Wednesday, 25 November 2009 19:00

Setting standards

Think about how much time you spend each day dealing with nonperforming employees in your organization. You may spend a lot of time talking about or doing the job for employees who just cannot handle their job responsibilities.

You also may be placing the extra work on a hardworking employee, whose productivity level might be affected by the extra burden. If there’s a lack of accountability in your organization, you may experience poor employee morale, dissatisfied customers, unmet goals and unclear job expectations.

“By creating a culture of complete accountability, you will never have to worry about any meltdowns in your organization,” says Melissa Hulsey, president and CEO of Ashton.

Smart Business spoke with Hulsey about how accountability affects your bottom line, how to screen for accountability during the hiring process and how to model accountability for employees.

How does accountability affect the bottom line?

The missed opportunity cost is the big issue. Has a new client ever called your organization, only to be put on hold or lost in the voice messaging system? How much busy work does your staff do every day? Has miscommunication ever caused a problem? Reviewing efficiency and accountability in your work force will help improve profitability.

It also affects your ability to retain good employees. Someone has to pick up the slack for the nonproductive employees, many times relying on top producers to do this. This may not be a bad idea in the short term, but over the long term, your superstar may begin to wonder why they are working so hard when their co-workers get away with everything. These employees will soon lose respect for management and, even worse, may begin to look for other employment opportunities. It is critical to communicate performance goals and have systems in place to make sure goals are met.

How can you prescreen employees for accountability when hiring?

Accountability is different for each job and level. By choosing appropriate screening tools, hiring for accountability becomes one part of finding the right person for your organization.

  • Ask behavior-based interview questions. Examples include: ‘Describe a major change that occurred in a job you held. How did you adapt to that change? Tell me about a time when your supervisor criticized your work. How did you respond?’
  • Listen more than you speak during the interview. You will be amazed at what information is offered just by being silent.

How can a staffing firm help in the accountability process?

Staffing firms give companies the opportunity to try someone for a period of time, usually 90 to 120 days, before directly hiring that individual. Everyone is on their best behavior the first few weeks of any job. What happens after the first month or two? Partnering with a staffing firm that uses prescreening tools and knows your corporate culture, along with the trial period of employment, is a great way to ensure there are no surprises and every hire will be an asset to your company.

How would you handle an employee who is not accountable?

The first step is to establish why. Do they need additional training, is there a short-term personal issue affecting their job, or do they need to improve their time-management skills? Once you have ruled out scenarios like these and it is clear their lack of accountability is by choice, you must address the problem quickly and directly. Discuss clear deadlines and performance metrics with the employee and, most importantly, establish consequences upfront for nonperformance.

How can you improve accountability at your company?

Putting a system in place to build accountability is easy, but takes commitment.

  • Set agendas for all meetings. This will keep everyone on task and save time.
  • Do not give excuses to or accept them from anyone.
  • Give a specific date and time for completion of all work.
  • Have the assignment repeated back to you when you delegate work. This will improve communication and understanding of the assignment.
  • Provide continuous training for all employees.

How do you model accountability?

Good leaders do what they say they’re going to do, when they say they’re going to do it. When they set the stage, all others will follow suit. Make sure the people at the top are leading by example.

Go back to all the things you learned in preschool. Be on time, listen to and respect others, come prepared to all meetings, follow through on your promises, and play nice in the sandbox. How many times have you read e-mails when one of your employees is trying to talk with you? What does that say to them? By always being mindful of those around you, you can set a great example of accountability and leadership.

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

Published in Atlanta
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 20:00

Across the globe

With the job market getting tighter and tighter, you may need to expand your options and look outside your current city for a job. Or, if you’re searching for new talent, you might need to consider applicants from a number of different locations to find the perfect candidate.

According to a new study by CareerBuilders.com, one third of employers have paid to relocate an employee in the past two years. And 59 percent of employees surveyed were willing to relocate for a new job. While relocating can be a hassle, it can also produce many benefits.

