Top Signs You Should Think Twice About Hiring An Applicant

red-flags-244x300You were impressed with their resume.

You conducted the phone interview.

You were equally impressed with them during an in-person interview.

Could they be the perfect candidate?

Aside from the typical background checks HR professional do these days: reference checks, Google searches, LinkedIn/Twitter/Facebook searches, criminal background checks…are there other signs that can point to a problematic employee before you spend all your time researching them?

Don’t loose sight of the importance of the traditional “Application for Employment.”  Candidates will typically stretch the truth on their resumes with the expectation that it will be the only document the potential employer will use in evaluating them.  Remember: resumes are not always complete or clear.  Last thing an employer wants to deal with is having to terminate an employee after-the-fact and risking a lawsuit.

So how can the Application for Employment serve as a measurement of an applicant’s candidacy?

1)      Beware the applicant that doesn’t sign the employment application.  Most companies use the same standard line on the application near the signature block – “all information is truthful and accurate to the best of my knowledge.”  Not signing is less of an omission and more a sign that the candidate is purposefully not signing the application for fear that it would be used against them later when its discovered that the information they provided was false.

2)      The applicant does not sign the consent for a background screening.  Most online resume submissions are programmed to not allow a candidate to advance to the submission stage without agreeing to a background check, but if you are having them complete the application in person – pay attention to this box.  Employers who do not enforce this, especially small businesses, run the risk of being labeled the “preferred employer” for those with past actions to hide because they know the employer doesn’t really perform this step.

3)      An applicant fails to explain gaps in employment.  In today’s market, many applicants are afraid or ashamed to report that they were laid off for fear that they will be judged by that.  If this is the case, it can be gauged during an interview by simply asking the applicant about the gaps.  However, another reason for tracking gaps in employment is for criminal background checks.  Contrary to popular belief (or what you see on TV), there isn’t a national database for criminal records.  These have to be run separately by state.

4)      The applicant fails to give sufficient information on past employers for reference checks.  While many applicants won’t keep track of phone numbers for HR to call, location and supervisor’s name is usually enough to track down a phone number or email address.  Don’t bypass a past employer because you don’t have enough information to contact them.  Many applicants will not give enough information because they don’t want you to contact their previous employer – which means there may be valuable insight you are missing.  Beware especially when an applicant states they can’t remember their previous supervisor’s name.  I can still remember my first manager’s name when I started working at 17 and I’m sure you can too!  Past employment reference checks may only yield title and dates of employment, but the applicant doesn’t know that.

5)      The applicant fails to give a reason for leaving a past job.  That’s usually a red flag that they were terminated or asked to resign due to some performance issue.  While this can be addressed during the interview, the omission should put you on alert to watch for how the applicant answers when asked in person.  Do they fidget?  Do they look like they are struggling to come up with an answer? Do they simply say “it was just time for me to move on?”  All are reasons to be skeptical.

6)      Simple as it sounds – lots of cross-outs and changes on the resume.  That could be a sign that they are making things up as they go along and trying to cover up real reasons/information with what you will want to read.

While technology has greatly improved the recruiting process, making it easier for candidates to apply and recruiter s to screen, don’t loose sight of the “old school” tactics that can protect your company from future liability.

Some practices should never be replaced.

Do’s & Don’ts of Performance Reviews: And Why You NEED To Do Them!

goalsFirst let’s start off by saying: a Performance Review does not equal a salary increase!

Yes, the two are normally tied together…but that raise is tied to the end result of the performance review as a reward.  Too many managers shy away from doing performance reviews on their employees because they assume they HAVE to then give them a raise.  If you are one of them – time to change your way of thinking!

Performance reviews serve a dual purpose:  1) helps your employees know whether or not they successfully meeting their job requirements and what goals who have set for them and 2) helps identifying under-performance issues before they have to become disciplinary issues.

Remember: if you terminate an employee for poor job performance but have no paper trail to show you have counseled them or tried to help them correct it, YOU as the employer will be paying unemployment!   These performance reviews are a more productive and proactive approach than having to go right to a disciplinary action.

