Tuesday, 25 September 2007 20:00

Job boards have not made a monster

The rapid proliferation of general and niche job boards has created a bit of consternation among staffing firm owners and managers. Their concerns, although justifiable to some extent, have proven to be somewhat premature. There is no doubt that job boards represent competition for staffing agencies, and they provide a valuable service to job seekers and hiring companies alike. Both offer valuable services to their clients, and each has unique competitive edges that facilitate the hiring process for business owners.

Smart Business spoke with Don Crawford, president and CEO of Delta Dallas, about the advantages that staffing firms offer companies in their quests to hire key employees and what steps owners can take to attract and retain the “best and brightest” by partnering with them.

What advantages do staffing agencies have over job boards?

Principally, staffing services provide screening processes that are not available through job boards. A position posted on a job board can generate hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of responses. Business owners, particularly of small companies, generally do not have the time to sift through resumes or the expertise to unearth the best-qualified candidates to meet their specific needs. Staffing firms do. In essence, staffing firm recruiters are matchmakers. They have personnel who are adept at weeding out unqualified applicants and matching candidates to cultures, and they can do both expeditiously.

How can staffing agencies reduce the numbers of interested applicants for positions?

One method is to ask candidates specified prequalification questions. This eliminates some of the people who are simply applying for jobs randomly and don't have the requisite skill sets required by the employer. This could include three to five qualifying questions about applicants’ skills that help the employer whittle down the candidate list and prioritize their call backs.

Are there times when business owners are justified in posting positions on job boards?

Of course. It makes sense at times to post a position with a job board for budgetary reasons. For instance, a single posting on a job board might cost anywhere from nothing to $350, depending on the board selected. That same search through a staffing firm might cost thousands of dollars, and may not be prudent when considering the position being filled. Decisions regarding which approach to use must be made by companies on a case-by-case basis and should be congruent with the responsibilities of the position.

Are job boards more suitable for filling specific categories of positions?

Not at all. They are well suited for jobs at a variety of levels, ranging from salespeople, engineers and accountants to A-level executives. But, there is a certain percentage of people that job boards do not attract at any level. That is roughly the top 5 to 10 percent of people in their profession. If business owners want to hire that segment of a profession, they are going to have to network or retain executive recruiters to attract them. That is another choice business owners have to make when hiring: Do they want to hire the top-notch people in a given profession or recruit the 60 to 80 percent of their counterparts who are hard workers but not in the elite 5 to10 percent? This preference will drive their decision when choosing a search method.

What criteria should business owners apply when choosing among a job board, a search firm or a self-hiring process to fill a position?

The three most significant criteria are time, the importance of the position, and the economics of the search. For instance, if a company is hiring an executive assistant for a CEO, a search is likely to be time consuming and somewhat more narrow than filling positions of a more general nature. In many cases, due to the time investment and expertise needed to fill a position, a search firm is the most economical choice. Each open position should be analyzed using all three criteria when choosing a search method. An initial time investment examining the parameters of the search, can improve the overall investment required to fill a position.

DON CRAWFORD is president and CEO of Delta Dallas. Reach him at (972) 788-2300 or dcrawford@deltadallas.com.

Published in Dallas
Sunday, 26 August 2007 20:00

A good exit strategy

Everyone knows it’s important to make a good first impression when interviewing for a job. What you say and how you conduct yourself will go a long way in determining whether you get the job.

But what about on your way out of a company? What would you tell a former employer on the way out the door and how can the employer use that information to improve the company?

“Employers have learned that, many times, someone who is on the way out will tell the employer things that they would have been afraid to say while they still worked at the company,” says Sue Burnett, president of Burnett Staffing. “However, the terms the employee leaves on has to be taken into consideration.”

Smart Business talked to Burnett about what employers can learn about their own companies and what they can do with that information.

Do people have more to say if they leave on good terms or bad?