“Employees typically feel an investment has been made by their new employer if they are asked to relocate, and are more focused on their new job and performance,” says M.J. Helms, director of operations for The Ashton Group.

Smart Business spoke with Helms about key things to remember when relocating and how to structure an executive relocation package.

What problems can arise with relocation, and how can you mitigate those problems?

The current decline in home values has made relocation more difficult. Family challenges also will occur during the relocation, such as finding new schools and activities for children, and jobs for spouses. You also have to get acclimated to your new place of employment.

Talk about potential problems upfront prior to the move and map out ways to resolve them. If something happens, all parties will know the steps to the resolution.

What are some key things to consider when relocating?

  • Job security
  • Future promotions or growth within the organization
  • Other opportunities in the new market
  • Demographic data for your new area — schools, homes, local tax information and traffic issues

Get quotes from movers and calculate the difference in cost of living between your area and where your prospective employee is located. This will help during negotiations, because it shows the candidate you’re interested in getting the best deal for both parties.

You may also want to suggest renting as an option. This allows the employee more time to learn about the new area before making a commitment of home ownership, and get adjusted to the new job and city.

What should be included in an executive relocation package?

Packages can vary. Most companies will pay for household moving and packing expenses and temporary living expenses for up to six months until the home sells. Companies may also pay for weekly or bi-monthly trips back home over the weekends.

Find out what is most important to your new employee. Is it the fear of selling a home, or finding schools and churches in the new area? You can then tailor a package that suits his or her needs. No two relocations will ever be the same.

What other options do you have with relocation packages?

You can offer a signing bonus instead of paying for relocation expenses. Bonuses can vary from company to company. You may want the new employee to sign a contract that states he or she will work for you for a certain amount of time. All or part of the signing bonus would have to be paid back if that contract is breached.

The best time to offer that bonus also varies. You may give it to the new employee when he or she begins work, or only give part at the beginning and the rest later. Make sure before you offer a bonus that this is an employee whom you want at your company for a good amount of time. You have to protect yourself against employees who receive bonuses and then leave after a short period of time.

The bonus amount can range from 20 to 200 percent of the base salary, depending on the industry. Sizable bonuses are typically reserved for high profile positions, along with positions that are difficult to fill. Bonuses may help with recruiting individuals employed with other companies and convince them to change positions.

How can outside sources help in the relocation process?

Staffing firms can help identify candidates in other areas, arrange interviews, assist in salary and package negotiations, and help coordinate the relocation. Firms can also offer guarantees to the company if the relocated employee does not work out. Assistance can also be provided in finding work for the relocated employee’s spouse.

You may consider using a relocation company, which will hire an approved real estate agent to sell your new employee’s old home. The agent’s sales commission is paid by the relocation company. This may save your employee 5 to 6 percent on the home’s selling price, depending on the area. You may also consider paying for closing costs on the new home. If the home does not sell within 90 days, the relocation company may purchase the home, with the selling price based on three estimates.

While outsourcing relocation services will save you time and money, you need to be aware of the pros and cons. Research more than one relocation service in the area and get a cost analysis to help choose the best company.

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
Saturday, 25 April 2009 20:00

Setting standards

Think about how much time you spend each day dealing with nonperforming employees in your organization. You may spend a lot of time talking about or doing the job for employees who just cannot handle their job responsibilities.

You also may be placing the extra work on a hardworking employee, whose productivity level might be affected by the extra burden. If there’s a lack of accountability in your organization, you may experience poor employee morale, dissatisfied customers, unmet goals and unclear job expectations.

“By creating a culture of complete accountability, you will never have to worry about any meltdowns in your organization,” says Melissa Hulsey, president and CEO of Ashton.

Smart Business spoke with Hulsey about how accountability affects your bottom line, how to screen for accountability during the hiring process and how to model accountability for employees.

How does accountability affect the bottom line?

