Posts Tagged ‘Workplace Insights’

Career Development Seen as Critical for Talent Management

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

A recent survey from Hewitt Associates produced some eye-opening results on the importance of career development in recruiting and retaining employees.

The survey, conducted in March and April 2010, includes data from HR professionals at 193 large employers.  In a result that will be surprising to most, 30 percent of survey participants said that career development is more important to their employees than pay as a reward strategy with an additional 55 percent saying it was of equal importance.

Further, 77 percent say that career development is either “much more” or “more” important to their company’s talent strategy than it was five years ago.

Mysteriously, this awareness of the importance of career development has not led to companies strengthening their employee growth initiatives.  Of those surveyed, 72 percent said they do not have a defined workforce planning process that addresses critically needed capabilities.  And only 10 percent said they were satisfied with the current career development programs at their company.

In regards to career development philosophy, 62 percent said their employees are in charge of their own development with some guidance from their manager.  Further, 85 percent described employees’ perception of career development opportunities as “some” or “limited.”

The absence of career development programs offers your company an opportunity to differentiate itself as an employer.  Make career development a key part of your recruiting and retention strategy.  Start with the basics.  Here are five things you can do to promote career development in your organization:

1.  Openly and frequently communicate that your organization believes in career development

2. Highlight the different ways you are helping employees learn new skills or develop in their craft

3. Encourage employees to seek out and find career development opportunities

4. Be sure employees are trained in the basic skills that are necessary to be successful in their position

5.  Require managers to discuss career development with their employees and to create a plan for each employee

Career development is especially important to Generation X and Millennial employees.  A good way to encourage their career development is to set up a formal mentoring program in your organization to match a younger employee up with a more experienced employee.

Clearly the data from the survey shows that career development needs to be an integral part of your talent management strategy.  If you have questions about recruiting and retaining employees or career development plans, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Simon Blackley

Employers Bring Back Job Perks

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

Let’s be honest – everyone appreciates the perks that certain jobs can bring. At the peak of the economy job perks were as golden as the job itself. Perks like the famous end-of-year bonuses, continued education tuition assistance, lavish off-site holiday parties or discounts on day care costs and gym memberships are some of the big incentives companies have used to win employees and stand out among competitors.

In the midst of a game-changing economic recession, however, many companies had to place job perks on hold, with the focus no longer about all the extras, but about providing a reliable paycheck.

According to the research director of Forum for People Performance Jennifer Rosenzweig, job perks are beginning to return to the table. As the recession dwindles down and companies begin to see more positive profit margins, job perks are making a comeback.

The comeback of perks means that we are slowly, but surely digging ourselves out of this recession hole. It also means that to stay competitive and continue to attract talent, companies must get back in the perk game. Obviously salaries, benefits and internal relationships weigh heavily on an employee’s choice to stay long-term with an organization, but often it’s the small things that can make the difference. Job perks help preserve top talent, attract new talent, maintain company morale and build a reputation as a company that appreciates the hard work of all its employees.

What can you give your employees this holiday season? Maybe your budget won’t let you provide anything extravagant. Consider an in-office luncheon, a small holiday dinner, or handwritten thank you notes. It’s important to realize that this year’s gifts don’t have to be something grand.

Most employees understand the financial cutbacks and sacrifices that have recently been made. It’s the simple and small gestures that remind employees they are appreciated and valued, and that their efforts have not gone unnoticed.

For more information or to discuss related issues to job perks, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel team at (919) 878-9222 or (336) 668-7746.

Photo source: Kelvin Kay

Top 5 Ways to Recognize a Disgruntled Employee

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Everyone has seen or experienced a time of dissatisfaction at some point in their career – moments of questioning yourself, your role and your long-term position within the company. These fleeting moments are understandable, and are often expected. The problem is when the feelings linger and last longer than they should, and turn into a permanent state of mind.

Disgruntled employees can be seen as a lost opportunity for an organization. At some point, employees can become so frustrated that there seems to be no solution in sight. After taking the time to train, nurture and build employees into valued assets, the last thing any company wants is to have them walk out.