If they’re leaving on good terms, they are generally more than happy to share their thoughts and are actually pleased to be asked for their opinion. We have an exit interview form with about 20 questions that we e-mail to former employees after they are gone. After they fill it out and return it, I will schedule a personal exit interview with them. If they work in an out of town office, I will conduct it over the phone.

The questions include what they liked most and least about the company; what were their primary reasons for leaving and if it involved a new job, what made the new job more attractive; what they felt about the other employees in their department; did the job meet their career objectives; what they would have done differently if the manager and why and how they rated their pay and benefit packages. We also ask them to evaluate their own performance and what, if anything, they would have done differently.

Next I read the responses and have them expound on their comments. I take notes and then give the results to the managers of the people that left. I get a lot of valuable information this way because we ask them their thoughts about their former managers and what they think the managers could have done differently.

How important is the personal interview?

The questions asked during the personal interview involve things people generally don’t like to talk about. I get a lot of information that, frankly, most owners or presidents wouldn’t get unless they hear it for themselves. Now, I’m not saying people are sharing every candid thought with me. I’m sure a lot of it comes through a filter, but there have been times when people have been extraordinarily candid with me concerning certain situations or people in the company. The former employees respected me and the company enough to let me know when situations existed that needed my attention. I appreciate that very much.

The bottom line is, it’s best to hear it for yourself. Even if you have a HR manager do the exit interview, that manager will give you the information through a filter.

Do the terms people leave under determine how truthful they will be?

It depends a great deal on the person he or she is and how much he or she will open up and communicate. If someone has been terminated, you often get a ‘I didn’t deserve this’ attitude and a lot of finger-pointing and blaming other people in the department. It’s important to hear that while taking into account that the person is not speaking from a completely truthful standpoint and he or she is not viewing himself or herself honestly.

How soon after a person leaves do you conduct the interview?

If someone is terminated, I call them the next day if I wasn’t involved in the termination. I want to hear the opinions before the terminated employee has a chance to cool down and maybe take some of the edge off of what he or she wants to say. Again, it’s important to hear that because even though there is a lot of anger, some of what he or she says may be brutally honest and he or she is saying, ‘This is why I wasn’t successful.’ Especially if you’ve had other problems in that same department and others that have left had mentioned the same things or people. If you’ve had turnover and the same individual is always singled out, then you have an issue, and you need to take action.

Have you ever had someone’s comment lead directly to a change?

Absolutely, because maybe that comment was the final straw and we say enough is enough. Some people say that exit interviews are too time-consuming. I say if you’ve invested so much time and money in this person, you need to spend an hour of your time finding out why he or she is leaving your company.

SUE BURNETT is president of Burnett Staffing. Reach her at (713) 977-4777 or sue@burnettstaffing.com.

Published in Houston
Thursday, 26 July 2007 20:00

The mass exodus of baby boomers

Currently, “baby boomers” make up one-third of the work force. Assuming most of them retire at age 65, the first set of boomers will reach this milestone in 2010. Moreover, if the U.S. economy continues to grow at a 3 percent rate per year, which has been the average since the late 1940s, the work force will need to increase by 58 million over the next 30 years to maintain the same level of productivity. If the present population trend continues, the number of workers will increase by only 23 million. That leaves a shortage of 35 million workers. Employers have to take steps now to be able to compete with other companies for the talent that will be available in the years ahead. It’s time to shift the perception and think of ways to attract and retain the coming generations.

Smart Business spoke with Mimi Braziel, vice president, accounting division, Delta Dallas to learn how to do this.

How do companies safeguard themselves from this shortage?

One way is to pay higher salaries, including bonus incentives. As with any aspect of business, employers get what they pay for.

A second way is to assess the organization’s demographics and plan accordingly. Assess how many employees will reach retirement age in the next 10 years.

Once this information is obtained, it is important to discuss the plan one to two years before they intend to leave. Pair the ‘boomer’ with a junior person to mentor so his or her legacy is passed down prior to his or her departure. Boomers have been around for a while, and their knowledge and wisdom must be captured. At times, it may be possible to retain the boomer on a consulting or a part-time/flexible basis.

