Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Is Your Office Space Repelling Good People?

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

Millennials are considered by many to be the first generation since the 60’s to come with their own set of preferences as to what they desire in regards to various aspects of their daily life – including their work environment. An interesting position to take, considering the ups and downs of the economy, but this group of individuals also bring the technology, innovative thinking, and energy to the table, creating a very competitive recruiting atmosphere in which their desires must be taken into account.

For this reason, companies are working to understand what does and does not appeal to this latest generation to join the workforce.  Office space is being specifically designed and re-designed to attract these highly sought-after workers.  Large, closed-in office space with more doors than windows is quickly losing popularity in favor of open work areas with space for collaboration over traditional conference rooms.

Desks which can be raised to accommodate employees who prefer standing part of their workday are being introduced, along with desks that stand over working treadmills to encourage a healthier environment.  Smart boards are being used to record brainstorming notes, and then send them to a computer or printer with the press of a button.

In addition, on-site fitness centers complete with showers are now common in many businesses. Millennials are researching potential employer locations to determine what amenities they currently provide “on campus”.  Are there bike racks?  Are there walking trails?  Are restaurants and retail shopping options within walking distance?  Are mass-transit drop points within walking or biking distance from the office?  The millennial generation is known for living a healthier lifestyle with an affinity for convenience.  Speaking of convenience, another popular feature with millennials at the workplace is a resident concierge to handle things like travel arrangements, massage appointments, pick up/delivery of dry-cleaning and order in lunches.

You may ask yourself, “Do they really need all that?”  A better question would be “Does my company really need all that?”  There are several things to consider here:

  • Is it more cost efficient to retrofit your current space or to simply give up your current office and move to a more modern facility?
  • Would the increased and improved collaboration from a more modern work environment lead to more innovative thinking and creativity among teams?
  • Does your business model dictate a more traditional or forward-thinking atmosphere?
  • Which type of environment will appeal more to your clients / customers / business partners?
  • How do you want your company to be viewed – both internally and externally – by your competitors, your peers, your current and future employees?

That’s right, take a look at your competitors and peer companies.  What are they doing?  Ask your employees for their opinion on the current work environment and any suggested improvements.  Write down a list of amenities your office has to offer new recruits.  Is it enough?  If you were interviewing with your company today for a job, would it be enough for you?  Answers to these questions might provide you with some ideas for change, even small changes, which could be very important to fueling your business growth in regards to your workforce.

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.

Top Tips for Organizing Personnel Files

Thursday, April 13th, 2017

At CAI, we receive numerous calls from our members asking how to organize and maintain compliance with personnel files. If you were to take compliance guidance from government agencies literally you would conclude that you need to have a lot of separate files spread throughout many different file cabinets.  While you might get a point for being compliant, this scenario just isn’t reasonable for most employers.  Fortunately, we offer an easier way to organize your files that balance the need to be reasonably compliant with your need to be practical.

There are certain types of information that need to be maintained separately from the employee’s main file. Below I have listed the different types of files that I have used in my filing system, of course as long as you are maintaining confidential documents separate from the main general personnel file, you can develop a system that works best for your company.  A process that worked well for us was to have our medical files locked away separately. The other files listed below were kept inside a general employee file (we used a multi-tab folder similar to this one) in small manila folders that could be removed if a supervisor needed to review the file. It is also a good idea to keep your I9s completely separate (we kept in a multi-tab expanding file sorted by last name alphabetically).

Pre-Employment Information:

  • Background checks
  • Drug screenings
  • Credit checks
  • Reference Checks
  • Any EEOC Pre-Employment Disclosures (Self-Identify Veteran or Disability Status)

Benefits/401(k):

  • Enrollment information
  • Beneficiary information
  • Distribution information
  • Any benefit related information (notices, request for information, etc)

Medical:

  • Doctor Notes
  • Leave Requests (including FMLA)
  • ADA Accommodation Request information
  • Incident Reports
  • OSHA Incidents
  • Workers Compensation Claims/Incidents

Payroll:

  • Federal and State tax forms (W4 and NC4)
  • Garnishment requests
  • W2s
  • Any payroll information with Social Security numbers
  • Request for employment/wage verification
  • Direct Deposit Authorization Form

Confidential File:

  •  EEOC Claim information
  • Investigation information (EEOC, internal investigations)
  • Settlement claims

General Employee File:

  • Employment Application/Resume
  • Offer Letter
  • Any policy acknowledgments (confidentiality, code of conduct, handbook, etc)
  • Performance appraisals
  • Pay/Compensation information
  • Disciplinary actions, documents
  • All promotion, transfer, demotion, layoff information
  • Exit Interview
  • Termination documents

So to review, you have one separate medical file, one file with all of your I-9’s and then organize everything else into one big pendaflex file.  Alternatively, you could convert to electronic personnel files, including I-9’s.

