Resourceful HR: Re-evaluating what makes us unique

You should see my living room this morning. It’s covered in flip chart paper. What started out as a new web site project has morphed into a dissection of our business

  • What is our brand promise?
  • What service standards can our clients expect?
  • How do we know when we’ve met their expectations?

I know that loosely in our minds we have general ideas that answer these questions but I think it’s time we get it down on paper and share it with you. I’ll want to take some time with this over the course of the year to really dive into what makes us truly unique from other HR firms and what makes our clients raving fans. I’ll share this journey with you as I expect I am not the only one who struggles with how to articulate who, what and why a business exists to the outside world with clarity and truth. Posts won’t come on a “schedule”. They’ll come as we finish a piece or discover some nugget of what we think might be wisdom and useful to share. Our blog will be less of reference guide moving forward and instead be a journey of evolvement both internally at Resourceful HR and from what we learn working with clients and external research. We hope you appreciate the change in focus and invite your feedback. One thing I know for sure about us is our desire for feedback. It’s what fuels us to keep doing what’s working and immediately tweak what could be changed.
I hope 2015 is off to an exciting start for you. Cheers to what’s possible for all of us in the year 2015.
Go HAWKS!
– Jennifer

Talent Wars: Are you prepared for battle?

The war for talent is on, as most industries require very specific skills from their employees. Targeting and attracting that talent is critical to remain competitive in the marketplace. There are many ways to ensure your recruiting efforts are successful.

Resourceful HR’s top five tips:

  1. Create a contingency plan.
  2. There will always be unexpected vacancies and no candidates ready to fill the role. Recruiters are great at building a pipeline of talent and maintaining relationships with quality candidates. They should spend time finding professionals with critical skill sets or experiences that would be valuable to your organization to ensure you can move quickly in hiring someone should the original plan fall through.

  3. Vet your internal candidates and external talent pool.
  4. A good recruiter can gather market intelligence on the talent pool and see what the market has to offer. This will ensure that the decision to promote from within or offer training to existing employees is because they are the best person for the job and organization.

  5. Engage recruiters that know what you offer.
  6. Recruiters (internal and external) should serve as a brand representative for your organization. Maximize their ability to build interest and excitement for working for the organization.

  7. Craft your compelling story.
  8. All communications a qualified candidate receives, whether it be your website, job boards, postings, social media, or communications with your recruiter should help them understand what differentiates your organization and why they would be interested in joining your team. From organizational goals and career opportunity to the unique culture, every aspect of working for the organization should be used to garner enthusiasm for joining your team.

  9. Assess your culture before you make a hiring decision and ask the right questions.
  10. Articulating your culture and work environment and what it takes to thrive at your organization during the recruiting process will allow candidates to know what success entails. Asking the right questions of candidates will allow you to fully understand the likelihood a candidate will be able to perform as needed. (Link to: http://springboard.resourcefulhr.com/successfully-assessing-cultural-fit/)

Quiz: Is it time to bring in recruiting resources?

There are some tell-tale signs that it is time to outsource recruiting. If you answer yes to two or more of these questions it may be time to look for a recruiting partner.
1. Is it taking you longer than expected to find quality candidates?
2. Are you spending your time weeding through candidate resumes that are clearly not the right fit?
3. Is recruiting taking your time away from your core business functions?
4. Are you experiencing high turnover rates from employees you hired that aren’t the right fit?

Seattle’s Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance is Here to Stay – Tips on how to be compliant

It’s been almost two years since Seattle’s paid sick and safe time ordinance (PSST) has passed. Since then it has received both good and bad reviews by policy makers, business owners and employees. As part of the ordinance the City of Seattle asked the Office of the City Auditor and the University of Washington to conduct a study to examine whether employers were knowledgeable about the ordinance, whether they were implementing it and if so how was it affecting their organization.

At a glance, survey results include:

  • The majority of employers are offering some paid leave to full and part time employees.
  • Nearly 40% of employers report that they either do not cover part and full time workers or fail to provide the minimum required hours of leave to their full time workers (hours of leave provided to part time workers were not tracked).
  • Costs to employers and impact on businesses have been modest and smaller than anticipated.
  • Workers view the ordinance as helpful and as a ‘safety net’ so they can take care of themselves and their families.

It is interesting to note that even though the majority of employers are offering some paid leave, it does not mean they are in compliance with the ordinance. And while the ordinance has both its advocates and detractors, PSST is not going away for the near term. So now is the time if you haven’t already to review your organization’s PSST policy and ensure it is compliant.
Here are some key questions you can ask yourself to determine if you are implementing this policy correctly at your organization:

  • Are you keeping accurate records of PSST hours and storing them correctly? For instance, if an employee quits and has unused PSST, you are required to hold on to that person’s records because if he/she returns within seven months they are entitled to those hours.
  • Do you have a company headquartered outside Seattle but have employees doing business in Seattle? You are required to be compliant with the PSST ordinance. You can find more information and guidelines here. http://springboard.resourcefulhr.com/the-occasional-basis-worker-under-seattles-paid-sick-and-safe-time-benefit-ordinance-obligations-for-companies-based-outside-of-seattle/
  • Do you have paid interns? They are covered.
  • Do you employ independent contractors? Independent contractors are not covered. If you have questions regarding the classification of an employee versus independent contractor, you can purchase our resource guide here.
  • Do you have a policy in place regarding PSST so that employees know what is expected of them and how they will receive information about this ordinance? For example, do employees know in what instances it is appropriate to use PSST and when they cannot? Do employees know they can not ask HR or whomever is keeping records for an update on their accrued hours whenever they want and that it will be shared with them on each pay stub.

If you have questions about what is required to be compliant and how to write a policy for your organization, send us an email.
You can view the Office of the City Auditor and University of Washington report in its entirety here.

The “Occasional Basis Worker” Under Seattle’s Paid Sick and Safe Time Benefit Ordinance – Obligations for Companies Based Outside of Seattle

Seattle’s paid sick and safe time benefit (PSST) went into effect on September 1, 2012. It may seem like eons ago considering all that you are working on but it may be something that has slipped off your radar due to your full plate. Or maybe your company is growing and is sending workers into the city for the first time since the ordinance took effect. This is the important element to consider: Even if your headquarters are outside of Seattle but have employees that travel to Seattle for client work you are still mandated to adhere to the Seattle PSST ordinance. The Seattle Office of Civil Rights requires that “Occasional Basis Workers” must accrue PSST after working 240 paid hours within the city limits. The amount of accrual varies and we can help you design a policy that works for your organization – more details and resources below.

Quick tips and several resources to help manage this process:

  • An “Occasional Basis Worker” is defined as one who works primarily outside the City of Seattle, but who works inside the city limits on an ad hoc, irregular basis.
  • Companies must track hours worked in Seattle for all workers. (See the exception for qualifying PTO programs, below.)
  • Accrual time starts the minute your employee arrives in the Seattle City limits from the time they leave, except when the employee is just driving through. This means that even if there is a traffic jam on the way to the meeting downtown, they must accrue PSST hours.
  • Accrual of PSST hours begins on the 241st hour of work within the Seattle City Limits. Employees must be allowed to use accrued PSST hours no later than 180 days from the day they begin accruing.
  • There are different accrual rates based on whether you are tier one, two or three company. This is a great place to learn more information: http://www.seattle.gov/civilrights/spssto.htm
  • If your company offers Paid Time Off (PTO) program that allows employees to use the benefit hours for issues that would qualify for PSST, and the accrual rate meets the minimum requirements under the PSST, tracking hours worked within the city limits is not required. However, all other requirements of the PSST (such as qualifying events and minimum usage requirements) must be met within your existing policy.
  • Commission-only and piece rate workers must also track their hours worked within the city, and must be compensated at least at minimum wage for PSST hours used.

For even more information check out: http://equinoxbusinesslaw.com/?s=paid+sick+and+safe+time

Do you have questions regarding this ordinance? – how to write a compliant policy, how to track it, how to apply it – let us know! We also look forward to hearing your tips on how you are tracking hours and remaining compliant. Let us know in the comments below.

Planning your budget? – Create Your Compensation Strategy Now

Now is a great time to start planning for your yearly strategic budgeting meetings. And since employee compensation is often the largest line item in a budget, it will pay big dividends to think through your compensation structure and get the data you need to make informed budgeting decisions, and to back up your budget requests.

Here are some compensation budgeting tips to get you started:

  • Know where you are in the marketplace when it comes to compensation. Now is a good time to focus on collecting the data you require as you prepare for first of the year/end of the year performance reviews. The market has moved a lot in the past two years, and some positions – especially tech positions – are still continuing to outpace the general market. If you think the 3% across the board average applies to your Software Developer, or your QA Engineer, you may want to do some research with more current salary data.
  • Always ask for more than you think you’ll need. It’s always better to have some extra budget to work with, or to use for the unexpected raise request that may be well-deserved, than to come up short.
  • Be strategic with pay increases. Are you giving people increases just for keeping a seat warm (i.e. cost of living adjustments)? Or are you being more strategic with your available dollars and linking pay to performance and results? If your CFO gives you a 3% budget increase for base salaries, are you going to give everyone a 3% raise? What do you think that does to your top performers, when they see Lazy Len getting the same increase they got? Why not give Rockstar Rudy a 5% raise and Lazy Len a 1% raise? If you’re afraid of having the ensuing conversation, then you likely don’t have the right performance management process in place, or you may need some new tools in your management toolbox for having difficult conversations. Either of these we can help with.
  • Better results should result in better rewards, whether that’s cash or some other form of reward that is more meaningful to that employee. Find out what motivates your staff and leverage it to the company’s benefit, creating a win-win possibility.

Having a consultant in your pocket to help with providing expert guidance and data can be very helpful in making informed decisions. A good one can also work as your ally to provide objective recommendations and supportive data to your company leadership.

More Resources

For more tips and information regarding creating a successful compensation structure including, how to have good conversations about compensation, how to use performance reviews effectively, and how paying the right wage can create a successful business check out these latest blog posts:

Compensation Conversations: How to make them better for your managers and employees.
Thanks to the Internet and social media, employees and potential candidates have access to salary information. How do you make sure that your employees feel fairly compensated? It turns out that paying more money isn’t the only answer. Learn more!

Do Ratings Help or Hinder Performance?
Grading on the curve may have worked for high school and college students, but is it really appropriate to use in evaluating employees? Microsoft recently abandoned their bell-curve-based rating system. Companies need some way to measure and reward performance, so what’s the solution? Learn more!

A Pay for Performance Perspective and Tips
When you give out pay raises, are you giving your worst performers the same raise as the guy or gal who brings in three times as much revenue? Many organizations tend to give across-the-board raises of about the same percentage to all employees. Which means the poor performers have no incentive to work harder, and the top producers have plenty of incentive to find a job with another company that rewards them better. How can you use pay incentives to create a successful business? Learn more!

HR and Startups – Planning for Successful Growth and Greater Productivity

Over the years Resourceful HR has had the opportunity to work with many cutting edge startups in both the Bay Area and the Pacific Northwest. It has been a pleasure to help these companies put a plan in place for recruiting, compensation, performance management and compliance. We have had the wonderful opportunity to watch them achieve their growth and productivity goals including hiring top talent and receiving the funding they require to continue to grow.

Accomplishing these initiatives is often easier said than done though, because many entrepreneurs and startup founders have many other responsibilities to focus on. As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, often startups do the bare minimum when it comes to HR because there just isn’t enough time in the day. As the article shares, HR is an important component to add to your bench in order to get most out of your most expensive line item – your people – and to avoid current and future people, performance and policy issues. We encourage you to read the entire article here as several HR consultants and executives share some great tips.

Four important things to remember:

HR is more than recruiting. Often startups are focused on acquiring the talent they need without thinking about the HR structure and initiatives needed to support them after they join your company. Don’t lose sight of the long game.

Your office manager may need HR training or support. Many times HR responsibilities fall to the office manager by default. He/she may need additional HR training or an HR expert that can provide support when it comes to employee, performance, or compliance issues, as well as guidance on which HR activities will bring the greatest return on investment.
Be conscious of the culture you want to create and work towards creating it from the very start. It is much easier to start as you intend to finish rather than find yourself in a situation where you may need to make big culture changes when you’re already well underway.