Finally, look into outsourcing parts of the business to save costs and implementing systems that will streamline processes to run more efficiently and effectively with fewer employees. Constantly re-evaluate the organization and adapt as needed.

What are the primary differences between baby boomers, Generation X and Generation Y?

Baby boomers did not go through the Depression, as their parents did. So, saving for a rainy day isn’t the norm for them. They have grown accustomed to a certain standard of living, and many of them will admit they have learned to live beyond their means. So assuming a large portion of them will need to work past retirement because of this, the consensus is also that they will not want to work a full load. Flexibility will be the key with them. Generation X trusts themselves more than institutions of any kind, and they recognize results versus tenure. They have to be managed accordingly rather than changed. Regarding Generation Y, employers may have to learn to deal with pink and blue hair, tattoos and a few piercings, worry less about rules, and place their focus on the quality of the work performed, rather than employees’ characteristics.

How can recruiting firms help in this process?

As the market continues to tighten, it is in employers’ best interests to partner with recruiters when they need to hire talent.

Recruiters keep up with market trends, so they can be valuable sources of information, especially when it comes to questions regarding market salary ranges. Those recruiting firms that have some tenure in their recruiting staff have an incredible network of candidates from which to select. Effective recruiters have great relationships with companies. They are best suited to match talent to cultures and opportunities that are in line with employers’ core values and desires and to advise them on how to maintain a flexible environment for employees.

What advantage does a company gain by being flexible?

Start with the premise that if employees are dependable and honest, they will do what is in the best interest of themselves and the company. Establish a friendly working environment that promotes a work-life balance. For example, establish a vacation policy that allows people to take off as much time as they need for vacation and personal matters as long as deadlines are met and their work is quality. Expand the fringe benefits program to include non-monetary, morale-building activities. Offer health club memberships, themed ‘happy hours’ on selected workdays, or cater breakfast and/or lunch at least occasionally, whatever works well for employee morale. Perks like those mentioned above present a ‘win-win’ for employees and employers. They keep employees working in the office during the workday, but they also get their work done and get out on time. More importantly, from an employer’s perspective, expanded fringe benefits help attract and retain the best qualified people.

MIMI BRAZIEL is vice president, accounting division with Delta Dallas. Reach her at (972) 788-2300 or mbraziel@deltadallas.com.

Published in Dallas
Saturday, 26 May 2007 20:00

Recruiting recruiters

According to a major survey conducted for the American Staffing Association, “companies use recruiting and staffing firms for two principal reasons: flexibility and access to talent.” The Association revealed that “staffing companies nationwide collectively employ an average of 2.9 million workers daily across all industries, providing work force flexibility and access to talent … at competitive wages, benefits and training for millions of temporary, contract and permanent employees each year.”

Talent management, leadership development and skill acquisition means companies need to have the right people doing the right jobs. Smart Business talked with Danell Winsor of Delta Dallas to gain some insight into the due diligence criteria employers can apply when choosing the staffing/recruiting firms that best suit their unique requirements.

What criteria should employers consider when choosing the staffing/recruiting firm that can best suit their unique needs?

One criterion is to choose a firm that specializes in the employer’s industry or which has on staff subject matter experts on the type of positions to be filled. A key issue is what the firm’s services will cost the employer. Inquire about the cost of its services, fill ratios, turnover of its internal staff, benefits to temporary employees and what, if anything, it outsources to third parties. Find out how the recruiter is paid via retainer, contingent fee or team bonuses.

What are some of the questions employers should ask in the due diligence process?

The list includes questions like what the firm’s consultants know about the employer’s business, how many years it has been in business, if it has in-depth knowledge about the geographical area, industry and the people who succeed in it, whether it is a member of national, state and local professional associations, if it adheres to a standardized code of ethics, and if it is up to date on human resource and employment trends and changes. The answers to some of these questions may be available on the search firm’s Web site.

