Internally Mobile Workforces

Giving employees opportunities to advance their career by moving up or even moving laterally to other jobs in an organization is a good way to maintain employee engagement and retention.

Now is the time

As this recent Boston Globe article points out, nearly two-thirds of workers want to leave their current position.  About the same numbers of employers say they’ll be hiring this year, according to a quarterly survey of HR professionals conducted by my firm, Professional Staffing Group.

Internal mobility can be a win-win for employers and employees.  It gives employees relief from a job they may have grown tired of without forcing them to give up the security of their current workplace.  It gives employers a way to place experienced workers, who are already accustomed to the company and may have a shorter learning curve, without the expense of recruiting and training new external workers.

Most Companies Don’t Handle Mobility Well

Many organizations do not handle internal mobility well and therefore pay the price in terms of employee turnover.  Such organizations cling to the hope that the employee will be satisfied in his or her current job or they let company politics come in to play and allow managers to block transfers.

Best Practice Recommendations

Have realistic expectations – It is important not to hold internal job candidates to unreasonable standards, expecting them to be the perfect fit.  Companies risk doing damage to their culture when they reject an internal candidate then turn around and hire someone from the outside who is not any more qualified for the job.  Sometimes knowing too much about internal candidates can get in the way; you know more about internal candidate’s flaws as compared to external candidates who don’t try to show you their shortcomings in the interview process. Unless the flaws are critical and impact the employee’s ability to do the new job, don’t let minor shortcomings stop you from making the transfer.

Ensure company culture and senior management support the initiative – Senior management’s visible support is necessary to develop and maintain a culture that allows for and even encourages internal mobility.  Without high level senior management commitment to mobility, internal politics can take over and managers can block transfers or even discussions of transfers.   Senior management should reinforce the long term benefits (retention and job satisfaction) of maintaining a culture that encourages internal mobility.

Make it easy –Most barriers that companies construct around internal hiring are well-intentioned; they are designed to prevent inter-departmental poaching and to promote transparency. But they can also make it restrictive for employees to take advantage of internal mobility and in some cases make it seem easier to look for a job outside the organization. Employers can make internal mobility as easy as possible by eliminating the need for applications, or for updated resumes, or permission from managers when applying to internal job postings.

Market your internal mobility policy –Management should consistently support and promote internal mobility at meetings, through email communications, signage in common areas and any other internal communication opportunities.

Pay internal candidates the same as you would pay an external candidate – Compensation should be in-line with what you would expect to offer an external candidate with similar qualifications.  In other words don’t lower the compensation just because your internal transferee is currently making less money; such actions serve to motivate employee to look for external opportunities.

Aaron Green is founder and president of Boston-based Professional Staffing Group and PSG Global Solutions. He is also the vice chairman of the American Staffing Association. He can be reached at Aaron.Green@psgstaffing.com or (617) 250-1000.

 

Charitable Giving at Work

Epic flooding, wildfires, hurricanes, tsunamis, wars, a nuclear meltdown.  Combined with ongoing need and the increased demands felt during our economy’s last recession, it seems there have never been more opportunities to support those in need.  Because there is power in numbers, workplace philanthropy is an effective way to support others in need.

According to a study commissioned by the United Way Worldwide, just over one-third of full-time employees work at a company offering some type of workplace giving campaign. Almost one-quarter of employees with a workplace campaign were asked to give to more than one cause during the year and 54 percent of those asked to give to a workplace campaign donated.

Workplace giving campaigns offer benefits to the office as well:

  • Workplace giving campaigns can improve employee engagement by instilling a sense of pride toward their employer, a sense of accomplishment for making a difference, and a greater connection to co-workers
  • Studies also show that if employees are philanthropic through their work, they are more likely to recommend their employer
  • The newest generation of workers takes a company’s charitable efforts very seriously. According to a USA Today article, “61 percent of people aged 13-25 feel personally responsible for making a difference in the world.” Additionally, “69 percent consider a company’s social and environmental commitment when deciding where to shop, and 83 percent will trust a company more if it is socially/environmentally responsible.” Most importantly, 79% said they “want to work for a company that cares about how it affects or contributes to society.”
  • Giving campaigns can be part of branding and marketing efforts if the campaign is linked to the company’s mission or industry, e.g. a building supply company that donates to construction repair efforts

However, workplace giving campaigns can backfire if employees feel pressure to participate or feel that the effort is not a company-wide one, i.e. senior management does not participate. Asking employees to give above and beyond their job responsibilities can be a delicate task and should be handled sensitively.  It’s also important to establish a company-wide policy — how extensive and formal the policy is depends on the organization.

