Résumé dos and don’ts abound for job seekers. But what about the hiring managers, HR directors and other business leaders tasked with screening candidates? Are résumés still a useful recruiting tool?

Although many experts predict that networking and job-hunting websites may one day render résumés obsolete, it will probably be a while before they go the way of wagon wheels and telephones with cords.


Because they play a vital role in helping companies and job candidates find one another. Résumés provide those seeking employment with a way to showcase their skills and qualifications in a summary format that allows for easier screening on the other side of the interview table.

Even as technology continues to evolve, there will likely always be a need for résumés – or some futuristic adaptation of them. The look and feel may change over time, but the underlying concept will still be the same.

So, when you’re screening candidates in search of your next new-hire superstar, consider these 10 résumé dos and don’ts.

Résumé dos 1. Do – Expect an error-free résumé

Whether you’re talking about a soft-copy or hard-copy résumé, it’s your candidate’s first chance to make a good impression. And some old-fashioned principles will never go out of style, no matter how technologically advanced the recruiting world becomes.

That means no formatting errors, inconsistencies or typos. Any résumé you receive should be well-written and explain the candidate’s work experience clearly and concisely. When a prospect takes the time and effort to produce a polished résumé, it sends the message that they take pride in their work.

2. Do – Make sure candidates’ offline and online information match

Discrepancies between a candidate’s paper résumé and online profiles should raise red flags. Look for matching titles, dates of employment and other details. While some discrepancies may be honest mistakes, such as when a company name change is reflected on the résumé but not the LinkedIn profile, it’s a good idea to always check.

Even if your recruiting process is paperless, you should still make sure the résumés or job applications your candidates submit online include accurate information. At best, a discrepancy is just a careless error. At worst, it’s a deliberate attempt to be dishonest.

A background check can be invaluable for helping you discern the difference when you’re doing your due diligence on prospects for employment.

3. Do – Check dates of employment and look for gaps

Missing or inconsistent dates of employment may signal that a candidate is trying to cover up periods of unemployment or a history of job-hopping. However, longer gaps may reflect legitimate career breaks, such as a gap year, maternity or family leave, or continuing education.

If a candidate’s experience seems like a good fit, but their dates of employment have been omitted from their résumé, ask if they would mind supplying the dates.

4. Do – Include keywords in job descriptions and postings

Keywords serve three key purposes:

  • First – keywords allow job candidates to find your job posting online.
  • Second – keywords allow your recruiters and hiring managers to scan résumés quickly to find people with the most relevant experience.
  • Third – if your company scans and stores résumés, keywords will help you pluck them out of obscurity when they match the skills you’re currently seeking.

For example, if you’re looking for someone specifically with inside or outside sales experience, make sure those words figure into your job posting and job description. This will help candidates find and apply for your open position, especially if the official title is something vague – like “business development rockstar.”

The smart candidates will also parrot your keywords back to you by using them in their cover letter and résumé.

5. Do – Utilize industry-focused websites

Most industries boast multiple websites that focus on a particular career field or area of expertise. The petrochemical industry, for example, has used this type of forum for years to recruit engineers. Likewise, advertising and marketing agencies often recruit creative professionals through websites that target them.

The reality is, many professionals now keep their résumés posted online at all times, not just when they’re looking. And industry-specific websites can be a great resource to find potential job candidates because you can search – you guessed it – by keywords.

Specialty sites can also be helpful if you’re searching for employees who’ve worked for a particular company that has a reputation for training its people well. Or, maybe you’re looking for someone who specializes in “gas well engineering” or “consumer goods packaging.”

6. Do – Pay attention to recent accomplishments

If an applicant just graduated from college, it’s OK for them to pad their résumé with their GPA and college leadership positions. But, once someone has been working for a while, that information becomes outdated and should be eliminated in favor of professional accomplishments.

At the other end of the spectrum, if a candidate has 20-30 years of experience, don’t expect them to provide intricate detail about their first jobs or college affiliations. Look for detailed descriptions only for their last 10-15 years of work.

Résumé don’ts 7. Don’t – Limit seasoned professionals to one page

Someone new to the workforce or early in their career should have no problem keeping their résumé to one page. But, for a seasoned professional, a two-page résumé is acceptable, even expected.

Anything beyond two pages, however, can become a drudgery to review. Unless you’re in academia or a research field, this level of detail probably isn’t necessary.

8. Don’t – Give the objective much weight

That wordy paragraph at the top of the résumé that used to be popular? That information is obsolete, or at least it should be. It just takes up space and no one really reads it.

Since the professional objective usually focuses more on what a candidate aspires to do, versus what they’ve actually done, consider it fluff and skip to the candidate’s employment history and list of accomplishments.

9. Don’t – Expect or require personal details

The old-school practice of including a photo, marital status, number of children or other personal details on a résumé has long been abandoned – for many reasons. As such, your company shouldn’t expect an applicant to provide these details, and you certainly shouldn’t ask for them.

And on the outside chance a job candidate voluntarily provides this type of information, you may want to redact it before reviewing their résumé. Blind hiring allows you to make a decision based solely on a candidate’s merit, without the influence of unconscious bias.

The one exception to this rule: If your company values community service, you may want to give extra weight to résumés that outline volunteer efforts, especially if the person serves in a leadership position.

10. Don’t – Overlook the benefits of working with a recruiting professional

Hiring managers are swimming in résumés these days. It’s not unusual for even moderate-sized companies to receive up to 500 résumés within the first few days of posting an opening. That’s because numerous services crawl the web looking for new job postings and automatically submit résumés stored in their system.

A professional recruiter, particularly one who specializes in your industry, can save your company’s managers countless hours by evaluating résumés for you and conducting your initial screening to identify the best candidates.

Résumés are just the tip of the hiring iceberg, and there’s no one right way to find new employees these days. Learn more about what you can do to find the best job candidates by downloading our free e-book, How to attract job candidates using your social media.

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If you’re just learning about “stay” interviews, you may be imagining yourself in your office, facing a key member of your team who has just resigned, trying to convince that employee to “stay” with your organization.

However, you don’t need to wait until an employee is leaving to hold a stay interview, when there may be little you can do to change his or her mind.

You can use stay interviews to check in with high-performing employees long before they might decide to leave your company – a retention strategy that’s gaining popularity among top employers. The purpose of these interviews is to find out what is motivating them to stay with you (and what might entice them to work for someone else).

Like having sound recruiting and performance review processes, implementing a stay interview strategy can help you understand what it may take to address turnover among your best employees.

Stay interview basics

When planning stay interviews, consider these basic tips:

  • Schedule them ahead of time, so employees know they’re important.
  • Give employees time to prepare their thoughts (which shouldn’t be a problem if you’ve scheduled the interview ahead of time).
  • Make sure you tell the employee why you’re having the meeting and what you’re going to be talking about.
  • Pick a setting where they’ll feel comfortable to express their true feelings about the organization and what they desire.

You can treat these similarly to performance reviews from a logistical standpoint, but the objective should remain different. Make sure to schedule stay interviews months away from annual performance reviews, whenever possible, to keep them separate.

With the right stay interview questions, you’ll get a handle on how you can improve employee retention.

Example stay interview questions

Try these stay interview questions to find out what it takes to keep your best employees around.

