Author Archive

Drug Testing Can Greatly Reduce Workers’ Compensation Costs

Thursday, October 8th, 2015
Pat Rountree, HR Advisor

Pat Rountree, HR Advisor

CAI’s Advice and Resolution team member Pat Rountree shares valuable information regarding the connection between drug testing and lower compensations costs for your business.

According to CAI’s most recent Policies and Benefits survey, 30% of employers are not conducting drug tests.  Besides the obvious benefits of having a drug-free workplace, another side benefit from drug testing is that it may reduce your workers’ compensation costs.  On the one hand, employees who are under the influence are more likely to experience injuries to themselves or others.  So the knowledge that you conduct post-accident drug and alcohol testing will dissuade most employees and therefore reduce accidents and costs.

Also, under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act, no compensation will be paid for a workplace injury or death if it was proximately caused by, among other things, the employee’s intoxication, provided the intoxicant was not supplied by the employer (company social event) or being under the influence of a controlled substance listed in the North Carolina Controlled Substances Act (G.S. 90-86) unless it was prescribed by a doctor and the prescribed dosages were being followed.  Note, there isn’t an automatic denial of claims due to intoxication but odds are in the employer’s favor unless it can be proven the accident was in no way related to the “altered state” so to speak.

The best way to increase the odds that such claims will be denied is to incorporate a comprehensive drug and alcohol testing policy. Without such a policy, denial of workers’ compensation claims due to being under the influence may be harder to achieve.

North Carolina employers who drug test are required to comply with the NC Controlled Substances Examination Regulation Act which regulates notice requirements to examinees, requires approved laboratories and chain of custody safeguards, specifies conditions for applicant and employee testing, requires confirmation tests on positive samples, and entitles an employee who tests positive to have a retest, if requested, of the same sample at the employee’s expense.

Many states have a provision in their Workers’ Compensation law disqualifying an employee for compensation if the injury was caused by being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  A number of states also give discounts on Workers’ Compensation premiums (generally 5-7%) for implementing a Drug-Free Workplace Program.  CCH, the Members-only resource, provides State Law Summaries on Workers’ Compensation laws.

CAI encourages drug-free workplaces.  The US Department of Labor has resources for developing a drug-free workplace program.  While this is a requirement for federal contractors, the resources are helpful to all employers.  Consult the state law for specific requirements in other states.  Our drug-testing partner, PDSS, is also a resource for policy development, testing, and in-depth expertise in this area.

For more information on how you can reduce your company’s cost of workers’ compensation through drug testing, please contact our Advice and Resolution team today at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Use Multiple Channels of Communication to Recognize Employees

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015
Renee' Watkins, HR Advisor

Renee’ Watkins, HR Advisor

In today’s post, Advice and Resolution team member Renee’ Watkins shares some new strategies to reach and recognize your employees.

A recent survey conducted by the IBM Smarter Workforce Institute illustrates the importance of using multiple channels for recognizing employees for their accomplishments and contributions.

Over 19,000 workers in 26 countries participated in the survey, which produced the following key observations:

  • 76% of employees who receive recognition are engaged in their jobs, whereas only
  • 28% are engaged in their jobs who do not receive recognition
  • 51% of employees without recognition indicated they intended to leave, whereas only
  • 25% who receive recognition were intending to leave their employer

Obviously, recognition of employees is an excellent productivity and retention strategy.  However, many organizations continue to rely solely on written and verbal recognition methods.  According to the survey, 58% of employers use emails for employee recognition.  This may not be the best way to reach today’s Millennial workforce.

The workforce of today includes many members of Generation-Y, who have grown up with the notion of instantaneous information access in almost every aspect of life- including work.  Their expectation is to work with an organization that embraces the technology available to them and utilizes that technology to communicate wherever possible.

While there is no substitute for a face-to-face, verbal “thank you” to an employee, there are a number of channels for recognition which can be used in order to get the recognition to the employee faster, especially as our workforce continues to become more widespread geographically.

The use of Smartphones, online recognition applications and peer-to-peer videos are excellent ways to provide more timely recognition and reinforce employee engagement.  These methods allow for social recognition as well among fellow employees and peer work communities.  Feedback, such as congratulations from other team members, can be almost immediate and multiplies the overall effectiveness of the recognition.

In order to engage, retain and improve the productivity of our workforce, recognition strategies have to evolve to effectively communicate with the changing workforce of today.  There are numerous communication channels available today which take advantage of social, mobile and other technologies utilized by Generation-Y and, in many cases, Generation -X.  Using multiple channels of communication can offer interactive, frequent and immediate communication.

