Is it Time to Cut Your Staff?

May 16th, 2013

employee screening, pre-employment background checkPerhaps your company came through the recession intact, and even hired new staff. But as the economic recovery has dragged on longer than many expected, you may be overstaffed.

Having too many employees can be more harmful than too few. You’ll carry more overhead, along with the potential for employee-related issues. In addition, more staff require more of your time and attention.

Keeping your staff at just the right level can be tricky, but once you know how much work there is to be done and the number of people needed to do it, you’ll be on your way.

Start by monitoring cash flow. Most businesses have stronger months or seasons, and those where sales are down. Know what your long-term cash flow looks like, then project sales for 30, 90, 180 and 360 days.

Consider how many employees it takes to handle the peaks. Are staffers overworked during these times, or is this level just right to get the work done? If it’s just right, then you probably have too many employees during slower times. Plan to cut back, and you can always add temporary staff or pay overtime to existing employees when business increases.

If you want to keep all of your employees, but current sales won’t support the expense, there’s a sure cure—get new clients. Create a new business strategy and deploy it, and with success, the business will be able to handle current staffing levels.

But if sales efforts don’t pay off right away, you might have employees with not enough work to do. In this case, the business must come first—and the extraneous workers must go.

When’s the best time to let an employee go? Usually by the time you’re thinking about it, it’s too late. Ask ten business owners if they should have fired a staffer sooner, and eight of them will say “yes!”. Business owners usually put off firing because it’s not an easy task, especially if the person isn’t doing anything wrong. But if you don’t have enough business to justify every employee, someone has to go.

When you’re recruiting the perfect team, don’t neglect employee 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.

Mandated Paid Sick Days: A New Issue for Small Business Owners

April 21st, 2013

employee screeningIn cities like Philadelphia and Portland, Oregon, city councils have recently approved laws requiring that employers give employees paid days off when they are sick.

San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Seattle and Connecticut have already enacted laws that require paid sick leave. In addition, two lawmakers have introduced a bill in Congress that makes paid sick leave a federal requirement.

How does your small business handle sick pay? Some allow employees to accrue sick days according to time on the job. Others give a set amount of paid time off per year, and employees can choose to use it for vacation or when they are sick. And others don’t give paid days at all, forcing employees to choose between going to work when they’re ill and getting paid.

Many employers say they cannot afford to give sick time; it’s a burden they can’t handle until the economy fully recovers. Others are nervous about federal health care changes, and aren’t sure what their financial impact will be.

But employees and experts say that paid sick leave is worth the investment, because it improves morale, increases productivity and lowers turnover.

Employees feel valued by their employer when they are incentivized to get well before returning to work. Plus, they don’t spread their illness to others, keeping productivity higher. Keeping illness out of the workplace is particularly important in the food industry, but any company can benefit.

Nationwide, 66% of all small businesses (up to 499 employees) provide paid sick leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Of those businesses with fewer than 50 employees, half do. And 82% of employees at companies with 500 or more workers receive paid sick leave.

The federal Healthy Families Act would require that workers be allowed to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave per year. It would exempt employers with fewer than 50 employees. The BLS recently issued a study that shows that in general, workers take few sick days. Those in information, transportation, financial services and professional services take an average of four sick days per year. In the leisure, construction and hospitality industries, the average is two per year.

What do you think about the prospect of a federal law mandating paid sick leave? Or do you already offer this benefit to your employees?

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.

Improve Company Culture to Improve Retention and Recruitment

April 11th, 2013

employee screening, employee credit check.

Do you have a strong company culture? Does your staff, from top management to the newest employee, share common values and goals? Or is there a distinct lack of cohesiveness or identity in your company?

When everyone in a company believes in the same vision, whether it’s making the very best dog biscuit in America or putting a space ship on Mars, and feels needed to do their part to make that happen, there’s a sense of pride that cannot be overstated.

