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?

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.

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.

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.

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:

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.

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.

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!

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.

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?

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.

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.

Seeking Quality Talent? Engage High School Students NOW!

We all have talent challenges – good people are hard to find and the war for talent, particularly technical skill sets is in full battle mode. Washington State’s business community is in demand for technical skills and the San Francisco Bay area is notorious in its fight for technical talent. There are many workforce development programs and worker retraining initiatives in place to shift the skills of today’s workforce to meet today’s demand; but what about tomorrow? The needs will only continue to grow in today’s knowledge-based global economy.

Many states have implemented STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) initiatives in an effort to advance education in these four areas and encourage more students to pursue careers in these fields.  These efforts will go a long way in building awareness of educational paths students can pursue, but is it the answer for organizations that need quality and specialized talent for sustained growth?

It’s time to “change the conversation” according to Bruce Kelly, Assistant Principal of Aviation High School in Des Moines, Washington and move towards greater levels of integration between business and students to face these challenges. Aviation High School, a public high school, is the “only college prep aviation-themed high school in the Northwest” with the mission of preparing students for “higher education and work in a knowledge-based, global economy.” I met Bruce Kelly at an event held by Washington STEM, a statewide organization “advancing excellence and innovation in STEM education” and was highly impressed by what he’s been able to do to help students build skill sets as well as help businesses meet their talent needs to grow and be competitive in the marketplace.

A key program at Aviation High School is helping students find summer internships at area businesses that allow them to contribute to the success of the business while developing skills and participating in entrepreneurship and leadership in action. Organizations win because they get tactical execution assistance and fresh perspectives as well as hungry students eager to learn and jump right in on even the most challenging of problems. One example involved a Bellevue, Washington based aerospace research company with less than 50 employees. They hired six interns from Aviation High School last summer and immediately had the students collecting and analyzing data on space exploration initiatives and making recommendations to senior leadership. They were held to the same standards as college interns at the organization and developed presentation and communication skills that could never be learned in the classroom. In return, the company was able to move key projects forward.

This partnership is a win-win-win on many levels. The local business gets projects completed, builds a strong brand within the community, and starts building relationships with talent they might hire full-time down the road. The students experience the real world and see classroom lessons in action. They typically return to the classroom inspired and more engaged in the learning process. The school wins because the curriculum becomes more relevant to the needs of the business community and the students are more participative at school and ready to engage in the workforce when they graduate.

Bruce Kelly described it as a “porous school house door” to business and industry. “Schools and businesses need to work together so everyone benefits now and in the long run. We can’t wait until schooling is finished before we show students the possibilities of their career. Getting them involved in real world scenarios for eight weeks during the summer is the easiest way to showcase the possibilities.”

You can read more about Aviation High School’s internship program at: http://aviationhscareers.org/internships

Another influential program that is affiliated with Aviation High School is the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), which is designed to inspire high school students to seek career opportunities in the STEM fields by giving them real world experiences working with professionals. Each year FRC introduces a new game as a challenge for the students and mentors to develop strategies and a robot for playing the game. Students learn problem solving, leadership and hands-on skills such as computer-aided design (CAD). By encouraging students to pursue education and employment in these areas, FIRST works to preserve the region’s economic strength and advance our global competitiveness. You can see the competition in action here and learn more about the program here.

Like all internship and leadership programs, an investment is required in time and mentoring, but the ROI is often worth it.  If you are interested in learning more, contact the high schools in your area. They don’t have to be industry-focused schools; any school with AP programs will be able to find motivated students. Let them know about the projects you have and the skills you need. They’ll be able to help connect you to students.

If you have experiences or recommendations from working with high schools to expand your talent pool, we’d love to hear from you. We can all benefit from “changing the conversation” and “working with a porous door.”

My Career Path Mantra: Accept What Comes – Stay the Course – Opportunities Will Come.

Ultimate success comes from achieving lots of short-term, manageable wins that over time result in huge outcomes instead of focusing on big finish lines and self-imposed, arbitrary deadlines.

A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate to get the opportunity to attend the Women in Leadership Luncheon at the University of Washington Bothell and Cascadia Community College. Jennifer Olsen, the President of Resourceful HR, was asked to present as the keynote speaker that afternoon and asked me to attend the event with her.  At the time, I mostly thought of the luncheon as an “on the job” task and never imagined that the experience would have an impact on how I view my own professional career.

For most of my young adult life, I knew that I had to graduate from college and find a great job with a well-recognized company. When I landed my first job after completing my undergraduate degree, I was overcome with relief in knowing that I had succeeded in life because I had gotten my “dream job.” This great sense of accomplishment diminished within the first year of my professional career and I was increasingly feeling a lack of connection with my job and the people who I worked with. At the time, I felt like I was working a job that I had not even applied for and I felt like the training and direction I was receiving was mediocre at best. Now, I realize that ultimately, it was a difference of expectations that created the gap between myself and my previous employer. After I listened to Jennifer’s speech, it dawned on me that when it comes to plans, it is almost impossible to stick to your original ones without revisions. Not only do your wants and needs change but how you meet your goals and overcome your challenges will too.

In those 60 minutes, I learned so much more about this face of the company…much more than I had learned working side-by-side with Jennifer. She stated “you don’t have to write the ending before taking the first step towards the ending you want. You just have to have enough figured out to give it a go and be prepared to pivot if things start to turn towards the unexpected.”

After Jennifer completed her speech, I realized I wrote down a few takeaways from the expedition her story took me on and here they are:

  • “Embrace your flaws and more quickly let go of dead visions of what [you] thought [you] wanted that can clutter [your] path.”
  • Just because you went off your plan, doesn’t mean you failed it.
  • “Real success is a process; a series of small steps with help from many wonderful people.”
  • “Leave room for the unexpected as sometimes those experiences turn out to be richer than what was originally planned.”

Jennifer made me realize that “ultimate success comes from achieving lots of short-term, manageable wins that over time result in huge outcomes instead of focusing on big finish lines and self-imposed, arbitrary deadlines.” She showed me that no matter who you are in life, to have pride in your journey because that is what humanizes us. The path Jennifer took had bumps in it that were not a part of her plan, but she embraces those hiccups and is a better President and leader because of it.

The Yahoo Telecommuting Policy Change – What Does it Mean to the Rest of Us?

I, like most, was surprised when Yahoo announced on February 22nd that they were eliminating their “Work From Home” benefit and forcing all employees to report to work at a Yahoo office starting in June. From the New York Times to Mother Nature Network, the story was picked up everywhere. All highlighted opinions, stats and facts regarding working from home versus onsite as well as the potential fallout and/or benefits CEO Marissa Mayer’s decision may have on turning around the organization.

Initially Resourceful HR wasn’t going to blog about Yahoo’s telecommuting decision and subsequent discussions because we didn’t want to add to the noise. But given the number of times this topic has come up in conversations over the past month, particularly with clients, the pros/cons and best practices of telecommunicating are clearly on everyone’s mind.

