Author Archive

Office Romances Pose Challenges for HR

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

According to CareerBuilder’s annual Valentine’s Day survey, 41 percent of workers have dated a co-worker (up from 37 percent last year and the highest since 2007). Additionally, 30 percent of these office romances have led to marriage, on par with last year’s findings. The national survey was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder from November 16 to December 6, 2016, and included a representative sample of 3,411 full-time, private sector workers across industries and company sizes.

Office romances are just not happening between peers: Of those who have had an office romance, more than 1 in 5 (29 percent, up from 23 percent last year) have dated someone in a higher position than them — a more common occurrence for women than men (33 percent versus 25 percent). Fifteen percent of workers who have had an office romance say they have dated someone who was their boss. And as if dating a superior weren’t risky enough, 19 percent of office romances involved at least one person who was married at the time.

Additional survey findings include:

  • Nearly two in five workers who have had an office romance (38 percent) had to keep the relationship a secret at work. Male workers were just as likely to keep their office romances secret (40 percent) compared to their female counterparts (37 percent). By region, of those who have had office romances, 45 percent of workers in the Northeast say they kept their office relationships secret compared to 41 percent in the South, 34 percent in the West, and 31 percent in the Midwest.
  • About 1 in 5 employees (21 percent) say what someone does for a living influences whether they would date that person (18 percent of men and 24 percent of women). Seven percent say they currently work with someone they would like to date this year. Five percent of workers who have had an office romance say they have left a job because of an office relationship gone sour.

These trends serve as a good reminder to employers to conduct regular sexual harassment training.  CAI members have access to these online training tools: Sexual Harassment Prevention Training for Employees and Sexual Harassment Prevention Training for Managers and Supervisors. CAI helps 1,100+ member companies build an engaged, well-managed and low-risk workplace. We can help you today!

 Doug Blizzard brings a wealth of knowledge to CAI, serving as Vice President of Membership. During his first 15 years at CAI, he led the firm’s consulting and training divisions and counseled hundreds of clients on HR and Employee Relations issues. If he isn’t speaking at North Carolina conferences, teaching classes on Human Resources or consulting clients on EEO and Affirmative Action, Doug is leading the company’s membership services.

4 ‘Must-have’ Leadership Behaviors

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

There are four behaviors that every effective leader must possess:

1. Effective problem solving

The process that precedes decision making is problem-solving when information is gathered, analyzed, and considered. This is deceptively difficult to get right, yet it is a key input into decision making for major issues as well as daily ones. 

Effective problem solving is a rare commodity. This is because most individuals do a poor job at root cause analysis. Their natural inclination is to bypass the analysis and jump right into the ‘solve.’ The end result is often a quick fix, Band-Aid approach that addresses the symptom and not the actual problem.

 

HR leaders can help by coaching business partners to avoid the immediate ‘jump to solve.’

2. Operating with a strong results orientation

Leadership is about not only developing and communicating a vision and setting objectives but also following through to achieve results. Leaders with a strong results orientation tend to emphasize the importance of efficiency and productivity and to prioritize the highest-value work.

Results orientation begins with clearly articulated expectations relative to key performance indicators. HR leaders should work with their operations partners to ensure that managers are having weekly discussions with their staffs regarding, actual vs. expected results.

3. Seeking different perspectives

This trait is exhibited by managers who monitor trends affecting the organization, grasp changes in the environment, encourage employees to contribute ideas that could improve performance, accurately differentiate between important and unimportant issues, and give the appropriate weight to stakeholder concerns. Leaders who do this well typically base their decisions on sound analysis and avoid the many biases to which decisions are prone.

On the other hand, leaders who suffer from the ‘smartest person in the room syndrome’ consistently think they have all the right answers. They tend to alienate others and consequently miss out on other, better alternatives.This is typically a self-awareness issue that can be mitigated through effective coaching.

4. Supporting others

Leaders who are supportive understand and sense how other people feel. By showing authenticity and a sincere interest in those around them, they build trust and inspire and help colleagues to overcome challenges. They intervene in group work to promote organizational efficiency and help to prevent non-productive internal conflict.

As a result, these supportive leaders tend to have a much greater enterprise value.  By that, we mean that they are actually synergistic in their value. They help to ‘lubricate’ the organization and reduce unnecessary problems and issues.

CAI has multiple ways to build leaders within your organization. We offer a wide variety of instructor-led courses in our Management Advantage program to train your leaders, managers, and supervisors. And, CAI members have access to leadership tools and templates along with the opportunity to receive guidance and coaching from our local, experienced HR experts. Learn more about how CAI can help with leadership training and workforce planning.

Tom Sheehan brings 20+ years of extensive, broad-based strategic, tactical and practical HR experience to CAI’s Advice & Resolution team.  He advises HR and other business leaders on talent management, organizational effectiveness, employee engagement, M&A’s, and employee relations. 

 

Why Human Capital Isn’t Enough

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

It’s pretty common today to hear leaders and organizations talk about “human capital.”

I can still remember when that term started frequenting our vocabulary a few years ago. As an HR leader, it felt like we’d stumbled onto something that might finally help us earn our legitimate seat at the executive table.