Question #1

“What kind of feedback or recognition would you like about your performance that you aren’t currently receiving?”

This question gives employees the ability to vocalize any concerns they may have from a recognition standpoint. Some people may need very little assurance or kudos that they’re doing a good job. Others, meanwhile, may thrive on being recognized when they’ve done a great job.

It’s possible, when your company first started, that your original team didn’t need that confirmation or validation. As your team grows in size, however, you’ll have a variety of personalities and work styles.

Asking this question pinpoints what each individual is looking for in terms of recognition and feedback.

Question #2

“What opportunities for self-improvement would you like to have that go beyond your current role?”

If you’re able to offer them the opportunity to take relevant online courses or travel to industry conferences, this is a great question to ask. This is their chance to speak up and ask for further education or learning related to their role in your organization.

If this isn’t an area where you can invest money in your employees, do some research on training opportunities that are free or cost very little. You might be surprised how much you’re able to find that doesn’t require dipping into your budget.

For instance, HubSpot offers many free certification courses for sales and marketing professionals through its online academy. And several other Internet-based learning portals also offer free or low-cost courses for a range of professions and industries.

Even if you’re not in a position to pay for your employees’ training and development at this point in your business journey, you can demonstrate your desire to help them get what they need to be successful.

Consider allowing employees to use work time to take advantage of the training resources available to them, so they’re not having to cram it in on their own time.

Bottom line: Don’t rule out self-improvement opportunities for your employees just because you don’t have a big budget. With a little creativity, you’ll likely find plenty of cost-effective employee training and development to support your team’s continuing education.

Question #3

“What kinds of flexibility would be helpful to you in balancing your work and home life?”

There are tons of companies out there today being extremely generous with working from home, paid time off and flexible hours to help with work-life balance. It’s a competitive market and lots of people are beginning to expect more.

Before asking this question, know what you are able to offer up to them. Don’t promise or tease with things you can’t deliver. You may be in an organization where there isn’t a lot of flexibility on hours or vacation time (and there may be valid reasons for that).

If the employee says they would love to have the option to work remotely once a week, don’t give them hope that it’s possible unless it is.

Question #4

What talents, interests or skills do you have that we haven’t made the most of?

It’s possible things at your organization move quickly and some people aren’t being utilized to their potential. Asking this question could illuminate solutions to problems you’re having while giving an employee more fulfilling responsibilities to take on.

For example, maybe you have an employee who’s been there for a decade and is overloaded with a dozen different random tasks they take care of every month – because when they started, they were the only option.

It’s highly likely newer employees could be quickly trained to help lighten tenured employees’ workloads. By freeing up some of the time they currently spend on repetitive tasks, you’ll allow them to get more involved in other efforts that better utilize their talents and pique their interests.

The answer to this stay interview question may shed light on areas where employees could be helping you but currently aren’t.

Question #5

What have you felt good about accomplishing in your job and in your time here?

This question is simple and allows you to pinpoint the projects they’ve worked on that have given them joy or a sense of pride. That way, you can keep this information in mind when assigning future projects and responsibilities.

At the end of the day, happy employees are usually more productive, loyal employees.

Question #6

If you could change one thing about your job, team or company, what would it be?

Here is the employee’s chance to speak up about concerns they have about spending the rest of their career with you. It may highlight bigger problems you didn’t know you had. For example, maybe one team is requesting work from another team at the last minute every month, and you had no idea.

Based on the number of people reporting this information to you in their stay interviews, you may decide to act on it.

At the very least, it gives the employee in the stay interview a forum to voice any problems they’re having to someone in power. These are things you probably won’t talk about in individual performance review meetings.

What not to ask in a stay interview

Stay interviews may not feel worthwhile if you ask yes-or-no and closed-ended questions. Avoid asking your employees:

  • Are you happy working here?
  • Do you make enough money?

And don’t feel obligated to interview all of your employees about why they stay. Start with the members of your staff who have been with you longest and who consistently do well on performance reviews.

Aim to conduct your stay interviews with these high-performing employees at least once per year, scheduling them separately from performance reviews so the goals of each remain distinct.

The best stay interview questions

The best stay interview questions help your most valuable employees understand:

  • You recognize and appreciate their loyalty.
  • You care about more than just their performance.
  • You’re open to making changes that would bring them more satisfaction.

And they help you discover:

  • Warning signs that indicate a key player needs more support or direction
  • Ways to keep the employees in which you’ve invested the most time and resources
  • Low-cost changes that could reaffirm your employees’ commitment and engagement

Replacing your leading employees can be time-consuming and costly. Stay interviews are a solid strategy to help you retain your business’s top performers.

Want more insight on building an effective HR strategy that helps retain employees for the long term? Download our free e-book, How to Develop a Top-notch Workforce That Will Accelerate Your Business.

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Business leaders may be inclined to think of ergonomics in the workplace as a safety or comfort issue. Picture comfy chairs and computer wrist support pads.

But there’s much more to it than that.

In fact, it’s well-documented that an ergonomic workplace can positively impact employee performance and overall wellness. This makes sense if you think about it. When a workspace is tailored to fit someone’s individual needs, they’re empowered to work comfortably, productively and safely.

Problems caused by an inadequate physical environment include a host of health conditions, such as fatigue, tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, back injuries, colds and flu, heat stroke, eye strain, headaches and more.

In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 31 percent of all worker injuries fall into the category of sprains and strains, with employees needing on average 12 days to recuperate before returning to work.

These illnesses and injuries cost employers in absenteeism, lost productivity and, quite often, higher insurance premiums. But what about employee attrition? Isn’t it likely that a good employee will go find another job rather than continue to work in unsafe or uncomfortable conditions for too long?

This is where workplace ergonomics comes in – and why it should be part of your employee retention strategy.

Defining workplace ergonomics

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines ergonomics as “the science of designing the job to fit the worker, rather than physically forcing the worker’s body to fit the job.

OSHA goes on to say, “Adapting tasks, work stations, tools and equipment to fit the worker can help reduce physical stress on a worker’s body and eliminate many potentially serious, disabling work-related musculoskeletal disorders.”

So, anything that may cause an employee to get hurt or be physically uncomfortable while working falls under the guise of workplace ergonomics.

Yes, adjustable desk chairs and back braces are part of workplace ergonomics. However, so is adequate lighting and temperature control, access to water, clean bathrooms, machinery in proper working order, and employee education.

If you aren’t sure what your team may need to improve ergonomics in the workplace, ask your office furniture supplier or professional employer organization (PEO) whether they have a specialist on staff. A consultant with this sort of expertise can help your company find affordable ways to improve your workplace ergonomics and possibly even provide training or a lunch-and-learn on the topic.

Promoting health through education

It’s not enough to simply provide the tools, you must also educate your workforce about proper use of ergonomics in the workplace.

New employees, both those new to the workforce or new to your company, may especially benefit from a quick crash course on the basics of ergonomics. It sets the right tone when your onboarding process includes helping each new employee get the tools and supplies they need to work comfortably and safely on their first day or week.

For office workers, that may include tips on proper chair height, desk posture, keyboard use and eye strain. Many companies now offer convertible desks that allow employees to switch back and forth from sitting and standing to work.

