Archive for the ‘Employer Best Practices’ Category

Managing Employees: Tips to Make it a Little Easier

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

employeescreeningblog, pre employment screeningMost leaders have good intentions. They work hard, and strive to develop their employees’ talents and abilities to reach the organization’s goals.

But not all of them are successful. Sometimes, it’s the little things that need attention, but can make a big difference in morale and productivity. Keeping good employees happy can help ensure they stick around longer, which makes work easier and more pleasant for everyone—and by reducing turnover, helps the bottom line.

Here are a few small ways to make managing employees easier:

  • Get rid of unnecessary processes and rules. Ask staffers what rules and procedures are hampering their productivity or just making them unhappy. See if there are ways to rework policies to achieve the same goals. Is it really harmful to allow purple hair or for employees to eat at their desks?
  • Clarify your expectations. Employees will achieve more if they know what’s expected of them. They don’t often know what the outcome of their tasks should be, or exactly what a “good job” looks like. Tell them what you need, what success entails, and how their work will be evaluated.
  • Uncover and use employees’ talents. Get to know what really lights up your employees. What are their passions? What are they really good at? Can you incorporate their best qualities into their current position, or should you create a new position? You’ll get better results when employees feel fully utilized.
  • Don’t waste their time. Unnecessary meetings, meetings that start late or don’t have a strict agenda, weeks of work that gets tossed because someone changed their mind about what was needed—they’re all big time wasters. Plan well and respect everyone’s time.

As in any relationship, keeping communication open between managers and employees is key to success. Ask people what resources and tools they need to be successful, and  find a way to provide them. Then, eliminate things they don’t want or need, and above all, keep listening.

New Password Protection Law in California

Friday, October 26th, 2012

employee screening, background checkLegislators around the country have been reacting to reports of employers requesting or requiring employees and/or applicants to provide access to their personal social media accounts. Maryland and Illinois both enacted “password protection” laws, followed by the California, where Governor Jerry Brown recently signed a new bill into law.

California’s law generally prohibits employers from requesting employees and applicants to provide access to their personal social media accounts and content. However, it is not as broad as the Illinois law, which prohibits employers from demanding access in any manner to an employee’s or prospective employee’s account or profile on social media sites. Illinois employers may not ask for log-in information, look over employees’ shoulders to gain access to it, or request screen shots of social media posts.

Maryland employers may not directly request log-in credentials, but are allowed to access an employee’s social media account when the request is in conjunction with securities fraud investigations or improper use of trade secrets.

California’s law also prohibits employers from requiring employees to access their social media accounts in the employer’s presence (“shoulder-surfing”) or to provide log-in information. In addition, it prevents employers from requiring employees to share any social media content, such as the Facebook posts of co-workers.

However, California’s law permits employers to ask workers to divulge personal social media content if there is a reasonable belief that it would be relevant to investigations of employee misconduct or violations of laws and regulations.

Note that this part of the law does not apply to job applicants. In addition, California’s law states that employers may not discharge, discipline or retaliate against an employee or applicant if they refuse to comply with a request or demand for access to a personal social media account.

Expect more of these laws to be passed around the country in the near future.

When hiring new employees, be sure to conduct proper background screening. The best pre-employment screening process includes employee background checks, employee credit checks, and criminal background checks. You’ll know you’re hiring safe when you screen employees before offering a position.

What Not To Ask a Job Candidate in an Interview

Thursday, October 18th, 2012, employment screeningWhether you’re new to interviewing job candidates, or have been at it for years, we’ve got some news for you: the same old questions won’t do.

The purpose of the job interview is to find the person who can do the job you need to fill, fit in with your company’s culture and stay out of trouble. Not all questions will get you to that goal.

A few questions that employers should not ask:
“Tell me about yourself” – This question is just too general to result in the information you need to know to hire the right person.

“Would you like some coffee?” – Don’t distract yourself or the interviewee from the task at hand. If they say “yes” out of sense of politeness or obligation, you’ll then have to find out about cream and sugar, fetch a mug, make the coffee. Skip the beverage service and get to the interview.

“Do you have your references?” – Again, this detracts from the interview and puts the focus on former employers, friends of the family or semi-influential community members that the candidate might want you to know all about. Save this question for later in the process.

“Where to you want to be in five years?” – There are few good answers to this question. If the candidate answers with “in your chair,” or “president of the company,” is that really what you want to know? They can’t say that they’d like to stay for two years and then jump ship to their buddy’s startup. And if they say they’d love to be in the same job, in the same cubical, doing the same work, what does that say?

