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Should You Hire? 3 Common Mistakes

Hiring employees or independent contractors is an on-going challenge to many small -mid-size businesses. When, who, what can I afford – all come into play. These are among the most common mistakes I see.

1. What skills and experience do you really need?

Classically, smaller employers want folks to wear multiple hats. There are some people who love doing a variety of types of work each day. But the work combinations must make sense and be right for your organization’s needs.

There may be a terrific sales person who is happy to be doing administrative work half of the time – but I have not met such a combination of attributes.

Two part-timers or outsourcing each area to experts or some combination makes far more sense in situations where the work needs are very different.

2. I hate to do sales… and other tasks you dislike

I often see founders who really dislike marketing and sales work. I am not too thrilled with it myself. But in most cases, the best business developer for the business is the founder or top executive. Potential clients want to know you before they will consider hiring your firm.

This can be true of other critical business aspects as well. If your business is highly technical, clients want to see the that founder or CEO knows the technology.

And are you really ready to give up these responsibilities? Many aren’t when it comes down to doing so – and they micromanage and wonder why they are not getting their own time back or the results desired. Giving up critical parts of your job is often more difficult than you expect.

In these cases of things that you dislike doing , you may need to hire support. But […]

Which Are Employees? Trouble Ahead or Not?

Many small and mid-size organizations use a range of people to meet their goals. Some are employees; others are vendors, independent contractors, freelancers, consultants, temporary, or casual labor.

States and federal government agencies are in significant enforcement efforts to ensure that anyone who is really an employee is actually treated as an employee. States complain that they are losing tax revenues. There are legal concerns about who is covered by various laws, like workers compensation. And there is concern about benefits and financial security. The increase in company efforts to reduce costs plus the use of freelancers and companies like TaskRabbit have aggravated these issues.

So how do you know who is really your employee?

Certainly there are monetary costs to making everyone who does anything for your organization an employee. And there are some people who do work for you who are easily outside the employee relationship. If you use a CPA or legal firm, for example, you know those are not your employees. When you hire someone through a temporary employment agency to do a short-term job, the agency is the employer.

If you hire temporary, seasonal, or casual labor directly, they are usually employees.

But what happens if you have a bookkeeper who comes in on a regular basis for a couple days each week? Does the bookkeeper have multiple clients for her own business? If so, she is not your employee. If not, she is likely to be your employee.

If you use a business which offers services to the public to provide you with services, contract work, or consulting then you are not likely to be the employer — unless your firm is the only client of that business.

When you consider bringing someone in to […]

May’s WWII and Military Lessons for Your Organization

May is the month we recognize and remember several aspects of our military:

VE Day (70th Anniversary – May 8th) recognizes victory in Europe in WWII.
Armed Forces Day (May 16th) recognizes those currently in service.
Memorial Day (May 25th) recognizes those who died in war.

Memorial Day began as women, individually and in clubs, decorated the graves of Civil War soldiers with flowers. It became formalized, first in the North and then the South, as Decoration Day. Later, soldiers from World War I were added. Eventually it became a federal holiday in recognition of all our military members killed in war.

Leadership and Management Lessons

Military planning is the basis for strategic and business planning in most companies. While military leaders understand that all planning is overcome by events, they also know that smart planning is the basis for success. That is true for your organization as well! Too often we are so busy with reactive work and daily demands that planning drops to the bottom of a to-do list that we already never get to.

A plan will help you succeed faster and better. No small to mid-size organization needs some elaborate plan put together at great time and expense. Book an hour a week, preferably not in your office, and try to capture your vision of the future you want. A one-page summary would be a real achievement. And one that can be readily shared with employees, board members, or other stakeholders!

A recurring lesson, since President Lincoln replaced General McClellan after Antietam, is the importance of execution to success. Your ability to execute is what keeps your future positive. At far too many clients, I have seen the results of endless debates about next steps or conflict avoidance […]

Smarter Hiring Checklist

Thinking about hiring new employees or interns? Smart hires require some planning. Too often small businesses are rushed and desperate when hiring and then have performance or retention problems.

Here is a basic checklist outline to help you develop your own process and checklist for more effective hiring.