Performance reviews can be given at anytime of the year – most companies will do then only once annually along with a pay increase but I would suggest doing them more often.  Depending on how many employees you have to review, bi-annual or even quarterly can really make a difference in job performance and satisfaction.

Some key points to remember when you are filling out an employee’s performance review:

1) DO have a system in place for measuring performance. Quickest way to have an employee doubt you are giving them a fair review is to pull numbers and comments “out of a hat.”  Every job has some sort of guidelines that can be used to measure performance.  This is why more frequent reviews can help you – set goals for your employees and use those as the measuring sticks!

2) DON‘T delay discussing performance issues with an employee until the annual performance review. There is no reason to wait 3 – 6 – 12 months until you bring up an error or job deficiency.  Employees have come to expect that from employers and assume that their review won’t take into account the good things they have done.  Address a performance issue right away!  If the “check oil” in your car goes on, you don’t wait til the engine seizes…do you??

3) DO be direct, factual and detail-oriented. Don’t rush through a review to simple “get through it.”  You aren’t doing you or your employee any good with that…and they will remember that.  Take your time to prepare a clear, honest and well-thought review.  Go through your old notes, review the employee’s Personnel file or last review and come up with a new set of goals each time…even if you are including some of the same.  Give the employee a clear direction of where you want them to go in the position and what they will need to do to get there.

4) DON‘T make negative comments that attack an employee’s attitude rather than performance. Everyone has a bad day and not everyone is “Mr/Ms Personality” so don’t make the review personal.  Focus on their job requirements and expectations.  Should you bring up issues/complaints related to their job, yes – but in a constructive manner and NEVER assume you know why they act the way they do.  Tell them you have a “concern” and want to discuss…maybe they weren’t even aware they were coming across with an attitude.

5) DO document all points covered in the performance review. Performance records can also provide important documentation for your company in the event a disciplinary action, termination or other adverse personnel decision becomes necessary.

Performance reviews can be such a powerful and productive tool…see them as that and not a burden and watch how they will help improve morale and productivity!

Don’t Skip the New Employee Orientation!

NewEmployee1In today’s busy world, many companies are so focused on getting a candidate hired and started that they are no longer taking the time to properly integrate them into the company.  A New employee orientation serves so many purposes as it introduces new employees to the workplace and familiarizes them with some of the company’s basic practices.

When and how should this happen?

This should be conducted on their first day of work or as soon after an employee’s start date as possible.  Think about your first day at work: did you already know everyone, did you know about whether or not your first paycheck would be “holding” a week’s pay or even when that would be, did you know about the safety issues of your work environment or any safety gear you were supposed to bring with you to work, etc.

When you stop to think about that – makes sense why even just an hour on a new employee’s first day of work should be spent familiarizing them with their new environment and answering questions like this.

So what should you make sure to cover?

Here are some key (but quick) topics to cover:

New Hire Paperwork.

Orientation is a good time to collect and complete any necessary paperwork, such as Form I-9 and Form W-4 and any additional forms such as Emergency Contacts and Direct Deposit.Compensation and Benefits. Provide details on pay periods, direct deposit, payroll deductions, health insurance and any other benefits to which your new employee may be entitled. Prepare a benefits packet ahead of time to give to the employee even if they aren’t eligible yet so they can prepare.

Attendance and Time Off.

Review the employee’s expected hours of work, as well as the company’s policies regarding absenteeism, break periods and when/how they can request time off. If they aren’t eligible for time off, let them know when that will begin.  This is the time to set the tone regarding attendance.

Employee Conduct.

Make sure the employee understands the rules regarding dress code, telephone and computer use, and other expectations. If your policies are explained in an employee handbook, be sure the employee receives a copy. This also helps you down the line when you may have to apply disciplinary actions against the employee because we all know the first thing an employee will say is “I didn’t know that was wrong.”