Workers in physically demanding roles may need to be trained on good lifting techniques and the proper way to wear a back brace. It’s also a good idea to consistently remind them to ask for help with objects over a certain weight.

People who are driving for the company, whether it’s a delivery truck or an outside salesperson, should have the tools to work comfortably from their vehicles (if that’s required).

All employees should be encouraged to stay hydrated and take stretch breaks at appropriate intervals. When you communicate with employees, make it clear that everyone is able to adjust any equipment they use to suit their physical needs in order to maximize both safety and productivity.

And reinforce with younger employees that workplace safety isn’t just for their older colleagues. Even younger bodies are susceptible to muscle strain, soft tissue injuries and eye strain.

By providing your employees with a workspace that meets their individual needs, along with the instruction they need to make the most of it, you send a positive message. Your workers will see first-hand that your company cares enough to devote time and resources to their well-being, which can contribute to increased retention.

Including your remote staff

It can be easy to forget about your off-site employees who are either working from their home office or a co-working space. The fact is, you’re still responsible for the health and safety of those out-of-sight workers because they’re protected by worker’s compensation laws, too.

That means you need to ask questions about their work arrangements.

Does Kendall have a desk and office chair, or is she planning to work on her laptop from her couch? Does she know that sitting for three hours straight on her sofa, while hunched over her computer, is bad for her back?

For those employees who’ve made the neighborhood coffee shop their personal office space, remind them that these are retail establishments designed for coziness and conversation. They’re not typically developed with proper workplace ergonomics in mind.

With remote jobs becoming ever more common, it’s vital all managers be mindful of the physical work arrangements of these staff members. Show you care about their health, safety and productivity, no matter where your employees are working.

And if you’re concerned about the working conditions of your remote team members, consider making a house call to help them get set up. Or you could request that they text you pictures, so you or your design consultant can offer suggestions for improvement.

Making ergonomics fun

Ergonomics in the workplace doesn’t have to be a drudgery. You can make it fun.

For instance, form a team of employees who promote good ergonomic habits among their fellow workers through various activities.

These employee leaders can distribute educational materials and periodically walk around to check things like their coworkers’ physical space and lifting techniques. You may want to reward employees with prizes for things like the best posture, safest workspace or best use of safety equipment.

Have this team make a full assessment of all work environments at your company every six to 12 months. Create a checklist for what they should look for. When this committee makes recommendations, listen to them. These are the people who will tell you what’s working and what isn’t.

Most employees either don’t want to make a fuss or think being uncomfortable is simply part of the job. Forming an ergonomics committee made up of employees can break down those barriers and help you get the information you need to make your workplace safer and more productive.

For example, Becky, the new administrative assistant, may feel more comfortable asking for a foot rest or a different chair from a fellow employee, versus telling her boss why she sits with her feet propped on a box.

By creating a culture that supports safety and ergonomic best practices, you make your employees feel valued and cared for. Nothing promotes retention like a workplace that’s comfortable and safe, where all employees are empowered to be productive and do their best work.

Looking for more ways to optimize your workforce? Download our free e-magazine: Insperity guide to employee engagement.

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Recruiting big-time talent to small businesses is often a struggle. But, with a few creative recruitment strategies on your side, you can level the playing field and compete for top talent.

The best candidates may be more likely to apply to companies whose names they’re already familiar with; however, that shouldn’t discourage you. All you need is a little ingenuity to grab their attention and learn what they’re looking for in a career and office culture.

Although recruiting is not an exact science and there’s no one formula for success, leveraging the power of the Internet with face-to-face interaction can be a powerful combination. Instead of just posting your jobs on online job boards and waiting for the flood of hit-or-miss résumés to pour in, step it up and be creative.

Start with these six outside-the-box recruitment strategies. The long-term gains will be worth it.

1. Spend time where your ideal candidates “live” online

If you’re looking for your next IT specialist, that means going on technology blogs or question-and-answer sites, like the Stack Exchange network, to essentially “live and hunt.” You want to be in that space with the talent you’re seeking.

This could also mean participating in interactive interviews and forums, such as Ask Me Anything on Reddit, to get your company’s vision and personality out there. These are just a couple of examples, but they capture the essence of how you should be trying to connect with your target candidates.

For smaller companies, it’s also a good idea to scour industry blogs and message boards. They can be invaluable in helping you find out what your ideal candidates are talking about and what matters to them in a less-formal environment.

Better yet, if you’re comfortable doing so, get involved in conversations, tell them who you are and learn what they want most in a career. This allows you to attract people and engage them by making connections and actually starting an informal dialogue.

When you spend time in these virtual spaces, you start living, thinking and breathing in your potential job candidates’ world. As a result, you’ll be better able to communicate with them in a way that resonates with them.

2. Host hiring happy hours in your office

One great way to showcase your company is to host an onsite “hiring happy hour” for people interested in joining your team.

Push the happy hour on event, meet-up and industry-relevant websites your candidates frequent to gain exposure. Put it on your own company’s career or social media pages. The point is to use those spaces where you can advertise the event for free.

Then, all you’ll really be out is a couple hundred bucks for refreshments, and you’ll get to meet some excited candidates and show off your team and office. If you’d rather avoid the expense and liability that may be associated with serving alcoholic beverages, hire a barista and make it a coffee happy hour instead.

Make sure to have all of your hiring managers there to conduct informal interviews on the spot.

This strategy can work tremendously well for growing companies that need to hire for lots of new positions. It brings candidates and business leaders together in a more comfortable setting, and prospects will be less guarded knowing they’re not all competing for one position.

3. Re-engage qualified past candidates

It’s common to tell job seekers their résumé is being put on file for the future. But how many times do those candidates actually get notified later on when you’re searching for someone like them?

Instead of just telling people you’ll remember them, ditch the “we’ll call you” lip service and actually follow through and do it.

Seek out former finalists, and those who reached out to you about job openings in the past, and see if they’re still interested. Using your database of candidates that you’ve built over the years, use email marketing and social media where appropriate to re-engage them.

Acknowledge that you’re aware it’s been a while since you’ve spoken with them, and ask them if they’re considering making a move now or any time soon. You could pique their interest again, or maybe their positive experience with you will lead to them recommending a qualified friend or coworker who’s looking.

This allows you to get your brand and open positions in front of people who cleared multiple qualification hurdles before or were interested enough to send you their résumé.

Regardless of whether they’re actively looking at that time, your odds are still better with this warmer market than with candidates whose résumé you just ran across on a job site.

4. Build your employee experience into your career page

It’s not enough to have a career page listing your available jobs. Maybe you have a blurb about your company’s history, too. Still, that’s not hitting the mark you need to hit to attract the perfect culture fits.

Get creative. Post photos of group outings. Get quotes from thriving, happy employees about their experience with the company. Create videos of them describing the joy of coming to work – or how the benefits you offer have changed their lives.

Highlight what it looks and feels like to be an employee of your business.

You can also build out your Glassdoor and LinkedIn pages so they have personality and a voice that matches your company. Although this is free and easy to do, many companies overlook this simple strategy.

5. Create an employee referral program

When it comes to creative recruitment strategies, the employee referral program definitely isn’t the new kid on the block. But, when done right, it can be one of your most effective recruiting tools.