Assess which policies are required by law and which policies will clarify company expectations and offerings. You may also want to consider policies that are specific to your work environment and/or demographic such as social media, telecommuting, and relocation policies. At this point, it’s probably safe to say that every company should have a social media policy given its ubiquity in our current society.

Be aware of the nepotism. Startups often tap their own networks for hiring, which has its plusses and minuses. While hiring from referrals tends to be less risky, you can end up with a homogeneous and/or cliquish and divided staff.

Additional resources as you grow your startup:

Are you hitting the 20-employee mark?
Employment laws we advise you to embrace
Create structure for successful growth and greater productivity

Onboarding. Start New Employees Out on a Road to Success

Many believe onboarding is the process by which new employees fill out new hire paperwork – they are set up for payroll and benefits and provided a quick overview of the systems they’ll be working on. While these activities are important, onboarding that results in maximizing performance and earning a greater return on your investment requires a little more strategic planning, which our clients have found to be well worth it. By viewing the onboarding process as an investment throughout a new hire’s introduction to the organization, you will greatly impact the new hire’s contribution to your organization and the timeframe in which they can make it happen. We recommend creating a process that focuses on integrating new employees into your culture and team and getting them up to speed and confident in what is expected of them from a conduct and performance perspective.

Here are some tips to consider as you build your organization’s onboarding process:

  • Allow technology to expedite the compliance portion of the process. Email the new hire all the required paperwork in advance of starting. Share relevant information upfront such as the organizations’ pay schedule, insurance options, any information that will affect their household. When they arrive on the first day, they’ll already have it completed or know questions they need answered.

  • Create a schedule for their first day, week and month so they have clear steps on how to get to know the organization (culturally and procedurally) and give them opportunities to interact with teammates. Schedule meetings throughout the first month to engage with different levels of employees throughout the organization to allow them to hear about different teams and projects.
  • Make sure there are lunch plans for their first day. They won’t know going into day one what they can anticipate for lunch, so plan that for them.
  • Communicate to all team members what will be changing when the new employee starts and how the onboarding process will unfold. It will provide a greater sense of security around what they can expect and the importance and value of their role. It’s important to remember that while it is exciting to start a new job, it also means change, which can be a challenge not just for the new employee, but also for other team members.
  • Make the process fun, interesting and productive! Don’t just provide a slide deck overviewing the organization’s mission, vision, and values. Ask other team members to provide the introduction and give them the freedom to be creative and provide anecdotes of the culture in action. Getting existing employees involved will get new employees excited about working with their new teammates.
  • Set and communicate expectations. Let new employees know what the organization, team and individual’s goals are and how their contributions support those goals.
  • Share how things operate and how different teams interact to support one another. Highlight, beyond an organizational chart, how the teams work together and who has accountability for which aspects of projects.
  • Provide a tour of the organization and if it’s a large space, provide a map for future reference. Introduce the new employee to as many people as possible. Make sure they know the logistics of the workspace such as where the cafeteria/kitchen is, the bus routes are, where to park, where the bathrooms are, etc. In addition, show them what’s available off site such as where the nearest coffee shops are, which restaurants do take-out and delivery to the office and which are great when you need to go off site for lunch.
  • Have the tools for their job ready, such as a computer and login information, mobile phone, if appropriate along with the information/instructions needed to get set up quickly and easily.
  • Create a peer onboarding system so they have someone other than their manager to go to if they have logistical questions. Provide guidance to the peer to check in frequently in the initial days to ensure they have what they need or any cultural questions can be answered in a comfortable environment.
  • Have their manager meet with them on the first day and throughout the first week to review and answer questions on expectations. Throughout the first 90 days, there should be frequent check-ins to ensure the new employee is on track, feeling comfortable with their role, and has the tools they need to perform their job.
  • Be consistent. Use the same onboarding process for each new hire and make changes and additions as you get feedback from employees on what worked well and what would have been helpful for them to have during the onboarding process.

How to Listen When Interviewing & Recruiting Job Candidates to Ensure the Right Skill Set and Cultural Fit

Active listening is key to getting to know a job candidate. I always recommend that when you are interviewing an individual, whether in person or over the phone, to have an open mind and to ask the right questions.

Keeping an open mind means you can often find the right fit even when you may have preconceived notions about the position’s needs. I’ve seen excellent resumes and realized during the interview process that the person looked great on paper but was not going to provide the skills/results the organization needed. On the opposite side of the spectrum, I’ve interviewed people who I thought may be lacking but then when I talked with them I could tell they were the perfect fit when delivering what a company needed.

What to listen for when interviewing a potential candidate?

  • Indicators that illustrate the candidate’s work style and how they work/collaborate with others.
  • What contributions/results they have provided to past employers.
  • How they are driven/motivated to contribute to their new employer.
  • Examples of why they may be a good fit for the organization.
  • Demonstrated/quantifiable successes and overall delivery of those successes.
  • And of course always check references.

I am genuinely interested in people and what they are seeking. That means I have to be truly present and ask good questions so candidates have an opportunity to share their true selves. I am always taking into account both the candidate and employer’s perspective to ensure a good fit when it comes to skills and culture.

We have lots of recruiting resources and tips including ideas for attracting top talent! You can check them out here.

It’s Official! Seraph Capital Forum Appointed its New Co-Presidents – Resourceful HR’s Jennifer Olsen and HydroPeptide’s Annette Rubin

Seraph Capital Forum, the first all women angel investor group created in the US in 1998, recently announced its new co-presidents, our very own president, Jennifer Olsen and HydroPeptide’s managing partner and COO, Annette Rubin. The organization’s goal is to help entrepreneurs and investors form strong networks through investment, mentoring and collaboration. As a group they are exploring new ways to support the Puget Sound Region’s start-up community and forge a path to help companies grow, innovate and succeed for the long-term. The organization is always looking for innovative companies to invest in and identify ways in which they can support entrepreneurs.

Jennifer and Annette’s appointments entail leading the organization and assisting, supporting and growing our region’s start-up community. You can check out the press release here.

Supporting Business Growth and Innovation is Important to Resourceful HR
Resourceful HR is also a sponsor of Grow 50, which mission is to stimulate emerging businesses in the Pacific Northwest to benefit the local economy. Their long-term goal is to help grow 50 companies in 10 years. See more at See more at: http://springboard.resourcefulhr.com/#sthash.eHy7ryzk.dpuf

Employee Investigation Services – Why it is important to have a third-party HR focused investigator

Here is the situation:

An employee reports to HR or to a manager that they saw another employee take inventory or products the company is selling, put them into their bag and take them to their car. The individual shares that this is not the first time they have seen this employee do this. The person sharing this information may be nervous or even intimidated by the process of raising their concerns, especially if the person who is taking the items has asked them to keep quiet about what he/she is doing.

Ensuring you address situations like this and other potential violations of company policy quickly is extremely important to creating a productive and positive work environment. Other complaints may include bullying, someone consistently taking credit for someone else’s work or feelings of discrimination or harassment. These situations can have tangible business impacts, including reduced productivity, increased absences, high turnover and litigation – all very costly.

What can you do?

  • First, acknowledge the concern and assure the complainant that the company takes these issues seriously.
  • Work with a non-biased investigator who understands your organization and is not tied to any predetermined position or ‘side’.
  • Partner with someone who is focused on moving things forward in a cooperative way. The sooner the issue is dealt with the quicker everyone can focus on doing their job and contributing to the organization’s efforts.
  • Select an HR professional experienced in investigations that is willing to listen to all parties, not one who will just look for the answer the company wants to hear.
  • Choose an investigator who is willing to keep asking questions so that they understand the full picture, which means not accepting a pat answer and truly investigating the complaint and all parties’ perspectives.
  • Work with someone who understands how to manage interpersonal conflict as well as regulatory and legal issues.
  • Select a partner who is approachable and trustworthy during investigatory interviews so that your employees are not intimidated by the process and feel comfortable sharing their true perspective.

Communication is Key

Conflict in the workplace happens and ensuring all parties are heard promptly can significantly impact the outcome of a perceived issue. Make sure all parties involved understand the steps you are taking to resolve the issue. If an employee feels like they are being heard and that the person they are talking to does not have a conflict of interest, they are less likely to file a complaint outside of the company.

Resolve Workplace Conflict

Our goal is to help organizations create a productive, positive work environment where everyone feels comfortable so they can focus on performing their responsibilities that achieve results. By identifying and addressing these issues early, you will minimize the long-term impact of conflict on the organization and reduce the potential for employee complaints to regulatory agencies.

Respond to Formal Charges

Have you recently received a notice from the EEOC or Washington Human Rights Commission? These charges can be unsettling, and your first instinct might be to contact an attorney. Our approach provides more than just legal expertise – we understand that company culture is invaluable, and our investigations help to maintain and often enhance the culture of your organization. Our professional HR Investigators conduct thorough, timely investigations that are focused on the legal implications of the charges while also attentive to the overall needs of the organization – including the financial aspects of responding to the charge. We partner with your attorney or our employment law partners to provide a complete investigation and response.

Give us a call so we can understand the details you and your employees are experiencing. Our approach is to first listen with integrity, investigate further if needed and work to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.

Ideas for Attracting and Retaining Top Talent

Munchery is a business with a mission to “make it ridiculously easy to put a delicious, high-quality meal on the table in just a few minutes”. Launched in the Bay Area it is growing and recently raised $28 million to continue its mission. Next stop? Seattle. As they grow, they are looking to grow their talent base. As we shared in our Puget Sound Tech Recruiting Trends Survey the top recruiting method that resulted in a successful hire is employee referrals. Munchery has taken this into consideration when it comes to their recruiting efforts. They are asking employees and the people that already know their services and brand to refer engineers. And if it is a successful engagement the referrer will receive free dinners for a year. You can check it out here. They are also using their blog to share not only the job description but what it is like to work for the company. Zappos recently launched a similar endeavor in an effort to share the company’s culture and learn about candidates before making the new hire. We recently talked about this idea and more on our blog: Check out: how to assess a candidate’s cultural fit and how to vet a candidate versus a resume.

Another company, Exact Electric, a Seattle based electrician company is offering folks who refer a journeyman electrician $500 if the engagement is successful for over 60 days. Candidates can be referred by employees, clients, friends, family, colleagues and also be self-referred.

You may have also heard about Starbucks’ efforts to attract and retain talent. They are offering a free college education to employees nationwide through Arizona State University’s online program. The company’s goal is to provide a sustainable wage and the ability to achieve a college education without going into debt. The initiative provides employees who work at least 20 hours a week with the option to receive full tuition reimbursement.

We’d like to hear from you! What are you doing to incent employees or other brand ambassadors to refer top talent? What are you doing to retain talent? We will be sharing more tips on this topic as well as how to build a talent pipeline so that you have the talent you need when you need it here on our blog.

Are you Proactively Identifying Potential Candidates?

Steps you can take to ensure your network is there when you need it.

Build a Talent Pipeline: Garnering talent before you need it can catapult you ahead of your competition. Our 2013 Recruiting Trends Survey results highlighted what most of us already know – the need to fill positions quickly is a challenge when it comes to hiring top talent. Often hiring managers need to fill a vacancy or bring in new skills ASAP. Whether you are a recruiter, hiring manager, or team member, tight deadlines add to the pressure of placing someone in a key role. We recommend that clients build a talent pipeline in advance of the hiring need, especially for positions that are in constant demand. This is a great way to overcome the challenge of short timelines and the need for specific skill sets. Over 50% of the recruiting trend survey respondents indicated they spend between one and five hours monthly building and maintaining a network of potential candidates.

Pipeline building involves posting the position, accepting resumes from active job seekers, networking/sourcing to identify passive job seekers and keeping communication with candidates active until you have an open position.

