Archive for May, 2016

18 Tips for NC Employers to Reduce Unemployment Costs

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

Employees in North Carolina who lose their jobs through no fault of their own are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits if they worked and reduce_unemployment_costs had sufficient earnings in the base period, and are actively looking for work.  Employees who are terminated for misconduct are disqualified for the duration of the unemployment period.  While it may appear that employers have little control over unemployment decisions and costs, there are steps that you can take to manage the cost of your unemployment insurance and the outcomes of your hearings.

  1. Hire the right people.   Many unemployment problems stem from hiring the wrong people. Screen job applicants for skills, experience and training required for the job.  Present candidates with a realistic picture of the job and company culture.  Conduct assessments to assist in determining job fit. Do background checks.
  2. Provide onboarding, training, and a work “buddy” to help mentor the new employee for a successful start.
  3. Ensure that employees acknowledge in writing receipt of the Employee Handbook that outlines policies that will guide their employment.
  4. If you make a hiring mistake (everyone does at some time), you are an experience-rated employer, and the employee lacks the skills to perform the job, terminate within 100 days of hire and request non-charging.
  5. Request non-charging if the reason the employee left was because of domestic violence or military spouse relocations.
  6. Train managers on providing and documenting performance feedback to employees.
  7. Train managers on documenting policy violations and disciplinary actions in a timely manner when necessary, and how this can impact unemployment claims.  For the employer to prevail on a claim for discharge for failure to perform work duties, there must be at least three performance warnings in the 12 months prior to termination.
  8. Conduct employee opinion surveys to identify and resolve workplace issues, engage employees, and increase retention.
  9. Respond promptly (within 14 days of receipt of NCUI 500AB) to DES with detailed documentation to avoid penalties for failure to respond timely and/or providing inadequate information.
  10. If the employee was terminated for misconduct and/or failing to follow established company policies or procedures and the initial DES decision is for the employee, appeal. (See other reasons that disqualify the individual for misconduct).
  11. Review charges to your account.
  12. Advise the DES if a former employee refuses a job offer.  (Even if you are not the base period employer, some company is).
  13. Upon receipt, review the NCUI 551 form that is sent to each base period employer.  Verify that the employee worked for you (check name and social security number), and that dates of employment and earnings are correct.
  14. When work is slow, offer employees the opportunity to volunteer for unpaid personal time off, consider temporary pay reductions, and other measures to postpone or avoid a layoff.
  15. When permanent layoffs are unavoidable, consider what assistance you can afford to help employees with locating other jobs (resume writing, outplacement assistance, calling other employers regarding former employee availability and skills).  The sooner former employees find employment, the lower your unemployment costs.
  16. Report and pay unemployment taxes promptly to avoid penalties.
  17. Report unemployment fraud. NC Department of Commerce – Division of Employment Services
  18. Support the Employers Coalition of North Carolina (ECNC) in efforts toward unemployment reform.  http://www.ecnc.us

    If you have questions about reducing your company’s costs associated with unemployment, let us help.  Visit CAI to learn more about how we partner with NC employers to grow and manage their HR departments.

Creating a Consumer Experience for Candidates and Employees

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

We are all aware of the changing dynamics in recruitment, employment and retention.  Companies should think of potential applicants and employeesRecruiting_and_Retention as consumers and create an experience that meets the candidate/employee needs as well as company needs to attract and retain the talent they need.

Technology, globalization, and the increased demand for top talent have changed the workplace landscape.  People can market themselves and access  information on companies and job opportunities to “shop” for what best aligns with their desires for organizational fit and personal growth.  That makes it more important than ever to think of candidates/employees as consumers and to make their experience a “delightful” one.

We have heard a lot recently about transparency.  Candidates searching for job opportunities want to learn as much as possible about potential employers up front.   Social media has made it easier for candidates to search for information on prospective employers (and vice versa).  What information is available to candidates online regarding your company from an employee feedback, social responsibility, and culture, etc. perspective?  How do you manage your organization’s social media profile?

After putting the best foot forward to hire and on-board top candidates that are the best fit for your organization, the consumer efforts shouldn’t stop here.  Treating employees as consumers and being interested in their aspirations and needs supports efforts to retain and engage employees.

