Archive for May, 2009

Two Ways to Keep Employees

Friday, May 22nd, 2009


googleEven Google, a company famous for its happy work environment and revolutionary business model, has trouble keeping good employees. If it wasn’t the fun, start-up atmosphere and valuable stock options that kept everybody motivated, the unusual perks did. Who wouldn’t love to work where you receive free bus service, free gourmet meals in the company cafeteria, on-site gym and dry cleaners, and a pets-allowed policy?

But lately, high-level and midrange employees have been jumping Google’s ship for newer start-ups like Facebook and Twitter. And Google is not taking it lying down. They have been crunching the numbers and developing formulas that can predict which of its 20,000 employees are thinking of moving on. Google is looking at employee reviews, promotion history, and pay scales, among other factors, and says the new algorithm has identified employees who feel underused—a big reason for employee dissatisfaction.

It’s nice to have the big data-crunching companies out there spotting trends that can help businesses run things better.  So, what can employers can learn from Google’s example? 

Keep Employees Engaged
Many companies concentrate on the customer—and that’s a good thing. But too much attention to one side of the equation can lead to disaster on the other. Employees want to know that they are just as important to a company as the customers, the financial statements, and the economy. They care about their contributions, and if they feel underused, productivity could be affected fast.

Ask employees—often—about how they feel about their position and its importance to the company. You may discover that you and your staff have very different views on the subject.  It’s up to the employer or manager to come up with ways to keep employees challenged and engaged, and to re-evaluate these efforts on a regular basis.

Reward and Appreciate
It’s so easy to overlook this aspect of managing employees—especially in a difficult economy. Many employers feel that they’ve done enough by providing jobs and that alone should be enough appreciation. And to some employers, reward comes in the form of a regular paycheck.  Fair enough! But if reward and appreciations is proven advantageous to the company’s bottom line, it might be enough to convince even the most resistant employer to make the attempt.

Certainly the cost of hiring employees affects a company’s profit. Advertising, recruiting, interviewing, and training are time and money drains on any business. Avoiding that expense by keeping good employees is simply a smart business decision.

One example is Nugget Markets, a small regional grocery chain in California. With a 12% turnover rate, they are well below the industry’s average of 20%. Their culture includes providing employees with free food, dance parties, field trips and bonuses helps to keep 900 staff people feeling appreciated. 

For Nugget Markets, efforts that let their team know they’re valuable has helped keep turnover at a level their competition can’t touch.

Learning from the big guys is something employers of every size can do. Try keeping employees engaged and challenged, and make them feel appreciated. Remember that what’s good for your staff is good for your company’s bottom line, too. 

Don’t forget to check out our Pre-Employment Screening services. Increase your peace of mind and save training costs by hiring smart.

What Employers Should Know About Telecommuting

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009


telecommuting-chart on Employee Screening Blog

Telecommuting is Increasing

By necessity, employers are becoming more and more flexible when it comes to how their employees work. Job sharing, flex time, creative work hours, and telecommuting are a few methods employers use to improve quality of life and even ease the strain of the current economy for their employees. Many employers are finding these alternatives are good for business, too. Telecommuting is on the rise, with one study showing that the number of people working from home at least one day a month doubled from 2000 to 2005.

Increased technology offerings, like high-speed internet, have made telecommuting much easier than in the past. This will only increase the number of telecommuting workers over the coming decade.

Is Working From Home a Good Idea?
If your employees express a desire to work from home, consider the advantages and disadvantages to your business before you make your decision. Will implementing a telecommuting program ultimately increase or reduce the bottom line? How will working from home affect employee productivity?  Will telecommuters take advantage of the situation and cut their output? Analyzing each factor will help you make the best decision regarding telecommuting for your business.

Does Telecommuting Fit Our Business?
There are the obvious “no” answers to this question, such as production-based businesses, food service, or restaurants. If face-to-face interaction is a major function of your business, you need all hands on deck to run it. But if you have a number of employees who are able to perform most or all of their duties without much supervision using only a computer, then your business is a good candidate to consider a work-from-home program.

Does Telecommuting Fit Our Employees?
Not every employee is suited to self-supervision. But workers with proven track records of organization, dependability, and good work habits should be considered for telecommuting. 

What Policies Are Necessary?
Take time to implement procedures that work for your business. Often, one-size-fits-all policies found online prove to be inadequate.

How Are Virtual Employees Managed? It’s important to realize that managing employees from afar presents its own set of challenges. Communicating over email or by telephone removes important visual cues that you use in face-to-face communication. Consider video conferencing or an online resource like Skype that will facilitate communication while keeping that important visual contact. When managing virtual employees, it is also vital that you set clear objectives and expectations, monitor performance, and require accountability. Remember to reward and recognize these employees, and find ways to help them feel included in the company. Don’t let out of sight mean out of mind. Employees need to feel appreciated, even if they only “come to work” once a month!

Are We Supplying the Proper Technology? Providing employees with the best technology possible will not only allow them to perform their jobs, it will make them even more productive. From up-to-date software and high speed internet connectivity to a proper desk chair, giving your employees the equipment they need will go a long way toward increasing loyalty, appreciation and work output. And it could improve their quality of life, too.

