Author Archive

Fight Back Against Workplace Negativity

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

positive negative workplaceOur environment has a significant impact on our mindset.  Think about the last time you were around a group of positive people having a discussion.  Chances are the topics included reasons for hope, giving people the benefit of the doubt, expecting the best and good things that are happening in the world.

How did you feel during and after that interaction?  Energized?  Excited?  Like everything was going to work out well?

Now…think about the last time you were around a negative discussion.  Maybe it was a group of people gossiping or finding the worst in people, or complaining about work, home, their commute or life in general.  You may have initially tried to resist it, but the conversation sucked you right in.

How did you feel during and after that interaction?  Defeated?  Disgusted?  Like everything is a waste of time?

Negativity seems to have the ability to sneak in and overtake our brain and our feelings.  It’s hard to see positive outcomes when negativity takes over.

And it can be especially difficult to overcome negativity in the workplace in modern times when the negative news can outweigh the positive and we all seem to be busier than ever, yet feel that we are not getting any further ahead.

That’s one of the key reasons we invited Steve Gilliland to be the keynote speaker at our 50th Anniversary Celebration Luncheon on October 23, 2013 at the North Ridge Country Club in Raleigh.  Steve is one of the highest-rated speakers we’ve ever had at our annual HR Management Conference.  In fact, he was so great at our 2009 event that a large number of attendees asked us to bring him back in 2010…and we did.  And again, he hit it out of the park.

Steve’s ability to mix an inspirational message with real life experiences and practical tips for getting the most out of every aspect of life is one of the reasons he was inducted into the National Speakers Association Speaker Hall of Fame last year.

So if negativity is a problem in your workplace and you’d like some tips on how to deal with it, while also helping us celebrate 50 years serving North Carolina employers, please join us for our 50th Anniversary Celebration Luncheon. Steve will inspire you and make sure you are ready to fight the evil forces of workplace negativity!

For more information and to register, please go to

Photo Source: Victor1558

Are Policies Created for Your Poor Performers Pushing Your Best Employees Out the Door?

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

When you change or create a policy in your organization is it usually to restrict bad behavior or to reward good behavior?

For employers, as in life, many policies and procedures are created in response to or in fear of somebody violating a rule.  When was the last time you were able to say to your employees, “Great news! We’ve created this policy that we know you are going to love!”

In his book Drive, Daniel Pink addresses this approach, encouraging employers to “Design for the 85 percent.”  He describes how organizations are so focused on preventing the 15 percent of bad apples from causing trouble that they create policies that end up restricting the ability of the 85 percent of honorable employees from doing their best work.  Pink references New York University professor Clay Shirky, who argues that the more we design systems to prevent bad behavior the more bad behavior occurs.

Pink sums up the section in the book by writing:

“If you think people in your organization are predisposed to rip you off, maybe the solution isn’t to build a tighter, more punitive set of rules.  Maybe the answer is to hire new people.”

As more and more employers are focusing on retention, especially of top talent, maybe it’s time for you to review your policies and procedures.

Are they overly restrictive?

Are you making too many rules in response to or in fear of the 15 percent?

Could you implement policies that focus on rewarding good behavior?

Here are areas you may want to pay special attention to:

  • Vacation or PTO
  • Flexible scheduling
  • Education and career development
  • Social media

What policies could you change that would show your best employees that your organization is serious about keeping them on board?

We are excited to have Daniel Pink as one of the keynote speakers at our 2013 HR Management Conference on March 6th and 7th at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh, NC.  For additional information, please visit the conference website at

Photo Source: Victor1558

Is Hiring the Key to Employee Engagement?

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Can it be that the only thing that matters in regard to driving employee engagement is hiring people with the right attitude?

That may be the case according to a new study that shows that 99 percent of highly-engaged employees say that they take personal responsibility for their engagement.  The study comes as part of the research that Timothy Clark did for his new book The Employee Engagement Mindset.   Clark and his team analyzed 150 highly-engaged employees in 50 different organizations representing 13 different industries.

