Posts Tagged ‘company culture’

Learning the Best Practices for Total Rewards in 2017

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fixing a Broken Performance Management System – Part I

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

As a manager, few things are harder than delivering honest performance feedback to an employee.  Of course giving bad news isn’t supposed to be Performance-Review-Chalkboardfun.  Some managers avoid giving bad news altogether hoping performance improves on its own.  Others sugar coat the news to the point that the employee can’t see the problem.  Then there are those managers who just “tell it like it is” with no filters or tact.  They may succeed in getting their point across but at a cost.  

Many managers struggle equally at giving good performance news.  Some pour on the kudos so much or so generically that employees aren’t sure what specific actions are being praised.  And then far too many other managers don’t take the time to give any feedback at all, usually because they are so “busy.”   It’s no wonder why HR professionals and executives alike regularly bemoan the state of their performance management process.  So it seems that the only people that like how performance management is practiced at many companies are those slackers who aren’t being appropriately addressed …

At what cost? Employee underperformance is at epidemic proportions in some companies.  On average, U.S. managers waste 34 days per year dealing with underperformance.  Tolerated underperformance is also a leading reason top performers, who have to work harder to cover the slack, leave for greener pastures.  Eventually this underperformance affects customers and that of course affects the top and bottom line.  Don’t believe me, think of how frustrated you are as a customer when you’re at the hands of an underperforming employee.  How does that employee’s behavior affect your future buying patterns? 

The Cure.  Fortunately the cure for poor performance management is simple to understand and it doesn’t hurt.  And to be clear, the problem isn’t with whatever appraisal form you use. I’ve never seen an appraisal form that makes up for poor hiring, unclear expectations, infrequent or non-existent 1:1 meetings with employees, poor managers, poor execution,  and so on.  More on the form in next week’s article.

First, most employee performance problems are really hiring problems.  We regularly hire people that don’t fit our culture and then we waste valuable time trying to “fix” them.  I heard it put once, you’re hired [too quickly] for what you know and fired [too slowly] for who you are.  The cure: only hire people that fit your culture.   At this point I normally see executive eye rolling when I speak on this subject.  I realize that “defining your culture” seems like another “squishy” HR thing to a busy executive but the process really can be quite simple.  Minimally take your company values and find people that possess those values.  Of course this assumes we have values, and that we live those values daily.  Applicants either possess the values or they don’t.  This isn’t a 1 – 10 rating kind of thing.  If they posses the value, then take Gino Wickman’s advice in his book Traction and ask yourself for each applicant:  Do they Get it [the role], Want it [to work with you], and have the Capacity [knowledge, skill and capability] to do it (GWC).  I could add twenty more steps for defining your culture, and they probably won’t get you any farther than your values and GWC.

Second, there should be no disagreement over what successful performance looks like at your company. Instead of using out dated and/or generic job descriptions, consider setting clear expectations and measures for each employee that are directly or at least indirectly tied to organizational priorities.  So for example, a typical CFO job description might say “Assure optimum utilization of financial resources through sound forecasting and cash management.”  Alternatively, a success profile would say:

  • Reduce costs by 10% across-the-board to achieve EBIT objectives for the next fiscal year. 
  • Establish cross functional cost reduction teams within three months completing work in 12 months.
  • Within nine months, achieve a 15% price reduction in raw materials.
  • Develop a back-up sourcing plan to ensure cost reduction of $700,000 in year one.

Now imagine you’ve taken the time to establish annual performance objectives like that with each of your employees.  I realize it takes time for the manager.  But think how much easier it would be to measure performance, to deliver feedback.  Think of how much ownership the employee would have over the results.  And think of how much better your company performance would be if all employees were working a similar plan.  Unfortunately, without such specificity, the responsibility rests on each manager to subjectively determine if someone’s performance is satisfactory.  And that is a very uncomfortable place to be and is one explanation for why typical performance ratings don’t reflect reality.

So, hire people that fit your culture and provide crystal clear expectations of success for each employee and you’re well on the way to fixing your broken performance management system.  Tune in next week when I cover more secrets to fixing your broken system.

If you have employees in North Carolina and need help implementing or fine-tuning your Performance Management system, CAI can help with advice, information, tools, templates and more.

Create Core Values That Will Strengthen Your Business

Thursday, January 14th, 2016
Rick Washburn

Rick Washburn, A&R Manager

In today’s post, Advice & Resolution Manager Rick Washburn shares helpful tips for businesses looking to create core values that will put them on the track to creating a better and more intentional workplace.