Use excitement and word of mouth to seek out talented candidates. Recruit your own people to be brand ambassadors. This can be especially helpful if you’re a young company without extra cash sitting around for a recruiting budget.

Identify the successful employees who live, eat and breathe your mission – and arm them with the tools to spread your company’s vision and values. After all, if they love where they work, why wouldn’t they want to share the experience with others?

Give them content they can share on social media and send in emails, and brief them on how to talk about the company when they’re out and about. Develop a simple step-by-step process, such as:

  • Talented people in their network approach them and say, “Hey, can you tell me more about this job?”
  • Then, your brand ambassador refers them to you.
  • You give the referring employee a kickback of $500, or whatever you can spare.

As a small business, it’s critical to leverage the talent you already have in the building, and an employee referral program is one of the best ways to do so.

6. Use startup showcases like The Muse

The Muse is leading a new generation of job websites that offer a behind-the-scenes look at companies’ culture and environment, while also offering coaching and advice for candidates.

Though it started as a showcase for startups, many larger or more established companies now use it to show off their culture as well.

For a fee, The Muse will come onsite and record videos of employees, take pictures around your office, create content and blog about you. They help promote your brand on a large-scale platform that savvy candidates refer to for guidance on how to work for the best companies.

So, position yourself as one of those “best” companies.

And if paying to get on the site seems unlikely for your company, don’t worry. You can at least use it as a resource for how companies sell themselves to the best candidates and implement those ideas on your own career page.

The more creative recruitment strategies you can use to your advantage, the better. The possibilities are endless, and with a little innovation, time and effort, they can be both effective and budget-friendly.

Want more tips on how to cultivate the talent your business needs to be successful? Download our free e-book, How to Develop a Top-Notch Workforce that Will Accelerate Your Business.

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Are you overworking your employees?

It’s natural to want your employees to be as productive as possible, and every company will have occasional times that are busier than others. But don’t make the common mistake of wearing out your top talent.

To avoid employee burnout, balance your high expectations with solid strategies to prevent employees from becoming overwhelmed.

Overworked employees can affect every area of your business. Here’s how:

  • Productivity plummets when employees aren’t able to get everything done.
  • Quality deteriorates when employees can’t take the time to do their jobs right.
  • Growth stalls when employees can’t break away to take new training or implement a process that could help the business.
  • Customer service declines when employees are focused only on getting by and can’t concentrate on building and sustaining customer relationships.
  • Reputation suffers when a company is known for running its employees into the ground.
  • Morale takes a nosedive when employees lose passion. They burn out or leave the company.

More than half of American employees feel overworked or burned out, according to the Staples Business Advantage Workplace Index 2016. It’s important to recognize the signs of overworked employees early on to prevent burnout and, hopefully, help reduce attrition.

Pay attention to these six warning signs:

1. Poor work performance

Keep an eye out for employees who are not meeting deadlines, turning in projects late or incomplete, or doing the bare minimum to get by.

 2. Absenteeism

Note when team members are frequently late or missing work.

3. Heightened employee emotions

Have you observed employees having a shorter fuse when stressed; are often distracted, unhappy or disengaged?

4. Poor customer feedback  

Do customers communicate that they’ve noticed a change in service? Have you heard comments such as “Gosh, I try to schedule things with Shannon, but she’s scheduling four months out. She must be very busy.”

5. Working long hours  

Watch for employees putting in time after hours, on weekends and holidays, and not taking vacations.

6. Revealing statements

Beware of comments such as, “I practically live here,” or “I wish I could take a vacation, but I would have to work 40 hours extra just to take one,” or “I can’t remember the last book I read for fun.” Employees may say these things half-jokingly, but they’re really a distress signal.

Getting to the bottom of burnout

If you see these signs, it’s time to act before burnout sets in. Talk to each employee one-on-one to find out the scope of the problem. You’ll also want to collect some more information about the employee’s workload or consider hiring a professional employer organization, or PEO, to dig deeper into your organization’s processes for managing workflow.

A job analysis can also provide useful insight.

What’s the employee’s job description? Is it reasonable? Or is she responsible for five jobs in one? Follow up with a time study. Is the employee in question spending 10 hours a week on administrative work, when she should be concentrating on selling your product or other, more important tasks?

If you’re seeing these signs in more than one employee, take a closer look at your organization’s culture.

Is working long hours the norm? Is it OK, and even considered a point of pride, for employees to say they’re being overworked?

If that’s the case, struggling employees likely won’t tell you when they’re stressed out and nearing burnout. They’ll just leave your company and find a job somewhere else.

Be proactive to prevent overloading your staff

The ideal scenario would be to prevent overworking your employees in the first place. While this isn’t always possible, business leaders often know in advance when they may need an employee to work more – for example, when the company lands a new client or an indispensable employee leaves.

Be honest and transparent when it’s necessary for employees to put in extra time, then put together a plan to help them cope. If someone is leaving your organization, maybe you could shuffle the workload around or bring in temporary or part-time help.

Be sure to tell employees step by step what you plan to do to help them until a replacement is hired, and your timeline for making changes.

Use these best practices to avoid overwhelming your employees

Managing the workload of your workforce, and making sure it doesn’t stress out your employees, is an ongoing process. Here are some practices you may want to try:

  • Check in with employees regularly, in one-on-one meetings, to see how they’re doing with their workloads, and to provide help and guidance. Make sure none of you misses the meetings.
  • Conduct company surveys, exit interviews and even stay interviews to see if your company’s culture normalizes overworking. How do they feel about how much they work? What support do they need?
  • Enable employees to work at home or work flexible hours. Not commuting to the office can make a huge difference when people are feeling overwhelmed.
  • Cut out meetings that are ineffective and without clear goals.
  • Emphasize efficiency as a critical part of your company’s culture, train your staff on what efficiency means in your organization, and help them eliminate inefficiencies.
  • Empower your employees to say no — whether it’s to an extra project or a client visit that could be handled just as easily with a phone call.
  • Provide lunch or snacks to employees who work overtime. (For employees entitled to overtime pay, be sure to capture, and pay for, all time worked, including lunches if worked. Follow all Fair Labor Standards Act regulations.)
  • Send out regular salary surveys to see how your organization stacks up. If you’re underpaying your employees, it’s going to lead to burnout faster, and they’re more likely to leave if overworked.
  • Make sure your staff uses their PTO and takes time off after busy seasons (such as tax season for accounting firms).

With these strategies in hand, you’ll be well-equipped to help your employees manage their workload. As a result, they’ll be happier, healthier contributors to your organization.

To learn how a PEO can help your organization build solid strategies to operate more efficiently and help prevent employee burnout, download our free e-book: HR outsourcing: A step-to-step guide to professional employer organizations (PEOs).

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Have you thought about your company’s workplace violence prevention policy lately?

If not, maybe you should ask yourself, “How safe is my office, really?”

From schools to office buildings and just about everything in between, these days no place seems safe from the risk of active shooters and other criminal activity. Whether you like it or not, this means you need to be prepared.

Nearly 2 million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence each year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

While mass shootings and homicides make big news, it may surprise you to learn that the most frequent types of workplace violence are simple assault (fisticuffs) and armed robbery.

Once you’ve identified potential security liabilities, you can take steps to address those issues. If you’re starting from scratch when it comes to preventing workplace violence, here are eight tips to help you reduce risk to your team and your building.

