Employee Services

TIP TUESDAY: What Do Employers Really Need to Know About Job Applicants?

Employers invest significant time, energy, and resources in bringing a new employee onboard.  Recruiting, screening, and interviewing processes are all done with the goal of hiring an employee who will do a job well and work well within an organization.  So what do employers need to know to hire successfully?  And what are the things employers don’t need to know?

Need to Know:

Experience.  Does the applicant have relevant work experience (or other experience)?

Education.  Will the applicant’s education help him or her do the job?

Personality.  Does the applicant have the motivation, energy, and attitude that’s needed for the job?  For the organization?  Note—employers shouldn’t always look for an applicant who will “fit in.”  Sometimes the right person for the job is someone who will shake things up, bring a new perspective, or reenergize a team or department.

Not So Much:

Credit score. It’s apparent from recent legislation on state and local levels that employers don’t need to know whether an applicant has a good credit score—at least for most jobs.  The District of Columbia is the jurisdiction that most recently enacted a law that prohibits employers from asking job applicants about their credit history.  It joins 11 states that have similar laws. Generally, the laws allow employers to inquire about an applicant’s credit history if the job involves unsupervised access to large sums of money or to customers’ financial information.

Pay history. A new state law in Massachusetts and a new ordinance in Philadelphia prohibit employers from asking about an applicant’s pay history; similar legislation is pending in other states and municipalities, including New York City, where a bill approved by the city council awaits the mayor’s signature. Basing an employee’s pay on pay history instead of the market value of the position can be a disadvantage to workers who entered the workforce at a lower pay rate; and it can perpetuate gender-based pay disparities.

Not Right Away:

Criminal history. Several states and numerous cities and counties have enacted “ban the box” laws that prohibit employers from asking about an applicant’s criminal history on a job application. Many require employers to delay these questions until after an applicant has been offered a job.

Not At All!

Protected characteristics. It’s a rare job that requires a job applicant to be of a certain age, race, color, religion, national origin, or sex (think female actor for a female role). If employers ask for information, it’s because they want the information. And if they want the information, it’s because they’re going to use the information.  At least, that’s what the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) “generally presumes” about an employer’s questions.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from asking questions that are likely to elicit information about a disability before a conditional job offer has been extended.  Employers should avoid questions about an applicant’s history of using sick leave, history of hospitalizations, workers’ comp claims, etc.  Questions should be limited to whether the applicant can perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation.

To get the information it needs while avoiding information that’s irrelevant (and possibly unlawful), an employer should focus on the qualifications for the job in question and make inquiries that will help it evaluate how the applicant’s skills and experience align with those qualifications.

WEDNESDAY WORKFACT: Which occupations are expected to see greatest growth?

Much of U.S. job growth over the past 35 years has been in occupations that require higher levels of education, training and experience,jobs according to a recently released Pew Research Center report. And based on our analysis of official government job-growth projections, that trend seems likely to continue.

Employment in occupations requiring average to above-average levels of preparation – a metric that combines formal education, on-the-job training and prior related experience – is expected to grow 7.9% between 2014 and 2024, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. That equates to nearly 6 million of the 9.7 million jobs predicted to be added over that time. Employment in occupations requiring below-average preparation, on the other hand, is projected to grow by only 5.1%, or the equivalent of about 3.7 million jobs. (The BLS projects overall 2014-24 job growth at 6.5%.)

The differences in projected growth were even more pronounced when looking at social skills, which Pew Research Center defines as encompassing interpersonal skills, written and spoken communication skills, and management or leadership skills. Employment in occupations that require average to above-average levels of such social skills is projected to grow by 8.1%, versus just 4.4% growth for occupations requiring below-average levels of those skills.

Click here to read the full Pew Research report

TIP TUESDAY: Offering Unique Employee Experiences

At Patagonia, an outdoor apparel company based in Ventura, Calif., preserving and protecting the environment is a core value.

So Patagonia, which brands itself as an “activist company,” offers a unique employee benefit—paid time off for workers when they participate in peaceful environmental protests, according to Dean Carter, Patagonia’s vice president of HR and shared services.

It is among several companies offering employees experiences that underscore the company’s values.

Employees, for example, have spent three weeks at Chilean Patagonia, at company expense, to help restore a former sheep ranch. They have climbed dams and paddled out to oil rigs to protest the environmental impact of those structures. In addition, the company will pay the bail for any employee who’s arrested for peacefully protesting.

Employers that create a compelling employee experience exemplify the future of work, said Jeanne Meister, founding partner of Future Workplace, an HR advisory and research firm in the greater New York City area, who moderated the panel.

“It’s how you build your tribe and how you go out and identify who’s in this tribe and how you create a shared vision,” Meister said.

Airbnb, an online short-term lodging service that lets people rent out their homes to travelers around the world, offers employees a $2,000 credit annually to try the Airbnb experience.

Panelist Deborah Butters advised HR professionals to think of “moments of impact” that the organization can create for its employees. She is senior vice president and CHRO at PerkinElmer in Waltham, Mass.

“They don’t have to be huge ones,” she said of those moments, “but three or four things you’re going to do this year across the entire company” or segments of the company.

Experience-building has not been HR’s expertise, said panelist Wendy Smith, global head of employee experiences at NCR, so she suggested that HR managers reach out to their company’s marketers to “teach us how to do that with our employer brand. Marketers are the experts at experience-building.”

Meister cited a quote from Paul Papas, global leader of IBM Interactive Experiences, that she uses in her book:

“The last best experience that anyone has anywhere becomes the minimum expectation for the experiences they want everywhere.”

