Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Is March Madness Good or Bad for Productivity?

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

employee screening, employee background checkNow that March Madness is over, some business owners are reconsidering their policies on the activity surrounding the tournament in the workplace. The innocent office basketball pool can become a dangerous game. And if money is changing hands, it could be even more so–because gambling is not legal everywhere!

A recent survey by CareerBuider indicated that 20 percent of workers have participated in March Madness pools at work. Other reports mention the billions of dollars in lost productivity to business that the March Madness Tournament “inspires.” Maybe your employees are included in those 20 percent and you see a loss in productivity. And maybe you’re fine with that. On the other hand, maybe your office has a more formal atmosphere and you prefer to keep it that way.

So what should your answer be when your employees come to you and ask for permission to start a March Madness office pool next year? Here are some points to consider:

  • Will it harm your company to have a once-a-year office pool? If the only thing in the way is you, maybe it’s time to rethink your reasons for saying, “no.”
  • Can trust your staff to keep the party to a minimum and still get the job done?
  • Avoid online activity, as online betting laws can easily be broken.
  • As the business owner, it might be a good idea for you to avoid any involvement in the pool.
  • Think about the boost in morale that a March Madness pool could create. Sometimes, hard-working teams need a way to blow off steam and just enjoy their co-workers and the time they spend at work.
  • Focus on the amount of work your staff is producing—not necessarily the amount of time they’re spending on their tasks.
  • Remember, it’s been a tough couple of years, and your employees might just need a fun break.

Your employees are your most important resource. Think carefully before you take away their March Madness pool!

5 Signs That You’re Wasting Your Time on a Job Candidate

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

employee screening, employee background checkHiring a new employee? Whether you’ve been through the process many times—or never before, you might be surprised at “what’s out there.” A more-casual approach to life might spill over to the job interview process for many of your candidates. Some might attribute the following behaviors to nerves, youth or any number of excuses; savvy hiring managers know that these actions can be excellent predictors of future behavior.

Five Signs You’re Wasting Your Time on a Potential Employee

She Arrives to the Interview Late: Traffic, wardrobe malfunctions, child issues, whatever! A conscientious candidate has already driven the route to your office, knows how long it will take and knows where he or she is going to park. They chose their interview outfit days ahead of time and absolutely have child care for such an important meeting. Being late indicates that your time is not as valuable as theirs—and never will be.

He Parks Rudely: Grabbing a spot before another person can get it, or parking where the “employee of the month” is supposed to be, shows either complete ignorance or basic rudeness. A conscientious candidate parks as far away from the building as is feasible, leaving the closer spots for you and your employees.

He Disregards Your Employees: Talking down to the receptionist, not holding the door for those behind him, and exhibits of bad manners could mean that the candidate is not someone you’d want to work beside every day.

She Hasn’t Turned Off Her Phone: There are few excuses for being so unorganized that you forget to turn off your phone before a job interview. But even worse is the candidate who answers it when it rings.

He Uses Foul Language: Letting an “F-bomb” slip indicates the speaker either has no filters, considers you a friend, or uses an offensive term so often that he cannot stop himself. In any case, unless yours is a business that encourages such language, it should be the kiss of death for the candidate.

5 Ways to be a Great Boss

Friday, February 25th, 2011

employee screeningIf you’re new to managing employees, it can be a daunting task—especially if you haven’t been formally trained in employee relations. Much of being a great boss is basic, common sense. Try basing your approach on these tips while you continue to learn how to be a better leader and employee manager.

Here are 5 Ways to Be a Great Boss:

  1. Show Your Passion: If you’re not enthusiastic about your company, why would your employees be? Passion is contagious—spread it around and you’ll be the leader that your staff wants to follow.
  2. Be Respectful: Remember the Golden Rule? Treat your employees with respect, and they will do the same. Show them your loyalty and support. Say “thank you”more than you think you need to.
  3. Look for People Who Balance Your Personality: This trick ensures a team that is well-matched for any challenge, with a variety of strengths and personal characteristics that complement each other. Too many employees who are just like you leaves the organization with all its talents (and weaknesses) in the same area.
  4. Recognize Achievement: Don’t let an employee’s outstanding effort stay just between the two of you. Public praise is a sure way to encourage everyone to do their best. Almost everyone loves to be recognized by their boss0—especially in front of their peers.
  5. Don’t Expect Perfection: You won’t get it. Motivating your staff to perform is your job, but if you think you can motivate them to perfection, you’re wrong. They are human. They have other interests besides work. Maybe they won’t work as many hours as you do; perhaps they aren’t as smart or talented as you would like them to be. But as long as they are performing as well as you need them to, that should suffice. Expecting them to be human (and acting like one yourself) will go a long way toward creating a strong an loyal team.