When determining how to set up a workplace giving campaign or set policy, here are a few recommendations:

  • Look for innovative giving campaigns that can advance your company’s broader corporate responsibility goals and strategies. Seek philanthropic partners who understand and work with the company’s commitment to support brand strategy while providing value to employees and consumers beyond the dollars they raise.
  • Utilize technology to reduce the resources and time needed to run a campaign while expanding the options for sharing campaign information.
  • Support causes that resonate with your employees; they’ll be more enthusiastic if they’re working for a cause they believe in or have a hand in choosing to support
  • Have senior leadership set the tone and demonstrate involvement
  • Understand that workplace giving is a long-term commitment. If a giving campaign isn’t successful or doesn’t seem to resonate with employees, shift tactics and learn from the experience to establish a new campaign that is successful.

 

Aaron Green is founder and president of Boston-based Professional Staffing Group and PSG Global Solutions. He is also the vice chairman of the American Staffing Association. He can be reached at Aaron.Green@psgstaffing.com or (617) 250-1000.

 

Job Outlook for 2011 College Grads

By Aaron Green

Prospects for this year’s college graduates are better than they have been in the previous two years. The Massachusetts economy continues to grow: the state unemployment rate hit a two-year low in April and employers added nearly 20,000 new jobs. Massachusetts’ unemployment rate, at 7.8 percent, is well below the national average of 8.8 percent and for job seekers with college degrees it is about half of that.

Many of the colleges and universities in Boston celebrated their commencements this month. Here’s a look at the job market for this year’s college graduates:

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) predicts that employers will be hiring 19.3 percent more college graduates this year compared with last year. CareerBuilder also asked employers about their plans to hire college graduates and nearly half (46 percent) of the 2,800 surveyed said they plan to hire recent graduates.

Twenty-six percent surveyed by CareerBuilder said they plan to offer higher starting salaries than they did in 2010. Salaries are up from the previous year for the first time since 2008, with an average starting offer of just over $50K. Engineering and computer science jobs are among the highest paying jobs for new graduates.

The Class of 2011

The U.S. Department of Education projects 1.7 million students will graduate with bachelor’s degrees in this 2010-2011 winter-spring graduation cycle. Females outnumber males with the Department of Education reporting 140 females to every 100 males in the Class of 2011 (58 percent of college graduates are female, with 42 percent male). This class is the most indebted in history with an average personal debt of $23K after graduation.

In general, the Class of 2011 is a wary bunch used to seeing their classmates leave campus without a job to move back home with parents and put other adult milestones – like buying a home – on hold.

Many will have held at least one or two internships during their college years, which is a good idea career-wise as forty percent of entry-level jobs are being filled by former interns.

If you’re among the 46 percent of employers who will be hiring recent college graduates this year, it’s important to keep in mind that these candidates don’t have the same resumes or interviewing skills as more experienced job seekers. I recommend these six essential questions for interviewing recent college graduates.

 

Responding to Rejected Candidates

Right now human resources professionals are inundated with candidates they can’t hire. While this situation is not new, the volume is increased and candidates seem to be more sensitive to how they are treated. Last month, the Boston Globe ran an interesting article on candidates’ reactions to the manner by which they are rejected. The challenge for many HR professionals is simply responding to all rejected candidates.

Why don’t applicants get a response?

There are a number of factors that have made it difficult to respond to all applicants:

  • Technology enables an overwhelming amount of employment inquiries. Email and online submission processes make it easy for job seekers to quickly apply for numerous open positions. On the other hand, employers need time to evaluate and screen each of those submissions.
  • The down economy and higher rate of unemployment means more candidates are applying for positions.
  • HR departments are stretched thin. Many organizations cut back on HR resources to weather the recent recession and are ill-equipped to handle the current workload.
  • Intercompany communication can lag. Sometimes an HR manager doesn’t know what to tell the candidate because they have not heard back from key participants in the hiring process.

