How to spot a fake resume and avoid making a faulty hire

MJ Helms, Director of Operations, The Ashton Group

Weakness in the job market may well be followed by an increase in the number of cases of resume fraud. Unemployed people are feeling the pressure, and while they likely won’t be fined or jailed for lying on their resumes, that’s no reason to avoid telling the truth. MJ Helms, director of operations for The Ashton Group, says that in most cases, human resource departments should be doing background checks and comparing people’s social media accounts to their resumes.
“Apart from being morally and ethically wrong, lying on a resume can lead to problems for the company that hires this person, and everyone loses,” Helms says.
Smart Business spoke with Helms about how to make sure you don’t recruit someone with fake credentials.

How can employers be sure resumes are accurate?

The information that job candidates most often falsify on their resumes are employment history, skills, education records and salary details. To check the validity of their claims, conduct an initial phone screening with candidates that you as a hiring manager or human resources representative are interested in pursuing. This will save the time you would otherwise spend bringing in people who have not been properly qualified for face-to-face interviews.

What should employers look for if they suspect a resume is falsified?

Recruiters receive many unqualified candidates who apply for positions through Internet job postings. When submitting an application through these avenues, candidates generally omit or falsify information they believe will turn off potential employers, such as positions they held for a very short period of time and being fired. Recruiters and hiring managers should watch for:
■ Unexplained gaps in employment
■ A reluctance to explain the reason for leaving a job
■ Unusual periods of self-employment
Always corroborate the above information by calling references, including clients they had during self-employment periods. Be aware that candidates falsifying this information might provide fraudulent references. Always check the websites of previous employers and use the phone numbers found online for employment verification.

How can you screen candidates’ job experience?

A person submitting a false resume knows that companies and recruiter agencies search for candidates through online job boards using keywords. They also know that to end up in the top two to three pages, they need to match as many keywords as possible, so they add skills to their resumes that are commonly searched for by companies, whether they possess the skill or not. Ask candidates to send updated resume with details for their listed skills, specifying whether they’ve applied the skill on the job or just had a training course. If they have undergone training, find out where that was undertaken and for how long.
If they have hands-on experience, find out when it was obtained and when it was that they last applied it in a work environment. Asking these questions forces them to cut down their list to only those skills with which they are most comfortable. Now they know you’re serious about qualifying them. If you are recruiting for a technical position and they’ve listed skills or experience you’re unclear about, have someone within your company who has these skills conduct the initial technical phone screening.

How can you verify a candidate’s education?

Some candidates might exaggerate their educational history. To screen them, contact the college or university on the resume to verify a degree was granted. Applicants might list a completed degree when they did not finish all courses and graduation requirements. If a college name is unfamiliar, check the website of the school, verify its accreditation and evaluate the nature of the school.
Diploma mills — institutions of higher education operating without the guidance or supervision of a state agency and/or professional association that grant fraudulent diplomas — abound online. There are more than 400 diploma mills in operation, with another 300 websites offering counterfeit diplomas.

What types of candidates are most likely to exaggerate on their resumes?

Faking and embellishment are both commonly found on resumes, especially on those of salespeople. Candidates in this field tend to add their fixed salaries, their sales-based incentives including potential incentives that would have been theoretically paid to them if they had met some highly improbable sales goals and wrap these up into their ‘current salary. Some companies ask to see the last pay stub or W2 form om sales candidates to verify their claims. However, it may be illegal to ask, so check with your state labor department. Make sure you ask someone if his or her annual salary includes a bonus. If it does, look for the amount or percentage of salary and find out whether it is based on individual or company goals.

How can employers be sure candidates worked where they say they had?

Watch for companies with buzzwords such as Tech, Info and Infocom in their names, as these can be fictitious. If you have never heard of the company, check the Registrar of Companies online to see if it is actually registered. At the interview, ask specific questions about which office they worked in, the address, how many people work in that company and the name and phone number of the immediate manager. If a company employs more than 100 people and they give the name of the CEO for everything, look into it further.
Remember that mistakes and misunderstandings do happen. If you find a discrepancy, give the candidate an opportunity to explain. Use common sense and trust your intuition and experience. If something doesn’t seem right, follow up on it.

MJ Helms is director of operations for The Ashton Group. Reach her at [email protected]

Insights Staffing is brought to you by Ashton

How orientations help new employees hit the ground running

Sarah Bell, Consultant, The Daniel Group

Familiarizing new employees with your company and with their role through on-the-job orientations quickly creates a feeling in them that they are part of the group, says Sarah Bell, a consultant with The Daniel Group.
“It makes them feel more at home and more at ease with what they’re doing,” says Bell.
Conversely, by not providing an orientation, you’re putting them into place without much of an idea about the politics, culture, policies or procedures of your company.
“As a result, they’re going in based on the little bit of information gained from the interview or on research they have conducted on the company ahead of time, which makes the transition into their new role more difficult,” says Bell.
This can also cause problems with employee retention and could potentially lead to litigation against the company down the road if employees are not made aware of certain safety procedures up front.
Smart Business spoke with Bell about the importance of orienting new hires with programs that provide them with all the information they’ll need to hit the ground running.

