Archive | February, 2011

The New Employment Compliance Inspection Center

28 Feb

President Obama signing ECIC into LawIt seems that, even for illegal immigrants, the job market has been on the decline. That may explain why illegal immigration to the U.S. has slowed sharply since 2007.

Illegal immigrants crossing into the country plunged to an estimated 300,000 annually from March 2007 to 2009, says the Wall Street Journal. In March 2000 through March 2005, the influx of illegal immigrants was approximately 850,000 per year.

As the economy improves, the government wants to keep those numbers declining. Lawmakers have started the Employment Compliance Inspection Center (ECIC) a unit of the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Immigration and Customs Chief John Morton has said that the new ECIC’s purpose is to assist regional audit centers with auditing large businesses.  The ICE would no longer be limited by company size.    It will also allow ICE to increase the number of audits conducted.   This reinforces how important it is to make sure employers conduct their own I-9 audits and that they are creating their own immigration compliance plans, policies and procedures.

Hiring undocumented workers can be appealing to unscrupulous owners and managers, as companies can pay them below minimum wage and skirt many employment laws, but the practice puts the integrity of the American worker at risk. This can be dangerous, particularly with the unemployment rate still above 9 percent.

Further, the following are the penalties or fines, per unauthorized employee, that an employer who hires or continues to employ aliens who do not have proper work authorization may face, from

1. First offense: not less than $250 and not more than $2,000 for each unauthorized alien with respect to whom the offense occurred before September 29, 1999, and not less than $275 and not exceeding $2,200 for each unauthorized alien with respect to whom the offense occurred on or after September 29, 1999; or

2. Second offense: not less than $2,000 and not more than $5,000 for each unauthorized alien with respect to whom the second offense occurred before September 29, 1999, and not less than $2,200 and not exceeding $5,500 for each unauthorized alien with respect to whom the second offense occurred on or after September 29, 1999; or

3. Subsequent offenses: not less than $3,000 and not more than $10,000 for each unauthorized alien with respect to whom the third or subsequent offense occurred before September 29, 1999, and not less than $3,300 and not exceeding $11,000 for each unauthorized alien with respect to whom the third or subsequent offense occurred on or after September 29, 1999.

The ECIC is a shift in placing blame. In previous illegal immigration employment stings, the immigrants themselves were targeted, but relatively few companies were prosecuted. But President Barack Obama’s inspection center will conduct what the administration has coined “silent raids” on employers both small and large.

Does your company have a stringent policy when checking employment eligibility?

The Personal And Professional Office

25 Feb

Human Resources Can Help Humanize An Office And Still Maintain ProfessionalismThere is a fine line between maintaining a professional workspace and expressing one’s self at a job. But when it comes to personalizing a desk or office, that line can be walked successfully.

Those in charge of human resource management may want to encourage employees to add some individuality to their workspaces to help improve office morale. HR professionals should also include a bit of their personality in the design of their office space to add more of a “human” touch.

Employees spend most of their waking day at their job, so for some it’s their “home away from home”.  Allowing them to display a part of who they are will make them feel more “at home” and comfortable in the workplace (of course, we don’t want them to get too comfortable since they still have a job to do). People like to express their individuality so allowing them to do that while still keeping the workplace professional will help improve moral.

Obviously, we need to be careful what we allow employees to have in their workspace.  You still need to maintain a professional workplace so you may want to set some rules around what you will allow them to display.  Keeping it professional is key.

Putting your own personal touch to your workspace can be done easily and tastefully. Creatively organizing a workspace with functional and funky office supplies can do the trick. There are many unique and stylish office supplies on the market today, such as bright memo pads and sticky notes in the shape of fruit.

Another personal touch can be added with color and fabric. These elements will soften the industrial feel of a desk or office.

Staff members must be advised, however, that too much personality can reduce professionalism and increase clutter. Employees should keep just one or two unique items on a desk. Too many knick-knacks or seemingly childish items can make someone seem less professional.  So if you want to bring in your sports bobble head collection, think about keeping it tasteful and limiting it to just one or two of your favorites.