What recognition channels are you using to recognize your workers?  Are you using enough channels?  Are you using the right channels?

If you’re struggling with these questions and are searching for ways to help your business evolve its recognition process, please call our Advice and Resolution team today at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Create a Flexible Work Environment With These 6 Tips

Thursday, October 1st, 2015
Molly Hegeman, VP of HR Services

Molly Hegeman, VP of HR Services

In today’s post Molly Hegeman, CAI’s Vice President of  HR Services, shares helpful strategies for companies looking to offer more flexible scheduling to its employees.

When CAI first surveyed about flexible schedules in 2012, 48% of companies responded that they offered some form alternative work schedules.  In the 2014 NC Policies and Benefits Survey, that number had grown to 52%. In a recent discussion that I had with a group of HR professionals in Jacksonville, NC, this market trend got a lot of interest. Alternative work arrangements are definitely gaining popularity with employees, as evidenced by feedback in the Employee Opinion Surveys that CAI conducts.  All levels and types of employees are voicing a greater interest in flexibility with their hours, the work environment, etc.

With the convenience of mobile and wireless devices, many employees can work nearly 24/7. It seems only right that we should recognize the efforts of employees who check and respond to emails, complete a project after hours, etc. by giving them flexibility with their time.  So, what does that mean for employers?  More specifically, how do you make it work, especially in traditional organizations?

It used to be that companies would only allow a policy to exist if it affected all employees. I don’t think that’s practical anymore. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe all employees should be treated fairly. But fairly does not mean equal in all situations. For example, you may be able to offer a work from home schedule to an employee whose work is fairly independent and not contingent upon physically being in the office. That may not be practical, however, for the receptionist whose main job function is physically greeting customers/clients. It’s probably not reasonable for the organization to set up a virtual/Skype situation.  But, that employee could be afforded the option of a modified work shift and/or remote phone coverage (leaving only limited in person reception duties to be rearranged when needed).

So what’s an organization to do when it hasn’t previously offered flexible scheduling or remote work arrangements?

  1. Understand the options like flex time (schedule-based: compressed work week, flex hours, etc.) and flex location (location-based: telework, working remote).
  2. Consider why you would introduce flex work arrangements and what problem you are trying to solve (downsizing office space, employee morale, etc.).
  3. Ensure your management team supports schedule and/or location-based flex arrangements
  4. Define eligibility and the business situations that support the flex arrangements (even if you start in selected departments within your organization)
  5. Establish guidelines and procedures for your employees and managers to follow
  6. Continuously evaluate the flex arrangements and impact on employees, morale, productivity, business needs, etc.

In a world where there are competing interests and demands on all of us, why not consider the opportunity to help support your employees’ work-life effectiveness?  Whether you introduce small changes or a full program, the positive reaction and response from your employees (and managers) will be returned ten-fold. Flex work arrangements are a great strategy in attracting, retaining and motivating your workforce!

Want more information on our survey findings? Need help creating or updating your flexible schedule policy? Feel free to contact me, Molly Hegeman, directly at (919) 713-5263 or

Are You a Micromanager or a Macromanager?

Thursday, September 24th, 2015
Renee' Watkins, HR Advisor

Renee’ Watkins, HR Advisor

In today’s post, Advice and Resolution team member Renee’ Watkins shares some tips for adopting a Macromanaging mindset when overseeing employees. 

Are you a Micromanager?  Do others consider you to be?  Hopefully, the answer to both of these questions is “No.”  The term Micromanager is widely thought to be one of the most unflattering labels you can have if you manage people.  Micromanagers typically involve themselves so deeply into the smallest details of every project they manage it actually inhibits productivity and creates a very unpleasant workplace for the team as a whole.

Granted, not being a Micromanager is better than being a Micromanager.  But is there something even better?  Yes!  A Macromanager.

Macromanagers deal with employees more efficiently, taking advantage of their individuality and contributing strengths to the overall team.  Macromanagers provide a work environment which allows a team to work together and empowers them to not only make decisions, but to also make mistakes and to learn from both.  This creates a bi-directional feeling of trust, while maintaining a sense of employee engagement and generating results.

How can you become a Macromanager?  How can you make the transition all the way from Micromanager to Macromanager?  Try implementing these four traits of a Macromanager:

Focus on The Big Picture – Micromanagers get too deep in the weeds of a project rather than looking at things from a 10,000-foot viewpoint.  To be a good Macromanager, focus more of your energy and attention on the organization’s direction and strategy for the future.  In doing so, you can develop creative ideas on how to get there and trust your team to use their collective strengths to work out the details for success.