So what are people saying about the Yahoo Telecommuting Policy Change?  LOTS! There is much speculation on the real purpose of the change. Is it: For the ideas and innovation that come from spontaneous and impromptu interactions in the hallway of the office? To inspire those not really engaged with the turnaround of Yahoo to quit, thereby avoiding a massive layoff? To highlight Marissa Mayer’s strength of character as a leader and her ability to make the unpopular decision? Because the VPN logs highlighted that employees were not logging in enough when they were working from home? To dramatically and immediately shift the culture of the organization – one described as stagnant at the time she was hired? Or something else?

Many support Marissa Mayer’s choice and others are extremely critical. Topics commonly covered in the opinion pieces highlight that the change won’t last, it is a massive step backwards for working parents, and an archaic approach to leadership. Some even go so far as to claim Marissa Mayer broke the code of motherhood by changing the policy.

But Yahoo isn’t alone in making the move. Best Buy changed their Results Oriented Workforce just a couple weeks later, requiring 4,000 corporate employees to return to the office. Best Buy, however, included in their message that they were encouraging employees to work with their managers to determine if telecommuting was a viable option for their situation.

I don’t anticipate there is going to be a lot of companies getting rid of telecommuting as a result of these two large, struggling organizations’ decisions. But it has caused many of us to sit back and think about our own policies and if they are leading to the results we desire.

There are many considerations when building or evaluating a telecommuting policy. You can read some in this previous blog post.

As you evaluate a telecommuting policy, I encourage you to put yourself in your employees’ shoes and visualize how a telecommuting policy may change their daily lives and subsequently impact their contribution to the organization. Are you willing to model the behavior you are requiring with a policy change? Think big picture about the impact of a telecommuting policy on your organization’s goals, employees, and customers.

What are your short and long-term business goals and how does your culture and policies support these goals? Create a telecommuting policy that ensures you receive the greatest contribution and productivity from your employees.

Consider the following as you evaluate your telecommuting strategy and related policy:

  • What is the employment brand you desire to have? Is telecommuting a big piece of that and a driver behind why your employees chose to work for you?
  • Does your culture promote the levels of communication and openness required to be successful when employees are dispersed and working from home?
  • If you change your telecommuting policy, how will that impact your company’s culture and employment brand?
  • If you are going to make a blanket policy change, are there employees that will likely leave the organization? Are there exceptions you’d be willing to make for the policy?
  • How will your employees feel about the change in policy? As you look at the different groups of employees, will this have a more dramatic impact on certain demographics?
  • How would your customers perceive the change in telecommuting policy? Would that impact their decision to purchase from you?
  • What kind of talent do you need to hire now and in the future and will this policy change impact your ability to attract them?

Only time will tell whether the moves made by Yahoo and Best Buy were for the best. Obviously, the shareholders simply want to see positive financial returns. I’m curious about how the change impacts their ability to recruit talent in a tough market. What are your thoughts on telecommuting? Share your comments below whether you think it helps or hinders an organization.

Recruiting: Marketing, Networking and Integration

A few weeks ago after attending SourceCon, Genevieve Phillips, one of Resourceful HR’s recruiting consultants, wrote a post about talent sourcing best practices. After reading that blog post, I reflected upon how some of the latest techniques and changes affect and extend into the recruitment process.  This evolution, in large part, is due to the Information Age and how quickly news, ideas, and knowledge is transferred and absorbed.

The days of writing basic job descriptions and calling upon your personal network of friends and business colleagues to find top talent, is a time of the past.  We have entered into a new age of what some are calling “integrated recruiting.” It is a more holistic approach on recruiting that builds upon the fact that successful companies need to continually search for, and engage with the future talent that their organization will be built upon.  While building personal and professional networks will always remain a basic staple, recruiters must now plan ahead for future organizational needs while working to satisfy immediate recruitment goals.

Three Key Aspects of Integrated Recruiting Include:

  1. Marketing – Job descriptions must be written with the company’s employment branding in mind. As a recruiter, you need to focus on filling the position at hand but also take into consideration that a wider audience will likely be viewing your description.  Always take into consideration: what do you want people to know about your organization?  Why should a passive job seeker keep your company in mind as a potential future employer?   While you’re targeting individuals for an immediate need you’re also recruiting for future job opening that may not yet exist.
  2. Networking – Find networking opportunities online, attend events, and expand your personal and professional networks.  Focus your efforts on individuals that may make a valuable contribution to your organization.  This should be a combination of cultural fit as well as skills and knowledge base. You can tap into these resources to find other groups or individuals of similar caliber.
  3. Integration – The overall recruitment plan should integrate employment branding, marketing plans, and other aspects of your business.  Engage candidates for the current need while enticing and engaging with future prospects.  Build a long-term pipeline for the organization as a whole; not just for a specific position or targeted team.

Top talent will always be in demand.  How will your organization establish relationships with these individuals so you receive the first call when they are ready to make a move?  Integrated recruiting is the ultimate pre-sales tool for attracting talent.

Please comment below with your best practice strategies and questions!

Recognizing Workplace Bullying

Recently a reader responded to a blog post asking for some clear cut examples of workplace bullying. Resourceful HR takes our readers’ comments seriously and always tries to address questions and concerns. We used the opportunity for the team to discuss our experiences as HR professionals with workplace bullying and truth be told, we had difficulty coming up with definitive examples of a bullying boss.

So why, you may ask, is it hard for HR professionals to write examples of workplace bullying? Primarily because what is bullying within one setting is unfortunately, a cultural norm in another. This is what makes workplace bullying such a challenging situation for organizations to deal with. There is no clear cut definition. A quick Google search finds different definitions from many different resources. There are some common terms used in defining and discussing workplace bullying which involves repetition over a duration of time. Common characteristics include:

  • hostile communication and behavior
  • verbal abuse
  • offensive conduct and behavior (including non verbal) that is threatening, humiliating, intimidating

It is unacceptable for anyone to feel uncomfortable in the workplace and bullying-type conduct should not be permitted. Bullying often leads to health issues for employees and can frequently induce stress that leads to other mental and physical ailments. This of course, leads to increased time away from work or a decline in productivity. While workplace bullying can be based on perception, the health and productivity consequences are very real.  When an employee notifies their employer that they’ve been bullied, a comprehensive investigation should be conducted. There are two sides to every story. All bullying needs to be looked at on a case by case basis and taken seriously.