1. Conduct a security assessment

How can you, the business owner or leader, keep your employees and your assets safe?

Every business has slightly different needs regarding security, so it’s best to begin with a thorough assessment of your security vulnerabilities. A threat assessment lets you identify your company’s potential weaknesses.

Questions to ask yourself include:

  • What’s your neighborhood like? Do you rent space in a downtown office building with security guards provided, or are you in a warehouse in a rough industrial district?
  • Do the other businesses around leave you more vulnerable? Are you located next door to a bank that could be robbed? Is there a government office on the floor above you?
  • Do strangers cut through your parking lot for convenience?
  • Is your business open to the public?
  • Do your employees handle cash? Do these workers also deal with the public?
  • Does your business rely on delivery drivers? Do they drive company vehicles? What sort of security systems exist on those vehicles?
  • Are all your windows and doors in good working order?
  • Do all employees wear badges?
  • How do employees access the building? With electronic keys or metal keys?
  • How often are security codes changed?

You should also ask your employees if they ever feel unsafe or have suggestions for improvements.

Still not sure where to start? OSHA offers many free workplace safety resources for businesses in general. It also provides specific advice for those types of companies most likely to experience violence, such as late-night retail establishments, healthcare businesses and those with delivery drivers.

2. Make sure your building and parking lots are well lit

Often, attackers will use dark or poorly lit areas in and around your building to hide and wait for an opportunity to strike. Outside, remember that street lights may not provide enough illumination, so you may have to add exterior lights.

If your employees enter and leave your building before daylight or after dark, be sure they have a well-lit path to and from the building, especially around doorways and in the parking lot. When possible, encourage employees to walk in pairs after dark – or consider hiring a service to walk employees to their cars if necessary.

3. Install security cameras and make them visible

While a high-tech security system that has all the bells and alarms is preferred, it may not be in your budget. But, this doesn’t mean you can’t create a convincing image that your business is well protected.

Make your security cameras especially visible in your most likely danger zones, including over doors, in parking lots, at the reception area, anywhere money is handled or stored, and in IT server rooms.

When criminals see video surveillance, they can’t necessarily tell whether cameras are on, and it might be enough to discourage them from targeting your business.

4. Keep your storefront and windows clean and clear

A well-kept storefront not only helps you set an attractive stage for customers, it also discourages criminals. To the criminal mind, if you’re willing to invest time and money into making your building look good, you’ve probably spent some time and money protecting it as well.

As with security cameras, appearances alone are sometimes enough to convince an offender to find an easier target. To that end, resist the urge to cover your windows with advertisements, signs, posters or decorations. Also avoid stacking boxes, old furniture and other clutter in front of windows.

When you keep your windows clean and clear, it’s easier to view things happening outside. This allows your workers to spot threats before they get into your building.

5. Set strict guidelines for controlling cash

If your business is responsible for handling large amounts of cash, you and your employees need to take special precautions, particularly if you’re also dealing with the public. That’s because, statistically, these are especially vulnerable jobs.

One way to deter criminals is to post signs that say cashiers have a limited amount of cash in their registers and your safes can’t be opened by employees. If they don’t think there is going to be a huge payout, a robber may be less likely to go after your business.

And, if you’re regularly transporting cash, such as bank deposits, don’t follow a set schedule. This makes it more difficult for thieves to study your routine and plan an attack.

6. Encourage employees to report vulnerabilities

Despite your best efforts to provide a safe office environment, you can’t be everywhere or know everything. So, it’s vital you encourage employees to report their safety concerns. Your team should be comfortable telling you about:

  • Lights that need to be replaced
  • Unsecured machines or rooms containing valuable equipment
  • Domestic issues that have the potential to spill into the workplace
  • Suspicious behavior, workplace bullying or significant personality changes of other employees or customers

It’s also important that you act on any safety concerns brought to your attention. Nothing kills employee cooperation faster than feeling ignored.

7.  Implement a no-tolerance policy and stick to it

Often, violent employees or customers aren’t first-time offenders. Many times, they will display warning signs or act out on a smaller scale first. Don’t let these incidents go unnoticed – and don’t tolerate bullying or let employee feuds simmer.

For example, if employees start acting suspiciously or you notice a significant change in behaviors, meet with them and address your concerns immediately. If, at any point, anyone (employee or non-employee) acts aggressive or threatening, call the police right away.

8. Train your employees to recognize potential danger

Just as you regularly train employees to recognize phishing attacks through unsolicited emails, you should train them in workplace safety. Remind them about proper procedures for handling suspicious packages, upset customers and unauthorized personnel in secure work areas.

As part of manager training, you should also train your business’s leaders to recognize and stop behaviors that can trigger violence, such as bullying, intimidation and excessive job-related stress. And that goes for their own behavior, as well as that of employees.

Your managers should also learn about common issues that may lead to violence, such as poor performance reviews, firings, unwelcome changes in role and personal stress outside the workplace.

If the unthinkable happens

Being proactive about workplace violence prevention is definitely a smart move – and, hopefully, one that will minimize your risk. However, if it does occur, your first priority should always be the safety of your employees and your facilities.

Violence in the workplace is serious business. Learn how HR outsourcing can provide you with the help you need to keep your workplace safe and operating efficiently. Download our free e-book: HR outsourcing: A step-by-step guide to professional employer organizations (PEOs).

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Managing older employees with more experience can be nerve-racking for young managers.

Will they think I’m unprepared? Am I in over my head? Would they rather have an older manager?

It’s likely the younger leaders in your organization are having these thoughts, or have had them at one time or another, as they take on supervisory roles with teams of varied ages – from Generation Z to baby boomers.

Millennials are fast becoming one of the largest demographic groups in the American workforce, with Gen Z hot on their heels. As these younger workers climb the career ladder, many may be managing employees who are much older and more experienced than they are.

So, how can you help your younger managers be more confident and successful as leaders?

First, it’s critical to make sure they’re ready for the role, and to coach them as they transition into leadership. It’s also helpful to understand the doubts that can derail their progress.

Here are some common fears that plague younger workers managing older coworkers who have more experience, and suggestions for overcoming them:

1. “I don’t have all the answers”

Younger employees don’t have the tenure at a company – that insider knowledge and history – that older, more-experienced employees have.

They might not know, for example, the story behind the tension between sales and customer service, or why it’s important to include certain individuals in the decision-making process. That can be unsettling for younger managers who believe leaders should know everything there is to know.

Ways to overcome:

Emphasize that it’s not a manager’s responsibility to have all the answers, but to ask the right questions and find solutions.

Encourage younger managers to consider more-tenured employees as a resource. By tapping into this segment of the workforce, they’ll be able to gain insight on things like:

  • The organization as a whole, along with its history and traditions
  • The dynamics between departments and teams
  • How they work together to achieve the overall goals of the organization.

More-tenured employees offer valuable company perspective that new managers won’t get anywhere else.

2. “They won’t respect me because of my age”

It’s natural for younger managers to feel insecure about their age, especially if the employees they manage are the same age as their parents or older. Fortunately, professionalism and respect are not age-dependent.

Ways to overcome:

Remind less-experienced managers that respect doesn’t automatically come with age – it’s earned. So, whatever their age, they have the same opportunity to earn respect as a more seasoned supervisor.