The missed opportunity cost is the big issue. Has a new client ever called your organization, only to be put on hold or lost in the voice messaging system? How much busy work does your staff do every day? Has miscommunication ever caused a problem? Reviewing efficiency and accountability in your work force will help improve profitability.

It also affects your ability to retain good employees. Someone has to pick up the slack for the nonproductive employees, many times relying on top producers to do this. This may not be a bad idea in the short term, but over the long term, your superstar may begin to wonder why they are working so hard when their co-workers get away with everything. These employees will soon lose respect for management and, even worse, may begin to look for other employment opportunities. It is critical to communicate performance goals and have systems in place to make sure goals are met.

How can you prescreen employees for accountability when hiring?

Accountability is different for each job and level. By choosing appropriate screening tools, hiring for accountability becomes one part of finding the right person for your organization.

? Ask behavior-based interview questions. Examples include: ‘Describe a major change that occurred in a job you held. How did you adapt to that change? Tell me about a time when your supervisor criticized your work. How did you respond?’

? Listen more than you speak during the interview. You will be amazed at what information is offered just by being silent.

How can a staffing firm help in the accountability process?

Staffing firms give companies the opportunity to try someone for a period of time, usually 90 to 120 days, before directly hiring that individual. Everyone is on their best behavior the first few weeks of any job. What happens after the first month or two? Partnering with a staffing firm that uses prescreening tools and knows your corporate culture, along with the trial period of employment, is a great way to ensure there are no surprises and every hire will be an asset to your company.

How would you handle an employee who is not accountable?

The first step is to establish why. Do they need additional training, is there a short-term personal issue affecting their job, or do they need to improve their time-management skills? Once you have ruled out scenarios like these and it is clear their lack of accountability is by choice, you must address the problem quickly and directly. Discuss clear deadlines and performance metrics with the employee and, most importantly, establish consequences upfront for nonperformance.

How can you improve accountability at your company?

Putting a system in place to build accountability is easy, but takes commitment.

? Set agendas for all meetings. This will keep everyone on task and save time.

? Do not give excuses to or accept them from anyone.

? Give a specific date and time for completion of all work.

? Have the assignment repeated back to you when you delegate work. This will improve communication and understanding of the assignment.

? Provide continuous training for all employees.

How do you model accountability?

Good leaders do what they say they’re going to do, when they say they’re going to do it. When they set the stage, all others will follow suit. Make sure the people at the top are leading by example.

Go back to all the things you learned in preschool. Be on time, listen to and respect others, come prepared to all meetings, follow through on your promises, and play nice in the sandbox. How many times have you read e-mails when one of your employees is trying to talk with you? What does that say to them? By always being mindful of those around you, you can set a great example of accountability and leadership.

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

Published in Atlanta
Monday, 26 January 2009 19:00

Getting the work done

Businesses all across the country are cutting back. In December, the national unemployment rate rose from 6.5 percent to 6.7 percent. But even with companies making cuts in areas such as staffing, the work still needs to get done. The high unemployment rate has led to an increased number of people who are looking for work through temporary staffing firms, something that companies can take advantage of.

“When the economy is down and all businesses are focused on the bottom line, utilizing the flexibility and cost savings that staffing firms offer is a win-win situation,” says Melissa Hulsey, president and CEO of Ashton.

Smart Business spoke with Hulsey about the services that temporary staffing firms offer and how you can take advantage of those to help get through these tough times.

How does the current unemployment rate affect available talent?

When unemployment rates rise above 4 percent, an increase is seen in the quality of the available labor pool. With our unemployment rate in Georgia currently at 7.5 percent, staffing firms have seen an increase in their database of well-qualified employees ready to go to work. There are great candidates out there who have been let go, through no fault of their own, and are willing to come in to help companies with projects. Many of these people have excellent qualifications, great attitudes and steady work history. By utilizing staffing firms, companies can see a big return on investment while tapping into this great talent. Another advantage of bringing in highly qualified contingent labor is the new ideas and perspective they can bring to your business in challenging times.

