spring cleaning

Spring brings us sunshine and rain, which also brings us lots of flowers and plants growing all around us. While beautiful, it also means it’s allergy season! What better time to stay indoors with filtered air and get some organizational items checked off of your to-do list?

Spring cleaning isn’t just for old clothing and knickknacks laying around the house. It is also a great time for businesses to organize, get rid of things that can be shredded/destroyed and it is the perfect time to ensure all of your employment documents are up-to-date.

Here are some of the areas that should be cleaned up each year:

Employee Handbook: Take a look at the last time you updated your employee handbook. Has it been over a year? If so, it is time to review and revise to ensure the most recent employment laws have been added to your policies.

Personnel Files: Ensure that terminated employee files have been relocated to the appropriate place (i.e. storage) and that current employee files are cleaned up and all documents are filed in the appropriate places. For example, confidential medical information should not be located in the same file that includes information a manager might need to review for performance evaluations.

I-9 Audit: Take some time to properly audit your I-9 forms. In addition to a full audit, ensure that I-9s are being stored properly, in a separate file, away from employee personnel files. Terminated employee I-9s should be kept separate from current employees and should be shredded as soon as retention laws allow. (Either a minimum of 3 years, or one year after termination, whichever is the latest date.)

Employee Records: Retaining documents longer than necessary may actually create more risk for your company than keeping them. Take the time to review retention guidelines and get rid of documents you no longer need to store. In addition, if you haven’t already gone “digital,” think about whether this is an opportune time to begin the transition to a paperless document storage system.

Check Your Required Posters: Make sure you have the most current form of all of the required postings for your business. These postings should be in a place that is easily visible to all employees. Remember, each business location must have their own set of posters. Cascade has a great option for an “all-in-one” poster here.

Job Descriptions: Now is a great time to begin your annual review and revision of your job descriptions. Annual reviews of each employee’s job description is a good idea to ensure that any changes made to the position are documented. In addition, this gives you an opportune time to confirm that all of the important details of the job have been documented, such as: the minimum requirements for the job, the type of working environment, as well as the physical and mental requirements for the job. Remember to have the employee sign a new copy of the job description and place the signed copy in their freshly organized personnel file.

Don’t forget, when you purge documents each year, be sure to follow appropriate destruction protocol to ensure confidential information is not winding up where it should not.

Not only will spring cleaning help create space and get things in order, having a clean and organized office can help clear your mind and increase productivity. Who knows, maybe other departments will get the spring cleaning bug after seeing the great example HR is setting for them! We can only hope.




[Please understand that nudging in this context is a figurative term for positive encouragement toward healthier behavior. No employees were physically pushed or shoved in the making of this article.]

Nudges are a small feature in the environment that attracts our attention and influences our behavior. Nudges are everywhere.

We were conducting a Leadership Development program for one of our members last month. Their lunchroom doubled as a training room. Prominently displayed in this lunchroom/training room was a video monitor that had a rotating display about their benefits (Employee Assistance Program, 401k, Walk for Wellness, Open Enrollment). Turns out their Walk for Wellness program “pays” workers to chalk up Fitbit miles and adds medical discount dollars for routine procedures according to the number of miles walked.

Hmmm. Somebody is nudging.

So I had to ask the group, how many employees are participating in this Walk for Wellness program? The supervisors suggested that somewhere close to 35% of employees are part of this program. This is a pretty effective nudge.

Some call this Benevolent Paternalism: a nice term for nudging us in a positive direction.

Benevolent Paternalism. At best it sounds like a kind and generous grandfatherly type who wants the best for us. At worst it sounds like a euphemism for Big Brother telling us how to behave and getting up in our personal business. Workplaces have struggled for decades on how, when and why to nudge employees. Once you start looking for nudges, you see them everywhere. Stuff that ranges from how to set up your retirement to what to eat for lunch or even how to spend your free time. Social media has been running with personal (invasive?) nudging for some time. What kind of advertising shows up on your newsfeed after you searched for a new car yesterday? Sometimes the discussion (debate?) parallels political divides regarding our role (the workplace establishment) in promoting healthier behavior. Just who do we think we are? Is workplace nudging OK?

