Archive for September, 2010

Alternatives to Traditional Salary-and-Benefits Offers

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

employee screening, pre-screening, employment screeningUnemployment is still stubbornly clinging close to the 10% mark. Talented people have been out of work for 12, 18, even 24 months or more. Many are getting desperate; some might consider “desperate” an optimistic view of their situation.

If your company is hiring, plenty of highly-experienced workers might be willing to do almost anything to land a position—any position. We’re hearing reports of job candidates agreeing to more employer-friendly hiring conditions, such as working for greatly-reduced salaries, accepting limited benefits packages, trying out performance-based pay and taking temporary positions.

Some employers see offering temp-to-hire jobs as a win/win way to add needed staff without maximum risk. Others are using contract freelancers in the same way, with even less risk, since they do not come onto the payroll until a hiring decision is made. Several innovative companies are offering an ownership stake in lieu of higher salaries and benefits—which works well for risk-taking, entrepreneurial types of employees.

These new-reality ways to add staff without increasing expenses or risk are worth considering if your company is teetering on the edge or rebounding from the recession. But remember—whether you offer lower salary, part-time work, temporary positions, or a stake in your company, don’t make the mistake of skipping the pre-employment screening process.

Reducing risk by hiring temporary or part-time employees is a wash if you increase the risk to your company by leaving out background checks. All contract, temporary and part-time workers should be properly pre-screened. And before you offer a stake in your company to a new employee, don’t you want the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’ve conducted all the criminal and credit checks you can?

Who knows how long unemployment will remain at this rate, or how much longer employers will be able to hire such high levels of talented employees under favorable conditions?

Is that Independent Contractor Actually an Employee?

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Employers have weathered the economic storm in a variety of ways. Some have replaced laid-off workers with independent contractors, usually known as “consultants,” or “freelancers.” The advantages to employers are many: no payroll taxes, social security or benefits to pay. And, no guilt when it’s time to end the contract—freelancers are used to short-term employment! Independent contractors can be the answer to one of an employer’s biggest headache—payroll.

The downside is when that invisible line is crossed and an employer misclassifies an employee as an independent contractor. Whether it is done intentionally or not, the IRS does not like missing out on revenue it is owed.

And since deficits are so high, those misclassifying employees will be a target of the additional 100 agents the IRS is hiring for fiscal year 2011. Random audits of 6,000 businesses over the next three years is planned.

How to Determine Whether a Worker is an Employee or Independent Contractor
According to the IRS, it’s a matter of degrees of control and independence in the following three categories:

  • Behavior: Do you control what the worker does and how they do their job?
  • Financial: Do you control the financial aspects of the worker’s job, such as when they are paid and who provides and pays for tools, supplies, etc.?
  • Type of Relationship: Is there a written contract? Are there benefits provided to the worker? Is the work performed a key aspect of the business?

There are no real guidelines to help employers determine whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor. The IRS recommends businesses weigh all these factors and acknowledges that factors that are relevant in one situation may not be relevant in others. The keys, the IRS says, are to “look at the entire relationship, consider the degree or extent of the right to control, and document each of the factors used” in making the determination.

If the determination cannot be made, either party may file a Form SS-8 and the IRS will review the form and officially determine the worker’s status.

Do Your Employees Know the Full Value of Working for You?

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

pre employment screening, employee background checkI was once presented a job offer that included the usual items: salary, health benefits and number of paid vacation days. But the smart businesswoman I would come to work for included a few extras. She itemized the yearly value of my health insurance package, the amount of Social Security Taxes the company would pay on my behalf and the contributions the company would make to the state worker’s compensation fund.

The salary number was great—but seeing the real numbers behind the perks (mandated or not) really opened my eyes to the value of this company bringing me into their employ. Value to me; cost to them.

Years later, when I had my own company and was hiring my own employees, I used this same tactic. Whether it impressed my staff as much as it did me, I don’t know. But I, too, wanted my employees to how hiring them would put more money in their pocket than their net paycheck might indicate.

If your employees are unaware of the real cost of their employment—and the real contribution you as an employer are providing to their well-being and their future—remember, there’s no law against telling them.

6 Benefits Your Employees May not See

  1. Vacation: How much is their paid time off worth? Two weeks and a half-dozen or so paid holidays can add up to thousands of dollars. Your staff might think they’re owed paid vacation (and of course everyone deserves time off), but it is still a hit to the company’s bottom line.
  2. Social Security and Medicare: This is a big one. Do your employees realize that you contribute up to $6,621 per year to their future Social Security earnings? And 1.45% of their earnings to Medicare, with no cap? Chances are they do not. Informing them of this fact might just make them appreciate you someday!
  3. Unemployment: When an employee is laid off, the first thing they usually do (after sleeping in) is file a claim for unemployment benefits. Do they realize that you, the employer, is obligated to pay into this fund? Probably not.
  4. Worker’s Compensation: Just as your company makes unemployment contributions on its employees’ behalf, they might not know that worker’s comp is also available to them because of employer-paid premiums. All they know is that they can file a claim when they’re injured and collect the payments.
  5. Retirement plans: Whether it’s through profit sharing or contributions to a 401K, a company-paid retirement plan is free money in your employees’ pockets. They should understand that it’s optional and generous.
  6. Health Insurance: It might seem obvious, but seeing the dollar value of a year’s worth of paid health insurance premiums can really open an employee’s eyes to the sacrifice employers make to do the right thing.

