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Wow, the 2014 NC-SHRM conference was absolutely AWESOME to say the least.  So much was offered to the HR professionals who attended the conference:  Great stuff all around including networking and FUN!  You can review some of the fun by going to Facebook ( or Twitter at #NCSHRM14. 

As I reflect back on the conference I think of all the wonderful sessions that were afforded to the attendees that will add tremendous value to them individually as HR professionals, collectively among their colleagues as well as to the employees and organization they serve.  From my observation, the tone of the conference was not only to discuss the many avenues and resources available to HR professionals to support their functional role but there was so much information available to add value to the career of the HR professional as well.  The sessions hit on the economy, the dynamics of varying workplaces and industries as well as CHANGE!  We know that word very well.  Keeping up with change is one of our greatest challenges.

The sessions I attended were exceptional!  From career coaching to diversity and inclusion, we walked away with an unlimited amount of resources plus made additional contacts to have as resources in the future.
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Flu season is quickly approaching. According to the CDC, flu outbreaks can begin as early as October each year. Have you started your communications campaign to educate your employees about the key facts of the flu, the flu vaccine and good health habits to help stop the spread of germs such as the flu? Even if your company didn't offer on-site flu clinics, you can still engage your employees by sending e-mails about how they can protect themselves, their families and co-workers against this serious disease. The Centers for Disease Control ( and Prevention and websites have a lot of helpful information and resources such as flyers to create awareness among your staff.

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As with just about every aspect of performance management, opinions are divided on the question of whether managers should focus on the performance or the engagement level of their people.

Those on the performance side of the debate say that performance-oriented managers drive bottom-line benefits such as profitability, market share and competitive dominance by helping their people achieve specific performance goals and remain closely aligned to the company’s/department’s objectives. Those on the engagement side of the debate say that engagement-focused managers help reduce costly turnover and increase employee productivity and loyalty by sustaining high levels of employee motivation and discretionary effort.

Both sides make sense. So what’s the right choice?

Well, a Gallup survey of more than 8,000 employees shows that we really shouldn’t make a choice at all. The best managers focus on both performance and engagement.
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Despite modest growth in health premiums, deductibles for group plans have risen 47 percent since 2009.
That hike needs to be explained in open enrollment communications. 

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I recently attended a new product roll out put on by a national insurance company and the "Big Deal" was a "Private Exchange!" One agent sitting next to me commented "Well that's planting roses in the manure! 

"Planting roses in the manure", "Lipstick on a pig", a "Hog in fancy Armor", "New hairstyle, same abuser" are all terms that describe the process of dressing up some old or less attractive product to be more acceptable. They are like the elaborate hand gestures a magician uses so you think you saw magic.

"Private Exchanges" is a recent term for a marketing process to sell insurance to the American buying public and compete with the Federal Exchange called the "Marketplace". But what is behind that fancy brocade curtain?

All insurance depends on spreading risk across a large population of people who may not use it so we can pay the claims for those who do use it. For decades,  medical insurance companies have used "risk pooling" to group similar risks together so they can provide affordable coverage to their clients. In many cases a process called "Multiple Employer Trust" was used to offer medical coverage to employer groups. These were all risk spreading methods. In addition, multiple plans were offered in the same employer to provide employee choice.

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What offends people--as demonstrated by recent objections to the Washington Redskins name--is subject to change. That's as true with the images on the T-shirts people wear to work as with the pennants they hang in their cubicles.
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Social Media Policies by now are well in effect at most companies. But how has your company specifically decided on how to effectively manage social media in the workplace?

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Are private health exchanges the wave of the future? Some benefit managers say yes; others remain skeptical.

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This week we are studying the impact of social media.  How has social media had a positive impact on your workplace?
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Despite much talk about its importance, the extent of pay differentiation between "the best" and "the rest" has actually been declining, a Towers Watson survey shows.

A cautionary finding: A third of employers pay bonuses for workers who don’t meet expectations. That would seem to be treating variable pay as an entitlement rather than a motivator -- not an effective compensation strategy.

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Extrovert or Extravert, an outgoing, socially confident person.The original spelling extravert is now rare in general use but is found in technical use in psychology. Human Resource Managers should hire extraverts as leaders or extraverts should be given preference to fill the leadership positions because according to Big Five Model of Personality (OCEAN), Extraversion is one of the key personality factor. Similarly, a meta analysis of 73 studies revealed a strong relationship between personality and leadership proposed by Judge, Bono, Ilies, & Gerhardt in 2002, and they considered extraversion at the top in comparison to other personality factors of Big Five Model. Human Resource Managers should also consider the job role and situation to link the personality with the situation at the time of hiring. Because, leadership outcome also depends on the style of leadership and tasks, organizational unit, business sector, team dynamics as per the findings of Fiedler Contingency Model and House’s Path-Goal Theory.