Look For These Red Flags When You’re Hiring

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

employee screening, employee background checkMany employers are cautious when it comes to hiring employees. Is it better to choose from word-of-mouth candidates? Or should you just place an ad online and see what comes in? What about your friend’s kid who’s looking for a job?

No matter how you get prospects in the door, the interview is the most important step in choosing the best new employees. Even now, with so many good workers clamoring for a job, you could easily make a bad hire—wasting your time, the employee’s time and your company’s money.

Red Flags That Might Eliminate a Job Candidate

  • Unorganized: Was he on time? Does she have her resume ready to hand you in case you don’t have a copy handy? Are they well put-together? Matching shoes are always a good sign! During the interview, listen for thorough answers to your questions. Candidates who avoid questions, answer questions other than the ones you ask, or offer incomplete answers reveal their lack of preparation.
  • Don’t know what the company does: It’s a given that a prospect should have done some research on your company; even better is that they know something about the position they’re interviewing for. If a candidate asks no questions when given the opportunity, consider the reasons behind it. Whether he’s nervous or just lacks creativity, no questions asked means no go.
  • No common courtesy: Did the prospective employee send a thank-you note after the interview? While this practice is not as common as it used to be, when a job candidate thanks you for your time, it’s a sign that they are not only polite, but good at following up. Also, observe how they treat other staff, from the building maintenance person to the president.
  • Blame others for their failures: Candidates who won’t take responsibility for their mistakes or lack of success will likely continue this pattern. We’ve all heard employees complain about their co-workers, bosses, or lack of resources—but rarely do we hear an employee complain about themselves! Everyone makes mistakes—and those who admit it and learn from them make great team players.
Hiring? 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.

For Employers: 5 Ways to Uncover Resume Fraud

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Just because it’s almost assumed that job seekers fudge their résumés doesn’t mean you have to fall victim to it. Hiring managers can and should uncover little white lies and big fat fibs on a resume. From misleading the employer about where a college degree was earned, to inventing positions at companies that don’t exist, experienced human resources pros have seen it all.

Various studies show that more than 50% of job applicants submit false information to potential employers. And this includes everyone from Fortune 500 CEOs to college football coaches. A 2004 survey of human resources professionals reported that over 61% of them had uncovered falsifications or inaccuracies in resumes “often” or “sometimes” after carrying out pre-employment background checks.

With a more competitive job market than we’ve seen in a very long time, business owners and hiring managers are sure to see an increase in desperate job hunters hoping you’ll believe what they claim for education and experience—or at least that you won’t take the time to verify it.

Here are 5 Ways to Uncover Résumé Fraud:

  1. Conduct a thorough employee background check: You can receive reports verifying an applicant’s name, social security number, sex offender status, criminal and civil court records, address history, credit report and more.
  2. Verify employment and personal references: Job seekers sometimes get away with phony references—because employers don’t take the time to actually check them. If a phone number and reference name provided by an applicant don’t match, that could be a red flag. It could also be a simple mistake, so be sure to follow up with the candidate. Make sure you double-check employment dates with previous employers to determine whether the applicant stretched them to cover gaps in experience.
  3. Do some social network sleuthing: a simple check of LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter could reveal more about a job candidate than they want you to know. Or, it could provide you with the good feeling that they are who they say they are.
  4. Ask questions: Require job applicants to explain gaps in employment history. Ask detailed questions about education or work experience. If you know a professor at the school they claim a degree from, drop the name. Ask about their supervisor or team leader. Listen for any signs of nervousness or inability to answer questions immediately and succinctly. Broad, vague answers are another warning sign.
  5. Make them nervous: It might sound a bit unkind, but suggesting to a job candidate that you’ll be checking references, including past employers and colleges or universities, might spur a confession by one who has been less than truthful. Those who do not fudge will have no problem with you checking every reference, so try this tactic if you wish to sort out dishonest applicants.

