Author Archive

Ask Your Employees This Question

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

“What is the most important thing I can do for you?”

Think of the power in this question for a spouse, friend, aging parent or new neighbor. It says, “I care about you” and that “Your happiness and success matter to me.” It is powerful because it is all about that person’s needs, not the asker’s needs.

The question is just as powerful at work for the same reasons. It avoids suggestion box syndrome since it is personal and one-to-one.

When a manager asks an employee this open-ended question for the first time, it may create confusion.  “You mean me? What do I need?” is answered by “Yes, what do you need to do your best, to enjoy your work, to learn what you need, or to remove hurdles in your way?”

“Nothing really. I’m good. Thanks for asking,” might be the response. Everybody has something they need to remove pain or open doors, and everybody knows it if given the time, the prompt and the context to think. Here are some real-life examples:

“I am frustrated every day by lack of tools to do the job.” “The expectations are unclear.” “I see so many opportunities to improve service.” “Operations in the warehouse are unsafe and I worry every day about an accident.” “If I just knew how to use pivot tables my analysis would be more powerful.” “We have one team member who prevents forward progress, can you help?” “I am thinking of leaving for another job because of these issues.”

There are no bad answers. Small items are good and hairy issues are good. The point is not just the response itself, but the impact of asking, caring and working on an answer together.

You are looking for one issue or a related set of issues that deserve attention and resolution. Maybe no action is needed, just some listening and explanation. Another issue might be game-changing for both the employee and business.

Why ask for just one issue? Like the 80/20 principle, focusing on one item with the most perceived impact makes sense. Bigger discussions and broader topics are better for periodic reviews and career planning.

People’s real and perceived problems are a great window into how they work, what they value and what they expect. You will be surprised at the insights and depth of some answers, and disappointed in the shallow and self-serving responses of others. All are valuable.

Listen for the real issue. A person who begins with frustrations about others may eventually reveal skills and techniques they need to build. Problems with a poor manager may be a common complaint or could reveal a unique challenge. Expect very different responses from employees because you have asked how you (individually) can help them.

Managers must bring the right intent to the conversation: to discover and act on reasonable problems and opportunities identified. Use this question with an employee as often as it continues to produce useful conversations.

At CAI we build engaged, well-managed, low-risk workplaces. If your company could use an HR partner, please contact us at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746 or learn more at CAI.

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 build engaged, well-managed and low-risk workplaces.

 

The Latest from USCIS: There’s a New I-9 in Town

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

Wow, it seems as if we just received a new I-9 form, that’s because we did, just this past January a revised form was introduced and employers were instructed to begin using it by January 22, 2017.

As with any good thing, the use of that form has come to an end. On July 17, 2017 a new I-9 form was released, and employers may begin using the new form immediately, and must use it exclusively by September 18th.  The version with revision date 11/14/16 is acceptable through September 17, 2017.

 

 

What’s new on the form?

  • The Consular Report of Birth Abroad is added as an acceptable document on List C
  • All certifications of birth have been consolidated into one section, section #2, on List C
  • The consolidation of certifications of birth resulted in a change in the number order for List C
  • Section 2: added space for “Citizenship/Immigration Status” answer based on employees’ response in Section 1. For example, if employee indicates “A citizen of the United States” enter “1” in the space.

Since we’re discussing I-9s, here are a couple of interesting I-9 questions (with answers) I saw in a recent article.

Q: Must I reverify a female employee who changes her name upon getting married? What about a transgender employee who changes both name and gender?

A: You may, but are not required to, reverify an employee who has a name change. Since the form does not ask about gender, the same principle should apply to a transgender employee. One other interesting point about transgender employees: The “Other Names Used” field in the form has been changed to “Other Last Names Used” to avoid potential discrimination issues and provide increased privacy for transgender individuals and others who have changed their first names.

Q: I’m completing an internal I-9 audit and my predecessor collected copies of too many documents (e.g., an employment authorization document (EAD) and a driver’s license), but only recorded the required documents (e.g., the EAD). May I discard the extraneous documents?

