Wednesday April 24, 2019

7 time-clock software features designed to solve attendance issues

The U.S. Department of Labor says 78 million Americans — about 59% of the workforce — punch a time clock every day.

And oh, the mess they make!

If your company has hourly workers, you know that keeping track of time and attendance is a challenge. An employee might inflate hours or forget to clock out during breaks. Those lost hours could lead to missed deadlines or a lack of shift coverage, affecting your bottom line.

In fact, businesses lose 1.5% to 5% of gross payroll to time clock fraud each year.

Attendance issues also impact morale. Employees who see coworkers arriving late or leaving early can become disengaged and resentful. If the problem is left alone for too long, your company may even develop a culture of absenteeism.

When you’re trying to solve these issues, it’s important to remember that employees are not solely to blame. Your business is ultimately the one responsible for maintaining a clear and concise attendance policy, as well as setting up a time and attendance system that is both convenient and accurate.

Consider how you record employee time: Do you use pen and paper timesheets, which are easy to lose or alter? Do you have a mechanical punch clock, which can break down? Even spreadsheets are at the mercy of complicated formulas and typing errors.

Whether you’re managing factory workers in several locations, a virtual team of knowledge workers or sales staff who are out meeting clients, you need more than timesheets and a punch clock to keep everyone accountable for their hours.

Save yourself money — and time — by switching to time clock software.

What is time clock software?

Time clock software tracks employee attendance, schedules and paid time off (PTO). Employees can clock in and out with key cards, mobile phones, biometric devices and other data-capturing methods. Times are recorded in a database and can be used to generate reports and streamline payroll.

Time clock software is also known as timesheet, time tracking, or time and attendance software. It’s usually offered as either a standalone product or integrated with a human resource management system (HRMS) or accounting software.

If you’re new to time clock software, here are seven features that can help solve your company’s attendance issues:

1. Accurate clock-in and clock-out

Tracking when employees start and end work each day isn’t easy. Handwritten timesheets and mechanical punch cards are difficult to verify and can become hotbeds for future disputes.

For example, over 75% of companies in the United States lose money to buddy punching, which occurs when coworkers clock in or out for each other at work.

Time clock software eliminates buddy punching using the following features:

  • Cameras that require the worker to take a photo
  • Pads for workers to enter a passcode or provide their e-signature
  • Biometric devices that scan employee fingerprints, faces or voices

Managers can be alerted when employees start and end, and lockout periods prevent employees from clocking in or out at inappropriate times.

Together, these features verify the worker and times with greater accuracy than traditional methods.

2. Trustworthy time records

Have you ever wondered if an employee made changes to his timesheet? Or has an employee claimed that she wasn’t paid for the correct number of hours she worked?

Disputes like these happen when time records aren’t secure, and they can waste everyone’s time.

Time clock software records and stores information in a database that can’t be altered by employees or managers. This means fewer surprises for everyone at the company.

In addition, because employees have access to their time records, they can more accurately estimate their future wages. Managers also have a reliable source of information when providing feedback and performance reviews.

3. Access from mobile devices

These days, workers are increasingly remote. In fact, over four million employees now work from home at least half the time. But keeping track of offsite employee hours can be a difficult task.

With time clock software, employees can clock in and out from mobile devices and computers, whether or not they’re at the office.

Some products also feature automatic screen capturing, which estimates the amount of time a remote employee spends on non-work related activities.

Even for on-site employees, the ability to enter times from mobile devices or computers lets them avoid having to walk past a physical kiosk or station.

4. Track employee locations

If your company has employees who travel regularly, such as salespeople and utility workers, you want to be sure that they’re starting and ending their days at the right locations.

Time clock software uses GPS technology to record where an employee is at clock-in and clock-out, which keeps everyone honest and even helps with your customers.

For example, suppose you have a field worker whose hours you bill directly to a client. The worker can clock in at the customer site using her mobile device. Because both the time and her location are recorded, you can feel confident when you invoice your customer and refer to the database if there’s a dispute.

Another GPS feature is geofencing. Managers can draw a digital perimeter around a particular area and track when an employee enters and leaves that area. Geofencing helps your company monitor workers that move around a specific location, such as a construction site.

5. Streamline PTO and scheduling

Scheduling can be a headache, especially for businesses with complex schedules and a lot of employees. You want to be certain that you have full shift coverage, while taking into account employee availability, time off requests and overtime.

Time clock software offers several features to reduce the stress of scheduling.