Overall, the most important aspect of maintaining compliance with personnel files is securing the access to the files. The files should be kept in a secure location (behind “lock and key”) and access should only be granted to specific employees (probably within the HR department or specific information to supervisors as outlined in your personnel file policy).  On that note, it is important to remember that access to the files should even be restricted within the HR department on a “need to know” basis: the benefits specialist doesn’t need access to the confidential file, the recruiting specialist doesn’t need access to the medical file, etc.

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.

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.

How HR Can Help Managers Conduct Effective Meetings

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017

Today’s managers and their employees are busy. There’s never enough time in the day to ‘get it all done.’ As an HR manager or someone who is acting in an HR role, you can help your managers maximize their time and accomplish their objectives. Meetings that begin without a plan go astray quickly and become big time wasters. CAI’s Tom Sheehan shares his tips below to help your managers understand the keys to successful and effective meetings.

Here’s the thing about meetings. They all start off with good intentions. Someone calls a meeting to communicate an important update or new initiative. The next thing you know, you’ve wasted an hour of your time sitting through what appears to be a ‘stream of consciousness’ discussion with no real outcomes. While the exchanges may have therapeutic value, little else is gained.

Follow these four simple rules to improve meeting effectiveness:

1. Don’t hold a meeting without a documented agenda

Without an agenda, you have laid the groundwork for a rambling ‘free for all.’  How will you know if your meeting is getting off track if you never bothered to define the track?

2. Discuss progress vs. goals

During tactical staff meetings, make certain that the start of each meeting is dedicated to a review of how the team is progressing relative to its goals. You may also want to give a quick update on how the company is performing toward its goals.

3. Tactical and strategic discussions should be addressed in separate meetings

Oftentimes, these topics have mutually exclusive participants. By mixing the two together you can ‘cloud’ the discussion. For example, do you really want administrative staff involved in discussions that relate to establishing strategy?  Conversely, does an executive leader need to be involved in lower-level procedural tactics?

4.  Meetings must end with clear-cut and specific agreements around decisions and actions to be taken

The worst thing that can happen is to walk out of a meeting without confirmation about what has been decided. The reality is that each of us will interpret what was discussed through our own lens. As a result, without confirmation, we will apply our own set of rules to the outcome. A typical response at a subsequent meeting might sound like this…”well we talked about that change, but I don’t think anything was actually finalized.”

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.


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.

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

WARNING: OFCCP Sends “Audit” Letters February 17th

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

Federal contractors and subcontractors be warned the Office of Federal Contracts Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has mailed a new round of Corporate Scheduling Announcement Letters (CSAL).  These letters are considered courtesy letters and are sent to federal contractors/subcontractors as an early notice that the company may be selected for an OFCCP audit.  The last time the OFCCP sent these notices was November 2014 and many of the audits since then have been based on that list.

These letters are sent to the company location that may receive the official audit letter later and are typically sent to the HR Director. Previously, these letters were sent to the company headquarters.  So advise your HR staff & directors at your locations to be on the look out for these letters.

If you do receive a CSAL letter, CAI encourages you to ensure your AAP is up-to-date.  You should also carefully review your data and be prepared for the official audit letter. Once you receive the actual audit letter, you only have 30 days to prepare the requested material.  So use the advanced notice to take the time to review all of your AAP obligations and records.

If you have a company location that receives the CSAL letter, it does not guarantee that you will receive an actual OFCCP audit.  You may also receive an actual audit without receiving the CSAL. If you need help putting together an affirmative action plan, contact Kaleigh Ferraro at CAI at kaleigh.ferraro@capital.org.

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.

Are you using the new Form I-9?

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

Beginning January 22nd, 2017, all employers are required to utilize the new Form I-9.  The new form was created to reduce confusion and the resulting technical errors by both employers and employees.  This new form can be completed digitally and contains pull-down menus, embedded calendars and the like.

However, employers who complete the new Form I-9 online using Adobe Reader or other PDF reader, will still be required to print the form, procure handwritten signatures and store in a safe and accessible place.  Furthermore, employers will also need to monitor re-verifications and updates with a calendaring system.  You will also have to use E-Verify as a separate system.    You can read more about the new form at the USCIS website; https://www.uscis.gov/i-9.

If this system still sounds complicated to you, CAI has an easier solution.  Our Form I-9 service offers a version of the electronic Form I-9 that allows you to complete and store your I-9s paperless, and with the assurance that you are filling out the form in a compliant manner.

In addition to the electronic I-9, our system can seamlessly incorporate E-Verify.

Highlights of our service include:

  • Electronically complete, sign and store the Form I-9.
  • Real time validation of data entered into the Form I-9.
  • Instant Employment Authorization.
  • Expiration Notices – Email notification of an employee’s expiring work authorization is sent out before it becomes a problem.
  • No servers or software to install or maintain.
  • Easy Searching – Search for stored forms to export, or print the PDF.
  • Audit Log – All actions (creation, view and print) relating to a form are tracked in the audit log.
  • Multiple permission levels for increased security.
  • Duplication Alert – User is notified when entering a form for an employee who already has a form on file, thus preventing employees from using the same SSN.
  • Remote employee authorization – we have notaries around the country who can verify documents.
  • Great Customer Service – You know and trust us, we are just a phone call or email away.