A: This question resulted in a heated debate among my lawyer colleagues. Some took the position that the extraneous document(s) could simply be shredded because they arguably were not collected “in connection with” the I-9 process. A more conservative approach, with which I agree, suggests that, while the superfluous document(s) could be shredded, a memo should be made to the file to indicate that, while the document was collected in the course of completing the Form I-9, it was not used for the I-9 process and thus has been shredded.

At CAI we build engaged, well-managed, low-risk workplaces. If your company could use an HR partner, please contact us at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746 or learn more at CAI.

by: Andrea Breazeale-King, CAI HR Business Partner

 

source: Young, Becky.2017, Top 10 Q&As for Tough I-9 Issues, www.shrm.org

The Value of a Strong Company Culture

Thursday, July 6th, 2017

We hear the phrase “corporate culture” in conjunction with any description of any business these days.  In fact, the phrase is so commonplace it sounds less and less important the more it is used.  Still, those responding to the aforementioned survey all agree that workplace culture is an extremely important component in the success, or failure, of a business.

A 2016 survey from the Workforce Institute at Kronos and WorkplaceTrends concluded that HR professionals, managers and employees are not in agreement when it comes to who actually has the power to create, influence or destroy corporate culture.  The survey included 600 HR professionals, 600 managers and 600 non-managing employees across the U.S. workforce.

Most of us are aware of the perils of a negative corporate culture when we read about yet another company who gets it wrong. When there are multiple and frequent changes in leadership style combined with a creating  a culture so focused on success at any costs, quality and ethics can be sacrificed and trust within an organization spirals downward. 

Netflix is know for getting it right. They promote a corporate culture built on trust and a certain amount of autonomy among its employees.  When the company shifts focus or enhances their product offerings, employees are immediately on board and driven to be a part of its success.  

So, who should be responsible for defining corporate culture? Thirty-three percent (33%) of HR professionals surveyed believe HR should define corporate culture. Twenty-six percent (26%) of managers felt the executive team should define the corporate culture, while 29% of employees surveyed felt they should define the corporate culture.  Strangely, another 28% of the employees felt that no single group actually defines the culture in the workplace. 

Employees ranked the three most important factors impacting corporate culture. Fifty percent (50%) felt compensation was the #1 factor.  Number two (#2) was co-worker respect and support, and #3 was work-life balance.  However, only 29% of managers and 25% of HR professionals felt compensation would be the #1 factor to impact corporate culture. 

HR professionals responding to the survey felt the #1 factor would be “managers and executives leading by example,” followed by #2 “employee benefits”, and #3 coming in as “a shared mission and values.” 

Assuming this survey is representative of corporate America across the board, perhaps the truest answer and most successful strategy for defining corporate culture is for all three groups to work together.  Corporate culture is an important recruiting and retention incentive.  Likewise, the wrong corporate culture will impair your recruiting efforts and drive away your existing employees.  Collaboration across the employee, management and Human Resources components of your organization is key to creating a corporate culture which appeals to your employees, can be fostered by your managers, and can be supported by HR. Work together to stand united and to create a stronger brand for your organization.

CAI delivers HR, compliance, and people development solutions to 1,100+ NC companies to help them build engaged, well-managed and low-risk workplaces. Contact us to find out how we can help your company.

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

 

Photo Credit: Pixabay

HR’s Role in Organizational Change

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

Nothing remains constant except change itself.”  “Change is inevitable. Change is constant.”  “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”

We have all heard the adages about change and are acutely aware of how important change is to the success of an organization. So why is organizational change so challenging?  Based on the details of a recent study, ‘Where Change Management Fails” from Robert Half Management Resources, the reason organizational change usually fails is basic.  It’s communication.  Or more specifically, lack of communication.  The study (which included 300 senior managers at U.S. companies with 20 or more employees) notes that most organizational change efforts struggle in the executional phase on the foundation of insufficient or disjointed communication.

Survey respondents were asked, “Where do most change-management efforts commonly fail?” Only 10% said “strategy development,” for example, while 46% said “execution.”