Using a self-service portal, employees can enter their availability and request vacation and sick leave. Managers can view and approve these requests, as well as plan employee schedules through a single interface.

The software also keeps track of PTO accrual and usage, and schedules can be automatically synced with employee calendars.

6. Improve reporting and analytics

There will always be extenuating circumstances — unexpected traffic or a family emergency — when an employee comes late to work. As a manager, however, it can be difficult to know when lateness is a one-time event or consistent behavior.

Time clock software lets you generate reports for employee start and end times, so that it’s easy to see if there is a pattern or trend. This allows you to address a specific issue and provide a relevant solution.

Managers can also use reports to analyze which activities require the most employee hours or how much labor is used by each department. With this data, you can improve project scheduling, manage overtime or bill a client.

7. Integrate with payroll

In the past, accountants would collect employee punch cards, count the hours, and compute wages by hand or using spreadsheets. For a large company, this inefficient and error-prone process could take days.

With time clock software, managers can review expected versus actual hours. After approval, employee time information is transferred directly to payroll software where wages are automatically calculated.

For businesses trying to comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act and prevent employee lawsuits, this process reduces the time and risk involved with manual data entry and calculation and provides a paperless audit trail.

Bottom line

Your company is only as productive as its employees. If you’re using an outdated time tracking system, you’re not only hurting the morale of your employees but also your business.

Time clock software — in conjunction with a clear and consistent time and attendance policy — takes the pressure off everyone to be honest, because employees and managers can trust that the system is secure and auditable. Disputes and conflicts should be minimized, and everyone can focus on the work at hand.

If you haven’t looked into this technology yet, it’s not too late. For a more details, check out our comprehensive guide to time clock software.

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Hiring manager says no ‘thank you’ email is a deal breaker and gets an earful on Twitter

Hard and fast rules about hiring could be hurting your ability to attract talent, especially if they seem arbitrary or exclusionary.

That issue came to the fore in a Twitter thread in early April. Business Insider Managing Editor Jessica Liebman tweeted out a link to her story on the BI website with the long and attention-grabbing headline “I’ve been hiring people for 10 years, and I still swear by a simple rule: If someone doesn’t send a thank-you email, don’t hire them.” If you do, she assures readers in the story, you’ll probably regret it.

Every recruiting and hiring manager has specific traits and personality types in mind when they start vetting job candidates. But many people responding to Liebman’s tweet pointed out  how unconscious assumptions can hurt efforts to find and hire the best and most diverse possible workforce.

“Good eggs”

Liebman argues that failing to follow this point of etiquette tells her that prospects don’t really want the job. The organization and effort and “manners” demonstrated by hunting down an email address and sending the thank you puts people on her “good egg” list. Liebman reiterated that she stands by her policy to use “the thank-you email as a barrier to entry.”

The twitterverse, or at least one small corner of it, reacted quickly and strongly. The apparent consensus was not positive.

Workplace advice blogger Alison Greene tweeted from her @askamanager account, “Hard disagree. And it’ll discriminate against candidates from backgrounds where they don’t get this kind of job search training, which has nothing to do with skills & ability to excel on the job.”

Software company Glitch’s CEO Anil Dash chimed in with, “The only thing a thank you note represents to me is what the norms are for the social class and cultural background of that candidate. It’s nice to get one, but literally doesn’t factor into the decision at all, and shouldn’t. I’ve been hiring people for 20+ years.”

Others took issue in a sarcastic  tone. Freelance writer and artist Christian Fox’s Twitter persona Goth Ms. Frizzle offered a slightly higher barrier for applicants: “I’ve been hiring people for 100 years and I still swear by this simple rule, if you can’t descend into the labrynth of eternal night and retrieve the silver knife that slit the throat of god as he slept in his garden you’re not getting the job.”

Filtering out the “unwashed?”

Other responses pointed to cultural norms, socio-economic status, or cognitive differences as possible reasons that an applicant might not send a thank you after an initial interview. Many questioned any link between sending a note and ability to do a job well or work well with others. And many tweeters saw the policy as a gatekeeping measure that, intentionally or not, was likely to disproportionately exclude people of color and applicants with less access to career advice.

A lawyer tweeted, “I have non-professional parents and I didn’t learn that thank you notes were an unspoken requirement/tool for filtering out the unwashed until my first year of law school. ”

As of April 8, Liebman had not responded directly to any of the thousands of comments her tweet elicited, but Business Insider Global Editor in Chief Nicholas Carlson took the time to tweet out his own take on the article, saying, “I’m surprised how many people are surprised by this excellent advice” and “For their sakes I hope it’s a helpful wake up call.” To a suggestion that his response showed a lack of introspection, Carlson added “Lol, no. I don’t think that’s it.”

