Author Archive

Making It A Great Day Every Day

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

What does it take to have a GREAT day?  Here are a few simple things you can do to begin your day, practice throughout your day and end your day to make each day a GREAT day:large_give-thanks-title2

Begin Each Day with Positive Thoughts

Start the day by reading or listening to an inspirational story or even a single thought.  Some desk calendars have a positive “thought of the day” which are very helpful.

Complement Work Goals with Life Goals

Almost always, work is tied to something personal in an employee’s life. It may be compensation or benefits, or it could be just personal satisfaction.  Work success affects life success and the reverse is also very true.

Mental Preparation

Most employees have a commute of some kind to work each day.  Instead of using that time to accomplish work-related tasks, use that time to prepare for the workday ahead.  Likewise, use the commute home to decompress so work does not interfere with personal time once you arrive.

Smile

A smile can be contagious.  If there is genuine happiness behind the smile, that is great.  If not, force a smile and spread some happiness anyway.  Spreading happiness contributes to being happy.

Be Positive

Keep a positive attitude around others.  Similar to a smile, a positive attitude will spread and affect the entire group.

Prioritize

Everyone has too much to do, so it is important to prioritize.  Twenty percent (20%) of all activity contributes to 80% of results.  So, hit that 20%  hard to maximize productivity and ensure a successful day.

Ignore Negativity

There is always someone around with a negative attitude who wants to get everyone else feeling negative as well.  Misery loves company!  Do not let them ruin a positive day or take away from significant accomplishments.  Avoid them and focus on the tasks at hand.

Avoid Long Workdays

Extra hours do not always equate to additional productivity. Chances are, most of the productivity will happen early in the day during the completion of those 20% of higher priority tasks. Adding more hours will not increase overall productivity.

Take Time to Relax

After work, take time to enjoy a relaxing activity and use that time to re-charge for the next day. Put the previous workday aside and leave it for tomorrow. This is part of the overall work-life balance.

End The Day With a Grateful Thought

Before turning in for a night’s rest, give some thought to events of the day for which to be grateful.  In other words, any day “could have been worse.”  Be grateful it was not worse, and attribute that to a positive attitude. Your grateful thought could be either professional or personal.

People like being appreciated. Simple efforts of recognition, particularly when made public to their managers and/or co-workers, encourage a supportive and productive working relationship.

Happy Thanksgiving from CAI and remember sometimes, the simplest gestures are the ones that mean the most.

The Labor Market Squeeze

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

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.

Many employers are expressing concerns that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find qualified applicants.  A couple of recent surveys outline the problem facing employers: labormarketsqueeze

  • Graham Personnel found that 59% of employers are having difficulty hiring qualified applicants.  They also report the top three employer concerns are:
    • Retention and employee relation issues (28%)
    • Recruiting (27%)
    • Other factors in their organization including sales and marketing (10%)
  • A 2016 SHRM survey found similar results. In their survey, SHRM reports that 68% of employers had difficulty filling full-time jobs in the past 12 months.  In 2013, only 50% of employers reported hiring difficulty.

These elevated numbers are concerning.  Employers understand the importance of recruiting the right talent, and the impact it has on their growth and productivity.  Recruiting and retaining talented individuals with the needed skill set has always been the lifeblood to organizations.

With the tightening labor market, employers are assessing what they need to do to either become, or remain, competitive.  Health benefits are an area of focus that employers are using to differentiate themselves.  In fact, 38% of SHRM respondents stated they leveraged their health and welfare benefits to gain a competitive advantage in recruiting.

What is your strategy towards offering health and welfare benefits to your employees?   How do you want your benefits to compare to the competition?  What benefits do you need to offer to recruit, retain and reward your employees?  What are other organizations doing to control cost and to also remain competitive?  These are all questions you should be asking yourselves.