Drilling down a little further, the research asked, “What is most important when leading your company or team through a major change?” 65% answered “communicating clearly and frequently” – far outdistancing “managing expectations” at 16% and “outlining goals” at 9%.

The research concluded: “The survey findings further suggest clear and frequent communication can be the remedy for what ails change-management efforts.”

To counter the tendency of employees to rely on past practices and the old way of doing things, clear and frequent communication of the facts is the ideal. Even if this is not possible, open communication about why decisions or facts cannot yet be released and an honest statement about when they might be known, and what people can do in the meantime, is better than nothing.

In a communication void the rumor mill takes over, usually with damaging results, and HR practitioners can use their knowledge, skills and opportunities to minimize the chances of this happening.

HR has a role to play in making sure implementers understand the importance of communication in engaging people, stabilizing the environment, reinforcing the important change messages and preparing for the future. HR can help clarify messages and ensure that people understand the multiple channels available and the many forms communication can take such as one-to-one and team meetings; formal briefings; town halls; emails; newsletters; intranet; podcasts and many more. HR can also use its many touch points with employees to play its own part in the communication process and can ensure that others are equipped to do the same.

Communicating with employees doesn’t have to be an expensive proposition. It’s largely an investment of management time and thought.  As this study demonstrates, it’s a most worthwhile investment.

CAI delivers HR, compliance, and people development solutions to 1,160+ NC companies to help them build engaged, well-managed and low-risk workplaces. Contact us to find out how we can help your company.

Guest post by Lauren Hardwick, CAI’s HR Manager

 

Address These 4 Employee Needs for Maximum Retention

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

Recruiting top employees involves a relevant understanding of what attracts candidates to an opportunity; what do they want, and what are their priorities.  Once you have them on board, how do you retain them?  The needs and priorities of an employee can be different than those of a candidate.

In addition to the usual priorities like compensation, benefits and a flexible work schedule, most employees have four (4) basic needs to be happy and engaged in the workplace.  Those four needs are:  Caring, Respect, Appreciation, and Praise.

CaringMost people can tell if you genuinely care about them or not.  Something in your voice, the way you address them, or even your body language can tip them off.  Sincerity is difficult to fake and insincerity is difficult to hide.  Employees need to know their management cares about them for more than just what they bring to the business each day.  Be sure they know your door is always open.  Make certain you are responsive by setting aside sufficient time to understand their concern and to try and help address it.  Remember, for them, coming to you is a big step.  If you seem at all as if you do not care, or that you do not have time for them, they may not come to you again.

Respect – Everyone wants respect.  Respect for what they do and respect for how they do it.  One of the quickest ways to demonstrate a lack of respect for your employee is to micromanage.  Micromanaging suggests a lack of trust in your employee’s ability to get the job done.  On the other hand, one of the best ways to demonstrate respect for your employee is to allow them to grow to their full potential.  Offer your leadership and mentoring to help them succeed.  Provide training for employees who demonstrate initiative and show true promise for advancement.

Appreciation – Showing your appreciation for an employee’s results and work ethic is not difficult, and it does not have to be expensive.  We sometimes focus far too much and far too often on the negative, and not enough on the positive.  A simple “Thank You” can go a long way.  A pair of movie coupons or recognition in front of peers is a great way to show your appreciation.  Without appreciation, an employee may feel beaten and defeated.  They will eventually come to believe they can do nothing right, and will not want to come to work.

Praise – This is really just “appreciation” kicked up a notch or two.  It is always nice to feel appreciated, but to receive praise is an entirely different feeling.  Praise is larger, and therefore should be reserved for recognition of an employee going above and beyond their everyday job function.  An innovative idea, a new time-saving process, or productivity metrics well over 100% are just a few reasons to award special praise over simple appreciation.  Praise for employee who exceeds their expectations can also serve to incent other team members to “step up their game” in order to receive similar recognition.