Return on investment: why it is worth the effort to create a process and culture that ensure all candidates receive a response

Availability for future positions: The candidate you reject today might be perfect for a future opening; treat candidates well today and keep them interested in your organization.

Referrals: While the candidate might not be right for your company, if you treat them well they still might refer other people.

Candidate gains new skills: The candidate you reject today might go on to gain new skills and be desirable to you down the road.

Public relations: Being unresponsive to candidate can really generate intense bad feelings which can hurt your employment brand as well as your overall brand.

What should employers do?

Employers should develop a process that ensures all candidates that apply to your company get a response. The process may define who responds and how they respond depending on how deeply the applicant went in the interview process. For instance, if the applicant went on three rounds of interviews, you may want a senior person to have a live phone conversation with them explaining why they were not selected. On the other hand, it might be acceptable to send a standard email to an unqualified applicant who applied online to a job board posting.

In addition, employers need to create and maintain the proper culture which values treating candidates with respect and adhering to the process.

While responding to rejected candidates can be time consuming, in the long run I believe it is time well spent.

Aaron Green is founder and president of Boston-based Professional Staffing Group and PSG Global Solutions. He is also the vice chairman of the American Staffing Association. He can be reached at Aaron.Green@psgstaffing.com or (617) 250-1000.

Incivility in the Workplace

Are we becoming a nation of uncivil servants? The January shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords prompted numerous politicians and media to illustrate how uncivil and hot-headed our nation has become. There were subsequent calls for “civil discourse” and our government attempted to lead by example by pairing Republicans and Democrats as seat-mates for the President’s State of the Union address. It’s easy to see how our hurried, stressed and litigation-prone society can be less fun to be around and some have noticed that attitude carrying over to the workplace. Uncivil behavior in the workplace is unpleasant and costly, but can be prevented.

What is incivility in the workplace?
According to Wikipedia, workplace incivility has been defined as: “low-intensity deviant behavior with ambiguous intent to harm the target… Uncivil behaviors are characteristically rude and discourteous, displaying a lack of regard for others.”

Examples of uncivil behavior at work can range from:

  • losing one’s temper or yelling at someone in public
  • rude or obnoxious behavior in the workplace
  • badgering or back-stabbing in the workplace
  • withholding important customer/client information
  • sabotaging a project or damaging someone’s reputation

To more subtle acts, such as:

  • arriving late to a meeting
  • checking e-mail or texting during a meeting
  • not answering calls or responding to emails in a timely manner
  • ignoring or interrupting a colleague in the workplace
  • not saying “please” or “thank you” when customary

In the book The Cost of Bad Behavior: How Incivility is Damaging Your Business and What to Do About It, authors Christine Pearson and Christine Porath interviewed workers at 800 employers, and found:

  • 96 percent have experienced incivility at work
  • 48 percent of employees claim they were treated uncivilly at work at least once a week
  • 10 percent said they witnessed incivility every day
  • 94 percent of workers who are treated uncivilly say they get even with their offenders

How did we get here?
It’s not hard to find examples of stress and hardship that could make people less civil: the tough economy, less than ideal employment situations, even the effect technology has on speeding up our communications and decision making, and lengthening our work hours by increasing our accessibility.

Some workplace observers even blame the slip in civility on the shift toward casual dressing, which causes more casual behavior and communication, in turn lowering standards of behavior. While casual dressing may or may not be a cause for incivility, it’s an example of the many workplace practices that have changed in our culture. When evaluating causes of incivility, employers should consider all the changes in their environments including the increased use of technology, teams that are more widely distributed geographically, and the increase in diverse workforces, to name just a few.

Workforce Management featured a January 2011 article, The Degeneration of Decorum, which reported that: “Incivility tends to rear its ugly head in organizations that have distinct pecking orders, where people are separated by rank…some experts say the worst fields for incivility are education and health care, where the abuse comes from the top and leads all the way down to the school playground or the operating room.”