How has your human resources management team helped make your office more personal yet maintained professionalism?

Fun At Work?

23 Feb

Human Resources Having Fun at Work - Clown Shoes!When is the last time you had fun at work?  

Take a deep breath and think about the last time you had fun at work. I am not talking about the times you find your work enjoyable, rewarding, fulfilling, etc. I am talking about a really good time with a group of people (coworkers, volunteers, constituents) that was full of lots of laughter. Having fun in our lives is necessary. And yes, part of our life is work. Having fun at work is important and has many benefits for both employees and the organization.

There are numerous studies that have been done and books written about how fun in the work place increases productivity, innovation, better decision making, and team work. Those studies also show that organizations that are fun have fewer absences and lower turnover.

I found on a list of six reasons fun can improve work quality and mental health. I think these reasons sum up the importance of why we need to have fun in the workplace.

 1. Fun breaks up boredom and fatigue
2. Fun fulfills human social needs
3. Fun increases creativity and willingness to help
4. Fun fulfills the need for mastery and control
5. Fun improves communication
6. Fun breaks up conflict and tension

Now I know some of you are thinking, “Erin, I just want to come in do my job, go home at the end of the day and receive a paycheck on a regular basis.” I completely understand and I have those days as well. But, think about what your day would be like if there was some fun and you were still getting paid…

  • What if you were happier? Would you treat others differently?
  • Wouldn’t the day pass more quickly?
  • Would the creative juices flow more easily?
  • You may begin to see health benefits: lower stress, lower blood pressure, less anxiety?

Now that we know there are benefits to having fun at work, let me provide you with some suggestions on ways to have fun that are low cost. If you don’t like my suggestions, I encourage you to Google “Fun at Work” for more ideas.

  • Create a playground in the office: have a common area where everyone can go to “play”. You can stock the area with puzzles, craft projects, toys such as Lego’s, jacks, playing cards, etc.
  • Have a “Lunch time, Fun time” once a month. Show a comedy movie, allow employees to perform a comedic act, have departments put on a skit. Of course any of these activities need to be done in good taste so not to offend anyone.
  • “Theme Days” – Did you ever have theme days in grade school? At my son’s school they have “Crazy Hat Day”, “Wacky Dress Day”, “Pajama Day”; you get the idea. Pick a day/week/month and have everyone participate in a theme. It can be as simple as “Shorts Day” every Friday if you have a more formal dress code.

I can’t forget the most important part which is to allow yourself and others to have fun in the workplace. Encourage others to step away from their desks and cut loose every now and then.

I encourage you to have fun at work! It will make the place you spend more than one-third of your day more enjoyable.

What ways does your human resources department encourage fun in your workplace?

Overqualified Workers May Be A Good Thing

21 Feb

MBA Graduates May Be Overqualified WorkersIn the present job market, there have been countless stories of people with MBAs taking work as grocery baggers and house cleaners – of overqualified individuals unable to find work looking to other industries for a paycheck.

It used to be a commonly held belief that hiring an overqualified person for a job would eventually result in him or her leaving at the first opportunity. But according to HR Morning, that conventional wisdom may be wrong.

A study by Dr. Anthony Nyberg, based on analysis from over 25 years of observing 5,000 workers, has found that those with higher cognitive abilities in positions that don’t require much brain power are less likely than others to leave.

Another nugget of knowledge revealed by the study: Most mentally demanding jobs produced job dissatisfaction at three times the rate of the simplest jobs, reports HR Morning.

The economic situation may not be the only reason for “high-intelligence” job candidates to seek employment in a simple job. It can sometimes be for a lifestyle or health choice, or an affinity for a company’s values.