A company’s personality is comprised of core values that guide the way employees’ think, feel, act, and perform. A company’s core values also directly impact the decisions and actions of the organization.  This can be an extremely powerful enabler or derailer of a company’s business  results.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Volkswagen blamed their damaging emissions crisis on a chain of mistakes and a “culture of tolerance for rule-breaking” that allowed deception to continue within the organization for many years.  Engineers deceitfully added software to their cars that would lower nitrogen oxide emissions in its diesel engines after realizing that there was no legal way that engines would pass U.S. exhaust standards.  Volkswagen’s internal investigation revealed that parts of their organization had a “mindset that tolerated breaches of the rules.”   The consequences have been devastating:

  • Over a 4% decline in global sales within 30 days of the disclosure
  • A $3.85B loss in the 3rd quarter
  • Significant loss of customer loyalty and trust
  • The enormous cost of recalling and repairing 11 million cars world-wide

Does your organization have core values that define your culture?  Do they reflect the current desired state and the fabric of the organization?  What does the organization do to reinforce, “walk the talk,” and keep the core values alive and relevant?  What could be worse than when a company says it values one thing and does another.

Here are a few tips that HR leaders can use to formalize or revise their company’s values:

  1. Involve others in the establishment of company values. Gather input from employees, customers, and other key organizational stakeholders.
  2. Management must commit to the values. Commitment to values starts at the top. Leaders must take the company values into consideration when they make important decisions and refer to them when they explain why these decisions were made. Values should not be abandoned even in the face of economic crisis.
  3. Set realistic expectations. Management should communicate to employees that everyone should strive to act consistently with the values but that it may not always be possible. For example, there may be times when holding a meeting on a weekend is unavoidable and an exception must be made.
  4. Continuously monitor how well the organization lives up to its values. Management should consciously make time to regularly reassess the authenticity of its actions vs. its values. They should also survey employees to find out if they feel the organization is living up to its values.

For more information on core values, culture, and creating a better workplace, please call our our Advice & Resolution team at at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746. If you have any further tips for formalizing company values, we’d love to hear them – so let us hear your suggestions in the comments!

Guarantee A Great Cultural Fit With These 5 Interview Questions

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

Business meeting.

Tom Sheehan, CAI’s HR Business Partner, shares the questions you should be asking your candidates to gauge whether they will be a strong cultural match for your business.

According to a study by Leadership IQ, 46% of newly-hired employees failed within 18 months, and contrary to popular belief only 11% failed due to technical skills.   The majority of the 20,000 new hires tracked in this study failed for interpersonal/fit issues.  As I once heard it put, “you’re hired for what you know and fired for who you are.”

As a result, it’s absolutely critical that all managers in your organization, especially anyone involved with interviewing potential employees, have a good grasp of your company’s culture and refer back to it throughout the hiring process.  HR leaders need to ensure that all leaders understand and can articulate the founding principles of your culture, and that they know how to effectively test for these principles when they are interviewing candidates. It’s also important to include culture-based questions in every interview round. Here are five interview questions that should help assess ‘culture fit:’

1. What was the most frustrating thing about working at your last company?

If the candidate expresses frustration about the amount of corporate email, daily meetings, or anything else that your company also has, you can probably assume this candidate isn’t a good fit for your company.

2. Describe your ideal work environment. What is the single most important factor that must be present for you to be successful at your job?

Personal work environment preferences can vary greatly. Some people like a set schedule while others require a great deal of scheduling flexibility. Some don’t mind travel while others do not want any travel at all. Some employees like working for a smaller more personal company while others prefer being part of a larger organization.

3. What is your preferred work style: alone or part of a team? If you could divide your work time, what percentage would you assign to each?

Most jobs are a mixture of working alone and working on a team. However, the mix can vary widely. Knowing if a person prefers working alone most of the time is critical in a job where most of the work is done as a team. The opposite is also true.

4. What characteristics would you ideally want to have in a boss? Describe the management style that brings out your best work.

Some job candidates have a strong preference in the kind of manager they like to work with and the ones they don’t. For example, trying to fit an autocratic manager with an employee who likes a democratic style can be a recipe for a difficult working relationship.

5. When working in a team, describe the role you most often play? How would your co-workers describe the role you play on the team?

Most people have a preferred role when it comes to being a part of a team. It might be as leader, a coordinator, or an implementer. It is good to know what their preference is and if they are able to adapt their approach.

For any further help with this subject, or any talent management issues, please don’t hesitate to contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Resolution team at 919‑878‑9222 or 336‑668‑7746.

What other interview questions have worked to assess a great cultural fit for you? Please let us know in the comments!

The Journey from Zero to Sixty: Part One

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

In today’s video blog, CAI’s Vice President of Membership, Doug Blizzard, begins his discussion about the journey small employers take, from hiring their first employee to their sixtieth. Doug starts by breaking the journey from zero to sixty into four phases, and will discuss the first phase, up to roughly 10 employees, in today’s video.