Apart from vision, pride and values, companies with strong cultures also tend to be honest with employees, sharing both good and bad news. They demonstrate that all employees are equally needed and important. They allow creativity in approaching how to do their jobs. And they celebrate when good things happen. All of these factors make good employees better, and attract the best people.

It doesn’t even matter how large or small your business may be; if you don’t have a strong culture, you’ll hurt your chances of keeping your best employees and attracting the strongest candidates. A strong culture can also make the hiring process easier, such as when an otherwise promising candidate shows signs that he or she won’t fit into the company’s culture. It’s much easier to pass on such a person, than to hire and find out that it was never going to work out.

Your company culture could be attracting talented peopleor turning them off from the start. Take a look at yours and make improvements where you need to. Start with easy-to-implement changes, and ask employees for their suggestions and input. In fact, that’s a great way to immediately improve your company culture.

What to Watch Out For When Interviewing

April 6th, 2013

employee screening, background checksIt’s difficult to learn everything you need to know about a candidate from one interview. But learning more about personality types can be very helpful in knowing whom not to hire.

Here are some red flags you should look for. Perhaps they will help you avoid hiring someone who could prove to be troublesome.

  • Low energy: If your interviewee doesn’t have much energy during an interview, he or she might not make much effort to get the work done. Or, they might expect others to take up their slack, which could lead to resentment. Check out their posture, how they speak and speed at which they enter and leave the room.
  • Bragging: Prospective employees who brag about accomplishments, or are completely full of themselves can prove to be a negative influence on your team. Confidence is one thing, but narcissism can be dangerous. These types can be manipulative and caustic. They can also be charming and interview very well, so ask lots of questions about teamwork. If your interviewee focuses only on their own accomplishments or puts down their teammates, let that be a warning sign.
  • Bullying: People with emotional or anger problems are everywhere—but that doesn’t mean you want them in your company. Aggression is not always easy to spot, but listen for clues such as complaining about previous supervisors or peers, and ask interviewees lots of questions about how they handle problems. Challenge them to explain and provide specifics, and you may see frustration or anger come up.
  • Complaining: Candidates who practice their interviewing skills will rarely complain outright about former employers or co-workers, but negative people often find ways to get it into the conversation. They might make their mistakes someone else’s fault, or debate you when you ask clarifying questions. Negativity can be very harmful to your company culture and work environment.

How Do Your Background Checks Measure Up?

March 28th, 2013

employee screening If you’re one of the responsible employers who protect their businesses, customers and staff by performing employee screening and background checks, you might wonder how your pass/fail rate compares to others.

Statistics are difficult to come by. Professional background screening companies don’t typically release this data. But there are a few interesting numbers that show that no matter what type of business you run, or what type of individual applies for employment with you, the chances are good that most of them will stretch the truth to some extent.

Applicants embellish the truth, sometimes innocently, as when they make up an impressive-sounding title for a previous job. They might get the dates of employment wrong, either by mistake or deliberately. After all, when a job seeker realizes that a six-month stint at a previous job looks better than the actual six weeks he actually worked there, it’s easy to enter the wrong month on a resume.

There are super-honest applicants, too, who lets you know right up front that she has a criminal past—but it happened when she was a teenager. That kind of honesty is great, but each company’s hiring policy will dictate whether or not this type of incident will prevent hiring.

Other misrepresentations are more serious, where an applicant invents a past, including academic credentials and previous positions. Or when they try to cover up the fact that they left their last position because they were caught embezzling funds.

That’s why it pays to take a broad approach when doing background checks. Investigate applicants who make it through the preliminary screening and interview process on the basis of education, employment, criminal history, driving records, and even social media use.

Remember, because of the large numbers of people out there with criminal histories, or who have embellished their backgrounds, the chances are good that you’ll hire someone with the potential to cause personal, legal or financial harm.

That’s why a system of pre-employment screening is so important to employers of all sizes.

Are Your Employees Getting Restless?