By recognizing displeased employees in advance, these problems can be avoided in the future. Consider the following signs as indicators of possible employee frustration:

Lack of motivation

For employees who once expressed a deep passion and drive for their roles, their company and their industry, a red flag should be raised when their enthusiasm and zeal have decreased. When employees stop trying and no longer give their best, it’s an obvious sign of discontent.

A breakdown of communication

If employees express their concerns but those feelings fall on deaf ears, there will always be a feeling of defeat. That lack of support can transition employees into shutting down, becoming distant and keeping their concerns to themselves, and the silence can be deadly.

A decline in employee performance

Are your employees’ results poor in comparison to the work they have produced in the past? A lack of pride and poor performance can be a sign of defeat, not just laziness. If people don’t feel their voices are being heard, or their growth is static, they may feel the extra effort is not worth it.

Responses from private employee surveys

These evaluations allow employees to speak openly and honestly about their personal and professional feelings towards management staff. By utilizing an anonymous tool like private surveys, companies can shed light on the true concerns internally because of the lack of judgment.

Communication between management and employees

Through regular employee discussions, updates and reviews, management can stay in tune with all staff members. This form of constant communication helps monitor and put a cap on in-house problems. Continuous discussion is probably one of the most effective ways to manage and prevent frustration from building up.

Communicate before it’s too late. Keep your eyes open. Don’t become complacent. Recognize that an essential role you play as part of the management team is to listen. Listen to what is being said, and what is not. You can avoid a percentage of the problems just by making yourself more aware of the day-to-day activities, emotions and actions that take place with your employees.

For information on how to prevent employees from becoming disgruntled or on how to turn around already disgruntled employees, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel team at (919) 878-9222 or (336) 668-7746.

Photo source: Peter Alfred

Importance of Background Checks Continues to Rise

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

A recent survey of more than 600 HR professionals by EmployeeScreenIQ reveals that employers are emphasizing the need for pre-hire background checks more than they ever have.

Specifically, 70 percent of those surveyed reported that background screening has become more important in recent years because of a strong desire to reduce the risk of making a costly hiring mistake, changes in government regulations and fears that the poor economy will tempt candidates to falsify their documentation in order to obtain a position. A large majority of the companies surveyed (92 percent) regularly conduct background checks.

Although there are many different types of screening services, the list below includes the checks deemed as mandatory by the survey participants. Those responding indicated these services are used on all jobs within their organization:

  • County Criminal Records Checks:     73%
  • Employment Verifications:                 68%
  • National Criminal Record Database:  60%
  • Substance Abuse Screening:               49%
  • Education Verifications:                     42%
  • E-Verify (Federal Government):        32%.

Three other trends were identified from the survey results:

  1. The percentage of employers who mandate background screening will continue to grow, as a third of those surveyed who did not currently conduct checks indicated they plan to do so within the next six months.
  2. Credit screening is on the decline, used by only 15 percent of those surveyed.  The economy has created many credit problems for candidates, and credit worthiness is often not criteria for job performance and may be alleged to be a discriminatory selection practice under EEO laws.
  3. A majority of employers felt social networking sites did not provide useful information that could be used in employee screening.

Organizations that are utilizing backgrounds checks to screen candidates need to ensure that they are conducting high quality checks or are using a high quality third party to conduct the checks on their behalf. CAI offers Background Checking services to help you uncover everything you need to know about your employment candidates.  For more information, go to or call us at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Klearchos Guide to the Galaxy

Five Things Employers Need to Know about Immigration Law and I-9’s

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Bernhard Mueller, immigration attorney with the Ogletree Deakins Law Firm, presented his “Immigration Law and I-9 Update” to CAI Members at our free, August, members-only Ask the Expert programs.