When hiring, you have an obligation to your company, your customers and the rest of your staff to take the time necessary to check out applicants thoroughly. After all, if you hire a liar, trouble could follow.

Schools Fail Students by Failing to Screen Sex Offenders

Friday, December 17th, 2010

background checkFederal investigators reported that individuals with records of sexual misconduct are hired to work in public and private schools as teachers, other staff, volunteers or contractors. The Government Accountability Office explored 15 cases and found disturbing trends. Schools are failing to thoroughly screen sex offenders who then go on to abuse additional students.

Among the findings:

  • A Virginia teacher who recently pleaded guilty to abusing a student also faces charges in three other states and Japan. His long career in education mirrors his long list of sex and pornography charges.
  • In 11 of the cases, offenders who had previously targeted children found new jobs in schools. In six of these instances, more children were abused.
  • A teacher and registered sex offender was hired in Louisiana in 2006 and 2007 without undergoing a background check at all. He is now sought on charges he engaged in sexual conversations with a student. The teacher had previously taught in Texas, but had his license revoked.
  • In Arizona, a teacher who had been convicted of sex abuse on a minor was hired as a teacher without a criminal screening of any kind. He was subsequently convicted again of having sexual contact with a minor.

According to the GAO report, sex offenders are in schools because:

  1. Teachers accused of misconduct are allowed to resign rather than face termination or prosecution. School districts avoid litigation because of the financial impact and time involved. Even harder to believe, these teachers are given positive recommendations or reference letters, and suspected abuse is not always reported to law enforcement.
  2. School officials fail to perform criminal background checks. And when they do, they are not thorough. Some schools checked only their own state’s database, instead of conducting a national criminal records check. This makes it much easier for sex offenders who move across state lines to prey on new victims.
  3. Schools miss the obvious. Even when the Arizona offender answered “yes” on his job application to the question about whether he had ever been convicted of “a dangerous crime against children,” no one followed up on it.

It is almost impossible to believe that school officials are allowing sex offenders into schools. No matter what business you’re in, next time you hire a new employee, ask yourself how well you really know him or her. When you pre-screen employees and conduct thorough background checks, you can weed out the criminals and sex offenders, before they have a chance to cause additional harm.

Difficult Economy Equals More Employee Theft

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

employee background checkCrime statistics show that thefts and burglaries increase during difficult economic times. So it makes sense that employee theft would increase as well. The news is filled with stories like the one from Minneapolis of a man who stole nearly $1 million from his employer, a wrecker company. It took him four years, but he managed to embezzle over $933,000 by cashing checks made out to the business or to vendors.

Theft is not always in the form of cash—but it can cost businesses plenty of that, too. Two Starwood Hotel executives stole information about its brand and used it to develop a competing hotel. Over 10,000 electronic and hard-copy files were stolen in this case, which resulted in a lawsuit against the competitor as well as the two employees.

Even your coffee server could be skimming money from her employer. One Dunkin’ Donuts employee admitted to ringing up sales for less, taking the full amount from the customer, and pocketing the difference. The woman claimed that it was in retaliation for having her hours cut due to the recession. She’s never been caught, although it seems like a few safeguards would make that easy. Requiring receipts would show customers that they are paying $2.00 for a coffee that’s being entered at $1.50. And keeping inventory on coffee cups, comparing them to sales by size, would indicate a discrepancy between what’s being entered on the cash register and what’s going out the door.

Most employers avoid the attention and bad publicity of employee-theft cases, so they don’t always prosecute—which only serves to prevent future employers from knowing the full criminal history on the thief.

Employee theft can happen anywhere, whether your business is “like a family” or a large, more corporate environment. School employees and coaches. Cashiers. Managers. Law firm assistants. Police records are full of scenarios where employers “can’t believe” an employee would steal from them.

The best way to prevent employee theft is to know whom you are hiring. And the best way to know that is to conduct thorough, professional background screening on every potential employee. You’ll know whether they are living among their means with a credit check and whether they have a criminal history with a criminal background check. Even whether they move around a lot to avoid paying back rent, or have evictions on their records—putting together a complete picture of a potential employee is one excellent means of stopping employee theft before it happens to you—especially in this economy.