Impact of unintended bias

As negative reaction to the article and ensuing tweets gathered steam, Carlson later responded more seriously to a tweeted request from @writersofcolor  for “recent staff diversity stats in order to provide some context for this hiring practice?” by stating, “Thank you for this question. With respect to race and ethnicity, 28% of our teammates identify themselves as people of color. Three years ago, this percentage was 20%. Within our newsrooms, 30% of staff identify as people of color, up from 25% three years ago.” Carlson said “For context, according to Pew, 22% of people who work in US newsrooms are people of color. This is in no way ‘mission accomplished’ for us; we continue to prioritize hiring people of color.” He did not address Liebman’s specific hiring record.

Whatever HR pros think of the original tweet — including whether it was just a successful “clickbait” campaign for the publisher — the reaction highlights how important it is to continually re-examine interviewing and hiring procedures for unintended bias that might limit diversity and opportunity.






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Handling sexual harassment when the offender’s the big boss

How should you respond if an employee accuses one of your company’s leaders of sexual harassment?

Progressive Women’s Leadership shares important insights in its e-guide, “Women Leaders Share What’s Working: New Ways to Prevent Sexual Harassment.”

Here’s a sneak peek from Chapter 2:

If a company executive (e.g., your boss) is accused of harassment, it can put you and your company in a very difficult spot.

Suddenly, you’re faced with having to investigate an individual you report to, right? Well … maybe not, if you take some preemptive steps.

It all starts with coming up with a plan for how you (and your company) will react … before you have to.

Here are some best practices to implement now, as recommended by employment law attorneys and experts on harassment prevention:

1. Create a protocol

It’s unlikely an executive would sign off on an investigation of him/herself, so it’s often smart to create a protocol that automatically kicks in should an executive be accused of harassment.

Some things your company may want to have the protocol state:

  • What will trigger an investigation – such as when the accused or the complainant is a company executive or owner.
  • What will happen when the investigation is over – i.e., When will the findings result in a suspension or termination? (Remember, if guilty, a harasser doesn’t have to be fired as long as what you do effectively prevents or stops the harassment.)
  • An impartial, outside firm will conduct the investigation (it can help to already have the firm picked out or on retainer).

Putting a protocol like this in place sends the message up the ladder that harassment won’t be tolerated at any level.

And that kind of message can also trickle down through an organization in a very positive way.

2. Give employees multiple outlets to report harassment

When harassing behavior comes from a direct supervisor or a person in a position of power, employees are more reluctant to complain out of fear of retaliation.

So give employees multiple people they can go to with complaints (perhapsincluding a third-party investigative firm) and multiple avenues to issue complaints that executives can’t access (such as an online portal or phone hotline).

To use these resources to the fullest, the EEOC recommends those responsible for receiving complaints:

  • know how to take all complaints seriously
  • are trained not to retaliate and know consequences of retaliation
  • understand/maintain confidentiality
  • have authority to initiate investigations, and
  • document everything – from intake to investigation to resolution.

3. React promptly, consistently

Prompt action is key to preventing further damage. This includes not only in launching the investigation, but also in handing out discipline.

If an investigation does result in discipline, it can also pay to follow up with the accuser(s) to find out if they feel the company’s actions are effectively preventing or stopping further harassment.

One final key: To avoid the appearance of favoritism, make sure executives are treated the same as employees when it comes to conducting an investigation and disciplining (or firing) the accused.

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Performance-based pay: Is it affecting your workers’ mental health?

Performance-based pay is likely the most common feature of the compensation structures of U.S. companies, experts say.

And guess what? It’s also likely to be affecting your workers’ mental health.

When employers transitioned to a pay-for-performance compensation plan (based on bonuses, commissions, profit-sharing, etc.), workers showed an increased use of anxiety and depression medications: 5.7% over an existing base rate of 5.2%, according to a study conducted at Aarhus University in Denmark and Washington University in St. Louis.

Workers taking Xanax or Zoloft

And this type of comp plan likely affects even more people because the study only accounted for those employees who sought medical help, said co-author Lamar Pierce, associate dean for the Olin-Brookings Partnership at Olin Business School.

“This is the tip of the iceberg, and we don’t know how deep that iceberg goes beneath the water,” said Pierce.