In addition to taking personal responsibility for their engagement, the 99 percent also stated that they believe they, not their employer, hold primary responsibility for their engagement.  In contrast, a vast majority of disengaged employees believe that their employer is primarily responsible for their engagement.

So there it is in plain language, the key to employee engagement is finding and hiring employees who are willing to take responsibility for keeping themselves engaged.  It has been said that employers should “hire for attitude and train for aptitude.”  Nothing makes the case for this better than the findings of this study.

Too often hiring managers and HR professionals get so wrapped up in qualifications and demonstrated experience.  They choose the candidate with the track record over the one with the great attitude and the thinner resume.  Instead of playing to win, they are playing not to lose.  Sure, there needs to be a baseline skill level to qualify for a job, but does it have to be so high?

In these days when we can bounce from articles on the importance of employee engagement to the scourge of unemployment to the skill gap between available jobs and talent, it seems to me that a statistic like the one above just screams for a different approach.  If employers start focusing more on finding the right types of teachable people instead of demanding high levels of experience, won’t everybody win?

Of course, I’m not saying that employers should get a pass on creating a positive work environment and culture that encourages employees to excel and recognizes them for their success.  That’s an important element, as well.

Nor am I saying that tomorrow you should get rid of everybody that you think may have a bad attitude.

However, I am encouraging you to ask yourself during every hiring process you are a part of, not “Who has the best qualifications for this job,” but “Who will bring the best attitude to this job?”

Photo Source: Victor1558

Organizational Culture: In Theory and Practice

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Articles about how your company culture and talent will be the key factors in your organization’s success, or lack thereof, seem to be everywhere.  Some of these articles highlight specific focus areas for building a culture, and others include high-level theories without application.

I recently had the opportunity to hear Diane Adams and Richard Byrd from Allscripts discuss their corporate culture at a Raleigh Chamber of Commerce program.  Diane, who is the executive vice president of culture and talent, and Richard, who is the vice president of internal communications/culture, shared both a high-level theoretical approach and more specific details about how it is applied in practice.

From 20,000 feet, the key takeaways from the presentation were:

Culture is Intentional

It’s important that you have a destination in mind and take ownership of your company culture.  Your culture should then drive measurable behaviors.

Culture First

You can’t afford to lose precious time waiting to get to your culture.  You must start now if you haven’t already.

It’s More Than Great People

You must continue to work deliberately on your culture. Hiring for cultural fit is just the start.


When your organization has a strong, positive culture with engaged employees your customers will have a great experience and your business will see the results.

Diane and Richard pointed to four key areas of focus at the application level when it comes to organizational culture:


Let your team members/employees own their job. When people own something, they usually treat it much differently and will go the extra mile to make it better. It’s also important to help them see how they impact the business results.


Without consistent, repetitive communication, culture is just some words put to paper.  Make sure the lines are open to two-way communication and be aware that the words you use matter.


How people treat each other is a big piece of culture.  Team members should interact in a positive manner toward each other, even when in disagreement.


Top talent wants to be in an environment where they are learning, challenged and feel like they are continuing to grow.  Recognition is also important for all employees.

Having read many of the articles and heard numerous speakers discuss culture, I think there are two clear points to be taken from the chorus:

1 – You need to focus on culture now.  If you put it off you will be looking back in six months and realize that your culture has taken on a life of its own—one that you may not like.

2 – One size does not fit all.  It’s up to you to find those things that make your organization special and to highlight them, while also determining the aspirational goals for your culture and how you are going to work toward getting there.  Sure, there may be some broad topic areas that need to be included, but the specifics are up to you.

Is your company culture what you want it to be?  What are you doing to get it there?

Photo Source: USACE- Sacremento District

Talent Management: 4 Practical Steps You Can Take Now

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Recent survey data released by Mercer offers a peek into the timing and competitiveness of what is likely to be an upcoming war for talent.  You may be saying to yourself, “War for talent?  What?  Our business is still suffering from the recession!”  Point taken.