After all, most executives worship capital. Possessing financial capital usually means we are flourishing and able to seize opportunities. Capital is power.

So, finding a way to talk about employees and talent as a form of capital was brilliant. Even the CFO seemed to be on board with acknowledging that there was a real value in the collective knowledge, skills, and abilities of our employees. And, like any asset, if you make continued investment in it over time, the value steadily increases.

As a result of human capital being more widely used and understood, our talent management practices became intensely focused on developing employees’ individual competencies. The more each individual acquired skills and abilities, the more our human capital grew.

This model was highly effective when executed well. Jack Welch became a legend in part because of the training and development efforts he funded at GE. Human capital was seen as a competitive advantage by many.

But, then the game changed. The internet and social technology emerged to connect the world together in a way that had been unthinkable in the past. The days of doing work independently faded rapidly, and it became imperative to work together in collaboration.

Evidence of this shift can be seen everywhere. An online encyclopedia populated exclusively with user-contributed content nearly put traditional encyclopedias out of business. And, the most powerful operating system in the world was created by a community or programmers with no formal organization to manage their work.

The very nature of how we work and create value shifted.

The human capital model of human resources is incomplete, because it doesn’t account for the importance and value that exists through relationships. In today’s world, work is done together. And because of this, a new and highly valuable kind of capital has emerged: social capital

In order to compete effectively today and in the future, human resources professionals must not only work to build human capital, but also social capital. This will requires taking on new roles and skill sets for our organizations.

If you are are an HR professional or manage HR for your company, please join me on March 9 at the HR Management Conference to explore how HR must embrace our new role as Social Architect.

 

This is a guest post from Jason Lauritsen who will be speaking at CAI’s upcoming HR Management Conference on March 8 & 9th in Raleigh. Jason has been described as “a corporate executive gone rogue.” For nearly a decade, he spent his days as a corporate HR leader where he developed a reputation for driving results through talent. As Director of Client Success for Quantum Workplace, he leads a team dedicated to helping organizations make work better for employees every day.

5 Tips For Implementing A Group Benefits Plan

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

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

If you operate a startup company, or your established business has recently grown larger than 50 employees, one of the most daunting items on your 2017 to-do list may be implementing a group benefits plan for the first time.  Starting a benefits plan from scratch can be an intimidating – not to mention time-consuming – process, especially without a partner to help you understand the background and minutiae of it all. Here are some tips if you find yourself staring down a brand new group benefit plan in 2017:

  1. Know your timeline and stick to it

Whether you want your benefits plan to begin in June or January, you’ll want to begin the process at least six months in advance of your anticipated start date. That will give you ample time to evaluate different benefit options, plan designs, funding platforms, and other factors that you will need to consider. Medical carriers will generally be able to offer early numbers about three months prior to your effective date.  You’ll want to approach the carriers as close as possible to that date in order to start understanding your potential rates.

  1. Firm up your census

Changes in your workforce are bound to happen, especially if you operate a rapidly growing business.  But beware, medical carriers reserve the right to re-rate your population if your census changes by more than 10% between the date of the quote and the date of final implementation.  If possible, holding your workforce numbers relatively stable for several months before your first open enrollment will help alleviate any stress that a re-rate would generate.

  1. Know your population

All workforces are different, but knowing your employees wants and needs can be a big help when designing your first benefit plan.  A brief employee survey could be a valuable tool in determining what benefits your employees are most interested in.  By the same token, many benefit plans have participation requirements – a percentage required to guarantee rates in the first year.  If you have less than that, the benefits may be more expensive than originally thought.

  1. Beware individual underwriting

Depending on the size of your group, some medical carriers may require individual employees to go through an underwriting process to help the carriers determine the risk associated with your group. If you have a stable workforce and know everyone wants coverage, that may not be a problem; but groups with a geographically or economically diverse workforce will want to think twice before committing to the individual underwriting process. Either way, you should understand that the first numbers a carrier presents may not necessarily be their final proposal!

  1. Tie it all together

Once you have all of your plans in place, you’ll want to make sure that the benefits are working effectively for you and your employees.  Ensure that the appropriate plans are written under Section 125 of the IRS code so that employees are able to pay their premiums before any taxes are deducted from their paychecks.

If these tips sound like things that you’d like explained or explored further, contact a consultant at HCW today.  Implementing the plan is just the beginning – next comes developing your long-term strategy, ensuring regulatory compliance, and managing your costs. We’re ready to help guide you through the process from start to finish.

Enjoyment: the Spark that Ignites Passion & Enthusiasm

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

The following post is from motivational speaker, Steve Rizzo, who will be a keynote speaker at CAI’s 2017 HR Management Conference: The Shifting Landscape | Rethinking Talent Organization & Culture.

Did you know that studies have shown that those who make conscious choices to enjoy themselves and laugh throughout the day are more
creative, productive and resilient to challenging situations?  They are also more likely to easily find solutions to complex problems.  In other words, focusing on your happiness makes you smarter.  How smart are you?