Advise younger leaders to project confidence, not arrogance. This can be an easy mistake for managers of all ages trying to assert their leadership.

Arrogance and avoidance are the most common leadership derailers, according to a joint 2017 report by The Conference Board, RW2 Enterprises, and global leadership development consulting firm DDI.

Be professional and communicate honestly. The good thing about respect is that it’s a two-way street: When you show respect to others, you usually get it back in return. It’s important to keep in mind:

  • Age is even less likely to become a barrier to leadership if younger managers respect the expertise of their more-experienced employees.
  • Most experienced workers are used to having a manager supervise them, regardless of age.
  • Some tenured workers may have consciously opted out of a management role, preferring to focus instead on their area of expertise.

By the same token, insecurity isn’t limited to the younger, less-experienced crowd. If you have an older employee who hasn’t been receptive to younger leadership, consider the possibility that they might fear their past successes won’t be recognized or valued.

It’s wise to help younger managers appreciate and acknowledge the skills their more-experienced direct reports bring to the table. Showing them how to reassure all team members that their contributions are indeed valued can position young leaders to communicate successfully across generations.

3. “They’re ________ (too rigid, negative, bad with technology)”

Younger managers often fall into the common trap of applying generational stereotypes to older or more-experienced employees.

They may fear that their older colleagues are inexperienced with technology or are reluctant to put in extra time (as they care for growing families or near retirement). Or they might be thinking the seasoned veterans on the team will be resistant to new ideas and initiatives.

Ways to overcome:

Urge younger managers to question their assumptions and have honest conversations with their employees to help break down generational stereotypes.

  • Older employees may not be digital natives like millennials or Gen Z-ers, but many have a firm grasp on technology. They may just use it differently.

For example, maybe they prefer keeping up with their professional network via LinkedIn, rather than posting what they ate for breakfast on Instagram.

  • Older or more-experienced employees are probably willing to work just as hard as their younger counterparts, but how they achieve a goal or meet a deadline may look different.

For example, they may prefer to use careful time management to finish a key project during normal hours with minimum overtime, rather than pulling an all-nighter to finish that project.

  • What may sound like negative feedback could actually be a healthy dose of realism that can help younger managers avoid costly pitfalls on an important project.

For example, an experienced employee’s candor about an unreliable vendor could help the team avoid future inconveniences and missed deadlines.

The takeaway

Millennials and Gen Z have their unique qualities. They’re less tolerant of traditional hierarchy and more committed to flexible work hours through work-life integration. And, of course, they’re usually skilled technology users.

But, while we often think there’s a great divide between the generations and their preferred leadership style, we’re all more alike than we realize. Most of us struggle a bit with our leadership style when we’re just starting out as people leaders.

Research shows that millennials are not that different from previous generations at similar points in their careers. In fact, as leaders climb the management ladder, they rate their effectiveness at mastering leadership skills higher, according to the Global Leadership Forecast 2018, published by DDI, The Conference Board, and EY.

When guiding younger managers on how to lead, it’s important to focus on the similarities they have with their employees, no matter what their age, in order to enhance communication, build consensus and work together as a team.

All employees want to be respected for their expertise and valued for their contributions. Most also share the common desire to collaborate and achieve their goals to ensure their organization is successful.

That’s the bottom line, regardless of age.

For more tips on how to nurture and support the next generation of leaders in your organization, download our free magazine, The Insperity guide to leadership and management.

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Business owners and managers know that every dollar, and frankly every cent, counts when it comes to running a business. As your business grows, your HR demands can pile up.

What if you had specialized HR experts readily available to help you fine-tune and economize some of the most challenging aspects of your business? How about having a trusted set of advisors to guide your company on employment issues? And how would providing your employees with access to big-business benefits improve your recruiting and retention efforts?

All of these factors have the potential to transform your business, but are they really possible? They are when you outsource your heaviest HR burdens to a professional employer organization (PEO).

What exactly is a PEO?

In a nutshell, a PEO is an organization that enters into a co-employment relationship with your company, assuming many of your employer-related HR responsibilities, such as payroll and benefits. This frees up time you can devote to running your business.

So, where are the savings?

PEOs do more than just save time and headaches by handling many employer responsibilities. They can also save you money by helping you avoid costly pitfalls – like hiring the wrong candidate for a key role – and helping to steer you clear of HR-related compliance issues that could result in hefty fines.

Here are seven key areas where outsourcing your HR challenges to a PEO can help you save money:

1. Benefits

A primary goal of the PEO relationship is to provide your employees with access to cost-effective, comprehensive benefits without the administrative and regulatory burdens that can be so overwhelming and costly.

As a co-employer, the PEO is able to offer a wide variety of benefits to your employees through PEO-sponsored benefit plans, such as medical, dental and vision coverage, a healthcare flexible spending account, and life and disability benefits.

As the plan sponsor, the PEO will handle the related administrative tasks, such as negotiating with carriers, enrolling employees, providing legal notices and handling COBRA administration.

The PEO will also help your employees better understand and appreciate their benefits by providing online benefit plan content and enrollment tools, as well as a contact center that can answer benefit plan questions.

2. Payroll

Working with a PEO can decrease your payroll-processing and related accounting costs. PEOs also conveniently automate the payroll process and handle your withholdings, W-2s and garnishments.

Look for a PEO that provides payroll services with a simple, straightforward fee, rather than a PEO or payroll service that charges separate fees for each of its various payroll services, such as providing quarterly and annual payroll reports.

3. Retirement plans

A PEO can provide access to a retirement savings program that includes 401(k) plans – a benefit offering that may help your employee retention.

For small businesses, it’s worth finding out if your PEO sponsors a 401(k) plan that would allow your employees to defer compensation for retirement while taking advantage of employer matching or other contributions.

As plan sponsor, the PEO will manage the 401(k) administrative responsibilities and regulatory requirements, including compliance testing, distribution processing and required notices. The PEO will also provide educational materials and an online experience that can help your employees achieve better retirement outcomes.

4. HR compliance

Employment law is complex and ever-changing. Not keeping up with the countless HR laws, regulations, and rules that apply to your business can cost you big time. There are numerous state and federal agencies with the power to fine you if you don’t comply.

Are you up to speed on the following laws and regulations? If not, a PEO can provide guidance from seasoned HR professionals and help you avoid compliance mishaps.

  • Do you know the locations where your business operates that have paid sick time policies in effect? Though they may only vary slightly from one state or city to another, you’re still responsible for adhering to any sick leave policies that may apply – everywhere you do business.

That means, even if you just have one employee working remotely from a home office in a particular state or city, your company is responsible for being compliant. This can make compliance quite tedious, especially when you have employees in multiple states.

  • Are you aware of current regulations for hiring practices? Recent “ban the box” laws prevent employers from asking about criminal backgrounds on an initial job application.
  • Do you know if your company is compliant with wage equity laws? This new wave of regulations prohibits requesting salary history on job applications.

Regardless of whether you have an in-house HR person (or staff), teaming up with a PEO can give your business a significant advantage. You’ll have access to trusted advisors who work hand-in-hand with you to keep you aware of regulatory updates and guide your business in making the appropriate adjustments.