Tips on how to build a talent pipeline:

  1. Start planning. Take stock of the skill sets that are making your organization successful and determine which skill sets will be needed down the road.
  2. Let active job seekers know that your company is soliciting resumes for anticipated future hiring and provide an estimated timeline.
  3. Stay in contact with prospects.
  4. Stay connected with and get to know candidates through social media channels if appropriate to your business and industry.
  5. Schedule occasional events or lunches/coffees with prospects.
  6. Keep accurate notes/records regarding the availability and interest level of the individuals on the list.
  7. Tap into your candidate’s network. Ask pipeline candidates if anyone they know may be interested in learning about your organization’s job opportunities and whether they know of anyone else that you should be networking with.
  8. When to start pipeline building? As soon as possible. Lead time can vary as demand fluctuates and ideally, you’ll want to capture both active and passive job seekers to ensure the highest quality talent pool when you are ready to hire.
  9. Determine if outside resources may be required. What is the budget for recruitment efforts?

Pipeline building is great for frequent hiring needs. Maintain a pipeline of available resources so you’re not starting from scratch each time a position becomes available.

Successfully Assessing Cultural Fit

Your organization has a culture. Whether you can articulate that culture, or it’s the culture you want your organization to have, or everyone in the organization believes the culture is the same as what you think it is, you still have a culture at your organization.

As you build your organization, recruiting, hiring, and retaining employees, there is always discussion around culture fit. Job seekers express frustration that the feedback is that they “didn’t fit” and employers will express frustration that they can’t find someone with the skills necessary that will actually “fit” into the organization.

We all have stories of working at organizations with great cultures, and toxic cultures, and weird cultures. But at the end of the day, what culture is the right fit for every individual is highly subjective. So how do we find candidates that are the right fit and how do we assess that through an interview process?

The first step in assessing culture fit is to know what the culture is. Culture needs to be a deliberate thing. Whether the leadership has made a decision of what they want that culture to be or not, it’s there. The most important step to assist you in finding talent that fits in with your culture is to clearly articulate what that culture is. Being able to describe and clarify what the culture is currently or how the organization is going to be built on that front will allow you to assess fit.

Zappos is widely heralded for their phenomenal culture and their approach to building culture. You can read about this in numerous articles across a wide-variety of publications, as well as their own Culture Book. Netflix is also another organization highly regarded for their culture. You may have seen the famous Netflix Culture slides that rocked the world by eliminating the vacation policy. You may not want your culture to be like Zappos or Netflix, but what you can’t argue with is that you will know exactly what can be culturally expected when you work at those organizations. As such, you can more easily assess if a candidate fits and potential candidates can more easily determine if the organization is one where they want to work.

Here are a few ideas to help you assess culture during the recruiting process:

  • Ask questions around the aspects of your culture that may highlight a candidate’s experience in a similar environment.
  • Ask what aspects of the culture resonate with them and why.
  • Have the candidate describe the culture of previous employers and what elements allowed them to be successful or prevented them from thriving.
  • Ask the candidate to describe their ideal work environment.
  • Ask references about the culture they experienced the candidate in and the level of success the culture supported.

Defining your culture isn’t easy. And using the interview process to fully understand if a candidate is a perfect fit isn’t a sure thing to knowing you’ve hired the right person. But without a clearly articulated culture, you are flying blindly on whether someone will be happy and successful with your organization regardless of his or her technical skillset. Putting some work into the definition will ease the process on both you and the candidates of potential interest.

Immune Design is Focused on Growing their Business from Seattle to the Bay Area and we Partnered with them to make it Happen

Immune Design, a clinical stage biotechnology company, is focused on growing and innovating, two of our favorite ingredients when working with a client. They wanted an experienced, professional HR and recruiting partner that could help create a robust, scalable HR infrastructure, recruit talent in the Bay Area and offer savings over hiring in-house HR and recruiting staff. This made working with Resourceful HR an excellent fit.

Paul Rickey, VP of Finance at Immune Design shares in our latest client interview how Resourceful HR was able to source a number of highly qualified candidates to help grow their business while receiving scalable and cost prudent services. Essentially, they needed an HR partner who could ramp up or decrease HR and recruiting efforts depending on their budget and needs over the course of the year.

Immune Design has since opened a new office in the Bay Area while also bolstering their HR infrastructure so that they can continue to be an innovator and leader in their field.

We are working with some great organizations that continue to inspire us! You can check out more client interviews here:
SPUD (Sustainable Produce Urban Delivery)
WetPaint
Buzzbee Technology Marketing

A Resume Doesn’t Guarantee a Candidate will Deliver Results

‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ is a cross-transferrable phrase when reviewing resumes. As a hiring manager, you may start by combing a resume for key buzzwords highlighting skill sets, education, previous employment, professional affiliations and accomplishments but a savvy manager understands this is a one dimensional approach to hiring a potential candidate. An awesome resume does not guarantee the candidate is capable of delivering results or fits with the culture of your organization.

Vet the Candidate, Not the Resume

Automattic, a blogging service with the mantra of making the web a better place, was recently featured in Harvard Business Review for their outside-the-box approach to interviewing. Before making a hiring decision they conduct ‘try outs’. It entails engaging (and paying) strong candidates to work on a real project with the team. It provides team members and the candidate an opportunity to see if the candidate can deliver the results required and work well within their virtual team environment. The selected project is directly related to the potential role. An initial resume is useful for attracting a recruiter or hiring manager’s attention but an increasing number of businesses like Automattic are looking to gauge how a candidate will perform as part of the interview assessment and prior to extending an offer.

A comprehensive ‘try out’ may not be feasible for your organization, but there are valuable and inexpensive methods to determine whether a prospective candidate with an impressive resume will perform on the job.

Resourceful HR has some key recommendations to help you improve candidate assessments:

  • Understand what is important to you and what is required of the candidate. Create a job description that lays out the results expected of the individual. Include aspects of the environment and culture that may impact how the role must function. By taking the time to tailor a creative, culture influenced, and transparent job description, applicants will understand what is expected when they choose to apply.
  • Conduct phone screens prior to scheduling an in-person interview. Screens can be tailored to ask specific questions aligned with the position, while providing an overview of related skills sets and experience. A good screen can also discern culture fit and provide insight into problem solving abilities. Phone screens save time and money by providing an initial assessment of relevant value to the hiring team.
  • Ask the right questions and train your hiring managers on how to interview. Not all hiring managers have equivalent experience when it comes to asking behavioral and skill based questions to assess capabilities. In addition to training hiring managers on the legalities of what can and cannot be asked, train your hiring managers on how to ask relevant questions that get to the heart of whether the candidate will thrive and produce in your work culture.
  • Always check references. When you think you have found the right person, double check the person will be a good hire by validating prior work behavior and characteristics. Checking references not only confirms interview results but also should confirm a pattern in defining the individual and what they legitimately bring to the table. Design open-ended questions so references are required to share examples and situations, which will improve accuracy and showcase personal attributes.
  • Hire a recruiting consultant to support and advise you on your hiring process. Clients wear many hats in their organizations; the recruiting and hiring process can be a major drain on time and productivity. Hiring the wrong person for the job is equally costly, when you look at hard costs and the impact on morale and productivity. Working with an experienced recruiter who can take on time consuming aspects of the recruiting process such as phone screens, sourcing, training managers, checking references, and candidate engagement, can make life easier, reduce the risk of a bad hire, and greatly increase the opportunity to have a great hire.

Storing and Maintaining Employee Records – Tips for Keeping Compliant

This is the time of year when spring cleaning kicks into high gear and you may be thinking it’s finally time to clean out and organize those employee records. As you probably already know there are federal and state regulations in regards to:

  • Storing different types of files (how, where, and what to include).
  • What information you can provide to different departments and managers within your organization.
  • How long you need to retain files.
  • How to dispose of both electronic and hard copy files.

Do you have a system for organizing employee records that makes your life easier and your organization compliant? If not, this is a great time to start determining a process that helps you work more efficiently, and potentially more importantly, creates a system that is compliant with federal and state agencies.

Get started! Tips for Evaluating Your Filing Practices

  1. Do you have one file for each employee that contains all of his or her information? If so, you are probably out of compliance.
  2. It is highly likely that you should have a minimum of five separate files for each employee – primary personnel file, “confidential” file, medical records, payroll file, and I-9. If you are subject to EEO laws, that is another separate required file. Your employee files should also be separated for current and terminated employees.
  3. Do you know how long you are required to keep different kinds of documents? There are many record keeping laws that vary by state. Make sure you are aware of the laws you need to comply with.
  4. Are you storing I-9 forms correctly? We strongly recommend that I-9s be kept in a separate binder and stored in a locked file cabinet. You open yourself up to major liability if your I-9s are stored “in the mix” with other employee documents.
  5. Do you know the regulations on how to dispose of electronic and hard copy files? Make sure you understand the requirements before deleting or shredding any documents.
  6. Are you familiar with the HIPAA and ADA requirements regarding employee records? This is important when it comes to providing a manager with the information they are requesting while ensuring that you are not providing them with information that is prohibited by law for them to see.

We are excited about doing our own spring cleaning this year with our clients. (Yes, as an HR company we get excited about this stuff!). And if you need help with ensuring your filing practices are compliant let us know. As part of our services we provide an employee file maintenance training, audit, and tracking tool. You can learn more about our services here.

Grades and Ranges – What are they and why are they important?

Pay grades and pay ranges are key components to creating a successful compensation plan and driving performance.

Pay Grades and Pay Ranges Defined

A pay range sets a minimum, midpoint, and maximum dollar amount that your company has determined it will pay for a given job. Employees’ salaries are determined within the range parameters based on their performance quality, proficiency, internal equity, scope of responsibility and tenure. Pay grades are a mathematically determined set of pay ranges with increasing midpoint differentials (the difference between the midpoint of one range and midpoint of the next range up) based on the nature of the positions included in the range and usually with overlapping boundaries. Grades provide a way to give structure to various pay ranges within a company.

Why are they important?

Grades and Ranges:

  • Help with financial planning and projections.
  • Ensure your business and compensation strategies align.
  • Ensure pay equity and can be perceived as legal protection against an inequity claim.
  • Inform salary movement related to career paths.
  • Help determine how to pay unique positions.
  • Makes administration and employee conversations related to compensation more transparent.

As an organization grows, grades help to ensure fairness, make it easier to make compensation decisions and share with employees how you make those decisions. As we shared in our blog post on tips for making compensation conversations more productive for managers and employees, employees who are well informed and communicated with clearly about the pay-setting process in their organization, walk away feeling much more satisfied even if they don’t agree with the actual number.

Is it time to create a compensation structure with grades and ranges?

If you answer yes to one of the following questions this may be a good time to create a compensation structure.

  • Do you have jobs that may need to be leveled?
  • Do you have unique or hybrid jobs that you can’t figure out how to pay?
  • Do you have known pay issues that a structure would help fix? (i.e., legacy issues, compression issues, equity issues, budget issues)

For more tips on compensation including tips on using pay to drive performance visit our blog.

A Pay for Performance Perspective and Tips

Did you just hire an employee or commission a contractor?

There are very clear legal distinctions between the two, and the Internal Revenue Service cares deeply and passionately about the difference. The light-hearted infographic below shows some of the ways that contractors and employees differ and the consequences of those differences. You may also find this test for defining an independent contractor and related next steps helpful.

If you want the full story on making sure you classify workers correctly, you should invest in our “Independent Contractor Versus Employee” resource guide. The guide also includes a handy list of employment laws by company size.

You’re Invited! Join us for our HR Strategy Workshop – Two Dates and Locations Available

Are your HR initiatives increasing profit? Are you utilizing the person tasked with HR as an active business partner? Often HR is thought of as ensuring your organization is compliant and vetting employee concerns. However, HR can have a much wider impact when it comes to maximizing the largest line item on your budget – your employees. Thinking of HR as a part of your overall business strategy and deploying it correctly can increase productivity while saving on costs.

In this workshop we’ll explore:

  • The true cost of staffing your business (average cost of recruiting an employee, training, retention, termination, etc. as well as a benefits for a typical hire).
  • How to select the HR areas and initiatives that will increase effectiveness of your organization and decrease costs.
  • Creating a successful strategy that focuses on affecting change in the identified areas that bring the greatest return on investment.
  • Setting expectations, measuring and evaluating results.