* Why do we need this position?
* What specific skills, training, and abilities do we need at a minimum?
* What additional attributes would we like to have?
* What sources exist to find someone to fill this position?
* What is our hiring plan for this position?   (Include any paperwork)
* Who will take the lead and who else will be involved in this hiring?   (Have all been trained in hiring? Know the specifications?)
* Resume/application review process defined?   (Are you covered by retention requirements for legal or EEO needs?)
* Telephone screening screening interviews of all potentials.
* Pre-employment testing, if required.
* Interview selected applicants.   (Who will schedule, interview, decide?)
* Analyze applicants for skills/ability, attitude/motivation, organizational fit.   (Standards & form to document?)
* Select best match.
* Check references.   (background checks if required)
* Make offer by phone, follow up in writing.   (medical/drug tests if required)
* After offer is accepted, notify those not selected.
* Prepare for new hire (space, equipment, materials, work plan)
* Orient new hire to organization and function, discuss first week’s work plan and why selected.

Happy to work with you to help you achieve your hiring goals and train those involved, just call!

Tips for Employee Personnel Files Management

Hard to come up with a sexy title for this topic – but it is vital to your organization. Employee records include both those items mandated by various laws, examples – I-9 forms and payroll records, and those important to managing the organization and the employee.

You can keep employee records in paper, scanned into a secure system, or managed entirely electronically. However you keep these records, you must ensure their security, limit access, and have back-ups. Once your growth takes you to 50 or more employees, it is often smart to buy a HRMS – software that keeps the records you need and allows you to do the analysis you need for management. These also support your EEO and AAP requirements if you are a government contractor or rely on federal funding.

State laws govern whether employees must have access to their records.  It is usually a smart practice to allow current employees access to their master records. This form of transparency reduces employee fears. You may also want to allow employees to respond or rebut items in their records. Most won’t , but again it is a morale issue.

What are employee records?

Master file: offer letters, resume or application, emergency contact info, pay and job change documents, performance reviews, letters of commendation, client notes, discipline records, and similar documents
Hiring file: reference checks, background checks, assessments, original job description, and other documents needed for EEO/legal compliance but which the employee does not have access to normally.
Payroll file: all records relating to pay including timesheets, vacation and other paid leaves, tax forms, state-ordered payments. These are usually kept in payroll.
Medical file: anything that has any personal medical information. This may include drug tests, medical leave documents, physicals, […]

HR Learnings from Marshawn Lynch

The frenzy around the Super Bowl provides all sorts of ideas for any small business. That around Marshawn Lynch certainly speaks to basics of managing employees.

Lesson 1. High potential employees need support to grow.

Even when you have terrific people working for you, you need to understand and support their growth. Marshawn Lynch is a top level player who clearly does not like responding to reporters and feels his comments are not reported correctly. He has been fined for not speaking to them. Yet the NFL does minimal speaking training. And if you follow the NFL, you know a lot of other players forced into answering reporters questions who do not do so very well.

I have worked in many companies where we invested heavily in training customer-facing people in speaking skills – from the CEO on down through individual contributors. Most of us are not comfortable giving speeches or public presentations – or even talking to internal meetings. Some surveys show a fear of public speaking that is only slightly lower than that of serious injury! And even those who are willing to speak need a lot of practice and preparation to actually be good. This is true for many other aspects of work where you want your people to contribute too.

What are you doing to ensure your people have the right training and development opportunities to grow and develop your business?

What are you doing for your own professional growth and development?

 

Lesson 2. Check your compensation philosophy and structure.

Does your pay program actually support your values and goals? The NFL expects every player to be available to talk with reporters before and after games and at events. They do not reward such behavior, instead they […]

WANT TO HIRE THE BEST?

Planning hiring is a standard part of business planning. But too often we just plug in a standard title and some $$ in the budget and think it is done.
Want to hire the best matches for your needs?
Want to hire people who will succeed and stay?
Top Tips for Smart Hiring

Tip 1. Develop a recruiting plan for new hires – and use it for replacements also. Include these parts for each potential position:

desired attributes, specific skills, attributes to avoid, possible demographics
potential sources of candidates
application and selection process

Commonly we focus on specific technical or professional skills we are seeking and we might add ‘soft skills’ like good communications or ability to maintain confidentiality. But you want to really focus on the ‘whole person’ you need. In defining desired attributes as well as specific skills, you help yourself focus on cultural fit – the attributes needed to succeed in your organization and the position.

You may also want to realize what attributes you want to avoid. “Don’t hire jerks” is a recent push.  Many companies have tolerated jerks if they brought in revenue or were technically brilliant in a core field.