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My manager died by suicide in 1999.  Her death was a life-changing event for me.  It was not, however, my first experience with the subject of suicide in the workplace.

I first found myself talking with a suicidal employee while on vacation with my husband in South Padre Island, Texas. I took a call from an HR coworker, David, a young man with progressive ideas and the energy to make things happen. He had recently been asked to develop and manage the bank's work/life programs. He was enthusiastic about the opportunity. His wife had just given birth to their first child after several years of marriage. David embraced being a role model for men trying to balance the responsibilities of fatherhood with the demands of work.

David and I had developed a great rapport at work. Perhaps it was the fact that we were working closely on the work/life programs or that we were both from Texas. Whatever led to it, I had become something of a confidant to the younger man. I knew that the birth of his son had caused a major lifestyle adjustment for David and his wife. They had been married for several years without children and had grown accustomed to their freedom. They had hobbies, ate out at nice restaurants several nights a week, traveled often and enjoyed a footloose and free lifestyle. The birth of their son dramatically changed things, much more than either of them had expected.

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Social media tools are often used to generate new, creative, innovative ideas/solutions for HR problems (or direct business issues). Are you aware of any on-of-a-kind ideas (or solutions) that came from social media collaboration?


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In my line of work I'm very familiar with audits. In most however the audits to which I'm most exposed to are those relating to compliance. This week we however were to take a look at a different type of audit, that of a communications audit.

Do you find the use of  SWOT analysis of your communications to be effective? Why or why not?

Is there any other type of analysis tool that you would recommend when doing an audit?

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This week in my class we are studying communication audits.  The most useful audit for me is the critical issue audit.  We perform safety review boards after every accident/incident.  This has helped reduce accidents.  

How has communication audits contributed to the success of your organization?
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It is not uncommon for a number of computer keyboard users – whom after extended periods of time – to experience tired hands that might even become weak or begin to ache if something more ergonomically is not done to provide added keyboarding support for this area.  It is my understanding that these symptoms (aches and weakness) tends to be the beginning of carpal tunnel syndrome.  Unless hand / finger support is worn, chances are the aches / weakness will not only continue, but get worse.  

A number of years ago, I began feeling described symptoms and came up with an idea that is working for me to date.  Prior to my idea, however, I scoured the Internet and tried a number of ergonomic gloves and other products, without success.  None provided the flexibility in ease-of touch and feel required when using a keyboard.  My thoughts, I should at least make efforts to take my concept to market:  hence, the reason for the following survey request.    

Do you experience aches or weakness in your hands/fingers?  If yes, p

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In 2015, we are required to meet affordability requirements under Patient Affordable Care.  Employee's portion of insurance premium cannot exceed 9.56 of income based on W-2 wages.  In planning for 2015, what year's W-2 do we base this on -- 2014 or 2013?  We won't know what the W-2 earnings are for 2014 until sometime in January, which could make it difficult for planning and budgeting.  

Does anyone know?   
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Labor accomplished its $15 minimum wage objective earlier this year in Seattle, and now is seeking the same goal elsewhere.
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As a percent of payroll spending, variable pay hit new heights in 2014, while salary increase budgets barely budged.

In fact, “Variable pay budgets and spending have nearly doubled in the last 20 years, subsequently emerging as the pay-for-performance vehicle of choice now and for the foreseeable future,” says Ken Abosch, compensation, strategy and market development leader at Aon Hewitt.

“Historically unions have been resistant to performance-based reward approaches because they require management discretion,” adds Abosch. “To see that variable pay spending on union employees is tracking with other hourly employees reflects a dramatic change in thinking in union leadership.” 

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Motivation is important in all aspects of our relationships and employment but today I want to talk  specifically  about financial motivation.

Let's just say a salesperson comes to you and says "We will give you your payroll services for free." All you have to do is make them your insurance agent!

Or how about "We will give you a new printer if you will agree to a multi year contract and to buy all of your supplies from us!"

Each of these may in fact be a very good deal but you need to look at motivation and how they get paid. Never forget money into the business must always exceed money going out. So if something is offered for free then something else of value may be overpriced to make up for the  financial shortfall. Even Walmart knows this equation when they run a "Loss Leader".

Let's look at the payroll deal. They agree to manage all of your payroll (that you currently pay $6.00 per employee per month for)  at no cost to you. You know that payroll services might well be one of the  most competitive industries you can find. That means profit margins are already thin. To do this they only want to become your insurance agent.

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