How can a staffing firm save businesses money?

You can save on the human resource cost by not having to spend on advertised postings, and ramp up interview and pre-screening time. Especially for small to midsized business, sometimes HR is one of the first positions to go. By utilizing a firm you can outsource the HR department in a timely manner without having a cost. Second is the benefit cost — you don’t have to provide temporary employees the benefits that you would have to your permanent employees; this generally adds a minimum of 30 percent to the average person’s salary. You’re saving that cost upfront and there’s also no risk of raising your state unemployment rate. Finally, you pay only for the project that you need done without the downtime.

What kinds of services can staffing firms provide during these tough times, and how can businesses take advantage of them?

Any short-term, temporary need — meaning you have somebody that’s going to be out for a limited period of time or you have a short project that needs to be done. Long-term contract projects that require more involvement in corporate operations are also widely used.

Contingent labor is a perfect solution to cover all of these needs. Currently there’s an ever-growing sector where companies are using staffing firms to fill positions in technology, finance, human resources, medical and more, including higher-level management such as CEOs, CFOs and CTOs.

As businesses are analyzing their budgets, they can look at parts of their company where job functions can be outsourced. They can use a firm to bring that person in for the needed period of time, take advantage of the talent that’s available and then reap the monetary savings of partnering with a staffing firm.

How will establishing a relationship now prepare you for future growth?

If you can, align yourself with a staffing firm that’s going to get to know your company and corporate culture. Just as it takes time to get to know a person, it takes time to get to know a company and build that relationship. Once this partnership is established, a firm can keep an eye out for particular talent that it recognizes as a good fit for your organization. Testing and prescreening processes can be reviewed and modified as needed. Most firms also have access to resources for job profiling; this is a great thing to do when work loads are down. Knowing what skills and personality fit best into your organization will put you ahead of the competition as growth occurs.

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

Published in Atlanta
Tuesday, 25 November 2008 19:00

Staffing for success

A growth plan is hatched in a boardroom with the guidance of C-level executives and high-level managers. Too often, human resources staff is not invited during the early stages of the plan. But business growth is intrinsically linked to its human capital, says Michael Manser, Vice President of Human Capital Solutions for Talent Tree of Houston.

“Executives need to realize that a company’s strategic plan will always be linked to human capital resource planning ” he says. “You can’t just say, ‘We’re trying to grow X percent, and we’re hoping everyone will pull together and do more.’ That just doesn’t happen; hope is not a plan.”

Smart Business spoke with Manser about the importance of taking resource planning, hiring issues and organizational goals into consideration when putting forth growth plans for your company.

What are some of the obstacles businesses face when trying to align a growth plan with their human resource plans?

Your company’s organizational strategy will drive your business goals, which will, in turn, drive your work force planning. When there is a business goal to grow, say, 10 percent over the course of a year, do you know how many employees you need to hire? What type of employees you need to hire? What the timing of these additions needs to be to attain your goals?

Could you explain what you mean by ‘organizational strategy’?

An organization’s strategy captures its position in the marketplace as perceived by its customer base. In his book ‘The Workforce Scorecard,’ John Huselid gave a simple but powerful model of the three basic strategy groups most every company will fit in: operational efficiency, product expertise and customer intimacy. For example, companies like McDonald’s and Wal-Mart have an organizational goal of operational efficiency — that is, their revenue comes from being efficient in delivering an inexpensive product to the most people. Companies with a product expertise strategy rely on product quality that is literally synonymous with their brand, such as Harley Davidson, Apple and Microsoft. The third type of company, customer intimacy relates to service or an experience that a customer gets for his or her money, such as the experience of shopping at Nordstrom, or how you visit Ace Hardware because ‘Ace is the place with the helpful hardware man.’ Depending on how a company’s organizational strategy works will drive how a business chooses, and compensates, its work force.