If you are curious how your medical benefits “stack up,” we can assist you.  For the past 11 years, we have partnered with Capital Associated Industries (CAI) to produce a North Carolina state wide survey with nearly 650 respondents.  This survey allows you to compare your medical benefits and cost to other organizations of similar size, industry type and in your area. Having this type of information can be valuable, especially as you recruit in this tight labor market.  If you are interested in learning more about benchmarking your health plan, contact us!

Winter Months Bring Seasonal HR Challenges

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

Winter months are just around the corner and with them comes colder weather.  We don’t get as much “white stuff” as our Northern Brethren but when we do things get messy.  Be reminded that employee injuries on employer owned and maintained parking lots may be covered by workers’ compensation and may be OSHA recordable depending upon circumstances relating to the injury.  If injuries occur at a reasonable time (just prior to or just after work) and injuries result in medical treatment, days away from work or restricted activity, both workers’ comp and OSHA record keeping come into play. winterweather

Winter weather poses a particular problem regarding parking lot and sidewalk injuries.  Both should be maintained free of snow and ice to prevent employee injuries.  Potential costly injures to customers, vendors and to the general public would not be covered by workers’ compensation but by an employer’s liability insurance.

Employers also need to be aware of the dangers of overexertion in winter months.  Liberty Mutual Insurance Company conducted a study a few years ago revealing that more than 25% of disabling workplace injuries resulted from overexertion.  Overexertion also poses a major threat to ones’ health and life outside of work, especially in geographical areas that experience extreme snow and ice accumulation like the Northeast this past winter.  Around 100 people die in the US every winter as a result of shoveling snow. For more tips dealing with colder weather go to https://www.ready.gov/winter-weather.

Perhaps a more vexing issue we deal with each year surrounds pay practices during inclement weather.  Exempt employees are paid on a salaried basis. If the company is closed, the exempt employee must be paid for the day(s) to maintain the exemption status. It is the company’s decision as to whether or not exempts are required to take a vacation day.  Keep in mind that if the exempt does not have vacation or PTO to cover the absence, the exempt must be paid.

If the office is open and the exempt decides not to report to work, the day can be charged to vacation or PTO. If in this situation the exempt does not have vacation or PTO, the company is allowed to dock for the day due to personal reasons. This is one of the allowed deductions under the FLSA without destroying the exemption status. Be reminded, however, that if the exempt works any part of the day, the exempt must be paid for the entire day. This often comes in to play when the exempt does not come into work but works a partial day from a laptop or other electronic device.

If you have more questions regarding your Inclement Weather Policy, contact CAI’s Advice & Resolution team today.

Performance Management is Changing

Thursday, November 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.

Almost no one likes the performance management system at work, including employees, managers and HR.

Employees dislike infrequent feedback, the high-pressure focus on negative comments, ratings under 4 or 5, reviews given by untrained managers and too much subjectivity in ratings or comments.

Managers dread the time required, confronting problem performers, the disconnect with important work, rigid forms and barriers to paying high performers more. performance

HR really gets edgy when managers use the system to manipulate pay, submissions are chronically late, the total time and cost required is excessive and unjustified halo reviews damage legal defenses in terminations.

What to do?

WorldatWork* published an extensive review of performance management trends in its Q2 2016 Journal. HR experts, practitioners and consultants put forth their best current practices and strategies.  Surprisingly, much of the action is with smaller employers (under 500 people) and manufacturers.

The big trends are 1) frequent conversations rather than annual reviews, 2) simplified or eliminated ratings scales, and 3) input from peers and others. In fact, most organizations using these trends have some combination of new techniques plus the best features of their former system.

Frequent Conversations

Ongoing feedback strengthens relationships and promotes clarity. Sometimes these conversations are difficult, but frequency allows timely correction and coaching rather than delayed criticism. When managers talk monthly or quarterly with employees, everyone knows more about expectations, successes and hurdles.  The conversation is less of a review and more of a check-in.  There might be a simplified annual review and a year-end pay discussion as well.

Get Rid of Ratings

In general, top performers are offended by any rating below perfect. A debate over 4.6 versus 5.0 is not useful and may damage retention.  Reviews are not good at delivering precision and repeatability in ratings, anyway.  So, if we are irritating our best people, overrating our average performers and super-overrating poor performers to get them a raise, stop the madness!

