Engaging Employees through Performance Evaluation Communication

Dice of LearningAs a practitioner of labor and employment law, I understand the benefits of engaging employees with both written and verbal feedback to address goals, performance, expectations and behavior. “Put it in writing” is the advice I provide to my clients for addressing both positive and negative performance and behaviors.  As an attorney, my goal is train clients to engage employees on an on-going basis so that they will have high performance employees or be in a position to terminate an employee with confidence that they have the documentary evidence necessary to defend a claim of discrimination, retaliation, or wrongful discharge.  As a manager, I realize that taking my own advice is not always easy. 

 Documentation, especially the dreaded “write-up” or “Corrective Action” carries a stigma in many corporate cultures.  As managers we must eliminate the stigma and bring our corporate culture to the point where written feedback and performance (and behavior) management is the norm.  Even quality employees who consistently perform need feedback.  Business is about the bottom line, and managers have a duty to manage employees to serve the bottom line in a way that benefits everyone.

 Using standardized forms is one way to manage performance and behavior; however, as the modern workplace has evolved, more creative and engaging forms of performance management have been created. An example of one of these employee engagement/performance management tools is the Performance Management System© by BullseyeEvaluation®.  Regardless of the tool you select, engage your employees to improve both individual and company performance!

Written by William J. (Bill) Edwards, Director of  SCI Legal Services

Creating a High Performance Team

Choosing TalentA high performance work team is something we all want to have or be a part of. As a manager, you have to understand and guide your group through the developmental phases of a team in order to achieve high performance. Some managers feel if they put a group of people together they will automatically start to function as a team; that is far from the truth.  First, the team needs to have a common purpose as well as mutual goals for success.  Then, you should select members with competencies that complement the skills and abilities of other members in the group during the recruiting process.  Once this is completed, then the real fun begins.

Phase 1: As you assemble this group of people together, the organizational structure also begins to take shape. This phase is called the Forming Phase. Ambiguity is commonplace during this phase because everything is new and everyone is trying to understand their role. Members of the group may have more questions than you have answers about the group’s purpose, structure and leadership.

Phase 2: The next phase of development is the Storming Phase which is characterized by intragroup conflict. At this phase, members have accepted the existence of the team but struggle to relinquish their individuality. A power struggle for leadership of the team can also emerge among members.  Although this phase is plagued by conflict, it is necessary when closely monitored as it allows Members the opportunity to work through problems and clarify their role in the organization. Some teams fail because they never get out of the storming phase; even members who once believed in the group goals may be derailed by the lack of team support and unity.  Success comes when the members understand their position and know what their contribution to the goals will be.

Phase 3: Gradually, the team moves into a Norming Phase as the hierarchical structure begins to form. Team members become comfortable with each other and start to leverage each other’s strengths. The group develops cohesion with a team mentality in lieu of individual perspective.  At times when confronted by an obstacle, members may revert to storming stage behaviors.

Phase 4: Productivity peaks during the Performance Phase as a result of the group’s interdependence and problem solving skills. This phase is characterized by high group morale and intense group loyalty which brings a sense of comfort and confidence to the team.  At this stage, the team can improve the efficiency of the processes they deliver and reduce waste.   

The question you may ask, does the team stay at this high performance phase from then on? The answer is, it depends!  If the purpose and goals change you might need different members with different skills. When there is high turnover in the organization,  the team starts back at phase one and has to progress through each phase before getting back to a point of high performance.  A good manager needs to think of themselves as a facilitator, constantly taking the pulse of the team and guiding the team through the phases to ensure they reach the high performance level. Good luck and Happy team building!  

Written by Jake Hardin, Director of SCI Tampa Operations

Posted July 12, 2013 by scicompanies in Employment Law

Compliance with California Assembly Bill 1744 for Temporary Service Providers

california California Assembly Bill 1744 (AB 1744) takes effect on July 1st 2013. AB 1744 outlines new requirements for existing California Labor Code Section 226(a) and Section 2810.5 for temporary service providers. According to this bill, a temporary service provider is defined as an employing unit that contracts with clients or customers to supply workers to perform services for the clients or customers, such as a staffing agency.

 AB 1744 amends Section 226(a) by requiring temporary service providers to present employees with paystubs or wage statements that include the rate of pay and the total hours worked.