What else can employers do?

Employers should ask for referrals and references of clients the staffing/recruiting firm has worked with and visit the firm’s offices to see its operation, experience its corporate culture, and meet the management, recruiting and service team members who will be assigned to their accounts. They should learn about the search firm’s processes, see what happens when they make requests about their operations, and ask whether the firm reflects employers’ hiring needs in the most accurate and professional manner.

Employers should learn how the search/recruiting firm recruits and retains its work force and how it screens, evaluates and tests its applicant pools. This knowledge will help employers determine the quality of the candidates who will be assigned to their positions, and serve as a benchmark for evaluation of the candidates’ on-the-job performances. Moreover, employers can use the testing as a framework for technical interviews they may conduct later.

Another step is to inquire about the availability of background, criminal, credit and drug tests, and other verifications the staffing and recruiting firm may offer. There are other criteria that employers might not think about, but which are crucial. For example, they should determine precisely how the staffing and recruiting firm identifies candidates for those hard-to-find positions, and ensure that it has extensive and current databases of active and passive candidates.

Two more critical pieces of information include the typical turnaround time between the time an employer makes a request and when it is filled, and how the employer can contact the staffing firm after normal business hours in case of an emergency.

Should employers and search/recruiting personnel work together on any phase of the due diligence process before deciding if they are suitably matched?

Absolutely. The employer will have to spend some time to educate the search/recruiting firm’s consultants to review the specifics of job descriptions, salary expectations, corporate cultures and any other topics related to the search, and to make interview times available for its hiring authorities. It is important that employers provide the staff/recruiting firm’s consultants with candid and timely feedback after their interviews and confirm with them all items of offers made, including salary range and benefits.

The investment of their time and attention will pay off for the employers through the quality of temporary employees and candidates they receive and the accurate matches to their unique needs. Companies can mitigate their risks associated with making hasty and costly hiring mistakes and save thousands of dollars by adding to their core headcounts as the need arises.

DANELL WINSOR, CPC, CTS, is executive vice president with Delta Dallas. Reach her at (972) 788-2300 or dwinsor@deltadallas.com.

Published in Dallas

Believe it or not, the recent recession has had its advantages. A significant one is the big increase in the availability of talented executives.

The question is: Are you missing out on these top executives because of reorganization and/or belt tightening?

“Take advantage of this opportunity to market your company to prospective executive candidates,” says M.J. Helms, director of operations for The Ashton Group. “No one can really predict how long the economy will stay soft. Now is the time to rethink your corporate strategy, restructure your business and possibly hire a few leaders to move your business forward.

To do this, says Helms, first examine the current leadership in your company. Then, if you are short on talent from within, do an external search.

Smart Business spoke with Helms about hiring in today’s economy and why the time is right to find your future leaders.

How can a company bolster its recruiting process?

Planning for the future is key. There is a strong possibility you may want to rehire some of your downsized employees, now that the recession (seemingly) has passed. However, how you treated those employees when you let them go will no doubt play a role in their decision to come back to your company. One example of a good way to let someone go would be to offer that person solid outplacement services.

Your company’s reputation is at stake and how you handle this will be watched closely by employees and future potential candidates.

What are some of the ways to properly handle this?

Branding your company is one of the steps that you can take to help in the recruiting process. Create the image of your company as a great place to work. Employment branding is important, so take advantage of social networking opportunities like setting up free professional pages on both LinkedIn and Facebook. On LinkedIn, it is important to also make as many professional contacts and recommendations as possible.

Also, consider setting up your own company blog that offers professional advice in your industry. This will create a link that routes back to your company name in search engines. You may want to consider a press release when a new product is launched, as well. Publish articles about your company’s successes in trade magazines. Engage your company with top executive recruiters who have the experience and contacts to attract the right candidate for your company.

