Archive for December, 2009

Employment Outlook for 2010

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Employer and employeeEmployment numbers are lagging indicators of the economy. While Gross Domestic Product gained 3.5% in the third quarter of 2009, payrolls continued to fall. Job losses announced in November were 11,000. The number is the lowest monthly job loss since December 2007 and the eighth consecutive month where losses were fewer than the month before. As we close out 2009, what is the U.S. employment outlook for next year?

Unemployment is expected to peak sometime next year, and remain around 10% through 2010 and into 2011. However, the huge losses suffered at the beginning of 2009, when 700,000 jobs were lost per month appear to be behind us.

In addition, temp jobs increased in November, and unemployment fell by 0.2% to 10%. Economists had expected an unchanged rate, so the drop is a good sign. The Labor Department also revised job losses for September and October, form 190,000 to 111,000 in October, and from 219,000 to 139,000 in September.

Other indicators are strengthening as well. The stock market is up and business investment in equipment and software increased in the third quarter.  According to economists, meaningful job growth is expected by the end of 2010, spurred both by federal government investment and private employer hiring. Additional indicators: consumer spending was up in November by .5%, while personal incomes were up .4%.

The average number of hours worked each week has fallen throughout the recession. But in November, the average workweek increased by .2 hour to 33.2 hours. The manufacturing workweek increased .3 hour to 40.4 hours. Still, there are 15.4 million unemployed persons in the U.S. and the number of folks working part-time due to cut hours or inability to find full-time work was little changed at 9.2%.

Americans are working hard; productivity is growing. Output rose by 4% while number of hours fell by 5%. This indicates that employers are doing more with less—and may not need to add workers just yet.

But in the long run, increasing productivity is expected to increase demand for workers, as well. What is your company’s employment plan for 2010?

How NOT to Lead and Manage Employees

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

lead employeesHere’s a twist on the usual employer advice. We’re going to tell you what NOT to do if you want to be a successful leader of teams or individual employees:

  • Don’t hire indifferent applicants: You can’t teach passion. Limit your hires to people with passion. Whether it’s for a hobby, their accomplishments, previous jobs, or your company, product or customers, passion is the secret ingredient that makes good employees great.
  • Don’t multi-task: Pay attention to one thing—or person—at a time. New studies show that multi-tasking is not an effective way to manage your to-do list. Encourage your employees to focus on what they’re good at, and to not try to solve every problem.
  • Don’t ignore your gut: There may be a good reason you feel you can’t trust a particular worker. However, if you feel that way about the majority of your employees, the problem is probably you—learn to give up control and to trust people. Let go of the little things and manage from a higher place.
  • Don’t be stingy: Generosity breeds loyalty. Make it part of your company’s culture to give time, energy, and presence, as well as fair pay and benefits, to the best of your physical and financial ability.
  • Don’t shut out ideas: Listen to your staff’s ideas. Out of ten ideas, you might hear eight that are just bad, one that’s promising, and one that knocks your socks off. And when you hear that great idea, execute it—make it happen. It could be good for the company and will definitely be good for employee morale.
  • Don’t be all business: If you’re not enjoying what you do, it’s not likely that the people who work for you will. Make a joke. Ask how people are. Bring in cookies. Take a half day off just to goof off. Have fun.

In the New Year, Protect Your Business’s Most Important Asset: People

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

group of happy workers on employment screening blogAny business that survived 2009 is positioned to improve in 2010. Hopefully, lending will loosen up, enabling businesses to invest in equipment or facilities. Hopefully, job losses will halt, employment will tick up, and consumers will again have cash to spend.

If your planning for next year includes adding employees, it’s a good time to reflect upon your most important asset—human capital—and plan on how you’ll inspire your people to perform at their best, while keeping them enthusiastic and productive about their work and your company.

Effective teams of workers are not happy accidents. In the leadership role, business owners and managers directly affect the performance of their teams. Hiring the right people and placing them in the right position on the right team is a delicate, but necessary practice. If it’s done well, your business will run better and more profitably.

Asking the right questions starts before the hiring process does. Ask your current staff what additional personnel they would hire, given the chance. Ask what they need. Ask what’s working and not working in their current team relationships. Listen well, and ask for input. Have a brainstorming session. While your employees may not have all the answers—or even many usable ideas—it’s important they feel included in the process. And usually, the workers on the ground are acutely aware of what’s lacking in their world.

During the hiring process, look for attributes that will fit in well with established teams. This doesn’t mean that your staff cannot work with someone who doesn’t share their musical taste or hobbies. It’s good to have a diverse group of people working toward a common goal, so everyone contributes his or her strengths. While skills can be learned, enthusiasm, a positive outlook, and passion to do well cannot. Debbie Downers will often bring everyone around them down, too.