This all sounds very simple, but in fact it takes time and thought.  These are very deliberate actions on the part of leaders, and time must be built into the day to accomplish even two or three of these for at least one or two individuals.  Over time, Caring, Respect, Appreciation and Praise will begin to filter across the workforce and you will have employees who not only trust you, but are loyal to you and your organization as well. Employees will feed off of the positive culture and demonstrate care, respect, appreciation and praise for co-workers.

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

5 Great Ways to Annoy the HR Manager

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

Stay in the HR profession long enough, and you will begin to realize that there are certain ‘universal truths’ that every company faces. One of those truths is that some employees will not pass up a good opportunity to get ‘under the skin’ of their HR manager.

Here are just a couple of ways those employees can skillfully accomplish that mission:

1. If you are a line manager and you need to provide bad news to an employee, simply blame the decision on HR.

For example, “I proposed a higher salary increase for you, but you know HR, they disagreed. If you have problems with your increase, go talk to HR.”

This is most effective when you can further add, “I’m only doing this because HR told me I had to………….”

2. Fail to read and respond to information regarding benefits or any other important items.

Even though clear communication was repeatedly provided to you, along with specific instructions and deadlines for a response, ignore it. If HR talks about it at a meeting, act like you weren’t present at the meeting.

This method also works well when you say, “Oh yeah, I got it but I didn’t read it.”

3. Wait until you want to fire an employee before coming to HR for help.

Don’t bother wasting time with performance improvement coaching, disciplinary action, and/or that pesky documentation that must accompany all such actions prior to firing an employee.

This works best when the employee issues have festered and gone unchecked for months.

 4. Present an unqualified close friend or relative as the ‘perfect’ candidate.

Become indignant when the HR manager requires that normal hiring filters and protocols must occur. Act as if it is some sort of personal attack against your integrity.

This approach is most annoying when you can bring up an example of someone else who was hired as a referral, and they didn’t have to ‘jump through all of these hoops.’

 5. Become a world-class tattletale.

Feel the need to report every perceived slight or unfairness to the HR manager. Don’t take responsibility or try to resolve the problem yourself, instead go directly to HR for a ‘quick fix.’

Make sure that everyone is aware that you are only sharing this information for the good of the organization, and not personal gain.

CAI delivers HR, compliance, and people development solutions to 1,100+ NC companies to help them build engaged, well-managed and low-risk workplaces. Contact us to find out how we can help your company.

Source material: thebalance.com

Photo credit: Pixabay

New Rules About the Manager-Employee Relationship

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

Once upon a time, there were “rules” about a professional reporting relationship.  The manager was clearly the authority and was to be revered by the employee.  Often, the manager was older than the employee and the assumption was that he or she possessed greater wisdom.  Therefore, the employee was obliged to listen and generally heed that wisdom.  A clear delineation of power existed between the two and everyone recognized that the manager was to be held in high regard and treated with deference by the employee. Both parties understood that becoming too familiar with the other was not in his or her best interest when it came to success in the workplace.  Managers were discouraged from socializing with their charges outside of work and in all cases, the employee was expected to take a subordinate role to his or her “superior”.

Fast forward to today.  In many organizations, a far more egalitarian approach exists. Managers serve more as coaches, facilitators and partners. For one thing, they are no longer the sole guardians of information that formerly gave them so much power.  With technology changes, nearly everyone can get vital information at the touch of a keystroke.  Management is no longer reserved for those with seniority, and workers of any age may rise to positions of authority due to their technical prowess, their ability to relate to others and their leadership qualities.  So, in many environments, one person may carry the title of manager, but the employee is considered more of a colleague than a direct report.

So, what is the “etiquette” of the reporting relationship today?  The manager has many responsibilities; among them the obligation to share information, encourage and support growth, and to hold employees accountable for their work.  The employee is expected to learn as well as to teach, to take responsibility for their work and to share ideas and concerns with their manager.  Both parties are expected to treat one another with dignity and respect.