Safety and Security.

Explain necessary safety and security procedures of the facility.  If they are to be issued ID tags, keys, radios, tools, etc. do it at this time and have them sign off that they have received the items and have taken responsibility for them.  Be proactive: remember, you don’t want to have to start thinking about these things once the employee leaves or you have to terminate.

Required Training.

Schedule any necessary training sessions as soon as possible so the employee can get right up to speed in his job and with his co-workers.

And last, but not least:

Officially welcome them to the Company!

Give your new employee a brief tour of the workplace and introduce managers and co-workers. Be sure the employee’s work station is neat and organized to make him or her feel welcome.

Set the tone for the Employee from Day One and you increase the probability that they will be a long-term employee.  Disregard them or just throw them into the job, they will feel unappreciated and probably already be job searching yet again.

Small Businesses NEED Small Perks – Because It DOES Matter

Perks_cht

Having worked in the small business arena for so many years, I am accustomed to hearing the “we can’t afford that” or “only the big companies can offer benefits like that.”  Sadly, the little things you can add to a benefits package really don’t cost all that much in the long run.

Let’s start with the simple: Health Benefits

Yes, medical insurance is an on-going demon that all companies have to deal with and you can usually expect at least a 9% increase in cost over the past year.  Most small companies will already being using some sort of Insurance Broker to help them go to market on the best costs and handle the negotiating for them.  Then there’s the playing with deductions and prescription costs that can help keep the cost down.  But most companies will stop at just that.  They see the HUGE cost of medical insurance and think their employees will be happy just with the fact that they provide it.  But…don’t overlook dental and – even though there is a “version” tied in with most medical insurance policies – a separate vision insurance.

When employees look at a health benefit package, they look for two things:

1)      What is offered? Medical, dental, vision…

2)      What type of insurance company is used for those in #1.

Yep, employees first look to see “what” you offer and then critique it.  And considering dental can cost as little as $10/mo and vision $5/mo, go that extra step and offer it!  It will go a long way in making your company look more employee-friendly and help in recruiting efforts compared to your competition.

Now, what about additional “perks” to the job?

Inc. ran a great article on March 25, 2013 called “10 Perks Your Small Business Can Afford.”  They listed the following as the perks that small businesses CAN actually afford to offer:

–         Catered lunches

–         Nap room

–         Recess

–         Dog-friendly environment (not just a “Bring your dog to work” day)

–         Massages

–         Yoga classes

–         Volunteer day off

–         Fitness bootcamp

–         No vacation policy

–         Gym membership reimbursement

–         Video and board game meeting spaces

I did a quick survey of some of my employees, friends and other colleagues and was surprised at what their “top 3” choices were:

– Recess

– Volunteer day off

– Combination of Fitness bootcamp and yoga classes

I personally would add “dog-friendly environment” since I’m a mom to two rescues.  But here’s my spin on the top 3 and why small businesses should add them…right now!

Recess – Its just another name for a “break”…which companies already provide to their employees.  So you aren’t recreating the wheel, so to speak, you are just giving those breaks a different purpose.  Some will jump in, others will hold back until they “see” what its all about and still others just won’t care…but if those that did jump in let off some stress and went back to their jobs with a little more energy, how happier would they be and how much more productivity would you start to see come out of that group?

Volunteer day off – Yes, its an additional “paid day off” you are adding to the bottom line but encouraging your employees to give back to your community can serve two purposes: 1) gets them out of their daily routine into doing something that gives them a sense of fulfillment – which can lift their spirits – and a chance to network with others they wouldn’t typically meet, and 2) gives the company a marketing angle to use for branding and recruiting.  Win-win in my opinion!