For example, a perfume company with a product expertise organizational strategy will approach how to achieve a 10 percent growth much differently than if it operated under one of the other two models because its revenue depends on creating unique fragrances for its competitive advantage and growth. So, it may opt to spend its growth budget on hiring the best qualified chemist to create new fragrances, rather than high-end sales-people, or procuring inexpensive ways to get raw ingredients.

Once you have revisited your business strategy and organizational goals, what’s next?

Do you anticipate that the performance results of your staff will achieve the new company’s objectives? Does your hiring plan take into account the learning curve? Should you hire sooner rather than later to get performance results up quicker? Do you have enough recruiters to accomplish your goals? Do you have enough money to hire these new employees? Where will you physically put these employees? Do you have enough offices, desks and computers?

What happens when businesses don’t go through this process of lining up growth plans with organizational goals and hiring needs?

Without connecting the strategy to the hiring plan, you won’t achieve the results. This failure will show up in a variety of ways; for example, while a business may know how many employees to hire, it may not know which ones are essential to its bottom line. Or, it may know the right employees to hire, but it may not have the resources to hire them or a place to put them once they are hired.

Where does this process need to start to avoid these mistakes?

HR and finance personnel need to be involved right at the beginning of a growth plan in order to avoid the disconnect between strategic goals and the hiring plan. Business executives, from the start of planning for growth, need to ask their team: How do these growth goals relate to hiring? And, how can HR and the work force help achieve those goals? Integrating HR executives into the strategic planning process will ensure a connection to the engine that drives your company — the work force.

MICHAEL MANSER is the Vice President of Human Capital Solutions for Talent Tree, based in Houston. Reach him at (713) 361-7303 or by e-mail at michael.manser@talenttree.com.

Published in Houston
Sunday, 26 October 2008 20:00

Finding a good temp

When your business needs temporary staffing help, you may look in the phone book or online for a staffing company — or call a business colleague for a recommendation or two. But once you get the staffing provider on the phone, how do you know if the agency is right for your business? Before you pick a staffing provider, remember that filling positions fast is not a magic pill to solving your staffing problems.

“The reality is that all staffing companies draw from the same pool of talent; no one has the monopoly on recruiting,” says Ray Culver, Regional Vice President for the Southeast region for Talent Tree, Inc. of Houston. “Better to base a decision on what the staffing company does to ensure a quality fit for your organization than one that promises to fill every job with a warm body.”

Smart Business spoke with Culver about what you should look for when selecting a temporary staffing agency and some red flags to avoid.

What can happen when a business picks a temporary staffing agency that is not a right fit?

A business simply won’t get what it needs in terms of staffing. Jobs won’t get done, and turnover will increase or remain the same. A staffing provider that only cares about filling slots — but not necessarily filling it with the right candidate for a particular business culture — is not a provider that is listening to its clients.

How can business owners know if a staffing company is more interested in placing the right person rather than just a ‘warm body’?

You will know if this is the provider’s goal because you will not only talk to the outside salespeople at the staffing firm, but you will talk to or even meet the inside team — the people who do the actual recruiting. A member of this team should actually come into your office space to get to know your business, even if just for one meeting. These are the people who need to get a feel for the culture of your company so they can send you the right talent.

Another conversation that needs to happen between the staffing provider and client is identifying the client’s ‘pain’ surrounding staffing issues. It could be, for example, that turnover is high and that is why there is a need for temporary help. The staffing company ought to ask the business why that is happening, and if it doesn’t know, then lead the discussion in discovering why; it could be internal management, pay rate or a host of other reasons. A truly consultative staffing provider helps to dig in to what is hurting the company and works to help ease that pain.

What are some red flags to look out for when selecting a staffing provider?

  • If the provider is not honest. There will always be problems and times when a provider can’t find good candidates.

    But a good staffing provider should always keep you in the loop about what is happening. This honesty needs to go both ways.