Recruiting for talented executives can take from three to six months in some cases for certain professionals, such as top information technology and software executives, so don’t wait too long to begin your search.

What are some other vital parts of the hiring process?

For one, conduct an in-depth background check. Find out about a candidate’s work history, but also find out what that candidate is passionate about. In what areas did the candidate excel in the past? In which organizations were they most successful? Did they receive any achievements or recognition? Asking those types of questions will help you determine whether or not the candidate will properly fill the position and, eventually, become a future leader of your company.

Also, evaluate both job skills and personality through skills-based and job-knowledge questioning. Having the right skills and qualifications is important, but you also have to make sure that the candidate is the right fit for your culture. Does the candidate thrive under pressure? Does he or she work well with other team members? How large of a workload can the candidate handle? Understanding a candidate’s personality is vital.

Why is now the time to find new talent?

This is a seller’s market and a great time to attract talent and pay more reasonable compensation than a year ago. Search firms have been inundated with resumes over the last several months. Online employment sites have reported record entries of new executives currently available. Placing an ad in The Wall Street Journal will get an enormous response these days. You have to remain competitive in the marketplace.

Even though I have seen a decrease in compensation packages in the last year, I would encourage you to provide a competitive compensation package and benefits packages that will motivate long-term performance. A well-designed supplemental benefits plan can provide additional post-retirement income for selected executives. You can establish performance benchmarks that must be attained before these benefits are awarded. You may consider requiring continued employment for executives to reap these benefits.

Try some of these steps to ensure that top executive talent seeks out your company for employment.

M.J. Helms is the director of operations with 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
Thursday, 26 March 2009 20:00

A helping hand

You always want to find the perfect candidate when you’re hiring. But sifting through stacks of applications and sitting through hours of interviews can be tiring and can take you away from time spent running your business.

“If you choose not to use a professional recruiter, both parties are going into the job relationship blindly,” says M.J. Helms, director of operations for The Ashton Group. “The company may not be the right cultural fit for the candidate, because the person did not know anything about the company, other than what they were told in the interview. Or the candidate does not meet the company’s expectation, because the company did not have time to do references or skills testing.”

Smart Business spoke with Helms about what to look for when using a professional recruiter, how the recruiter can help both you and your potential employees, and when you should consider using a recruiter.

What should you look for in a professional recruiter?

Trust. A professional who is experienced in the staffing industry knows how to listen and cares about his or her company’s reputation. Good recruiters typically work off of referrals instead of completely relying on a job site for a candidate pool. They can also provide you with both client and candidate references for you to check on their level of service provided.

When should you consider using a recruiter?

If you have a human resources department, oftentimes you can use a recruiter for more difficult positions to fill. Other companies will use a recruiter for more executive-level positions that are more time-consuming searches. From a candidate’s point of view, looking for work is work. It can be time-consuming and frustrating not getting your resume to the decision-makers. A good recruiter should have that relationship established with the right people. Also, when you are currently employed and looking to make a change or you know layoffs in your company are just a matter of time, a recruiter can be out there looking for you while you are still working and making an income.

What is the typical cost of using a recruiter?

It can vary depending on where you are located, what kind of position you are recruiting for and if the client’s needs are full-time, direct hire or contract employment. The average recruiting fee in the U.S. is around $15,000, and it is not uncommon for the client to want some sort of guarantee on the candidates placed. This is a big cost savings, because if the placement is not the right fit, the client would typically get a refund or replacement at no charge, if the recruiter had already been paid in full. Most agencies will do a contingency search for a company. The recruiter searches for qualified candidates and allows the client to interview them without incurring a fee. The typical fee is 20 percent of a candidate’s annual salary. This fee can change depending on the level of difficulty and customization of the search. Some companies will pay a retainer fee in advance to ensure that the recruiter has its complete attention on their assignment, in cases where the position to be filled is critical.