Join us! April 17, 2014

Location: Southwest King County Chambers
14220 Interurban Ave. S #134
Tukwila, WA 98168
Time: 7:30am – 9:30am
Cost: $100
*Free to Equinox, SKCC members, and Resourceful HR’s clients and guests.
Register Now

Join us! April 23, 2014

Location: Civica Office Building
1st Floor
205 108th Ave NE
Bellevue, WA 98004
Time: 7:30am – 9:30am
Cost: $100
*Free to Equinox, SKCC members, and Resourceful HR’s clients and guests.
Register Now

Recruiting – It’s not about filling a position, it’s about solving a business need

Recently I attended a presentation on commercialization in the life sciences industry. It provided a great road map for smaller organizations to follow and plan for as they approach this phase of development. Interestingly, there was no discussion about human capital or the skills employees need to possess to move the organization through each phase of growth.

The lack of focus on this topic underscored why having a recruiter (internal or external) that not only has the ability to source and attract talent but also understands your industry, the challenges you face and your organization’s development lifecycle is critical. A recruiter who merely views their role as filling a position with a warm body and then moves on doesn’t have your organization’s best interest in mind. To truly be successful over the long term and make a serious impact on achieving your goals, a recruiter needs to serve as the facilitator in finding talent that can solve the business issues you are experiencing.

I attend a lot of events that are not focused on recruiting and HR. It allows for me to have more engaging conversations with our clients and really understand what’s keeping them up at night. In turn, our team is better able to find talent to deal with those challenges instead of just filling a spot on the org chart. This includes asking: What are some of the challenges you face? What skill sets are needed to take you to the next level? During the early stage of growth, how are you differentiating your vision and culture from your competitors and attracting the team you want and need? What types of projects are you working on? How can adding to your team make these projects more successful, make your organization more profitable and help you achieve your goal/vision?

In addition to being invested in helping you achieve your vision and providing solutions to a business need, there are several traits you should look for in a recruiter.

What traits are important to you and your team when working with or hiring a recruiter?

If you see me at an event, please say hello. I’m always interested in different perspectives on the critical issues for your business.

A Pay for Performance Perspective and Tips

Recently Business Insider reported that one of Gawker Media’s writers, Neetzan Zimmerman decided to leave the company to work at a startup social media organization. While the news of someone making a career move may seem mundane, this move is interesting when you start to delve into this particular reporter’s performance successes and how they relate to a pay for performance model. Gawker employs approximately 15 writers and it turns out that Zimmerman was responsible for bringing in 99% of Gawker’s web traffic. 99% of the results that Gawker needs to be successful. 99%! And while we of course don’t know the complete story of why Zimmerman left the company, the statistics provide an interesting perspective regarding whether an organization should use a pay for performance model as an incentive to ensure top performers don’t even think about leaving.

Many organizations have a tendency to give a cost of living pay or ‘thanks a latte’ increase across the board, which usually amounts to about 3%, without truly measuring which employees are bringing the most value. This means that even poor performers are being rewarded. By not differentiating financial rewards between top and poor performers, there is no incentive for poor performers to “up their game” to accomplish the tasks that are most critical to the bottom line. And it’s a slap in the face to the ones who are giving it their all (and then some) to achieve success for the company when they receive the same, or minimally different, increases as the slacker sitting across from them.

Quick tips for creating a successful pay for performance model:

  • Define what metrics are driving your business success (revenue, number of clicks, safety, service quality, clinical outcomes, patient experience, efficiency, etc.).
  • Communicate clearly and often with employees to track their progress.
  • As part of your performance management plan, create SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) goals for employees.

By creating a pay-for-performance culture, employees have a clear line of sight on how their daily actions contribute to the success of the organization and the size of their paycheck, which puts organizations in a position to thrive.

To help you have productive conversations with employees regarding compensation, we have put together these tips.

Should Your Employee Handbook be a Top Priority this Year?

As the year kicks into high gear and you further define the HR initiatives that will bring the best value to your organization, we have compiled the following questions to help you decide if creating or updating your employee handbook should be one of those initiatives.

1) Do you find yourself spending a considerable amount of your day answering the same employee questions regarding policies, benefits and career development opportunities?

2) Are your employees unclear on what you expect from them when it comes to your company’s culture and operations?

3) Could you do a better job of ensuring the right policies are in place and documented to guard your organization from the risk of a lawsuit?

4) When recruiting and onboarding, could you provide a more professional impression of your company that differentiates your organization from competitors?

4) When you hire a new employee do you feel like they have a hard time ramping up to providing 100%+ performance?

5) Do you have employee issues that can be eliminated by communicating more clearly and in writing?

6) Is your employee handbook dated or have policies that no longer apply or require additional policies that reflect how you are currently doing business (for instance, telecommuting, social media, electronic device use)?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you may want to consider putting an employee handbook at the top of your list.

Other topics that may be helpful as you determine your employee handbook strategy:

Compensation Conversations – How to make them better for your managers and employees

Employees and potential candidates are more knowledgeable about salary data than ever before, either through the internet or colleagues, so ensure your organization is confident with its base pay compensation plan and understands how it compares in the marketplace. Having the ability to share with employees the process by which your organization makes pay decisions increases employee engagement and satisfaction as they feel like they are thoughtfully considered and valued.

Why is compensation communication important?
This is the time of year when you have either already administered salary increases or are getting ready to do so. And inevitably, this process brings up questions regarding pay that managers may not be properly equipped to answer. If your employees feel that your pay decisions are arbitrary or do not understand how your compensation strategy tracks back to the organization’s overall business goals, it leads to confusion and a sense of powerlessness. Disengagement naturally follows, possibly leading your employees to look for other opportunities, taking with them their skill set and institutional knowledge. Giving your managers the tools to explain base pay setting, raise increases (or no increase), reasons for differences in starting pay and wage differentials, makes conversations more productive and clear while also making the employee feel like you are being thoughtful and straightforward with your approach.

According to a study done by Mercer in 2002, when employees are well informed and communicated with clearly about the pay-setting process in their organization, they walk away feeling much more satisfied even if they don’t agree with the actual number. The bottom-line is that employees who understand the process in which pay is determined have greater engagement and satisfaction. Not to mention your managers will also feel empowered and supported during the salary review process.

Top three compensation communication tips:

  1. Communicate throughout the year – Instead of having a conversation about pay practices once a year, keep employees informed throughout the year specifically when it comes to how performance tracks to your compensation plan. Ongoing communication makes employees feel informed and empowered, and helps them understand how their actions and contributions can help improve the bottom-line – both their own and the company’s.
  2. Train your management team – Ensuring your managers have the tools they need to help roll out a compensation plan or answer questions about the plan will help to increase employee buy-in.
  3. Educate employees on their total compensation package including benefits, rewards and other items unique to your culture (such as education and development opportunities as well as work life balance programs) they receive throughout the year.

In the coming weeks and months we will be sharing tips and information for creating an effective compensation strategy, communicating compensation details with employees and developing a benchmarking process. Let us know if you have a specific question or an aspect of compensation you would like us to explore in more detail.

Do you use Independent Contractors? If so, this is a MUST read.

While the classification of independent contractor versus employees has been a hot topic for a while, it is coming to the forefront again and should be something you review for your organization right now. New York recently became the 15th state to sign the agreement allowing the IRS and Department of Labor to share information to identify independent contractor misclassifications. Washington and California signed the agreement in 2011. And we expect that businesses will continue to receive increased scrutiny in 2014 as more and more states sign the agreement. By taking the necessary steps now, you can alleviate future headaches and fines.

Test for Defining an Independent Contractor

If you are considering independent contractor as the classification for your new hire you will want to verify that the engagement meets the considerations the Department of Labor takes into account during their evaluations.

If any of these considerations are questionable, the employee classification is the likely designation.

The Department of Labor uses the following to evaluate independent contractor status:

  1. Control Factors – Independent contractors control their own work, set their own hours, obtain their own training and are generally evaluated on the end result only.
  2. Financial Controls – Independent contractors provide their own equipment and tools and have the ability to work for many employers at the same time.
  3. Relationship – The IRS looks at how the parties work together, not just whether the independent contractor pays their own taxes. They look for a verified business license, the independent contractor’s payment of taxes, the above control factors and the permanency (length of time) of the relationship.

Next Steps:

  • Analyze your current classifications and create a process for ensuring you are classifying new hires correctly.
  • Requirements may differ from state to state so research any differences for the states within which your employees and independent contractors work.
  • If you decide to use the independent contractor classification you may want to contact an attorney to ensure the classification is indeed correct.
  • Put in place a legally reviewed Independent Contractor Agreement that covers your liability and protects your organization’s proprietary information and states that the nature of the relationship is work for hire.
  • We also recommend obtaining Emergency Contact Information for your independent contractors and liability insurance that protects you from applicable independent contractor negligence.

You can learn more about independent contractor classifications here, or purchase our INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR VERSUS EMPLOYEE CLASSIFICATION RESOURCE GUIDE (FOR WESTERN WASHINGTON STATE BUSINESSES).

Timing is everything – 3 ways to overcome short timelines when you need to fill positions quickly

The Bay Area Bioscience Recruiting Trends Survey results highlighted what most of us already know – the need to fill positions quickly is a challenge when it comes to hiring top talent. Often hiring managers need to fill a vacancy or bring in new skills ASAP. Whether you are a recruiter, hiring manager, or team member, tight deadlines add to the pressure of placing someone in a key role. We recommend that clients build a talent pipeline in advance of the hiring need, especially for positions that are in constant demand.

There are also other steps that can be taken now to overcome the challenge of short timelines and the need for specific skill sets:

  1. Develop a relationship with your ‘go to’ recruiter and ensure they not only have a successful track record but that they also take the time to understand your organization and specific needs. When you engage with the recruiter provide a clear picture of the “must have” and “nice to have” requirements for the role.
  2. Spend time building your network. Over 50% of survey respondents indicated they spend between one and five hours monthly building and maintaining a network of potential candidates.
  3. Train your existing team members on skills you anticipate needing in the future, such as STEM skills.

Interesting Work More Important Than Money

Are you concerned compensation is what’s preventing candidates from joining your organization?

In our recent Bay Area Bioscience Recruiting Trends Survey we asked organizations to share the most effective ways in which they attract talent. And here are the results:

  1. Providing challenging or cutting edge projects
  2. The organization’s environment/culture
  3. Products and/or services offered
  4. Compensation

You read that correctly – compensation came in fourth. These results serve as a good rule of thumb as you create your hiring plan as well as your retention strategy. Happy employees (employees that are going to contribute to your organization over the long term and truly invest in the goals you are looking to accomplish) are ones that are working on projects that engage and challenge them. There are many different ways to motivate employees. The most important things you can do is check out the research available to you and then ask your employees (they know better than anyone). Until you have the projects, culture, and products candidates can get excited about, you’ll always struggle to bring in and retain quality talent.

You can check out all the results by downloading the full white paper here.

Do Ratings Help or Hinder Performance?

This is the question on the minds of many leading organizations these days. Microsoft recently shared that they were doing away with their stacked ranking system, a key element of the performance review process that was based on a bell curve and forced the elimination of the lowest-rated 20% of employees. Microsoft went so far as to eliminate ratings altogether in their performance reviews.

At the same time, Yahoo!’s CEO implemented stacked ranking, forcing managers to rate staff using the designations “occasionally misses” and “misses” to accommodate a bell curve strategy, even if the designation wasn’t completely accurate. While Yahoo!’s CEO denied that the ratings were forced, many employees disagreed (mostly anonymously). She has been widely criticized for her decision, and interestingly most pointed the finger at the HR head in charge of communicating and executing the controversial plan for the poorly executed roll-out.

When it comes to managing, measuring and rewarding performance, what is the right way? Unfortunately there is no easy, one-size-fits-all answer to performance reviews. Every organization and employee is different, and an effective performance review process takes into account cultural aspects of the organization.

In an effort to help you better understand and implement performance reviews that add value, we put together some best practices that should serve as the cornerstone to any performance management plan, whether you choose to do ratings or not.

Performance feedback should be a continuous, ongoing process. You are missing out on a huge opportunity to accomplish goals and move initiatives forward if you wait to address performance issues on an annual basis. Be proactive and provide ongoing feedback so that there are not any surprises during an employee’s yearly, or even quarterly, evaluation. This approach gives the employee the directives they need to change course immediately if needed, or incent them to continue the course they are on.