The cost of uncivil behavior in the workplace
An uncivil workplace is an undesirable place to work or do business with. Incivility has wide-reaching impact on efficiency, effectiveness and job satisfaction in the workplace. Where uncivil behavior is found, it’s common to find poor communication and ineffective use of meetings, lower standards for customer service, decreased workplace productivity and lower rates for employee recruiting and retention.

As reported by Workforce Management: “In polling thousands of managers and employees about the effects of incivility, Pearson and Porath found that after being the victim of on-the-job rudeness and hostility, two-thirds of employees said their performance declined. Four out of five said they lost work time worrying about the unpleasant incident, while 63 percent wasted time avoiding the offender. More than three-quarters of respondents said that their commitment to their employer had waned, and 12 percent even quit because of bad treatment.”

What should employers do?
Employers and organization leaders are responsible for creating a foundation or environment where employees can shine. Office culture is often set from above, meaning that the management team needs to lead by example. Increasing awareness around incivility and its impact is a good place to start and, if necessary, create workplace policies around civil behavior where standards for acceptable behavior are established (just as you might create a policy for the use of social media).

HR managers can ensure that civil language and practices are imbedded into every level of an organization, including job descriptions, hiring practices, training policy and the day-to-day code of conduct. For example, use the hiring processes you’ve got in place, such as personality tests and reference checks, to look for signs of incivility in a candidate or new hire.

Other tips for fostering civility:

  • Recognize and reward employees who model strong civil habits – or empower employees to recognize their peers
  • Provide training and coaching to help employees identify problems
  • Foster open communication practices such as forums for sharing ideas and input, safe environments for sharing concerns or reporting incidents, and explain the importance of good communication and its impact on organizational success

Reducing incivility not only makes your organization a more enjoyable place to work, but it also has a positive impact on the bottom line through improved employee retention and performance.

Aaron Green is founder and president of Boston-based Professional Staffing Group and PSG Global Solutions. He is also the vice chairman of the American Staffing Association. He can be reached at Aaron.Green@psgstaffing.com or (617) 250-1000.

 

Massachusetts Independent Contractor Law

Both the IRS and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have had a heightened interest in misclassified independent contractors in recent years. The Federal and State governments have recently announced additional funds being allocated to hire more auditors because they anticipate a good return on investment. More auditors = more tax dollars found.

In general, business people tend to be more familiar with the IRS rules regarding independent contractors than with the state rules. The IRS follows a “common law test” for assessing the classification of contract workers, which is meant to reveal how much direction and control the business retains over the worker. The IRS developed a list of twenty factors to be used as an aid to apply the common law test. In addition to the federal test, Massachusetts employers have the state law to consider, which I am focusing this article on because:

Massachusetts law is more stringent than federal law
The Attorney General issued an advisory which stated, “The Massachusetts Independent Contractor Law (MICL) excludes far more workers from independent contractor status than are disqualified under the IRS common law test.”
As employers we should be paying closer attention to Independent Contractor law at the state level. Here are the requirements of Massachusetts law and their effect on businesses.
Massachusetts Law requires a three part test
The MICL creates a presumption that an individual performing any service is an employee. To overcome this presumption, the party receiving services must establish:

1.  that the worker is free from its control and direction in performing the service, both under a contract and in fact; and

2.  that the service provided by the worker is outside the employer?s usual course of business; and

3.  that the worker is customarily engaged in an independent trade, occupation, profession or business of the same type.

The law requires that all three parts of the test (sometimes called prongs) must exist in order for an individual to be classified as anything other than an employee. The burden of proof is on the employer, and the inability of an employer to prove any one of the prongs is sufficient to conclude that the individual in question is an employee.

Some examples of how the law will apply
Based on my interactions with businesspeople, prong two seems to be the most problematic and least understood, so I will illustrate the application of the law in this regard:

Example #1: An accounting firm brings in a painter to repaint their office and classifies as an independent contractor. Assuming this person meets the tests for prongs one and three, the classification is allowed because the work being done is outside the firm’s usual course of business.

Example #2: An accounting firm brings in an accountant to assist them during their busy season and classifies as an independent contractor. This would be a violation of prong two because the service provided is not outside the employer’s usual course of business.