The second most common fee is temp-to-hire or contract-to-hire. For contractors, the mark-up percentage is charged on top of their hourly pay rate. When the company decides to convert the contractor to a full-time employee determines if there would be a buyout fee. This option is a money saver — the company pays one flat hourly rate while the contractor is working there on a temporary basis, and the company is not responsible for benefits, unemployment, payroll taxes or workers’ comp insurance. It can choose to let the person go at anytime.

What are the advantages for clients and candidates in using a recruiter?

There are several advantages, one of which is saving time. By using a recruiter, the client will have only qualified candidates to consider interviewing for its job position based on specific fact-finding questions. This cuts down on clients spending time sifting through a pile of resumes, wasting time that they could be using to do their jobs, thus increasing profitability. Working with a recruiter who is experienced and has a pulse on market trends helps a client position itself to attract the best candidates. A good recruiter will put a guarantee on the placement for 90 days. If the hired candidate is not a fit within that time frame, he or she will be replaced or the fee will be refunded based on time worked.

When candidates use a recruiter, they can explain what kind of job they want and what type of company or industry they prefer, not wasting their own time on bad interviews or being over- or underqualified. A good recruiter can help you find jobs that you might otherwise not know about. A recruiter should know the hiring manager and can shed light on specific information for your interview that will help you prepare and stand out from others who are interviewing for the same job. Lastly, a recruiter understands the importance of timing.

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

Published in Atlanta
Thursday, 25 September 2008 20:00

Exit interview intelligence

Saying goodbye to good employees when they leave for greener pastures is not always easy. Along with a going away party, a gift and a handshake, businesses should also conduct an exit interview to find out deeper reasons why an employee has left for another company. Gathering this kind of information, if done properly, is a good way to learn how to improve staff retention.

“Gathering data to address areas of decreased employee satisfaction can give an organization the tools it needs to identify trends and patterns,” says Bette Puffer, Corporate Recruiter for Talent Tree Inc., a staffing company based in Houston.

Smart Business spoke with Puffer about the benefits of conducting exit interviews and what you need to ask your employees before they leave for good.

What are the benefits of conducting an exit interview?

The biggest benefit is the data gathered from the interview, which can shed light on areas where employees are dissatisfied. This data can be used to:

  • Put strategies in place. If you can spot the trends of why employees are leaving, you can put into place strategies that address these problems, which in turn can reduce turnover.

  • Increase morale. Decreasing turnover rates increases the productivity of an entire work unit or team, since high turnover means increased workloads for other employees, stress, tension and decline of corporate morale.

  • Save money. Replacing employees is expensive. If you learn why employees leave your company and work to correct any problems, you can save money in advertising, training, interviewing time and relocation costs.

Are there any downsides to conducting exit interviews?

If an exit interview is conducted face-to-face there is a tendency for employees to be reluctant to reveal the real reasons for leaving, and instead offer a ‘politically correct’ reason for leaving. A typical answer might be ‘better pay’ or ‘better job opportunity,’ when, in reality, it might be that the manager or supervisor is a micromanager and the employee does not work well under that kind of scrutiny. Or perhaps there has been some sort of harassment that the employee is hesitant to divulge for fear of future negative action.

The traditional method of having an assigned HR representative or the employee’s supervisor conduct the exit interview (usually on the last day), can provide a number of challenging difficulties: It is time-consuming, difficult to tabulate and not always executed consistently.

If face-to-face exit interviews don’t necessarily give businesses the honest answers they need, what is the alternative?

Many employers have found that using a third party to conduct the exit interview works as a best practice. Online survey companies will either provide useful questions or allow you to customize your own exit survey. They will also provide an analysis of the data, which can be both time- and cost-effective.

Whether using a third party or conducting in-house interviews, some common principles for planning should be applied.

  • Use a universal form or questionnaire. All voluntary departures should be given an appropriate questionnaire.

  • Use standardized questions. Ask consistent core questions to ensure comparability throughout the organization and across time.