Of course, there are questions that can get you into big legal trouble, specifically those that lead to claims of discrimination. Employers are not allowed to ask family-related questions, such as asking a woman how many children she has, or about an applicant’s religion, national origin, marital status, race, disabilities, health or physical abilities, or age. Asking whether an applicant is a U.S. citizen is also illegal.

What Does Sustainability Mean Today?

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

employee screening, employee credit checkPlenty of companies are touting their sustainable practices and accomplishments. But sustainability goes beyond switching to recycled paper and reducing waste. Employers may have heard that sustainability has taken on a broader definition that encompasses good human resource practices.

Sustaining employee relationships is a big part of a more holistic business view. Just ask any company manager who has applied for sustainability certifications: many of the questions will be related to HR. Certifying agencies want to know how employees are treated and paid, and how the company relates to the community at large.

HR departments are more engaged in building a company culture that embraces all forms of sustainability. Organizations are trying harder to build good community relationships by supporting worthwhile organizations and leading the way to improve daily life for everyone. They are improving their diversity, from the boardroom to the shipping room. They are focusing on the “triple bottom line” of people, planet and profits.

Creating a sustainable culture can start with the little things: recycling and reusing are certainly an important foundation. From there, it’s important to take care of employees through fair pay and benefits, training and performance management, and by actively pursuing diversity and inclusion. Finally, going beyond the company’s walls to improve surrounding communities helps ensure a healthier place to live, work and do business in.

All of these steps contribute to the new definition of sustainability: a long-term view of how to do business fairly, rather than a close-up focus on sales and profits. And still, many companies report a positive return on their sustainability program investment, along with a rise in morale, efficiency and loyalty, and an improved public image and brand awareness.

Sounds like creating a sustainable culture can be an all-around winning strategy that benefits the company, its employees, the planet and the community.

Are Your Employees Job Hunting While on the Job?

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

pre screening employee, employee background checkEmployees come and go; that’s just a fact of having them. But that doesn’t mean employers shouldn’t take steps to keep the good ones. Retaining good employees is good for business in many ways. It saves money on recruiting, hiring and training. It helps keep productivity high. And retaining good employees is good for morale.

And then there’s the other side: is it fair for employees to search for new jobs while they’re at work? Should employers have to pay their employees to find a new employer? Obviously not.

That’s why it makes sense to know the ways employees might be looking for new jobs while working for you. First, you might be able to interrupt a great employee’s job searching activities and find ways to keep him or her. Second, you can be open with job searchers and remind them they need to work for you—not look for work—while they’re on the clock.

Here are a few things employers can do to see if employees are job searching on the job:

  • Check social media profiles: If employees are updating their experience, skills or recent accomplishments, it could be a sign they’re starting the job search.
  • Pay attention: Look for changes in habits. Employees who suddenly wear dressy clothes could be interviewing, as could those who usually eat at their desks who are suddenly taking long lunches away from the workplace. If early morning interviews or coffee meetings are taking place, staffers who typically arrive at 8:00 a.m. might start coming in late.
  • Look for a drop in productivity: For workers who use computers all day, it can be difficult to know what they’re actually doing. Is George preparing those budget forecasts or catching up with online networking contacts? Is Elizabeth preparing shipping documents or applying for jobs? If their work output is lower than usual, it’s time to check in.
  • Job-searching employees who are more production-oriented may be away from their workstations more often, taking phone calls in private or borrowing other employees’ computers to check email or online job site activity.
  • Monitor employee activity: Employers are allowed to monitor employee use of computers, Internet, email, telephone, etc. After all, you’re paying for the equipment, the utilities, and the building, not to mention paying the employees to be there. Do you really want them taking care of personal business—like searching for a new job—on your dime?

Remember that what employees do on their own time (even interviewing on their lunch hour) is their own business. But if they let job-searching bleed over into their work time, it becomes the employers’  business.

Is Hiring Smokers Becoming a Thing of the Past?

Friday, June 29th, 2012

employee screening, employee background checkSmokers cost employers money, there’s no doubt about that. Some estimates say smokers cost about 15% more than nonsmokers. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates smoking costs the United States more than $193 billion every year, between medical expenses and losses in productivity.

Some employers are not putting up with it any longer. Last year, nationwide retailer Macy’s started charging employees who smoke $35 per month for health coverage. Smokers can have the cost deferred if they enroll in a free smoking cessation class. After six months, their progress is reviewed and if they’ve quit, great. If not—the surcharge starts again.