Human resources management should investigate why someone is applying for a position he or she is seemingly overqualified for before writing them off. Maybe he or she wants to change fields and knows that this means he or she will have to start at the bottom? Maybe the applicant isn’t dependent on a job title for self-esteem? Maybe money is tight and he or she needs a job quickly?

Whatever the reason, don’t write off brainy candidates who apply for simple jobs – they may turn out to be some of your most valuable employees.

Has your human resources department hired overqualified workers lately? If so, how has it turned out?

Top Qualities of a HR Manager

16 Feb

Human Resource Manager Showing Off Top QualitiesThere is no tried and true system for finding the perfect human resources management professional. There’s no perfect cookie-cutter to create the ideal HR manager. But the top HR staff members do tend to have a number of similar qualities.

It’s like the old chicken and the egg conundrum. What came first? Did the duties of a job in HR form a workforce of people with top-notch personalities, or were these personality types drawn to careers in HR? Maybe we’ll never know.

In many cases, here are some of the ways that a successful HR manager might identify him or herself.

1. As a motivator. They don’t have to be overly peppy cheerleader types, but someone who is able to unite and inspire a workforce is a blessing for a company to have.

2. As a leader. Without someone with leadership qualities at the helm, the company won’t go anywhere.

3. As a listener. HR managers need to be able to do more than hear. A good listener must be able to understand and evaluate when is being said.

4. As an innovator. Human resources requires a lot of flexibility, problem solving and quick thinking. Managers who can innovate and see things in a new, unique way are essential.

5. As a presenter. For some people, public speaking is more terrifying than jumping into shark-infested waters. But HR managers must be able to keep an audience engaged in order to deliver their messages.

This list is far from being comprehensive. What are some of the redeeming qualities you see in your HR manager? What traits are essential for HR professionals to have?

Cupid’s Arrow At Work

14 Feb

Human Resources and Love at the WorkplaceSometimes it seems that Cupid doesn’t have the best aim. Or perhaps he has a sick sense of humor. Whatever the reason, love often blooms where we least expect it, and in some instances, romances occur at the workplace.

It’s just a fact of nature when there are adults working in close quarters together, spending a majority of their days at the same office, that a few little crushes will develop. People are bound to create relationships at some point.

However, many offices have non-fraternization policies in place that prohibit dating at work. These regulations help to ensure that the workplace doesn’t turn into an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. (The human resources management team at that hospital must have its hands full!)

Although some professionals argue that these no-dating rules are unfair, many companies are holding strong to their policies. Other businesses are far more lax when it comes to office romances.

Whether a workplace has fraternization rules in place or not, the key to dating at work is discretion. No one will bother two employees engaging in a relationship if the tension, conflict and drama doesn’t overflow into the office. And if couples are genuinely serious about forming a long-term relationship, popular opinion is more favorable than when two co-workers engage in a meaningless fling.

The important thing to remember is that there must be a careful balance and separation between personal life and work.

What do you think? Are office romances completely off limits? Or are there cases in which these relationships are OK?

Ask an Expert: Recruiting and Hiring Tips and Best Practices

9 Feb

Recruiting and Hiring Tips and Best PracticesIn this post, I’ve taken a detour from our path in Guerilla Interviewing.  This week I had the great opportunity to conduct an exciting interview!  Not that all of my other interviews weren’t exciting – this one was unique because I wasn’t interviewing a candidate for a position here at Sage.  Instead, I was learning about an exciting new author – Dan Erling – a Sage customer who is also a fellow HR professional and author of a new book that explores a different take on recruiting and hiring – one that I am excited to learn more about.

Dan is President of Accountants One, a 40 year-old accounting/finance recruiting firm with headquarters in Atlanta and partner of a staffing firm, The Water Organization.  What I found to be almost as compelling as his new book was his Search for the Funniest Accountant stereotype debunker which has grown into a successful annual fundraiser for Junior Achievement.  Additionally, he is a member of Financial Executives International (FEI); Georgia Association of Personnel Services (GAPS); and the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA).  Okay, let’s wrap up the intro and dive right into our interview!