  • Make data accessible to managers. Make sure any data gathered is available to the appropriate managers and supervisors to increase the likelihood that the data is used to address any problems.

  • Monitor and create strategies. Data is only good if it is put to use. Make sure that this data is reviewed and used to create policies and procedures that will help turnover.

  • Ask the right questions. The interview or questionnaire should include feedback on the work environment in addition to reasons for leaving.

Are there any tips for creating an interview or questionnaire that will elicit honest answers from the departing employee?

Do not focus solely on the employee’s reasons for leaving. Although this is important information, it is also critical to include a broader scope, which includes the employee’s attitudes and experiences, to identify the deep-seated reasons for making the decision to leave.

Ensure that there is more than one way for employees to express their reasons for leaving and include several open-ended questions for them to elaborate.

To get beyond the decision itself, ask questions that address the employee’s satisfaction with the job itself, such as: assessment of the organization’s work culture, the effectiveness of lines of communication, how well the employee’s job responsibilities were defined, perceived opportunities for advancement and the employee’s perspective on the amount of training, feedback and recognition received.

BETTE PUFFER is the Corporate Recruiter for Talent Tree Inc., www.talenttree.com, a staffing company based in Houston. Reach her at (713) 361-7511 or bette.puffer@talenttree.com.

Published in Houston
Tuesday, 26 August 2008 20:00

A more temporary solution

If you use a lot of temporary help in your business, you probably are juggling two or more staffing agencies to fill a variety of positions: from administrative help to information technology personnel to those in managerial functions. You may have wondered if there were a better way available by using technology to manage this work force, streamline costs and optimize your time.

“Businesses are talking about VMS (vendor management system) and how this new technology is making life easier for those in charge of managing temporary staff,” says Michael Reyes, Director of Enterprise Accounts for Talent Tree of Houston.

Smart Business spoke with Reyes about VMS, what it does and how to select the VMS vendor that is right for your business.

What are the benefits of implementing a vendor management system?

The biggest benefit is having one point of contact, one organization to manage all temporary staffing needs. It’s ‘one-stop shopping.’ The technology allows you to manage time entry flow, invoices and requisition all online. It eliminates dealing with multiple vendors with multiple rates, and it broadens the pool of temporary workers. It eliminates the risk of being price gouged.

What if a business likes the staffing vendors it works with? Does it have to change over to one vendor with a VMS?

No. Often many temporary staffing firms participate in these systems so you have a wide pool of vendors that temporary personnel will come from. The difference is that you only pay the vendor that is managing the particular VMS program, which maximizes efficiency. Some VMS vendors are the staffing companies themselves who own the technology; some VMS vendors are technology companies.

What does the ideal VMS do?

The system should have the ability to generate real-time reporting, consolidate invoicing and set up any type of electronic fund payments. Most important, it is necessary to have someone within the organization understand the VMS and know how to use it. The VMS also needs to have a solid roster of temporary staffing agencies across the nation who want to sign up to the program. It must have a national — as well as regional — footprint.

The VMS must also be able to accommodate requests from all job niches: from janitorial help to administrative staff, from IT personnel up to CFOs. That is truly the luxury of a system like this — to sit down at the computer and create a job description and simply click a button to fill a request. These requests can be for short assignments to cover vacationing or sick employees, or long-term assignments for special projects.

How can a business best evaluate VMS providers, and what does it cost to get started?

VMS programs should have good relationships with third-party vendors; they should also be able to provide references and case studies. A VMS program should also have a national presence and the provider should understand the staffing industry and not just be a technology provider. The software should be able to manipulate information in the system and allow customization of job requests.

Cost to implement a VMS ranges from $50,000 to $100,000 for the software and training cost. The specific cost depends on how much customization is required. After that, there is a yearly maintenance fee to cover IT expenditures, depending on volume. That fee is about $12,000 a year.

Is VMS for every business?