What should employers address with new employees during orientation?

When introducing new hires to the business, be sure to cover the history of the company, its work environment and its culture, as well as company policies. In manufacturing, for example, it’s especially important to address any safety considerations that employees need to keep in mind as part of their jobs.
Try to be as thorough as possible. Make sure to clearly describe the type of work the employee will be doing, as well as the working conditions they will face. For example, it’s important to discuss the temperature of the working environment, the type of clothing that is appropriate for the work floor, the number of employees that person will be working with and the new hire’s interrelation to others so that they can understand where they fit in to the organization.
In the manufacturing world, it’s important to walk new employees through the facility. By giving them a walkthrough, they can see the entire plant and can better understand where they’re going to be and where they might expect to go as they progress within the company.
Also cover the details of their benefits plans, such as how many days of sick leave are available and whether the dental plan covers families, and go over as much of the employee handbook as possible so that they hear it from you, in addition to having a copy of it to refer to.
PowerPoint presentations and safety videos can also be helpful, and it’s important to have employees sign off on each policy to ensure that they understand it and that they have a record indicating that they’ve been through it. Part of the purpose of orientation is to not only make sure that employees have the right skills but also to help them adapt.
Getting more in-depth into your company’s policies prepares employees better for the job, lessens the possibility of overwhelming them and ultimately improves retention. A thorough orientation can also alert employees early that the company may not be a good fit for them if they were not entirely aware of all the working conditions in the interview.

What are the benefits of having a strong orientation program?

Starting employees off with a strong safety orientation program can save a company money in the long run. By presenting employees with all of the policies and procedures, you’re covering yourself if there are issues later.
If employees violate policies, you then have grounds to terminate them and deny their unemployment claims, especially in right-to-work states. This is again a good reason to have employees sign off on each policy so that it’s clear they were presented with the information, which can also serve as protection against possible lawsuits.

How much should companies expect to pay for an orientation program?

It depends. You can conduct a solid orientation within two hours and with little expense. The only expenses are the creation of safety training videos, printed materials and the employees’ wages for the time they’re in orientation, which could be as few as one hour to as many as six.
Most insurance companies can provide safety training videos in a number of different categories and job functions as part of your existing coverage. Contact your insurance provider to see what it has available.

Who at the company should conduct the orientation program?

Human resources department personnel should conduct orientations. However, if a company doesn’t have such a department, it should be whoever controls the hiring, such as the person responsible for processing the benefits.
Those people are very familiar with the benefits because they go over them often and they are typically involved in implementing company policies. Those are also the people who usually handles confidential documents.

What if a company doesn’t have a human resources department?

If you don’t have a human resources department, consider bringing in a consultant. Look for someone with strong experience in the field who can come in and assess your human resource policies and possibly implement an orientation program.
There are many consulting firms that could perform a human resource audit, as well, which will assure that a company has policies and procedures in place for I9s and E-Verifying and to ensure that you’re in compliance in a number of different areas. The firm can review your employee handbook, examine existing policies, advise you on what you might be missing and help devise new programs you can implement moving forward.

Sarah Bell is a consultant with The Daniel Group. Reach her at [email protected]

Insights Staffing is brought to you by The Daniel Group

How technology can make hiring the right candidates easier

Jeremy Wilcomb, Operations Manager, The Daniel Group

Technology makes it faster, easier and more economical to find the most qualified candidates for your company. In addition, it can help you anticipate future staffing needs and prevent bottlenecks from occurring when you have expanded production needs.
“We’ve come a long way since the days when the search for employees was limited to snail-mail, phone and fax,” says Jeremy Wilcomb, operations manager, The Daniel Group. “Today, you can be interviewing highly qualified candidates within days.”
However, there can be pitfalls.
“You can be a victim of information overload during the background screening process,” he says. “And you’re even at risk of offending candidates if technology goes awry.”
Smart Business spoke with Wilcomb about how companies can address these cautions while also taking advantage of the benefits that technology offers.

How has technology changed the way companies seek new employees?

In addition to traditional recruiting methods, technology enables us to utilize different search medians (e.g., LinkedIn, CareerBuilder, Twitter, Indeed, etc.) to seek out candidates. Today’s technology helps companies get the best candidates to the hiring manager’s table quickly. Social networking lets us get to a larger audience faster. No longer do we have to call one person and wait for that person to call someone else. In addition, we have access to larger pools of candidates.
We’re not geographically limited, either. We can search domestically, even internationally. We can get very specific in our searches and the locales in which we want to search.

How can technology help companies that experience seasonal or other unique staffing demands?