Labor Code Section 226(a)
  • Gross wages earned;
  • Total hours worked by the employee, except for any employee whose compensation is solely based on a salary and who is exempt from overtime ;
  • The number of piece-rate units earned and any applicable piece rate if the employee is paid on a piece-rate basis;
  • All deductions, provided that all deductions made on written orders of the employer may be aggregated and shown as a one line item;
  • Net wages earned;
  • The inclusive dates of the period for which the employee is paid;
  • The name of the employee and only the last four digits of his or her social security number or  an employee identification number other than a social security number;
  • The name and address of the employer, the name and address of  the legal entity that secured the services of the employer;
  • All applicable hourly rates in effect during the pay period and the corresponding number of hours worked at each hourly rate by the employee; and
  • For the temporary services employer, the rate of pay and the total hours worked for each temporary services assignment.  (Additional Amendments of AB 1744)

AB 1744 amends Section 2810.5 by requiring temporary service providers to include additional employment-related information in the written notice provided to employees at the time of hire. The California: Notice to Employee form can be used to capture the necessary information required to obtain compliance with AB 1744.   

Labor Code Section 2810.5
  • The rate or rates of pay and basis thereof, whether paid by the hour, shift, day, week, salary, piece, commission, or otherwise, including any rates for overtime, applicable;
  • Allowances, if any, claimed as part of the minimum wage, including meal or lodging allowances;
  • The regular payday designated by the employer in accordance with the requirements of this code;
  • The name of the employer, including any “doing business as” names used by the employer;
  • The physical address of the employer’s main office or principal place of business, and a mailing address, if different;
  • The telephone number of the employer;
  • The name, address, and telephone number of the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier;
  • Any other information the Labor Commissioner deems material and necessary; and
  • For temporary services employers, the notice must also include the name, the physical address of the main office, the mailing address if different from the physical address of the main office, and the telephone number of the legal entity for whom the employee will perform work. (Additional Amendments of AB 1744)  

E-Verify Compliance: Final Phase 2013

map of U.S.Georgia and North Carolina will implement the final phase of their respective E-verify programs.

Effective July 1st, 2013, all private employers in Georgia with 11 or more employees are required to use E-verify to confirm employment eligibility for New Hires. According to Georgia law, HB 87, employers found in violation will be subject to imprisonment up to 12 months and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

 Likewise, North Carolina employers with 25 or more employees must verify employment using E-verify. For the first violation, the North Carolina Commissioner will order the employer to file a signed sworn affidavit within three business days stating that the employer has requested a verification of work authorization through E-verify. Failure to submit the affidavit may result in a fine of $10,000. For the second violation, the employer is required to pay a civil penalty of $1,000, regardless of the number of employees in violation. On the third violation, the employer is required to pay $2,000 for each employed, unauthorized alien in violation.

 E-verify Implementation Timeframe


  • Effective 01/01/12: Mandatory participation for private employers with 500 or more employees.
  • Effective 07/01/12: Mandatory participation for private employers with 100-499 employees.
  • Effective 07/01/13: Mandatory participation for private employers with 11-99 employees.

 North Carolina

  • Effective 10/01/12: Mandatory participation for employers with 500 or more employees.
  • Effective 01/01/13: Mandatory participation for employers with 100-499 employees.
  • Effective 07/01/13: Mandatory participation for employers with 25-99 employees.

 What is E-Verify?

E-Verify is an Internet-based system operated by the Federal government that allows participating employers to verify electronically the employment eligibility of their newly hired employees. E-Verify is operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in partnership with the Social Security Administration (SSA) via the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.

To use E-Verify, an employer is required to register online and accept the electronic Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which specifies the responsibilities of the SSA, USCIS and the employer. E-Verify also features a new Photo Screening Tool, which will allow an employer to validate the photo on each new hire’s Employment Authorization Document (EAD) or Permanent Resident Card (“Green Card”) against the images stored in DHS immigration databases.

Mandatory E-verify Compliance for Private Employers (2013)


  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Georgia
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi  
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Utah

Stop the Violence: How to Prevent Workplace Violence

workplace violenceThe recent acts of violence that transpired in Newtown, Connecticut and during the Boston Marathon shed light on the reality that violence can strike at any time, on any occasion. These tragic events allow us to reflect on the current safety precautions in place to ensure similar situations do not occur. As a result, many employers are seeking measures to safeguard the workplace from violence.

Nearly two million American workers are victims of workplace violence each year. Workplace violence is defined as any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. The spectrum for what is considered violent behavior in the workplace ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide.

 Most workplace violence incidents can be categorized into one of the four types.

Criminal Intent: Perpetrator does not have a relationship with the business or its employees. Generally, the motive for this type of violence is robbery, shoplifting and trespassing. A vast majority of workplace homicides (85%) fall into this category.