Yet, to ensure the long-term success of your organization, now is the time to start focusing on keeping the top talent in your organization on your bus, and planning to invite other top talent in the marketplace to climb on board with you.

In May 2010, Mercer polled HR and talent management leaders at more than 400 U.S. organizations as part of its annual Future of Talent Management survey.  As to the current status of the businesses:

  • 22 percent were never out of growth mode and were not significantly affected by the economic downturn
  • 15 percent have emerged from the recession and are in growth mode
  • 37 percent are emerging from the recession and preparing for growth
  • 25 percent are still in recession mode

So, even if you are among the 25 percent of companies still in recession mode, 75 percent of businesses are already planning to acquire your top talent and/or the additional talent in the marketplace that could help drive your business results in the future.

In addition, more than half of the surveyed employers (51 percent) rate talent management as a top priority in their organization today, and 76 percent expect it to be a top priority within the next three to five years.  Even more telling, a full 97 percent expect an increase in competition for key talent in that same three- to five-year horizon, with 58 percent anticipating a significant increase in competition for the key talent their organizations need to succeed.

What types of talent management activities can you undertake now to help you retain your best employees and position your organization to be an attractive option for future employees?

  1. Identify the top employees in your organization.  Talk to them and tell them they are an essential part of your future.  Ask them what is most important to them in the employer-employee relationship.  It may not be what you think.
  2. Determine what measures you can take now to reward employees who have remained solid performers as your organization has been affected by the recession.  If pay raises are not possible, use your discussions with employees to identify non-monetary rewards that will be perceived as an excellent benefit.
  3. Start looking for skill gaps in your organization.  Does each one of your employees have the training they need to be successful in their job?  What will it take to get them there?
  4. Plot out a growth strategy.  If your business grew by 10 percent, what workforce adjustments would have to be made to accommodate that growth?  What would be your priority order for hiring?

Photo Source: DSR

Do Your Managers and Supervisors Have the Skills They Need to Succeed?

Friday, June 18th, 2010

The skills that make an employee an excellent individual contributor or practitioner do not often translate to success as a supervisor or manager.  Being responsible for the motivation and performance of a person or team requires a whole new skill set.

The resulting skill gap is highlighted in a survey conducted by the Tracom Group in 2007.  That survey of 166 executives, 337 managers and 377 staff focused on how managerial responsibilities, specifically communication and conflict management, affect company performance.  In the study, 84.8 percent of executives said communication skills were deficient among first-level managers, while 81.9 percent of managers and 85 percent of staff pegged poor communication as a cause of poor productivity in the workplace.  In addition, 69.4 percent of the managers surveyed said their ability to better handle conflict would improve their team’s performance.

Of course, management development training is one of the most effective ways to enhance the communication and conflict resolution skills of managers.  Unfortunately, one of the areas companies cut to minimize expenses during the recent recession was employee training.  As a result, many supervisors and managers do not have the skills necessary to properly drive business performance and lead their teams to success.  In a late 2009 survey conducted by the American Society for Training & Development of 1,179 companies, 31 percent of those companies cited managerial/supervisory skills as one of their greatest skill needs.

A March 2010 study done by Rainmaker Thinking further demonstrates the impact supervisors and managers have on overall performance.  In the research, those companies that focused their efforts on increasing supervision and management, and creating a performance-based culture driven by supervisors and managers, had better results throughout the recession than companies that pursued other strategies such as cost cutting or innovation.

It’s clear that without the proper training, supervisors and managers will not be set up to succeed in their role.  Many will become frustrated with their inability to produce results.  Even worse, their techniques may leave the company liable to lawsuits.

As the economic recovery takes hold, organizations will be relying heavily on their managers to meet new customer demand and to keep their employees engaged so that they will stay with the company.  To meet that challenge, employers must evaluate their supervisors and managers and invest now in the skills they need to excel in their role.