Companies with those kinds of requirements can work with a staffing firm that can then develop an inventory of candidates for that particular client. The staffing firm can prescreen candidates and then, when the employer’s need arises, the firm can contact the people they’ve prescreened to see if they are still available. In some cases, the company’s needs can be met within 24 hours.
When done correctly, this can help a company prevent production bottlenecks. This approach really helps with seasonal work and/or from a production standpoint. It can give managers peace of mind that there is technology out there housing candidates, so that the candidates will be there when the company needs them.

Are there other benefits of working with a professional firm in terms of the technologies these companies use?

Most staffing firms can generate reports that help you develop a full view of your staffing needs from the financial side, the project management side and even the training side. You’ll see how much it costs to source the candidates and how much you’re saving through more efficient processes. The firm can identify where it’s helping and even point out staffing issues it thinks you’re going to face in the future.

What is your advice for using technology to learn more about a candidate’s background?

Technology can help improve the quality of candidates you find. We have more information available to us about everyone these days. But it depends on how you use the technology. If you use every ounce of information available, it can be counterproductive. On the positive side, it gives us a better opportunity to match a candidate to a culture. For instance, if you’re a company that makes hunting and fishing gear and you’re looking for a salesperson, you can find candidates who list hunting and fishing as interests. On the flip side, you can get too much information and talk yourself out of someone who might be a great candidate.

What are some of the newer technologies being used in the hiring process?

Video resume technology lets companies get a feel for candidates who might be located, say, in another state. You can hear how they would answer a few questions and visually experience how they present themselves, as opposed to just seeing them on paper and hearing them on the phone. A lot of people are interviewing over Skype now, too.
You still lose seeing the candidate in person, though. The candidate might not be as relaxed as he or she would be in person. The lighting or transmission might be poor. You have to take those factors into consideration.

Is the personal touch still important?

Indeed it is. And you have to be careful here. There is technology today that lets you develop a spreadsheet, press a button and do a mass email to a particular group of individuals in order to see if they are available for work. With this technology, you can even get to the point of hiring someone without ever talking to them. This can be offensive to some people, because mistakes occur. For instance, you could send a warehouse opportunity to a petroleum engineer.

Are there other drawbacks with technology?

Be careful what you do in the social area. Don’t overscreen and don’t bypass someone over a particular event. Also keep in mind that the laws in this area are changing all the time.
Finally, if you have technology available to you, make sure you are using it to its fullest capacity.

JEREMY WILCOMB is operations manager at The Daniel Group. Reach him at (713) 932-9313 or [email protected]

Insights Staffing is brought to you by The Daniel Group

How VMS can help you standardize and control spending on contingent employees

Laurie Bradley, President, ASG Renaissance

The ability to attract, hire and retain talent remains a top concern for chief executive officers worldwide. While we experienced significant layoffs and cutbacks during the recession, talent and skill shortages are still very apparent. Companies need to be creative and expeditious in their search for talent. This has increased the prevalence of flexible labor and contingent workers.
Contingent labor is a growing expense on global operating statements. The ability to expertly manage, control and extract maximum value from this expense can be critical to a company’s competitive positioning. Vendor management technology continues to be an effective way to better manage contingent labor. VMS, paired with an outsourcing partner or managed service provider (MSP), enables companies to obtain visibility into this complex spend category, creating a framework to more easily develop, implement and manage a competitive sourcing program. This puts the current supply chain under scrutiny and expands the supply chain to attract and retain best in class suppliers.
“Many companies simply use the same suppliers without ever looking at whether they could do better,” says Laurie Bradley, president of ASG Renaissance. “VMS allows you better data visibility and a standardized service platform to enable controls, checks and balances. Once the data is aggregated and easily accessible customized reports can be generated to better manage budgets and project expenditures through growth periods.”
Smart Business spoke with Bradley about how VMS can help standardize your contingent hiring and potentially lower your costs.

What companies are ideal candidates for VMS?

VMS is software as a service and does not require a huge capital outlay, so it is affordable to even smaller users of contingent labor. It requires time and training to install and deploy, so companies with expenditures in excess of $15 million should consider it. It is ideal for those with multiple locations and can be effective across multiple currencies. It aggregates all spend points and enables users to examine usage, cost, performance and labor trends.
Most companies that undertake this process are surprised at how much they are spending on contingent labor because there is typically not one line item identifying contingency spending. Generally, every office and plant is doing things differently. In times of recession and rapid growth, contingent users can become very creative in how they get the talent they need in spite of a hiring freeze.

How can a company get started on the process?

First, do your homework. Consider skill classifications and the types of contingent expenditures to include. This may cover temporary workers, contract workers, independent contractors and outsourced services. Due diligence should include discussions with human resources, facility managers and executives.
Once you understand what you’re spending, you’ll likely see there are pockets everywhere. Then the question becomes, how efficient is the current state? Are you getting the best value for dollars spent and can you quantify your return on investment to include the quality of your current service providers? Is there consistency and fairness in the pricing model?
Identify your suppliers. Are there benefits to leveraging business with a smaller supply chain? If you have 100 suppliers and can reduce to 50, giving each the opportunity for more business, could you negotiate better pricing? Until you know what you’re spending, it’s hard to have those conversations.