Customer or Client: Perpetrator is a customer or a client who becomes violent during the course of business. Patients, students, vendors and inmates are included in this category. Patient caregivers are often victims of this type of violence.

Worker-to-Worker: Perpetrator is an employee or past employee who attacks another employee or former employee in the workplace. Worker-to-worker incidents account for approximately 7% of all workplace violence homicides. 

Personal Relationship: Perpetrator does not have a business relationship with the organization but has a personal relationship with the victim. This type of violence is typically related to domestic violence.

Employer’s Responsibility

Research indicates the risk of violence can escalate for certain employees depending on the nature of work performed. Employees, who work alone or in isolated areas, work with volatile, unstable people or exchange money with the public are at a higher risks to encounter violence at work. Furthermore, the time of day the employee works and location of work are also risk factors that contribute to higher rates of workplace violence. For example, employees who work late at night and in areas with high crimes are more likely to experience violence at work.

Despite the nature of work performed, time of day or location of work, employers are held responsible for providing a work environment free from violence. Under the General Duty Clause, outlined by OSHA, employers are required to provide a workplace “free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees”. The most effective way an employer can prevent workplace violence is through proactive measures to discourage threats before it occurs.  

Best Practices for Preventative Measures

Zero – Tolerance Policy

Implement a zero tolerance policy for workplace violence that covers employees, family members and associates of employees, clients, visitors, contractors, and vendors that come in contact with company personnel. 


Advocate reporting of violent acts regardless of the level of damage produced. Minor violent conflicts that are unaddressed can manifest into major issues. Sometimes intervening early in a conflict may result in a resolution before the problem gets out of control. The reporting process should maintain the confidentiality of the employee’s identity as to encourage individuals to speak out without the threat of retaliation. Reports should include information about the place, time, cause and type of incident as well as a list of all parties involved along with their statements.

Behaviors of Concern

Educate employees and management to detect behaviors of concern and report conflicts to the appropriate personnel. Behaviors of concern that suggest a potential problem include: 

  • Threats, frequent aggressive outbursts, or excessive displays of temper
  • Display of  an ominous fascination with weapons and/or references to weapons, violent media content, or violent events
  • Display of verbal abuse to co-workers, clients, visitors, contractors etc. 
  • Use of offensive jokes or comments about violent acts
  • Inability to handle criticism or socialize with others
  •  Use of excuses and lack of ownership for mistakes

Employee Assistance Program

The use of an Employee Assistance Program can assist to deter violent behavior. Employee Assistance Programs provide employees with a haven to discuss personal and professional struggles, or connect with third-party assistance programs such as anger management organizations.

Background Checks

Implementing a background check policy that is consistent for all members in the organization can pinpoint potential behaviors of concern. If applied, background checks must comply with federal and state regulations to allow applicants the opportunity to explain reasoning for the behavior in question.

Environmental Precautions

Safety measures including adjusting lighting, safeguarding entrances and exits and maintaining security hardware can help discourage “would-be” assailants. 


Most Common Violent Behaviors in the Workplace

Inappropriate Language (e.g., Vulgarity)
Verbal Abuse
Verbal Threats of Violence
Sexual Harassment

Source: SHRM: Workplace Violence Survey  

A Compelling Time for Topgrading: Managing Performance and Managing Your Budget

TopgradingLeading companies maintain their competitive advantage by hiring the best and brightest employees and then establishing a culture that focuses on advancing and retaining these “A” players. In his book Topgrading, Bradford D. Smart outlines the methodical approach to identify, select and develop top talent as a deliberate business strategy. When executed, this strategy allows companies to outperform the competition and thus impact the bottom line in a positive manner. If topgrading is an unarguable framework for business success, then there is no time like the present to reevaluate the talent pool and make sure that a company’s investment in human capital creates a positive return and enhances the overall success of the business.

There is nothing easy about topgrading!  In fact, Smart states that the structure and discipline needed to ensure that individuals gain and hold that talent edge is not for the “fainthearted.”  Thus, the systematic approach needs to flow from the CEO through all leadership and into every rank and file member that maintains value to the overall success of an organization.  Employees who are not performing value-added work should be evaluated through objective measures. The approach cannot be one that relies upon subjective evaluation. There must be clearly defined and measurable ways to identify the top performers. In addition, there must be opportunities to engage performers who have designated potential in meaningful learning and coaching opportunities to ensure that they reach their full potential.   