Acknowledge and quickly deal with conflicts as they arise. It’s part of gluing a good team together. Certain rules, like fostering a sense of mutual respect, should be adhered to. Let your team know that open communication is always okay, and they’ll be more likely to put conflicts behind them.

Take the time to find the best people, thorough sound procedures, including pre-employment screening. Turnover is costly both in terms of dollars spent and goodwill lost when team members have to deal with new hires more than they should. Nurture your new hires, integrate them fully, and provide all your people the resources they need to succeed. Spend time and effort in 2010 to keep your most valuable asset—your people.

Be sure to check out our Pre-Employment Screening services. Protect your business, increase your peace of mind and lower turnover by hiring smart!

Pros and Cons of Moving to a Smaller Space to Save Cash

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

cubicle-farm on employer screening blogEmployers are surviving the economic downturn in a variety of ways. Some have cut staff, while others instituted hiring and wage freezes.

Thousands of businesses have downsized their space in an effort to reduce rent. To compensate, cubicles are getting smaller. Some employers have eliminated their “cube farms” in favor of open floor plans. Cubicle walls are becoming shorter, too. All of these efforts to squeeze more people into smaller spaces affect workers—sometimes positively, sometimes not.

If you are an employer considering a move to boost cash flow, consider these pros and cons that a tighter working conditions have on employees.

Pro: Increased accessibility. Lack of walls naturally leads to more personal interactions and in some cases, more mentor relationships.

Con: More interruptions can be counter-productive.

Pro: Increased productivity. Fewer walls mean employees tend to cut down on personal conversations and web surfing. They might fear getting caught without a cubicle to protect them!

Con: Too much interaction can lead to problems. One law firm deemed its open floor plan a failure and returned to cubicles because of too many disruptions and personal conversations.

Pro: More people in a smaller space leads to eavesdropping opportunities. It can be motivating for employees to hear each other at work. Newer staff can pick up work style and sales ideas from more experienced workers.

Con: Smaller spaces mean it’s easier for employees to pick up bad habits from each other, become stressed when listening to their quirks (such as crunching through a snack or tapping on their desk), or learn far too much personal information about their peers. All of this closeness can lead to a level of tension that might not have existed in the larger office.

7 Tips to Consider When Firing an Employee

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

packing up deskFiring employees is not easy. For most employers, it’s not something done lightly, either—termination can have many consequences, from a decline in morale to litigation. While the tips presented here should not be considered legal advice, general knowledge and awareness is important, too. For dealing with a specific situation, a human resources professional or employment attorney can always be consulted for expert advice.

If you’re an employer faced with the unpleasant task of terminating a worker, consider the following ideas and tips to make the process a little easier on everyone:

1. Don’t do it alone: have a witness in the room. Whether it’s the HR director, the employee’s supervisor, or a non-management staff member—a corroborating witness will be handy if the employee decides to sue. A witness also discourages any allegations of misconduct, and can help keep anger in check.

2. Don’t fire anyone on their birthday: chances are slim that it would be, but it happens—and nothing makes an employer look more impersonal. During your due diligence and preparation phase prior to terminating, check the employee’s file and avoid the week around their birthday, if at all possible.

3. Compile the paperwork ahead of time: Pull together any agreements or waivers the person will need to sign. Have their final paycheck, or severance pay ready—or a document showing when it will be direct deposited to the employee’s account. Any written warnings or job performance evaluations should be handy, as well—in case you need to refer to them for specific reasons the termination is happening.

4. Be ready to give specific reasons for the termination, listing work performance issues—not personality or personal problems. And, be sure the employee knows for certain that they are being terminated. Then, listen patiently and answer questions. Don’t let the conversation go on for long, or over-explain or debate the issue. Let the employee know that the decision is final. Repeat the reasons you have prepared, if necessary.

5. Have an exit strategy: Disbelief and anger are natural. Some employees are embarrassed, and some become emotional. Allow the employee to vent or cry—and then give them time to pull themselves together. If the employee’s anger becomes unmanageable, have someone ready to step in and remove him or her from the room.

6. Don’t allow the employee to disrupt other workers: let him or her know they have a set amount of time to collect personal items, return company property, and leave. Keep an eye out for any trouble, but don’t feel that you must escort them from the building. It’s fine to end the termination on a pleasant note, if possible, by wishing the employee luck.

7. Inform remaining staff: While it is important to maintain the terminated employee’s privacy, his or her fellow workers need to be told about the situation. Just keep the details to a minimum; if the termination affects any remaining staff, let them know how; and if there is a replacement plan, share it. Don’t allow personal questions regarding the employee or the circumstances surrounding the termination.

No one likes to terminate employees. When it is necessary to do so, make it a little less painful by following these steps—and check with an HR professional for legal advice.