How do you begin to get your arms around it?

Start with line items where it’s clear there are contingent dollars in temporary help. You might have 300 engineers at six facilities, and you’re paying some $36 an hour and others $48 because the company has never put a full service request out for competitive bids. When you put it together, all of those little pockets add up to very significant spending.

Where do you start to standardize spending?

Many times, an MSP is selected by the company to operate and manage the VMS application on behalf of the company. The MSP institutes rate cards for job classifications and selects a supply base. Sometimes agencies that have supplied a company for years don’t make that cut. Most MSPs encourage the customer to onboard all suppliers. Then you can systematically see where you can save money.
It can be a challenge when you start rationalizing the supply base. When tenured suppliers for price or quality reasons no longer fit the contingency staffing model, they may be eliminated. This requires a well-planned communication strategy so hiring managers understand the benefits of the new process. In addition to a learning curve on technology, they now have to deal with changes in their supplier pool.

How can companies present VMS to current suppliers?

Two biggest benefits to the supply chain: access to more orders and faster payment terms. Suppliers compete on a level playing field with access to more orders, and standardized quality and performance metrics help drive out nonperforming participants.

Who should be involved in the process?

It typically starts at the purchasing level with involvement from human resources. IT also plays a critical role as system integration is a key component of success.

How can VMS benefit businesses?

The technology of VMS, with a vendor-neutral MSP, helps companies better manage contingency labor expenditures on a standardized platform. It helps suppliers gain greater access to client requirements and provides an easy way to transmit, record and manage the lifecycle of talent. Vendor neutrality reassures suppliers they are not in competition with the MSP for staffing, breeding trust and fostering a collaborative work environment. This ensures talent requests are broadcast across a diverse supply base and ensures suppliers meet client-specific quality, performance and price guidelines.

Laurie Bradley is president of ASG Renaissance. Reach her at (248) 477-5321 or [email protected]

Insights Staffing is brought to you by ASG Renaissance

How to prepare for the upcoming reforms in health care and address your options

Kenan Knight, Account Manager, Ashton Staffing Inc.

There has never been a more important time to take a long, hard look at your employee benefits package and how it should be structured moving forward. With Obamacare breathing down our necks and new regulations and taxes at every turn, now is the time to sit down with a trusted broker and formulate a strategy that best meets the needs of your company, says Kenan Knight, account manager at Ashton Staffing Inc.
“Gone are the days of cookie cutter options and spreadsheet quotes for your renewal meetings,” says Knight. “If you are not planning on how to deal with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and the changing landscape of employee benefits, then you are planning to fail.
Smart Business spoke with Knight about how to prepare for the upcoming changes and the options available to businesses when it comes to health insurance programs.

What options do employers have when it comes to shaping their benefits offerings?

There are still many options available for business owners when it comes to shaping their benefit offerings. These depend on how many employees you have, how your company is structured and how large a role your health insurance package plays in hiring and retaining great personnel in your industry. As of now, employers can still decide on what coverages they wish to offer, how much they wish to contribute to the cost, whether a wellness plan is feasible and/or beneficial and if you would like to self-insure or be fully insure.
As we move toward 2014 and the full implementation of PPACA, we will see fewer and fewer options available as there are more government mandates and fewer players in the health insurance market.

What should a company look at to make these decisions?

Company structure is one place where business owners should look in dealing with the rising cost and compliance of health insurance packages. Within your company structure, there are several questions you should ask when it comes to dealing with benefits packages.
Can you 1099 some or all of your employees so you don’t have to offer benefits at all? This is certainly an option, but don’t overlook how this will affect morale and your ability to hire and retain good employees. Would using a temp agency be beneficial so that the temp agency is providing the benefit package and not you company? Is your company set up so that you can offer a ‘management carve-out’ to have different levels of benefits for different levels within your company?
What do you consider a full-time employee and what does your insurance contract consider a full-time employee? Some carriers allow you go down to 30 hours a week and still consider an employee full time, which may allow you to move more people onto your plan. Or, you can set full time as 40 hours, which may allow you the flexibility to move some people off of your plan. Again, carefully consider how all of this will affect morale and also be aware of what your competitors are doing.

What kind of guidance can employers expect from a broker/consultant?

The level of service you receive from your broker is more important now than ever. If your broker is still just coming in with a spreadsheet of your current plan and similar plans with other carriers, it is time to start looking for a new broker. Gone are the days of simply jumping from carrier to carrier or just changing a deductible or co-pay. Regardless of whether the Supreme Court strikes down PPACA as unconstitutional, the health insurance landscape has and will continue to change.
States and insurance carriers have already taken so many steps to deal with the impending complications of PPACA that things will never go back to how they were. Your broker should already be talking to you about how PPACA will affect your company and what you can do to stay ahead of the curve. A once-a-year renewal meeting is no longer enough.
Your broker should have tools in place to help you facilitate insurance information to your employees; many online tools have been available for years and you should have one if you have 10 or more employees. The broker should also be talking to you about your company structure and how you might rearrange it to deal with the new landscape. Another tool your broker should be sharing with you is a benchmark report showing what companies similar to yours are doing for benefits.
Finally, your broker should be talking to you about wellness, especially if you have 50 or more employees. Wellness is an area in which you can hope to control at least some your own insurance cost by helping your employees get and stay healthy.