  • If the provider fails to offer solutions to deeper staffing problems. Don’t pick a staffing company that throws people at a client to see who sticks. This wastes time and money. The provider needs to take the time upfront to get to know your needs and the company’s culture.

  • If the provider is not reachable. The level of customer service needs to be extremely high for temporary service personnel, because, frankly, if one does-n’t work out, there are 15 other ones waiting in the wings. If you are not being treated like you’re the only client, even if you are a small client, if the provider is not returning phone calls, not responsive to needs and not taking an active approach to sending the best people, that is a huge red flag; it’s time to look for a new staffing provider that is a better fit.

What are the benefits of having the right fit?

If you have the right fit, it will make your job easier. That staffing provider acts as an extension of your HR department. If you have the right staffing provider, the ‘pain’ your business feels, in terms of staffing issues, should subside and your business should run smoother. Whatever your ultimate goal is — to increase production, phase out departments or any other goal — using a temporary staffing provider should mean your business ought to be moving in that direction.

RAY CULVER is a Regional Vice President for the Southeast for Talent Tree, Inc., www.talenttree.com, a staffing company based in Houston. Reach him at (205) 444-8733 or ray.culver@talenttree.com.

Published in Houston
Friday, 25 April 2008 20:00

The importance of strategy

Business strategies are often created to solve a problem or to save time or money. But company strategies are often created by CEOs or business owners in a vacuum, with little input from the employees that the strategy will ultimately impact.

“If management doesn’t bring in people who are close to the problem, the strategy often doesn’t work,” says Brenda Harris, President and Chief Operating Officer of Talent Tree, a staffing company based in Houston. “You need buy-in from the people who are close to the problem if a business strategy is going to stick.”

Smart Business spoke with Harris about the benefits of bringing employees to the table to create business strategies that are consistent and solve problems.

Could you give an example of a typical business strategy that is directed from the top down, without input from employees?

Most of the business strategies that are issued from the top down are ones that save money or time, but the CEO or business owner who creates these new business strategies often fails to see how it will affect people on a day-to-day basis. It could be a simple change, such as giving out paychecks at a slightly later time on Friday, to convenience management to wholesale changes in company policy, such as reworking vacation or sick-time policies.

Why is it important to get input from employees?

Because oftentimes, changes in policy directly affect how employees do their jobs. Changes in policy issued from the top down, without any say by the workers themselves, can decrease productivity, create resentment and even negatively effect retention. And, CEOs also need to realize that they don’t have all the good ideas. Of course, there are some business decisions that can’t be put out there and are at the discretion of the CEO or business owner, but decisions that affect the way people do their jobs — or feel about their jobs — do need to be bounced off of employees in various departments.

How can a CEO or business owner get employee input?

The best strategy is to create a task force of key employees to look at the new business strategy. Create a time frame to allow the task force to find facts and come up with a recommendation or revisions to the strategy. This must be a very open process where dissenting opinions are heard and acknowledged. The task force can also make recommendations as to how the business strategy can best be implemented. This improves credibility with your workers and is an opportunity for employees to gain recognition once their ideas are implemented.

Could you give an example of how this might work?

We wanted to change from issuing paychecks to giving employees a pay card, which would be deposited with the appropriate funds every week. We wanted to do this for a number of reasons, including convenience and cost/time savings of printing and distributing checks. We also thought it would be a better alternative for our temporary employee staff who had to come into the office every week to get their checks. For us, in management, it made sense all around.

However, the idea was met with resistance among employees, perhaps because it was new and unknown. We decided to set up a task force consisting of employees who were for the idea as well as those who were against it. The task force’s job was to learn about the pay card system, explain it to employees, get their feedback and report back to management with the pros and cons of the new payment system. By the way, even the people who were dead set against it ended up seeing the positive aspects of the system, and it was adopted in our company.

What if the task force decides not to implement a business strategy?