Employees feeling bullied by a boss or co-worker will feel threatened by the actions of the bully and unable to defend themselves against the negative recurring actions. Typically one will see bullying through the following activities:

  • Public humiliation including belittling opinions
  • Accusations regarding lack of effort
  • Intimidation, name calling, or insults
  • Prevention of access to opportunities or necessary information to complete work
  • Undue pressure with impossible deadlines
  • Shifting goals without communicating the change
  • Setting up the employee to fail

Mattie B. was correct in stating that HR is there “to protect the company from acting in such a way as to bring on litigation from breaking labor laws.” Much of the human resources function is about risk mitigation and that does involve protecting employees and the employers. Each employer has the ability to determine the level of risk they are willing to take. Unfortunately workplace bullying is not illegal. Therefore the risk is not as obvious to an employer as one might think. There are some great organizations that will listen and respond to workplace bullying issues, but there are also those that will turn a blind eye. We don’t live in a utopian society and we could all find ourselves in an organization that has a deaf ear at some point.

All of us at Resourceful HR agree that if an employee is feeling bullied by a boss or co-worker, they should bring it up with HR and ask HR specifically if they will address the situation. In some cases, the employee may have to trust that HR and the organization is addressing the issue; they just may not be in a position to share how.

If you are feeling bullied at work, document your experiences, address them with the bully and/or other key parties within the organization and persist in stating your case on a factual and business level. If all else fails, we encourage you to leave the organization. Life is too short to put up with the actions of a bully boss and a non-responsive employer.

If you want to get involved, there is a push  across many states to make workplace bullying illegal. Learn more at: healthyworkplacebill.org

Recruiting Options: Which to Choose?

You have an open position but limited company resources to help you fill it.  What do you do?  What outside resources could you tap?  Here we take a look at several external options to consider, each with pluses and minuses.

Staffing Firms

Most companies and candidates are familiar with traditional staffing firms who are generally paid when they fill a position (known as a contingency search) or are retained with an initial deposit up front and final payment when the candidate accepts the offer.  Fees generally range from 20 -35% of the new hire’s first year annualized compensation and can include bonuses and other incentives in the calculation.  Good staffing firms already have a database of relevant candidates and can match client and candidate quickly with a high degree of skill match and culture fit precision.  This makes the high fee worth it.  You get who you need within a few days. Unfortunately, staffing firm quality can vary.  Some throw candidates at the client hoping one will stick.  When looking at staffing firms when you have a tight timeline, it’s important to check references to ensure the firm can act within your timeframe on the talent and culture fit you need.

Contract Recruiters

If you have a number of positions and can afford to hire a fulltime resource for a short stint, hiring a contract recruiter may be a good option.  Good contract recruiters generally want fulltime for 3-6 months and can be expensive.  They are hired on their own or through a temporary staffing firm and generally work onsite at the client company.  This is good in that hiring managers can walk down the hall anytime to talk with their recruiter.  It can be bad when the client doesn’t really have the space, computer, desire for the phone bill likely to occur or the need for fulltime.  We do place contract recruiters onsite at our client’s request when the next option, outsourced recruiting, doesn’t make sense or appeal to them.

Outsourced Recruiting (aka Recruitment Process Outsourcing)

Outsourced Recruiting is a fairly new type of relationship trending that has grown enough in popularity to have its own association and industry definition. The Recruitment Process Outsource Alliance, a group of the Human Resources Outsourcing Association (HROA), defines recruitment process outsourcing as “a form of business process outsourcing where an employer transfers all or part of its recruiting process to an external service provider.” This can take many forms and practices vary by vendor but generally this relationship allows the client organization to pick and choose where they want vendor assistance in the recruiting process.

What does outsourced recruiting look like?

I’ll just speak to what it looks like at Resourceful HR.  We charge by the hour to be an extension of our client’s recruitment function.  While you do have one point of contact, we work as a team on your position helping to sell your story and desired brand image across our collective networks. We tweet your news and events and actively share stories with our friends, colleagues and within your industry on how great you are. We choose together which pieces of the recruiting process should or could stay in-house versus Resourceful HR performing the function and we vet this per position.  For example, together we may decide that it makes the most sense for us to do the candidate sourcing and phone interviews while someone on the client’s team screens the resumes and does the references. 

Each position’s process can be tailored to fit the client’s budget and desired outcomes. We provide full transparency throughout the process of who we have contacted, what resumes have surfaced and how many hours we have spent. We provide a contact sheet that lets our clients make multiple hires from a single search. The only downside is that we may not have the ready-made database of candidates a staffing firm could offer, so filling a position within a week would be unusual. Time to hire varies depending upon the complexity of the position and how responsive the client company is to providing feedback.

Hopefully the above provides some context to help you decide which external resource may be right for you when faced with hiring.  What are your experiences with these options?  How do you make the decision that is best for your business?

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace – What would you do?

We are all familiar with obvious sexual harassment scenarios – the blatant, overt dirty jokes and “cat calls” or unwanted advances. But there is another, more covert type of sexual harassment that you need to be aware of and watch out for. This kind of harassment comes from seemingly consenting parties “hooking up” at work and should be covered by a fraternization policy. We do not suggest that you outlaw dating among employees, but rather that you ensure that when it is happening you have policies in place to protect you from future sexual harassment claims.

Consider what you would do in the following scenario:
You have a long-term employee who is at the executive level. This is an individual with a stellar reputation. You are aware that the employee recently divorced her spouse. You find out that her assistant is in the middle of a divorce and there are rumors of an affair between the executive and her assistant. Under direct questioning they admit to the affair and to the fact that they are now in a mutually consenting relationship.

There is gossip around the office about the affair that includes allegations of favoritism, special treatment and extra monetary perks because the assistant has recently come to work in designer clothing and driving a nice new car that others in his salary range know he can’t afford.

What actions need to be taken to protect you from litigation? In addition to worrying about a potential lawsuit, what do you need to do or say in order to demonstrate a strong moral compass to other workers who are surely aware of the situation?

Do you:

  • Immediately remove the assistant from his position and reassign him to a different direct supervisor?
  • Acknowledge the affair and ask questions of the assistant to make sure he was not coerced into the relationship?
  • Conduct damage control with team/employees/board of directors, etc. and acknowledge the situation and give general information (without invading the privacy of the people involved) about how the situation is being handled?
  • Make sure your fraternization policy is up to date and written to avoid situations of sexual harassment?
  • Ensure all managers and supervisors receive annual sexual harassment training and that all employees are well versed in the policies as well as how to report/what to do?
  • Perform an audit of the assistant’s wages, responsibilities and perks to ensure that he was not given undue raises or benefits based on his relationship with his supervisor?

What would you do?

We’d like to hear from you before sharing our recommendations in a future post. Share your feedback by posting a comment on our blog or sending us an email at info@resourcefulhr.com.

Engaging Your Workforce!

The way we engage our employees and value others is intrinsic to the social and emotional learning programs we produce. As a senior level HR executive, I have had the opportunity to work at several organizations and see what works and what does not. As a client of Resourceful HR, I wanted to share with blog readers some of the best practices I have learned throughout my career.