What common mistakes do employers make during this process, and how can they avoid them?

The main mistake employers make is starting the renewal process too late. Business owners and HR managers have a lot of moving parts to deal with on a daily basis and many times will only deal with things as they come up. When that happens with benefits, you are in a rush to simply find a comparable plan that doesn’t raise costs or lower benefits too drastically. This is a pitfall you can no longer afford.
As a rule of thumb, you should start the renewal process at least three months before your renewal date. Have a mid-year meeting with your broker and discuss your concerns and needs so that, together, you can start to formulate a plan of action. If your broker is stuck doing the same old thing, it is time to start interviewing new brokers. Every company and every situation is different, so having a trusted broker is key to answering your benefits questions.

Kenan Knight is an account manager at Ashton Staffing Inc. Reach him at (770) 419-1776 or [email protected]

Insights Staffing is brought to you by Ashton

How to sensitively and legally address employees with caregiving responsibilities

Melissa Hulsey, President and CEO, Ashton

You might notice a member of your staff who looks frazzled, or who frequently uses vacation days but never goes on an actual vacation. Maybe he or she has turned down a promotion or a new project. There’s a good chance this person is dealing with something at home, and employers need to pay attention, because it’s a growing issue in today’s workplace.

“When a working man or woman is faced with the additional job of caring for a loved one, their life is changed and so are their priorities,” says Melissa Hulsey, president and CEO of Ashton. “Employers need to be aware of these changes and have plans in place to address them.”

Smart Business spoke to Hulsey about how employers can — and should — approach the often difficult topic of employees with caregiving responsibilities.

Why should employers pay attention to this issue?

It is a fact that Americans are living longer. In 1990, 12.6 percent of the U.S. population was over age 65. This number is expected to increase to 22.6 percent by the year 2040. While those aged 65 to 74 is expected to increase by 17 percent, the population of those over 85 years is expected to double. Improved health care and use of disease prevention techniques contribute to our longer life expectancy.

Many older adults develop a disability that will cause them to need outside help with the activities of daily living. As most older people want to remain in their homes, caregivers must be found to help with simple things like dressing and bathing, or more complex medical requirements. Anyone can be a caregiver; however they are most typically women.

What are some of the challenges these employees are facing, both in and out of the workplace?

When an employee takes on the new role of a caregiver, the first thing they usually give up is personal time and leisure activities to fit everything in. Emotions like sadness, guilt, worry, fatigue and even anger may begin to affect them. Finances may become strained as living arrangements and other caregiving options are being discussed and transitioned. At work employees may become more easily distracted or stressed as this new workload sets in. And this is just the beginning of the process.

How should employers approach this subject?

It is imperative to the company and the employee to communicate openly during this time and have realistic expectations for the work-life balance. The last thing a good employee needs during this difficult time is to worry about their job. Recent studies have shown that adopting flexible workplace policies that help your employees with caregiving responsibilities to have a better work-life balance may decrease complaints of discrimination, but also will benefit the customer base and bottom line.

Employers with work-life balance policies in place reduce absenteeism, increase recruitment and retention and save time and money on training new employees. These programs have allowed some employers to be ‘lean but not mean.’ Offering workplace flexibility programs has given some employers an alternative to work force reductions in a bad economic environment. This allows organizations to rebound quickly as soon as business improves.

Are employers obligated to help or accommodate employees with these responsibilities?

Companies with more than 50 employees are required comply with FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act), which allows for 12 weeks of unpaid leave while caring for a seriously ill spouse, parent or child, and protects job security. Smaller firms can use FMLA as a guideline to structure their own policy.

Employers must also be careful not to violate any Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines. This would include training managers to be sensitive to the needs of employees in this situation. Include written policies that define the benefits and flexibility in your workplace for caregivers in your handbook. Make sure that all employees are treated equally when this occurs to avoid any complaints.

What is the best way for employers to address this in a way that works for everyone?

The best way to address the rising challenge of elder care in the workplace is to have a good written plan in place. Some parts of this plan may include:

  • Human resources or employee assistance can offer a list of resources such as Internet sites, local agencies for the elderly, elderly day care or meal services in the area.
  • Larger organizations could have a caregiver support group.
  • Host a company ‘caregiver fair’ or invite industry professionals to lunch-and-learn seminars.
  • Offer resources for legal and financial advice.
  • Offer long-term care policies as a benefit option.
  • Have counseling options available through insurance coverage or referrals.
  • Consider different ways to give the employee more of their most valuable resource — time. This could be through flex time, borrowing or buying leave, part-time opportunities, compassionate leave policies or career breaks.
  • Most importantly, be considerate and sensitive to what the employee is going through. Others will see that concern and be more likely to ‘pitch in for the team.’