5. Workers’ compensation

Insurance premiums and claims management – both of these components make workers’ comp costly and time-consuming. As a co-employer, a PEO can provide workers’ compensation coverage to your employees through its own workers’ compensation insurance program, as well as handle the compliance, audits, paperwork and certifications associated with running these programs.

A good PEO should offer your business access to a dedicated team of workers’ compensation specialists who are familiar with your business and work collaboratively with your core HR services team. They can help you mitigate risk while providing impacted employees the answers they need in a timely manner.

6. Lawsuits

Think you can minimize legal expenses and PR fallout from lawsuits? A single lawsuit can devastate your business, so keeping your employer liabilities in check is critical. A PEO shares liability associated with certain employment-related claims, including wrongful termination.

For example, a top-tier PEO likely has equal employment opportunity specialists who are well-versed in the intricacies of discrimination laws. With a PEO as a resource, you can tap into the experience of multiple experts to mitigate a potentially costly settlement.

Their HR knowledge can help make sure release agreements are in compliance with state laws. It’s important to note, however, that such advice is not a substitute for legal counsel. Instead, it serves as an added layer of defense – that second set of eyes to warn about potential trouble.

7. Recruiting

These days, recruiting moves at light speed. Positions open up quickly and you almost always need an equally fast turnaround to find a qualified and capable candidate. The problem is, you probably don’t have the time and bandwidth to focus on the essentials of solid recruiting.

When you consider the time and money spent placing job ads, interviewing candidates, conducting background checks and more, hiring the wrong person can turn into a costly error. A thorough PEO should offer additional services, such as recruitment assistance, and be able to provide you with access to experienced recruiters who can size up your company’s employment needs.

A good recruiter is usually adept at reading people for particular jobs. They know how to analyze tone of voice during phone interviews, can assess a candidate’s attitude and evaluate emotional intelligence to determine a candidate’s capacity to perform well in a real-world job setting.

Savings plus peace of mind and perspective

Certain PEOs have applied with the IRS to be designated as certified professional employer organizations (CPEOs). The CPEO designation is reserved exclusively for PEOs that meet the IRS’s strict requirements for such designation, including the requirement to provide the IRS with audited financial statements.*

CPEOs are solely responsible for payment of federal employment taxes on wages they pay to worksite employees. This relieves the potential burden from your business, as a client of the CPEO.

Additionally, the laws governing the CPEO relationship allow client companies to maintain specified tax credits for which they would otherwise be eligible. It also puts an end to wage-base restarts for new clients – even during the year.

Working with a PEO or CPEO can help relieve your company of many of the employment-related responsibilities and risks that come with running a business and hiring employees. Additionally, by joining a PEO, your employees will have access to a comprehensive benefits package and online benefit information and enrollment tools, helping you to attract and retain top talent.

What’s more, when HR services and benefits are accessed through a single source, you’ll gain a better understanding of your overall investment in human capital. And your employees will have a single point of contact for information and questions.

Want to learn more about how a PEO can benefit your business? Download our free e-book, HR Outsourcing: A step-by-step guide to professional employer organizations (PEOs).

*The IRS does not endorse any particular certified professional employer organization. For more information on certified professional employer organizations go to www.IRS.gov.

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More and more companies are using blind hiring to increase diversity, but is it right for your company?

If you’re not familiar with the concept, blind hiring is the practice of removing or hiding information that could reveal key demographic data about a job candidate. That might be the job candidate’s photo, gender, name, race, age, address or alma mater.

The idea is that stripping away this kind of personal information cuts through unconscious bias and helps promote a more diverse workforce built on merit, instead of gut feelings or connections to candidates from similar backgrounds.

The practice has gained a great deal of traction in recent years, particularly in reaction to accusations of bias in the tech industry. As a result, some workplace experts suggest blind hiring as a potential solution.

Anonymous recruitment can be done in many ways.

You can have someone internally in your organization, such as your human resources manager or team, redact the information from résumés, applications and other screening forms. To make the process easier, you can also use recruiting software to automate screening, anonymize candidates and even conduct blind interviews.

You can also have job candidates complete a short project or test to assess their skills. Just be sure it isn’t too involved – and if you’re not conducting the assessment onsite, make certain it’s the candidate who actually completes it (and not someone else).

Thinking about making blind hiring a part of your recruitment strategy? Consider these pros and cons to help you decide.

Pros of blind hiring

1. Clears the way for talent to shine

Blind hiring breaks through our unconscious bias and helps laser in on people with sought-after skills and talents – for example, the best coder for your website project.

Symphony orchestras have successfully used blind hiring for years. Between the ‘70s and ‘90s, orchestras transitioned to using a screen to conceal candidates during preliminary auditions.

In fact, a landmark study found that about 10 percent of orchestra members were female around 1970, compared to about 35 percent in the mid-1990s. The researchers, from Harvard and Princeton universities, attributed about 30 percent of this gain to the rise of blind auditions.

If blind hiring works to find the best musicians, it can also be used to single out the true, raw talent your company needs.

2. Ideal for remote workers and individual contributors

In some jobs – think software developers, scientists and engineers – you’re judged primarily on the work you produce.

Blind hiring works well for positions in which skills are of the utmost importance. For example, designing a brochure and writing marketing content both require a specialized creative skill set. Blind hiring is also suited for remote workers who interact less frequently with their coworkers.

In these cases, comradery may be somewhat less important than in positions that require substantial interaction with colleagues in an office setting.

3. Steers you toward facts, rather than gut feelings

Have you ever gone with your gut when hiring someone, only to find out your gut was wrong and you hired the wrong person for the job?

It’s a pretty common mistake.

As humans, we gravitate toward people we connect with, and sometimes that means candidates who are most like us in background, gender or race. The problem with this (besides unconscious bias) is that the people we connect with the best, may not always be the most qualified for the job.

Blind hiring prevents gut feelings from clouding your judgement.

Cons of blind hiring

1. Can be too anonymous

In companies where employees often work as a team, it’s critical to hire people who are not only the right fit for the job, but also the right fit for the company’s culture.

When we make hiring a blind process, we could risk missing that all-too-important cultural fit piece of the puzzle.

If every single bit of personal information is removed from screening, blind hiring can become a very robotic process. When that happens, it may not accurately reflect the creativity and personality of an individual, or how they will contribute to the harmony of the team.

There’s more to a person than just a simple skill set or what they look like on paper.

2. May lengthen the hiring process

An exhaustive blind hiring process can add additional steps and hoops for job candidates to jump through. The longer you take to interview and screen a potential job candidate, the more you risk alienating them or losing their interest.

And some job candidates may balk at completing a project as part of the interview process, viewing it as working for free. To avoid the hassle, they may opt to go with a company that’s less trouble.

Taking time to remove personal information and assess personalities and skills can also lengthen the hiring process and, in turn, drive up costs.

Considering that it costs companies on average upwards of $4,000 to hire a new employee, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, that’s an important fact to keep in mind.

3. Not a silver-bullet solution

Blind hiring still has its flaws. A recent article published by Forbes describes blind hiring as “an imperfect science.”

The main pitfall of blind hiring is that many organizations may view it as the solution to their diversity problems when actually, it’s just one piece of the puzzle.

Blind hiring doesn’t fix an organizational culture that’s unwelcoming to employees from diverse backgrounds.