By Jean Battersby Wooten, Human Resources Manager, Committee for Children

I recently had the opportunity to attend Resourceful HR’s NW HR Best Practices Roundtable where the focus was employee engagement. This is a poignant topic for our organization as our team thinks of employee engagement as a cornerstone to the work we do. The way we engage our employees and value others is intrinsic to the social and emotional learning programs we produce. As a senior level HR executive, I have had the opportunity to work at several organizations and see what works and what does not. As a client of Resourceful HR, I wanted to share with blog readers some of the best practices I have learned throughout my career.

I also hope to hear from you! Employment engagement is ever evolving. It is a dynamic process that never really ends – it is not something we can just cross off our list after accomplishing a few tasks. What are the best practices you employ in your organization on a sustainable basis and what are the ways in which you measure engagement?

The following are just some of the techniques Committee for Children employs:

–          Employee engagement starts during the interview/hiring process (whether you are hired or not). We value expertise and the time job candidates spend engaging with our organization. Our goal is to show candidates respect throughout the whole process – this means keeping them informed, sticking to deadlines and keeping the relationship going even if they are not hired. You never know if you may need their contribution down the road.

–          Empower your employees. Giving your employees a full picture of what you are want to accomplish ensures they have the information they need to make good decisions. We share the strategic plan with the entire company and then each senior manager communicates with their team. This way every individual understands how their goals influence the results of the strategic plan.

–          Recognize all contributors. Recognize the efforts of all when possible. When a school or school district decides to purchase one of our programs, we acknowledge all that were involved. There are many contributors that helped along the way and we go out of our way to make sure everyone’s efforts are acknowledged, including designers and developers, the production and packaging teams, the financial team, client support services, our marketing team…the list goes on and on. Every purchase is a result of ALL of our employees’ synergistic efforts and all should be recognized for their contributions.

–          Focus on feedback. This is a crucial aspect that impacts our employee engagement initiatives. For two years in a row, our employees have voted us a Best Places to Work sponsored by the Puget Sound Business Journal. While the recognition is nice, it is not what drives our participation in this process. As part of the process, our employees are asked to complete a comprehensive survey (that requires 85% of employees to voluntarily fill it out in order to be considered for the award). The results from the survey let us know what we need to be focusing on in order to create greater job appreciation (i.e. what motivates people, what provides the support they need, what benefits are important to them). This feedback is then turned into our ‘marching orders’ for the year – We dive into each aspect and then work hard to create the environment our employees are desiring.

–          Listen, listen, listen. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Our culture thrives on transparent communications. While it is nice to have the Best Places to Work survey tool to collect feedback, the most important thing you can do is to listen and then communicate to employees that you hear them. For instance, you may learn there is a benefit that is lacking. While you may not have control over the benefit, it is still important to let employees know they were heard and tell them what you can and cannot do to help them. Another way we ensure everyone is at the table, even when they cannot, is to make notes from staff meetings and executive meetings available on our SharePoint.

And lastly, the best way to engage employees is to be engaged yourself. Enlisting your HR staff and making sure your managers are on board is key to creating a work force that comes to work feeling valued, respected and wanting to contribute!

_ _ _

About Jean

Jean is a successful human resources professional with over 25 years of experience. She is a natural leader with a passion for helping others reach their full potential. The industries she has worked in include high tech, professional services, manufacturing, distribution, insurance, non-profit and academia.

About Committee for Children

Committee for Children is a 30-year-old nonprofit whose vision is safe children thriving in a peaceful world—a world in which children can grow up to be peaceful, empathic, responsible citizens. It may seem like a tall order, but their social-emotional learning materials are in schools from Illinois to Iraq, Chile to California. They’ve taught millions of children skills that help them stay safe, manage their emotions, solve problems, avoid risky behavior, and improve their academics. And with your help, they can reach millions more—one child, one classroom, one community at a time.  Visit them at www.cfchildren.org.

Think Twice Before Requesting Employees’ (or Potential Employees’) Facebook Password

Scoping out employees’ and potential employees’ online lives has become commonplace for employers, and there are many solid reasons to do so. However, requesting employees’ Facebook passwords, or any access information to their personal online accounts, is another situation entirely. Not only does gaining such access to employee accounts bring little useful information, it delivers a negative message to employees and may expose employers to a host of ethical and legal issues.

Scoping out employees’ and potential employees’ online lives has become commonplace for employers, and there are many solid reasons to do so. However, requesting employees’ Facebook passwords, or any access information to their personal online accounts, is another situation entirely. Not only does gaining such access to employee accounts bring little useful information, it delivers a negative message to employees and may expose employers to a host of ethical and legal issues.

First, consider the message that you send to your employees when you request their passwords to their personal online accounts. Do you really want to be Big Brother, with a finger in every aspect of your employees’ lives? Do you really want to encourage employees to conceal information from you, which is what they are likely to do in an attempt to maintain a modicum of privacy? Do you want to send the message that you place such a low value on information security that you would ask your employees to violate the security policies of their online services providers?

Second, consider the ethics of such a request. Can you honestly say that you have a business interest in gaining such access to your employees’ private online accounts? Can you honestly say you have the right to access these accounts? Is it ethical to place an employee in a position of having to choose to protect their privacy or please their employer?

And finally, such requests carry numerous legal implications. While this area of law is unsettled, such requests likely violate the law on several fronts.

  1. Terms of Use Violation. Requesting that employees provide their passwords is asking employees to violate their contracts with the online providers. Nearly without exception, online providers’ Terms of Use prohibit users from sharing their passwords, and the practice of requesting employees’ access information has already been condemned by Facebook and other social media providers.
  2. Unauthorized Access. Some courts have found that an employer’s request for access information from an employee is essentially coercive because of the power imbalance between employer and employee. Therefore, using such information may then be considered “unauthorized access” in violation of some state laws.
  3. Discriminatory Information. Accessing your employees’ private online accounts may provide you with information that you, as an employer, may not request or consider in making employment decisions, such as ethnicity or religious affiliation. An employer may not legally use such information in the employment arena, and merely possessing such information may cause future headaches in the case of a disgruntled employee looking to bolster a discrimination claim.
  4. National Labor Relations Act. Requiring your employees to provide you with their passwords to social media sites is likely in violation of the National Labor Relations Act, a federal law that prohibits, among other things, employers from acting to discourage employees from “concerted activity” regarding their employment and working conditions. Recent case law has held that employees’ actions on social media are considered protected “concerted activity” and that employers are limited in what they can do to regulate or restrict such social media activities.

Overall, requesting your employees’ Facebook passwords or other access information to their personal online accounts, while perhaps the latest trend in employee relations, is a high-risk, low-reward strategy that employers should avoid.

 – – –

Lauren Burgon is an associate at Equinox Business Law Group, working closely with business owners to ensure they are minimizing risk and protecting assets. While she especially enjoys working with business owners in planning ahead to avoid litigation, other areas of Lauren’s practice include protecting clients’ intellectual property rights and assisting them in drafting carefully written nondisclosure and confidentiality agreements. More recently, Lauren’s practice has developed in Internet and online issues, advising her clients on their online presence, retail activity, social media, and the ramifications of virtual work with customers worldwide. Read more about Lauren.