The study was quite extensive, examining more than 300,000 workers in 1,309 companies in Denmark. And researchers found a 5.4% increased likelihood that existing workers would use medications for anxiety or depression, such as Xanax or Zoloft.

Applying these findings to the U.S., Pierce estimates 100,000 more prescriptions per year, once employers move to a pay-for-performance plan.

The key group in this study: older workers.

For workers ages 50 and over, the rate of medication usage is almost double that of their younger counterparts.

The upshot of this phenomenon is higher incidence of mental health issues and higher medical costs.

What are companies to do?

Researchers say simply recognizing the issue should get employers on the path to strengthening wellness programs to reduce employee stress and anxiety.


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Survival guide for the one-person HR department

As a one-person HR department you are constantly juggling demands for your time. So how can you stay on top of everything you need to do today, next week, sometime this quarter or before the end of the year?

Schedule Everything!

This is one of the most critical pieces of the puzzle. To succeed as a one-person HR department, you need to take the time to create and maintain consistent processes. It’s the only way to stay above water with the many and varied demands you face every day.

The first key is to schedule your days, and that means everything. A useful approach to prioritizing your schedule is to use the “ICE” method.

Is a task IMPORTANT? Does it have to get done today?

CAN it wait? Can I put it behind other tasks today or put it off to another day?

Is it an EMERGENCY? If so, you need to handle it right now, but you still need to have an idea of how you’ll reprioritize your other tasks and rearrange your schedule to handle them. Build some slack into your schedule to help accommodate any emergencies that come up.

And don’t forget to build in time for longer-term projects, like reviewing your policies and procedures, checking for changes to laws and regs and updating employee manuals and other important documents.

Rule of thumb: Don’t let policy reviews go longer than a year or you’ll be putting your organization in possible legal or financial jeopardy. Better if you can do them once a quarter or at least twice each year.

Taming the email and phone monster

In the meantime, to help avoid living in a constant state of interruption, set aside specific times to review and respond to emails and phone calls.

Many HR pros find it works well to do this first thing in the morning, around lunch and towards the end of your day. That way, you’ll be able to clear the decks before you leave and know what has to get done tomorrow.

Take the time to learn the organizing features of your email application. By setting up folders, rules, and alerts, you can be sure you don’t miss critical messages from the CEO. And, when it’s time to sit down to review your inbox, you’ll be able to see which folders need your attention now and which ones — like newsletters or employment law bulletins — can wait until you have time to review them, save or act on the ones important to you, and purge the rest.

If you need help, check with your IT group or look for online tutorials. The work you put in up front to learn and set up email tools will stop constant email pinging from distracting you and, since you’ve set aside times to check your email, you won’t worry you’re missing important messages.

Of course, you won’t only be dealing with people electronically. It is critical that HR pros get out of their office and interact with employees regularly — try to check in with at least one department or group each week. In many ways, you are the face of the company and employees need to know you are engaged and interested in how they are getting on. That way they’ll know you are available, and they can come to you with any questions or concerns.

The courage to say no

But, when it comes to interacting directly with employees and other managers and supervisors, it is important to protect your time.

Have the courage to ask anyone who “drops by” if they can check back via email or come back during a time you’ve set aside for meetings. The stuff that really isn’t important will get dropped and everyone will be better prepared for any discussions that do happen.

That goes for outside the office, as well. You’ll be invited to attend dozens of HR seminars and trade shows every year and asked to join every professional group in your region. These can be important sources of support for a small HR department, but just say no to almost all of them.

Look for a couple of outside groups that can be truly useful to you, like local industry associations or your state HR council. You want to spend your valuable time with people who share the same issues and have addressed the same challenges.

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Keeping up to date on 6 critical HR activities

How can you find the information you need to be sure you’re compliant with changes in relevant laws and regulations? The best way is to identify at least one reliable source of information for each of the six primary “buckets” of HR: Hiring, Discipline, Termination, Recordkeeping and Retention, Administering Policies and Procedures and Legal Updates.

Review these at least once a year to make sure they are still meeting your needs.


Remember, hiring is HR’s greatest responsibility and the source of greatest value to any organization. If you’re successful attracting great employees, you’ll spend far less time with discipline and terminations. “Hire smart and fire less” should be your motto.

Once you’ve found a promising candidate, carefully targeted and structured interviews are key. Make sure you have a set of specific questions for each position.

Guides to conducting patterned interviews and other hiring tools are readily available online, in books and from HR software companies and consultants.

