Your employees work hard to ensure your company’s success, but when companies are cutting back on expenditures, it seems nearly impossible to recognize their efforts without cutting into your bottom line, says Jennifer Coon-Leeper, CSP, major accounts manager, at Ashton Staffing, Inc.

“Many companies feel strapped for cash right now and run in the other direction at the mere mention of bonuses or raises. Nevertheless, tough times don’t mean that you shouldn’t reward your employees,” she says.

Smart Business spoke with Coon-Leeper about how to acknowledge employees through non-monetary means.

What are some ways to recognize and reward employees if you can’t give bonuses or raises? 

There are many ways that a company can reward employees without handing them money. Many things can be done with minimal effort. For example:

• Be flexible. Give your employees the flexibility in determining work schedules and the ability to take time for family or personal issues. Create summer hours with shorter in-office workdays. Rearrange working times to add an extra hour during the first part of the week in exchange for lesser hours later in the week. As long as the employee is deserving and does not abuse the privilege, this can go a long way to building trusting and mature relationships.

• Lunch from the president/CEO. Have the ‘powers that be’ bring in lunch as a nice surprise. It can be a home-cooked meal. Clear the conference room and have the president deliver the praise, lunch and sit down with the employees to get to know more about them. All business aside, just the thought would make employees feel appreciated.

• Give employees a free pass. Try giving out a certain number of free days off to employees to use as they see fit. Employees get a few of these a year and can use them as they like. They do not have to pretend to be sick. They can go to the beach, read a book and play with their kids. It does not matter how they use the time.

Do some employees prefer certain types of rewards and what’s the best way of identifying what works best?

Companies should make an effort to get to know their employees. Each employee is different and will have different values depending on how old he or she is and at what stage in life. Because of that, younger employees may appreciate different rewards than individuals who are middle age. For example, younger employees may prefer to earn more paid time off to use as they see fit, whereas studies have shown that middle-age employees prefer to be praised more on their work performance by either receiving a handwritten note from the president/CEO or by simply hearing verbal approval of a job well done.

If your employees still want bonuses or raises, how can you best handle turning them down?

In many situations, it is easy to turn down a raise request — if a person’s performance has not met expectations or if a person bases the request on what others are making, it is easy to explain that everyone is treated as an individual. The more difficult scenario is when you have to deny a request from someone who merits an increase but cannot get one because of the company’s financial situation.

The secret here is to ensure the employee knows he or she is a valued worker and is making a legitimate request that simply cannot be met right now because of the company’s financial status. A rational person will understand these kinds of circumstances. Acknowledge the employee’s disappointment by ensuring that you will come back to him or her with a raise as soon as the financial picture brightens.

Jennifer Coon-Leeper, CSP, is a major accounts manager with Ashton Staffing, Inc. Reach her at (770) 419-1776 or jleeper@ashtonstaffing.com.

Insights Staffing is brought to you by Ashton

Published in Atlanta

Salary negotiations can be one of the most challenging facets of the hiring process.

“Salary negotiations don’t exist in a bubble, whether you are interviewing for a new job or looking for a salary increase at your current job,” says Shauna Muldrow, payroll coordinator at Ashton Staffing. “Salary negotiation windows exist from the time you offer a job to a candidate until the candidate accepts the job.”

Smart Business spoke with Muldrow about the ins and outs of a successful salary negotiation for both sides — employer and employee.

What are some key factors to understand about salary negotiations and employee compensation?

Some key factors are the level of the position within your company, the skills and experience needed for the job, the fair market value for the job and the salary range for the job within your geographic area. Employers’ budgets are also a contributing factor in salary negotiations. You should align pay with organizational goals; make sure that the performance you are rewarding supports the organization’s mission and goals. Ensure the compensation system is procedurally fair.

Lastly, implement an excellent and measurable pay schedule. No compensation system can succeed without a clear, concise and comprehensive pay schedule.

What are some best practices for salary negotiations with new hires?