Understand Your Audience – Micromanagers tend to micromanage everyone, even those who do not need it. Macromanagers may occasionally need to provide more detailed guidance to a team member who is less experienced. When you see that team member begin to “get it,” step back before entering “Micromanager Mode.”  Have a stronger member of your team work with and mentor the less experienced employees.

Observe – Watch the progress of your team, keeping your distance.  As an experienced manager, you will recognize the cues that tell you when to engage and when to hold back.  Your responsibility is the successful completion of the project overall, so you should always be involved as a manager, mentor, advisor and member of the team.  Successful people surround themselves with successful people.  Give your team room to succeed and let them know you are there if they need you.

Welcome Feedback – Find a way to ask questions regarding progress without coming across as “interfering.”  As the manager responsible for overall success, you have the right and the responsibility to know what is going on.  Make sure your team understands you are not there to judge or to criticize, but to offer help and observations if and when needed. Open communication should be encouraged.

As a manager, you have larger responsibilities to the organization.  If you ever find yourself getting too deep into the weeds of any one project, you should ask yourself, “What should I be doing in my job that I am not doing?”  Chances are there is something else you should be focusing more time on.  Your employees will thrive and progress more quickly with your guidance rather than your direct involvement.

If you have any more questions regarding the importance of macromanagement, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Resolution team at 919‑878‑9222 or 336‑668‑7746.


The Talent War Revisited

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

In today’s video blog, CAI’s Vice President of Membership, Doug Blizzard, shares the many ways in which small companies can stay competitive in the all-important Talent War. Though many small businesses feel their larger counterparts have an advantage in attracting and retaining top talent, Doug feels there are certain strategies that will work well for any company, regardless of size.

By examining and tweaking the steps taken to attract top candidates, Doug believes small businesses can stay ahead of the competition for talent. In order to thrive in the Talent War, Doug says small businesses must:

  • Make the talent want to work for you: Offer competitive pay and benefits, make the workplace as flexible as possible
  • Freshen up your recruiting process: Look for new, dynamic ways to uncover passive candidates
  • Build a strong work culture: Set out a clear vision, work toward it with powerful leadership

While there is no sure-fire plan to attracting top talent, taking some of Doug’s advice will likely lead to positive results. For more advice on finding talent for your company, take a look at some of Doug’s 24 previous video blogs, where he spends a lot of his time expanding upon this issue. For more specific questions or assistance, please call our Advice and Resolution team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746 with any related questions.

Cadillac Tax May Force Employers To Eliminate FSAs

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

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

What does the future hold for Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) and why ask this question now?FSA

With many employers now comfortable with the “pay or play” regulations and 6055/6056 reporting requirements, companies are beginning to shift their focus on the “Cadillac Tax” and are realizing FSA contributions will accumulate to the cost thresholds – potentially leading to increased employer taxes. In 2018, the Cadillac tax imposes a non-deductible 40% excise tax on employers to yearly amounts over $10,200 for plans covering an individual and $27,500 for those plans that cover more than just one person.

A recently released study by the Kaiser Foundation determined that 16% of employers would be subject to the 40% excise tax in 2018 – assuming 5% medical inflation. However, when the Kaiser Foundation included FSA contributions, the percentage of employers that would be responsible for the Cadillac Tax surged from 16% to 26%. Additionally, the study determined that 42% of employers would be impacted by the Cadillac tax by 2028 – which has led to some individuals calling this far reaching tax the “Camry tax” instead.

Employers are already reviewing options to limit the liability associated with the excise tax – including the possibility of eliminating their FSA. This would be unfortunate to employees, since many individuals rely on the pre-tax benefits of the FSAs to help offset healthcare expenses incurred throughout the year. For 2015, an employee can contribute up to $2,550 to their FSA on a pre-tax basis.

Not only will the Cadillac tax be a financial burden, but the coordination and calculation of the excise tax could be overly cumbersome for employers. Among the requirements of the Cadillac tax, the employer will be responsible for determining and notifying each coverage provider’s share of the pro-rata tax along with the IRS. We’ve outlined additional complexities in our most recent Healthcare Reform digest post if you would like more information on the calculation and payment details.

Companies are going to do everything possible stay under the Cadillac Tax thresholds in order to avoid the 40% non-deductible excise tax. If the current regulations stay in place, one of the first employer benefits to go by the wayside will be their FSA – leading to further financial strain for employees.

How to Keep Your Employees Excited About Coming to Work

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

In today’s post, Advice and Resolution team member Renee’ Watkins shares some helpful tips to keep your workforce engaged!