Peer Feedback

A less common but interesting option is peer feedback. Usually, peer feedback is ongoing in the form of kudos and applause for work well done.  Software makes this easy to do and is readily available (such as SoundBoard).  Targeted comments on specific dimensions such as company values, results achieved and leadership skills might be sought.  When you seek constructive feedback from peers, everyone needs training in the how and why. The impact of good data is powerful.

So far, the experience with new approaches is good. They still take time, but improved linkage to company values, to the work required and to employee skill growth is significant.  Traditional and annual systems are slightly better at identifying the poorest performers.

HR has driven most of this change.  Successful users say you must get top leadership buy-in. Managers need training to understand the new processes and why the changes were made.

The right performance management system can be a competitive business advantage and retention tool. The wrong one can be, well, like the one you have right now. Contact CAI’s Advice & Resolution team to help your goal of the right performance management system.

Bruce Clarke c

Bruce Clarke serves as CAI’S President and CEO, and has been with CAI since 2001. Bruce practiced labor and employment law with the national labor law firm of Ogletree Deakins for 18 years. He is listed in The Best Lawyers in America and was selected as one of North Carolina’s Legal Elite by Business North Carolina Magazine. Bruce is 100% committed to helping companies maximize employee engagement and minimize workplace liabilities.

Help Your Company Remain in Compliance in 2017

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

CAI’s 2016 Triad Employment Law Update was attended by nearly 200 HR professionals seeking information and updates on federal and state laws and regulations facing North Carolina employers.  HR experts from CAI along with attorneys from Costangy Brooks Smith & Prophete LLP presented on a variety of topics of significance to North Carolina employers. 2016_telu_header_2

A few highlights from this year’s conference:

  • On December 1, 2016, the Overtime Rule goes into effect and raises the threshold to $913/week or $47,476 per year; $134,004 for highly compensated employees. Be sure you fully understand the differences between an employee and an independent contractor.  The USDOL and NCIC have signed an agreement to oversee compliance with various regulations and work together to reduce employee misclassification, among other things.
  • Review your handbooks regularly.  Many employee handbooks contain a policy or language that may trigger a complaint by the NLRB. Ensure that your policies are not too broad or too vague, as this will leave them open to interpretation.
  • Regarding enforcement protections for LGBT, the EEOC states that employers must comply with federal law, even if state law conflicts or offers no protection for this group. LGBT charge filings and resolutions are on the rise as more employees become aware that they can file claims.  For further clarification, you can view the EEOC Fact Sheet on protections for LGBT workers here.
  • Workplace bullying can be physical, physically threatening or non-physical.  In North Carolina, there are currently no laws against workplace bullying but employers should not tolerate bullying on any level.  High turnover, low productivity, lost innovations and difficulty hiring quality employees can all result from workplace bullying.
  • According to ADAAA, employers have an obligation to engage in good faith in the interactive process to determine if an employee has a disability and whether there are reasonable accommodations that can be implemented. Reasonable accommodations under the ADAAA can include assistive devices, change in assignments, service animals and telecommuting.  Many employers have found individuals with disabilities to be productive and loyal employees.
  • Employers may use bonuses to satisfy part of the new standard salary level test. The DOL allows nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) to satisfy up to 10 percent of the standard salary test requirement. Such bonuses include, for example, nondiscretionary incentive bonuses tied to productivity or profitability (a bonus based on the specified percentage of the profits generated by a business in the prior quarter.)
  • North Carolina law does allow employers to test job applicants and employees for drug or alcohol impairment and regulates the procedures that employers must follow in implementing such testing. State law does not require employers to drug test, but it does regulate those employers who voluntarily choose to implement a drug-testing program.
  • Don’t put a non-compete clause in an employee handbook.  Have a standalone non-compete or employment agreement with a non-compete provision. When developing a non-compete, keep in mind that the narrower in geographic scope the better.  Be sure to have your job candidate sign this agreement before or on the first day of employment with your company.
  • Penalties for non-compliance of the ACA are $1,000 per enrollee for willful failures.  However, good faith compliance efforts can excuse penalties. The DOL has more information on their website.
  • Title VII prohibits religious discrimination and requires reasonable accommodations as it pertains to religion. Broadly defined, religion includes “Ultimate ideas” about “life, purpose, and death.”
  • Under FMLA an employee who has given birth is entitled to 12 weeks of leave.  Mothers who return to work and are breastfeeding must be provided breaks to express milk and have access to a clean, safe, private place for this purpose.
  • As November 8th nears, employers may want to consider allowing employees some paid time off to vote, if there is insufficient time for the employee to vote outside of working hours. Although there is no statute in North Carolina that mandates time off to vote, terminating an employee for taking time off to vote could be the basis for tort action for wrongful discharge. Employers should encourage their employees to exercise their right to vote.