There are a variety of factors that determine which employee benefits a company offers. A company should view benefit packages as part of the total compensation of an employee. There are mandatory benefits such as unemployment and some optional benefits such as health insurance and paid vacations. A few practices for new hire salary negotiations are:

• Friendly approach — Your goal is for everyone to be on the same team. Approach the process that way from the beginning.

• Prepare — You risk offering too little or too much if you go in unprepared.

• Other options — If you simply cannot increase the amount of the salary, consider adding a few perks. Sometimes, something as simple as a gym membership may be enough to bring a desired candidate onboard.

• Honesty — If the candidate is an absolute superstar and you do not want to risk losing that person to the competition, make your best offer up front.

How should employers handle negotiations with existing top performers? Is this any different from new hire negotiations?

Yes, it is different from new hire negotiations. Negotiating a salary increase requires research, industry analysis, knowledge of economic trends and professionalism. You should review your company policies concerning compensation and benefits. Schedule employee meetings during a time when you can devote your full attention to an employee seeking a salary increase. Let the employee fully state his or her case for an increase. Present the company’s position on pay practices, using your research and expertise to support the company’s compensation structure. At some point, a factor in salary negotiation should be a sense of fair play. Both sides — you and your employee — should feel as if they have won.

What common mistakes do many employers make and how can they mitigate them?

A couple common mistakes made by employers are:

• Lack of documentation, and failure to document promptly and accurately. Pay attention to preparing every document regarding warnings, complaints and disciplinary action. The document should include the date it was created, the name and signatures.

• Policy issues. Employers should always follow company policies and standards.

• The failure to conduct adequate background checks on potential employees. Make sure you have a complete background.

• Ethical problems, such as the failure to appropriately evaluate employee performance. Make sure your assessment of your employees is accurate.

A great way to avoid these mistakes is to follow policies and standards. Keep a hard copy or electronic file on all employees and uphold ethical standards of behavior in all situations.

In today’s economy, what role are nonmonetary compensation packages playing and how can you make them work best for your company?

Nonmonetary incentives are proving themselves as much more effective tools in the workplace. A small startup, for example, might offer you a smaller salary but could instead offer you a nonmonetary option. Nonmonetary incentives have been used to reward employees for their good work by providing opportunities for training, flexible work schedules and improved work environments.

You can make nonmonetary incentives work best by using one of the most effective incentives: Praise is a powerful motivator.

What should you tell employees who are unhappy with their final salary?

Compensation is one of the major ways companies attract and keep employees. When a company no longer can provide a salary that satisfies an employee, it is best that the managers deal with the employee’s unhappiness directly. Once the employee comes to understand the company’s position, he or she may be less likely to vent the grievance to other employees.

Explain in detail how the company came to its salary decision and what the employee can do, if anything, to earn a bonus or salary increase. Provide positive feedback for the employee when it is appropriate. Being unhappy with pay sometimes is symptomatic of feeling underappreciated. Recognizing the employee’s talents and efforts will help them feel like the positive work atmosphere compensates for the salary. You should also encourage your employees more, restore trust in your employees and take an interest in your employees’ development, as well as keep employees in the loop as to what is going on.

SHAUNA MULDROW is the payroll coordinator at Ashton Staffing. Reach her at (678) 359-3786 or smuldrow@ashtonstaffing.com.

Insights Staffing is brought to you by Ashton

Published in Atlanta

Criminal background checks conducted during the hiring process can both save employers money and protect their business.

“If your employees come in direct contact with your customers and cause them harm, your business can be liable if that employee has a criminal record,” says Jessica Ford, CSP, vice president of operations for Ashton Staffing, Inc. “A background check can also provide insight into an individual’s behavior, character and integrity.”

Recently, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission updated its policy on the use of criminal background checks during the hiring process to discourage discrimination based on race or national origin.

Smart Business spoke with Ford about the importance of criminal background checks and how recent changes are impacting the process.

Why should an employer conduct a criminal background check during the hiring process?