And Macy’s isn’t the only company to charge smokers a fee. PepsiCo and Gannett both charge smokers extra health insurance fees. But some go further. Union Pacific and Scotts Miracle-Gro, for example, will not even consider hiring smokers. The Cleveland Clinic requires all job candidates to have their blood tested for nicotine.

Starting in 2018, health reform legislation will require companies with health plans that significantly exceed the average to pay an additional federal tax. Many companies will have no choice than to do what’s necessary to cut healthcare costs—including reducing the number of smokers on the payroll.

Most employers have smokers on their staffs. And while most workplaces prohibit smoking indoors, smokers who light up only at home can still have a negative effect on a company. Employers may choose to encourage smokers to quit through positive methods, such as quit-smoking classes or cash incentives, or through punitive measures, such as fines and surcharges.

Or, the entire company could shift its entire focus to better health. Helping employees lose weight, increase their fitness levels and quit smoking can increase morale while lowering health insurance costs. By showing that they care about the health and well being of all employees, as well as their families, employers can affect real, lasting change.

The question remains: is it still better to hire the best possible candidate, even if he or she smokes?

When hiring new employees, be sure to conduct proper background screening. The best pre-employment screening process includes employee background checks, employee credit checks, and criminal background checks. You’ll know you’re hiring safe when you screen employees before offering a position.

When Employees Lie—or Hide the Truth

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

employment screening, employee background check, pre-employment screeningIf you’re lucky, you have good employees, who are honest and hard working. They don’t steal from you and you can always count on them to tell the truth. Or can you? How do you know for sure if employees are hiding the truth or outright lying, unless you catch them in the act?

Here are some examples of less-than-honest behavior that almost always seem to come to light:

  • An employee sees another worker taking office supplies home, but does nothing.
  • An employee mistakenly breaks a piece of equipment, but he doesn’t admit it or bring it to your attention.
  • An employee sends out a post on Twitter that contains incorrect information, realizes her mistake, but covers it up and doesn’t tell you.

When employees lie or hide the truth, does the problem lie with them or with you? Perhaps it’s a good time to take a long, hard look at your company, and ask a few questions:

  • Why don’t your employees feel safe admitting mistakes or letting you know you’re being cheated?
  • What is your company culture really like?
  • How have these types of situations been handled before?
  • Are employees in fear of retaliation, termination or ridicule?
  • Have you demonstrated trust in your employees?
  • Does management view these types of incidents as the cost of doing business, or as big problems?

If you can honestly say that your company has an open and respective culture, where errors are understood and employees are used to giving and receiving feedback, then these types of incidents might be more of an employee problem.

How would you handle each of the above employee scenarios? The first thing to do is to have a talk with your employee. Clarify what really happened and why she reacted the way she did. If no one was notified, why not? Did she not know the correct procedure? Was she afraid? Explain the acceptable behavior and ask for a commitment that she will follow procedures should another incident occur.

Company cultures are living things that need care and feeding. It’s not enough to simply establish a culture and expect everyone to follow and embrace it forever. Keep working on instituting mutual respect, tolerance and communication to prevent lies and secrets from harming over your company.

Employer Claims Ownership of Twitter Account in Lawsuit

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

employee screening, employee background checkIn today’s business world, many firms hire a social media manager , who is in charge of a company’s Facebook page, Twitter account, YouTube channel, and other social media marketing platforms. They’re tasked with promoting the company, gaining followers and engaging customers.

In other organizations, employees have a looser affiliation with the company’s official social media presence. They may have a personal Twitter account where they post both business and individual messages.

A new lawsuit is bringing the value of a social media account into question. Namely, can a company claim ownership of an employee’s social media account?

In this case, an employee for, a mobile phone site, set up a Twitter account under the handle Phonedog_Noah that grew to 17,000 followers. He left the company, which at the time said he could keep his Twitter account if he tweeted on the company’s behalf from time to time. He agreed and changed his handle, but kept his followers.

Eight months later, PhoneDog Media sued him, saying the follower list was a customer list that the company owned. It sought damages of $2.50 per follower per month—a total of $340,000. The employee claims the suit is in retaliation for his own lawsuit against PhoneDog for unpaid wages and profits. He also disputes the worth of the Twitter followers.