If you would like to learn more about our electronic I-9 services, please give us a call and ask for Brielle Earley or Kevin von der Lippe at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Kevin W. von der Lippe is a licensed private investigator at CAI and for 19 years has managed our detective agency and background checking business.  He is security minded and proficient with the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the enforcement of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as administered by the EEOC as it relates to background checks. Capital Associated Industries Services Corporation is a licensed investigative agency, specializing in corporate pre-employment background screening. Our corporate agency license is BPN 001473P11.

Don’t Overlook the True Value of Your Employee Handbook

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

Employee handbooks are a vital part of outlining and communicating your company policies while creating a “picture” of your company culture and mission.  All companies–regardless of their size, industry, or number of employees should have an employee handbook in place, be it hard copy, e-version, or on-line. A company handbook can be as robust and detailed or as simple and short as needed depending on your business and culture. Let’s review several of the major purposes and benefits of having a company handbook.

Legal Protection: A handbook should outline the company’s position on important legal or regulatory issues such as At-Will Employment, anti-harassment or discrimination policies, wage and hour compliance or drug testing policies. Should one of these situations become a workplace issue, an employer can support their actions based on what is outlined in their handbook. Handbooks are a great tool in helping set employee expectations.

Company Culture/Mission: A handbook provides employees with an understanding of the company’s mission and culture. By placing an emphasis on aspects of employment that the company values (volunteerism or code of conduct) the employees will have a better idea of the culture that is desired and supported by senior management. Understanding the company’s culture will allow employees to have clear and consistent expectations of conduct and performance.  The handbook is also a great place for the CEO to “tell the story” of the company to help employees understand why the company exists.

Guide for Employees: An employee handbook should be written with the employee in mind. The handbook should outline policies, practices and other key information that is pertinent to the employee.  Providing relevant and pertinent information to employees allows employees to understand and manage that what is important to them (such as benefits, pay cycle information, vacation schedules, etc.) as well as develop an understanding of the expectations and consequences of their actions.  An employee handbook can also serve as a source for creating positive employee relations such as internal dispute resolution rather than through an external source such as government agency.

Guide for Supervisors/Managers: Managers and supervisors need reference materials in order to help them lead their teams. Having an understanding of policies such as PTO (how to earn it, when to use it, what happens if it isn’t used at the end of the year) is just as important as reviewing the company’s discipline policy or time management policies. A handbook is a great starting place for supervisors and managers but they should refer to specific company policies and or consult with their HR team.

CAI members have access to handbook guides to help you get started. Our Advice & Resolution team also provides complimentary handbook reviews and our HR On Demand team can work with you to create a custom handbook for your organization.

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.

4 Ways Managers Can Help Improve Employee Performance

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

When a manager says “meet me halfway,” what do they mean?

Halfway is never the goal in our work or personal lives. We want 110 percent from each other, right?

In the workplace, meet-me-halfway is shorthand for “I have to decide if you are worth more investment of my time and energy, and if you do not meet me half way, I have my answer.”

Poor performers are so for a variety of reasons. Putting problems clearly on the table, along with solutions, is difficult. Meet-me-halfway can be a useful clarifying tool.

Managers may use these four questions to decide whether a poor-performer will meet them halfway:

Have you contributed in any way to these poor results? An employee who says they have no part to play in their poor work is unlikely to do the things needed to improve. Giving a chance to acknowledge fault is a good way to advance a stalled conversation about improvement. Surprisingly, there are poor performers who will deny any part in the problem. In that case, you have your answer and it may be time to move on.

What are you ready (and able) to do differently, starting now? This question allows a more detailed conversation around specific changes which must be made. Forcing an employee to generate their own list (rather than seeking yet another agreement to your list) is better at this stage. It shows you if they are listening if they understand what good work looks like and if they care. Answers such as “I guess I just need to do what you ask me to do” are not good. On the heels of several performance discussions, and this meet-me-halfway conversation, lazy or passive responses show you do not have their attention or commitment.

What can I do differently to help you succeed? If you get an admission of some fault, and that fault is reinforced by a thoughtful description of the ways behaviors must change starting today, it is time to seal the deal with a genuine offer of your help. The offer does two things. It firms up the commitment to change and gives you a measurement tool for the coming days/weeks.

How will we both know you are meeting performance goals? This is the time to clarify ultimate expectations and timelines. Performance cannot stay at half-way; that was just a place to meet and recommit to something much better. The timeline will depend on the performance gap, the failed efforts to date, the perceived chance for success and such. Whatever that timeline and performance definition, they should both be very clear.

Employees who know or sense their manager is dissatisfied with their work should bring it up. “How am I doing?”, “What can I do to get better at this role?”, “What do you see as the difference between my work and the very best work done in this area?” Make the topic of your performance a welcome and natural one for you both. You will both benefit.

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.