It is significant to note that the MICL does not take into account where the work is performed as part of this assessment. I took the time to point this out because it is a common misconception that if an independent contractor works outside of the employer’s place of business (i.e. from home), that fact satisfies the requirements to be classified as an independent contractor when this is not the case; where the person works is not relevant.

Consequences of misclassification

When employers don’t understand the application of the law and misclassify someone as an independent contractor, there can be costly repercussions. Employers can potentially be responsible for FICA and Medicare taxes and can even be responsible for the federal and state taxes that “should have”been withheld from the employee. In addition, they can be responsible for state unemployment taxes, worker’ compensation, and overtime if applicable. Penalties can accrue and in certain cases (i.e. overtime) treble damages can be assessed. Even if unintentional, what is often intended as a cost savings strategy can turn into a costly oversight.

Summary

While the use of independent contractors is extremely important to many companies, it is an approach fraught with inherent risks. The increased government attention to independent contractors and the large penalties involved take these risks to a dangerous level for Massachusetts businesses. Businesses need to examine their independent contractor relationships to ensure they comply with the rules or alternatively consider taking the appropriate steps to restructure their relationships.
Aaron Green is founder and president of Boston-based Professional Staffing Group and PSG Global Solutions. He is also the vice chairman of the American Staffing Association. He can be reached at Aaron.Green@psgstaffing.com or (617) 250-1000.

Compensation Challenges Will Increase in 2011

For the past couple of years many employers have had the luxury of not needing to spend much time or energy on compensation issues. Loyal employees were happy to have a job and contribute to their organization without expecting pay increases. Now these employees feel it is time to be rewarded for their loyalty or at least be paid what they feel is fair for the work they are performing.

One might ask how I know employees are feeling this way. Two reasons: 1) surveys and other data and 2) first-hand experience.

  • Survey results suggest upcoming compensation challenges

According to a Right Management national survey released this week, 84% of employees plan to actively seek a new position in 2011.

The Labor Department’s survey known as the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (also released this week) shows that advertised job openings are at their highest level since August 2008.

While these surveys don’t necessarily say employers will experience compensation challenges, they do say employees are open to new positions and new positions are becoming available. Combining these factors leads me to believe employees are going to be looking for raises to stay with their current employers.

  • First-hand experience

I manage a staffing firm that is currently experiencing an inflow of candidates who are looking for new opportunities solely because of money. While I’m excited to have the opportunity to represent these talented candidates, I want to help my readers and mention that in many cases it would not have taken much to retain these employees. In other words, employers are losing employees that they really shouldn’t be losing. To be clear, I am not talking about mercenary employees who constantly shop the highest bidder; I’m referring to otherwise loyal, talented employees who enjoy their existing job except for feeling underpaid and/or underappreciated.

My suggestions for managing compensation challenges:
Proactively address compensation challenges before they become an issue

Once a talented employee concludes that they are unfairly compensated and decides they would consider another job, it is probably too late and their employer has an uphill challenge trying to retain that person. Employers really need to address this challenge before it gets to the point where the employee feels taken advantage of. I can’t tell you how many times I talk to candidates who get counter-offers from their current employer and decline them. It typically does not even matter if the counter-offer is for more money then the job they are leaving to take. Don’t let this happen to you: address true compensation issues before it is too late.
Consider internal equity as well as the larger marketplace for talent

For many people the amount of pay is less important than its perceived fairness or equity. It is only natural for employees to compare their pay to someone who is doing the same job within the same organization. Some employees will compare their pay to employees doing a different job in the organization or with someone doing the same job in another organization.

Many times the comparisons are not exactly fair to the employer. Employees use positions that are not really comparable at all as benchmarks. Or they ignore parts of their compensation package and only focus on the parts that compare unfavorably. For instance, Employee A who has a high base salary and low bonus only wants to talk about his bonus and why it is lower than Employee B who has a low base salary. Regardless of whether the comparisons are fair or not, employers will need to deal with fairness issues if they want to retain staff.