Employers check potential and current workers for several reasons. The things an employer wants to know about a candidate can vary by industry and job function. The most common reasons for conducting a criminal background check are to alleviate negligent hiring; identification verification; checks for a history of child, handicap and elderly abuse; corporate scandals; and most of all to make sure the applicant is telling the truth. It’s estimated that more than 40 percent of resumes contain false or misleading information. Employers want to insure that what they are getting in an employee is what they were promised. The employer might perform a background check to find out whether a candidate actually graduated from the college they said they did or to confirm the candidate worked at their previous employers during the time stated on their resume or job application.

When conducting a criminal background check, what should employers look for and why?

Employers should evaluate each background on an individual basis based on the position the applicant is applying for. Anyone working with children in the state of Georgia must be fingerprinted and processed through the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. This comes as a result of events occurring during the past 10 years. Adult supervisors such as Little League coaches, teachers, day care workers and even the people serving children lunch at school fall under this guideline. Felony convictions of any kind or misdemeanors involving violence, drugs or abuse would result in the applicant not being hired.

When screening potential executives, directors and managers, employers should look for any discrepancies in their job history, verify their education, check their financial history and look for any “white collar” crimes like embezzlement.

There are unique issues surrounding the production and manufacturing industry when it comes to hiring. Many of these positions offer low wages and attract those with few skills or time invested in education. For these positions, you should evaluate what is vital to your organization. Candidates who have a history of violent crimes or felony drug convictions, such as distribution in the past seven years, are probably not a good idea. If the candidate has a record of theft, consider what that could mean for your business and the types of products you produce or sell. Also take into consideration how long ago the candidate was convicted and if it was a single incident.

What has changed because of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s updated policy on criminal background checks?

In April of this year, the EEOC issued new guidance on the consideration of arrest and conviction records in employment decisions. It determined that the use of an individual’s criminal history during the interview and hiring process could constitute discrimination and makes an attempt to discourage using the information differently based on an applicant’s race or national origin.

As a best practice, you should only consider convictions when reviewing criminal background checks, not arrests. Arrest records are not proof of criminal conduct, as they might not report the actual outcome of the situation so they should not be used as grounds for exclusion. Conviction records, on the other hand, typically serve as sufficient evidence that a person engaged in a particular conduct. These records are more reliable and the use of them by an employer is more defensible.

The EEOC does not have the authority to prohibit employers from obtaining or using conviction records. It simply seeks to ensure that such information is not used in a discriminatory way, which is why they are suggesting companies stop using a blanket policy, such as no felony convictions in the last seven years. Instead, review each criminal background result on a case-by-case basis and make sure your requirements make sense for that position. Review the credit and financial history of anyone who will be working in accounting, for instance.

How will these changes affect the way an employer uses criminal background checks for employment screening?

Lawsuits are on the rise. If an employee’s actions hurt someone, the employer could be liable. The threat of liability gives employers reason to be cautious when checking an applicant’s past. A bad decision can wreak havoc on a company’s budget and reputation as well as ruin the career of the hiring official. Employers no longer feel secure in relying on their instincts as a basis to hire. On the other hand, though, if you are too stringent and have unrealistic expectations for position then you are setting yourself up for an EEOC charge. Anyone who has ever been involved in an EEOC investigation can tell you it is not something you want to do.

If an employer is unsure of his or her rights regarding criminal background checks, call your corporate attorney or even the EEOC. The commission is very helpful and can give you very unbiased advice.

Jessica Ford, CSP, is vice president of operations for Ashton Staffing, Inc. Reach her at (770) 419-1776 or jford@ashtonstaffing.com.

Insights Staffing is brought to you by Ashton

Published in Atlanta

You’ve heard it a thousand times, but that doesn’t make it any less true — happy employees lead to happy customers. It’s a simple statement, but actually achieving it isn’t so simple.

The past couple of years have been a huge drain on most people, both professionally and personally. Anyone that you speak to has either experienced a major setback firsthand or knows someone who has been affected by these difficult times. Stories of job loss and financial uncertainty are everywhere you turn. Worry and fear are common emotions and morale has taken quite a beating.