We all have parents and, one day, may face this challenge ourselves. Remember the golden rule: ‘treat others as you wish to be treated.’ That may be the best way to consider what policies employers should have for elder care.

Melissa Hulsey is the president and CEO of Ashton. Reach her at (770) 419-1776 or [email protected]

Insights Staffing is brought to you by Ashton

How to find the best candidates when the competition among employers is tough

Jacque Myers, Senior Recruiter, Engineering Services, The Daniel Group

The last thing you want to do in a tight labor market is hire the wrong employees just to fill empty slots. Planning for staffing needs in advance is imperative to the process, however, in some labor markets, all the planning in the world won’t make a difference if growth explodes beyond expectations.

“That is what has happened here in Texas,” says Jacque Myers, senior recruiter, Engineering Services, with The Daniel Group. “Employers began planning for a tight labor market three to six months ago. But no one realized how rapid growth would take hold. There is extreme need in certain categories, especially in oil and gas.”

Myers says that the local job market should also brace for a very high percentage of turnover among professionals, engineers in particular, during 2012. “Now is definitely the time to get ready,” she notes.

Smart Business asked Myers for tips on how employers can deal with the tight labor market.

Who internally should be involved with identifying the best candidates?

The first answer that usually comes to mind is HR. However, keep in mind that the HR staff is busy with HR functions such as employee benefits, payroll, keeping up with labor laws, etc. It takes time and expertise to source candidates. Your HR personnel may be adept at certain functions of recruiting, however performing a search encompasses much more than that and can be very resource intensive.

How can companies identify highly qualified candidates?

There is no better way than to receive a referral from an existing employee. A trusted employee is not going to give you a bad referral — they don’t want to tarnish their name unless they are positive about the person. Networking is another way to meet good candidates. It’s also an opportunity to observe how candidates interact with others on a professional basis.

Another way to identify candidates is to have a recruiter approach individuals that may be working for one of your competitors or working in an industry closely related to yours. Staffing agencies work with internal databases and have access to many other avenues, such as multiple job boards, and attend expos and after-hour functions, which can be helpful for some of our national searches. Our firm employs individuals that pre-screen candidates every day, all day to keep our database fresh with qualified individuals.

In what situations might it make sense to work with a recruiting firm?

In addition to the most common reason, which is to get good qualified candidates in front of the hiring manager quickly, there are other instances where it can make sense. Perhaps there is a specific person you want to reach out to and a third-party recruiter would be the best person to handle that. This is true especially if the potential candidate is working for a competitor.

What if there is a very specific hiring need?

In that case, you may want to consider a retained search, which is a highly specialized search, mostly for C-level positions. Or maybe you need to locate a job candidate in a very specific region. These types of searches are fairly intensive because the outside firm will devote one person exclusively to your search. The firm will usually ask for a deposit in advance to cover the recruiter’s time. In this situation, the recruiter should report back to you every day, or every other day, regarding their progress.  In most cases, this particular scenario has been very effective in finding a qualified candidate for the client.

How can a company narrow down to the most attractive candidates?

You have to determine if there will be a good cultural fit. It’s easy to devise a written job description, but that’s only 50 percent of the equation. Are you a small group? Do you need someone who will be self-motivated sitting off in a corner? Or do you want a type-A personality? Often the hiring manager is the only person who can accurately answer these questions. Other important factors to consider are job tenure, education and location. The recruiter will often know you and your culture extremely well by the end of a placement.

Any tips for ‘closing the deal’?

Try to get to know the candidate as well as you can before you make the offer. If they are working, why do they want to leave their current job? What are their motivating factors? Do they want more money, more job satisfaction, a better location? What is important to them? What do they want? If it’s more money, you can usually provide for that. But what about their family — will they need help relocating? Does the candidate want to go back to school? Are they pursuing other interests? Ask if the candidate is entertaining other offers. If so, ask ‘what can that company give you that I can’t?’ There are all kinds of things you can offer, such as more vacation time, tuition reimbursement, or a flexible schedule. You can even adjust job titles. Make sure to rule out any barriers before any negotiations or offer letters may be on the table.

JACQUE MYERS is senior recruiter, Engineering Services, with The Daniel Group. Reach her at [email protected] or (713) 932-9313.

Insights Staffing is brought to you by The Daniel Group

How to create a culture that attracts and retains the best and brightest employees

Brendan Prebo, executive director,     ASG Renaissance

Becoming an employer of choice can help a company attract and retain the brightest employees, best its competitors and build a reputation as an excellent employer.

But it takes more than just saying it. Instead, employers have to prove every day that they value their employees, says Brendan Prebo, executive director at ASG Renaissance.