It really is crucial to know the “market” wages for your company’s positions. There is a lot of information available: try the internet, industry trade organizations, or staffing firms- most will be happy to provide the information free of charge. The key is to be educated about fair pay in the marketplace; otherwise you run the risk of losing people.
Get creative with compensation and benefits

While we would like to pay everyone all they want to be paid, in the real world budget constraints exist. Look to maximize your budget by getting creative; I’ll give a couple of examples …

  • Flexible schedules

At my company we allow certain people very flexible schedules. The employees have certainly earned this benefit and they carry significant responsibilities. This benefit of a flexible schedule does not cost the company anything in hard dollars or even in management time to accommodate the flexibility. Yet the value to the employees is tremendous; from the employee’s perspective the quality of life value is worth tens of thousands of dollars. It is truly a “win-win” situation. I’ll mention that it took us some effort to make these situations work so that responsibilities could be managed, but the effort was well worth it.

  • Incentive based compensation

Let’s say you are faced with a situation where you just can’t pay someone any more money; maybe you are constrained by internal equity issues or maybe you have a budget challenge and you simply don’t have the money to spend. Consider developing a creative incentive plan that rewards the employee if more value is created from their work. If the employee is truly delivering more value it might justify the additional compensation or benefit. Incentive plans are certainly easier to create in sales environment but with some effort can be developed for all employees. My favorite incentive plans reward innovation and/or customer service.
Don’t “set it and forget it”

Commit to regular reviews of your compensation packages to ensure they are fair, equitable and competitive. Loyal employees may not mind waiting until their review date to bring up compensation concerns, but if there is no date or mechanism to raise their concern, the employee may get frustrated and leave.

Many employers will see compensation challenges in 2011. Don’t be caught by surprise; proactively manage compensation at your organization so you can retain your talented employees.
Aaron Green is founder and president of Boston-based Professional Staffing Group and PSG Global Solutions He is also the vice chairman of the American Staffing Association. He can be reached at Aaron.Green@psgstaffing.com or (617) 250-1000.

 

2010: A Look Back

by Aaron Green

The beginning of 2010 was still a dark period for most Boston workplaces. Salaries and compensation packages were static, employers and employees were tasked with doing more with fewer resources and in general there was still a lot of fear and unknown regarding the future. Since then, the economy has slowly improved. The unemployment rate has fallen; employers in the state have added nearly 50,000 jobs; and the state is doing better than the rest of the nation in terms of unemployment and economic expansion rates.  However, we’re certainly not back to pre-recession levels as unemployment is still historically high and there are still approximately 120,000 fewer jobs than when the recession began. In fact, many Massachusetts residents don’t feel a recovery has begun. A survey that my firm, Professional Staffing Group, conducts each quarter with our HR clients echoes this mixed outlook. Looking back at the quarterly surveys and reports we’ve produced with our clients, as well as the daily interactions we have with hundreds of Boston HR departments, here’s a snapshot of how far we’ve come this year and where we are now:

The Boston economy showed incremental improvement in 2010
Our economy is certainly not robust and not yet back to pre-2008 levels, but employers are adapting. According to our survey, most kept HR expenditures at a static rate throughout the year. And while the BLS projects that overall employment will increase by 10 percent in the next 5 years, Boston-area employers are only mildly optimistic. For the past 6 months, the HR managers and employers we’ve surveyed have said they plan to add staff (8 times as many said they’d add as those who said they’d cut staff). Yet, 52 percent say they expect staffing levels to remain the same.

Employer purse strings are starting to loosen
Employers are starting to offer compensation increases after having shelved these for several months.  In our most recent survey, 82 percent of employers said they expect compensation to increase in the next 12 months, up from 77 percent who said they expected an increase in last quarter’s survey.  Sixty-seven percent of employers surveyed said they actually increased compensation during the past 12 months, up from 54 percent in our last quarter’s survey.

The labor market is becoming tighter for certain positions
Although the US unemployment rate is 9.6 percent, the US unemployment rate for job seekers with a college degree drops to only 4.7 percent. If we look at rates in Massachusetts we see that unemployment rates are much lower. The overall Massachusetts unemployment rate at 8.1% is 1.5% less than the national average of 9.6%. I’m not aware of a measurement of the unemployment rate for college graduates in Massachusetts but given the 1.5% difference in the overall rate, it seems likely to be in the mid 3% range. Therefore employers seeking degreed candidates and employees with specific credentials and skills, e.g. professional or managerial skill sets, have an even narrower field of candidates to choose from. Our latest quarterly survey found that 42 percent of employers plan to add staff in the next three months and 73 percent of employers say that staffing levels are too low. In what I think is an effort to promote from within, our latest survey shows that five times the number of employers said they’ll increase internal training over the number who said they are reducing that expenditure.