“Because morale is a state of mind, it can be affected by any number of things,” says Michelle Elson, corporate director of operations with Ashton Staffing. “In the workplace, the most prevalent are feelings of undervalue, uncertainty of the future of the company and frustration due to a perceived lack of communication. These types of emotions breed dissension and it is very important to step in before things get out of control.”

Smart Business spoke with Elson about employee morale, how to improve it and why engaged employees are so important.

How can morale be turned around?

The key to a turnaround is to make employees feel appreciated. When employees feel valued, they are more willing to take on additional responsibilities until things improve. It also fosters loyalty.

Communication is critical during uncertain times. Employees like to feel that they are involved in the vision and progress of a company. Keeping employees informed about where the company is headed, whether into tough or good times, can allow for creative thinking, problem solving and a boost of energy.

Goal-setting is crucial to invigorating your team; everyone loves competition. You must be realistic though; nothing is more demoralizing that an unattainable goal or deadline. Make sure each member knows his or her role and how important it is to the growth and future of your company. Establish a realistic expectation that will motivate your employees.

Recognition of a job well done or acknowledgement that a person has gone above and beyond is instrumental to in- creasing morale in the workplace. Praise good work performance, both verbally and officially. A shout-out at a meeting, small gift card, a handwritten note, or an afternoon off can go a long way in making an employee feel recognized and appreciated.

Why are engaged employees so important?

A person that is energized and excited about the role they play in an organization will have a positive impact on those around them. Positivity improves the attitude and outlook of other employees. Stress is minimized when an energized employee views an issue as a challenge rather than a problem.

Motivated employees set personal goals and are more successful in their career objectives. The feeling of accomplishment leads to better productivity and teamwork. It instills a sense of ownership and belonging in an organization.

Employees who are happy in their jobs won’t hesitate to provide good customer service and will take opportunities to sell your company to those they speak to. They will also stick around when the economic climate improves.

What defines a great workplace?

It is a place with a defined purpose and attainable expectations. It offers challenges and rewards, and allows for career development. It garners mutual trust between management and employees and allows for open communication and independent thinking.

How can employers improve the workplace?

Establish a sense of purpose; outline how each individual’s job supports the mission and goals of your company. Set high expectations and provide meaningful challenges. Treat employees as individuals and create an environment that encourages independent work but also provides guidance when needed. Communicate regarding progress and offer praise consistently. Offer learning opportunities and encourage seasoned employees to share their knowledge.

Who is most responsible for morale? Leaders? Employees? Both?

The leaders set the tone for morale in a company. Their attitude and outlook have a direct impact on how employees perceive a company. It is also important to realize that decisions — however small — can directly affect your employees and should not be made lightly. As you are building your team, make sure they have similar goals and gather a team that will work well together. Don’t set people up for failure.

The employee’s responsibility involves maintaining an open mind and a receptive attitude. Sometimes the energy required to motivate an employee outweighs the benefit. In this instance, the employee just isn’t a good fit for the team and/or the organization.

What is often overlooked when it comes to morale?

Leaders can sometimes overlook that showing presence and taking interest in the well being of their employees makes them feel valued. Take a few moments to chat and interact with your employees daily so that they know they are impor- tant to you and the company.

Michelle Elson is the corporate director of operations at Ashton Staffing. Reach her at melson@ashtonstaffing.com or (770) 419-1776.

Published in Atlanta

Employee compensation has been a hot topic during the recession. Many employees have taken on additional responsibilities due to downsizing within the company but may not have received additional compensation for these new duties. Some of these employees may have even taken a pay cut just to keep their jobs.

You may run into problems retaining these employees after the recession ends if you don’t properly compensate them or negotiate a fair salary. Offering pay increases or bonuses may not be an option at this time, so you need to develop nonmonetary compensation options, continue to maintain a positive work environment and address any concerns up front with employees.