Provide a clear line of sight between the employee’s responsibilities and the organization’s goals. Ensuring employees understand how their work directly affects the organization’s success is an essential driver to getting employees to perform well. If your employees know where the finish line is they are more apt to reach it.

Use SMART goals – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. It is important to make sure each employee’s goals meet each of these five criteria, otherwise it can be difficult and highly subjective determining whether a goal is met. And if it is clear that a particular goal is not met, it is easier to assess the reasons why the employee didn’t make it (i.e. it was not because of poor communication on the organization’s part).

Be mindful of the process and timing. An effective performance evaluation requires giving managers and employees plenty of time to complete the process in a thoughtful way. Rushing through an evaluation makes it seem like you are just crossing something off your list. Create an environment that shows you value their contribution and feedback and you’ll experience greater results and engagement from your employees.

Training is important. Give your team the tools they require to administer reviews that result in the actions your business requires to be competitive in the marketplace. For managers, you might need to provide additional training to prepare them for dealing with difficult questions or delivering challenging messages. Employees may not always like what they hear, but they will always respect an honest and straightforward response.

Understand what motivates your employees. Not all employees are motivated by the same thing. Check in regularly with employees to see what gets them excited about coming to work. It’s not just about compensation (although if you don’t get that right it is a big demotivator). In fact, Resourceful HR recently conducted a survey about what attracts and retains talent – compensation came in fourth. Check out the results here. Link to whitepaper/resource page. Be creative and consider other rewards you can provide in lieu of raises or bonuses. Consider opportunities for additional training, leadership/career development opportunities or team rewards. It’s important to remember that pay systems alone do not keep people nor manage their performance.

Two Ways Your Organization Can Deal with the STEM Talent Shortage Today

Fifty percent of the respondents of our Bay Area Bioscience Recruiting Trends Survey agree that there is a shortage of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) talent. There has been much publicized about the shortage and the need for better education starting in elementary school and even earlier. In addition to academia, politicians and business leaders are devoting resources to bridge the gap. Diversity groups are also pushing to get different ethnicities and women engaged in STEM programs. These efforts are all key to the future health of our economy by ensuring organizations have the talent they require to grow and innovate.

As these programs prove to be successful we will continue to see strides made to develop talent and create an extremely competitive workforce. But what can you do now to find the talent with the skill sets your organization needs to succeed?

  1. Train the employees you have. Instead of hiring a new employee, look internally for someone who already has institutional knowledge and understands your goals and your culture. Creating opportunities for employees to grow and learn is also a great way to retain talent. It’s a win/win. You receive the benefits of having the skill set you need without the cost and resource expenditure of sourcing and onboarding a new employee.
  2. Work with recruiters that have experience finding talent in these areas and engage them to proactively build relationships. Start planning now! Take stock of the skills sets that are making your organization successful and determine which skill sets will be needed down the road so that you can start building your talent pipeline. And then work with a recruiting service that can help you build relationships with these individuals so that when you need to hire someone outside the organization you can act quickly.

You can check out all the results by downloading the full white paper here.

The Results are in for our 2013 Bay Area Bioscience Trends Survey!

We recently surveyed San Francisco area bioscience organizations to help the community better understand the industry’s recruiting needs and challenges.

Findings offer insight into organizations’ #1 challenge (finding quality candidates) and whether the region has the talent, knowledge base and STEM-related skills needed to be competitive in the marketplace. Findings also address which attributes organizations can offer in order to attract the right talent.
While organizations identified recruiting as a critical business objective, most indicated that they don’t have a formal recruiting process in place. The organizations that do have a recruiting process shared that the areas in which they excel are screening potential candidates and aligning them with the organization’s goals and fit but struggle with finding quality candidates and attracting them to their position.

As the industry continues to grow and gain traction in areas across the U.S., ensuring the West Coast is poised to attract, find and retain quality talent will be mission critical. We look forward to continuing the discussion, gaining your insights and putting this data into action. Download the white paper and share your thoughts on the results in the comments section below.
You can check out all the results by downloading the full white paper here.

Are you a bioscience professional responsible for recruiting in the Puget Sound Region? You could win a $250 Apple Store gift certificate!

Our recently launched Life Sciences Recruiting Trends Survey is designed to help the life sciences sector gain ideas for talent development and insights into recruiting trends and challenges. The results, which we will be sharing with the participants in the coming months will be focused on informing the industry’s regional recruiting efforts and expand the industry’s understanding of how to be effective in recruiting and hiring the talent needed to grow and innovate.

It takes about 10 minutes and your answers will be kept completely confidential. You must complete it by Friday, December 20th to be eligible to win a $250 Apple Store gift certificate.
Take the survey today! We look forward to hearing from you!

Findings from the 2013 Governor’s Life Science Summit and Annual Meeting

I recently had the opportunity to attend Washington Biotechnical and Biomedical Association’s (WBBA) 2013 Governor’s Life Science Summit and Annual Meeting. Along with many other impressive presenters, Governor Jay Inslee and WBBA’s President and CEO, Chris Rivera shared Washington State’s most critical legislative and economic priorities when it comes to the life sciences sector. They also shared how WBBA’s ten-year strategic vision will work to support the sector. Their vision is to make Washington “the global leader in life science innovation and health care delivery.” It’s a lofty goal, but one I believe we are well poised to take on.

2013 Annual Puget Sound LIfe Sciences Recruiting Trends Survey

It’s an exciting time not only for our region’s life science organizations but also for the people benefiting from the work they are doing. Life science professionals are working on cures for cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s to name just a few and are proactively creating and inventing products and technology to help individuals worldwide enjoy healthier, more productive lives.

This sector is also contributing greatly to the Northwest economy. WBBA shared that the life science industry is one of Washington State’s largest employment sectors and that:

  • More than 420 life science companies located in 70 cities call Washington home.
  • 72 non-profit research institutes garner billions of dollars in research funding annually.
  • Since 2007, employment has grown more than 12 percent, adding $11 billion to the state’s GDP, $7 billion in personal income and employing more than 92,000 people statewide.

As a member of WBBA and an avid supporter of the industry, Resourceful HR is focused on how we can contribute to WBBA’s vision. The strategic initiative we are poised to support is helping organizations find, attract, recruit and retain the talent they need while also creating the infrastructure those organizations need to be nimble, productive, competitive, and compliant.

2013 Bay Area BioScience Recruiting Trends SurveyAre you a Bay Area bioscience professional? Download our latest white paper highlighting the recruiting trends in your area.Lisa Brown, Chancellor of Washington State University – Spokane, emphasized another aspect of the equation regarding the need for increased high-performing talent over the next decade. As thousands more patients enter our medical system through the Affordable Care Act, the need to recruit world-class faculty to train competent physicians needed to treat those patients becomes even more critical.

The event was extremely informative and exciting to me to see where we are headed in Washington State and how we can also apply our own strengths to the life science industry in the Bay Area. I look forward to continuing the conversation and helping our clients contribute to WBBA’s vision.

Are you a bioscience professional who is responsible for recruiting at your organization and eager to contribute to WBBA’s vision? Here’s how you can help:

Fill out our Bioscience Recruiting Survey, together we can understand the trends around skills and talent in the Puget Sound Region. We will be sharing the results in a white paper in the coming months. It’s also a great opportunity to win an Apple Store gift certificate!

San Francisco is First U.S. City to Mandate a Flexible Workplace; Where will be next?

San Francisco is the first city in the U.S. to pass a law that requires employers who employ more than 20 individuals to give workers with children and other dependents greater flexibility when it comes to changing hours, telecommuting and sharing job duties. The new law requires that when an employee makes a request that the employer must state and document a business reason (such as increased costs) if the request is denied. When it comes to creating flexible workplaces, the Bay Area has been a constant topic of conversation – remember Yahoo!’s telecommuting policy change in February.

This new legislation marks the first city in the nation to make flexible schedules in the workplace an employee right. SF Supervisor David Chiu shared that the goal is to make the city more inviting to families. According to Chiu, San Francisco currently “has the lowest per capita population of children of any major U.S. city.” The Society for Human Resource Management shared that while they are in favor of flexible workplace policies they are also concerned with the mandatory aspect of the ordinance as it opens up legality issues for employers.

While you may or may not agree on whether this should be a mandate, we are beginning to see that more states and cities are looking into making this an employer mandate. If you don’t have a policy in place for flexible work arrangements, now would be a good time to determine your organization’s approach and get it documented. It’s important to know what will work well for your environment. For example, will telecommuting work for your organization?

For San Francisco employers, here’s what you need to know:

  • The ordinance goes into effect January 1, 2014 and applies to all organizations employing more than 20 employees.
  • This applies to individuals with children as well as employees with sick spouses and elderly parents.
  • You must meet with an employee within 21 days of their request “for such arrangements as partial instead of full-time work, shift changes, telecommuting or job sharing.”
  • In the case that a request is denied, the employer is required to provide written documentation detailing the reasons why it was denied.
  • Employers are also required to inform employees about their rights by posting information about this new law. If this information is not posted an employer could be fined up to $50 per employee per day.

We’d love to hear what your organization is doing to provide a flexible workplace, and if in San Francisco, what you are anticipating will happen in the new year.

Data Can Equal Good Hiring Decisions

Are you collecting the data you need to make good and informed hiring decisions? Often organizations think HR is people driven rather than data driven – for instance, you may have a gut decision about whether a potential candidate will fit with your culture or possesses the personality your customers will want to work with. I recently attended a SHRM workshop that supports how important it is to develop a data collection and analysis plan to ensure organizations are hiring the talent (and skills) truly needed to succeed.

The movie Moneyball provides a telling anecdote. The general manager for the Oakland A’s decides the best way to assemble a winning team is to do tons of data analysis on players in order to identify which characteristics are needed to get them to the world series when put all together. He analyzed all players, including players in the minor leagues to determine which skills were undervalued, what skills were complimentary to others and what salary ranges would be competitive for their ball team. He recognized that other teams were hiring elite players and offering huge salaries, thinking that a team comprised of individual “star” players would lead them to win. The result was a lot of stars being paid a ton of money with no guarantee of the team working together. The moral of the story is that if you analyze what you need over the long term and hire talent based on those results that truly complement each other, you can have a winning team that is cost effective for the organization.

At the SHRM workshop I learned how large corporations, such as Target and Enterprise Rental Car are using data mining to tailor their customer service and hiring practices. The lessons learned reminded me how all organizations can utilize their data collection and analysis efforts to be super competitive in their field (bioscience, technology, manufacturing, etc.).

The important thing is to plan, start small, and collect, collect, collect. It may take a year to determine a pattern but having a plan in place earlier rather than later will put an organization ahead of the curve quicker. Some things to take into consideration is the type of employee characteristics that succeed in your organization, why employees have exited your organization, which skill sets are resonating with serving your customers, which factors contribute to above average performance, and what above average performance means (greater sales, team collaboration, innovative ideas and contributions, excellent customer interaction). Your data needs to be as quantifiable and descriptive as possible.

As you write job descriptions, source candidates or work to motivate existing employees, you may have a cursory view of what makes for a successful employee – the important thing is to collect your own data and relate it back to your company culture, industry needs and market context.

What Does the New City of Seattle Background Check Ordinance Mean to Employers?

Starting November 1, 2013, a newly mandated City of Seattle ‘second chance’ ordinance requires that employers change the way in which they ask about and use the criminal conviction history of its job applicants and employees. The goal of the new ordinance is to give those convicted, arrested, or charged with a crime a chance to gain employment in an effort to change their course and give back to the community.