If you want to broaden the creativity of your group, plan for possible retirements, or know you are losing a key person; then you also may want to consider demographics. This is rarely a ‘must have’ but more usually a preference. You might want some maturity in one position and someone with a different industry background for another. I, of course, hope you will also consider hiring a veteran.

Tip 2. Consider potential sources of candidates.

Have your best people come from one or two specific sources?
Do you encourage employees to refer people for your open positions?
Are you working […]

Top Tips for Checking References Successfully

Some executives think that checking references is impossible. “No one will answer honestly” or “All I get is those automated systems” are common complaints. Many admit to not even trying to check references because they assume it will be useless and time wasted.

Yet, references can add significantly to your understanding of whether a candidate will succeed in your organization. And doing reference checks may protect you from problems, turnover, and legal risks.

Sure, you may need to call some people at home if they are unwilling to talk at work. Or you may want to stress that you want to hire the person but need to complete reference checks to do so to get more information.

How do effective reference checks happen?

Tip 1. One of the smartest things you can do is create a reference check format to help guide the conversation. This should include a bit about your culture and vision as well as the most critical elements of the job and of what it takes to succeed in your world.  Basic format:

Who you are and why you are calling.
Say you appreciate their time and that the applicant gave them as a reference.
Start with the easy questions of how the person knows the applicant and for how long.
Check where they worked together and what each did.
Talk about your organization and then ask about any soft skills that are important to succeeding – creativity or dependability or team work or whatever.
Discuss the job basics and ask how the person rates the applicant on the most important ones.
Move on to areas where the applicant could grow further and what it would take for that to happen.
Before you close, ask for anyone else who might be another reference […]

By |December 1st, 2014|hiring|0 Comments

Compensation Tips

Now is the time many organizations start thinking about the next year’s pay raises. Before you start the hunt for ‘market rates’, projected pay raise averages (overall 3.1% for 2105), budget or other data – think a bit about what you are paying for.

Very few founders, CEOs, or senior executives have thought about their philosophy of compensation directly. Fewer still have tied it to their desired culture.  And so, over the decades, I have talked about these issues with many senior folks.

Often I also use a short quiz and set up scenarios like this:

You have two people in the same role, both are equally productive.

And I ask a series of questions about how one would calculate the pay raise for each. One question is: John comes in early and stays late every day, he works many long hours each week. Tom works his regular schedule but rarely puts in extra time unless helping others.

And nearly 3/4 say that they would give John a larger raise.

Do you see the issue? Most do not until I ask why they are rewarding the person who cannot get their work done in a timely manner over the one who does. Remember – the conditions were that both were equally productive. So Tom is doing the same amount and quality of work in less time than John.

As you think about your salary planning for next year, here are some questions to ask yourself. Pick the top three in each and rank order those.

1. Do we want to compensate for:

individual productivity
teamwork
cost of living changes
our financial success
increased productivity
market pricing changes
seniority
clients increase
revenue growth (funding growth for non-profits)

Think, for example, how many organizations say that they value teamwork highly. How many actually base […]

PAYING EMPLOYEES – MAKE IT MORE THAN JUST ANOTHER EXPENSE

You have seen the pay forecasts for 2015 of 3.1% increases. But what does that mean to you? To your organization? To your employees?

Small organizations cannot afford the big compensation research and expertise of large ones. But you can be sure your pay program supports the values and goals of your own organization without all the information and processes they have. And you can gather relevant, current market data from your network plus state and federal labor market information.

The first step is to think about your mission, your values, your goals. How do pay and benefits fit into these? Want some insight into how companies address these issues? Look at the very different pay and benefit structures of Walmart and Costco. These are well documented, so a little searching will show you how Costco values employee retention and development as critical to customer service and thus pays higher wages and offers more benefits while Walmart is willing to accept high turnover to keep pay and benefits low.

In preparing your pay budget for 2015, it also helps to know a little about others. In 2013, 87% of companies gave pay raises. But very few gave every employee a raise. Most companies try to tie high performance to higher pay raises. In practice this means that lower performance levels mean no or under 0.5% pay raises

High performance is an obvious choice to base pay raises on. However, to support your culture and goals, you may want to consider other reasons to increase pay. If your organization is in an area of rapidly changing technology, you might reward the employees who learn new skills. If customer service is critical, that may be a factor.

Critical to any successful […]