Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Latest Interview Trends

With the job market flooded with contenders, employers are becoming creative in picking the right person out of a sea of applicants. Interviews no longer consist of just sitting and firing off questions about experience and good qualities. Employers are using new tactics to determine the right person for the job. Check out these new trends in the interview arena.

Skype Interviews: Wonder about the person behind the resume? The quickest way to find out is a Skype interview. In today’s economy employers are using these video chats to interview someone without the cost of travel and time to bring them into the office. This is especially helpful if the person is out of town. It is also a useful way to narrow down the applicants without formal interviews.

Behavioral Questions: Gone are the days of asking people to name their best and worst qualities. Employers are asking for proof of how interviewees have conducted themselves in the past. These types of questions ask for examples, such as how they handled a customer complaint about a product or service. It gives the employer a look into the applicant’s thought processes, confidence, and ability to be articulate.

Situational Questions: The interviewer poses a hypothetical situation, and the applicant must describe what they would do. This can be used in almost any field for any job function and can be either specific or broad, depending on what the employer wants to derive from the questions. This tactic shows how quickly a person can think on their feet and how well-spoken they are when the answer is not rehearsed.

Speed interviewing: Lots of people to interview and not much time to do it? Try speed interviewing. Each applicant is given between one minute and fifteen minutes to sell themselves. Some companies do a circuit -- a series of very short interviews with several different people. The employers who use this style feel this is a good way to judge a person’s confidence, communication skills, and personality. It is also a quick way to narrow down the pool of hopefuls.

Project Interviews: Instead of having a possible new hire sit and answer questions, how about having them complete a project? Companies today are going this route to determine if the person is truly qualified to do the job by actually having them do it. It could be creating a marketing campaign, making project boards for a kitchen remodel, writing a mock proposal, or designing a webpage. Having a project to determine an applicant’s abilities is one way to tell if the applicant is really cut out for the job. Do understand that many companies are paying applicants for their time. Even though the pay may be way below market value, this interview method is not the cheapest route to find a new employee.

Keep in mind that many companies have not abandoned the traditional interview format just yet. Also, preparing carefully, looking your best, and giving well thought out and confident answers still go a long way in an interview, no matter what the interview style.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Create a Stress Free Workplace for Employees

Take a hard look at your company. Do you ask people to go above and beyond without rewarding them or showing appreciation? Are your facilities dangerous or depressing? Is your management team a cohesive unit who sets clear expectations and understands how to give constructive criticism? Have you created a system that has employees stabbing each other in the back for raises, promotions, and credit for accomplishments? Do you make your employees feel valued and appreciated? If any of these questions are setting off alarm bells for you, there is a strong chance that a portion of your employees are in the 40% of workers that describe their job as “very or extremely stressful.”

Stress manifests itself in three different ways:
  1. Body—headache, fatigue, muscle tension/pain, chest pain, illness, fatigue, sleep issues and stomach issues.
  2. Mood—anxiety, restlessness, lack of motivation, irritability, sadness/depression.
  3. Behavior—overeating/under eating, angry outbursts, drug/alcohol abuse, tobacco use, social withdrawal.
Source: Mentalhealthy.co.uk
All of these issues have the potential to affect performances and relationships at work. Stress in the workplace can come from a variety of areas. Poor working conditions; excessive workload; conflicting expectations; management style; poor or overly competitive social environment; and job security concerns are all factors that can lead to employees being overwhelmed and stressed out.

Addressing possible stressors in your workplace is important not just for the employees, but also for the financial wellbeing of the company. Workers compensation claims are regularly filed for emotional disorders and disability due to job related stress. Also, easing stress will help to avoid missed work due to mental strain and physical illness. To avoid these claims, it is wise to look into any areas that are causing problems with your employees.

To avoid everyday stress for your employees, create a positive environment that eases anxiety instead of creating it. Look at the following ideas to help de-stress your staff:
  • Give employees a feeling of control and avoid micromanaging.
  • Get feedback whenever possible for scheduling and hours.
  • Open the lines of communication in your office. Invite employees to speak to upper management when something concerns them, or when they are feeling stress.
  • Provide a place, such as a break room, that employees want to use to decompress. Making it comfortable and welcoming will encourage eating and taking breaks away from their desk.
  • Work to ensure that your employees feel valued. Small rewards, privileges, and treats go a long way to showing employees they are appreciated.
  • Provide adequate and accessible vacation time. Employees must have time to get away from work and completely de-stress. It is imperative that your company policy allows them to do so.
Don’t let stress run your company. Employees that feel appreciated and valued will improve your company’s productivity, morale, and unity. The poet Ovid said, “Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.” Two thousand years later, this lesson is more important now than ever before. The World Health Organization recently released a statement indicating that stress is currently considered a worldwide epidemic. Unfortunately, a great deal of it starts where we spend the largest portion of our waking hours: the workplace. Employers today must be sensitive to the problems that work stress has on their employees and work to prevent it whenever possible.