Fitness bootcamp/Yoga classes – Not all companies have access to a gym, or the space to set one up, but I’ll bet there’s some “space” in your office to set aside for a small group to workout.  This can be something that occurs before work or after work and not only can help employees work on their personal fitness goals (which should lead to less sick time and doctor visits – which then leads to lower insurance rate renewals) but can build a different sense of teamwork getting these employees together outside of their normal duties to socialize.  While a gym membership reimbursement may be great for the “dedicated” that like to go workout, keeping something on-site helps those that really want to but need the motivation or know that once they get home, they’ll get distracted with family issues and never make it out to the gym.  Especially with the weather starting to get nicer, this can be as simple as a “walking club.”

Not everything has to come with a price tag – but even those that do can “cost” the company a minimal amount but have maximum results.  Give one or two a try if you don’t believe me and see how employee morale starts to pick up!

Employee Lawsuits Hit Small Businesses the Most

Small-Business-Stats-copy“We’re a small business…it would never happen to us.”

“It hasn’t ever happened in the past so why worry about it happening now.”

“Its not as big a deal as every makes it out to be.”

Any of those comments sounds familiar?

If you’ve worked in a start-up or small business setting, its probably something you’re heard all too often. Why am I bringing this up? Because it CAN happen and will if you don’t take steps to proactively prepare for it.

Melanie Boone (with Boone Management Group) put together a list of facts and figures as it applies to employee lawsuits and small businesses that I wanted to share:

“Labor and Employment Law is the second highest pending litigation category in the United States this year. The average cost of an employee lawsuit for a company skyrocketed by 60% in 2008. In 2009 the median employer payout due to litigation was $326,640.

While $326,640 is the average cost, about 97% of all cases are settled before trial. Can you afford a settlement, $10,000 or $20,000 how about $100,000? Moreover, managers spend 30%-50% of their time dealing with employee conflicts. If they are not trained on risk mitigating company policies, your company could wind up in real hot water. All and all, the total cost both in money and in time can be devastating to a small business.

Did you know?

• The claim where your company will most likely pay the most: retaliation. Judges and juries are especially tough when they perceive that a supervisor got tough with an employee who filed a complaint about discrimination or other unfair treatment.

• The claim your business will pay the most for if it goes to a jury: age or disability discrimination.

• The claim your company is most likely to get hit with: sex or race discrimination. They remain the most common.

• The Department of Labor estimates that approximately 70% of employers are routinely violating wage and hour laws, and the Wage and Hour Division recovered back wages of $1.4 billion for Fiscal Years 2001 through 2008, with numbers continuing to grow in 2010 and beyond.

So what can you do to protect your business?

1. Compliance with Government Regulations: Most but not all federal laws cover companies as small as 15 employees there are few regulations that do not apply to most businesses. Companies must also comply with State and local regulations. Know employment laws that apply to your business or work with a trusted partner who can advise you.

2. Hire the Right Person: Many small business owners hire people but do not take the proper steps to ensure that the person is right for the job. Hire Smart & Hire Right! Having a hiring process will help you find the right fit, conduct due diligence to make sure the person has a sound background and minimize the costs of turnover.

3. Properly Classifying Employees: One law that applies to almost all employers regardless of size is the Fair Labor Standards Act. It is estimated that 70% of businesses routinely violate wage and hour law under this act. Know the proper classification and have processes in place to ensure compliance.

4. Document, Document, Document: Documentation in most companies is typically an afterthought and non-existent in some. Performance issues discipline and terminations must be supported. You could possibly face lost unemployment cases and lawsuits either lost or settled for unforeseen amounts of money which can cripple a small business.

5. Motivate Employees: Employees value rewards, and not just monetary ones. In today’s economy, employees are feeling under-appreciated and overworked. Employee turnover cost money, lost productivity, lost hours for managers and can be devastating to a small business.”

Not paying attention or thinking “it won’t happen to us” will end up costing your company thousands of dollars in litigation down the line. Let’s face it, in today’s market, employee lawsuits are on the rise from discrimination for race or age to “creating a hostile work environment.” These are some simple steps that Boone Management Group has laid out for employers to follow…the biggest thing is DOCUMENT!

Be proactive not reactive! And even if you haven’t done it in the past, start doing it now.