Probably, when done following a few principles.

Here are a few best practices for nudging that can keep us honest and focused:

  • Make It Public
  • Make It Respectful
  • Make It Easy
  • Make It Evidenced-Based
  • Nudge for Good!

Making nudging public means we are transparent about our intent and methods. Encouraging you to walk more is driven by a hope that you will be healthier and happier. No subliminal messages here.

Making nudging respectful eliminates any judgement about “good” or “bad” behaviors. Everyone could find a way to improve their health. We don’t want to target “high-risk” behaviors by shaming our employees.

Making nudging easy is perhaps the most important principal here for improving effectiveness. When we make enrollment simpler, set up clear first steps in a wellness program or map out, with clarity, a desired path, we set up our employees for success in following through with challenging changes.

Outcomes for positive change in treatment programs are consistently tied to the participant’s belief that the program will work. Show evidence of how a smoking cessation program has had success. Give us research outcomes of how this exercise program improves energy and focus. Make your programs evidenced-based.

And finally, make sure you are nudging for good. You may have been reflecting on all the advertising nudges we get every day. Asking your Doctor if a Prescription for SOMA is “right for you” may not always be a positive nudge. Beware of selling something that does not truly benefit the folks you are nudging. We are constantly nudged by self-interested groups. Good nudging is other-interested.

Going from workplace to workplace (one of the joys of training and consulting), I have always been fascinated by the Wellness initiatives or gentle nudging that businesses do to improve the health and well-being of their work group. Even more interesting is finding nudges like this that actually work. Most workplaces are motivated by improving the energy and vitality of their employees to get them to engage in high quality work and have a satisfying home/personal life. Sometimes workplaces and their health plans have a financial incentive to nudge as they are “at risk” for medical claims in their health plans. Nudges then become focused on getting high-risk employees to the right programs and keeping lower-risk employees, well, lower-risk.

Nudges range from avoiding addictions to lowering blood pressure, from managing stress to saving for retirement, from quitting smoking to taking up racquetball. For a more detailed exploration of nudging you might (nudge, nudge) want to have a look at Nudge, Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness, by Thaler and Sunstein.

We would love to hear about your workplace nudging, why you do it and what you find effective. Please send us your feedback at bswift@cascadeemployers.com.



CSNW Graphic

With small and large group health insurance premiums continuing to rise, savvy employers look for ways to control costs while maintaining benefit value for their employees.

One of Cascade Employers Association’s members, a small group in the manufacturing industry, was receiving poor service from their insurance broker and communication was not proactive. In addition, they were facing a 9% price increase to renew their existing plan.

The member reached out to explore Cascade’s sponsored group health insurance program (The Pacific Northwest Employers Life, Health Insurance Trust). The member provided their census, along with their current plan details. Within a week we followed up with an option for the member to maintain the same level of benefits while saving the group 19% off their current rates.

Cost Savings for Employer and Employees
In addition to the $23,000 company premium savings for 2019, employees continue to select from three medical plans, varying in cost with the base option saving employees approximately $41 off their monthly medical deduction and reducing the out of pocket maximum by $2350 (from $7350 to $5000).

How it Works
Since Cascade’s sponsored program is a large group, it has more power when it comes to health insurance plans, networks, and costs! Each member group is quoted separately while overall claims are shared across the entire Association, resulting in reduced risk. In addition, each member group can select multiple plans to offer employees so they can choose the level of coverage they need.

Top 4 Reasons to Consider Cascade’s Group Health Insurance Plan

  • Rates are based on overall claims of the Association, usually below market
  • Access to a large, statewide provider network
  • Great vision, dental and alternative care benefits (chiropractic, acupuncture, massage therapy)
  • Free online, paperless enrollment and enhanced customer service for your employees

Our benefit partner, CSNW Benefits, is the managing agent for The Pacific Northwest Employers Life, Health Insurance Trust. This partnership provides participants with expanded support for benefit compliance, difficult claim situations and employee education meetings.