Sauter, Steven et al. (1999). Stress…at Work DHHS (NIOSH) Publication number 99-101Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved October 11, 2012. From http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/99-101/.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ask the Lawyer, October 2012: Choosing an EHR

What should I look for when choosing an EHR program for my practice?

Health care providers now have the option of choosing from a variety of Electronic Healthcare Record (EHR) programs.  In making the switch from paper to electronic records, keep in mind that choosing the right EHR program will help avoid future legal issues.  The key to choosing an EHR program is looking for one that allows you to maintain an accurate and complete medical record.  One of the first considerations is whether you wish to qualify to accept Medicaid and/or Medicare payments.  If so, you must use an EHR program that meets certain qualifications:  (1) meaningful use; and (2) being a certified EHR program.  Failure to meet either of those requirements results in loss of funds under these federal programs.  A list of certified EHR programs can be found through the Office of National Coordinator of Health Information Technologies.  The end result of your search should be a system which maintains a precise and inclusive patient medical record reflective of what would have been included in the patient’s paper record.

(Questions are presented by members of Guilford Medical and Dental Managers.)

For a more indepth look at choosing an electronic medical record program, read this post: Choosing the Right EMR.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Help Patients Understand HIPAA

In the last several years, HIPAA has become an acronym patients hear at every doctor’s office. They are asked to sign forms, give consents, and are handed copies of papers full of medical legalese that they will just throw away. While most sign and ask few questions, many do not understand what HIPAA is and the protections this set of laws provides them. 

The HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) Privacy Rule was created for two main reasons:  to protect personal health information, and to enable the transfer of protected information to improve patient care. Patients everywhere grumble about having to sign papers and often express frustration with the government’s role in health care. What people don’t realize is that at its core, HIPAA was created to help patients. It not only protects their personal information, but it also allows their doctors to share information. It is hard to argue with doctors working together to provide better patient care and with safeguards that protect our private health information. Patients need to be educated in the ways that HIPAA and its tenets help them. If doctors don’t take steps to help their patients understand why and what they are signing, then the negative stigma around HIPAA will never fade.

There are several important things that providers need to make their patients aware of:
  • How the practice will use their records. Be as specific as possible about who you will share with without their consent and who you will share with after obtaining written consent.
  • If the appropriate written consents are signed, then information may be shared with any caregivers or family members the patient chooses.
  • The step by step process for obtaining their records from your practice. Include time estimation and possible charges.
  • How your office and providers may communicate with them. Explain that they have options for the best form of communication for them.
  • Who is bound by HIPAA and who is not. Patients need to understand that third party “storage” for medical records, such as phone apps, are not always restricted from sharing your records. Express caution about using these prior to extensive research by the patient. Also, reassure that your vendors and EMR are protecting their information as well.
  • The system for correcting an error in their chart. The patient should understand that they may request correction of an error, and at the very least the request will be noted in the chart.
  • How and what types of marketing you may do. This should include how you may contact them.
  • How a patient can file a complaint about any covered entity. Many patients do not understand that it is up to them to generate complaints and that HIPAA is not “policed” by any entity.

Going above and beyond the recommended or required practices to provide your patients with information about HIPAA in your practice can only help to improve your relationship with patients. Don’t just hand them the forms and say “this is the same thing you sign everywhere.” There are several ways to communicate this. Take a moment to provide them with a handout outlining what your practice is doing to protect them and how you implement HIPAA practices. Use in-office technology like a TV in the waiting room to show the same thing. Or you can take a moment and verbally explain a few keys points of HIPAA while they sign. Using clear and easy-to-understand language is imperative. Avoid “medicalese” and keep it short. Be open to answering questions and explaining any confusing points.

Patients appreciate being treated like they are cared about and listened to. Taking the time to educate them on how your practice is taking care of their personal health information will be appreciated.  It will also save you time by answering questions that could arise later or cause problems. Also, it may avoid any misunderstandings between the office and the patient. Everyone appreciates transparency. Being honest and up front about how your practice implements HIPAA government mandates will put your patients at ease and improve the patient-provider relationship.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Welcome to the Firm...

In July, Karen McKeithen Schaede, Attorney at Law welcomed a new attorney. Jonathan Keeler joined the firm from Raleigh, NC, and has been working hard ever since. Please join us in welcoming him to Greensboro and into the practice.
An avid sports fan and outdoor activity enthusiast, Jonathan grew up in the Southeast and overseas as his father served in the United States Army as a dentist.  Jonathan earned a B.A. in Government, graduating summa cum laude, from Campbell University in 1999, before earning a J.D. from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law in 2002.  He has practiced real estate, commercial litigation, construction law, collections, and business law in the Triangle and Triad areas in North Carolina since 2002.
Jonathan currently represents clients in a variety of areas including commercial disputes and litigation, collections, formation of business entities, and contracts.  He also assists Karen McKeithen Schaede in the Firm’s health care and employment law practice areas.  
Jonathan focuses on the needs and goals sought by clients and how to best improve their positions regarding their legal disputes and needs.  He seeks to provide all clients with direction and advice concerning their legal issues and their available options, and to best equip them with aggressive representation that is efficient and cost-effective.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Importance of a Weapons Policy

In the wake of the recent workplace shootings at a sign company in Minnesota, employees everywhere are reminded that work may not be the safe haven that we often believe. OSHA requires that employees must have safe working conditions. If your employee handbook fails to directly address weapons on company property, you are not doing your best to protect your employees. 