Here are some of the key points Mueller made during these sessions:

1. Employers who have constructive knowledge that an employee is not authorized to work, but nonetheless continue to allow the employee to work, are subject to fines. Examples of constructive knowledge are:

a. failure to complete an I-9 form for an employee

b. failure of the employer to ensure that Section 1 is properly completed and signed

c. failure of the employer to sign the I-9

d. failure to re-verify employment authorization after it expires

e. inconsistencies, such as an employee who checked the Permanent Resident box in Section 1 but subsequently asks the employer to sponsor him/her

2. Although employers are not required to do I-9’s for contractors, they have a duty to ensure to the best of their ability that contractors are legally authorized to work. The recommended practice is to include the following in the contracting agreement:

a. a statement that your company is committed to compliance with all federal and state employment laws, including hiring only employees authorized to work in the United States, and that you expect the contractor to comply as well

b. that you reserve the right to inspect the I-9’s of contracted workers that are supplied to you at any time

c. an indemnification clause

3. Employers who hire out-of-state employees (sales employees, construction, etc.) where there is no company representative to handle the I-9 process may contract with someone to complete I-9’s on their behalf, such as a notary public. (Note: Texas does not allow notaries to perform this service.) The employer should ensure that the contractor is knowledgeable of the legal requirements and appropriate procedures for I-9 completion since the employer is ultimately responsible.

4. The I-9 form cannot be completed until a job offer is made and accepted. Because the I-9 requires date of birth and identifies whether the person is a U.S. citizen or alien, it could be a source of potential discrimination charges if an applicant were required to complete it pre-offer and then not hired.

5. It is fraud if someone other than the employee fills in Section 1 but does not provide the required information and a signature in the Preparer and/or Translator Certification box, or if HR or a company representative fills in missing information in Section 1 for the employee.

If you have questions about immigration law and I-9s, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: O. Cosma

HR Failures: Top 8 Mistakes to Avoid

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

The HR department of any company plays a vital role in the day-to-day functionality of the organization. To have a company that runs smoothly, demonstrates value to its employees and continuously improves upon its performance, there are critical mistakes you want to avoid.

1. Not having an employee handbook.

Effective employee handbooks are a necessity to operating a successful company by outlining all responsibilities, expectations and company policies in a clearly defined and easily accessed manner.

2. Ineffective documentation practices and procedures.

A well-organized documentation process is the foundation to any HR department. Whether you’re examining vacation records, employee performance levels, or compensation packages, it becomes impossible to measure efficiency without having a tracking system in place.

3. Not keeping up with your competition.

Be conscious of your competitors. What kinds of salaries and benefits are they offering and how do they compare to yours? Yes, the hiring process is more than what you financially offer individuals, but don’t underestimate its importance. Consider potential incentives or perks you can bring to the table to demonstrate the value you place on your employees.

4. Overlooking the individual strengths of your employees.

Recognizing the individual strengths within a company benefits all parties involved. This acknowledgement provides employees with satisfaction, demonstrates their worth and allows companies to build stronger organizations by highlighting their key players.

5. Not addressing employee performance.

You never want to get to the point where mediocre performance is accepted. By having regular evaluations management can effectively monitor employee performance levels and address potential concerns before problems arise.

6. Lack of staff training.

Find opportunities to continuously educate and train your staff. Seeking advice from those outside of your organization provides a new perspective and constantly keeps you ahead of the curve.

7. Failing to uphold company standards.

Whether it’s a relaxed dress code or virtual offices, each company has something that makes them unique, but the company standards are still the core of the organization. You aren’t allowed to slack off because you work virtually, and just because the dress code is relaxed, it doesn’t mean your employees shouldn’t look polished. Employees who do not observe company standards should be reminded to follow them in the future unless they want to face serious consequences.

8. Forgetting to evaluate management performances.

Assessing management performance is an easy way to monitor relationships within the company, evaluate employee satisfaction and make certain all employees’ voices are being heard.

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

Photo Source: fireflythegreat

HR Success – Krispy Kreme

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Besides being a place where you can get “Hot Doughnuts Now,” Krispy Kreme is home to an innovative health care program that earned them a 2010 CAI Ovation Award in the large employer category (companies with 500 or more team members).

The Winston-Salem firm started promoting a wellness program for its team members in 2004 as medical claims were climbing and negatively impacting their health insurance renewals. Five years later, Krispy Kreme elevated the program by adding biometrics (the science and technology of measuring and statistically analyzing biological data), a Health Risk Assessment and a requirement for team members to follow their individualized Action Plans.