“Ignoring salary negotiations only exacerbates an already bad situation,” says Jessica Ford, director of sales and operations with Ashton Staffing. “Employees may feel discontent about their salary and simply not discussing the issue may make them feel that they are not important and their worth is solely based on salary. Try to involve employees when possible and let them understand the company’s current financial situation.”

Smart Business spoke with Ford about key things to include in salary and compensation negotiations and how to develop nonmonetary compensation packages.

What are some key things you should understand about salary negotiations and employee compensation?

Negotiation is not about winning, unless both parties win. If either party feels they have not negotiated, both parties lose. Make every effort to identify the most recent salary and benefits your employee or potential candidate received. Ask an employee candidate to provide a W2 or proof of salary during negotiations instead of simply asking about his or her desired salary. You can also find this out from former employers when conducting reference checks. You may not be able to match the salary, but you will have a good idea of what the candidate will seek during negotiations.

Arm yourself and do your research. Be sure to reference your current internal salary ranges, the salary of current employees in similar positions, the profitability of your company, as well as the job search market in your area and the economic climate.

Even if an employee has positively impacted your company, you need to keep your salary limits in mind. You will save yourself years of headaches and prohibitive costs by doing this, even if you have to start your recruitment process over or tell an employee that salary negotiation is not an option at this time.

What are some common mistakes employers make regarding employee compensation, and how can they mitigate those mistakes?

Some employers have simply blamed the maintenance or reduction in employee compensation on the recession and have not come up with alternative ways to reward employees. Reducing employee discontent due to employee compensation is dependent on the total work environment you offer employees. Think outside of the box. Sometimes the biggest mistake employers make is to think that employees only care about a monetary salary. Offer other incentives that shift the focus away from monetary awards to employee recognition. This can lead to higher productivity.

How can you develop nonmonetary compensation packages for employees?

  • Offer a balance between work and life. Allow flexible starting times, core business hours, work from home options and flexible ending times. Employees will deter from a fixation on salary if they feel like they have a balance and some freedom.
  • Offer an attractive and competitive benefits package, if you are able to, with components such as life and disability insurance and flexible hours. An employee can be content with a low- to mid-range salary if a strong benefits package is offered.
  • Select the right people from the beginning through behavior-based testing and competency screenings. Offer performance feedback and praise good efforts and results.
  • Do your best to create a fun work environment, because people want to enjoy their work. Engage and employ the special talents of each individual, and involve employees in decisions that affect their jobs and the overall direction of the company, such as the discussion of company vision, mission, values and goals.
  • Continue company traditions, such as holiday parties. This gives everyone something to look forward to and adds an element of fun into the workplace.
  • Remember to take an interest in your employees. Respect their ideas and listen to them. This small gesture can make an employee feel needed and that he or she has a purpose in everyday tasks, beyond just receiving a paycheck.
  • Provide opportunities within the company for cross-training and career progression. People like to know that they have room for career movement.

How can you handle employees who are not happy with their salary and the negotiation process?

Remember to always be honest with your employees and never promise them anything that you cannot offer. Tell your employees up front if it’s absolutely impossible for your organization to address salaries at this time. Be sure to balance this with some kind of nonmonetary reward. This is necessary in order to maintain a healthy and happy work environment. But if you are confident that your company will have a good year, set a date as to when your employees can expect a raise or bonus.

Jessica Ford is the director of sales and operations at Ashton Staffing. Reach her at (770) 419-1775 or jford@ashtonstaffing.com.

Published in Atlanta

The aging of the baby boomer generation and the number of family caregivers is growing rapidly, which has a financial impact on businesses.

If you want to know whether or not this impact is currently being felt at your business, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are your employees who are caregivers making telephone calls about their care-giving responsibilities from work?
  • Are they arriving late or leaving early?
  • Are they taking additional time off?
  • Are they reducing their hours?
  • Are they developing health or stress issues that are affecting their productivity?
  • Are they becoming depressed and spending more and more time discussing their care-giving issues with colleagues?
  • Are they retiring early or simply quitting their jobs?