Management, of course, does have the final say. But the task force has a chance to make a persuasive argument about the reasons why a business strategy would be a bad move for the company. In many cases, the task force is seeing things that management cannot.

However, there may be times that the CEO or business owner sees the bigger picture that the task force does not. For example, task force members might find that they do not want to make certain cost-cutting changes in their departments. But the CEO or business owner knows that those dollars add up to significant savings across the entire company at the end of the year. That is the advantage of having both the employees’ point of view as well as the CEO’s.

BRENDA HARRIS is President and Chief Operating Officer of Talent Tree, www.talenttree.com, a staffing company based in Houston. Reach her at (713) 789-1818 or Brenda.harris@talenttree.com.

Published in Houston
Wednesday, 26 December 2007 19:00

People are your foundation

In today’s tight employment market, a company’s greatest asset is its people. Utilizing a recruiting firm is one of the most cost-efficient ways for a company to find people worth investing in. Let’s face it: It is the people within an organization who contribute most to its success or failure. From the receptionist who creates a first impression to the accountant who saves the company thousands of dollars by finding an error in the books, every employee contributes to a corporation’s bottom line. Unfortunately, finding high-quality employees is not always easy.

Smart Business spoke with Ashley Theriot Creel of Delta Dallas to learn more about how a company can find a recruiting firm to which it can entrust its recruitment process and attract the A-level people it needs to remain competitive.

Why is hiring A-level people important to an organization?

I had the opportunity to listen to the CEO of the Container Store, Kip Tindell, whose company has been named the No. 1 place to work by Fortune magazine eight years in a row. He said it takes one good employee to complete the production of three below-average employees. Furthermore, one A player, or top performer, can produce what three good employees can. There’s no need for a company to hire talent that is average, at best, when it can maximize its budget to identify and attract the best talent in the market.

Are companies better off using external sources in the recruiting process?

Companies that rely exclusively on their internal HR departments to fill positions may find it counterproductive. HR staff members will spend much of their time writing job descriptions, posting them on their companies’ Web sites, perusing hundreds of resumes and attending job fairs. Keep in mind that they will be doing these things while attempting to manage core competencies in their organization. Each of these recruiting techniques draws on valuable HR money and time. Remember the saying, time is money and money is time? Why not use your resources to partner with a recruiting firm that spends all of its time and money on directly recruiting and delivering A players to its customers?

How does a company find a recruiting firm to partner with?

First, do your homework and be sure they do theirs! Be sure to choose a recruiting firm that is well established in your market. Are they affiliated with networking partners or organizations? Are you just another number or are you a client that they take the time to listen to? Be sure they take the time to do a thorough profile of your company. It is important to partner with a firm that takes the time to work alongside you throughout the process.

How does such a profile benefit a client?

A recruiting firm should ‘profile’ a company in order to find the most qualified candidate for a position. The profile should contain information such as the company’s culture and history, the job description, the hiring manager’s personality, team dynamics, salary, benefits and what makes a successful hire in that department. That information is then taken to the candidates, and matches are made by recruiting experts that are trained in recruiting and interviewing techniques. This process can help an organization identify employees who will fit in to its environment for years to come. In turn, if a company is considering partnering with a recruiting firm, it will want to profile the recruiting firm, as well. It is always a good idea to learn as much as you can about the firm you are partnering with, and establish what differentiates it from the rest.

What criteria should a client apply when seeking a search firm that can meet its specific requirements?

It is always a good idea to learn as much as you can about the firm’s history in the marketplace as well as its company story. Be sure you know as much as you can about its operational process and its recruiting processes. Ask about its testing, screening and interviewing techniques and learn about its business model. Better yet, go and see it for yourself. I invite my customers to come and meet our leadership team, to learn about our processes and get to know us as a company. When you see that the recruiters and the leadership are truly experts in their field, you can then begin to trust they will deliver the best of the best to your organization.