The action plans in 2009 advised each participant what his or her personal actions should be within the next 3, 6, 9 and 12 months. These actions were determined based on the individual’s self reported behaviors and lifestyles on the Health Risk Assessment, as well as the actual scores from their biometric screening.

For example, one action plan might call for a team member to visit his or her personal physician for follow-up tests if their biometrics indicated a possible high risk. If someone was considered healthy and a low risk, their action plan may only be their annual physical and/or age appropriate screenings within 12 months.

Team members can complete the risk assessments on their work time, and they may participate in a Health Coach call during work hours. This is because Krispy Kreme does not want any barriers to participation in their wellness program, or any excuses not to take part in it either.

Those who completed the requirements received what Krispy Kreme described as a very attractive monthly wellness credit. More importantly, the company felt strongly it was able to avoid possible high dollar medical claims through an early detection of conditions in several team members with this revised program.

Roughly 33 percent of Krispy Kreme’s covered team members participated in the program in 2009. As a result, their health insurance renewal rose only 0.8 percent last year, versus the national average of 18 percent.

The Health Risk Assessment for 2009 was paper only. With a wellness vendor change in 2010, Krispy Kreme offered its team members the convenience of online and telephonic risk assessments as well. When the company performed the health screenings again this year, they found significant aggregate improvement on most all of the tests.

The willingness of Krispy Kreme to pursue more options for its health plan for team members, as well as make it as accessible as possible for all to participate, shows its commitment and dedication to making what was already a successful endeavor better for everyone involved. Their Happy and Healthy Wellness program is a model that other companies should consider emulating if they are serious about wanting team members on the job in the best physical condition while at the same time saving money on health care costs.

Photo Source: Wikimedia – Creative Commons

CAI recognizes North Carolina companies for innovative HR/People solutions with Ovation Awards during its annual HR Management Conference in February.  If you’d like to be considered please send a 2-3 paragraph description of your program to  The description should summarize the business need, describe how the solution was implemented, and highlight the measurable and/or forecasted business results.

Healthcare Reform: Six Critical Questions Employers Need to Answer

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Last week I wrote about the many consequences of healthcare reform based on the prognostications of medical industry observers.  In this post I’ll share what I expect to happen with healthcare reform and six questions which I think employers need to start finding the answers.

My Prediction

Healthcare reform is so big and far reaching that no one can accurately predict the end result.  The literal language of a new law is never the last word.  Regulators are working hard to add meat to the bones.

Take this to the bank: your renewal and strategy meetings with plan advisors will be 50 to 80 percent different in coming years, and it will include tax, penalty, network, employee household income, essential coverage and plan viability issues you have never confronted.  I believe you can count on rules making it more attractive for some employers to pay the fine and to turn a plan over to the Exchanges, and to make the single-payer option more attractive (or necessary) to the public in future years.

An example is the recently issued rule defining “Grandfathered Plans,” making it unlikely any plan can meet the standard for very long.  Whether this is good or bad is less important than the effect on your own planning process.  Will the Exchanges become viable alternatives accepted by employees as substitutes for legitimate, mainstream employer plans?

I believe we will eventually face bifurcated healthcare: one for most of us defined by the “essential coverage” rules and offered increasingly by Exchanges; and one for some of us defined by supplemental plans providing better access to physicians and non-baseline services.

How to Prepare

An important role for company executives is to ensure a strategy for marketplace competitiveness into the future.  Longer-term thinking will be rewarded.  Begin seeking answers to these questions:

1) Will employer-sponsored healthcare remain a key part of your total rewards plan into the future?  What are the alternatives?

2)  Is it worth the contortions to remain grandfathered if you are likely to lose that status soon?

3) Will new supplemental benefits strategies, or even wage supplements in lieu of coverage, become the differentiator?

4)  If predications of a de facto single payer system come true in the medium term, what is the best transition plan for your workplace?

5) Does your size affect your decision-making?

6)  Is your benefits consultant up to the challenge of teaching you and considering all options and business needs? Put them to the test now and stay informed.

Healthcare reform is one of the major themes to be covered at CAI’s 2010 Compensation and Benefits Conference on Sept. 16-17 in Raleigh.  Please visit for additional information.