“There are more than 20 million family caregivers now juggling work and elder care responsibilities in the United States, and three-quarters of the caregivers are women,” says M.J. Helms, director of operations for The Ashton Group. “Employees who provide personal care to a family member tend to have much higher levels of physical and emotional stress. The cost to businesses in lost productivity related to elder care is conservatively estimated in the billions per year.”

Smart Business spoke with Helms about employees who are caregivers, and what companies can do to assist with their care-giving responsibilities.

What are employees who are caregivers really looking for?

Some employers have found that by taking a comprehensive approach to work-life balance issues, they can help minimize turnover and productivity losses related to elder care, which will deliver a return of several times their investment in this area.

To do this, employers need to start with an understanding of employed caregivers’ top four needs: time, timely information, financial advice and emotional support.

  • Time needs include both scheduling flexibility and personal time (time away from work and care giving in order to replenish energy).
  • Timely information should be provided through consultation and referral services and by increasing both your in-house intranet or outside Web-based services, all of which help employees meet the challenge of quickly finding the right help at the right time.
  • Financial advice often involves helping the employee creatively combine publicly funded services with the resources of the elder and the caregiver.
  • Emotional support includes a caring attitude on the part of family members, supervisors and coworkers — and sometimes the assistance of a professional counselor — which will help the caregiver through stressful choices and tradeoffs.

How else can employers help with the work-life balance?

Regardless of company size or type, employers can reap the benefits of encouraging work-life balance among employees. One company is doing just that on their production line, where worker teams can ‘flex’ the start and end times of their team members’ shifts to accommodate the demands of childcare and elder care. Other smaller employers located near to one another have pooled their resources to create an association that arranges backup in-home care. Every employer faces a unique combination of factors regarding this issue with their employees.

Where should employers start?

Creating a family-friendly work environment requires a real commitment from the top. It’s the company’s culture, the unspoken rules, that really make the difference. If a company offers flextime but an employee’s supervisor won’t let them use it, it doesn’t do the employee — or the company — any good. If middle managers don’t see company executives ‘walk the talk’ of work-life balance, good programs may be ineffective. Provide training for your managers. Improve managers’ awareness of the issues surrounding aging and care giving, and help them examine their views on accommodating employees’ efforts to balance personal and family obligations with job responsibilities. Train managers to identify stress related to elder care giving. Let your employees know care giving is an important issue by highlighting information on available resources in employee newsletters and other communications.

Know your employees’ needs. How many employees actively care for aging relatives or expect to do so soon? What proportion of employees’ parents live in distant communities?

Also, take a lifecycle approach. Employees in various age groups have different needs regarding work-life balance. Remember to also communicate with employees without any dependent care needs by presenting elder care initiatives as part of your company’s commitment to work-life balance.

How can employers utilize local resources?

Provide information to employees by setting up an on-site family resource center containing newsletters, books, website addresses and videotapes, or maybe arranging services for direct supports (like geriatric care management or emergency backup homecare). Either way, the place to start is the local community. Contact the state unit on aging. The federal Administration on Aging website (www.aoa.gov) provides contacts in all 50 states. Another option is to research a potential consulting firm’s track record specific to elder care. Also, check with the Alliance of Work/Life Professionals at www.awlp.org.

The reality is that the aging of the American population and work force will affect every employer. Just five years ago, the U.S. Department of Labor predicted 151 million jobs in the nation by 2006, but only 141 million workers to fill them. As baby boomers fall ill and the work force is faced with the responsibility of caring for them, employers who invest now in making the workplace elder-care-friendly can avoid the loss of valuable employees with care-giving responsibilities.

M.J. Helms is the director of operations at the Ashton Group. Reach her at (706) 636-3343 or mj@ashtongrp.com.

Published in Atlanta

Despite a rebounding economy and renewed hope, the national unemployment rate is still around 9.7 percent. In Georgia, the unemployment rate is 10.5 percent, and April 2010 is the 29th consecutive month that the state’s rate has been higher than the national average.