According to the US Department of Labor, in 2010 homicide was the third largest cause of death in the workplace. In 2011, there were 700 deaths on the job. Of the 458 that were homicides, 78% of those were shootings. Of the 242 suicides, 45% were shootings. These statistics show that people are bringing guns to work every day. While it can be assumed that not all incidents were employee on employee violence, it stands to reason that many were.  We cannot always control outside factors, but steps can be taken to protect employees from each other.

Owners have the right to ban guns in the workplace and, in most states, even in the parking lot. An employer’s weapons policy overrides any permit issued by the government, including a concealed gun permit, anywhere on company property. Having a policy in place safeguards employees, but it also protects the company from being held liable. Liability for an assault or shooting, in some instances, falls on the employer. Some insurance companies are now requiring companies to have a no-weapons policy in place before they will provide coverage for any claims. A weapons policy in the handbook outlining what is and is not permitted is important to not only ensure the safety of employees, but also to protect your company from lawsuits.

Every employee should feel safe and protected at work. Create a weapons policy and present it in a staff meeting. Provide time to answer any questions employees may have about what is and is not permitted on the job. Providing a chance for open discussion will go a long way to comfort employees concerned about violence or weapons at work. It is important to consult with your attorney when drafting a company weapons policy. This will ensure the policy is providing the desired level of protection for both your company and your employees. Stop employee violence before it has a chance to start. In addition to having a sound weapons policy in place, offering employees conflict mediation and an open door policy with management may help diffuse any potentially dangerous situations.


Fatal Occupational Injuries and Workers’ Memorial Day. (nd.) Bureau Of Labor Statistics.  http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/worker_memorial.htm

Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary, 2011. Bureau of Labor Statistics.http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cfoi.nr0.htm

Friday, October 5, 2012

Politics in the Workplace

With the 2012 Presidential election drawing closer, politics is a hot topic. People are eager to share their opinions and ideas on both candidates, as well as a myriad of issues. While it is acceptable and expected in a lot of venues, the workplace is not usually one of them. Remember--the right to free speech does not extend to the workplace.

The single most important thing to remember while socializing at work is that not everyone shares the same opinions. Keeping political conversation to a minimum is important to avoid arguments and hurt feelings. Alienating friends and coworkers is a mistake. While these issues feel pressing today, once the election is over it will be hard to mend broken relationships. Trashing others’ political opinions may be very damaging to your work relationships.  Just like in life, everyone wants their thoughts respected, and coworkers are no different.

Sharing political views with clients is unacceptable. There is nothing worse than having the person selling you shoes or fixing your tires telling you who to vote for. Not only is it inappropriate, it is uncomfortable and can affect future business dealings. Keep politics out of the customer relationship. In today’s economy it does not pay to lose any business. 

Political peer pressure can work both ways. If a client attempts to engage in political discourse, how should it be handled? Politely side step the conversation and change the subject. Delicately laughing off or skirting the conversation, no matter how passionate you may be on the subject, is the most diplomatic path. Getting into a heated discussion can have a negative effect on future business, and rarely is losing the client worth it.

While your car may be covered in stickers and your yard may be a sea of signs, your office should remain neutral territory. In most cases, workspace belongs to the company. Respect the office dress code, and do not wear political message tee shirts or campaign gear. Flaunting these rules sets the company up to censor you, and unless you are organizing coworkers union-style, they have every right to do so. If management chooses to keep the office space politics-free, that decision must be respected. Getting fired for bucking the system may feel like a win, but in the long run it means you will be looking for another job and your last job reference will probably not be positive.

Though employees have limited speech at work, owners do not. An employer has the right to stump for candidates, pass out propaganda, and encourage donations. While this may be legal, it is not always appropriate. Some owners use elections as a time to educate staff on how government decisions and voting can affect their industry. Voting can change the future of their career and impact their lives. In other cases, an owner may just be pressuring staff to vote for his or her party based on their own personal ethics. While the former reason can be important to protect a business and jobs, the latter can be seen by employees as an abuse of power. Even though both are legal, it is important for employees to respect those in management in order to maintain a positive working environment. Consider employees’ positions and feelings before bringing politics into the office. Is it really the appropriate venue?

Owners hire employees to do one thing: work. Often, current events create a distraction from the task at hand. During an election year, there is nothing more popular than politics. Employees spend a lot of time “around the water cooler”, but it is important to remember that some topics are not workplace appropriate. Keep politics away from the office and stay focused on the job. Use personal time to stump for your party and paid time to do your job. 
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