Key Leadership Trait to Learn This Year: How to “Read” People

readMastering the art of “reading” people

Where Leaders succeed and Managers fall short is in their attitude towards their co-workers or employees.  Managers just expect their employees to listen to them and do what they say, but Leaders know that to really get people to give you 110% you have to build a trust with them – which starts with listening…and that comes as a result of knowing how to communicate.

First thing everyone needs to practice more of: LISTENING!

Communication is a two-way street…don’t just talk and say what you want to say and then close the door.  I know too many people that do this and it’s so disrespectful.  Spend time listening to the other party….really listening! It will give you an insight into what is going on with them at the moment and to better understand a situation and best way to approach it.

Those that have mastered this skill have learned to not only pay attention to what the other person is saying, but also to what they are not saying…the underlining tone in their voice, their body language, etc.  When you monopolize the entire conversation, not only is it plain rude but it shows you have no interest in what they have to say and don’t respect them enough to allow them to talk…to “hear them out.”  It is these things that cause employees to develop “attitudes” towards their Managers, who in turn continue to treat their employees poorly instead of stopping and realizing THEY are a part of the problem.

Employees who aren’t allowed their turn to talk tend to not share details or ideas regarding the topic that first started the conversation.   Make it a point to ask open-ended questions to get the employees to open up more.  Prove to them that you are really interested in what they have to say…and they may ending up yielding more information than you first expected as a result.  It will help you to easily build a bond with the employee which will lead to trust down the line if you continue to show them simple respect.

Second thing: Stay Non-Judgmental!

Part of “reading” a person is to give the impression that you are passing any judgment on them already. Biggest give away? Your facial expressions – give the wrong one and they will stop the discussion.  If someone thinks – even a little – from your tone or facial expressions that you’ve lost interest or are now passing judgment, they will pull back and shut down.  Some will even put up a wall as a protective mechanism that will be twice as hard to bring down once it is up.

Think you don’t do this?  How many times have you rolled your eyes during a discussion, yawned, changed the subject mid-discussion, checked your phone or even crossed your arms in front of you while talking?  All of these are triggers sending a subtle message that you don’t care or aren’t listening anymore.

Last thing: Trust Your Intuition

I like to say that each of us like a little psychic when it comes to reading people because all of us can point to a time when “that little voice in our head starting bugging  us.”  Some call it their “gut feeling” or a “vibe.”  Either way, they are instincts we have based on past experience or training that automatically elicit a response about a person or situation.  More often than not, many of us try to quiet that inner voice because we either don’t want to believe what we are thinking is correct or don’t want to bring it up and become the “bad guy.”

Everyone has a “first impression” about a person or situation – good or bad.  When you are trying to learn how to read a person, you need to keep these impressions in mind as the conversation or situation continues…even if part of you doesn’t want to trust them.  Those impressions will later serve as a warning to heed…or sometimes, they will give you insight into the person so you better understand why they say what they do or react to situations.  That is developing the “full picture” about a person.

We’ve become such a fast-paced society and lost some of our social skills with the more frequent use of mediums such as email or texting so retraining yourself to stop – slow down – and listen can be challenging at first. But once you give it a try and see the benefits, try to make it a habit. It will make your role as a Leader or a Manager that much more effective down the line.

Managers: The Solution to Every Problem is NOT Termination

canstock13205365Everyone thinks that they can be a Manager.  Honestly, I think some just want the title and power that comes along with it so badly that they convince themselves they are “management” material and you can’t tell them otherwise.  For those that dream about moving into a management position, there is still time to teach and correct them.  But what to do about the ones that already hold the title?

You know the type – the “problems” in their department are because of everyone else’s bad attitude or failure to follow instructions and their immediate answer as a “solution” to the problem is to get rid of the employee and replace them.  They refuse to see they may be the problem, even if their bosses try to talk to them about it.