Needless to say, this has created a very large labor pool. Add in the fact that more and more qualified professionals are being added to that labor pool every day due to budget cuts and layoffs, and you’ve got a lot of good people looking for work.

“More and more, people are willing to take jobs that they maybe wouldn’t have in the past, and they’re definitely willing to take less money or fewer benefits,” says Melissa Hulsey, president and CEO of Ashton Staffing. “This gives companies great opportunities to get more bang for their buck when hiring.”

Still, these skilled people are hard to find. Many of them turn to staffing firms, which means now is the time to take advantage of the people and services a quality staffing firm can offer.

Smart Business spoke with Hulsey about temporary labor, how it can benefit your organization and the common misperceptions that come with hiring “temps.”

Why is now a good time to utilize temporary labor?

The long-term cost of employment is uncertain at best. Companies are often less willing to commit to a person full time because they can’t plan long term what the total cost of that employee will be. Among other things, there are questions about the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax. Will it stay at 7.65 percent, or will it go up?

Temporary labor doesn’t have those concerns; there’s no commitment and you’ll know exactly what the cost is upfront. You get the staffing you need without the headaches and the hassles.

What benefits come with temporary labor?

No. 1, the company saves money. Employers have to cover taxes, unemployment, health care and workers’ compensation, just to name a few. And all of those costs are projected to go up in the near future. Temporary labor helps alleviate that, since the staffing agency is the one that takes on those costs. Also, if you’ve got a lot of employees working overtime, you can hire temps to fill in, without the added cost of overtime wages.

Temporary labor also saves you time. The staffing firm does all the interviewing, screening, skills testing and advertising. You just call up the firm, tell them what you need and they find the right person for the job.

Another benefit is increased flexibility. You can hire more people at peak times and pare your staff down when business is slower. Nowadays, you can bring in highly skilled temps to replace key positions that may have been eliminated or downsized. For instance, you can find a temporary director of HR to come in a few days a week to take care of any administrative tasks you may have.

Finally, temporary labor reduces a company’s risk. Bringing in help takes the pressure off of your full-time employees, reducing accidents and absenteeism and preventing burnout. With companies paring down and employees taking on increasing workloads, burnout has become an unfortunate trend. It’s true that your staff is your greatest cost, but it’s also your greatest asset. It makes sense to do whatever you can to protect that asset.

What potential pitfalls should companies be aware of when using temporary labor?

First of all, don’t just look online and call the first staffing agency you find. Compare and interview staffing agencies just like you would potential employees. Make sure that the staffing agency matches your culture, understands your needs and goals and will represent your company the way you want it to.

Also, make sure you know all of the costs involved upfront, particularly the ones that come when you want to hire the person after their temporary trial is up; sometimes a conversion fee applies.

Finally, make sure you have a system in place to measure the performance of the temporary employees. Find out whether or not the temp fits in as soon as possible. The sooner you let the staffing agency know about issues, the sooner it can get you another worker.

So, how can you ensure that you’re getting the right talent?

The key is communication. Clearly define your needs upfront. Give the staffing agency as much information as possible: what specific skills you need, how your company culture works, what kind of personality you’re looking for, the goals of the position, how long the temp will be employed, if it will be a temp-to-hire situation, etc. The more the staffing agency knows, the better it will be at finding you the people you need.

What are the common myths of temporary staffing?

There’s a stigma attached to temporary labor that it’s only unskilled, unhireable people. But the fact is there are thousands of highly skilled, highly trained people looking for work. Not only that, more and more people, particularly younger ones, only want to work on a temporary basis, as it offers them a better work-life balance.

Another myth is that it’s more expensive to utilize a staffing firm than just hiring on your own. With a staffing firm you know what the costs are upfront and you can always control those costs. That cannot be said about hiring an employee yourself.

Melissa Hulsey is president and CEO of Ashton Staffing. Reach her at (770) 419-1776 or mhulsey@ashtonstaffing.com.

Published in Atlanta