“An employer of choice is a company that has practices in place that promote a healthy, forward-looking and encouraging environment for its employees,” says Prebo. “Employees are looking for employers that allow them to think outside the box, that present a clear vision of where they want to take the company and provide employees with proper training for the job to hire and retain the best people. As a result, workers choose that employer when presented with other choices of employment, self-employment or retirement.”

Smart Business spoke with Prebo about how to become an employer of choice.

How can a company begin to develop its brand to become an employer of choice?

First, it’s important to realize that becoming an employer of choice is a strategy, not a tactic, and it needs to be a strategic imperative. The traditional view of HR is that it is a support function. But really good, really progressive companies — the ones that highly skilled, talented workers want to work for — have taken a new view of HR. At these companies, the head of HR sits at the table and is part of developing the strategic direction for the company.

Becoming recognized as an employer of choice requires a companywide effort, and companies must start internally. This means recognizing that their employees are their most valuable resources. Therefore, employers should take a close look at what is not working within their company before beginning to do any external marketing. At the same time, employers can’t be all things to all people, so it’s important to focus on the things that are important to your top performers.

It’s also important to communicate to employees the company’s goal of becoming recognized as an employer of choice so they understand the importance of this designation to the overall success of the company, and they can support the company in its efforts.

Employers also need to be consistent in their message and how they present it. Potential employees will be looking at an employer’s website, and its Facebook and LinkedIn pages. They perform online searches, so if you have a statement on your website that says you value diversity, you need to make sure that is represented in your brand.

What kinds of things help an employer attract and retain the best employees?

Employees are looking for exciting and challenging work; career growth, learning and development; great people to work with; a good relationship with their supervisors and peers; and a company that values its employees. Compensation is an important factor, as well, but money as a motivator only creates short-term results. You may be able to attract a great employee by offering that person a large salary, or keep an employee who might otherwise leave by offering that person a raise. But money is a short-term solution.

For lasting results, you need to look elsewhere. That means providing employees with meaningful work, encouraging them to take risks and think outside the box, having a clear vision of where the company is headed, providing employees with proper training for their jobs and setting and clearly communicating performance expectations that align with the company’s goals. It also means encouraging employees to continue to learn and develop their job skills, providing good leadership at every level and taking the personal needs of employees into account by offering flexible work schedules.

What are the benefits of doing these things to become an employer of choice?

Companies that are recognized as being employers of choice have an advantage in attracting and retaining the best talent. They have a more productive, motivated and committed work force, which directly benefits their customers and their brand, enhancing their competitive position and helping to build a sustainable business.

Highly skilled talent is very much in demand, and jobs in areas such as engineering, software development and project management are tough to fill. Employers need to become an employer of choice to attract that highly skilled talent, not just someone to fill a seat.

What would you say to employers who say they don’t need to worry about this, and their employees should just be happy to have a job?

The days of command and control are over. If you have an aging work force, you may still be able to function that way, but younger workers are not going to stay with that kind of employer. Also, employers can’t afford to have unhappy employees anymore. In today’s world of social media, word travels fast, and potential employees are more knowledgeable than ever about which companies are the best ones to work for.

In addition to the loss of benefits the companies can realize by becoming an employer of choice, companies can also harm themselves by letting dysfunctional work environments go unchecked. Uncooperative, unmotivated and unresponsive employees harm companies in two ways. First is the poor performance that results, but more important is the fact that they affect everyone around them, causing your best employees to leave for better-run and better-managed companies.

By becoming an employer of choice, you will create an environment where your best employees will thrive and that will attract the best and brightest in the market.

Brendan Prebo is executive director at ASG Renaissance. Reach him at (313) 565-4700 or [email protected]

How to effectively craft a policy for monitoring employees’ online activity

Jennifer Coon-Leeper, CSP, Major Accounts Manager, Ashton Staffing, Inc.

You work hard to protect your company. Your buildings are safe and secure and all your important data and business information are backed up and shielded from the outside.

But, what are you doing in-house? Are you monitoring your employees, keeping a close eye on how they’re utilizing the technologies you provide for them? If you’re not, your business could be at risk.

Most employers don’t want to think about it, but employees can and do steal confidential information, often taking it to a competitor or selling it to the highest bidder. Not only that, sometimes employees don’t even realize that the information they have access to is confidential. Then, all it takes is a simple slip of the tongue or a seemingly innocuous comment in an e-mail or on a social networking site and your confidential business information is out there in the public for all to see.

“Employers should be monitoring every type of electronic media that employees use, including computers, smartphones and even social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter,” says Jennifer Coon-Leeper, CSP, a major accounts manager for Ashton Staffing, Inc. “Identify what information needs to be protected and who has access to that information. From there, you can craft an effective employee monitoring policy and ensure that all your data are safe and secure.”

Smart Business spoke with Coon-Leeper about employee monitoring, what can and should be monitored and how a company can craft an effective employee monitoring policy.

Why should employers monitor employees’ online activity?