Case and point:

I recently had an employee get re-assigned from a labor position in one department to a computer-entry position in another solely because of his product knowledge that, for many, takes years to acquire.  After 1 1/2wks in the position and trying to learn the new computer system, the employee’s new manager declares “he’s not working out so we need to replace him.”  When asked what was the problem, his answer “he has a bad attitude and keeps making mistakes.”  When I countered with “well, have you talked to him about his mistakes or maybe he needs more training since its been less than two weeks for him,” I was told that he just knows he won’t work out and doesn’t need more time to come to that conclusion.  After speaking with this manager’s boss about the situation, we both agreed – the employee hasn’t been given enough time and the manager just doesn’t want to put the effort into it.

So what do you do when faced with a manager to refuses to try to help improve an employee or their performance?  Time to have a talk with the manager about his own performance and steps needed to help improve it.  Most will get angry to get pulled into this type of conversation, but when you remember that – regardless of title – they are still just “employees” of the company, you keep yourself on track.

The job market has been coming back over the last few months, but what managers need to realize is that it isn’t the same job market it was 5yrs ago.  Recruiters aren’t getting 100s of resumes for posting one position anymore, regardless of whether they are experienced or entry-level.  We’re lucky to get 10!  So, this attitude of “we’ll just replace them” needs to go away.

Also keep in mind when a manager wants to fire an employee for performance, you have to show that an attempt was made to help them correct it before you terminated them.  This is where I usually am able to stop these types of managers dead in their tracks because I ask them for their documentation to prove the problem.  They think all they have to do is show you the “mistakes” not proof of meetings or conversation about the performance.  When you make them go through this process, not only pointing out what it being done wrong but that they also need to provide the steps to improve it, it makes them stop and think.  They may still have their “attitude” about the employee, but now some of the power has been squashed.

The biggest thing that these types of managers fail to realize is that their attitude and treatment of this one employee is being observed by all their other employees. They may not show it right away, but it will always be at the back of their mind and can undermine their opinion and loyalty as well.  When a manager comes across as stubborn and one-sided, employee morale in their department will start to diminish over time.  Those employees will start looking to move into other departments or even leave the company rather than continue to work in such an environment and especially when the manager appears to be allowed to “do what he wants.”

Everyone plays a part in building a company’s culture and reputation.  While we may have been lax in addressing such “management styles” in the past because of an employee’s presumed loyalty to a company, the boom of Social Media requires that we pay more attention to the reputation our company now has because of the management team we have in place.

Or who knows, that employee you just dismissed may turn out to be your boss or even a competitor someday.  Robert Mariano with Mariano’s (Grocery Store) is a perfect example of that!

Appreciation: It’s a Top-Down Thing

post_itOne of the biggest complaints we hear coming from employees – regardless of their position or status of the job market – is that they don’t feel appreciated. Its so simple, yet something overlooked time and time again. In some cases, managers will even make excuses for their lack of appreciation and feel they are justified because of their responsibilities.

Don’t ever forget:
You are successful because of those that are working to help you be successful…and that includes every level of employee below you.
Appreciation, to an employee, comes in many forms yet so many mangers think it still boils down to a raise or a promotion.

Susan M. Heathfield wrote a great post called “Top 10 Ways to Show Appreciation to Employees.” Here is her top 10:

1) Praise something they have done
2) Say ‘thank you”
3) Show genuine interest in your employees – ask about family, hobbies, the weekend
4) Offer flexible scheduling for the holidays
5) Get you know your employee’s interests and surprise them with a small gift
6) If possible, give a small “end-of-year bonus” when most employees need it most
7) Take them to lunch for their birthday or finishing a project and let them choose where
8) Create a fun company tradition for the holidays – such as a Secret Santa
9) Bring in treats or snacks for your staff – if you bake, all the better
10) Offer cross-training opportunities or sponsor them to join professional organizations where they can represent your company

The best quote from her article is this: “Employee appreciation is never out-of-place. In fact, in many organizations, it’s often a scarce commodity.”