Renee' Watkins, HR Advisor

Renee’ Watkins, HR Advisor

Actions often speak louder than words, and the simplest, unexpected and sincerest actions at the proper moment can make a significant difference in someone’s day.  Everyone appreciates being recognized in a tangible way with additional compensation or a certificate of appreciation for a job well done.  Studies have shown, however, employees equally appreciate a heartfelt “Good Morning” from a manager to make their day more pleasant.  Here are a few other simple things to get your employee excited about their job and the organization they are a part of:


  • A Pleasant Beginning – employee attitudes throughout the day are influenced with how their day starts. Something as simple as “good morning” or a smile from a supervisor can set the tone for the rest of the day.


  • Take An Interest – take an interest in their lives, acknowledging a sick relative or a graduating son or daughter. Employees are people first, before employees.


  • Pay Special Attention – recognize your employees for doing a good job and offer to help them grow. Likewise, be candid with your employees when they are not measuring up and offer to help them improve.


  • Show Flexibility – offer a work shift change or additional time off to an employee who is dealing with a temporary change in their personal life to give them time to adjust.


  • Demonstrate Consideration – start a meeting later if an employee is running late to work due to traffic or a sick child. Consider your own feelings if the situation were reversed. Respect given is respect gained.


  • Sensitivity Matters – help employees who need a change at their workstation to be more comfortable. A change in office climate or a new chair can show how much you notice their environment and how much you care.


  • Be A Part of the Team – show up to employee group functions such as group lunches, birthday celebrations or after-hours gatherings to which you are invited to attend. Supervising the team includes being a part of the team.


  • Keep Your Perspective – do not take your stress out on your employees. Put things in perspective, take a deep breath and smile. If you remain at ease, they will remain at ease also.


  • Open Your Door – maintain an open door for your employees to come to you with a problem or idea. Listen intently, and offer a solution or advice if you can. If you cannot help, show appreciation for their coming to you. If they have a good idea, help them to move it forward.


  • Say Thank You – thank your team members as often as you can for the job they do. Expressing your appreciation will lift your team to new heights, and success will follow.


If you have questions regarding employee engagement, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Resolution team at 919‑878‑9222 or 336‑668‑7746.

Who Needs Training? Well, You Do.

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

The following post is from Colleen Cunningham, CAI’s Vice President of Learning Services. She leads the company’s Learning and Development department.

training processWe all do, actually. Leaders of top performing organizations of all sizes have this focus in common – they know that in order to continue to grow their bottom line, they must invest in their people, and that means training and development. A 2014 study completed by the Association for Talent Development (formerly the American Society for Training and Development) found that companies were spending an average of over $1,200 per employee on learning expenses.

If your company has made the decision to create an employee training initiative, the first step in the process contains three key elements:

  1. Company Strategic Priorities and Goals
    • It is essential to have and to be familiar with the company’s strategic priorities and goals. Each training solution should support these bigger organization goals. Furthermore, the ability to articulate how the training solution links to strategic priorities both today and the future will be crucial
  2. Key Stakeholder Buy-In
    • A critical part leading to the success of any training initiative will be the support and buy-in of key stakeholders in the organization.
  3. Definition of Roles and Responsibilities
    • To ensure success, it is important to define the roles and responsibilities of those responsible for and influenced by the training initiative.

Why are these things important? Setting goals, gaining buy-in and defining responsibilities all help to tie the training to the bigger picture. They help contribute to maximum impact of time and investment (ROI). They provide clarity and ensure accountability at all levels. These elements ultimately help position the training as important and ensure everyone understands “the why.”

Review of Key Questions to Consider:

•What are the company’s strategic goals?

•How will we connect and articulate how the training initiative supports strategic priorities?

•Do we understand the business challenges and how the solution will align with culture, values and needs?

•Do we have an executive sponsor or champion and are we maximizing his/her engagement?

•How will we ensure our management team and senior leaders are all on the same page and support the training?

•How can we ensure that it is not viewed as an “HR or Training thing”?

•How will we get buy-in and ensure everyone understands “the why”?

•What obstacles do we need to anticipate?

•Who is responsible for what?

CAI can help your organization grow and succeed by developing your most important asset – your people!  We offer an abundance of training options to meet the needs of your business.  We specialize in management development, HR, professional development and computer training. Visit our training page for more information.