Here is what you need to know:

  • The ordinance applies to any employee who works at least 50% of the time in the City of Seattle. Employers may no longer include a criminal history question on their employment applications.
  • To ensure compliance we suggest that employers closely review and make appropriate changes to job application questions, interview processes, as well as job descriptions and postings.
  • We also strongly recommend that employers implement a documentation process that outlines the specific circumstances when applicants with criminal histories are not hired.
  • Employers can still perform a criminal background check or require a potential candidate to provide criminal history information, but only after the screening and resume review process of all applicants has been completed and the employer has identified which applicants have the required skills to carry out the job’s responsibilities. In other words, an employer must first identify which candidates are qualified for the position before conducting a background check. A good way to manage this process is to only conduct background checks when extending an offer and to make the offer contingent upon completion of a successful background check.
  • Employers can inquire about conduct related to an arrest record but cannot deny employment based on the related arrest or criminal conviction record unless the employer can document a legitimate business related reason for the decision. For example, if during the course of employment an employee will have unsupervised access to children under 16 years old, developmentally disabled persons, or vulnerable adults then there may be a legitimate reason to deny employment based on the criminal conviction.
  • If a third party vendor conducts your background checks or if you outsource your hiring needs it is still the employers responsibility to ensure compliance with all of the requirements of this new ordinance.

Affordable Care Act and FLSA Requirement – What you need to know

Now that open enrollment for 2014 health care coverage has kicked off, you may have many questions as an employer regarding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provisions. And you are definitely not alone as we are all learning daily about the new requirements and deadlines. If you have specific questions about ACA and how it may impact your organization when it comes to benefits and HR processes, give us a call (206.463.3110). In the meantime we will continue to post information here and on Twitter highlighting aspects we think our readers and clients will find beneficial.

Speaking of which, last month the U.S. Department of Labor released a FAQ regarding the FLSA requirement that all employers give notice to employees about the ACA’s new Health Insurance Marketplace. The U.S. Department of Labor learned quickly that many employers had questions regarding this requirement as the FLSA can be interpreted very broadly making it difficult to know for sure whether an organization is in compliance or not. It also wasn’t clear whether the lack of compliance could result in a fine – another key aspect to take into consideration as organizations communicate information to their employees regarding all the new changes.

This is what you need to know when it comes to ACA and FLSA (as stated by the DOL) as well as the documents you may require. Please note that the deadline for this requirement was October 1st, so if you haven’t already, you will want to make this a priority. The good news is, you will not be fined but it is important that you take the necessary measures to remain compliant with federal and state laws.

We’d like to hear from you!

What are you doing in your organization to help stay abreast of all the ACA requirements and deadlines?

Do you have a diligent HR department, an informative benefits broker, an internal task force or all of the above?

Q: Can an employer be fined for failing to provide employees with notice about the Affordable Care Act’s new Health Insurance Marketplace?

A: No. If your company is covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act, it should provide a written notice to its employees about the Health Insurance Marketplace by October 1, 2013, but there is no fine or penalty under the law for failing to provide the notice.
The notice should inform employees:

  • About the Health Insurance Marketplace;
  • That, depending on their income and what coverage may be offered by the employer, they may be able to get lower cost private insurance in the Marketplace; and
  • That if they buy insurance through the Marketplace, they may lose the employer contribution (if any) to their health benefits

The U.S. Department of Labor has two model notices to help employers comply. There is one model for employers who do not offer a health plan and another model for employers who offer a health plan or some or all employees:

The model notices are also available in Spanish and MS Word format at http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/healthreform/.

Employers may use one of these models, as applicable, or a modified version. More compliance assistance information is available in a Technical Release issued by the US Department of Labor.

Notes from the Montana Economic Development Summit

Sharing ideas and focusing on what small and large size businesses can do together to increase economic activity were the main agenda items for the summit. Montana will always have a special place in my heart because of growing up there, and now that I have had an opportunity as an adult to get to see and meet the business leaders who are contributing to its economic prowess, I am even more proud. The summit’s attendees and speakers were impressive including nationally recognized, Eric Schmidt, Meg Whitman, Sheryl Sandberg and many Montana business owners who gave great advice, asked excellent questions and ‘showed up’ ready to collaborate, learn and innovate.

One aspect that stood out to me was there were no filters on the questions being asked (i.e. no spin behind the scenes) so speakers and attendees were able to have authentic conversations (in front of a large audience mind you) and get to the heart of issues/challenges/solutions. And again the focus was always in sight – what can we realistically do together to make a difference and grow our economy – while laws and regulations were covered, the main goal was to identify what can be done NOW. From an HR and business owner perspective, I heeded this message and how it relates to helping move our clients’ goals and organizations forward.

Overall the conference was inspiring and made me also appreciate the Pacific Northwest and what companies are doing here to make it a great place to work and live. This has been highlighted in KUOW’s new series, The Big Reset, which is airing now and explores how the Puget Sound region has emerged from the Great Recession. Two of the main takeaways are that the Puget Sound region is fairing better than the rest of the country but we still have a ways to go, especially when it comes to urban verus rural areas. All good food for thought as fall begins and we start planning for our 2014 HR and business goals.

Speaking of events that inspire or that you are excited to attend – what events do you have lined up? TedTalks? Industry conferences? Education opportunities?

We’d like to hear your top three!

Unlimited Time Off – Too Much of a Good Thing?

We are a big proponent of ensuring employees receive the benefits they want/need in order to help with continuous employee engagement, motivation, and productivity. Recently, we’ve noticed a growing trend that several companies (including Hubspot and Netflix) are offering unlimited time off from work. Sounds like a pretty enticing perk – take as much time off as you want as long you get your work done. But could this be too much of a good thing?

We often help clients weigh the pros and cons of benefit policies by sharing our collective knowledge. For example, here are some of our client’s examples of benefits and onboarding strategies as well as our employee appreciation ideas.

Organizations, like people, don’t necessarily march to the beat of the same drum. Some need to operate in a very steady, even and predictable manner. Others need to have operational fluidity, spontaneity and a more go-with-the-flow approach. Neither approach is right or wrong so long as positive results are being delivered.

As you think about potentially offering an unlimited time off benefit, consider the following:

  • Does it work for your industry? Some industries require a lot of structure and control over workflow and people resources. You need to be sure that your business can sustain this and is something to take into consideration as you create your employee benefits program.
  • Can this benefit be tracked? If your organization cannot budget around the anticipated costs of time, limits need to be established to ensure the organization can manage this benefit in a fiscally responsible manner.
  • Do you have the structure in place to ensure employees can truly utilize (not abuse) the benefit? This type of benefit has the potential to create unintended employee relations issues (e.g., disparate treatment, morale, performance issues, etc.). For example, some employees may be more inclined to take off a lot of time whereas others may feel compelled not to for fear of looking like they’re slacking. We encourage you to have a thoughtful communications plan to address any gray areas and to clarify expectations.
  • Is it compliant with local, state and federal labor laws? This type of benefit brings a level of ambiguity so it is important to consult your HR department to ensure it is compliant with applicable labor and employment laws. Certain state and local laws may require specific monitoring and record keeping of time off practices.

While we admire policies that are creative and are customized to employees we always encourage clients to consider how such a benefit aligns with relevant employment laws, business practices, company culture and individual motivating factors.

We’d like to hear from you! What do you consider the pros and cons of the unlimited time off benefit? And what benefits do you offer your employees that you have found to be motivating and help create a successful culture?

Invest in Employee Learning – You’ll be glad you did!

This year’s motto at Resourceful HR is to go deep and it is especially appropriate when it comes to giving our employees opportunities to continue their education and encouraging our clients to provide educational opportunities to their employees. There are so many operational benefits when it comes to educating employees including loyalty, productivity, confidence and ownership. And if that is not enough to make education a priority consider this – educating your employees helps ensure your customers are being served effectively so you can be even more competitive in your industry.

There are many ways to provide continuing education including, paying for a class an employee wants to take or an industry conference they want to attend, organizing lunch and learn meetings, inviting a vendor or outside expert to share their expertise on a specific topic, providing mentoring opportunities and providing a library of books and DVDs associated with the topics your employees want to learn more about. Another opportunity to capitalize on your employee educational efforts is to involve your employees as much as possible – have them lead a training or if they attend a conference have them share what they learned with the rest of the staff or with their team.

Understanding the importance of keeping up with the trends of your industry and the news and laws that affect you industry will ensure you stay ahead of your competitors. Share with us what you are doing to create a learning environment at your organization in the comments below.

Is Your Internship Program Legal?

A new case law went into effect this summer, which is driving the requirement that interns be compensated for their work. The case is dubbed the Black Swan case, named after one of the movies in which the defendant (Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc.) ‘employed’ interns for zero pay. In his ruling, the judge referred to a Department of Labor (DOL) “Fact Sheet” that includes six criteria that an intern program must meet.

As graduates look for opportunities to gain on the job experience and organizations look for ways to garner talent while minimizing payroll costs, it’s important to test your internship program’s legality.

The Test

In a nutshell, the law says that your intention for employing an intern should be to provide them training or job experience that they can apply to their studies or to further their career. It is key to understand that the employer should not be receiving the benefit (e.g. a free cost employee) of having the intern work for their organization and that instead it is the organization’s responsibility to provide the benefit (e.g. on the job training) to the intern.

Here are the criteria your program must meet in order for it to be legal NOT to compensate interns:

  1. The internship is similar to training, which would be given in an educational environment;
  2. The internship experience is really for the benefit of the intern, not for the benefit of the employer;
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

Learn more information and view the fact sheet..

Worried your internship program might not pass the test? Send us your questions and comments below.

The Recruiting Revolution: Human Interaction

In the past month I’ve read countless articles and seen advertisements for presentations highlighting a new way of recruiting and what is being termed an impending RECRUITING REVOLUTION. I love to learn improvements and new trends in my field so that I (and the Resourceful HR team) can be on the leading edge. So of course, I was all ears – What could be the new development that could impact recruiting to this extent?

Answer: Human interaction.

Yes, you read that right. Old school, old fashioned, plain and simple one-to-one human conversation.

For those that have been in the recruiting field a good amount of time, this doesn’t feel revolutionary, but for many it is. In the past decade things have changed dramatically when it comes to ‘connecting’ with candidates. Many recruiters have stopped picking up the phone to call prospective candidates or attend events to meet and interact with professionals in a targeted field.

Social media, especially LinkedIn and the internet in general have allowed recruiters to be more targeted with their outreach and efficient with their sourcing and research. Many recruiters have come to rely on mass blasting candidates that match a key word in hopes that good candidates will respond. Some recruiters assume the cream of the crop will get their “Inmail” and immediately jump to respond and want the job they are filling. But the problem is the cream of the crop have been inundated with these messages and tactics and are no longer responding to these messages. It’s become noise to them. These sought after professionals are busy making an impact on their current employer and only responding to recruiters who are providing a compelling and more personal reason to contact them. If you want them to join your team and contribute their needed skills be thoughtful, be specific and don’t send mass communications – which means human interaction wins out over Inmail.

Good recruiters still use human interaction to identify the best candidates, sell hot prospects on the compelling opportunity, and determine alignment and fit with the position. This tactic is how great recruiters have sustained through the peaks and troughs of hiring and has their clients returning to them time and again.

At Resourceful HR, we’ve never stopped including human interaction in our efforts. We have always believed that you need to find and sell great candidates if you want to build a great team. We use LinkedIn, job boards and other social media as a tool – not the solution. This ‘new revolution’ in recruiting is a good reminder that new trends and resources do not negate the power of tried and true practices but instead enhance them.

How do you see this revolution changing your organization’s approach to recruiting? I’d love your thoughts on how revolutionary this is for you.

Why Recruit When You’re Fully Staffed?

Do you think recruiters are only necessary when you have an immediate need or vacancy? Do you believe your “promote from within” culture or extensive succession plan leaves recruiters obsolete in your organization? If so, I encourage you to re-think the value of recruiters. They serve a critical role for an organization, even when you don’t think you need to be recruiting.

1)      Recruiters are often the most public and accessible brand representative your organization has and their efforts are what allow you to have a successful promote from within culture and have talent worthy of developing for succession. So when you’ve reached this point, don’t rest on your laurels. Keep your recruiters engaged in that community to ensure the reputation stays strong and you remain an employer of choice.

2)      Even the best plans require a contingency plan. There will always be unexpected vacancies and no one ready to move into that role. No matter how deep you go in a succession plan, there will be a need to backfill a role. Recruiters are great at building a pipeline of talent and maintaining relationships with quality candidates. They should spend time finding professionals with critical skill sets or experiences that would be valuable to your organization to ensure you can move quickly in hiring someone should the original plan fall through.