Organizations must develop and incorporate a systematic approach to talent acquisition and management.  This may require a complete overhaul of the current recruitment process as talent acquisition requires a comprehensive screening process that incorporates assessments and multiple levels of interviews to ensure applicants are obtained from reliable sources and candidates are screened with proficiency. All employees must be consistently evaluated using performance management tools that contain core and cultural competencies that clearly establish a base line of expectations regarding character, professionalism and job responsibility. Employees must be fully engaged in their own development and receive continuous constructive feedback from superiors and peers. Establishing a structure for increased engagement, leads to increased performance.  According to a 2010 Gallup Consulting analysis, companies with high levels of employee engagement have 3.9 times the Earnings Per Share (EPS) rate than similar industry groups with lower level employee engagement. This is yet another compelling reason to top grade and manage performance with diligence.

As a business owner, there is no time like the present to reevaluate your human capital. The largest budget line for any organization is salaries and benefits. The changing landscape of the economy and increasing governmental regulations should compel any organization to begin the journey to human resource optimization which remains as one of the greatest resources of competitive advantage. Employers should focus on reviewing the price of maintaining the status quo or assessing the performance level of every employee to ensure a positive return on investment. Increased spending is inevitable so ensuring that there is a return on this large investment is critical. Maintaining your competitive advantage is the reason a company stays in business.

Written by Greta Cairns, Director of SCI Atlanta Operations

Posted May 21, 2013 by scicompanies in Employment Law

Stop The E-Mails!

 mailBy: Eric Nazarian
Director of Client Technology Solutions

Most professionals will acknowledge that efficient use of time is a constant challenge in today’s corporate environment.  I recently identified my greatest opportunity for improvement in this area: Email Replies.  As a starting point, I spent several weeks logging the quantity of email responses and their corresponding time commitment (Note: Incoming emails were excluded as I can only control what I send).  It was, at times, a tedious process but I felt strongly that any and all short-term pain would yield long-term gain.

 The results were astounding… I was spending, on average, two hours per day replying to emails!  Worse yet, I deemed 80% of such replies were ineffective for a variety of reasons, the most common being the infamous re-reply which typically added another layer of complexity not identified in the original message (we technology folks commonly refer to this as “scope creep”).  Furthermore, when replying to a distribution group, the outcome can feel like getting singled out during a game of paint ball.

 I arrived at a simple yet effective methodology for governing my email responses: “Only reply when my expertise is absolutely required and my emotions are entirely under control”.  After two weeks, I had reduced my email responses by 75%.  That translated to nearly one full day per week (and one full week per month) of time to redeploy in a more productive manner!  The most immediate results I experienced were an overall reduction in stress and a greater desire to interact with my co-workers.

 It’s worth mentioning that reducing the number of email replies is not a “magic bullet” to increased time savings nor may it be an area you need or wish to address however I challenge you to personalize the concept: Find the area in which you spend the most unproductive time and address it immediately.  You might just unlock a wealth of time you never realized was available.

 Finally, the next time you go to reply to an email, pause and ask yourself, “Is my response necessary and are my intentions honorable?”

Posted April 8, 2013 by scicompanies in Employment Law

Tagged with , , ,

HR’s Role in Top-Grading

ball of wordsHuman Resources Professionals are faced with the challenge to streamline headcount, improve hiring outcomes and enhance performance management practices in this “do more with less” economy. Developing best practices to ensure that the right people are in the right places doing the right things will ultimately help organizations maximize their Human Capital investment.

A main concept that will maximize Human Capital is a close alignment of the hiring, training, and evaluation practices with company mission, vision and values. These elements make up the “moral compass” of an organization. Just like any relationship, if you are closely aligned with a person’s morals, values and overall outlook on life – you are likely to form a strong bond. We spend a lot of time and energy picking our friends and companions in life. We typically date a few different people before we commit to long-term relationships or marriages. Why would we treat an employment relationship differently? After all, we spend a whole lot of our time in that relationship!