Discipline and termination

This is one of those places that having a ready-to-use template can help a lot. Best example is a Performance Improvement Plan, or PIP, template. Having it set up in advance helps you to cover all necessary bases with your PIPs and ensure your process complies with all applicable laws and regulations. The same goes for other disciplinary and termination notices. Sources for free standard form templates that you can customize include government agencies, law firms, and business associations. Check your HR software packages for any that are included.

Recordkeeping and retention

It is critical that you know and follow all local, state, and federal requirements for recordkeeping and retention. What records must you make and what forms are required? How long must you keep them? Almost all HR records must be kept at least three years, but many must be kept longer. Which records need to be kept separately to preserve confidentiality? Which must be destroyed and how? Which ones can just be discarded? Are there different requirements for physical and electronic documents? Government websites and local business associations are good sources for this information. Also look for law firm blogs, articles and other resources.

Administering Policies and Procedures

When it comes to administering your workplace policies and ensuring procedures are followed, the simple rule of thumb is to review them regularly and enforce them in a way that’s fair, equitable and consistent. It’s important that you look at your employee handbook and other policy documents at least once a year to be sure they are up to date and comply with any legal or regulatory changes.

Legal and regulatory updates

Keeping your policies up to date doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, outside of the time you’ve scheduled for your policy reviews, it often costs you nothing but a little upfront prep time. In addition to the government sources noted below, most HR-focused law firms offer blogs and send out email alerts when regulations change or court decisions impact labor and employment laws. You want to get alerts whenever something changes.

Ask around at your local HR association or chamber of commerce to ID the best sources and sign up. Add any useful blogs to your Internet bookmarks and set up a folder to collect any email alerts that come in. That way, when you’re ready to check for changes, everything will already be in one place for you to review. If you prefer hard copy, print out alerts as they come in and store them in individual binders.

Staying compliant takes time but will save you money

If you ever get pushback on the time required to keep your department up to date and in compliance, talk about it in a language your leadership will understand – money.

Research shows about 89 percent of employers who get to court lose. The ones that don’t get to court have already settled, usually for big bucks. According to employment liability insurer Hiscox, small and mid-sized organizations pay an average of $160,000 to defend and settle employment claims.

And why do they lose? The most common reasons are a lack of written policies, failing to follow the policies they have written, lack of training for managers and supervisors and ignorance.

Beyond discrimination claims, employers often find themselves on the hook for payouts because they misclassify employees and therefore pay them incorrectly, violating mandated hour and leave policies, and failures by supervisors and managers.

One area where you should keep managers and supervisors out of the picture entirely is filling out unemployment claims. Fewer than a third know enough to catch errors that will cost your organization. Make sure you handle it in HR. It’s a lot of work, but it’s less work than defending a mistake later.

Why Most Employment Claims Are Filed

Here’s a list of the laws and topics that come up most often in workers’ claims (and a good list reference for setting up alerts):

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
    • Equal employment opportunity
    • Discrimination practices in hiring, disciplining and terminations
  • ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)
  • ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act)
  • Religious discrimination
  • Sexual discrimination
  • Pregnancy discrimination
  • Race, color and national origin discrimination
  • Equal Pay Act
  • Fair Labor Standards Act
    • Misclassification of workers –exempt vs. nonexempt and employee vs. contractor
    • Overtime violations
    • Miscalculations of pay
  • Sexual harassment

Where to find additional HR resources

  •, and other government websites
  • State Chambers of Commerce
  • HR Consultants
  • Industry and professional associations and HR industry events
  • Law firm blogs, websites and newsletters

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Onboarding: First-week tactics that pave the way to success

Easing new hires into the job is important. And the best way to do that is give them real responsibilities —  and expect results — in the first week.

Ideally, after a banner first day of introductions, special events and a great lunch, the rest of the week is time to have them roll up the sleeves. Good people are usually eager to prove themselves.

Bringing in a mentor

No one should have to go it alone.

Having some sort of mentor relationship can be beneficial to new hires right out of the gate.

But there are many routes you can take for the designated contact within the department. Choosing the one that’s right will require getting to know the employee and matching him or her with someone who can fill the roll.

  • Peer mentors. Some people will be naturally comfortable working with and talking to an employee who’s around the same age and experience level. For instance, a recent college grad might be more at ease if their contact is a younger employee who had started working for your company recently as well.

Likewise, someone who has been working in the field for a while but is new to your organization might respond better by being paired with someone who is also more experienced.