Photo Source: DSR

Using Social Media for Employee Communications

Friday, May 28th, 2010

It’s an all too familiar refrain from HR professionals – employees missing response deadlines, asking why and when their benefits were changed, and getting upset about “new” policies.  But you know that you’ve sent out a number of communications and done everything short of putting the employees in a closet and forcing them to fill out the required form or read the information.

I can’t promise you it will result in 100 percent participation, but one new trick you may want to try is social media.

“Social media?”  you say.  “Isn’t that just for people sharing their photos and the endless details of their monotonous lives?”

Well, yes, and no, but that really is the point.  The key to communicating to an audience is to talk to them where they are, and it is highly likely that many of your employees are using social media.  So how can you take advantage of the huge growth in social media usage to improve the responsiveness of your employees to important HR requests?

The first suggestion is to ask employees if they use social media and if so, what websites they most often utilize.

If most of your employees are not social media users, or if the ratio is around 50/50 but you really want to try something new, your best bet is to set up an employee communications blog.  This will give you the ability to communicate the messages you’d like to send and to encourage the interaction of employees through commenting.

The process of setting up a blog can move quickly and easily, especially if you use one of the more common free platforms like WordPress or Blogger.  You’ll want to privatize your blog if you only want those within your company to have access.  Or you may want to show the world what a great company you have, which is the approach that takes.

Of course, the most popular social media platform right now is Facebook.  Knowing that Facebook has such a large number of active participants may push you in the direction of setting up a corporate page for your employees.  Setting up the page can be done quite quickly.

Keep two things in mind– your employees may not feel comfortable linking their private profiles to a corporate page, and you will have to adjust the privacy settings of your Facebook page if you only want employees to view it.

Another social media platform that may be more appropriate for your HR goals is LinkedIn.  LinkedIn is most often thought of as the more professional social network.  Through LinkedIn, you can set up a group that requires approval to join and invite employees.  You can set your group up to automatically send e-mails when you’ve posted information, either discussions or news.

Twitter is another alternative you may want to consider.  Setting up accounts on Twitter is easy, and you can protect your tweets.  For your employees to receive the information you send, they will have to follow you.  The challenge for communications using Twitter may be the 140-character limit per tweet.  You could consider using it as a way to get the word out about a new post to your blog or Facebook page.

You may want to start by dipping your toe in one of these alternatives as a way to support the methods you already use, or you may be ready to completely transition.  Either way it will be important that you fully research and understand the new platform you choose to use, whether it be a blog, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or one of the many other alternatives.

Are you considering using social media for employee communications?  What advantages and/or disadvantages do you see?  If you’ve already implemented a social media platform, please let us know your thoughts on how it is working.

Photo Source: benstein

Five Important Points from CAI’s 2010 Employment and Labor Law Update

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

More than 350 company executives and HR professionals gathered at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh on May 12 and 13 for CAI’s 2010 Employment and Labor Law Update.  The record-setting crowd heard about the latest changes in federal and state employment laws and what North Carolina employers need to be doing now to address these changes.

The two days were packed full with illuminating information, and there were many participants’ questions answered.  To write about everything that was covered would take two weeks’ worth of daily blog entries.  In lieu of that huge undertaking, here are five important points that were made:

1. A study released in September 2009 regarding wage-and-hour violations is driving the U.S. Department of Labor’s efforts to greatly increase its investigations into such non-compliance.  The study is based on interviews with more than 4,000 “workers in low-wage industries” in New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago.  The results were:

  • 76% of those surveyed worked overtime the previous week but were not paid time-and-a-half
  • 26% were being paid less than minimum wage
  • 69% of workers entitled to a break did not receive the required break time

2. The U.S. Department of Labor is also making a large investment in pursuing the misclassification by employers of independent contractors.  Three steps employers need to take to address this issue in their organization are: conduct a thorough, companywide risk analysis of your independent contractor population; design and implement a comprehensive compliance program; and establish an internal team to implement and monitor the compliance program.

3. Every organization needs to have a social media policy.  The first question to ask is whether to create a positive/empowering policy or a negative/deterring policy?  In other words, do you empower your employees to become ambassadors for your organization, or do you prohibit them from referring to it?