According to Steve Lopez, Manpower Group, Companies talk about retention, but the culture does not always support that.  The rewards, measurement, and work environment often support retaining people in a job rather than retaining people within the organization. He proposes a consumer model for employee retention with the following components:

  • The User Experience – what are the goals, objectives and motivations for considering the job and staying with the company?
  • Content – Do you openly share the company culture, job content and expectations, opportunities for advancement and growth?
  • Functionality – What systems are in place to meet the user needs on a day-to-day basis in terms of exchange of information to support organizational needs as well as employee needs (two-way communication, receptive to employee feedback/suggestions, development plans)?
  • Interaction/Information/Navigation – Make resources available throughout the employee/consumer experience to provide what employees need to do their jobs.  This starts with the on-boarding process to educate new employees about the organization, to inform employees how to best obtain responses to their questions, inform them of tools they need and how to access various resources, etc.
  • Visual Experience – Does the desired visual experience for the employee reflect your company brand, web presence, culture, and the physical work space?

By approaching your employees as consumers you can create a world class experience and culture for your entire workforce, which enables positive business results. CAI can help with your company with talent acquisition, talent management, developing a better workplace and more.

(Source: Rethinking Retention, Steve Lopez, Manpower Group)

What Employers Should Know About Section 1411 Certifications

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

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

The Employer Mandate is perhaps one of the most nerve-wracking parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for large employers: those employing morehcw than 50 full-time equivalent employees, or FTEs. (What’s an FTE? Find out here!) Many large employers understand that they can be fined with a tax penalty if they don’t provide coverage that meets the minimum requirements or is deemed unaffordable for their employees. In the event that coverage does not meet these requirements and is not affordable, employees may be eligible for a premium subsidy when purchasing individual coverage through the government’s healthcare marketplace (the Exchange). This subsidy eligibility is what triggers the penalty back to the employer.

Section 1411 of the ACA establishes the procedures for determining an individual’s eligibility for subsidies from the Exchange. A Section 1411 Certification is the notice to an employer that an employee has enrolled in a qualified health plan through the Exchange and been provided a subsidy. If you are an Applicable Large Employer (more than 50 full-time equivalent employees) that receives one or more of these notices, this could mean that you are facing a penalty from the IRS as part of the Employer Mandate provision of the ACA.

Employers should be prepared to see these certifications and have a plan of action in place once they do. For more details on the Section 1411 Certification, see here.

Dealing, Appealing, and Other Important Things to Know About 1411 Certifications

First, remember that these certifications are not penalty notifications from the IRS. They are simply informational, letting you know that an employee has received a tax credit and named you as the employer as part of their application process. You can expect a formal penalty notice from the IRS to follow; however, the notice will give you the ability to appeal if your health plan does meet all of the Employer Mandate requirements. By appealing, you can potentially stop the penalty process from the IRS.

It is important to educate the employees who will be handling these notices within your organization. This is a new form and something that most will not be familiar with. They need to know what to look out for and be prepared for what to do. If your health plan does meet minimum essential ACA requirements, make sure the employees in question understand that they will need to act quickly to appeal these notices; you will only have 90 days from the date of the notice to file your appeal.

In the event that your plan is not meeting all of the requirements of the Employer Mandate, look out! You’ll probably have to pay a fine. The Section 1411 Certification will alert you to your penalty liability. Only employees who receive a subsidy in the Exchange can trigger a penalty for you, and these notices will tell you exactly who those people are. As a best practice, employers should keep track of what their total exposure could be prior to receiving the notices. Their final liability could be less than what they are expecting.

With the delay of the Employer Mandate reporting requirements, it is likely that employers will not begin to see Section 1411 Certifications until late 3rd quarter or 4th quarter of 2016. That gives you plenty of time to educate your people, prepare an action plan, and learn all about 1411 Certifications!