Doug explains that the key to this first phase is survival. For the CEO, this first phase will be the busiest time of their lives. From taking on hiring, firing, financing and managing, Doug succinctly described this phase as “chaotic.” In order to make it out of this most trying period, Doug suggests small businesses must:

  • Hire carefully: find employees who will fit the established culture and are willing to take on a range of responsibilities as the business grows
  • Solidify your work culture/policies: Create your first employee manual and other workplace documents as your near 10 employees
  • Lay out a clear plan for growth so that each employee understands his or her role and stake in the company’s ultimate success

Doug closes by reminding small businesses to stay abreast of state and federal regulations in order to protect themselves from harm. By following these steps of hiring the right people and laying out a clear plan for your company’s culture and future growth, Doug believes you will make it through the challenges of this first phase. But once you do, how will you handle the next challenge? Find out next time as Doug lets us in on the secrets to tackling Phase II.

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

How Company Culture Affects Business Success

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Body language expert Julie-Ann Amos says that there are several broad categories of business cultures, including industrial, conservative, casual and academic. Within these broad categories exist many different business culture variations. She points out that if your manner of dress, attitude and body language is “out of sync with expectations in your business culture, you will likely be perceived as less capable, less qualified, and maybe even less trustworthy in some cases.”

It is important to understand your organization’s culture and how to fit in with the setting. As an employee, your productivity, satisfaction and level of success within your organization is often linked with how well you function within the business culture.

In some organizations, success is achieved in groups, decisions are made by committees and responsibilities are shared. In other organizations, however, success is centered on an individual endeavor that contributes to the business as a whole, and people are encouraged to be “stars,” or “leaders of the pack.” Self-sufficient and independent individuals thrive in such an environment. If success is considered a team effort within your organization, you do not want to be perceived as overly independent or a loner, and you may need to adjust your attitudes and behavior accordingly.

Productivity in your organization may be connected with speediness in project completion, or with creativity, accuracy, customer satisfaction, sales or any number of other factors. Know the performance norms at your place of business, and work at surpassing them.

If you are a manager or owner, be sure to justly compensate your top performing and most productive employees. If the employees whose productivity is below par are allowed to continue their bad habits and are compensated the same as everyone else, it can create a negative company culture that can be costly.

High employee satisfaction leads to high company productivity, because satisfaction is linked with retention, recruitment and training costs, as well as individual employee productivity. On the other hand, a culture where employees are unhappy and fearful can lead to the hiding of mistakes, the withholding of new ideas, poor morale and low productivity.

Your company culture directly affects its success as well as its customer and employee satisfaction, for better or worse. Take the time to foster a successful culture at your place of business.

For additional information, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel team at (919) 878-9222 or (336) 668-7746.

Image Source: Mykl Roventine: Out & About

Components of a Successful Interview

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

The interview process – it’s what some refer to as the “make it or break it” moment of careers. The face-to-face time with potential employers is the one opportunity job seekers have to sell themselves, leave a lasting impression and give reason to why they are most fitting for the job at hand.

With most interviews, employers tend to ask the same question across all industries:  What questions, if any, do you have for us?

Don’t miss this opportunity. This is the last chance before the selection process to stand out among the competition. By not asking a question, or asking the wrong question, you could possibly close the doors altogether. Consider the following as you prepare for your next interview.

Responsibilities – You have seen the job description and are aware of the basic skills and responsibilities required for the current position. Take time during the interview to decipher the day-to-day expectations and uncover what is of most importance. Out of all the roles this position fulfills, what makes it vital to the long-term health of the company?

Management – To perform well, employees must comprehend the type of leadership the organization employs. Discuss the management styles within the given department and consider how they match with the kind of communication you work best under. Employers will respect your desire for clear communication and working under a team-oriented mindset.

Culture – A majority of interview discussions are centered on the required tasks and functions of a position, but take the opportunity to redirect the close of conversation toward corporate culture. People most often remain loyal to an organization because of its culture, and employers will be pleasantly surprised to know that you value the work environment just as much as the job you fulfill.

Vertical growth – Most people aren’t satisfied with performing the same job for the rest of their career. If your personality is one that is focused on growth, it’s important to inquire about the internal advancement process. Are there any formal processes in place and is internal advancement a common occurrence within the organization? Discussing advancement doesn’t mean you won’t be focused on the current position, but shows employers that you desire challenge, additional responsibility and a long-term relationship within the organization.

For additional information, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel team at (919) 878-9222 or (336) 668-7746.

Photo Source: TenSafeFrogs