  • Veteran mentors. If you feel like a new employee could use an expert to consult with and get guidance from, a veteran mentor could be a better fit. Find someone who is knowledgeable about the industry and your company, has a solid track record and is willing to spend some time giving guidance.
  • Shadows. If you don’t think an employee needs a formal mentor, a shadow may be the next best bet. Have new employees follow and observe someone while they around and help observe the new employee, as well, once he or she’s ready to start doing work solo.

Again, shadow employees should be ones who are patient, sticklers for following procedures and who have proven track records.

  • Independent mentors. Sometimes, it can be uncomfortable for new employees to be paired with someone they’ll be working closely with.

Short-term mentoring

It’s not always possible to have a mentor devote a lot of time to bringing a new employee up to speed. Many organizations have found that making the mentor-mentee relationship for a short time only is helpful.

Try this: Instead of asking an employee to take a few days to help out a new hire, ask for just two shifts to be on call for help.

It’s much more likely to get an enthusiastic response, especially if you make it clear those two shifts will be the extent of the formal relationship.

Consider having a veteran employee who isn’t necessarily on the same line or in the same department check in with the employee once a day about 15 minutes before quitting time.

This mentor can be a trusted, confidential person to talk to about any concerns a new hire might have. It’ll also boost the new employee’s confidence by giving him or her someone to ask questions to without fear of looking “dumb” or confused. It’s also a good way to get questions answered that aren’t so crucial they need to be asked immediately.

Getting started again

You’ll want to greet the new employee on their second day just like you did on the first. Then get them started on a simple assignment right off the bat.

For instance, if they’ll be working with customers, have them call up a few current customers and give them a quality survey to complete over the phone. If they’re going to be working on the floor, have them observe the goings on and answer questions about what they observed after the shift ends.

These smaller assignments will help new employees get a feel for your company and a taste of the kinds of things they’ll be doing when they’re starting in full.

Note: Your company may have specific safety, privacy or other training that needs to be completed before work is to begin. Obviously, these should be completed before work begins.

Start with the hardest parts

Some employers are reluctant to give difficult projects to newer hires. But the truth is, experience is a great teacher. Within the first few days, new employees should be trying to tackle more difficult tasks.

After the initial assignment, get them to work right away on something bigger and more complicated.

Why? For one thing, it’s why they were brought on. If you spend too long getting them up to speed with busy work or smaller assignments, you’re not getting the most out of an employee. This isn’t a summer intern.

It’s someone you’ll be trusting to propel your organization to greatness.

Besides, it’s what good employees want. Believe it or not, a big reason many people leave their jobs is that they don’t find them challenging enough. If they feel the job is going to be nothing but simple introductory tasks, workers will be unlikely to think it’s on their level of expertise.

On the other hand, compare that to telling a new worker: “We’re about to give you a big project. We know you can do it, and we’ll give you the tools and help you need to be a success.”

This puts trust in the worker, inspiring him or her to rise to a challenge.

It’s much more rewarding to hear you’re trusted than to feel as if you need to earn the right to be trusted.

Group projects or individual assignments?

There are two schools of thought on the best kinds of assignments for new employees.

  • The first is that it’s best to start them with a group project. This will help them get to know their co-workers, contribute to the team and start working on a big assignment right out of the gate.
  • The other is that individual assignments are best. These are an opportunity to see what workers can do when they’re given individual responsibilities. It’s a good way to find out what they’re capable of.

Which method is best? It depends on the worker. But both methods should be given a shot, if possible.

It’s a good way to evaluate a new hire’s strengths and weaknesses – and to find the best fit for him or her within the company.

Getting them involved

In addition to the first work assignments they’re given, this is an ideal time to get employees involved in the company’s culture.

Make sure fresh employees are educated and recruited to some of the opportunities not directly related to their jobs.

Do you have a company softball or bowling team? Does your organization support volunteering or charity opportunities? Is there a safety or party-planning committee?

These are the kinds of things that get employees to stick around. If they started shopping around for a new job or decided to leave, they wouldn’t just be leaving a company – they’d also be leaving responsibilities and fun events behind.

Even better, these little bonuses get employees to want to stay with a company.

When you’re on a committee or a team, you build bonds with co-workers that can be difficult to form just by chatting on coffee breaks or between tasks.

Some companies will make joining extracurriculars mandatory. But coercing someone into volunteering their time won’t win you much goodwill.

A better approach is to sell them on the benefits. Many new workers are naturally a little shy at first, but getting employees to sign up for a program doesn’t have to be a tough sell.

Let them know it’s not only a good way to get to know their co-workers and the company, it’s also a good opportunity to show they’re team players and take a real interest in the organization.