Can a manager and an employee also share a personal friendship outside of work?  The question is more “How do I differentiate between friend and boss?”  And what do I need to do to avoid the perception of favoritism?  Some guidelines include:

  • Having a conversation with employees to let them know that at work, your responsibility includes assessing their professional performance.  Providing feedback is part of your job as a manager and your intent is to support them to do their very best.
  • Having a conversation with the team to let them know your clear expectations and how they can contribute to the team’s success.
  • Holding regular one-to-one meetings with employees to discuss their progress and to find out how you as the manager can help them achieve their goals while continuing to do the work of the organization

CAI offers hundreds of training courses and programs to improve the skills and performance of managers, supervisors, professionals and HR. Classroom training is offered in Raleigh, Greensboro and Greenville. If you prefer remote access, visit e-learning. Find out more here about why you should choose CAI to optimize your employees’ potential.

Blog post by: CAI’s Linda Taylor, Learning & Development Partner

Photo credit: Office Space, Twentieth Century Fox

2017 Employment & Labor Law Conference Recap

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

Last week, over 450 professionals attended the Employment and Labor Law Update. For two days, attendees heard from Ogletree Deakins attorneys about the latest developments in state and federal employment law, recent court decisions and how they affect employers now and in the future.

Workplace regulations are constantly evolving, especially this year as new administrations have taken office at a state and federal level. To help you stay up to date, we’ve gathered the top takeaways from the conference.

1. The process for employee exit just as important as onboarding. Don’t let shoving an employee out the door trip you up down the road. Make sure you are consistent, prepare for possible claims, recover company property and learn from past mistakes.

2. Well-demonstrated training and well-written policies for employees are the best defense to prevent sexual harassment. To be proactive, you must consider the quality of both. Related – don’t make legal claims and document that sexual harassment occurred; state that the employee violated employer’s policy.

3. There are many ways to effectively manage the risks when conducting a Reduction in Force. Most importantly, PLAN, PLAN, PLAN. Determine your departments and target positions, then develop RIF selection criteria. Also, be sure to train your decision makers. There are so many moving parts – so if you must implement an RIF, the team at CAI can help you develop a plan.

4. The OFCCP will possibly merge into the EEOC. This speculation is supported by a recent report from the Heritage Foundation and from the Trump Administration’s fiscal year 2018 budget. Read more about this topic and potential effects here – White House Budget Released: EEOC Will Absorb OFCCP.

5. Return to the fundamentals of HR. Too often, we know the HR basics and exactly what we should do, but we forget to practice that. We sometimes choose to take shortcuts for the sake of expediency. The attorneys reminded us the risks associated with doing so, so make sure you revisit – and regularly revisit – the basics in your HR department.

Next up CAI’s 2017 Compensation & Benefits Conference. Save the Date! September 14 & 15, 2017

 

Fragrance Sensitivity in the Workplace

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

Scent aversions or fragrance sensitivities as they’re more commonly known can cause significant issues in the workplace.

People with a fragrance sensitivity can have a variety of reactions from sneezing/runny nose to severe migraines and asthma attacks.  Sensitivity can be triggered by anything from perfumes/colognes, room fragrances, cleaning materials or cosmetics. Although fragrance sensitivity in and of itself might not be covered under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) some conditions may be triggered by fragrance sensitivity (such as asthma or migraines) or an employee’s fragrance sensitivity may disrupt one or more life activities.  Therefore, employers are cautioned to handle fragrance sensitivities appropriately to ensure compliance with ADA, and it just makes sense if there is an easy fix to have your employees comfortable.

There are numerous options for helping an employee with a fragrance sensitivity, all of which, need to begin with having an open conversation with the employee suffering from the sensitivity issue.

Find out if the employee is aware of specific triggers (a specific perfume or room deodorizer) and work to eliminate the trigger. Some employers find that having conversations with staff or emailing a memo asking employees to refrain from using specific products is the best resolution for the issue.

Provide a well-ventilated work space for the employee. This may mean moving an employee to an office with more air-flow available or a private office where the employee can close the door if needed.

Allow for “fresh air” breaks

Consider a “fragrance-free policy” in the office. Sample language may include:

“This is a fragrance-free office. Please help us to accommodate our co-workers and clients who are chemically sensitive to fragrances and other scented products. Thank you for not wearing perfume, aftershave, scented hand lotion, and or similar products.”