3)      As a hiring manager, we know you want the best person in each role. Getting recruiters involved provides an opportunity to vet your internal candidates against the external talent pool. They can gather market intelligence on the talent pool and see what the market has to offer. This will ensure that the decision to promote an employee is because they are the best person for the job. In addition, if your internal candidate knows that the promotion is not a sure thing, they will consistently strive to do better, stay competitive, and innovate.

Recruiters are not just about filling requisitions. They need to be focused on ensuring the organization has the right talent to achieve the business goals. At Resourceful HR, we serve as our clients’ ambassador and work with many to build a pipeline to ensure they have the talent in the wings when the need arises. I encourage you to engage recruiters as ambassadors for talent and you may be pleasantly surprised at how rewarding hiring, both internally and externally can be.

I’d be interested in learning how else you find recruiters adding value to your organization when there isn’t an open requisition. Please leave me your comments below.

Affordable Care Act (ACA): July 2013 Update

The Affordable Care Act (or ACA) is back in the news again with further changes to an already complex and dynamic piece of legislation. On July 2, the Obama administration announced it would delay implementation of the ACA’s employer “shared responsibility” or “Pay-Or-Play” provision which was originally scheduled to take effect in January 2014, but has now been pushed back to January 2015.

First, an Employer Primer…

When the ACA was passed in 2010, it imposed a 2-tiered obligation on employers referred to as the “employer shared responsibility” provision (otherwise known as the “Pay or Play” mandate).  Under this provision, employers could either:

  1. Pay: Employers with 50 or more full-time employees would be required to start offering health insurance coverage or pay annual penalties of $2,000 for every full-time employee except for the first 30 full-time employees.  A full-time employee is defined as  anyone who works 30 or more hours per week; or
  2. Play: Employers who opt to “play” versus “pay” would be required to enhance the benefit offering and satisfy a minimum 60% actuarial value standard and an “affordability” standard, or the full-time employee would be free to shop for coverage in any of the public health insurance exchanges. However,
    • For each full-time employee who enrolls and receives a premium tax credit to purchase in coverage through a health insurance exchange would trigger an additional $3,000 employer penalty per employee per year.

For employers who employ large numbers of full-time employees who are more modestly paid (e.g., Retail, Fast-food, Manufacturing, etc.,) may have challenges affording this expense either way.

What’s Up Next?

To further complicate matters, additional legislation has recently been introduced for consideration and could continue to re-shape the ACA:

  • A new bipartisan bill has been introduced to redefine full-time as 40 hours week versus 30 hours a week.
  • Another bill has been introduced to postpone by one year the mandate that requires all U.S. citizens to have basic health coverage or be penalized.

While this one-year delay may come as a relief for employers, it is still important to note that the remainder of the ACA’s 2013 and 2014 requirements is still on schedule to take effect.  These include, but are not limited to the following:

  1. The individual mandate that requires almost every U.S. citizen to have basic health coverage or pay a penalty.
  2. The implementation of health insurance exchanges.
  3. The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) filing and fees due from insurers and self-insured employers on July 31, 2013 and annually thereafter.
  4. The requirement that by October 1, 2013, employers must notify their employees of their coverage/enrollment options and the existence of the health insurance exchanges.
  5. The elimination of pre-existing condition exclusions, limits on waiting periods and annual dollar limits, and other design rules scheduled to take effect in 2014.

For now, employers should continue to focus on the following:

  • Make  sure your health plans are, or will be, in compliance with all of the ACA requirements other than “Pay or Play” and employer reporting requirements by the above noted compliance dates;
  • Watch for additional guidance that will continue to evolve over this next few months; and
  • Seek the advice from labor and employment of employee benefits counsel regarding the ACA requirements and any future changes with its provisions.

Resourceful HR will continue to keep our clients and readers informed through this blog as the ACA continues to be refined.

Quality-focused Recruiters – Yes, We Do Exist

When I tell people that Resourceful HR provides outsourced recruiting or about my background in recruiting, it fascinates me that most everyone has a negative recruiter experience to share. Most often it is a result of a recruiter focused on placing people regardless of fit for the sole purpose of getting paid and moving on to the next role. I’ve worked as a recruiter in several different environments and it is true, there are some recruiters and recruiting organizations that are more concerned with quantity of placements over quality of placements. My experience working in a quota oriented environment is the reason why I became so passionate about organizations hiring the right talent. As I talk to business leaders and hiring managers, I’m always working to dispel the myth that recruiters only care about quantity. Here are three traits I look for to identify recruiters focused on quality hires.

1) Quality oriented recruiters delve into the organizational culture and keys to success in the environment. Understanding what makes your organization unique allows the recruiter to ask candidates questions that highlight their alignment with your needs. A technical writer candidate may have the skills to do the job but not thrive in your rapidly growing start up that is faced with tight timelines and requires long hours. A quality oriented recruiter understands aligning candidates to the environment and culture is often the most important factor determining success in a role.

2) Recruiters interested in making quality hires enjoy building relationships with candidates and the hiring organization. Understanding the trajectory of the organization is useful in finding candidates that align with that trajectory. The candidate that can help you launch a product in three months is not the same candidates that will help you design and develop a new product. You want to make sure the candidate you select is not simply looking for a 6 – 12 month gig if you need someone to stick around longer term.

3) The quality-oriented recruiter has repeat, long-term customers. This applies for both internal and external customers. If you stopped working with a recruiter because they were not providing candidates that met your needs, you are probably not alone. That recruiter likely has a client base of one hit wonders. A quality oriented recruiter will have worked on numerous roles for a client and adds new clients based on referrals and reputation.

I joined Resourceful HR to help businesses grow through recruiting and HR practices. We don’t focus on throwing candidates into roles just to fill a seat in the organization. We focus on getting the right person into the right role. When we do that, our clients will ultimately grow and then need more recruiting help.

As you look at adding team members, I’m asking you to keep an open mind to recruiters. There are many who want to see your business succeed and making good hires is key to success. Get to know the recruiter or recruiting team. Find out what got them where they are at. If the answer doesn’t revolve around quality hires and helping businesses grow and succeed, they may not be the best resource for you.

I’d love to hear what other traits you’ve seen in quality-focused recruiters.

U.S. Workforce Engagement Stagnant – Holding Back the Economy

“Managers from hell are creating active disengagement costing the U.S. an estimated $450 billion to $550 billion annually”

The Gallup Institute’s most recent 2013 State of the American Workplace Report shared several survey statistics and results that business owners should take to heart. I found these to be the most alarming and interesting – “Managers from hell are creating active disengagement costing the U.S. an estimated $450 billion to $550 billion annually” and that “to win customers— and a bigger share of the marketplace — companies must first win the hearts and minds of their employees.” And to bring it closer to home the Puget Sound Business Journal recently reported that 72% of employees in Washington State are unhappy in their jobs. These are sobering statistics but I remain optimistic for employers who take these words to heart and resolve to create better engagement in their organizations. I am also thrilled to see that business leaders, politicians and the media are taking notice of what intrinsically matters when it comes to growing our businesses, growing our economy and creating a globally successful marketplace.

I recently attended the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) conference in Chicago and had the opportunity to hear Hillary Clinton speak about the gap between education and the skills we need in the workplace. We recently discussed this topic here. In line with the Gallup study, the former Secretary of State also acknowledged HR’s role in workforce development and the necessity for good decision-making, team leadership and “showing up” for your constituents and staff. Fareed Zakaria from CNN also spoke about the history of recessions and recoveries and the role that HR played in creating job growth.

We all know intuitively that good leaders create impactful results but it is not always easy to draw a clear line of sight between the two. I am hopeful though that with the latest Gallup survey and focus on this topic by our politicians that we will be able to understand and measure the impact an engaged workforce has on our economy. Another key takeaway from Gallup’s poll:  “When leaders in the United States of America — or any country for that matter — wake up one morning and say collectively, “Let’s get rid of managers from hell, double the number of great managers and engaged employees, and have those managers lead based on what actually matters, everything will change.” The country’s employees will be twice as effective, they’ll create far more customers, companies will grow, spiraling healthcare costs will decrease, and desperately needed GDP will boom.”

It’s an exciting time! How do you plan to add to the momentum?

Growth Strategies – HR Temp Staffing and Outsourced HR

The Puget Sound area marketplace is once again and not surprisingly experiencing a period of growth. We have some great organizations and industries that have proved time and time again their commitment to innovation, business efficiencies and employee satisfaction. The Seattle Office of Economic Development recently shared some exciting headlines regarding employment and the economy in 2013:

“Seattle Ranks One of the Ten Best Cities to Find Employment. Forbes, April 22, 2013”

“Seattle Ranked Fifth on List of Best Cities for Good Jobs. Forbes, February 25, 2013”

“Seattle Ranked Thirteenth of 200 Best-Performing Large Metro Areas. Atlantic Cities, April 29, 2013”

“Seattle Ranked Seventh-Best City to Start a Business. Nerd Wallet, April 22, 2013”

“Seattle Ranks Third on List of Manufacturing Boomtowns. New Geography, May 15, 2013”

All great indicators for growth to say the least and also a good reminder that organizations need to continue to create strategies that help garner growth and innovation while minimizing costs. Two of the ways in which we have seen organizations garner growth and foster innovation are:

1. Outsourcing their HR needs

2. Hiring temporary human resources and payroll/benefits professionals.

Each of these avenues provides a way to get the knowledge and employee-power needed to accomplish business goals and propel organizations forward.

As employers begin recruiting and onboarding new employees it makes sense that there is an increased demand for HR professionals to support their growing employee base. Anecdotally, it appears that many employers are optimistic but remaining cautious and therefore opting for temporary or outsourced staff to support that need. My expectation is that many of these temporary HR positions will convert into regular full-time roles as the economy continues to strengthen. In fact, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal, May’s unemployment rate was the lowest since 2008!

It’s an exciting time in our region and we are we are very proud to be a part of such a wonderful and innovative business community!

Learn More about Resourceful HR’s Outsourcing and HR Temp Staffing services.

HR Temp Staffing – A Candidate’s Checklist

Last week we wrote about what companies should look for when partnering with a HR temp staffing firm and this week we are focusing on the candidate experience. If a candidate isn’t a good fit for a client, it goes without saying that both the client and candidate suffer. If a staffing company doesn’t understand the benefits of setting expectations or finding the right culture fit for the candidate the partnership falls apart for all parties involved. That is why it is critical that candidates select the right staffing company in which to partner.

There are many staffing firms that place HR professionals, both local and national, which is great news for candidates looking for temporary employment opportunities. It also means that candidates should take advantage of their options and be selective. The following provides a checklist of what candidates should look for in an HR temporary staffing service firm:

  • Is their contact and resume submission process easy?
  • Do you receive notification, either electronically or by phone that they have received your information and resume?
  • Do you get the feeling that the service firm is just filling up their database with resumes to throw at their clients or is their intention to get to know you and make a good match for both the candidate and client?
  • The above bullet is a deal breaker as you want to ensure the agency you choose to work with is being realistic and honest about how they can help you. The staffing firm should always let you know their process during first time interviews to ensure your time is not wasted.
  • When the staffing firm does follow-up regarding a position, do you feel like you are being treated as an individual (that they are not just reading your resume and looking to fill an empty seat)?
  • Do they take the time to get to know your skill set and what you are looking for in a HR temp position?
  • Is it clear to you that they are setting the right expectations with you and the client?
  • Does the staffing firm follow-up with you and the client to make sure things are
    going as planned?
  • Do they conduct quality assurance calls with you and the client to ensure all parties receive the service they signed up for (and even exceeded the expectations)?

Have you looked for a HR temp position? We’d like to hear from you! Please share your comments below on what you look for in a HR staffing company.

Temp Staffing – A Client’s Perspective

Are you looking to fill a temporary HR need? Perhaps for a planned or unexpected leave of absence or a short-term project that could benefit from expertise you don’t want or need to employ full time? The good news is there are lots of options available to you. The bad news is, there are lots of options. Where do you start? Full disclosure: We are one of the companies that provide HR temp staffing services. With that in mind we emphatically encourage you to find the right one for your organization, as it will save you time and grief down the road. You may want to start by reading the benefits of finding the right cultural fit and setting clear expectations. We’ve also put together a guide that includes the questions you should ask before hiring a staffing agency.