The No. 1 reason is to ensure that the employee is doing a good job and being productive. With the amount of access to the Internet, it is very easy for an employee to spend hours updating a Facebook page, shopping or exchanging personal e-mails. Employers monitor online activity to ensure that the employee getting paid to work is actually working in a timely and efficient manner.

Other reasons to monitor an employee’s online activity are to maintain confidentiality and limit employer liability for employee misconduct. Employers don’t want to worry about company information getting into the wrong hands or any lawsuit stemming from an inappropriate e-mail sent by an employee.

Many employers also monitor online activity to make sure their systems are being used according to policy and are not overloaded with viruses.

What should employers monitor, and do they have to inform the employee?

While controversial, employers, with good cause and under certain limitations, can monitor e-mail, Internet, social networks, etc., without the employees’ knowledge or consent. Although some employees feel that monitoring invades privacy, most federal laws do not support these concerns.

With that in mind, it is recommended for employers to check their state laws, as they may vary. Employers should also create a written agreement for employees to sign when they are hired. This agreement is used to inform employees that all online activity will be monitored.

How a staffing firm can help your company control your work force

Danny Spitz, Founder and President, EverStaff

As the economy slowly begins to improve, many companies are seeing their business doing the same. However, they may be reluctant to hire additional workers to handle the workload, fearing that it may drop off again and they will be stuck with employees they don’t need, says Danny Spitz, founder and president of EverStaff.

“The solution is temporary staffing,” says Spitz. “Businesses are more comfortable bringing on staff on a temporary basis until they make sure that the workload is going to continue. Although they are cautiously optimistic, they are skittish about hiring permanent workers. First, they want to see the skill sets and want to know that the work is going to last. So they continue to favor temporary staffing.”

Smart Business spoke with Spitz about how a recruiting and staffing firm can supply the right temporary workers to help you control your work force on an as-needed basis.

How can temporary staffing help a company control its work force?

It allows a company to staff for peak needs, with the flexibility of letting those people go when they no longer need them. When some companies have an increase in workflow, they are afraid to hire. So they ask their existing employees to do extra work and sometimes work overtime.

Partnering with a staffing agency to bring in temporary workers can help avoid burnout among your employees, improving their overall productivity and allowing them to continue to focus on their main job tasks. When companies are looking to cut costs, often the first place they look is payroll. And when a company downsizes, it will ask its staff to go into overdrive and handle responsibilities that they are not used to handling. Temporary staffing can help keep your current employees happy and allows you to bring in specialized talent for certain tasks, which, in the end, results in better service and better products for your clients or customers.

Temporary staffing can also help you control your work force because if the workload does continue, you have already trained that individual and you have the option of hiring him or her as a full-time employee. This arrangement allows you to try before you buy, evaluating whether they will fit in the corporate culture and with other employees, see what their work habits are and identify any weaknesses that might not be evident in the interview process before you hire them full time. It allows you to give someone the opportunity to work for your company but say that that person has to earn the right to be a full-time employee.

How can temporary staffing help cut costs?

Because the recruiting and staffing firm — not your company — is the physical employer of the temporary staffing people, you don’t have to worry about them filing for unemployment when they are no longer needed. This can reduce the overall operating costs for a business because it does not affect what the employer pays for unemployment insurance.

It can also keep costs in check because the business is not responsible for paying for benefits. In addition, the staffing firm handles all employer-employee responsibilities, such as workers’ compensation, and the employer doesn’t have to provide sick time and vacation time or contribute to a 401(k) plan.

Temporary workers can also cut costs by stepping in to handle overflow work instead of the company paying overtime to your existing workers.

How can a staffing firm help a company with the interview process?

With unemployment at an all-time high, the number of applicants for an open position is also at an all-time high. If you have one position and 300 people apply, where do you start? How much time and energy are you willing to put into that? An HR person could spend days going through hundreds of unqualified resumes just to identify a handful of appropriate applicants to prescreen for an interview.

A specialized staffing firm like EverStaff will take on that role and mirror the company’s procedures as an extension of the HR department and management team. The firm conducts a thorough screening and very specific skill testing to find a candidate with the right skill set, as well as a candidate who truly wants to work. The firm will mirror exactly how a company does its internal hiring. If it’s two interviews, a background check, drug testing and skill evaluation, the staffing firm will do the same things, so someone who comes in on a temporary basis and then is hired full time has been through the same process as everyone else.

What would you say to an executive who says his or her company doesn’t have a need for temporary workers?

If you don’t have a need now, that is the perfect time to meet with a staffing and recruiting firm. The last thing you want to do is to try to determine the right partner to meet your needs when your need for help is now. Take a proactive approach and take the time to develop a relationship with a staffing firm to identify potential needs.

That way, when someone resigns with little or no notice, or if something in your business changes, the staffing firm already has someone in the pipeline to step in when needed without affecting your productivity.

Danny Spitz is founder and president of EverStaff. Reach him at (216) 674-0788 or [email protected]