HR departments and resources have been stripped down
One of the most popular areas in the workplace to see cuts during the great recession was the HR function, leaving many HR departments with too few staff and resources. Now that the economy has improved, many HR departments are in re-building mode. Short-staffed firms have difficulty recruiting, screening and hiring new employees as quickly as they need them and, as a result, are turning to outsourced or contract recruiters or are re-tasking HR employees with recruiting to the detriment of other duties.

Retention is still not a major concern for most employers
According to our survey results, about half of employers say retention is a minor problem; only 9 percent see it as a major problem and 34 percent say it’s not a problem at all. These results are consistent with the previous quarter’s survey findings.

My personal feeling is that more employers should be concerned with retention and take actions now that will prevent it. I base my opinion on three factors: 1) Surveys of employees show a high percentage of employees would consider another job 2) Employer are preparing to hire (see above, 42 percent of responding companies plan to add staff in the next six months) 3) There is limited downside to taking actions to prevent turnover.

Aaron Green is founder and president of Boston-based Professional Staffing Group and PSG Global Solutions. He is also the vice chairman of the American Staffing Association. He can be reached at Aaron.Green@psgstaffing.com or (617) 250-1000.

Helping Employees Re-enter the Workforce

by Aaron Green

The reality today is that more employers are hiring workers who have been out of the workforce for a period of time. Perhaps your new employee is a former stay-at-home-mom who decided it was time to get back to work, or perhaps she was enticed out of retirement after her employer discovered her skills couldn’t be easily replaced. Some new workers will have recently experienced a prolonged period of unemployment because of the current economic conditions. Figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that over the past year the median duration of joblessness has been more than 19 weeks, which is the highest level it’s been since the BLS started tracking it in 1967.

Whatever the scenario, employers should be aware that employees re-entering the workforce may initially be more productive if provided with some extra care to make their transition back to work smooth and successful. Here are some tips for helping the formerly unemployed successfully re-enter the workforce:

One of the first steps is to help new employees calm their new job jitters. Many employees who re-enter the workforce experience anxiety and fears of performing poorly. Keep an eye out for stress-related symptoms like low self-esteem, fear of making mistakes on the job, difficulty concentrating or insomnia. Some specific ideas are to:

  • Create a personal plan for success – a plan that articulates what is expected in the new job, how they will be measured and defines success will help the new employee focus and alleviate assumptions and miscues.
  • Pair them with a mentor – introduce and connect the new employee with a veteran staff member who can not only ‘show them the ropes’ but also provide perspective on workplace culture. The mentoring can be informal — where you simply make the introduction and let the new employee know that the veteran is there if they need them; or more formal, in which case you orchestrate planned meetings or events.
  • Offer counseling – if a valued employee is struggling with adjusting to the workplace it may be beneficial to arrange for professional counseling sessions. Depending on the need and your organization’s resources, these could range from sessions with the internal HR department, group workshops with an outside professional or one-on-one sessions with a specialist.

If it’s a life change that has kept someone out of the workplace, e.g. caring for family, tending to health issues or other personal reasons, try to understand the life change and its impact on the person’s work performance. And if possible be flexible to the employee’s needs while holding the person accountable to results and high performance.

Perhaps your new employee is actually a former employee as well. According to a Career Builder survey of 2,924 hiring managers, 26 percent of employers who had laid people off in recent years were planning on bringing some of those layoff casualties back. There are a lot of benefits to rehiring former employees, including cost-effectiveness, efficiency, higher retention rates and faster on-boarding processes.

For employers looking to maintain relationships with former employees and incorporate them in a candidate pool, an online alumni network can be extremely helpful. Whether you create a custom web site or intranet for this purpose, or utilize Facebook and/or LinkedIn, an online network allows you to keep alumni updated on company news and job openings. The effort you make toward alumni relations can range from maintaining a database with individual contact information and skill sets to organizing events for alumni.