Of course, there may be cases when you cannot accommodate a fragrance-free workplace, such as chemicals used in the course of an employee’s daily work, etc. CAI suggests handling each request regarding a fragrance sensitivity on a case by case accommodation.

CAI offers HR, compliance & people development solutions for more than 1,100 North Carolina employers. Learn how CAI can help your company build and engaged, well-managed and low-risk workplace.

Emily’s primary area of focus is providing expert advice and support in the areas of employee relations and federal and state employment law compliance as a member of the Advice & Resolution team for CAI. Additionally, Emily advises business and HR leaders in operational and strategic human resources areas such as talent and performance management, employee engagement, and M&A’s. Emily has 10+ years of broad-based HR business partnering experience centering around employee relations, compliance & regulatory employment issues, strategic and tactical human resources, and strong process improvement skills

Shorter Work Days: Do they make sense for your business?

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

After a two-year government study on 6-hour work days that took place in Sweden, the results are in.  While employees proved to be happier, employer costs were higher.  Is the increase in cost worth it?

The study took place at the Svartedalens retirement home and was funded by the Swedish government. Employees went from 8-hour shifts to 6-hour shifts but were allowed to maintain their 8-hour salary.  Another similar facility participated as a control group by maintaining 8-hour shifts.  When compared, 68 nurses who worked 6-hour days took half as much sick time as those in the control group.  They were also 2.8 times as likely to take any time off in a two-week period.  In addition:

·       Employees reported higher energy levels and efficiency

·       Employees called in sick 15% less

·       Employees reported that their health improved 20%

·       Employees were 20% happier

·       Employees reported having more energy both at work and home

What about productivity?  Due to the increase in energy, the nurses working 6-hour days were able to do 64% more activities with the elders.  But although productivity increased, profitability decreased.  In order to allow the 80 nurses to work reduced hours, they had to hire 17 additional staff members.  Those new hires added $738,000 to payroll, which equates to a 22% increase.  They estimate that about half of that expense is offset by the reduction in sick time, time off, and unemployment.  While the experiment proved an increase in employee satisfaction and productivity, the added costs for additional staff need to be further analyzed.

Perhaps a 30-hour work week would be more successful in organizations where 24-hour coverage is not necessary.  There are several other experiments taking place in Sweden outside of the healthcare industry.  Final results are yet to come.  Brath, a Stockholm-based startup, has utilized 6-hour work days since its launch in 2012.  They argue that the shorter days have made them more successful than they might have been with 8-hour days due to an increased work-life balance.  “Our staff gets time to rest and do things that make them happier in life,” says CEO Marie Brath.  She also states, “Our work is a lot about problem solving and creativity, and we don’t think that can be done efficiently for more than six hours.  So we produce as much as – or maybe even more than – our competitors do in their 8-hour days.”

Although not the worldwide norm, France offers 35-hour work weeks.  In the U.S. work weeks average 47 hours.  However, several large U.S. companies have begun to experiment with reduced work weeks, such as Amazon.  Results remain to be seen.  Another U.S. company, SteelHouse began 2017 with an announcement that they will offer one 3-day weekend each month.  SteelHouse CEO Mark Douglas said that the next logical step after that will be going to regular 4-day work weeks.

A more common approach in the U.S. is a compressed work week, but with the same amount of hours.  For example, working 40 hours across four days.  According to a survey by Aon Hewitt, 30% of 1,060 employers surveyed offer a compressed work week.  60% of those surveyed offer flex time, which allows employees to set their own arrival and leave times.  This approach has been shown to be successful.  Research shows that when employees are allowed to have control over their work schedules they report lower levels of stress and burnout and report higher job satisfaction.

While 30-hour work weeks are not likely to become the norm anytime soon in the U.S., it does seem that flexibility in work hours will.  Be creative in your work week structure, and don’t be afraid to try new things.

Author: Heather Nezich, Manager of Communications American Society of Employers

Sources – inc.com, Bloomberg.com, businessinsider.com; fastcoexist.com