Hitting the Magic 50 Employee Mark Part 3 – Performance Management, Compensation/Benefits, and Human Resources Staffing

Companies who have not yet instituted a formal performance management system are likely to set this as an important goal once they hit fifty employees. In the past goal setting may have occurred quite successfully on the back of a napkin while chatting around the lunch table with everyone. However, at 50 employees this strategy becomes ineffective.

Over the past several weeks I have been sharing a series covering the changes to make and the things to consider when your company grows to 50 Employee. This is the third in the series. I welcome your comments and questions if there is anything you hoped I would cover that I have not.

Read Part 1 – Hitting the Magic 50 Employee Mark Part 1 – What You Need To Think About?

Read Part 2 – Hitting the Magic 50 Employee Mark Part 2 – More Formal, More Frequent Communications.

Performance Management & Goal Setting

Companies who have not yet instituted a formal performance management system are likely to set this as an important goal once they hit fifty employees. In the past goal setting may have occurred quite successfully on the back of a napkin while chatting around the lunch table with everyone. However, at 50 employees this strategy becomes ineffective. There are likely at least three reporting layers by this time – senior management, management/supervisory and individual contributors. The goal setting system, by necessity, must get more formal so that everyone is on the same page and supporting the same goals. The same goes with performance feedback. Employees deserve feedback and the more employees there are the more helpful feedback is to keep everyone motivated and moving in the same direction.


At fifty employees you will see changes in health plan offerings as fifty member groups is often a differentiation point for plan offerings and pricing. Incentive plans tailored to different levels or job classes tend to be implemented around this time. Formal salary analyses are occurring more regularly. Where the company previously had one engineer they may now have three or more. Internal as well as external salary equity comes in to play now. At fifty employees, companies who do not already have a formal recordkeeping system will want to begin investigating their options. It becomes very difficult to track employee changes on an excel spreadsheet. Most payroll services offer a human resources module and there are many cost effective HRIS (human resource information systems) on the market for smaller employers.

Human Resources Staffing

As you have read through this blog, you may already have come to the conclusion that many, if not most, companies that hit the 50 employee mark begin considering the addition of a Human Resource professional to help with the challenges of reaching this exciting benchmark. For some companies it takes the form of hiring an internal part or full time Human Resources professional. For others it means contracting with an external provider to provide project expertise or mentoring for an internal staff member.

Hitting the Magic 50 Employee Mark Part 2 – More Formal, More Frequent Communications

An extremely common remark made by employers once they hit the 50-employee mark is “I don’t know everybody by name any more”. Communications, always a critical component of success, is increasingly important the bigger a company becomes. The more people, the more room for misunderstandings, the more room for not getting word around to everyone and the more important direct communications become.

In my most recent blog, Hitting the Magic 50 Employee Mark – What do You Need to Think About? – Part 1, I go over some of the Employment Laws that come into play at the 50 Employee mark. In this blog I focus more on communication with employees.

An extremely common remark made by employers once they hit the 50-employee mark is “I don’t know everybody by name any more”. Communications, always a critical component of success, is increasingly important the bigger a company becomes. The more people, the more room for misunderstandings, the more room for not getting word around to everyone and the more important direct communications become. The 50 employee mark is the time that the following should be instituted if not already in place:

Handbook, handbook, handbook

If your company has hit the 50-employee mark and you still do not have an Employee Handbook, it is now even more important that one be written and distributed. An Employee Handbook is important as a means to protect your company against litigation, provide employees with a succinct and comprehensive resource to clarify the expectations your company has of them and their conduct in their workplace, and market the benefits and services they receive as a member of your workplace. By the 50-employee mark, the employee handbook should cover, at a minimum, policy statements for standards of conduct, discrimination, harassment and retaliation in the workplace, workplace violence, safety, technology use and security, and confidential and proprietary information, equal opportunity, employment at will, reasonable accommodations, internal complaint process and timekeeping/overtime requirements. In addition, most companies of this size have instituted paid time off benefits such as vacation, sick and holiday. Lastly there must be verbiage covering the FMLA and other federal and/or state required leaves such as military, jury duty, voluntary emergency rescue and voting. If your company has multi-state operations or is international, your employee handbook contents may include state or country specific employment law verbiage.

Company Meetings

Gone are the days of yelling out across the company “come to the break room – we’re going to meet”. With 50 people it is now time to institute some type of pre-scheduled all-staff meetings so that employees are able to attend. How often a company meets depends upon their unique culture. At minimum, a company with 50 employees should be meeting quarterly as a group.

Newsletters/Photo Boards/Venues for informal communications

More people equals more activity equals more information. It also means not being able to get around and see everyone every day and keep up with who is who. Now may be the time for your company to create some type of communication where the activities, special mentions, status updates, and new employee introductions can be consolidated and more efficiently communicated on a regular basis. A newsletter need not be fancy or complicated – a once a month email can serve the same purpose. It may also be the time to institute a photo board with everyone’s picture and name posted.

By this size, most CEO’s are no longer involved in the day-to-day aspects of the business but are spending their time at the strategic level. This translates into less time in the office and less time interacting with all levels of employees. It is CRITICAL to recognize this and to create venues for your CEO and other officers to have an opportunity for connecting with the employee population. For instance, I always start by getting a once monthly roundtable lunch on the CEO’s schedule and inviting around eight employees at random to attend. This gives the CEO and employees an informal venue to interact in a small group that encourages two way feedback.

The bigger the company grows, the more important it is to create venues that connect people across the organization. This can be as simple as doughnuts in the break room every Friday at 10:00. The CEO of one company I worked at instituted a “Safari” concept where employees were encouraged to take someone else in the company who they did not know well out to lunch (on a safari). The participants would then submit a slip containing an interesting fact they learned about one another. At the monthly staff meeting the slips were placed in a drawing and several were drawn, the facts were read and the submitters received fun prizes.

Hitting the Magic 50 Employee Mark – What do You Need to Think About? – Part 1

Just as age marks milestones for people, so does the number of employees in the business world. For instance, turning 21 is a magic milestone for many. It is a time of change – change in how a person conducts themselves, change in how they set their goals and go about their daily lives. In business, a magic milestone is reaching fifty employees. This often also marks a time of change – change in the laws that govern the employer, change in employee expectations of the employer and certainly change in how the employer conducts their daily business and goals.

Just as age marks milestones for people, so does the number of employees in the business world. For instance, turning 21 is a magic milestone for many. It is a time of change – change in how a person conducts themselves, change in how they set their goals and go about their daily lives. In business, a magic milestone is reaching fifty employees. This often also marks a time of change – change in the laws that govern the employer, change in employee expectations of the employer and certainly change in how the employer conducts their daily business and goals.