Don’t Underestimate the Power of Job Descriptions in ADA Legal Challenges

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

CAI’s Advice and Resolution team member Pat Rountree shares valuable information regarding job descriptions and compliance with the ADA

Pat Rountree, HR Advisor

Pat Rountree, HR Advisor

The terminology essential functions of the job has been around since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1993.  However, the significance of making sure that you have current job descriptions for each position that lists the essential duties, physical, and mental requirements greatly increased with the recent amendments to the ADA.  Also, technology advances have resulted in a faster pace of job change over the last several years.

Employment law attorneys continue to stress that job descriptions that identify the essential functions of the job are the first line of defense when employers are trying to defend undue hardship decisions on inability to make accommodation, and terminations for inability of employees to do the job.

At the most recent CAI/Ogletree Employment and Labor Law Update, Attorney Gretchen Ewalt recommended that employers use the employee performance review time to go over the job description with the employee annually and determine if changes need to be made to accurately reflect the current job responsibilities.

Another recommendation in light of recent case law is to document in the job description if the job requires the employee to be present at the worksite and to document the reasons why.  It may sound ridiculous—of course attendance at work is required.  However, with requests for accommodation to work from home, it is important to document when actual presence at work is required as in the EEOC vs. Ford Motor Company.  The employee, a resale buyer, requested to work from home as an accommodation, but the employee’s lack of availability for impromptu meetings on important issues was an undue hardship for the employer.  The court sided with the employer and noted in their decision, in most jobs, especially those involving teamwork and a high level of interaction, the employer will require regular and predictable on-site attendance from all employees.  To read the full court decision, see

Obviously with the advance of technology, working from home may be a reasonable accommodation for some jobs.  However, for those jobs that require person-to-person contact on the job, it is important to document.

How long has it been since you actually reviewed job descriptions with incumbents to determine that they are still valid?

Considerations in determining essential functions include:

  • The importance of the function to the overall job
  • The number of employees available to perform it
  • The time spent on the function
  • The degree of skill required

Other kinds of evidence that EEOC will consider include:

  • The actual work experience of present or past employees in the job
  • The consequences of not requiring that an employee perform a function
  • The terms of a collective bargaining agreement.

For additional guidance on this topic, please reach out to CAI’s Advice and Resolution team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

The Single Question Interview

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

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

“Come on, now.  A single question interview?”  I hear the doubters already, and I was one before I learned the method.  Suspend disbelief for a moment and see what I mean.

Interviews should not be about ball teams, whether you know the same people, or about your great company or product.  They certainly are not about how many people you can meet in 30-minute blocks.

The purpose of an interview is to determine whether someone is a fit for the role.  The best predictor of future fit and performance is past performance.  What is the best way to uncover past performance?  Ask, but ask hard and ask long.

Here’s what I mean:  At the start of your next interview of a candidate, ask that person to tell you the one work or career accomplishment he or she is most proud of, and say you plan to discuss that accomplishment with them.  Give people time to think.  If they come up with none, you know enough already.  Short interview.  Talk about ball teams for a while.

When candidates describe their most significant accomplishment, dissect it in every way possible.  Ask “Whose idea was it?  Why were you selected for the role?  What was your role in the project?  Who did you report to?  What hurdles did you encounter?  How did you overcome those hurdles?  What was the resource budget?  Did the project meet expectations?”

Request candidates to describe three crisis points and how they were resolved.  What was the impact on the team?  What was the impact on customers?  Have candidates draw a picture of the people involved and how they were able to influence those outside their team.  Ask “What help did you seek that was granted?  What help was denied?  How did you deal with the denial?  What one regret do you have from the project?  What did you learn?  What would you do differently today?  Why did you just say that?  If I interviewed the key team members, what would they say about the experience with you?  Who was your biggest critic and why?”

Ask manager candidates questions revealing how they handled key management responsibilities, communication, accountability, performance management, goal setting and conflict resolution.  Ask others about executing plans, steering around obstacles, getting clarifications or exceptions, meeting deadlines and getting the job done.

All of your questions so far should be about the single most important accomplishment in the candidates’ own career.  They should be the expert on this accomplishment.  They should be well-prepared.  They should not hesitate or sweat.  They should not bob or weave.  This is their own story, after all.

A serious effort will take you an hour or more.  Ask one or two others to join you to keep the follow-up questions fresh, responsive and useful.  Press hard and long.  Others will pick up on things you will not see or hear.  A good candidate may feel this was the best interview he or she ever had.  A bad candidate or poor fit may look stressed.

Afterward there is time for ball teams, tours, 30-minute meetings with others, selling the candidate on the company and such.  Try it and let me know how it went.

For additional guidance, please give our Advice and Resolution Team a call at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.