Supreme Court and Technical Flaws of Background Checking Paperwork

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

The alarm bells for employers have been sounding for the last few years about getting your federal Fair Credit Reporting Act paperwork in order.  The proliferation of class action lawsuits around Printproper release forms and the pre-adverse and adverse action paperwork has cost companies millions of dollars.  In large part, the class action suits have been driven by a Ninth Circuit Court (the federal court that covers California) ruling that identified that technical flaws in your company’s background checking documents was “injury” enough to have standing.  This change in the barrier to having standing in federal court made the creation of class action lawsuits very easy to file, and to win.

The new six to two ruling sends the matter back to the Ninth Circuit, but essentially states that in many cases the plaintiffs have to show some injury beyond a technical flaw in the company’s process.  Will this ruling abate the rising tide of FCRA driven class action lawsuits?  Only time will tell.

Making critical hiring decisions for your company is a huge responsibility. Not only is it critical to the success of the company, but also the safety of your employees and getting it right isn’t easy. Last year, approximately 90% of businesses in the US did some sort of background check on prospective employees to help protect their companies against the significant liabilities of negligent hiring lawsuits.

Unfortunately, the number of businesses out of compliance with the latest background checking standards grows every year and regrettably, most hiring professionals do not realize it until they are named in ever more frequent class action lawsuits.

Chances are that you are ordering background checks, but are you compliant?

Background checks compiled by third parties, such as CAI’s detective agency*, are covered by the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).  The FCRA covers more than financial records; it also includes reports that research criminal records, employment records, education information, driving records and even something as simple as an address history.  The FCRA was broadened in scope in 1997, and is designed to provide a safeguard for the applicant who has an adverse action taken against them based upon the results reported in the background investigation.  That is, if the applicant is denied an employment opportunity in whole or part by information contained in a background check, he or she has the right to view the information and dispute the record.

How do you comply?

  1. Have a permissible purpose (employment).
  2. Obtain written consent from the applicant.
  3. Run the check through a reputable third party Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA), like CAI.
  4. Look at the results and decide if the applicant fits the needs of your company:
    1. If the record is clean, keep the authorization form in a secure place.
    2. If the applicant is not hired due to something uncovered in the background check, then you should do the following:
      1. Mail a copy of the report, and
      2. a summary of the applicant’s rights under the FCRA, and
      3. a pre-adverse action letter [that includes the third party’s (CRA’s) name and contact info to the applicant].
      4. If your company is in North Carolina, you also want to send a copy of the NC Security Freeze to the applicant.
      5. After a reasonable amount of time (around five business days) you want to mail the declination letter to your applicant. During this time you should hold the position to give the applicant a chance to respond.
      6. After the “reasonable time” you may hire the appropriate applicant, thus filling the position.
      7. Store the rejected applicant’s signed written consent for six years.  SHRM recommends that you store the negative report for two years.

Hiring can be very stressful and CAI knows that it is better to get it right the first time.

Kevin von der Lippe

Kevin W. von der Lippe is a licensed private investigator at CAI and for 19 years has managed our detective agency and background checking business.  He is security minded and proficient with the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the enforcement of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as administered by the EEOC as it relates to background checks. Capital Associated Industries Services Corporation is a licensed investigative agency, specializing in corporate pre-employment background screening. Our corporate agency license is BPN 001473P11.

Contact Kevin at 336-899-1150 or kevin.vonderlippe@capital.org. or www.capital.org

Assessing New Graduates When Hiring

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

Interviews typically focus on both the education and the work experience of the candidate. In the case of recent graduates, however, the work experience is often not as much a factor to behiring recent graduates considered.

Below are some ideas that you could integrate into your interview process with new graduates that may provide additional insight into their readiness for entering the workforce and your organization.

What do you plan to contribute to the organization?

Ask your candidate what they feel they can contribute as a new hire, knowing what they know about your organization already and applying their education to this position.

Demonstrate job-specific skills

If the opening is in marketing, ask them to prepare a press release about the organization. If the opening is for a software engineer, provide a short test to assess their skill level.

Temp to perm

Many companies will bring an employee on first as a contractor to assess their skills and performance before making a permanent offer of employment.

Interview outside of the box

Invite a candidate to lunch with a current client or ask them to review a live proposal the company is working on and provide their input. This will give you an idea of how the candidate responds to different, non-standard interview situations and how well they think on their feet.