Many of the tips I mention above are considered good general workplace practices for all employees, and are particularly important now in order to adjust to a “new normal” workplace that includes managing employees whose career paths have been affected by the Great Recession.

Aaron Green is founder and president of Boston-based Professional Staffing Group and PSG Global Solutions. He is also the vice chairman of the American Staffing Association. He can be reached at Aaron.Green@psgstaffing.com or (617) 250-1000.

This article was originally posted on the On Staffing HR Column on Boston.com.

 

Tips for Managing in the Flexible Workplace

by Aaron Green

Flexible workplace options can be great perks to offer workers. Polls have shown that they are the most desired work benefits among employees and they are also a good way for employers to attract or retain talent. However, if flexible work options are not managed well they can be ineffective or even counterproductive.

Flexible work options range from flextime to flexplace and include: varying starting and finishing times to the workday; part-time work schedules, working from home or telecommuting; job sharing, workers selecting their own shifts, and flexible leave or time-off provisions.

Following are some tips for managing employees with flexible work arrangements:

Understand that flexibility is a mindset – offering flexible work options means acknowledging that there is more than one way to do things. It’s also recognition that workers have a life outside their jobs and that each employee has different life/work needs and desires and that those can change over time.

Communicate, communicate, communicate – to work well in a non-traditional setting, the flexible working employee must have strong communication with their manager, their team and anyone else they work with. Communication should be frequent, easy to do and take various forms (in-person, phone, email). Communication will help everyone understand the work being done but can also help managers gauge when the flexible work situation is working effectively.

Use technology to facilitate flexible work situations and good communication – a flexible-working employee won’t be able to succeed if their technology is inferior to traditional workers. Incorporating new technologies or devices – such as video conferencing, instant messaging or web-based file sharing – can improve the experience as well.

Remember that a flexible work arrangement is a benefit – employees and employers should treat it accordingly. Set clear expectations that there has to be effort from both sides in order for the situation to work. The benefit may be one that is “earned” or that is offered when an employee proves they can handle the option or agrees to meet certain expectations. Managers should maintain benchmarks for checking on employees’ progress and success.

Set clear expectations – in order to gauge success, you’ll need to establish clear ground rules and make sure appropriate evaluations are in place. In the case of remote workers, managers can’t rely on an employee’s presence and activity to gauge his or her efforts; they’ll need to measure deliverables and results (which should be the gauge for all workers anyway). While providing clear instructions, guidelines and deadlines is important with all employees, .these activities take or an even greater importance with employees working remotely or who are not in the office when their boss is.

Don’t give up water cooler exchanges -flexible work arrangement can make it more difficult to gauge important employee attributes, like effort and attitude. In traditional work situations managers rely on casual and unscheduled ways to check-in with employees and ensure workers are engaged and on track. Don’t overlook the importance of providing remote employees with motivation and confirmation of their work’s value.

Consider career growth– as employers, we arrange flexible work situations because we value our employees so it’s important to allow for and encourage career growth within the flexible work arrangement. In other words, don’t let the fact that a valued employee has a flexible schedule stifle their career and the value they can bring to your organization.

Change the culture – Certain employees with traditional work arrangements may feel resentful of colleagues with flexible arrangements. Take the time to explain why your company has the flexible arrangement. Try to win skeptics over by explaining the advantages of the flexible approach to the employee as well as how it benefits the organization. Yesterday’s detractor could find their personal situation has changed and they now value a flexible arrangement of their own.

Know the law – Flexible work arrangements can sometimes add a layer of complexity to the workplace. You will want to make sure you know what your rights and responsibilities are under employment law. When necessary, get advice from experts.

Measure results not time served – The driving idea behind many flexible work arrangements is that results matter more than the amount of time an employee spends working in the office.

Aaron Green is founder and president of Boston-based Professional Staffing Group and PSG Global Solutions. He is also the vice chairman of the American Staffing Association. He can be reached at Aaron.Green@psgstaffing.com or (617) 250-1000.

This article was originally posted on the On Staffing HR Column on Boston.com.