Dan just published his first book, MATCH: A Systematic, Sane Process for Hiring the Right Person Every Time.

Jennifer Millman: What is the biggest obstacle that organizations face when implementing a structured recruiting process for the first time?

Dan Erling:  The biggest obstacle comes down to execution, actually putting in the time that it takes to create, implement, and run a structured process.  As a result of the changing nature of business, HR leaders are pulled a number of different ways throughout the day, week, month, etc. and finding the time to plan and execute is difficult.  Unfortunately, what ends up happening most of the time is that recruiters and HR managers try and save time by circumventing the process but it is dangerous.  Sometimes it can work and you’ll luck into a great hire, but you can’t win the lottery every time.

JM: How can organizations overcome that obstacle (time and execution)?

DE: There is only one way to truly succeed and it’s not exciting, it just comes down to prioritization. Organizations need to move hiring the right people, creating and filling the team with talented individuals, to the top of their priority lists.  The key to being successful in business is being competitive and people are your competitive advantage. Focus on hiring to increase your advantage. 

JM: In many businesses, HR as a function is still looked upon as an administrative job function rather than a strategic function in which HR is respected as a true business partner who is integrated with and involved in the business.  What can HR professionals do to help change the mindset of organizations toward the latter through their hiring practices?

DE: In most functional businesses, the proper respect is given to HR. It is only in non-functional businesses where what you are saying is true. Part of the disrespect comes from the actions that the groups display.  As an example, sometimes HR professionals base hiring decisions solely on compensation and fees.  This isn’t the proper motivation or reason to take action and practices like this surface in the long run.

When human resource’s number one dictate is to save money for their company, this can’t truly be achieved by cutting benefits or incentives, but by making the right hire.  The cost incurred from the hiring the right people far outweighs other savings – that new hire can greatly impact their hiring ROI.

Organizations who only focus on the bottom line in HR, instead of focusing on the value their function can bring will find difficulty becoming a strategic partner.

JM: ROI is a recurring theme throughout your book.  In a few words, can you explain how we can calculate ROI and start using this metric right now?

DE: There are a number of metrics and calculations that can be used to calculate ROI and it really depends on how your business measures certain things.  A simple and great way to calculate hiring ROI is measure “revenue per employee.”  If you divide the revenue of your company by the number of employees you’ll get the revenue per employee metric.  If you can increase that ratio after you bring in another employee, that hire has brought true value to the organization.

JM: What do you feel is the best way to kick off a Hire Right interview? 

DE: I am a big advocate in the customized approach to hiring, scripted questions that are behavioral in nature.  This is important because after an interview, when comparing candidates, you’re comparing apples to apples.  I have a go-to opening question that allows me to open a conversation, it informs me if a candidate is value driven and if they can follow directions.  I always ask, “Please take 5 minutes to walk me through your career from the time you left college, until now.”

JM: When you are lucky enough to have a strong candidate pool, and you’ve narrowed it down to two strong candidates that would be great for the slot, how do you decide between them?

DE: I love this question, and it’s the very core of MATCH.  When you go through a systematic approach, you proceed through it step by step, and with each consecutive step you increase your odds of hiring the right person.  If at the end, you have two that match, as long as you’ve gone through a process based approach to hiring, you can let your heart decide the right person.  Typically, a hiring manager or recruiter has their emotion influence their decisions too early in the process not focusing on an objective based evaluation.  If you strive to focus on objectivity throughout the process, at the end, when you have two candidates that match, you can then make an emotional decision.

JM: Any dealbreakers for you as an interviewer? What does a candidate have to do or say to fall out of your consideration?

DE: There are a number of actions that are red flags, if someone consistently brings up the topic of compensation or money it is a turnoff.  With the MATCH process, dealbreakers are oftentimes behaviors that fall out of the scope of what we’re looking for in an ideal candidate.  For example, we’re currently working with a call center, so we created a profile that listed ideal behaviors.  With the question, “how much personal time do you spend on the telephone everyday?” we were able to assess if someone fit our profile.  If the candidate spent less than 15 minutes on the phone each day, it was a dealbreaker.