Focus less on experience, more on trainability

Naturally, most new graduates will not have a lot of experience in the beginning. Focus the interview questions and evaluate their responses around their ability to be trained for the current opening. Can they take direction? Do they appear to be open-minded? Are they eager to learn?

Provide a real world problem to solve

During the interview process, pair the candidate with an employee who is currently working on a problem in their field of study. Get feedback from the employee on how well they responded under pressure and if they were able to contribute to the process. Their ideas do not have to solve the problem, or even be good ideas. The more important thing is that they had ideas and were able to collaborate with others.

Are we a good fit for you?

Most interviews focus on why the candidate is a good fit for the company. Turn it around and ask the candidate why the company would be a good fit for them. This will provide some insight as to what they are expecting from your organization and what interests them about the job.  This insight may also help with retention down the road, should an offer of employment be extended.

renee

 

CAI Advice & Resolution team member Renee Watkins is a seasoned HR professional with a diverse background in Human Resource. Renee provides CAI members with practical advice in a wide-range of human resource functions including conflict resolution, compliance and regulatory issues, and employee relations.

Broaching the Subject of Retirement with Employees

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

Baby boomers retiringWith more millennials entering the workforce and baby boomers preparing to move out of workforce, the question often comes up “Can we ask Tracy when s/he plans to retire?”    Just to be clear, although social security has a retirement age to qualify for benefits, there is no mandatory retirement age for most employees.  (Some exceptions exist for airline pilots, federal law enforcement officers, firefighters, air traffic controllers, and bona fide executives or high policy makers.)

So can you ask employees about retirement and if so how?  The short answer to this question is a qualified yes, as long as you handle it appropriately.  When done wrong, particularly if you badger the employee, mention “generational words,” or when a supervisor keeps asking, pushing, and treating someone badly for giving a “wrong answer.”  The time and place also matter.  If we never ask the question and all of a sudden start asking all of our employees over 55 when they plan to retire could at the very least cause a morale problem.

Nonetheless, there is nothing inherently wrong with asking any employee about their future plans, and companies need to know that information for many reasons.  The fear of being accused of (or sued because of) age discrimination sometimes makes employers hesitant to ask about retirement.  So in what ways can you broach the subject of an employee’s retirement plans?

  • When an employee has mentioned they are thinking about retirement, you can ask them if they have a date in mind and that you would appreciate if they would give you ample notice to find someone to fill the job and perhaps have them train the person.  If they are not receptive or do not have a date in mind, be sensitive and follow-up in an appropriate way at a later time.
  • For workplace planning purposes, especially in key positions or those that have a longer learning curve/training period in job specific methods.
  • Through a policy that says if you are planning to retire, please give us as much notice as possible so that we can discuss options for training someone to fill the position as well as options for phased retirement (if that is something the Company would consider).
  • Through voluntary early retirement incentive plans that offer a severance to employees who meet a minimum age and number of years of service with a company and elect to take the package.  These should be carefully developed keeping in mind the needs of the business and compliance concerns.  They are generally used when a reduction in force is required and in lieu of an involuntary RIF.  An employment law attorney should be consulted in drawing up such agreements.
  • But what about when you have a great employee you hate to lose but you sense retirement may be in the cards?  In this case, ideally the person having this conversation with the employee has a good relationship with them and ideally that would be the manager.  The idea of retiring is stressful for many employees so we want to be delicate.  The annual review is a good time to venture into this territory particularly when discussing plans for the next year.  You can simply ask, “So Ted, what are your plans for the next year” and see where the conversation takes you.  You are asking merely for planning purposes.  Again, don’t push or badger them for an answer.  You just want to open the door.  It’s ok if they don’t want to walk through that door now.

Options for a smooth transition for the company and employees who plan to retire may include offering phased retirement, where employees gradually reduce their hours as they continue to work part-time until full retirement or while they train and transfer knowledge. Also, upon receipt of the unexpected notice that an employee plans to retire, the company may offer incentives to retain the employee through a training period for a new employee filling their position (be sensitive to the term “replacement” as no exiting employee wants to feel like they can be easily replaced).