4 Steps to Take When Ranting Employees Threaten Your Business

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

prescreen employee, employee background checkMany employers have experienced the dramatic exit of a fired or quitting employee. While most don’t compare to the infamous JetBlue flight attendant who slid away on the emergency chute, any company can suffer embarrassment or damage to its reputation or brand when disgruntled employees leave. Especially now, in the age of instant broadcasting via Twitter, Facebook or YouTube, employers can be the brunt of ugly rants or even brutal verbal attacks.

4 Steps to Take When Disgruntled Employees React

  1. Act quickly. If an employee is ranting, ask to meet with him or her privately. If they refuse, then have them quickly escorted from the building. If the situation escalates and the individual threatens harm to himself or other workers, call police.
  2. Keep credibility intact. While responses are sometimes warranted, retaliation is usually not. Making the wrong move can cause more damage than the temporary hit a company might take when the employee quits or rants upon being fired. Keep cool, respond in a professional way, and do your best to move on.
  3. Reassure the rest of the staff. Assure staff that their jobs are not affected. Be open and invite questions. Let remaining employees know that they are welcome to share frustrations in private and that working toward win-win solutions is the goal. .
  4. Control the message. Take the power back from the employee. Generally, employee terminations are not to be discussed. Responding with “We do not discuss employee matters” is sufficient. But when the company’s reputation or brand is on the line, it is appropriate to distribute a message via press release or on the company’s website that a regrettable situation has occurred, but business will go on as usual. “We will continue to focus on providing excellent service and fulfilling your electronics needs” is one example of a simple, effective message. Avoid responding to endless comments on blogs or Facebook pages.

Of course, you should continue to thoroughly prescreen employees to avoid similar situations in the future. By conducting criminal background checks, and verifying ID, address and previous employers, you’ll know you’re hiring the most qualified employees and minimizing risk to your company and staff.

Monitoring Employees in an Age of IM, Email, and Social Networking

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Supervisors everywhere know the frustration of strolling past an employee’s work station, only to find them texting furiously instead of doing what they’re being paid to do. Increasingly, employers are taking steps to cut down on employees’ extracurricular digital communication—whether its instant messaging (IMing), web surfing, texting or making personal phone calls on company time.

Some consider it an invasion of privacy, but the law is solidly on the employer’s side. Employers are allowed to monitor employee communications, and most communication equipment is the property of the business—so its use is dictated by business needs, not staff’s need to keep up with their friends’ latest activities.

Three forces are at work in employee monitoring: first, employers are ever-vigilant about squeezing every ounce of productivity out of workers. If an employee is not giving 100% to his or her employer, there are probably others who will be happy to take over that position. Second, risk-averse employers know that keeping workplaces completely litigation free is an elusive goal—but one that can come closer to happening with the right monitoring practices. Keeping all staff safe from harassment is easier if you know what types of emails and IMs are flying around the company. Third, it’s more important than ever to keep company information and trade secrets confidential. Too many firms have been taken down by loyalty-lacking employees. It’s way too easy to forward a company-only email to the press or a blogger who will quickly spread the information throughout the industry.

Monitoring software is easily found online or at electronics retailers. Depending on the package features, keystroke monitoring, website tracking, and even webcams capture employees’ activities.

Data from 2007 shows that 2/3 of employers check up on employees’ Internet use. From tracking time spent and websites visited, to keystroke monitoring to capture search terms, employers can get a full picture of which employees are using company equipment for work use and for personal use. And a 2009 survey shows that nearly 90% of employees used office networks to send jokes, rumor, or gossip to outside recipients. 14% have sent confidential company emails to third parties.

So far, the courts have ruled that employees have no expectation for privacy when using employer-provided computer systems, cell phones, and pagers. Even employees who send personal emails through a private account are using company servers—and so have no right to expect those emails will not be monitored.

Employers’ best practices are communicating the need for monitoring, and to put a clear policy in place, so workers know exactly what is and what is not allowed—and the consequences for breaking the rules.

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.

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 Briefing.com 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