It never hurts to point out that if nothing else, it’s a good way to get in some face time with higher-ups.

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Workplace investigations: Handling employee complaints and problems successfully

We live in a litigious world, and nowhere is that truer than in the workplace. Especially since the #MeToo era began, workplace investigations have come under increased scrutiny.

Two leading investigators – Alison West and Michael W. Johnson – recently conferred with the folks at XpertHR to talk about how to handle a workplace investigation that’ll both be successful and keep the company out of trouble.

They came up with five areas of concern.

1. Participation isn’t consent

Just because an employee continues to perform his or her duties during an ongoing investigation doesn’t mean they approve of the harassing behavior. Remember, these folks can be key in any workplace investigation.

West quoted common comments she hears during a session with an employee:

  • “She kept working on the team. How bad could it have been?”
  • “Everyone loves my jokes. No one said they were offended.”
  • “That’s just Joe. He didn’t mean anything by it.”

Think of it this way: Being part of the team doesn’t guarantee approval.

2. Don’t discount hearsay

As you probably know, hearsay isn’t admissible in court. But West points out that it can be very useful in a workplace investigation. “Hearsay can lead to relevant evidence,” she stressed. “Do not discount it! [You need to] follow all of the facts.”

3. Create an atmosphere of trust

A lot of cases come down to “he said, she said,” according to Johnson. Thus, a lot of cases end up being deemed “unsubstantiated.”

And that discourages people from bringing their cases to superiors. They’re afraid of retaliation or that they won’t be able to prove their case.

So it’s up to management to make sure employees know they’ll be treated fairly when they come forward. That means a clear policy included in the employee handbook.

4. Ask open-ended questions

You should let witnesses do the lion’s share of the talking, Johnson said. Yes or no questions make it easier for the person to lie.

And avoid “why” questions, he said. They often sound accusatory.

5. No place for amateurs

Not surprisingly, West highly recommends getting an outside investigator, especially when the accused harasser is in a position of power. “You need an experienced investigator” because of the extremely delicate nature of these investigations.

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Using forms and templates saves small HR shops’ time and sanity

As a one- or two-person shop wearing multiple hats in addition to HR —payroll and workplace safety are probably under your wing as well — protecting your time is constant challenge.

That includes not reinventing the wheel when it comes to the hundreds of forms you work with during a year. The good news? There really is no reason to.

The key here is to take advantage of the work that government agencies and other sources have already done for you and then create standard templates for everything else. Templates for practically every form HR needs are available on the Internet.

Customizing those forms for your organization is still a big job, but remember you use about 15 percent of those forms 80 percent of the time. Hiring, worker classification, FMLA, vacation and other leave requests are good examples. Start with those and then work on the rest as they come up.

For government forms, go to the EEOC, DOL, NLRB and other employment-related agencies’ websites. Download a copy of everything they offer, even if you don’t know if you’ll ever need it.

Then, fill in all the repetitive info on your master forms, like company name and address, employer identification number, industry classification, etc.

Write up templates for any letters you’ll need, like FMLA notification letters, requests for references, offer letters, beneficiary designation letters and termination letters. You’ll customize those as needed but having the basics ready to go and only changing or adding specifics will save you a ton of time.

Many of those forms will need to go out to multiple employees or outside recipients at the same time, so take the time to understand the mail merge function in Outlook or other mail and information management tool you use.

When it comes to the dozens of forms you’ll need over the course of a year, the time you invest up front to find and fill out templates and standardized forms will save hours of work later.

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Effective screening tactics when recruiting top talent

As the talent market tightens, the pressure on HR to recruit, hire and retain high-performing employees is more intense than ever.

Companies of all sizes are seeking that perfect employee as the demand for talent quickly exceeds the supply.

You’ve no doubt heard that the cost of hiring the wrong person is significant – up to 200% of the employee’s annual salary. Some costs are unquantifiable, such as the potential loss of revenue by a poorly performing employee who may lose you good customers while also dragging down the people around him.

One recent study found that many hiring managers ask job candidates the same questions today as they did 20 years ago.

Questions like “Where do you want to be in five years?” have little value in measuring the skill level required for success right-now-today!

Here are some ideas to help hiring managers take steps now to maintain a consistent pipeline of talented job applicants, starting with the hiring interview.

Effective Screening Procedures

 There are a number of effective screening procedures, including a long line of vendors that supply personality and aptitude tests. Despite all of the advanced assessment tools, interviews by your recruiting team remain the most effective way to weed out the bad fits and identify superstars.