Whatever the case, employers should always be prepared for employees leaving, whether through retirement or leaving for another job.  Workforce planning should be an on-going strategy, documenting processes, cross-training where applicable, and maintaining succession plans.  Absent a contract, employment is at-will (either the employee or the company can end employment at any time).  So why should notice of retirement be any different than an employee’s choice to take another job and give notice? The point is, don’t get caught off-guard.  Be prepared whatever the reason.  Let us know if we can help with your workforce management and planning.

New Location for CAI Raleigh Office

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

After 32 years, we have moved our Raleigh office to 3150 Spring Forest Road, Suite 116.  This is 1.2 miles south of I-540, just off Capital Blvd., and cai raleigh office movenear Triangle Town Center.

This move is exciting for us and for you!  We will have plenty of parking for class participants, expanded modern training facilities, and a collegial open floor plan for our staff.  I-540 provides easier access for our guests from the west and east.  The interior layout was designed to meet our growing member service needs and to improve your experience.

We welcome your visit to get a sense how we will serve your class participants.  They will enjoy better break and lunch service options, including outdoor patio areas.  We plan an open house event later this summer.  Watch for details!

Call us at 919-878-9222, should you have any questions.  We look forward to showing you our new headquarters and introducing you to staff!

If you’re not yet a member of CAI, now is a great time!  Find out more about how we can help you at CAI Membership Benefits.

 

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What North Carolina Employers Need to Know About the Proposed Overtime Rule

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

The Department of Labor’s proposed overtime rule would expand overtime pay and raise the standard salary threshold for exempt employees toOvertime Rule $50,440 a year.  Recently, however, there have been rumors that the figure may be even less than that.  When the rule goes into effect, any exempt employee who makes below that threshold (or whatever amount is in the final rule) will no longer qualify as an exempt employee. Retail, manufacturing, warehousing, distribution, hospitality, healthcare and banking:  no industry is untouched. The budgetary impact of converting all these managers to overtime eligible, or meeting the anticipated doubled salary threshold, is enormous.

CAI and the Employers Coalition of North Carolina (ECNC) are formally supporting efforts in Congress to halt the planned federal overtime rules changes.  Most recently, we signed on to a letter sent to congress urging it to block the Department of Labor’s proposed rule expanding overtime pay.  In all, 340 organizations signed the letter in support of the Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act. The bill would force the Department of Labor to conduct a comprehensive analysis on how its proposed changes to overtime rules would affect small businesses, nonprofit organizations and local governments.

While we are hoping our actions in delaying the rule are successful, we still believe the new rule will be in effect before summer’s end.  The course of action for a prudent company to take will be to fully understand what is being proposed and to prepare in advance.   CAI members will be continuously updated on the most current information regarding the Overtime Rule on myCAI in “Overtime Central.”  Read more about how this may impact your company.

Plan Now for Long-Term Staffing Needs

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

When solving a problem, there are usually two positions from which to attack — reactive and proactive.  There was a time when a reactive approach was sufficient to fill open positions in a timely manner.  However, as the competition for top talent continues to increase, Human Resources professionals have to incorporate a more proactive approach to staying on top of recruiting needs.

Today’s HR professionals are normally swamped with responsibilities such as benefits administration, time tracking, regulatory and compliancetemporary employees reporting, payroll management and other reporting projects. These additional tasks leave little time to adequately recruit for an opening before the position must be filled. Therefore, you may not always end up with the best candidate due to a shortage of time.  “Often times companies enlist the help of temporary staff to help free up staff, so they can focus on these types of longer term needs,” states CAI’s Molly Hegeman.  “Assessing your team’s bandwith upfront will be critical to your success.”

Recruiters have begun thinking beyond the immediate needs and are taking steps to identify and plan for the long-term with regard to staffing.  Using data already available, HR professionals are forecasting future job openings months, or even years, in advance to proactively begin recruiting now.  This provides an organization with a recruiting advantage when competing with other companies for top talent.