If you will notice from her list, almost half of the suggestions involve nothing more than communicating with your staff.   Knowing that you pay attention to them, their work and their achievements can mean so much to them…and that sense of feeling “appreciated” helps them overcome those feelings of frustration at work, dissatisfaction with their pay, etc.

But it shouldn’t be something that occurs just at a manager level – it needs to come from the top down.
Those in charge are the ones setting the example for the managers underneath them and, while some managers don’t need the nudge, they take their cue from their boss. So if you aren’t showing appreciation for them, they will become disgruntled and then treat their staff in the same manner.

Telling managers what they are doing wrong when you are doing the same thing is hypocritical. You can’t expect them to turn around employee morale if you are adding to the morale problem with how you treat your employees.

CEOs, Presidents, Vice Presidents…yes, we know that you have a lot on your plate to handle and probably don’t comprehend the extent of the responsibility on your shoulders however that does not absolve you from how you treat those that work for you. Again, read the Top 10 list – so much is just simply communicating to show you care….that’s the appreciation employees look for the most.

Start day – start with just saying “thank you” and see what happens from there.

Do You Tell Your Employees to Partake in “PDF”?

Work Life Balance Signpost Shows Career And Leisure HarmonyI know your first reaction – what does a document file have to do with employees?
I had that same reaction as I was driving to work and heard about this on the radio.
Catchy, though, don’t you think?

So what does PDF have to do with employees and their performance?
P = Play time
D = Down time
F = Family time

Modern technology has been an asset to carrying out and improving our jobs, but has also proven to be a detriment – we have let it run away with our lives. The best way to keep happy and engaged employees is to help them maintain balance in their lives.

Play Time
First argument I expect to hear is that “employees need to earn their paychecks by working the full amount of time” or “an employee’s focus should be on how many billable hours they can pump out on a daily basis.” Am I expecting companies to pay employees for time to “slack off?” No, but incorporating some fun into the daily work routine does help alleviate some of the stress that builds up and does wonders to improve employee morale.

What are some examples?
Community service projects = An activity either on-site or off can break the tension of the workday and build a sense of teamwork among your employees…especially with those that don’t normally interact with each other on a daily or even weekly basis. With the holidays coming up, you can do something like organize a food drive or cards to the troops. Employees like the distraction from their everyday duties and it makes them feel good knowing they are doing something to help others. In some cases, companies can also publicize their employees’ efforts – so it becomes a win-win for the company.

Early morning or lunch time workout = Ask one of the employees to lead a brief 20-30min workout session that can be as simple as a 1k walk or a weight loss contest. Remember that line from Legally Blonde about working out – “working out gives you endorphins and endorphins make people happy!” It also helps improve your employees health condition which, in turn, helps decrease costs associated with the company’s health insurance when it comes to renewal time.

Down Time
The invention of email and smart phones leave us connected to work 24/7. If employees aren’t given time or feel that they are allowed to “disconnect” from work after they leave the office, work begins to consume their lives and affects their relationships with family and friends. And when they have problems at home, its going to become a “problem” with their attitude at work.

Even with salaried employees, don’t take advantage of them being available after normal work hours. Make it a company-wide practice to stop sending emails after a certain time of the evening. If you must send an email, specify that you are not looking for an answer until the next day.

Employees feel that they will be looked at poorly if they aren’t available or don’t respond and some companies have taken advantage of this. If you want to change the attitude your employees have, start with giving them this down time and letting them know that you are. And…think about it – if you are emailing after hours, are you giving yourself the needed down time in your life?

Family Time
This doesn’t apply to just your married employees or with children – this applies to everyone. Family time is an opportunity for your employees to keep balance in their lives for studies show that time spent with loved ones, even just an hour, helps them center themselves again and increases their happiness. They need that connection even if they don’t consider themselves close to their families.

Understand the employees put pressure on themselves by trying to put work first while keeping family important. They are stressing themselves out when they feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities of both. Work with them. Be flexible with their hours if they need to leave early or come in late to take care of a family matter. Most will try to find a way to make up the time on their own without having a Supervisor beat them up with it.