It is only for large organizations that work with multiple staffing vendors and want to streamline the process. It is not a tool for small organizations since this is for high temporary help volume — $10 million-plus spent in temporary help. It is also a tool for temporary help only — those with direct-hire needs don’t need this kind of ongoing technology tool to manage these employees. Large businesses with multiple offices across the country are ideal candidates for VMS.

MICHAEL REYES is the Director of Enterprise Accounts for Talent Tree, www.talenttree.com, a staffing company based in Houston. Reach him at (972) 361-0123 or Michael.reyes@talenttree.com.

Published in Houston
Monday, 26 May 2008 20:00

Right to the source

When a key position in your company needs to be filled, do you know how to work with a direct-hire recruiter to fill that position quickly and with the right person?

“Direct-hire recruiters need to know not only a laundry list of the job descriptions but also background information on the company, the department and the corporate culture, in order for the positions to not just be filled but be filled by the right employees,” says Ruth McCurdy, Vice President of Corporate Connections for Talent Tree, a staffing company based in Houston.

Smart Business spoke with McCurdy about techniques businesses can use to work more efficiently with direct-hire recruiters so they are better equipped to find the right person for the job.

What are some of the mistakes businesses make when working with direct-hire recruiters?

The problem is that often the only information given is the skills and experience needed for the job. Not much insight is given to the recruiter about the company. Many CEOs or business owners tend to look at a recruiter’s job as a transaction rather than a relationship. In order for the recruiter to bring the right person to a company, the business owner needs to spend time with the search consultant and talk to him or her about the company, its values, missions, culture and goals. This information goes a long way when the consultant is attempting to fill a vacancy.

It is even better if the direct-hire consultant talks to more than one person in the company for a complete picture. Introduce the consultant to the hiring manager and the supervisor of the department, as well.

How does this kind of legwork help the company?

Despite the high unemployment rate, it is still difficult to find great employees, particularly in specific fields. Often a key position can take months to fill. Many times, CEOs and business owners don’t realize the true cost of vacancy.

Once a CEO or business owner of the company realizes that vacancy of key positions results in loss of revenue for the company, it is a great ‘aha!’ moment and the employment process is suddenly not relegated to just the HR department. One book I recommend CEOs and business owners read on this topic is ‘The Workforce Scorecard,’ by Mark A. Huselid and Brian E. Becker, which focuses on the importance of managing human capital.

A key position that remains open will affect the overall profitability of the company. Key positions can be in the sales department, but it varies depending on the company. For example, in a chemical company the key positions are scientists; for manufacturing, it’s usually engineers; and for pharmaceutical companies, it would be research and development employees. Candidates to fill these positions are often difficult to find, so learning how to work effectively with direct-hire recruiters is very important.

What are some tips for effectively working with direct-hire recruiters to fill these key positions?

  • Be open about the position, the reporting relationships and why the job is open. The more the candidate knows about the position, the better.

  • Realize that details about salary and job description alone are not enough to get the right candidate in for an interview. The candidate is interested in the big picture. Let the direct-hire recruiter know about the company’s values, goals and culture.

  • Have the recruiter talk to employees who can tell positive stories about working for the company. Take these stories, or testimonials, and put them on your Web site for potential employees to read.

  • Ask the recruiter to take a look at your company’s Web site — and ask for suggestions to ‘brand’ the employment aspect of your business. Businesses spend so much time branding products and services but very little time branding their company to attract good employees.

  • Develop a partnership with your direct-hire consultant. Don’t think of executive recruiters as a ‘quick fix’ to a pressing problem you are having at the moment in filling a key position.

Remember that you need to be constantly thinking about positions that need to be filled. If your direct-hire recruiter knows your company and understands what you are looking for in a candidate, filling positions will happen much quicker and more successfully.

RUTH MCCURDY is Vice President of Corporate Connections at Talent Tree, www.talenttree.com, a staffing company based in Houston. Reach her at (713) 361-7555 or ruth.mccurdy@talenttree.com.

Published in Houston