Here are a few things you can do to help create a proactive recruiting strategy:

Identify Strategic vs Tactical Roles

Every role is important to the organization, but some roles are more important than others.  Take each role within your company, from top to bottom, and define it as strategic or tactical.  Strategic roles incorporate the overall strategy and vision of the company. Tactical roles are responsible for executing the plan by working together on the goals of the company. This distinction will help to assign priorities when recruiting for multiple positions.

Define Ideal Candidate Traits

List the traits of your ideal candidate for a specific position.  In addition to technical skills, education and experience include characteristics that are important for the candidate to fit in with the corporate culture, values and principles.  Look for the ideal soft skills for the best overall fit in a new recruit.

Research Supply and Demand

Some HR professionals with years of experience at a company, and in a specific area, may already have a working knowledge of the availability of candidates for open positions in their industry.  There is no substitute for hard data, however.  Take advantage of surveys and statistics regarding in-demand job skills, which competitors are hiring, compensation figures and other data to understand the level of difficulty required to fill each in-demand role within your organization.

Create Your Pipeline Now

Begin to create your long-range pipeline of candidates now by starting discussions and building relationships with “passive” candidates via social and professional networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  Posting information about the types of positions your company routinely recruits for is a good way to attract candidates to your website and open a channel for communication.  Searching these networks for skill sets will lead you to potential candidates who may not be looking for an opportunity, but would like to hear more about your company.  Starting conversations and interaction early will create “warm” leads when you begin to actively recruit.

renee

 

CAI Advice & Resolution team member Renee Watkins is a seasoned HR professional with a diverse background in Human Resource. Renee provides CAI members with practical advice in a wide-range of human resource functions including conflict resolution, compliance and regulatory issues, and employee relations.

 

Find, Develop and Keep the Best Employees

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

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

Bruce Clarke, President and CEO

Bruce Clarke, President and CEO

When the economy crashes, a blindfolded rhinoceros could find good people to fill open jobs. When labor markets tighten, great hires are in short supply again. It is a cycle as predictable as the tides. Finding, developing and keeping great talent is not complex. It is hard, expensive and time consuming. It means you know what the role requires, what your culture rewards and what your tolerance is for variations. Tight labor markets mean it is time to think differently. Our organization teaches best and next practices to HR professionals and managers. Here are some tips for small and mid-size employers.

People are Human

Every employee eventually reveals their humanity. The key to great hiring is learning what makes this applicant human before you make the hire.  Internal hires, promotions, employee referrals, social networks and live networking give you free previews. References will lie and interviews are usually terrible predictors of future success.  Certain assessment tools will help, if you understand which tool suits your specific needs. Maximize your funnel of applicants that you know something about! Fill that funnel in advance of a need.

Be Specific and Demanding

Spend as much time screening out as you do screening IN. How will you find the best fit if you cave on your criteria early? Look for legitimate job-related reasons to eliminate applicants:  not typos on resumes, but a true lack of skills, experience, desire, capacity and fit. You may have time to purposefully modify your requirements later. For now, stick to your guns.

Interview for Successful Experience

If the role requires experience or judgment, spend interview time on these things. This is not the time to explain your company culture or role requirements. This is the time to test for them. If an applicant cannot describe their solid sales process, it is unlikely they will be an immediate contributor on your sales team. Resist the temptation to overlook serious gaps with the hope energy and effort will prevail.

Get it

Successful, growing businesses are unique. Their best employees “get it,” embracing that uniqueness. Short of a hostile or illegal environment, each employer still has the right to select people who “get” their uniqueness and their customers. A tech start up has a very different “it” than a drywall contractor. Know the “it” and hire people who get “it.”

Developing People
Your best people want development, on the job experiences, rotations and new assignments. The best employees deserve mentoring and coaching.
Training is another great way to introduce new skills.  The point is, development is important for employers to get the most from employees but is also an important retention tool. Good people leave workplaces that offer no growth.

Keep the Best

Great people quit for many reasons, both preventable and unavoidable. Managers are surprised to learn these reasons:

  1. Unrealistic pre-hire expectations
  2. People will exchange some pay for some flexibility, but it must be real flexibility
  3. Employees who feel ignored by their manager may look elsewhere

Stop allowing the economy to guide your commitment to talent acquisition and retention. Grab the reins!