Over the next several weeks, we will be sharing a three-part series detailing what to take into account as you reach or if you have already reached the 50-employee milestone. First of all congratulations on your accomplishment! Secondly, we hope to hear from you and what you are working on to accommodate your growth. Do you have questions, best practices, additional information to share?


At the 50-employee mark, employers are responsible to comply with some additional employment laws, most notably, the Family Medical Leave Act.

Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The FMLA applies to any employer in the private sector who engages in commerce, or in any industry or activity affecting commerce, and who has 50 or more employees each working day during at least 20 calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year. The law also covers all public agencies (state and local governments) and local education agencies (schools, whether public or private). These employers do not need to meet the “50 employee” test in order to comply.

The FMLA requires the employer to provide up to 12 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave a year, and requires group health benefits to be maintained during the leave as if employees continued to work instead of taking leave, to an employee with a pregnancy or a serious health condition. Employees of both sexes are also entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn child, or a child recently placed with them for adoption or foster care. They are also entitled to 12 weeks of leave to care for a son or daughter (under 18), spouse or parent with a serious health condition. However, FMLA is limited to 12 weeks total for all reasons in any 12-month period. As an employer, you have the responsibility to inform an employee in writing of his or her rights under FMLA, within 5 days of any absence that could be covered by FMLA. Read more about FMLA here: http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/benefits-leave/fmla.htm

Affirmative Action

Under Executive Order 11246, employers who have 50+ employees and $50,000 in government contracts must have an Affirmative Action Plan (AAP) and take affirmative action to recruit and advance qualified minorities, women, persons with disabilities, and covered veterans. Affirmative actions include training programs, outreach efforts, and other positive steps. These procedures should be incorporated into the company’s written personnel policies. Employers with written affirmative action programs must implement them, keep them on file and update them annually. To find out more about Affirmative Action Plans, reference: http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/hiring/affirmativeact.htm

State of California

CA Govt. Code Sec. 12950.1, requires California employers to provide supervisory employees with 2 hours of interactive sexual harassment training and education every 2 years. The requirement covers employers with 50 or more employees or contractors in any 20 consecutive weeks in the current or preceding calendar year. There is no requirement that the 50 employees or contractors work at the same location or that all work or reside in California. For more information: http://www.fehc.ca.gov/act/harass.asp

Maximize Recruitment Process Outsourcing

Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) is a new trend that may benefit your bottom line and should be explored when your company is considering options for recruiting. With RPO your company typically pays only for the actual hours and expenses required to find and hire a new employee.

Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) is a new trend that may benefit your bottom line and should be explored when your company is considering options for recruiting. With RPO your company typically pays only for the actual hours and expenses required to find and hire a new employee. This is in contrast with the traditional recruiting agency model that requires you to pay a flat percentage of your new hire’s salary in fees to the recruiter. Some RPOs require that you outsource all of the recruitment activities for a given search; others allow you the flexibility to outsource the parts of the process that you need help with.

Some things to consider when deciding whether or not to outsource some or all of your recruiting:

  • Are your hiring efforts working? Where are the breakdowns in the process?
  • How much control do you want to have over your search efforts?
  • Which pieces of the search process do you most need help with?

Recruiting involves a number of steps:

  1. Writing or verifying the job description for the position to fill
  2. Strategizing about how and where to find the best candidates
  3. Writing job postings and position descriptions that get the attention of appropriate candidates
  4. Sourcing – which includes finding unique ways to attract the highest quality candidates
  5. Reviewing resumes to determine who will be interviewed
  6. Interviewing – which can include both telephone screening and in person interviews
  7. Selecting finalists and assisting with hiring decisions
  8. Reference checking
  9. Job offer and salary negotiations
  10. Declining candidates not selected
  11. Organizing start date and onboarding activities for the new employee

When it comes to Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) you will find many different service offerings. You want to make sure you are working with an RPO company that meets your needs. As you consider the different companies you may want to consider the following:

  • Will the RPO customize their involvement to best fit your needs?
  • Will the RPO allow you to drive the process or expect you to fit into their process?
  • Will they spend time with you to determine where the process “pain points” are and work with you to address those issues?
  • Is there a minimum commitment money-wise or time-wise?
  • Can they come up with out of the box solutions to recruit for hard to fill positions?
  • Will you have direct contact with the recruiter(s) working on your position or is there an account manager you must go through?
  • How much regular contact will the RPO have with you? Will there be regular meetings and updates?
  • Will you be given copies of applicant lists? Many retained and contingency firms will not share their list of contacts which can be valuable to you in future searches. A good RPO should share this information with you since you are paying for the time and materials to generate the information.
  • While RPOs don’t generally have a set fee they should be able to offer examples of total expense as a percent of base salary so that you can compare this expense to other retained or contingency firms you are considering.
  • RPOs generally do not have a ready-made database of potential candidates since each search is customized to the client. However, the RPO should be able to give you a rough idea of search length if they have recruited for similar positions.

Resourceful HR offers RPO services and customizes each search to individual client needs. Let us know if you have questions about RPO services or how we can best help you.

Talking Politics at Work – Tread Lightly

While it may be tempting to talk about politicians and your political beliefs at work, it’s important to consider the consequences and be aware of your ‘water cooler’ etiquette.

With the primary elections well underway, national politics are at the forefront of the news these days. While it may be tempting to talk about politicians and your political beliefs at work, it’s important to consider the consequences and be aware of your ‘water cooler’ etiquette.

If you are lucky enough to work for a company that values diversity, you may find that you are surrounded by differing views. This makes it even more important to keep in mind that you may not know when you are in “like” company or if your words can offend or alienate your co-workers.

Here are some tips:

  • Try to keep your conversation focused on the facts of the issues rather than passing judgment about the politicians or the people who agree with them. Don’t let your emotions get in the way of having a professional conversation with a colleague.
  • If you cannot have a political conversation without becoming emotionally charged you may want to abstain from these conversations altogether.
  • Observe the rules of common courtesy. Every person has their right to their own point of view and every person should be given the opportunity to speak without being interrupted. Calvin Coolidge said it best: “No man ever listened himself out of a job.”
  • Focus on the goals of your team and the organization. While talks about politics are inevitable, do your best to ensure that your discussions are not taking away from teambuilding or the good work you do together.

Over the past few years the political landscape has become more and more polarized. This means the likelihood of you either agreeing or absolutely NOT agreeing is pretty much equal and many people have little to no tolerance for “the other side”. If you do want to discuss politics at work it’s best to make sure you are talking to people who are open to the topic. There is nothing wrong with a lively debate, but be aware that you may alienate people with differing opinions if your conversations tend toward bashing the “other side”.

We’d like to hear from you! Are you talking politics at work or being talked to about politics? How are you handling the situation?