Telecommuting, while presenting its own challenges, is a fantastic way to reduce the number of cars on the road and thus, your company’s carbon footprint. And if it improves productivity, your employees’ quality of life and your company’s profitability, it’s a win-win-win situation: good for the environment, good for your employees, and good for your company!

Here’s Some Good Economic News for a Change

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

glass-half-full on employeescreeningblog.comRate of Job Losses, Layoffs Slowing Down
Two reports released on Wednesday
show that the US job loss rate may finally be slowing. While jobs are still going away, at least the rate at which companies are cutting workers is lessening a bit.

Automatic Data Processing is a payroll processing firm that released the first report, based on payroll data from 500,000 US businesses. It revealed a silver lining in April 2009’s decrease of 491,000 in private-sector employment: the figure is down considerably when compared to the 708,000 jobs lost in March. And economists surveyed by had expected job loses of 643,000 last month, so things weren’t as dim as predicted.

The second report released yesterday was from an outplacement firm, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. The company reports that the number of layoffs announced last month fell for the third month in a row, from 150,411 in March to 132,590 in April. That figure, while still 47% higher than April of 2008, is the lowest announced layoff rate since last October.

2009 has seen announced job cuts of 711,100, compared to 290,671 for the first quarter of 2008. Friday’s Labor Department report will reveal April’s total nationwide job losses, including government, private, and non-profit sectors, expected to be 630,000. The number of jobs lost still reflects a recession economy, and job losses are expected to continue; however, the slowdown in the rate of losses could indicate the U.S. is approaching the bottom of the job loss curve.

Lower New Claims for Unemployment
Last week the Labor Department’s total for new unemployment claims fell by 14,000 to 631,000. The four-week average also declined to 637,250. Economists watch the latter number closely, as it historically has helped them predict when recessions will end. The number peaked in the week ending April 4, so a continuing decrease could indicate the end of the recession tunnel is in sight.

Discount Retail Sales Up in April
Target showed just a slight increase over April 2008 in same-store sales, but overall sales were up 4.5%. Walmart boosted same-store sales of 5.9% in April, while overall sales were up a healthy 7.7%. Ross Stores showed same-store sales increased 6%; overall sales were up an impressive 11% for April 2009.

While other retailers showed continuing sales declines, discount remains a bright spot; seeing these retail giants staying strong is a good economic indicator!

Finding economic good news is not easy, but it’s out there. Employers need to know that all is not as dire as it has been, and there are signs that the economy is starting to improve!

Sources: the Wall Street Journal; ADC; Challenger, Gray & Christmas

Fair Credit Reporting Act: What Employers Need to Know

Monday, May 4th, 2009

law-and-magnifying-glass on CriminalData.comWhat do employers need to know about complying with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)? It may seem unlikely that you would have to worry about legislation designed to protect consumers against unlawful use of their credit and personal information. But you must comply with FCRA if you:

Want to check the credit history of an applicant for a cash-handling position;

Intend to promote a long-term employee, but want to be certain they have a good credit record;

Have already obtained a credit history on a job applicant, which is unfavorable; however, it is a lack of experience, not the credit record, that impacts your decision to not hire this person.

Employers are entitled to run consumer credit reports on applicants or existing employees at any time, providing they comply with the FCRA. Employers who use consumer reports have legal obligations under FCRA, which was designed to prevent applicants from being denied jobs or employees being denied promotions unjustly.

You cannot obtain a consumer report until employees or applicants have given their written permission for you to do so. This cannot be accomplished on the employment application.  A separate disclosure must contain the proper notification, and the employee must sign it.  If employees gave permission in the past, you must ensure that they receive a separate notice stating that reports may be obtained over the course of their employment. 

So, what if you didn’t include the disclosure and obtain permission during the hiring process and now you want to run reports on your employees? You must notify employees and get their written permission before you run the reports.

Who can supply pre employment screening reports to ensure an employer is in compliance? To be covered by FCRA, employers must use employee screening reports provided by a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA). The reports can range from simple credit checks to criminal, housing, employment, and driving record checks. 

The FCRA requires employers to comply with reporting requirements. These include: 

Certifying that the employer is obtaining information for employment purposes;
The proper disclosure has been provided to and written authorization has been obtained from the applicant or employee; 
The applicant or employee will be provided with a copy of the report;
And the information will not be used in violation of equal opportunity laws.

What happens if you deny an applicant or a promotion based on information you obtained from a CRA? 

Before you take adverse action, such as terminating an employee, or denying a job or a promotion, you must give the individual a pre-adverse action disclosure, including a copy of their consumer report and a copy of “A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.” This document can be provided by your CRA.

After you have taken adverse action, you are required to give the individual notice, either orally, electronically, or in writing, that the action has been taken. The notice must include the name, address and phone number of the CRA that supplied the report, as well as a statement that the CRA did not make the decision for adverse action and cannot give specific reasons for it. In addition, the individual must be notified that they have the right to dispute the accuracy or completeness of the information and their right to obtain a free report from the agency within 60 days.

For more information on pre employment screening, including everything you need to know about consumer and credit reports, go to