{from an article on SHRM online}

TIP TUESDAY: 5 Ways to Help Employees Love Their Work


A job is more than just daily statistics of employee performance. It is about relationships, challenges, learning, transparency, growth – all coming together to represent the quintessence of why employees choose one job over another – finding meaning in what they do. The earlier employers realize this, the earlier they can start creating an environment that compliments these values.

This five-point checklist can help employers make sense of how to make employees fall in love with their work.

  1. Healthy Employee-Employer Relationships

“People leave managers, not the companies” writes authors Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. A Gallup study found that 50% of US employees left their jobs to get away from their managers. It seems astounding that companies have not caught on to this trend and are working to fix it pronto.

The subtle root cause that pushes employees away is typically a lack of engagement with their manager, whom employees look to as a guide and supporter, someone who listens and offers feedback through regular and frequent interactions. This is easier for a small company with a workforce where employees can interact directly with management; in a larger organization it is up to division/department managers to make sure that employees are engaged and feel secure about their role in the organization.

2. Be Sure You Have the Right Fit for Everyone

Finding the right workplace fit for employees is essential to making them comfortable in their roles. If you’ve thrust an introverted employee straight into sales or have your extroverted employee crunching numbers in a cubicle all day long, needless to say, employee productivity will be low.

Employers are increasingly using personality tests to assess behavioral traits and employee competency for roles. Three popular tests used by employers are the Myer Briggs Test, The Caliper Profile, and the Gallup StrengthsFinder.

3. Keep It Interesting

Workplace productivity suffers when the monthly paycheck is the only thing keeping your employees coming to work. They tend view their day as a sequence of routine tasks with zero potential to be interesting.

So how do you make the job interesting?

Stop micromanaging: Having a weekly group meeting as well as a one-on-one with members of your team helps ensure that employees remain on top of assigned tasks and take pride in their work. Micromanaging employees multiple times across the week can cause employees to view themselves as less responsible.

Give employees challenging tasks: When employees become fluent in a work process or a new strategy, they will have more time on their hands to dedicate to new processes. It could be anything that makes employees feel productive while giving them a chance to learn; i.e., asking employees to analyze a new marketing strategy, find an untapped market, research new arenas for growth.

4. Pursue Feedback and Foster Growth

Feedback and growth are the two links in a tight circle that makes everyday a learning experience for your employees. Unless your workforce receives constructive feedback for their work and ideas, they will stagnate in their roles. The responsibility falls upon management to make employee journey a learning process with room to make mistakes, learn from them, modify their ideas and grow into something better. Every new idea or task that an employee submits should lead to a healthy discussion about its merits and demerits.

5. Employ a Transparent Work Culture

The easiest way to alienate employees from management is to have them blindly follow instructions. By making room for constructive criticism, a transparent work culture encourages a symbiotic relationship where employees see their personal growth as one with the company. An antiquated culture, with a strict line drawn between the boss and employee, makes employees feel left out of the organization and to view their personal success as untethered to the success of the company.

(from gethppy.com, an HR and employment engagement community. Read the complete article here.)


WEDNESDAY WORKFACT: 5 Facts About Workplace Communications

26% of employees think email is a major productivity killer.

When email became popular, it seemed like it was one of the best things to ever happen to businesses. Now that the honeymoon phase is over, the results of a study by Career Builder makes it clear that email isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Inboxes get overwhelming. Lengthy chains get confusing and make it hard for people to locate the information they need. Group emails become distractions when everyone replies to the thread with unnecessary or irrelevant responses.

43% of job seekers under 45 think texting is a professional way for recruiters to communicate with talent.

Maybe it’s because of all the emojis and OMG-esque abbreviations, but it’s taken a while for text messaging to be viewed as a legitimate way for professionals to communicate. Now that everyone has become accustomed to texting, people are beginning to change their mind, according to data gathered by Software Advice.

Job seekers and recruiters alike are seeing the upside of texting. They communicate information quickly and in small doses, while giving both parties the freedom to read and respond to the message when they have time. Texting also creates a connection that makes communication easy throughout the recruiting process. If a recruiter or employer needs to confirm an interview or if a candidate has a question, they can simply send a text.

26% of employees feel pressured to respond to work communication outside of work hours.

This stat is one of many documented in the Cornerstone’s The State of the Workplace Productivity Report. One of the greatest parts of having a wide variety of communication methods is that it makes everyone more accessible. But that can also be one of the biggest downsides.

Respect employees’ work/life balance by setting strict guidelines on when communication will happen. Let them know they are not expected to check their inbox every hour and that they won’t be called outside office hours unless it’s urgent. By creating a policy and sticking to it at all levels of the organization, employees can enjoy their personal time without feeling guilty.

Americans spend 26 minutes a day texting and send 5.3 more texts than the number of calls they make.

There are a lot of advantages to texting. Unlike phone calls, people can refer back to text to get information they may have forgotten. They’re shorter than emails and they allow people who may not be free at the same time to have a conversation. Thanks to all those pros, texting has become one of the most popular forms of communication in the U.S. (A report from Informate details the out- texting stats of 11 other countries too.)

46% of employees rarely or never leave a meeting knowing what they’re supposed to do next.

Everyone has been in at least one terribly unproductive meeting, but this stat is still surprising. Whatever the purpose of a meeting may be, it’s clearly not being communicated properly.

By having more organized agendas and establishing rules or order during meetings, organizations can ensure that meetings are more productive and effective. Keep everyone on topic and encourage people to take notes. That will help keep people focused and help them to digest the information that’s being presented. Read the full article here.

(Excerpted from an article by Erik Kostelnik for Entrepneur magazine online)