productive work cultures should be on developing tools and strategies to seamlessly integrate play breaks into our workday in order to refresh energy and replenish creative reserves.

Here’s how play breaks support and encourage well-being:

Physical:  Particularly for those of us that spend most of our day staring at a computer screen, sitting in meetings, or driving a car, adding play breaks gets blood flowing to different parts of the body and brain.

Intellectual: Play provides an opportunity to practice two different ways of approaching a problem. On one hand, we set a goals to “win” the game and strategize toward that end goal while at the same time being open to improvising when variables change. Both are critical cognitive skills for problem solving and growth.

Emotional: By definition, we engage in play voluntarily, for its own sake, because it is pleasurable. Play researcher Brian Sutton-Smith once stated, “The opposite of play isn’t work. It’s depression.”

Social: During play, barriers break down and we become more attuned to the people we play with which builds trust and authentic connections. Plato understood and captured this experience with his statement, “You discover more about a person in an hour of play than a year of conversation.”

Play can take many shapes and forms. In his book Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, Stuart Brown identifies eight different play personalities — including the Joker who likes to make people laugh, the Kinesthete who likes to move, and the Explorer that likes to seek out new experiences and ideas. Think about yourself and other members of your team – what types of activities put you in a playful state and bring joy? How can you build short play breaks into your work day, internal meetings, or even your commute?

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Start meetings with an improv game: You can find instructions for improv games on line or in books. Zip, Zap Zop is a great beginner level, non-threatening game to start with.
  • Collaborative Creativity Wall: Have a designated spot in a break room where one person starts a sentence, story, or poem that can continued by colleagues one word or line at a time.
  • Poll Your Team: How do you and your team members like to play? How can these forms of play become an active or passive part of your work place culture? Maybe it is a community jigsaw puzzle in the break room or a two minute afternoon break that features a company-wide dance party or rock, paper, scissors tournament.
  • Learn to Juggle! Juggling provides a great physical and mental activity that can be done for two minutes or two hours. Very adaptable, juggling can be done solo or in groups, inside or out, and packs small for travel.

Learn how juggling and a playful mindset can encourage creativity, resilience, and connection for your team at our session Dropping the Ball: Juggling Creativity and Innovation at Work on March 9th at the HR Management Conference. We guarantee you will leave our session refreshed, energized, and ready to juggle!

Where to Draw the Line When Sharing Your Opinion at Work

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016
Bruce Clarke, President and CEO

Bruce Clarke, President and CEO

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.

Any topic that preys on emotions, faith or morality is a fire-starter around the water cooler. “The Patriots are cheaters!” “The Tar Heels finally got caught.” “What is up with that Supreme Court decision?” “Trump is right!”

Polarization from our politics or religions is one thing. Workplace conflict caused by hardheaded emotional opinions is quite another.

There is nothing wrong with an opinion shared among respectful co-workers. Opinions are part of life and work. Progress and clarity come from opinions shared openly and appropriately. Problems are solved when opinions are aired in the right way.

No workplace can or should be free of opinions. That includes properly expressed political, religious and sports team views. Policies or handbooks prohibiting such are largely futile or counter-productive.

Unproductive opinions

Most unproductive opinions are the “my way or the highway” kind. Conflict flows from the dogmatic or preachy style of the speaker. Well beyond a normal opinion is the overly confident pronouncement. It shuts off debate and sends opposition underground. Business issues that could be solved and opinions that could be harmonized have no chance.

Worse yet, when the pronouncement involves an emotional, faith-based or moral topic, the seeds of workplace conflict are sowed. Unfortunately, the seeds may take a long time to germinate, showing up only after several more conflicts, a termination or a perceived mistreatment.

The aggressively outspoken evangelist who promotes an employee from her church but rejects an employee of another faith creates Exhibit A for the disappointed employee’s lawsuit. The decision may be unrelated to faith, but these suits are about the intent of the actor. Intent is usually proven through statements and behaviors. Emotional declarations make good evidence.

Offensive opinions

The other significant source of opinion conflict is an off-base or offensive statement. Sometimes, it is so offensive it requires an employer response. Maybe it was an honestly held belief. Maybe the speaker was never coercive or directive. Maybe the comment or action can be read two ways. The confederate flag stuck on workbenches in the shop might be an example.

Out-of-bounds opinions that offend reasonable people can become the employer’s problem. Even if no one in management made or endorsed the opinion, the failure to take action or clearly reject the opinion can become an issue. Situations vary, but it would be a bad idea to ignore truly offensive and repeated statements by employees just because they were not made by management.

Employers may not like the role of hall monitor, but when the hallway banter shoves people into unwanted emotional lockers, it is time for the principal to come out of her office. Failure to act can be raised in a future claim to show tolerance and acceptance of similar behavior.

We are rounding the corner on another long season of politics, pomposity and pronouncements by candidates and their supporters. Opinions that allow for respectful disagreement should be expected in any workplace. Opinions that carry a verbal stick or seriously offend reasonable people are harmful and may require action.