True, it can help get more diverse candidates in the door, but what happens next? In the words of the well-known diversity consultant Vernā Meyers, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

If you sense that achieving diversity is a problem for your organization, it’s probably time to take a deeper look at the inclusion piece.

Are people of diverse backgrounds, races and genders well represented in leadership positions throughout the company? Are they involved in key decision-making? Taking a cultural audit of your company may help shine more light on problem areas and how you can improve.

The bottom line

Just like anything in business, there’s opportunity for blind hiring to go off the rails if approached haphazardly.

But if you put together a well-thought-out program, it can possibly help your organization achieve greater diversity, or open your eyes to promising job candidates who might have slipped through the cracks before.

Keep in mind, it’s still important to follow up blind screening with a thorough interview process. Otherwise, you may not get a clear picture of a candidate’s emotional intelligence (EQ), creativity and personality – or be able to assess how well they work with others.

Cultural fit can’t be overlooked, particularly in positions heavy on teamwork.

Want to learn more ways to build an optimal workforce with the skills and drive necessary to propel your business to success? Download our free e-book: How to Develop a Top-notch Workforce That Will Accelerate Your Business.

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Don’t think you need to hassle with creating an employee handbook? Think again.

As your business grows, a strong employee handbook is a manual for what your employees can expect from your company and what your company expects from them. So, unless you’re your business’s sole employee – or you’re running a family business with only you, your sister and cousin as employees – you need an employee handbook.

Not having clear policies can mean big problems. Employees often look for loopholes when they try to justify behavior outside your expectations, and they look to your employee handbook to find them. Your employee handbook should provide guidance to reinforce your policies.

As you begin writing, or updating, your employee handbook, keep it simple, straightforward and relevant to your particular business. Outline the policies that affect your employees.

Here are six areas that can help you kick-start a strong employee handbook.

1. Code of conduct

Your business’s code of conduct is the first place employees should look when they have questions about ethics and compliance. It’s a roadmap of how they should act, and it speaks to your company culture.

Some of the basic information you’ll want to include in your code of conduct includes:

  • Code of ethics
  • Dress code and grooming standards
  • Workplace safety
  • Attendance requirements

Spell it all out for your employees. Set expectations and establish the consequences for not meeting those expectations.

For example, if an employee is consistently late to work, you should be able to refer them to their handbook for specifics on their working hours, as well as the protocol you determine for excessive tardiness. Or, if male employees are expected to wear suits and ties, but a rogue employee insists on foregoing the tie, how willing are you to relax some rules?

Maybe you could offer casual Fridays as a compromise. Whatever you decide, you’ll set you and your staff up for success by including this information in your employee handbook.

2. Communications policy

A clear communications policy may have been optional in the past, but it’s more important than ever in the current technological environment.

Do you provide your employees with laptops, cell phones and other devices? Do you really know how those devices are being used? How often are your employees using company equipment to surf the net, make personal phone calls, store photos, text friends or post on social media? 

Your communications policy should explicitly state your expectations of appropriate use of devices and behavior on those devices. Employees should have a clear understanding that when they use company equipment, they’re acting as a representative of your company. Tell them, for example, that sending bullying texts to someone on company equipment can get them fired.

Make sure they understand that other company policies, such as anti-discrimination, anti-harassment and ethics policies extend to all forms of communication and all devices.

3. Nondiscrimination policy

This is a must for any employee handbook. You want employees to know that your organization will not tolerate discrimination or harassment in any way, shape or form.

State and federal legislation brought on by the civil rights movement of the 1960s protects employees from discrimination based on factors not directly related to the quality of their work. These include but are not limited to:

  • Age
  • Race/color
  • Religion
  • Pregnancy
  • Disability

Laws prohibiting discrimination are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Keep in mind that discrimination isn’t always overt or on purpose. Even good managers can slip and unintentionally discriminate among employees. Are employees complaining about the perfect, five-star rating one employee received on his review when no one else did? Maybe they believe it’s because he and his supervisor are lunch buddies.

Chances are, the manager is just trying to help his friend get the annual salary increase – and doesn’t realize he may be discriminating against the rest of his team. Regardless, this is a huge area for potential liability, and a strong handbook can be a good defense if charges are filed against your company.

In the meantime, good managers aren’t born – they’re made. Make yours aware of your policies and provide supervisory and leadership training on nondiscrimination.

4. Compensation and benefits policy

Employees don’t always remember all the perks you talked about during their interviews. You can use your employee handbook to remind them about employee benefits, including general information and vacation time.

You also want to cover your legal bases by explaining things like payroll deductions, overtime, the Family and Medical Leave Act and the workers’ compensation policy.

Keep things simple and high-level, however. There are no absolutes in business, and a change in circumstances, benefits or policies will mean you need to update your employee handbook.

For instance, you might want to outline your benefit and compensation philosophy without naming specific carriers or plan options.

You can also outline how often employees will receive performance reviews without mentioning specific pay increases. You don’t want to outline the specifics of yearly merit increases and then find you can’t provide them because of business demands. Be careful about the details you include.

5. New hire and separation policy

Provide the basic terms of employment and what employees can expect if and when they terminate, including:

  • Eligibility for benefits – is there a waiting period? How long?
  • Frequency of pay periods – weekly, bi-weekly, monthly?
  • Transfers and relocation – if employees quit or move, how much notice do you require? Do you provide relocation assistance for employees who transfer to another office within the company?
  • Referrals – do you offer monetary rewards to employees who refer talent that you hire?
  • At-will and discipline – do you have a progressive discipline policy? If employees are terminated by you, are they paid for vacation time (if not required by state law)?
6. Acknowledgment of receipt

Be sure your employees understand everything in your handbook, and require that they sign an acknowledgment of that understanding. Make two copies. Give one to the employee, and keep the other in their employment file – whether it’s a hard copy or electronic document.

Consider available technology, and decide in advance:

  • Will you accept an electronic signature?
  • Is your employee handbook available online?
  • Can the online version of the handbook be printed?

If an employee termination becomes contentious, and policies are being contested, having on file the employee’s signed acknowledgment of receipt can be your strongest defense.

Putting it all together

Your employee handbook is a manual of information that your employees need to function within your organization. A good handbook will:

  • Set the tone for your organization
  • Summarize rules and policies that affect your company culture
  • Provide a consistent message for your employees
  • Strengthen your position when you need to terminate an employee

You don’t have to include the kitchen sink, but be sure to cover the pertinent points that are relevant and applicable to your business.

For instance, a manufacturing firm may not have a critical need for a communications policy. Likewise, if you have employees who travel for business, address the issues surrounding that, e.g., per diems, expense reimbursement, etc.

In addition to policies, your employee handbook should include information about who to contact should an employee need to report policy violations.

Expect to update your handbook every one to two years. Be sure you include key state and federal policies, and realize that new laws and regulations mean revisions to your handbook to remain compliant.

Remember to always make sure your policies are clear and don’t assume that everyone will read their handbook cover to cover. Try to keep your handbook to a maximum of 30 to 40 pages, if possible. If it’s too long, it may not get the attention it deserves.

If you’d like to learn more about creating airtight policies and procedures for your business, download our free e-book, 7 Most Frequent HR Mistakes and How to Avoid Them.

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