JM: How have advances in human resources technology and recruiting software affected HR functions today?

DE: Human resources software has really allowed hiring managers and recruiters to have easier access to a candidate pool.  Since I started in the business over 13 years ago, hiring a recruiting firm really came down to which firm could provide you with the most valuable pool of candidates.  Now, with the advances in HR software, you can create that database and pool yourself – also, software really allows you to search using a logical process.

JM: From one recruiter to another, thank you for your time and enthusiasm Dan! I hope MATCH is just the beginning of your publishing career.

Why Human Resources Management Should Be Proactive With Diabetes

7 Feb

Human Resources and DiabetesDiabetes is not only a problematic disease to live with but it’s certainly a tremendous health risk.  Those suffering pay extreme attention to their blood sugar levels, their diet, and their exercise regime.  Companies with diabetic employees also have to pay attention – rising healthcare costs are posing new challenges for human resources and personnel management.

To combat the epidemic, more than 70 percent of large employers are targeting diabetes this year, according to Human Resource Executive Online. That percentage has risen significantly since 2008, where it stood at 46 percent.

“We know diabetes is our No. 1 cost item among all our employee health issues,” Keith Clark, a human resource manager for an industrial-based products company in Michigan, told HREO. “We think we can get the biggest bang for the buck if we can do something about it.”

Companies taking a proactive approach against the disease are using tactics tied to corporate wellness programs such as promoting on-site fitness facilities, encouraging walking clubs, sponsoring an annual “walk day,” and offering weight-management programs.

 Here are some other staggering facts about diabetes:

  • An employer with 9,500 employees and 500 pre-65 retirees spends $18 million to $22 million on direct medical care for diabetes.
  • Diabetes costs $174 billion in direct medical and indirect costs in the United States.
  • An estimated 23.6 million people have diabetes.
  • 5.7 million people have diabetes but have not yet been diagnosed.
  • 68 percent of diabetics will die of heart disease or stroke.
  • 75 percent suffer from high blood pressure.

Is your company being proactive in the fight against diabetes?

Top Human Resource Blunders of 2010

2 Feb

Human Resource Management BlunderNow that we’ve had some time to digest that it’s actually 2011 (isn’t that first few weeks of writing the year incorrectly annoying?) now is a great time to think of things not to do in 2011.  Here are some of the most notorious human resources management blunders from last year:

1. Wal-Mart fired an employee for preventing a shoplifter from leaving the store with a computer. The thief punched and kicked the employee and eventually let go of the PC, but the employee was later terminated for “violating company policy as it pertains to how we treat people in our stores.”  Wal-Mart missed a huge PR opportunity and ended up creating an HR blunder.

2. Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd was fired after it was discovered that he removed the name of a former HP contractor from expense reports. The reason? She had filed complaints of sexual harassment against the company’s board of directors.  Yet again, another CEO who acted immorally, maybe human resources management at large corporations should focus on business ethics with their leadership teams.

3. The mortgage crisis of 2010 even highlighted mistakes from HR departments of banks and financial institutions.  Many workers employed by these organizations who signed documents regarding hundreds of thousands of home repossessions were found to be less than qualified for their positions.  After investigations, HR managers had been found to have not properly reviewed their credentials. Many of those employees also admitted to signing foreclosure documents without even bothering to read them.

4. This one goes without saying, but BP’s Chairman Tony Hayward, in regards to the oil spill, whining that he wanted his life back – was one of 2010’s most memorable missteps. But we can take a lesson from Hayward’s mistake. When dealing with a sensitive situation, it’s best not to discuss your own problems.

What blunders were most memorable for you in 2010? Did you make any errors this past year that you weren’t proud of?