Employee Tips for Soliciting and Receiving Feedback

Have you ever started a new job and received very little guidance or attention from your manager? How do you know the difference between the silence that means, “you’re doing a good job,” and the silence that means, “I don’t have time to think about what you’re doing”? The last thing you want is to find out several months or a year down the road that the latter is true. While it can feel daunting to solicit feedback from your manager, it is sometimes the only way to find out if your work is satisfactory.

Giving feedback is just as scary as getting it. Often managers do not offer constructive feedback because they are afraid of how it will be received. Your manager is taking a risk in order to offer you guidance about how your work is impacting them and the company. By asking “how am I doing” you are opening the door and showing your manager that you are willing to hear what they have to say. This will lessen the anxiety all around. Feedback is valuable information and it’s in your best interest to get as much of it as you can!

If you find that it is difficult to get information from your manager you may want to ask specific questions. For instance, rather than saying, “how did I do on that project” you might ask, “were you satisfied with the amount of time and resources spent on that project”?

Here are some tips to consider when opening the lines of communication:

  • Listen carefully and resist the urge to interrupt with excuses. You may want to take notes on expectations moving forward and jot down any areas that you do not understand. It’s ok to ask for clarification and to review the situation to ensure you both understand everything involved. Your manager will appreciate that you are taking the feedback and conversation seriously, whether the comments are kudos or concerns.
  • Focus on understanding the problem and creating a solution rather than excusing or justifying your behavior. Avoid the temptation to shift the blame or point your finger at others. Take the opportunity to learn what you can do differently.
  • Participate in the conversation. Don’t ignore what you are being told even if you feel the information is inaccurate. Keep in mind that this is his or her perception of your performance. Don’t just agree to make him or her go away. Be open to making changes and ask for help. Part of their job is to help you be successful.
  • If you are feeling hurt or offended by the feedback you may wish to take a break before responding or continuing the conversation.

You can use these conversations to learn more about how your manager works and what she or he values. Once you know what your manager values you will have an easier time pleasing her or him. If s/he values coming in ahead of deadline, you know that you want to be careful to give deadlines that you can always meet or beat. If your manager values precision, you want to promise just what you can deliver and come in on time and budget.

It is important to understand how we are perceived by others in the workplace and the only way to find out is to ask. Develop a habit of asking for feedback. You may be surprised at what you learn and at how easy it is to please your manager when you are better in tune with what they want and expect from you.

What is your experience with getting and giving feedback in the workplace? Please share your stories about how feedback (or lack of feedback) has affected your working relationships.

Keep your Workforce Engaged – Employee Appreciation Ideas

According to Mercer’s October 2011 What’s Work survey report, research shows that despite ongoing economic uncertainty, employees are still considering leaving their current company for a better opportunity. Analysis of the study reveals that “non-financial factors play a prominent role in influencing employee motivation and engagement.”

These two factors combined make it more critical than ever for businesses to provide employees with appreciation “perks” that resonate with employees while increasing retention. It’s important to note too, that not every employee appreciates the same things and what might seem like a perk to one might be perceived as a waste of time/money to another. The more you can customize the perk, the better. Have options that appeal to those who are more social and those who are more introverted. Some people you may not suspect are introverted and cringe at group events.
>> CONTINUE READING for great hands-on employee appreciation ideas >>

Wetpaint Discusses their Successful Employee Benefits and Onboarding Strategies

Resourceful HR’s president, Jennifer Olsen, interviews Rachel Corwin, the Recruiting and HR Coordinator for Wetpaint, a Seattle based media company. Rachel shares Wetpaint’s impressive array of benefits as well as what they are doing to welcome new employees. One of the interesting strategies she talks about is how the company created a Best Places to Work committee, which is made up of employees from different departments, who provide feedback on what benefits interest people and will keep them engaged.

A Day in the Life… A Telecommuter and Her Company

In recognition of October, which was National Work and Family Month, we wanted to share some information to help you make a more successful telecommute policy for your company. As a telecommuter and parent of two, I have the fortune of experiencing both sides of the work/family table. As a parent, I appreciate the ability to telecommute because it allows me to best meet the demands of my family while also fulfilling my professional goals. As an HR professional, among other things, I design telecommute policies that balance the needs of both the employer and employee and promote a flexible and family friendly work place.

There are many important considerations that both employer and employee must consider and discuss prior to agreeing to a telecommuting situation. For the purposes of this blog, I will approach telecommuting through the eyes of the telecommuter and the employer and address the considerations that should be evaluated when instituting this option.
>> CONTINUE READING important considerations for both employers and employees >>

Social Media in the Workplace: Do you have a Facebook Policy?

With all of the recent buzz in the media about Facebook we thought it a good time to address the topic of employees use of Facebook at work. Regardless of your industry, your employees are using Facebook, whether at work or at home, and they may be talking about you!

The Facebook dilemma is not new – it is simply the “next step” of communications. For decades employers have been faced with how to handle employees’ use of company time to participate in personal communications. This decade it is Facebook and other social networking sites. Last decade it was the use of email for personal correspondence and accessing personal email from work. The decade prior it was voicemail; employees using a work phone to access personal voicemail messages.

As with all policies, your social media policies should be addressed in a manner consistent with the company philosophy and other like policies. Things to consider include:

  • What is your culture? Is it informal – promoting independence where you allow employees to track their own time? Or is it formal and more structured – requiring strict monitoring of employees’ time and the use of a time clock? Do you have a lot of hourly employees and a tight production flow?
  • How do you currently handle employees’ personal use of email and phone? If your current policies restrict their use to breaks and lunch, then the use of Facebook should also be restricted to those times.

>> CONTINUE READING about providing guidelines >>

Employee Performance Management: Giving Feedback to Your Employees

Encouraging regular, ongoing feedback in the workplace is a powerful tool for organizations. It boosts employee morale and allows your employees to know whether what they are doing from day to day meets your needs as a supervisor.

Most people find consistent, timely feedback provided by management and peers to be important to their overall job satisfaction. So why do so many companies have only an annual performance evaluation process? As you consider your evaluation process, here are some key things to remember about giving feedback:

Be Honest and Reinforce Positive Actions:
To be valuable the feedback you give must be honest; something you genuinely believe. Some managers believe that feedback must be balanced between reinforcement of positive behavior and correction of negative behavior so they will make up things to “complain about” to an excellent employee. When this happens the employee is likely to feel underappreciated and their morale can be affected, causing a star employee to behave more like an average employee. If you are lucky enough to have a star employee in your department you will be best served to focus on what she or he is doing well.

>> CONTINUE READING more key points about giving feedback >>

When is the Best Time to Conduct a Human Resources (HR) Audit?

Companies large and small can benefit from an audit of their business practices as they relate to HR. These audits are conducted in order to ensure the company is compliant with local, state and federal regulations and that they are effectively and efficiently utilizing their resources. Audits are important in any company so the question is, “when is the ideal time to conduct an audit?”