The greatest benefit of genuinely enjoying the day is that you generate a massive amount of positive energy.  It’s manifested in passion and enthusiasm, and both are very contagious. Put another way, enjoyment is the spark that ignites passion and enthusiasm.  Read that again and remember it.  C’mon, I said read it again!

I’m not claiming that by making a commitment to enjoy the day that you won’t be confronted by challenges.  Of course, you will!  There will always be obstacles of some kind to overcome.  True, there will be times when chaos and negative forces surround you, but you don’t have to let them inside.

It may not be easy at first, but as you condition yourself to prepare for the day ahead with gratitude, joyful statements, positive visualization and by focusing on what’s working, rather than fixating on what isn’t working, you will notice that stressful outside forces don’t bother you as much.  Ultimately what you are doing is creating the ability to bounce back and that’s an all-important life skill.

It comes down to this: the unexpected is waiting for you.  Countless outside factors can make or ruin your day, many of which are not in your direct control.  So, it makes sense to seize control of what you can – no matter whether you’re in an up or down period, remind yourself that true happiness (and inner peace) is your number one priority.  And focusing on what makes you grateful puts you on the path to that happiness and the ability to enjoy the day.  And that is exactly why you have to make the shift to start your day in a good mood and maintain your feelings of appreciation throughout.

Even one situation a day in which you are able to invoke your grateful feelings and choose to be happy in the moment can have a tremendous impact on your life.  I don’t mean to suggest that you become the Dalai Lama, but if you do, please smile and bless the rest of us.

One last point (I promise), is the necessity to take action with passion and enthusiasm, instead of just going through the motions.

When times are tough, it is passion and enthusiasm that push you to go that extra mile.  Passion and enthusiasm propel you into a zone where you feel confident, courageous and victorious.  Failure is not an option and every mistake is viewed as a do-over.  When something doesn’t turn out the way you planned, you don’t even consider defeat.  You’re in such a high state of mind that you’ll find yourself saying, “Okay, that didn’t work.  What do I have to do to turn this around?  Who can I go to for help?” and,” I know I can do this!”

So, always nurture your passion and enthusiasm. Allow yourself to get excited about it. Feel it, sense it, smile about it and embrace it! Talk to it! Visualize your goals and dreams with it!

When you fervently hold on to your vision with passion and enthusiasm you will access s higher guidance system, which will lead you to a pathway of new circumstances, opportunities, and serendipitous events.  Do whatever it takes to make sure that its flame is always burning. If you do, I promise that you will come to know what so many truly successful people have come to know: That passion and enthusiasm are forces that will take you to a better place in business and in life.

I’m repeating myself, I know, but I really want you to get this.  (Plus, it’s my article and I’ll do what I want!)  Enjoyment is the spark that ignites passion and enthusiasm.  Remember that always.

In 2017, make a resolution to yourself. Learn the secrets to true happiness in your personal life and at work. Join 400+ HR executives, managers, professionals and company leaders at CAI’s HR Management Conference in Raleigh, NC, on March 8-9, 2017. My keynote presentation will be “Get Your Shift Together: How to Think, Laugh and Enjoy Your Way to Success in Business and Life.” I’m looking forward to meeting you!

Two Considerations For The Marketplace Open Enrollment Period

Tuesday, December 20th, 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 Affordable Care Act provides the ability for individuals to buy coverage regardless of any underlying medical condition.  This guaranteed issue provision has provided millions of Americans the access to health care that was not there before.  Many who had access to group coverage have also shifted either themselves or dependents to individual plans when their group plans were too expensive or did not provide the coverage they needed.

This year’s annual Open Enrollment Period for the Marketplace has opened and we are seeing, on average, a 25% increase to the cost of individual plans.  This cost increase is forcing many who are enrolled there to re-evaluate if an individual plan is still the best option for them when other group coverage is available through an employer.  When making this decision around where to be covered, there are two important items that should be understood about moving onto or coming off of an employer-sponsored health plan.

First, the annual Open Enrollment Period for the Marketplace is not considered a qualifying event under the IRS guidelines to allow someone to drop their individual policy and enroll in an employer-sponsored group plan.  There seems to be a common misconception around this with both employers and employees.  As the costs for individual plans continue to rise, many are looking for ways to move back to an employer’s plan.  The only instance in which someone could leave their individual plan and move onto their employer’s group plan is if the group plan is in an open enrollment period.

Another thing to consider is that the Marketplace Open Enrollment Period is not a qualifying event that will allow someone to drop a spouse or dependent from their group plan (unless the group plan’s annual open enrollment period coincides.)  So those who may be considering moving a dependent to an individual plan would not have the ability to do so at that time.  However, a special provision in the rules does allow an employee the ability to make a mid-year revocation of their group plan (outside of the group’s open enrollment) and enroll in Marketplace coverage.  In order for an employee to move a spouse or dependent to an individual plan during the Marketplace Open Enrollment Period, the employee must also drop coverage for him or herself too.

Given the rising costs of individual plans it seems unlikely that many will want to shift away from the group coverage.  It is important for employers to know the rules around allowing employees to come on and off of their plans outside of their annual open enrollment period.  Employees should understand the potential pitfalls of shifting away their group plan as that could create the opposite impact of what they are trying to achieve.

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.