In addition, you have access to a company-branded online benefits administration tool that will cutdown enrollment time and increase employee engagement – all at no additional cost! To learn how this program may fit your organization, contact Jules Abbott, julesa@csnwinc.com, 503.542.4094, to make a phone appointment with a benefit advisor.



A pair of Kea.(Nestor notabilis)

Conflict. Just the word itself is enough to make many of us feel uncomfortable. It conjures images of yelling, hurt feelings and damaged relationships. However, not all conflict is bad. In fact some conflict is absolutely necessary for teams and organizations to thrive. In this article we’ll examine the difference between productive and unproductive conflict, why conflict is important, and how to make conflict more constructive and less scary in the workplace.

Many people associate the word “conflict” with the word “fight.” I think it can help to instead think of conflict as a disagreement. That’s all it is. Two or more people having different opinions about something that at least one person thinks is important. And thank goodness we do have different opinions and perspectives! Otherwise we’d have group think. We’d have an echo chamber. We’d have a team or an organization without innovation, simply because we’re afraid to disagree.

It’s not surprising then that two of the most well-known and respected models on teamwork emphasize the need for conflict. It’s the second rung of Patrick Lencioni’s hierarchy of team needs in his classic Five Dysfunctions of a Team. The Tuckman model of teamwork includes “storming” (a.k.a. conflict) as one of the four main stages of team development (along with forming, norming and performing.) Both models recognize that without conflict, there can be no true buy-in for any idea, project or change initiative. People may nod their head to be polite, but they will not invest the time and energy to see something succeed that they don’t believe in. The only way you can change someone’s mind is to talk about it, to talk about your disagreement.

That said, there is productive conflict and unproductive conflict, with the main difference being about whether disagreement is perceived as being respectfully communicated. I say perceived because no two people have identical standards for what constitutes “respectful conflict.” Maybe two people can agree that yelling is a no-no, but at what point does “raising your voice” become “yelling”? Further, our families of origin, our culture, and professional norms all impact us and shape our concept of respect differently.

In addition to our varying conflict preferences, our very bodies can turn productive conflict into unproductive conflict through our natural neurobiological response to stress. Once our stress response is triggered – and it is triggered very easily – we go into flight or fight mode. We bypass our brain’s prefrontal cortex, the most evolved part of our brain, and react from our limbic system. Essentially, our ability to filter what we say is diminished and we’re more likely to say something we’ll later regret.

To review, conflict is both difficult to navigate well and totally necessary. Despite the opportunities for misunderstanding and for stepping on toes, the total avoidance of conflict is not the answer. Instead, there are ways to make productive conflict a more common occurrence in the workplace. While Cascade offers a much more extensive examination in our trainings, such as We Need to Talk, here’s one idea to get you started:

Talk about conflict before it happens.

Whether at a group level, a team/departmental level, or one-on-one, it helps to talk about conflict before it happens. That way we can learn about conflict styles and preferences before things get heated. I suggest saying something like, “There are bound to be times when we disagree about something. I want to make sure that when we do I’m as respectful as possible so that we can have a really good conversation and come to a good decision. What are some of your preferences?”

Since the person may not have considered it before, I often suggest starting with your own preferences. For example, I may admit that I avoid conflict and it’s something I’m working on, or that I like to have processing time after I learn someone’s point of view rather than continue to hash it out in person. You can also consider using workplace behavioral assessments like ©The Predictive Index to better understand individual preferences and build self-awareness. Taking this action not only increases the odds of productive conflict taking place, it also builds relationships as individuals learn more about one another.

In short, conflict may never be something we look forward to or consider “fun.” That said, avoiding it is not the answer. Rather, being proactive and taking the time to explore what productive conflict is, and is not, with colleagues can go a long way in ensuring better team dynamics.

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