Photo Source: Valerie Everett

Measuring the Impact of the HIRE Act

Monday, July 26th, 2010

It has been four months since President Obama signed the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act, aimed at presenting hiring incentives to re-establish jobs lost throughout the recent recession. The HIRE Act focuses on two main incentives – the payroll tax relief and the worker retention tax credit – that reward your company for hiring workers quickly and keeping these employees for a long time, while offering you a chance to avoid the 6.2 percent Social Security tax. But is it really meeting its goals? So far, it’s hard to judge.

North Carolina businessman Andy Warlick, president and chief executive of Parkdale Mills in Gastonia, claims he recently hired 30 workers eligible for the HIRE Act tax exemptions, but he acknowledged he could not say the benefit was actually responsible for his decision to expand his staff, according to a New York Times blog.  He said he does appreciate claiming the credit because it lowers his operating costs and encourages him to keep his operations in America.

The Treasury department has credited 4.5 million workers hired due to the act and estimated savings to employers so far to be at $8 billion. However, Treasury officials are having a challenging time determining whether the tax credit actually induces hiring, rather than just being claimed for people who would have gotten jobs anyway. It also believes the program is not widely known to businesses eligible to participate in it.

If you are interested in finding out if and how your company is eligible to use this credit, read our previous blog on “HIRE Act Can Save Employers Money This Year.”  The program may be extended into the next year, but that plan will have to be approved by Congress, and the results from this year could determine whether that will become a reality.

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

Photo Source: AMagill

Future Effects of Healthcare Reform

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

We are covered in webinars and seminars about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  I attended several in recent weeks, and the most common answer to audience questions was “We don’t know yet.”  True  as that may be only months after passage, employers will need to make key decisions soon.  Consider these “big picture” predictions by medical industry observers as you think about the future of your group health plan:

  • Higher healthcare costs for employers and most patients, well beyond the additional risk from new enrollees
  • Better access for the previously uninsured with new access impediments for the insured
  • More employers will convert employees to part time to avoid mandates . . .
  • . . .  but watch for regulations complicating the exclusion of part-time workers from plans (remember, the goal is 100% coverage)
  • Much improved data collection and sharing; better use of evidence-based medicine
  • Higher medical equipment and drug costs
  • A rise in concierge medicine, private pay and direct reimbursement plans
  • Breaches in security of electronic personal health data housed in the “cloud”
  • Increased taxes from value added/national sales taxes and such
  • More outcome-based payment schedules
  • Penalties to hospitals for readmissions and hospital-acquired illnesses
  • Increased financial stress at community hospitals
  • “The end of self-insurance” in small- and medium-sized plans due to blunting or deleting its advantages over time
  • Increased subsidization of Exchanges
  • Eventual domination of Insurance Exchanges and Medicare; impractical to remain a “grandfathered” plan under new rules
  • Application of IRC Section 105(h) to non-grandfathered insured plans (discrimination testing and daily excise taxes) making it difficult to exclude categories of full-time employees
  • Micro-networks of physicians providing deeper discounts and limited choices
  • Fewer viable commercial domestic providers over time; more medical tourism overseas
  • Commoditization of healthcare and diminished professional status/pay for office-based physicians
  • Greater use of mid-level practitioners such as Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners

Sure, some of these predictions will turn out wrong and others will come into play.  We are taking today’s loose and complex system of doctors, insurers, pharmaceutical and equipment makers, hospitals, network pricing secrecy, etc. and adding significant central direction, data, light-of-day, penalties, incentives, limitations, minimum plan standards, new taxes and regulations.  Yes, the old loose system became unaffordable, but is the regulated one more efficient?  No one ever lost money betting on unintended consequences from large regulatory programs, so let’s hope some of them are good!

Next week I will share my predictions for healthcare reform and some advice for employers on how to prepare.

Note: I am grateful to all the seminar speakers and area professionals for their help, including Todd Yates of Hill, Chesson & Woody, Joel Daniel of Ogletree Deakins and Dr. David Marcinko.

Photo Source: Oldmaison