Disclosing to your employees the true cost of bringing them into your company can be a good thing, when handled correctly. In my case, my employer made me feel very fortunate to be hired, and communicated a real commitment to her employees. Making an employee feel like a burden is the wrong approach.

Interviewing Candidates: It’s More than Just Asking Questions

Thursday, September 9th, 2010, employment screeningWhen that nervous job applicant walks into your office, it’s not enough to just ask questions and take notes. There are so many personality quirks, body language giveaways and clues to a candidate’s skills or lack thereof that you could be missing. Taking stock of a potential employee’s complete package is a better way to evaluate a good fit for your company.

Six Other Things to Look for in Job Candidates

Do they pay attention to the little things? We’ve heard of flawlessly-produced resumes followed by a thank-you email full of errors and misspellings. Or a cover letter addressed to the wrong company. A telephone message returned more than 48 hours later. Even of candidates parking in a handicapped space. Lack of attention to these details is an indicator of things to come.

Are they polite? An HR manager we once knew followed every interview with a quick walk through the company’s offices, asking receptionists and others who had contact with the candidate how they were treated. She often heard that an applicant who was exceedingly polite to her was surly to the staff.

Are they engaged? Showing an interest in the position duties, the company culture, the department, and the person they’ll report to are good signs. An interviewee who has absolutely nothing to say when asked if they have any questions is either unprepared or uninterested.

How are their phone manners? Telephone interviews are more common these days. While not as formal as an in-person interview, serious candidates will take them seriously. That means no taking calls at a party or the mall, no laying in bed for the call, and definitely no munching, crunching, drinking or smoking.

Do they follow instructions? Do you offer interviews to candidates who do not provide a cover letter, even though your advertisement asks for one? Then why are you surprised when they become employees who do not follow instructions properly?

Are they on time? This is a no-brainer. Unless there was an accident or other unavoidable circumstances, there is no excuse for being late to an interview.   Conversely, it’s rude to show up for an interview more than 10 minutes early. Candidates who are too late or too early think their time is more important than yours.

When you pay attention to a job applicant’s complete package, you may find the real truth about whether or not you should hire them. And don’t forget to conduct thorough pre-employment screening for background information you need to make the right hiring decision.

Workplace Violence: 7 Warning Signs

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

employeescreeningblog.comPreventing violence against employees is an employer’s responsibility—and not one to be taken lightly. Being aware of the risks and taking steps to make your company a safe workplace are the first steps in a successful violence prevention policy.

Seven Warning Signs Of Potentially Violent Behavior

  1. Threats: either direct or veiled threats of harm
  2. Aggressive or inappropriate actions: Intimidating, belligerent, harassing and bullying behavior
  3. Weapons: Bringing one to the workplace or inappropriate references to or a fascination with weapons
  4. References to workplace violence: agreeing with violence as a solution to a problem, fascination with incidents of workplace violence, or identifying with perpetrators of workplace homicides
  5. Indications of desperation to the point of contemplating suicide: over finances, family problems, or other personal problems
  6. Drug and or alcohol abuse
  7. Extreme changes in behavior

These signs differ from broader examples such as a worker who has experienced the ending of a relationship, or one who has been to counseling. Those are not indicators of workplace violence any more than are broad age-group (men in their 40s) or physical descriptions (wears black clothing).

Rather, the seven behaviors above are not to be ignored—they are clear signs that something is wrong. Identifitying and dealing with an employee who exhibits these behaviors may help prevent workplace violence. Depending on the behavior, the solutions can range from immediate police intervention to disciplinary action or referral to professional help.

Providing employees with a company policy on workplace violence tells them that management takes it seriously and that their reports of threats or unusual behavior will be dealt with. Failing to provide a policy, take reports seriously and deal with threats means employers will fail at preventing violence as well as instilling trust.

Employees must be trained in how to recognize signs of violent behavior and encouraged to report it. Emergency procedures should be practiced so that all staff members know what to do in the event of an incident.

Management can take advantage of training to learn how to take disciplinary actions and diffuse anger, as well as handling crisis situations. Most important, management must ensure that appropriate pre-employment screening is conducted on every employee. Knowing whether the candidate you’re about to bring into the workplace has a history of arrests, criminal activity or violent behavior is the one of the best ways to prevent future workplace violence.

While workplace violence incidents can occur at the hands of people without criminal pasts, thorough employee background screening also includes checking references and talking to previous employers about an employee’s work history, handling of emotional issues, anger management and temperament.

Preventing workplace violence is one of the most important duties of an employer. Educate yourself, your management team and your staff on the seven signs of potentially violent behavior.