This case puts the spotlight on an increasingly difficult problem for many employers. While tweeting and posting to Facebook or LinkedIn are often assumed to be an employee’s prerogative, which can improve (or at times, harm) the company’s reputation, while enabling employees to network and learn information that can improve their job performance.

The California District Court, which is hearing the case, may issue a ruling that puts the decision back in Twitter’s hands. After all, Twitter owns the entire site and everything that happens on it.

Companies that wish to avoid such interruptions and expenses should immediately craft clear social media policies, covering questions about ownership and portability.

When hiring new employees, be sure to conduct proper background screening. The best pre-employment screening process includes employee background checks, employee credit checks, and criminal background checks. You’ll know you’re hiring safe when you screen employees before offering a position.

Creating a Comfortable Workplace For Everyone

Monday, January 16th, 2012

employeescreeningblog, employee screening, pre-employment screeningFor employers, hearing that yours is a toxic work environment is not good news. Whether it’s flirtatious co-workers, religious displays, bullying or inappropriate language, there are dozens of factors that can cause people to feel uncomfortable at work. On one hand, this type of environment can hurt employee morale, and cause higher levels of turnover. Under more serious circumstances, it can lead to lawsuits.

How can employers and HR managers create a work environment where every employee feels respected and comfortable? Here are a few tips that can help you shape a clear policy, so everyone knows what’s expected and what types of behavior will not be tolerated.

  1. Gather information: First, meet with employees who have expressed dissatisfaction with the work environment. You can do this individually or in groups. Ask them to share any details of inappropriate or hurtful behavior, without naming individual employees who have perpetrated the behavior.
  2. Create a list of workplace rules: Call it a code of conduct, a mission statement or a new company policy—whatever works. Take the information from the interview process and determine what is and is not acceptable. You may include items about personal behavior, such as treating employees and customers with respect, not harassing or bullying, and using language appropriate for the workplace.
  3. Communicate the rules to all employees: It’s important that staff and management alike understand that the new rules are to be taken seriously, and that infractions will not be tolerated. Disseminate the rules in whatever manner your company typically communicates important policies, and add it to the employee manual.
  4. Follow up: Handle each new complaint as it arises. Deal with the facts and avoid judgment. Clarify what happened and explain how it made the affected employee feel. Then make it clear that this behavior goes against company policy and will not be tolerated.

No employee deserves to work in a toxic environment. Make sure yours doesn’t fall into that category by following these simple steps.

Great Leaders Can Motivate Without Money

Friday, December 16th, 2011

employee screening, employee background checkLow on cash this holiday season? You’re not alone. Studies show that holiday bonuses will be few and far between this year. In fact, one survey of 100 companies showed that 43 percent would not be giving year-end bonuses—up from 28 percent in 2007.

So how can you convince employees to stick with you, even though you’re running leaner operation, and morale is suffering? Luckily, creating a great team often has nothing to do with money—and everything to do with leadership.

How Leaders Motivate Without Spending Money

  • Encourage New Leaders: Make examples out of your best employees. Encourage them to step up and take on more responsibility. If they need more training to perform at a higher level, make sure they get it.
  • Say Thank You: When someone does a great job, show your appreciation. Every time. If your company reaches an objective, share the accolades with everyone.
  • Throw a Party: Celebrations make everybody feel good. Closing early on a Friday and bringing in pizza is a great, inexpensive way to kick off the weekend. Plan a picnic in the summer, or a bowling party in the winter. Anything to break the monotony of work and show your team that you want them to enjoy themselves will go a long way.
  • Invite Ideas: Ask your employees what they think, instead of always telling them what you think. Hold regular brainstorming sessions, where everyone is allowed to contribute. Whether you use their ideas or not, it still makes them feel engaged and valued.
  • Encourage Teamwork: Instead of making one person in charge of a team or project, have the entire group work together as a team, as equals. You may find they are more motivated to do well when they feel empowered.
  • Break Down Barriers to Communication: Asking for ideas and encouraging participation is a great start to better communication. Ignoring titles and allowing staff to break out of their job descriptions can also help.
  • Insist on Accountability: When employees are given high expectations, they will strive to meet them—and feel good when they do. If they don’t, let them know they are still accountable for getting the job done. Don’t allow an employee to present a problem without suggesting a solution. Eventually, everyone will be more accountable for their work and for improving their performance.
When hiring new employees, be sure to conduct proper background screening. The best pre-employment screening process includes employee background checks, employee credit checks, and criminal background checks. You’ll know you’re hiring safe when you screen employees before offering a position.