More than 1,100 North Carolina employers trust CAI to help them minimize liability and maximize employee engagement, contact CAI at 919-878-9222 or email leeann.graham@capital.org to learn more about the many ways we can help you.

 

Are you Prepared for the New Overtime Rule?

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

On December 1, 2016, the new US DOL Overtime Rule will officially go in effect. This new rule determines which employees are exempt from overtime. Employers will not have to pay overtime to exempt employees. If an employee is non-exempt, employers need to pay overtime for actual hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a single work week. The FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) defines which jobs may be exempt from the overtime penalty depending on minimum salary and duties performed. Exemption categories include both a minimum salary threshold, and a duties test. Jobs will have to meet both standards to qualify for exemption.

Feeling overwhelmed? We don’t blame you. Where do you begin? How do you prepare?

Organization and communication are a major factor in businesses making the shift to compliance as painless as possible.

Below are 3 key steps in preparing for the upcoming deadline.

  1. Conduct an internal audit to identify positions and employees potentially affected.
    In recent research conducted by Paychex found that one out of five employers were not aware of the final rule, and 55% did not think the new rule applied to them.
  2. Educate your employees on time keeping and tracking overtime.
    Some employees might still receive a salary but are now required to log their worked hours. Set up training on proper time recording practices.
  3. Develop a communication plan.
    Talk to your employees, explain the new law and guidelines. Make them aware of benefit changes, if any, due to the necessary change in FLSA status from exempt to non-exempt. Misclassifications can cause challenges and serious financial consequences.

2016_telu_header_2In our upcoming 2016 Triad Employment Law Update Conference in Greensboro, North Carolina, lead attorneys from Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP and CAI’s HR experts will provide registrants with key information about current and proposed changes in state and federal employment law. Building the proper infrastructure to protect your business and effectively navigate the Department of Labor’s new overtime rules and related regulations is critical to every company’s success. One of the concurrent breakout sessions at the 2016 Triad Employment Law Update Conference will focus on protecting your business and cover the shrinking white collar exemptions, interns, joint employers, postliminary duties and the DOL’s approach to enforcing these new standards.

Want to learn more about the conference and who should attend visit https://www.capital.org/triadlaw.

Every workplace has questions that need to be answered, and the sooner the better. Contact CAI’s Advice & Resolution team today!

Learning the Best Practices for Total Rewards in 2017

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

Nearly 250 North Carolina HR professionals and executives attended CAI’s 2016 Compensation & Benefits Conference on September 15 and 16. Conference participants were eager to interact with one another and hear the latest on engaging and retaining top talent in this challenging economy.

Our three keynote speakers: Kerry Chou, of WorldatWork, Michael Patrick, of Willis Towers Watson’s Atlanta Talent & Rewards Practice, and CAI’s very own Molly Hegeman broke down ways to evaluate existing total rewards strategies using current trend information and insight from survey data. img_0076Employee engagement and success rate were a common trend shared by all speakers.