Before scheduling face-to-face time with all the candidates under consideration, conduct telephone interviews and refine the final list.

It’s important to have an efficient and effective method for conducting phone interviews.

Telephone screening will help recruiting managers determine if a candidate has what it takes to move to the next level in the hiring process and save valuable time interviewing unqualified candidates.

Effective screening will also reduce the time spent in the overall hiring process and spare the inconvenience of travel for those who do not qualify.

All recruiting managers should have a simple and effective interview process that aligns with the technical skills, experience, soft skills and problem-solving skills for the job being filled.

Making sure there’s a comfortable environment for candidates to interview in before they arrive is a good start. The recruiting team should spend a few minutes chatting informally to put the candidates at ease.

5 Ways to be most effective:

  1. Set a goal of having the applicant do 80% of the talking.
  2. Learn to differentiate good information from sizzle. Good information usually contains specific behaviors the candidate has engaged in. Sizzle sounds good, but means little and serves to falsify the evaluation.
  3. Be comfortable with silence after a question is asked. This will allow the candidate time to think and take initiative.
  4. Display energy and show enthusiasm for the job being filled.
  5. Prepare for the interview by reviewing the candidates’ resume and by rehearsing what you want to ask.

5 Common mistakes to watch for

Here are the top five common interviewing mistakes made by recruiting managers:

  1. Failure to develop up-front contact with the applicant. If the ground rules for the job aren’t established at the start, the interview will fail.
  2. Failure to tell it like it is. Some managers oversell the job, which ends in disappointment for the applicant and the manager.
  3. Failure to match the applicant’s ability to the job. Out of desperation, overqualified candidates may accept a job below their capabilities, while underqualified ones will promise anything to get a job.
  4. Failure to allow enough time for the interview. Rushing an interview will only lead to hiring mistakes.
  5. Failure to interview the “real” person. Applicants rarely ask or answer the “real” questions upfront.

Asking the right questions will uncover facades and help you learn more about the person sitting in front of you.

Good questions and good answers

While it’s essential to ask good questions, it’s equally important to know what “good answers” you want to hear, as well.

Here are examples of 5 good questions you can ask, and how to best assess the answers you might get.

  1. How did you deal with the situation the last time your boss chastised you or strongly disagreed with you?

Look for candidates who:

  • spoke directly to their boss about the issue
  • tried to find where the problem was coming from, and
  • resolved the issue quickly.

Strong candidates aren’t interested in placing blame. Instead, they have the courage to admit they’ve made a mistake or could’ve done thingsdifferently. Misunderstandings happen. Good candidates keep the lines of communication open and resolve the issue.

Red flag: Be wary of candidates who claim they’ve never had a problem with a former boss. It may indicate the candidate is strictly a “yes” person or is not totally forthcoming.

  1. Give an example of how you won over a key person in another department.

There isn’t one best technique, but talented employees probably have developed their own framework to do this. The best candidates will be able to tell you what they’re trying to accomplish to help your business to move on to the next stage.

Red flags: Watch out for candidates who appear too smooth and polished, but don’t get down to business fast enough. A common mistake is spending too much time on pleasantries in the opening.

  1. Give an example of a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty at work.

This response will show how prepared applicants are for the job interview. They should be ready with pertinent examples of past successes, and how they met and exceeded customer/manager/co-worker expectations.

Red flags: This is one of those responses that allows candidates to brag a little about past successes without sounding obnoxious. They may even produce notes from former customers/employers supporting their stories. If the interviewee can’t think of a story, it may indicate a poor candidate.

  1. Give a specific example of a time when you had to conform to a policy you didn’t like.

With all the directives, instructions and policies being changed on a regular basis in the business world, it’s almost impossible for experienced go-getters not to have run into such a situation. How they handled the situation is critical. Did they go to their supervisor and explain why they didn’t like the policy? Did their explanation sound more like a confrontation than a discussion?

Red flags: It’s OK for people to express concern about a policy and go to management to discuss clarification. It’s not OK if the objection sounds like a serious undermining of a working, established policy.

  1. Describe a time when your workload was heavy and how you handled it.

Asking candidates to describe difficult situations and their reactions is called behavioral interviewing. It goes beyond basic technical skills and gets to the heart of how candidates will act if hired. The best job candidates must be able to react appropriately during rough times. Look for candidates who are able to prioritize critical tasks, and resolve them calmly and intelligently.

Red flags: Candidates who spend a lot of time pointing fingers at others in their past jobs will probably do the same at the next job.

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