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 jwilcomb@danielgroupus.com.

Insights Staffing is brought to you by The Daniel Group

Published in Houston

Many of us have become tethered to our businesses 24 hours a day, seven days a week because of technology. Look around any restaurant, meeting or social function and watch as those around you check their texts, e-mails and social media activity.

For better or worse, we have become slaves to technology and in many cases have reached connectivity overload. Think about the times you have caught yourself at family or social functions discretely sneaking glances at the messages pouring into your smartphone. Is the smartphone outsmarting us or making us smarter and more efficient?

Recently a colleague was lamenting the fact that he can no longer escape work because whenever there is trouble, he gets the call. It doesn’t matter that protocol has been put into place to have others handle after-hours situations. My colleague is still most often the only one who is called.

Why? Because everyone knows he always has his phone with him and he always picks up. My colleague’s constant connectivity has completely obliterated any work-life balance he and his family once had.

Conversely, recently I visited my daughter’s school for parents’ day. As much as I try to balance my connectivity, I was thankful that I had chosen to have my iPhone with me.  Our office Internet and e-mail provider had a hardware glitch that knocked out connectivity at my office. Thanks to technology, an employee texted me about the problem. Had I not been connected, I would have been paying for 15 people to sit around, unable to work. Within minutes of my office plugging in my mobile hotspot, everyone was back to work and reconnected.

So what’s the perfect balance? As businesses owners, CEOs and managers, we need the connectivity to know what’s going on and to be able to respond instantly when needed. That connection and ability to immediately respond can be the difference between winning a customer, contract or losing one. It can help you troubleshoot when there is a problem from wherever you may be. It allows you to take advantage of situations where work and productivity would be lost as you wait in reception areas for appointments, airports for planes, or, in my case, even car lines as I pick up my children from school.

But it can also cause us to miss out on so many things in our lives that we sometimes deem more important that work. To determine if you’re too tethered to technology, consider the following questions:

1. Even after you unplug, do you crave the stimulation you get from your electronic gadgets?

2. Does the distraction of technology cause you to forget things such as dinner plans, birthdays and special occasions?

3. Do you have trouble focusing on family and friends because you’re more focused on your electronics device?

4. When you’re with friends and family do they often comment that it seems like you can no longer be fully in the moment?

5. Are you carrying around multiple devices to help you stay connected?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you may be addicted to connectivity. In recent studies, scientists say that juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. They say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information. The scientists go on to explain that these bursts of information play to a primitive impulse to respond to immediate opportunities and threats. The stimulation causes an increased production of dopamine that researchers say can be addictive. In its absence, people feel bored.

Next time you reach for your gadgets to plug in after hours, ask yourself: are you the boss or is your smartphone?

Adrienne Lenhoff is president and CEO of Buzzphoria Social Media, Shazaaam PR and Marketing Communications, and Promo Marketing Team, which conducts product sampling, mobile tours and events. She can be reached at alenhoff@shazaaam.com.

Published in Detroit

Your company’s benefits package is a surefire way to attract and retain staff; however, this only works if your employees know how and when to take advantage of what is offered.

Because of the explosive growth of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, combined with the increasing popularity of PDAs, the number of avenues employers have to communicate with their employees continues to grow, says Renay Gontis, communications coordinator for JRG Advisors, the management company for ChamberChoice.

As benefits managers become less apprehensive about publicly communicating benefits plans, the use of social networking sites to reach employees with general benefit information is becoming more common.

Smart Business spoke with Gontis about how utilizing social networking sites as a platform to break down potentially confusing and overwhelming amounts of benefit information can be a great way to reach out to your employees.

Why utilize social networking in the workplace?

Social networking can enhance everyday communications. It provides an innovative avenue for employees to locate information relative to employee benefits, business policy, wellness and other business-related material. Social networking is no longer limited to personal use and can be used by employers to effectively expand upon business initiatives both internally and externally.

The idea of using social networking in the workplace may evoke feelings of both fear and excitement in the minds of employers, and it should. This phenomenon has the potential to change the way companies do business. Social networking not only helps your company connect with patrons and other interested parties, it is also a valuable resource for drawing in potential employees and recruiting the finest candidates for jobs. Social networking has the ability to get your message across to thousands of people quickly, which makes it priceless to public relations.

What are the perks to using social networking to communicate benefits?

Social networking is a quick and flexible way to get information out to your employees and can be a powerful addition to your benefits communication initiative. Sending fast and frequent updates to your employees helps to keep them thinking about their benefits year round.

? Short messages entice your employees to link to more detailed information.

? Quite often, benefits communication is delivered in a one-size-fits-all package, with so much technical information that employees cannot find what they are looking for. Social networking allows for the message to be broken down into short and concise posts.

You can pull social networking information into your employee intranet, allowing employees to choose how they want to receive information from a variety of outlets.

How can you protect your company’s reputation online?

According to Facebook’s statistics page, Facebook — the largest social networking site today based on monthly unique visitors — has more than 250 million active users. The fastest-growing group of users is people older than 35, which means it is becoming increasingly likely that your work force is getting involved with social networking.

While this has many potential benefits, you also want to take steps to ensure that no one — whether it is a competitor, a patron, or a former or current employee — is tarnishing your company’s name or reputation. The same holds true for blogs, where damaging content may appear without your consent.

The key to keeping your risk low is identity management. The best way to prevent Internet buzz from becoming a hazard is to monitor the use of your company name. Periodically type it into a search engine to make sure that your official website is the top hit and that nothing offensive comes up in the first 20 hits, which is statistically as far as most people will dig in a search.

What steps can you take if you find negative references online?

If you do find references to your company name in the first 20 hits that could be hazardous to your business or reputation, you have a few options. If social networking sites are the culprit, consider enacting a policy prohibiting employees from mentioning the company name on their personal sites. Explain the negative outcomes that this could have for business and help employees understand how acting as poor representation of the company through scandalous photos or negative comments on a social networking site could affect them directly.

If negative or derogatory comments about your company have seeped into other sites outside the control of your employees, the risk to your business is even greater. This type of hazardous publicity is more difficult to manage.

One approach is to flood the Internet with positive information about your company so that the negative write-ups are no longer within the top search results. Contacting sites and asking them to remove fictitious and defamatory material is another option.

Although social networking is a great way to get information out to your employees and their families, comprehensive resources are still necessary. A mix of online, interactive, print and in-person communication provides a well-rounded benefits communication strategy. Companies should consider how to integrate social networking into their robust employee communication platform.

Renay Gontis is the communications coordinator for JRG Advisors, the management company for ChamberChoice. Reach her at  (412) 456-7011 or renay.gontis@jrgadvisors.net.

Published in Pittsburgh