HR Professionals can partner with business leaders to define a clear picture of what the mission, vision and values actually mean and the types of individuals and behaviors that truly personify those elements. Then, by adopting tools and activities in the hiring, training and retention initiatives they can help drive this streamlining and “Top Grading” effort in their organization. Here are a few ideas on how to make this work:

  • Competencies – Identify behaviors and attitudes of individuals that are core to the organization’s mission, vision and values in addition to those that are required for job-specific success. Define what those are, why they are important and what they look like in the form of actions and results.  These can then be developed into training objectives, evaluation metrics and interview questions.
  • Assessment – Select assessments that are aligned with required skills (such as in-box exercises or technical tests) as well as personality and preference-based assessments to test core competencies. Identify some internal, ideal benchmarks for these and consider an activity or scenario exercise to determine how individuals will behave under similar circumstances.
  • Interview Process – Insert multiple stages into your interview process and involve multiple viewpoints. For a cultural fit perspective, involve direct team members with whom this individual will be working and encourage them to provide a realistic job profile including how decisions get made and communicated, what career growth looks like, management style and team expectations.
  • Performance Evaluations – Performance expectations and metrics that are aligned with company mission, vision, values will drive the behavior of progression and growth within your workforce. Incorporating specific developmental goals that relate to learning and applying concepts of your business models, codes of conduct, business acumen and organizational development will enable focus on the cultivation of professionalism and success.

Amendments to the Family and Medical Leave Act

first aid kitThe U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) published a final rule that implements two major statuary expansions to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The amended FMLA broadens military caregiver and qualifying exigency leave provisions set by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act (AFCTCA), covering service members and their families. Employers with 50 or more employees are required to comply with the extended provisions as well as post the new FMLA poster and use the new Certification for Serious Injury or Illness of a Veteran for Military Caregiver Leave Form.

Military Caregiver Provisions

Veteran Caregiver Leave: A family member taking care of a veteran with a serious injury or illness incurred or aggravated in the line of duty is allowed up to 26 workweeks of FMLA Leave during a single 12-month period. Family members include spouse, son, daughter, parents and next of kin.

Health Care Providers: The list of health care providers who can provide a medical certification to support FMLA military caregiver leave was expanded to include non-military affiliated providers. However, medical certifications authorized by non-military affiliated providers are subject to a request for a second or third opinion if deemed necessary by the employer.

Qualifying Exigency Leave Provisions

Family Member Leave: An eligible employee whose spouse son, daughter, or parent is a member of the military can take up to 12 workweeks of leave for qualifying exigencies arising out of the military member’s active duty or call to active duty. Eligible family members are entitled to FMLA leave for qualifying exigencies in connection with the foreign deployment of a service member. A qualifying exigency consists of financial, legal or childcare issues related to the family member’s call-up or deployment. Prior to the FMLA amendments, this leave was only available to eligible employees of service members in the National Guard or Reserves but the final rule extends this provision to families with members of the regular Armed Forces.

Rest and Recuperation Leave: The amount of time an eligible employee can take to spend time with his or her covered family members during rest and recuperation leave was extended from five days to a maximum of 15 days.

Other Amendments to FMLA

The final rule also modifies FMLA leave qualifications for airline flight crew members. Under the amendment, an airline flight crew employee is eligible for FMLA leave if he or she has worked or been paid for not less than 60 percent of the applicable total monthly guarantee and has worked or been paid for not less than 504 hours during the previous 12 months. Airline employees who are not flight crew members will be covered under the general hours-of-service eligibility standard that requires 1,250 hours of service in the previous 12 months.

What impact do you think the amendments will have on employers?

New Jersey Pay Equality Poster and Notice

Employees only breakroomNew Jersey employers awaiting the release of the Pay Equality and Notice will have to wait a little while longer. On January 7th 2013, a notice of proposal containing a proposed version of the new poster was published by the New Jersey Register; but an error was discovered on the notification. The notice is currently undergoing revisions and will be reviewed again later this month.

Recap of the Pay Equality Poster and Notice Requirements

As of November 21st 2012, New Jersey employers with 50 or more employees are required to post and distribute the Pay Equality notice outlining gender equality in pay, compensation, benefits and other conditions of employment. This notice must be posted in English and Spanish as well as in any other languages predominantly spoken by the employee population. Employers must also distribute the notice to each employee along with an acknowledgement form to confirm the receipt of the notification.

The notice can be distributed by email, via printed material or through an internet or intranet platform that can only be accessed by employees. Once the notice is distributed, employees must return the signed acknowledgement within 30 days. Employers are required to provide this information:

(1) to all employees no later than 30 days after it is issued by the New Jersey Department of Labor (NJDOL);
(2) at the time of an employee’s hiring;
(3) to all employees annually on or before December 31st of each year; and
(4) at any time upon the first request of an employee to all employees.

The NJDOL has not released the Pay Equality poster or a template of the acknowledgement form. It would only be upon publication of the notice that the posting and distribution requirements become effective.

Posted January 25, 2013 by scicompanies in Employment Law