Don’t demand or require that employees be present for off-hours company activities. Ask them and you will get more buy-in than simply expecting them to “if they want to keep their jobs.” You are causing stress in their lives that you will then use against them later when they develop a “bad attitude.”

This can be most important for those employees that have to travel for their jobs or be away from home for long periods of time. Give them a day off after returning from a trip to spend time with their family and not have to catch up on work right away. Show compassion for them as they try to work both sets of responsibilities and you will find that your employees will develop a greater sense of loyalty to the company and give that 110% without having the threat of their job hung over them.

Remember: Happy Employees = Productive Employees
Its not all about work – its about balance.

The Confusion Over What is a “Probationary Period”

90-day-probation-period-for-employeesSo many candidates encounter the line: “You will be under probation for the first 90 days of your employment.”
But, does the new employee or the employer REALLY know what that means?

Let’s start with a little history…

The “probationary period” was started as a way for employers to deal with Unions and their rules governing new employees. This short, introductory period was established to allow the employer to terminate a union employee without concern for just cause without having to fight the union on it.

What is has come to mean today…

A “probationary period”…typically 90 days…is a “test drive” for employers to see if the new employee is really a fit for the job or not. The assumption is that if the employer decides they are not a fit for the company before the 90 days is completed, they can simply terminate the employee and wipe their hands of it.

Not so fast…

1) In most cases, the employer is not protected from then having to pay unemployment to said employee,

2) Depending on how the probationary period is worded to the employee, there runs the chance of creating an “implied agreement” that the employee has a job at the end of the probationary period, and

3) This does not – I repeat – does not exempt the employer from still documenting performance issues and counseling the employee on their performance during the probationary period.

First point: Unemployment

In the State of Illinois, an employer becomes the “chargeable party” after the employee has worked for them for 30 days…meaning, even if you use the “we told then there was a 90-day probationary period” angle, you are not exempt. The first 30 days are key because attitudes and patterns can be uncovered to determine whether or not the employee is a “fit” for the company if the managers are spending time with and observing the new employee. The next 60 days in a probationary period should be used to further tweak and streamline the employee.

Second point: Implied Agreement

How are you wording your “probationary period” in your Employee Handbook or in the employee’s Offer for Employment? Take a good look at it right now. Employees know they are being taught and guided during their first 90 days but there is an assumption that they will have a job after 90 days. Most simply believe that completion of the time period simply means a rate increase and/or benefit availability.

Some employers have started to use “Introductory Period” instead. This gives the same impression if not specifically stated that continued employment is contingent on successfully completely the introductory period to the satisfaction of the employer.

Third point: No documentation or Follow-up

Another mistake many employers make is relying too heavily on the “at will employment” many states have – meaning, your employer can terminate your employment at any time without cause. This does not protect the company from unemployment filings or wrongful termination lawsuits if proper steps have not been taken.

This is especially important with new employees and if you use the “probationary period” as a condition of employment. Supervisors should still be documenting any issue that arises so that evidence exists to argue any such cases and to use while drafting a performance review. Stay away from generalizations in reviews and disciplinary actions. Always – always – provide specific instances (issue, date, location, who involved) as well as what was discussed with the employee to correct or improve. Employers need to show that they tried everything that they could do to make the situation work to protect itself.

In my opinion:
The use of Probationary Periods, when used properly, encourages the new employee to learn their job quickly and adjust to their new environment so that a continued relationship will be the end result. This is also good to use in salary negotiations, giving the employee a bump in pay rate for successfully completing the probationary period…give them a goal to work towards while adjusting to their new position.

Make sure all your supervisors are educated, however, on what a Probationary Period really is and how they are to conduct themselves during this time frame. They need to be advised not to make any verbal promises – or threats – and to treat the new employee just as they would current employees when it comes to disciplinary actions.

Companies – and their supervisors – also play a role in the success of an employee…and don’t forget it!