4. One of the most important things an employer can do to avoid violations under the new ADA Amendments Act is to train their supervisors how to respond to an employee’s request for accommodation.

5. Three key tips for avoiding I-9 liability: implement a comprehensive written policy; conduct I-9 audits at least annually; and implement a policy for resolving no-match notices.

Did you attend the 2010 Employment and Labor Law Update?  What important takeaways did you bring back to the office?

Photo Source: srqpix

Employment and Labor Law Update Helps Employers Be Informed and Protected

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

The past year has been marked by major changes in employment law and intense regulatory enforcement efforts, including:

Government agencies will be stepping up their enforcement activities even more in 2010.  Consider:

  • U.S. Department of Labor budget includes $25 million and the addition of 100 enforcement personnel to identify and penalize employers who improperly misclassify employees as independent contractors.
  • U.S.D.O.L. budget includes a $67 million increase for worker protection agencies, including $14 million more to OSHA to add 60 enforcement staff and conduct 9 percent more inspections.
  • The EEOC budget includes an $18 million increase that will be used in part to hire 100 new investigators.  Those additions come on top of the EEOC’s 2009 expansion.
  • OSHA has announced that they plan to increase the average fine for a serious violation from $1,000 to $3,000-$4,000.
  • The U.S.D.O.L. Wage and Hour Division launched its “We Can Help” campaign earlier this year.  It essentially presents any employee who is unhappy with their pay with a forum for a nothing-to-lose wage complaint that can be submitted online or through a hotline.

In addition, the number of wage and hour lawsuits filed by employees against employers increased by 44 percent in 2009 over 2008, healthcare reform passed and President Obama recently appointed Craig Becker and Mark Pearce to the National Labor Relations Board, tilting the board very much in a pro-labor way.

To help North Carolina employers understand what these developments mean and how they will ultimately be affected, CAI is hosting its annual Employment and Labor Law Update on May 12 and13, 2010 at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh.  CAI experts and experienced attorneys from Ogletree Deakins will discuss all of the recent changes and help companies understand what they need to worry about now and what they can move down the priority list.

For additional information, please go to

If you are participating in the conference and would like to tweet your thoughts, we invite you to do so using the hashtag #10ELLU.

Photo Credit: CAI

Retaining Top Talent as the Economy Improves

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Much has been written lately about the importance of an organization keeping its top talent.  As the economy improves and hiring thaws, the expectation is that many American workers will be ready to jump ship to the next opportunity that comes their way.  In fact, a Right Management survey conducted in late 2009 showed that 60% of 904 employees surveyed intend to leave their employer as the economy improves.  Another 27% are networking or have updated their resumes.

What is an employer to do?  One way to find out your best approach is to simply ask your employees.  In addition, there are four major nonmonetary themes of importance highlighted consistently in recent articles:

  1. Confidence – To stay and be productive at a company, an employee must have confidence in the leadership.  It’s a natural reaction for humans to personalize news stories.  As institutions that were believed to be infallible, like banks and automotive companies, began to crumble, individuals started to worry about the same thing happening to their employer.  Employees are not looking for promises, but they want to know that the leadership team is committed to doing what it takes to ride out economic challenges while minimizing the negative impact on the workforce.
  2. Communication – Employees would rather be continually updated on the organization’s status than be blindsided by really bad news.  That’s not to say it is expected that company leaders will be able to share everything, but it’s better to share as much as possible and err on the side of overcommunicating than to only make the information available to the executive or management team.
  3. Meaningful Work – Simply put, employees want to know that the work they do has a positive impact on the company.  When they understand how the duties and tasks they perform are tied to the overall goals of the organization, they feel much better about themselves.
  4. Flexibility – This can mean something different to every employee – schedule control, telecommuting, arriving late, leaving early, work/life balance, etc.  Each individual definition may change, but if an employee feels good about the flexibility of their workplace, then they are going to be much less likely to leave.

What do you think are the most important nonmonetary strategies for retaining top talent?

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