How CAI put community over profit during the pandemic

Businesses across the state have taken a major hit from the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic. Employers have fought over the past few months to keep their doors open and their employees supported. ProBenefits takes pride in our commitment to our clients and community, which is why we want to highlight a partner that shares that passion and is working tirelessly to help employers navigate this unpredictable time.

CAI is a non-profit membership organization that has been supporting and empowering North Carolina employers since its founding in Raleigh nearly 60 years ago. They provide their members with HR support and consulting, online training courses for employees, recruiting services, access to community support from other members and a variety of other resources. CAI strives toward creating engaged, well-managed and low-risk workplaces for all their members — including ProBenefits. “CAI is our valued client, but we have also been a member of their organization for over 10 years. We very much appreciate the services that they offer!” says Julie Blink, ProBenefits VP of Benefits Administration.

Nicole Hendren is the VP of Finance and Growth at CAI. After 16 years of working at CAI, Hendren has developed relationships with employers and businesses from the coast to the mountains.

“We’re here to serve North Carolina and its employers, and are committed to being a sounding board, expert and partner,” Hendren says.

One of Hendren’s main goals is helping to create a positive impact for the company’s partners and North Carolina as a whole.

“I love being a part of a mission-driven organization. What we do to help North Carolina employers and the fact that we are so service-oriented shows up every day in our work and our interactions with employers,” Hendren says. “That’s just a really cool thing to be a part of.”

Community first

CAI provides its 1300 members with HR support, consulting, training and many other resources, but when COVID-19 hit in March, CAI felt the uncertainty its community was facing and knew they had to do even more.

So they got to work.

Within the first week of lockdown, CAI launched a COVID command center website to address any and all issues businesses were dealing with surrounding the pandemic. The website includes answers to frequently asked questions, virtual roundtables, news updates and a weekly webinar hosted by HR experts and legal advisors. Employers can call in with questions and concerns to be a part of the community and conversation in real time.

“We really rallied and put together resources, many of which we made available to all NC employers, not just our members, in recognition of the urgency and the pain that the community was facing,” Hendren says. “We worked really hard to be there for the employers in our state.”

They began planning a free virtual event open to all North Carolina employers to help them get through this economic crisis. The event, Three R’s of Recovery, focused on topics around reopening, resilience and recalibrating.

The event kicked off with CAI President and CEO Bruce Clark talking with the Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Dr. Mandy Cohen about public health guidance for businesses and what reopening looks like in the state.

Cohen gave advice to businesses ranging from COVID-19 testing through employers to temperature checks at work to what the transition from Phase 1 to Phase 2 looks like for companies.

“I know that this is such a hard time for so many who have worries about their health, worries about their business and worries about their employees,” Cohen said in her address to the employers tuning in. “We are just trying to do the best we can to give advice and work with you on this. I know if we pull together as a state we’re going to get through this.”

The event covered a range of other topics from balancing productivity with compassion, legal compliance and structure, changes in workplace operations and strengthening resilience in management.

“We had a panel of HR leaders from several of our members talking about how they were dealing with COVID issues. They shared best practices and gave peer to peer contact for people who just wanted to connect and understand what everybody else is doing,” Hendren says.

Answers among the chaos

The response has been one of gratitude from employers, many of whom didn’t know where to begin when the pandemic hit.

“We’ve gotten tremendous feedback from members and non-members with appreciation for CAI being there,” Hendren says. “Answers have been hard to come by, and organizations were at a loss for concise and trusted information.”

“We couldn’t have chosen a better time to be a member of CAI,” says Christine Peterson, president of the security and investigations firm, Protus3, based in Raleigh. The guidance, briefings, updates and templates the CAI team provide are so appreciated by small and mid-sized businesses like ours.”

The COVID command center website is still running, regularly updated and available to all NC employers — you can find it here: CAI plans on continuing their support of all NC businesses as they work through the ever-changing economy. It’s times like these that CAI employees like Hendren are proud to be a part of a company dedicated to serving its members and guiding them to success.

“It’s not about one company or one service — it’s really about serving the greater employer community and making decisions everyday as a nonprofit to really ensure we are meeting those needs.”