Small companies often put basic policies and procedures in place during the early stages, when everyone is extremely busy. These policies and procedures are often quite basic and while they make sense at the time, as the company becomes more productive and stable and reaches its goals with regard to staffing levels they sometimes are no longer the right fit. It is at this time, when a company ramps up and achieves rapid growth that it is a good idea to conduct an HR audit. The HR audit will outline what current practices are compliant and make sense for the company and will also bring to light any practices that need to change.

Often times smaller companies do not employ dedicated HR staff and therefore need to outsource the audit function. Using an outside source is helpful because they have an objective eye and can also help determine if a company needs internal HR support. Having the audit performed by an outside agency can also help a company realize how they should be conducting their HR practices, implement the right practices and discover what is needed to help the company achieve its business goals.

READ MORE Benefits for Larger Companies >>

Medical Marijuana in the Workplace – Make sure your drug policy protects you from a lawsuit

Recently the Washington State’s Supreme Court ruled that employers can discharge an employee who uses medical marijuana, even if the employee only uses the drug at home and does not experience side effects that impact his/her job function. This new ruling means that the state’s medical marijuana law (MUMA – Medical Use of Marijuana Act), which protects a patient who has a prescription for marijuana from being prosecuted, may not protect the individual in an employment dispute.

>> Continue Reading to learn what this means to employers >>

Succession Planning: What are you doing to maximize and hold onto your talent?

Most companies recognize that its biggest assets are its employees. What many companies don’t see, though, is that when coached correctly those same great people have the potential to grow into even bigger and better positions. Most people’s goals include being successful, meeting specific milestones and continuing to gain levels of responsibility in work. To take advantage of the raw talent in entry level positions, and keep hold of their biggest assets, companies are well served by capturing this natural urge to learn and grow by mapping out succession plans for employees early on.

As employees progress up the company ladder, one goal to have is to find and train your own replacement. A lot of people are afraid of this concept because of the fear of working yourself out of a job. Successful managers understand that good players make good teams and that good, high functioning teams allow the manager to take on new job challenges. In order for the manager to grow into a new position there has to be somebody to take over the work that she or he was doing. It is in a manager’s best interest to have employees ready and able to take over the work that they would like to leave behind and replace with higher level work. You don’t want to be passed up for promotion because there wasn’t anyone to replace you in your current role.
>> CONTINUE READING for key suggestions in formulating a successful succession plan >>

When Is the Best Time to Introduce an Employee Handbook?

There are many factors that enter into the decision of when the time is right for a company to produce and distribute an employee handbook. Some of these factors include:

1) Company Culture – Are you proactive? Are you a risk taker?
Many companies in the start-up or earlier phases of maturity think that employee handbooks are only for “big, bureaucratic companies”. This is a fallacy. A small company that introduces a handbook before a growth spurt will mitigate risks and save time. It is best to document and communicate expectations and policy parameters; such as how paid time off is handled, before it becomes an issue or concern.

READ MORE about employment laws and how employee handbooks will help you avoid common pitfalls

HR Legal News – Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)

Skip ahead to Lesson for Employers

The Legal Background

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) is a federal law that prohibits employment discrimination against a person who is a member of or has an obligation to perform service in a uniformed service.

The statute’s HR implications are very similar to Title VII, which prohibits employment discrimination “because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin”. Under both statutes, the motive of the manager or supervisor making adverse employment decision is the central focus.

The issue in the new case discussed below is whether the quantum of the motivating factor in the employer’s decision to terminate presented a viable case. Prior to this case, the plaintiff (Staub) would have had to prove that the decision maker (Buck) herself either had anti-military bias or that she was singularly influenced by a biased individual or acting as an instrument of the biased individual so that the anti-military bias was the singular motivating factor causing the adverse employment action (firing). This new case development lowers the standard for what is required.

Continue Reading about Supreme Court’s Reversal

Employee Performance: Aligning Employee Passion, Aptitude and Ability to Maximize Performance

Are you truly tapping into the wealth of experience, knowledge and innovation that literally exists at your fingertips? Each of your employees possesses a rich background of accumulated knowledge and skills that often remains dormant due to the narrow focus of most job descriptions and the silo-oriented nature of most organizational cultures. Rather than seeing your human resources as a rich tapestry of wisdom to be mined and celebrated, too often people are utilized as narrowly defined cogs in the wheels of the organizational “machine.”

To use a technological analogy, imagine purchasing a powerful new computer and then utilizing it only for adding numbers or typing letters. You’ve paid a great deal of hard-earned money for a machine with enormous potential and then you treat it as an adding machine and typewriter. The opportunity cost to your organization of not taking advantage of the computer’s multitude of other features is astronomical. Well, the same is true when you overlook or under-utilize the boundless capabilities of your workforce.

>> READ ON for a few simple ideas to help you start capitalizing on your employee’s talents and attributes >>

Clark Nuber Senior HR Director Discusses Successful New Company Initiatives to Foster Leadership and Improve Employee Retention

Jennifer Olsen interviews Tracy White, Senior HR Director from Clark Nuber, P.S., a Seattle based public accounting firm. Ms. White discusses the first year successes of Clark Nuber’s recently rolled out Leadership Development Institute as it prepares to graduate its first classes. The Institute offers interested employees classes to further develop their leadership skills in areas such as marketing, sales, and communication.

Clark Nuber has gained both awards and reputation for being an employee focused company continually working to create innovative programs that develop employee leadership skills and community involvement. Visit Clark Nuber online at www.clarknuber.com

Every Business Is In The Communication Business

Even though we continue to see technology streamline how we conduct business, the old fashioned human voice remains a crucial element when it comes to doing business. The way you communicate can instantly affect the emotions, attitudes, and productivity of people. For example, the voices on a company’s telephone lines, made up of employees, speak volumes for a business’ brand. For this reason, it’s important for supervisors to correct any person whose communication style or manner is too informal, too rude, or too vulgar. You must consider it something serious and move rapidly to correct the issue.

Some tactics supervisors can use:

  • Timing: Meeting with the employee as soon as you’ve heard an inappropriate exchange. This emphasizes the seriousness and is critical when dealing with a complaint regarding rudeness or inappropriate language.
  • Preparation: Be sure to have an example of the improper behavior you want to remedy, whether it’s through firsthand experience or a complaint. This is not something that has to be a “pattern”. An inappropriate exchange happening once is once too many. Again, you must act on it immediately.
  • Attitude: Be sure to display the attitude you want when addressing the issue. If a staff member is too informal, you should be businesslike and straightforward but relaxed. If the employee is rude or uses inappropriate language, you need to be firm, and let them know that they should know better than to use this kind of language in the work place.
  • Behavior: Be direct and to the point. Stress that rude manners are unacceptable in any business environment.

Key Points to remember:

  • Act immediately
  • Don’t be afraid to let someone understand the consequences of their actions
  • Don’t accept excuses for inappropriate behavior or language
  • Emphasize that the individual represents the company