The time that is invested in building a partnership with a recruiting firm can save a company more time and money than it would have ever imagined.

ASHLEY THERIOT CREEL is vice president of sales with Delta Dallas. Reach her at atheriot@deltadallas.com or (972) 788-2300 x147.

Published in Dallas
Sunday, 25 November 2007 19:00

Keep the good ones

The first 90 days on a job are the most critical for a new employee. Employers need to understand that this period is the most significant for a new hire. With the unemployment rate currently less than 4 percent, retention of good talent is critical. One path to employee retention is to implement an effective on-boarding program. Employers need a strategy to integrate new hires into a corporation’s procedures, culture and vision.

Smart Business spoke with Leslie Peterson to learn more about the value of on-boarding both temporary and direct-hire employees.

How does an employer benefit from a strong on-boarding program?

Companies that have structured on-boarding processes in place spend fewer dollars on recruiting and hiring due to a lower turnover rate. Perhaps the best benefit of on-boarding is employee retention, partnered with loyalty and increased productivity. According to Westwood-Dynamics’ Web site, employees who go through such a program stay with a company for at least three years longer than employees who are not offered an on-boarding process. The relative cost of on-boarding is low compared to the cost of turnovers. The expense of one employee turnover can be up to 1.5 times the salary of the position.

How do employers create a successful on-boarding program?

There are a variety of ways to set up a solid on-boarding program. Employers can start by evaluating their current plan, creating a checklist and providing a mentor. The primary goal is to set up the new hire for success through information and training. The on-boarding program needs to be consistent and ongoing with follow-up throughout the employee’s first year. Periodically checking in with new hires and assessing their development will assure them of commitment to their success.

When does the on-boarding process begin?

Ideally, on-boarding begins before the job is even accepted. The employer should ask new employees to explain their concerns about the job before they start. When new employees are permitted to relate their fears early, employers can be proactive about potential tough periods in their process. By mainstreaming the new-hire process, employers can retain top talent and help their bottom line grow.

Post acceptance, the hiring manager should go over some key items with new hires, providing specifics as to where to park, dress code, items to bring for paperwork, when to arrive, whom to ask for and what to expect on the first day. That process will ease the new employee’s jitters, save time and serve as a starting point to plug him or her into the company.

What can employers do on an employee’s first day to ease his or her transition?

The first day of a work with a new employer is difficult. Often my candidates have told me that they feel out of place or uncomfortable asking for basic information that is second nature to seasoned employees. They need to be given a tour of the office, introduced to the team, shown restroom locations and told what time lunch is typically taken. These are simple suggestions but having a basic working knowledge of the office can ease tension on that first day. In addition, established employees can check in with them periodically to engage new hires and make them feel welcome.

What steps should be taken after the first day?

The most crucial step is to check in with new employees to see how they are handling training and adjusting to the team. Thirty days into a new position, a new hire can begin to wonder if he or she made the right decision. Why? Relationships. Employers should check in with the new hire at the 30-day mark to see how the training process is preparing the employee and to see if he or she has developed at least one relationship with a fellow employee. Pairing new employees with a mentor connects them with the team, gives them a forum to ask questions and helps them to learn the company culture.

What is important to new hires during the first 30 to 60 days in a new position?

Challenges and successes begin to surface between 30 and 60 days after a hire. Sometimes, new hires still wonder if they really know what is expected of them, if they have had an opportunity to exercise their strengths, if they received recognition recently and whether co-workers care about them as individuals. If the answers to these questions are no, then the employer and the new hires should discuss why that is and to whom the employees can talk to resolve these problems.

Ultimately, investing in people with the right values and tools of support will deliver the organization’s goals and everyone will reap the rewards.

LESLIE PETERSON is an executive recruiter, CTS, with Delta Dallas. Reach her at lpeterson@deltadallas.com or (972) 788-2300.

Published in Dallas

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 upfront 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 midrange 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 upfront 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