To further help with your HR temp agency selection process, we have put together more tips below. If you have questions or additional information regarding making a temp engagement successful, we’d love to hear from you! Please also stay tuned in the coming weeks for what a temp should look for in an agency.

First and foremost: the temp agency should be responsive, knowledgeable and honest. While sometimes taken for granted it is important to be mindful that the agency you choose to work with possesses these qualities, as they are critical to a successful engagement for all parties – you, the candidate and the agency. These attributes come in the form of many operational deliverables so define upfront what they mean to you (for example, returning emails and phone calls promptly, answering questions kindly and eagerly, making sure they are transparent when it comes to sharing and placing candidates with other clients and being attentive to your specific needs).

Here are the top three things (after the above is covered) we recommend you look for in an HR temp staffing firm:

  1. Did the agency ask you and the candidate the appropriate questions so that you are confident they know what you need and what the candidate can deliver on? Making sure your agency does the due diligence to determine the right fit for both your needs and the candidate’s skill set is essential. For instance you may have a need for a technical recruiter temp who already has an established network. Make sure the agency truly understands what you are looking for and be very specific with them so there is no room for interpretation regarding those needs. If you feel like they are not treating you or candidates as individuals and just filling a seat in your organization, run!
  2. Do they take care of all the administrative details (otherwise, what are the benefits of using their service?). From timecard processing to onboarding paperwork (W-4s, I-9s, confidentiality agreements, etc), the process should be turnkey so you can focus on providing your temp with the information they need to perform.
  3. Does the agency check in on a regular basis to make sure all is going well and that your needs are being met? From the start, the HR temp agency should have taken the time to get to know your needs but also be understanding when those needs change as your business landscape changes. Checking in on a regular basis on both you and the temp will ensure the engagement is successful and that tweaks and changes happen quickly when needed.

Do you have success stories (or not so successful stories) when it comes to hiring temps? We’d like to hear from you! Share your comments below.

Temp Staffing – The Benefits of Finding the Right Culture Fit and Setting Expectations

Everyone who has had a bad experience with hiring a temp or being a temp at any point in your career, raise your hand. Chances are the majority of you have had at least one challenging experience with a temporary employee situation (it seems to be a rite of passage when it comes to careers these days). And unfortunately, I’m raising my hand right along with you. Why does it have to be like this?

“As I look back, most of my bad temp experiences are due to poor culture fit and a void when it comes to setting expectations on either side.”

Early on in my career, I worked for an organization that needed a temp for a few weeks due to an unexpected employee departure. We needed to keep some basic activities afloat while the company determined how best to fill the gap. We contacted an agency that had spent the previous three years trying to maintain a relationship with us. They jumped at the chance to find us a temporary employee to greet visitors, answer an occasional phone call, forward general inquiry emails, and complete data entry. I reviewed a couple of resumes, chose not to interview and instead selected the candidate with experience in a professional services organization and with the tasks we were seeking to accomplish. In 48 hours, we had someone to help… and it went downhill from there.

The temp wasn’t familiar with the Mac platform, which was used across our entire organization, and was more of a social butterfly, which didn’t fit into the culture of the organization. She was interested in a full-time opportunity with us from day one and she spent more time trying to convince us to hire her  than actually doing the necessary work.

She was at the organization for two weeks and left, having found employment outside our organization. Her rationale was that we weren’t willing to commit to hiring her on a more “permanent” basis. We never indicated this was a temp-to-hire position but apparently that was her expectation. We were still in the process of trying to figure out what we needed at the organization when she suddenly left her role with us. We then spent the next month plus cleaning up the mistakes in her data entry tasks and trying to figure out where general email messages had gone.

It is amazing (and a blessing) that so much was learned from ten days of a temporary employee. I pass on my lessons in hopes that you don’t have to learn the hard way when it comes time for you to hire a temp.

1)      Take your time. No matter how urgent the situation is, you do have a couple of days before an implosion will occur. Interview the temp before you agree to work with him/her. A 30-minute conversation will help you assess if they will fit with the rest of the team and be committed to doing the tasks that need to be done.

2)      Explain the culture. If the agency doesn’t ask you about your organization’s culture, consider using another agency. If you aren’t in a position to change agencies, explain your culture and the nuances critical to the temporary employee being successful. Then focus on those factors when you meet the potential temp (see #1 above).

3)      Have references completed. Ask the agency to do a reference check (if they haven’t already) or if more comfortable, check them yourself. Make sure the temporary employee has done the tasks you need support on and that previous employers would hire this person again.

4)      Set expectations.  Just as you do with new hires, sit down on day one with your temporary employee and set expectations. Spending 30 minutes to an hour of your time will save you hours of headaches later. Explain what needs to be accomplished during the assignment. Provide insights into how the organization operates so they can work within the system. And let them know exactly what the plan for the role is long term (even if there is no plan yet, share that this is the case).

At Resourceful HR, we use these four steps in our process of placing temporary HR professionals because we know it makes a huge difference in both the client’s and temp’s experience and success.

What other lessons have you learned and applied to make your temporary employee experiences a success?

Hitting the 20-Employee Mark Part 2 – Creating Structure for Successful Growth and Greater Productivity

As you begin to hit 20 employees, you may find your staff requires more structure and communication regarding your vision and goals for the business. Having a plan in place for meeting this need is very important as it gives employees more visibility of where the business is heading, reassurance that you are managing growth effectively and ensures they have the tools and information they need to help you accomplish your goals. Communication around “how am I doing?” and “how does what I am doing fit in with what other team members and departments are doing?” is also important as it helps ensure productivity by giving employees a greater understanding about how their responsibilities impact long-term and day-to-day milestones.

Offering insight into your vision and communicating job responsibilities are interrelated (although they also require independent analysis and a custom approach).  Your attention to these details will absolutely affect the efficiency and financial performance of your organization. The most profitable organizations on the “Best Places to Work” lists focus on developing programs and processes that address these issues and the good news is these deliverables don’t need to be elaborate. The key is taking a step back, assessing the structure and communication needs unique to your business, recognizing any inter-relationships and then acting on an intentional, “do-able” plan you can test to see what works and what doesn’t. The key is to start doing this while you are still relatively small. The bigger you get, the harder it is to undo or reinvent what isn’t working. Putting these mechanisms in place now will help you remain nimble while ensuring employees who are contributing important skill sets and institutional knowledge remain on board.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Write down who does what and what you need them to do. This boils down to creating job responsibilities and defining the goals you want employees to achieve. Goals don’t need to be lofty but do need to be measurable. If it’s something that needs to get done to achieve your business plan, it’s a goal and should be documented. If you can articulate a goal in writing in order to measure it, you can move it. The employer should provide the goal and the employee and employer should craft the roadmap (i.e. job responsibilities) to get there. It’s ok to leave most of the legwork to the employee if you as the employer give good guidance and direction. You already have a lot on your plate, I know. Asking them to create the draft generally yields more buy-in and accountability. Goals shouldn’t be more than 12 months out. Shorter lines of sight equate to greater results.
  2. Identify what’s missing. Inevitably in a smaller company, you are not going to have every skill you would like to have. Prioritize the “must haves” from the nice to “haves” for the next 12 months. Where is your business now and where do you want it to be in 12 months? What’s missing from making that happen? Determine your budget. Be ok with mitigation plans. As small business owners, we can’t always have what we want but we can come darn close.
  3. How’s your leadership bench? Are they farmers or hackers (i.e. are they going to cultivate your organization or tear it to shreds because their management style is abrasive and focused on control rather than growth?)? You need leaders who can grow your talent. If you are going to invest in any area, invest here. Don’t allow your managers to act as “technicians” even if part of their job is still doing the technician work. Groom them to think like a mini-owner of their unit and find good mentors who can teach them to get work done successfully through other people in a collaborative and supportive manner. They should be revered as a coach and leader by their staff and not as someone to fear.
  4. Consider messaging. Employees want to know what’s going on but not everyone will share the same level of understanding of the business. Keep this in mind as you talk about the company’s financials, sales plans, expense management, etc. Before communicating to a particular group of employees, think through what they care about, be transparent and speak only to what you’ve identified. I’ve found that some leaders will share everything with everyone in an effort to be collaborative and transparent but not every employee knows what to personally do with the information or really even cares about knowing all of it. Employees all want to help but need to see how that’s possible. Keep it simple, personal and relevant to them.
  5. Define at least a few “rules of engagement”. This doesn’t have to be a full on employee handbook, which I know is a four-letter word to many employers. Small “playbooks”, if you will, at the 20-employee mark are a good idea. You are probably getting at least some questions around “what’s our policy on this?” or “how much money can I spend on that?” Having at least a few expectations laid out will save you a lot of time from repeating yourself or remembering what you did for Bob six months ago in an effort to be consistent. You can make case-by-case decisions but just need to feel comfortable explaining your intent if called into question.

These are a few ideas I recommend to clients and am putting in place myself. If you have ideas to share, please do in the comments section. We’d love to hear your ideas for successfully setting the stage at 20.

We also encourage you to learn more about the employment laws you need to be familiar with when you reach 20 employees. For more information check out Part 1 of our hitting 20-employee mark.

Hitting the 20 Employee Mark Part 1 – New Employment Laws We Advise You to Embrace

In my experience, hitting the 20-employee mark is the most challenging in terms of setting up the employer-employee relationship for long-term success.  You are still small enough that each person is wearing multiple hats but the hats are becoming more complex and if you are like most small companies we work with, you want to keep things informal and the idea of “structure” makes you want to “run for the hills.”  That’s just too “corporate” you may be thinking.  I get it and I am actually living it right there with you.  We aren’t quite to twenty yet, but I can see it coming.   As I am getting my own act together, I thought I would share my experience in working with smaller clients over the years as well as what I have learned as I grow Resourceful HR.  This blog as well as next week’s is offered in the spirit of giving you some things to think about as you hit 20. Congratulations on reaching this milestone!  Only a small percent of the employer population actually make it this far.

While you can take time figuring out “who really does what” and “who we are” in the marketplace, new employment laws take hold the minute you hit 20 employees. There is no grace period, period. At the 20-employee mark, employers are required by law to comply with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) and, more notably, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). Many employers choose to ignore them but I don’t advise it.  It gets a lot more expensive and harder to avoid being “found out” by your employees and the Department of Labor (DOL) as you grow.  Audits are becoming more frequent and employees are becoming more attuned to rights and laws in the workplace.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) prohibits “age discrimination in hiring, promotions, wages or termination and layoffs of anyone at least 40 years of age”. Last year, 23% of the 2012 total discrimination claims were for age discrimination.  I won’t spend a ton of time on this one as I think it’s pretty self-explanatory.  Moral of the story is, don’t discriminate based on age. To avoid getting sued for age or other forms of discrimination hire based on skills and diversified work experience that can add to your team.

COBRA deserves some greater attention, mainly because the administration can be complex.  There are lots of dates to remember when administering COBRA. Your calendar reminders will become your best friend. COBRA gives workers and their families who lose their health benefits the right to choose to continue group health benefits provided by their group health plan for limited periods of time under certain circumstances such as voluntary or involuntary job loss, reduction in hours worked, transition between jobs, death, divorce and other life events. Tracking starts with the covered employee’s first day of work.  You are required by law to send the COBRA notification to the employee’s home through snail mail to help ensure that all covered dependents have the opportunity to receive the notification.  Then as the employee works for you, you need to ensure you send COBRA notifications to any added or dropped dependents on your health plans. Be aware of which eligibility schedule a dropped dependent qualifies under and then monthly track any COBRA payments you receive to ensure the participant is in compliance. Specific information on qualification and administration is available here and we are also happy to answer any questions.

Getting to 20 is an incredible milestone and one to be proud of.  It generally means you’re on a growth cycle and it’s exciting to plan for your company’s future.  In next week’s blog, I’ll give some food for thought around communication, culture, performance management and what’s really needed around policy development when hitting 20 employees.  I hope you’ll stay tuned…