March 15th, 2013

employee screeningEmployees are not getting training and development to help them advance in their careers, according to a recent survey. In addition, two-thirds of workers aren’t receiving any feedback or recognition at all.

The data was released after a November survey conducted by Cornerstone OnDemand, Inc., an HR software vendor. The company asked nearly 500 U.S.-based employees about their jobs and future plans in the wake of the economic slowdown.

The survey revealed that in the past six months, slightly less than one-third of employees received training, while only 25% had met with their supervisors to develop a career plan.

These figures are telling, because they illustrate a fundamental problem with America’s employers—they are not developing their employees, training them to improve and build real careers. What happens then? The employee leaves, and the cycle begins again.

Certainly, many employers cut back on training and development during the recession. But the lack of training is leading workers to change jobs in a big way. According to the survey, 13% of the U.S. workforce (or 19 million employees) plan to change jobs this year. The cost to businesses is estimated to be about $2 trillion.

The survey revealed the following about employees:

  • 14% plan to leave their current job within six months to a year.
  • 25% plan to switch employers within the next three years.
  • 46% of those surveyed said they have a long-range career with their current employer.
  • 48% of respondents said they stay at a job because of a good manager.
  • 46% stay on a job because of appreciation.
  • 39% cite opportunities as a reason to stay.
  • 32% said the chance to develop new skills is why they’ll remain on the job.

If companies fail to give employees the recognition, training and development they want, they should almost plan on workers leaving and seeking it elsewhere.

Recruiting the Best Team

March 1st, 2013

employee screening, employee credit checkIf your business is healthy again, or is just starting to recover from the recession, you may be thinking about your hiring needs. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a perfect mix of employees, who can take care of all your business’s needs, from waiting on customers or entering orders to keeping the books straight and the floors clean? A team with broad skills who can quickly transition to other roles, depending on what the business needed?

A smaller number of more nimble employees might be the perfect post-recession work force, especially for small- and medium-sized businesses. Here are some of the personality types that might make a good team for you:

  • Curious minds: When an employee craves knowledge, that’s your opportunity to cross-train and develop his or her skills to do a variety of jobs. Curious employees might be assigned research projects, so you don’t have to the legwork on which new technology is best for your company, or what peers in your industry are doing to promote wellness in their companies.
  • Cheerleaders: Positive energy can be priceless. It can undo the damage of workers with poor attitudes, or find hope even when sales are down or a key customer goes out of business. It also rubs off on others. Many employees depend on their upbeat co-workers to keep them motivated—and miss them when they leave.
  • Versatile workers: Some people cannot function if they’re bored at work. Variety is more than the spice of life for these folks—it IS life. Since you as the boss have to wear a lot of hats, why not ask this type of worker to do the same thing? If your versatile worker can take some of your hats away, you might have more time to look at the big picture (which is really the business owner’s job).
  • The Big Mouth: It might not be pleasant to have a nay-sayer on staff, but there are times when they come in handy. For example, pointing out flaws in a strategy or mistakes in processes can save your company time and money in the long run. It’s always good to have a devil’s advocate around.
  • Sages: You need people who have the experience and knowledge to bring along newer employees and act as mentors for more established staff. They can save you tons of time and money by helping to train new employees and develop new leaders.
When you’re recruiting the perfect team, don’t neglect employee 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.

Why Do Employees Leave?

February 21st, 2013

employee screening, background checkThe process of recruiting, hiring and training employees is a big part of most companies’ personnel expense budget. When you find good workers, it can really be a letdown to see them resign. Not only does it drain resources, but it can be bad for morale, too.

Every manager wants a strong team of dedicated workers, who know their jobs and do them well. They want to see their teams move forward, grow into positions of greater responsibility and thrive with the company.

But employees do leave, and we don’t always know why—so we can’t always prevent it from happening again. An exit interview can provide clues as to why an employee decided to take a new position. Perhaps he found better pay. Maybe she’s after better perks or an environment she believes will serve her needs better.