In Performance Management 101, Kerry Chou discussed the three questions an employer needs to ask themselves about an employee for the employee to be successful:

  • Is the employee CAPABLE of doing the job?
  • Does the employee have the TOOLS to do the job?
  • Does the employee PERFORM?

Michael Patrick stated only four in ten employees globally are highly engaged. In order to optimize employee engagement, employees need to be capable, have the tools and resources readily available to them and have the performance rate their employers want. “Know your Market Position,” Molly Hegeman, VP of HR Services at CAI stated, what is your philosophy? Are you going to be a market leader, match the market or lag behind? Molly suggests determining your market position by looking at the external and internal values.

In addition to the keynote sessions, conference participants chose from 9 breakout sessions from creating salary structures, managing costs related to the ACA, transforming performance management and using culture as a competitive advantage. Jay Burchfield from Teamphoria shared that companies with engaged employees outperform their competition by 202%, yet one negative employee with a bad attitude can affect four or more employees around them. Employers need to strive to make their employees feel excited about their work. Rebecca Bottorff, Bandwidth, stated, “We should be rewarding people more often.” Reward your employees with what matters to them – and that will vary from person to person. Companies should be conducting quarterly reviews, and providing employees with on-going feedback from their managers. This will help both the employee and the manager keep the lines of communication open.

As expected, our interactive panel session featuring CAI’s experts fielded many questions on the hot topic of implementing the new overtime rule. The experts cautioned employers to not wait until December, to take this time to understand those potentially impacted positions. For example, if a position is currently below the threshold of $47,476, and that employee works very little overtime, then raising them to the exempt level may cost you more in the long run. There are many different situations depending on the employer, number, and type of employees. You’ll want to choose the option that works best for your employees and your company.

Trying to plan for implementation of the new rule can get overwhelming quickly. Learn more about how CAI can help you with implementing the Overtime Rule.

Form 5500 Revisions Impact Both Small And Large Employers

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

The 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.

hcw5500revisionsblogThe Department of Labor (DOL), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) recently proposed significant changes to the form 5500 which has implications for both large employers and small employers. Targeting an effective date of 2019 plan year filings, the recent DOL Factsheet explains that many changes are on the horizon in an attempt to modernize and improve the Form 5500 annual return/report filed by employee benefit plans.  They identify the driving forces behind the changes include a desire to 1) modernize financial reporting, 2) provide greater information regarding group health plans, 3) enhance data mine-ability, 4 ) improve service provider fee information, and 5) enhance compliance with ERISA and the code.

The most notable proposed changes include:

  • Removing the small group exemption where previously many employers with less than 100 enrolled participants were exempt from filing;
  • Adding a new comprehensive schedule J (Group Health Plan Information) requirement;
  • New Schedule C requirement for each service provider;
  • And an expanded schedule H for funded plans.

Regardless of a group’s size, benefit plans should pay special attention to the new Schedule J requirements. Plans will now be asked to complete information on the types of benefits offered and the funding methods, including if benefits are HDHP, health FSA or HRA.  There will also be questions on participant contributions and employer contributions as well as enrollment information, including participants and dependents.  There appears to be requirements for claims data (including claims submitted, denied, appealed, paid, and where claims are paid from – insurer, trust or employer general assets.  And last but not least, there will be a focus on plan compliance with questions around COBRA, grandfathered status, MLR rebates, HIPAA, GINA, MHP SBC requirements, and SPD requirements.

As traditionally occurs, the DOL has asked for comments to the proposed regulations and these comments are due by October 4, 2016.  It is clear that the agencies are working together to significantly increase Form 5500 reporting obligations for many employers with group health plans. As explained in the fact sheet, the agencies are looking to update the filing requirement to gather data sufficient to support their enforcement efforts. Therefore, employers should take note and make sure to tighten up their benefit plan compliance over the next year.  The silver lining is that the agencies have provided plenty of lead time for employer’s to get into compliance.

If you have questions about these new regulations, or about your health benefit plan’s compliance with some of the regulations mentioned in the proposed regulations, contact your HCW consultant.