Some employers want to know more than why an employee is leaving. They want to know what made him or her start looking for a new job in the first place. Was it the working hours? Lack of home/work balance? Did he hate his boss? Were her contributions overlooked?

Finding the turning point between employee satisfaction and dissatisfaction can be key to retention. Before you need to do exit interviews, why not survey your employees before they head out the door?

5 Best Employee Survey Questions

  1. Do you have the tools you need to succeed?
  2. Do you feel you work in an open, trusting environment?
  3. Do you feel your contributions are valued?
  4. Do you feel your voice is heard?
  5. Do you receive feedback from your supervisor?

Even in the best companies, employees will leave if there are issues with their direct supervisor. Find out ahead of time if that’s happening in your company, and you may not need to do those exit interviews after all.

Office Dating: OK or Not OK?

February 15th, 2013

employee screeningLots of couples meet at work. It’s inevitable: when you put people in a closed environment, where they see each other every day, sparks will start to fly. But not all office romances survive, which can be problematic for employers.

Sometimes it takes a bad experience for companies to decide they need a dating policy, whether it’s a strick no-dating policy or just some guidelines for employees, should they choose to date each other (which they will inevitably do, even if it’s an official no-no).

Here are a few ideas for dating policies that many employers find effective:

  • No interfering with work: Especially when a relationship is new, employees who are dating will almost always allow it to affect their work. They may find new ways to see or talk to their love interest throughout the day, send distracting emails, or sneak away for romance. It’s not fair to other employees to have to pick up the slack. And lovebirds who attend meetings together can make others uncomfortable if they are obvious about their relationship. Emphasize to employees that if they date a co-worker, they may not allow it to affect their work or that of their peers.

  • No dating between supervisors and their team members: It’s never a good idea for managers to date their subordinates because it puts the company at risk for legal action. That alone is reason to ban it. In addition, bosses could show favoritism to their loved one, or worse, treat him or her badly in an effort to avoid favoritism.
  • No sexual harassment allowed: Allowing dating is not the same as encouraging it. Operating in a free-for-all type of atmosphere could give employees the impression that any sort of sexual behavior is okay in the office. Having a zero-tolerance policy concerning sexual harassment will go a long way to defining expectations.

Employers may not be able to prevent workplace romances, but they can try to control them as much as possible, to save the company loss of productivity and reduce risk of legal action.

Is the Work Ethic Going Out the Window?

February 7th, 2013

employee screeningAs we said last week, the workplace is changing fast. Not only is technology changing the way we work, but new generations of workers are bringing new abilities, as well as some different workstyles, into the workplace. Baby boomer and Gen Y bosses and supervisors are sometimes surprised by the behavior exhibited by the Millennial Generation they are now working with.

Some see a distinct lack of professionalism—at least as they would define it for themselves: regular attendance, punctuality, honesty, working until a task is completed well, interpersonal skills, appropriate appearance, and being focused and attentive. That view is backed up by a recent study of professionalism in the workplace that shows professionalism has declined in past five years.

A high majority of respondents to the survey indicated that work ethic has gotten worse, saying that younger employees taking a casual attitude toward work (86%), not taking ownership of their work (69%) and being less than driven (71%).

That doesn’t mean the young millennials are hopeless. Far from it—they just need to be taught about expectations. They say they haven’t been taught by their parents or the education system on how to succeed in the working world.

Older generations need to understand that millennials view the world differently, including the workplace. Their definition of professionalism is quite different: it doesn’t mean wearing specific clothing, or even showing up at a specific time.

To accommodate millennials, should employers update their employee handbooks to say, “The workday begins whenever you feel like getting here”? Not necessarily! However, assigning tasks, explaining expectations and providing guidelines and flexibility works well with this generation.

Thorough training, trusting (and verifying), transparency, and sharing the organization’s values and mission are all very important to millennials. They want to be part of something important, and even better—to be a force for good.

Most of all, don’t assume that how you’ve always done things will be embraced or even understood by today’s workers.