Cyber Threats & Security – Stay Safe & Stay Compliant

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

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

Credit cards with computer chips in them.  New online passwords every 30 days with capital letters and numbers and symbols.  Everywhere we turn these days, companies seem to be going to great new lengths to protect their employees’ and customers’ personal digital information against cyber threats.

hcw-blogaugust

There’s good reason for that.  Organizations ranging from Home Depot to the Federal Government have suffered serious data breaches over the course of the past several years. The healthcare industry appears to be particularly susceptible to breaches, with over 112 million individual records having been compromised in 2015.  With so many different companies suffering from breaches and increased scrutiny around hacks, now is a good time for employers to ensure that they’re doing everything they need to in order to remain compliant, and protect their employees from cyber threats.

If you’re an employer sponsor of a group health plan, chances are you’re already subject to privacy and security rules under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).  When thinking about cyber threats that impact you directly, the focus should be on the electronic protected health information of your employees. The first step in protecting employee information is making sure that your plan is compliant with HIPAA’s security rules. That includes implementing safeguards on multiple levels, including administrative, physical, technical, and organizational safeguards.  These can run the gamut from tasks as simple as updating the access control to your facility (physical), or as intricate as ensuring that any data stored online is protected by appropriate firewalls and encryption (technical). Ultimately, the best thing you can do to ensure the safety of both your organization and your employees’ information is to be sure you’re HIPAA compliant.  If you aren’t certain of your compliance right now, consider consulting legal counsel or a third party HIPAA consultant.

What are some other steps that groups are taking to make sure their data doesn’t get into the wrong hands? One is educating all employees, regardless of their role, about cybersecurity and IT issues and risks management. Make sure that your company has a uniformly enforced policy for mobile device usage – especially for personally owned devices – in order to help protect sensitive information.  Finally, don’t wait until you experience a breach to learn how to respond. Make sure your affected teams are well versed in their response procedures in the event of an incident.

CAI’s HR Certification Study Course Boasts a 90% Pass Rate for PHR®/SPHR® Exam

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

SignUpAn HR certification will distinguish you from your peers, build your self-confidence, and earn you greater respect from your organization. According to a Payscale Survey, this certification typically translates into the ability to advance more quickly and earn significantly more money.

Did you know North Carolina HR partner, CAI, offers a PHR®/SPHR® Certification Study Course Program that far exceeds the pass rate of the national average of 50%? Program participants who study with us achieve an impressive 90% pass rate PHR®/SPHR® exam!

CAI’s 11-session PHR®/SPHR® Certification Study Course will have you prepared to the best of your ability to pass the exam. You’ll receive a complete study manual, online videos, practice test questions, chat and discussion boards, and testing games. Audio CD’s are included too, so you can listen on your commute.

“I couldn’t imagine taking the exam without the help of your prep class. The materials and experiences, combined with genuine teacher interest and support, really helped me focus my energies and determination,” states Terry L. Taylor, SPHR, HR Manager for Penske Racing Team.

This course is offered days, evenings, and weekends as both in-class sessions here in North Carolina or via live webinar. That means no matter where you reside, or how busy your schedule, you can study with the best and be on your way to the coveted HR certification!

David Siler, SPHR, GPHR, HRBP, HRMP, Managing Partner of Distinctive HR, Inc. has taught the PHR®/SPHR® study course for over 20 years. His engaging, motivational method of teaching will set you up for success!

Still not sure how it will help you? Sign up for the FREE 60-minute LIVE webinar to find out the benefits of achieving your HR certification, eligibility requirements to sit for the exam, and why this study course is the best one to register for.

Take the next step and register today.

For information on course dates/times or to register go to www.capital.org/siler or contact Ashley Modica at 919.431.6080.

CAI is a trusted resource for HR, compliance and people development. With locations in Raleigh and Greensboro, CAI is a membership-driven organization that helps North Carolina employers maximize employee engagement and minimize employer liability through human resources and management advice, training, survey data, public policy advocacy and consulting services. For more information, visit www.capital.org.