Bring the Flame Thrower…Every Day!

Culture.

Culture can make or break a company. As the “keeper of the culture” where I work, I find it imperative to sustain, maintain and enhance our culture – our culture is one of the things that makes us the apple of our patient’s eye and the regional employer of choice. Like many HR pros, I am always looking for new and inventive ways to enhance corporate culture. I am open to ideas.

In January, I had the pleasure of seeing Jim Knight (KnightSpeaker.com, @KnightSpeaker) speak at the January GMSHRM meeting. Jim has many years in training and development including a long stint at Hard Rock (which explains the “rock and roll” style and language he uses). He is dynamic and has good ideas. He uses energetic style to convey how he sees culture – and he sees culture the way companies should. I had a few takeaways that I want to share. These are some thought provoking quotes from his presentation. The title is another one Jim shared.

  • Hire rock stars, not lipsynchers
  • Great sustainable brands create memorable experiences
  • Brands must differentiate themselves from the rest in order to survive and thrive
  • Don’t terminate employees, promote them to customer
  • Brand ambassadors are cultural amplifiers
  • Every life has a story, if we stop to read it
  • Position your brand to be tattoo-worthy

And one of my favorites…

  • Plant seeds today to create an army of giants tomorrow

I left with so many ideas, I thought I would bust! Jim kept the conversation going and was gracious enough to hang out afterwards to answer questions and interact with the audience. If you get the chance, see Jim Knight. He was great!

What culture enhancing ideas do you have to share? I am interested in hearing from you.

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#19 in the Fortune 100 Best Places to Work For in 2014!

For those in the know, Baptist Health South Florida (BHSF) is a great employer. I have worked for BHSF since October 2011 and have seen first hand the great things we do for our employees and their families. As the article states, BHSF has “Culture of Caring” Caring for patients, guests and employees. With so many great benefits and other perks, our employees can have long, fruitful careers at the “Best Place to Be Your Best”. Find out more at BaptistHealth.net.

Here is some of the press

CNN Money

Sun-Sentinel

Great Rated

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What Does EVP Mean to You?

What gets you out of bed in the morning and gets you to work? Your coworkers? The work you perform? Your paycheck? Maybe it is to try to find another job outside your current employer?

EVP, Employee Value Proposition. EVPs delineate a company’s employee expectations and what, in turn, that employee gets for fulfilling that expectation. It is what drives employees to go to work and what keeps them coming back day after day and year after year. The EVP includes total rewards, work environment, leadership stamina and compassion and the employee’s personal connection to the company. A balanced EVP helps retain organizational knowledge, customers, values and, of course, employees. Some of the best companies in the world build total reward strategies that are both sustainable and are uniquely employee-centered, thus tapping in to and maximizing each employee’s discretionary effort to the benefit of the company. A solid and robust EVP is a win-win for the company and employee.

As we all know, the cost of turnover is high and growing every day. In healthcare, the cost of RN turnover can range from $35,000 to almost $50,000 for each bedside nurse who leaves. And with economic recovery and a lowering of unemployment rates, companies are seeing rising turnover costs. A phenomena of sorts that I am seeing where I live is a sharp increase in the value of real estate. While this can be a good thing for sellers in the market, it is creating a bit of a “perfect storm” for my company. Employees who have been trying to sell their homes are finally doing so and they are relocating to less expensive parts of the state – outside of our area. This in turn drives the living expenses higher and higher and thus shutting out certain employee levels from living locally. Coupling this with an unemployment rate hovering around 4%, recruiting can be a challenge with affordable housing supplies very limited and access to public transportation almost non-existent. This makes the case for our hospital to have an even more vigorous EVP in order to attract and retain stellar talent. Fortunately, our employment brand is well known and respected locally and regionally however some other companies I know are not as lucky. Either they will have to raise their stake in employment valuation or find alternatives to staffing predicaments. Either way, the EVP standard will continue to rise and companies with high levels of employee engagement will have to find new ways to attract and retain talent.

What is your company’s EVP?

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Please Refer Me! A Guide to Establishing an Employee Referral Program

Recruitment is tough even in times of higher unemployment and recruiting professionals need to resort to non-traditional methods of finding candidates. The costs of placing ads in either newspapers or on websites can be high and can lead to a glut of unqualified candidates that need to be weeded through to find the hidden gems. The process can be exhausting and some recruiters have become jaded by the onslaught of candidate interest. Its times like this that we have to dig into our HR Bag of Tricks and find ways to get what we need while saving
time and money. A good way to find qualified candidates is to use an employee referral program (ERP). An ERP uses your existing employees to help find “warm” candidates who might be contenders for open positions. There are advantages and disadvantages to ERPs and these types of programs should be looked at carefully to put the right plan together for your company.

Here are some potential pros to using an ERP

  • Reduced recruiting costs by lowering advertising expense
  • The generation of warm leads by employees reduces days to fill
  • Increased engagement among existing staff who feel invested in the company where their
    friends and families work
  • Increase in retention rates for all staff which results in a quantifiable reduction in
    turnover costs

There are many ways to implement a fruitful ERP; the key is to first look at your company for guidance on what aspects would work best for you. An incentive to have employees refer qualified – and potentially those passive candidates which all recruiters crave – is to tie the referral to some sort of bonus. Depending on the position or the company the budget for referral bonuses might vary. A good rule of thumb is to put parameters on the referral to maximize the cost of the bonus. For example, require the referred candidate to remain employed for a
specified period of time (i.e. 90 days) or achieve a production benchmark (i.e. meeting 100% productivity requirements) before the payout is made. The potential payout should be well communicated to your employees so that they understand what types of position(s) are needed and what they will get and when. Even offering a cash referral bonus can quickly become cost effective when tied to production standards or time with the company. And your employees will even help you keep the new hires employed so they can get their payout. You might
even want to look at doing some sort of bonus for the new hire. The value of this program can be seen almost immediately in many situations.

Now with the good comes the bad. There are a few things that might tarnish your stellar ERP so be aware and make provisions for these potential situations. If your company has been guilty of historical discriminatory hiring practices or has goals to increase minority representation, an ERP might not help. Employees tend to refer people like them and if these are not the type of candidate you are looking for then the ERP might cause more work than it is worth. Also, your shining star employees might refer a dud and your steady eddy employee might
refer your next CEO. Essentially, employee perceptions of what might be valuable for the company may not be reality for the hiring manager. Communication of the ERP and specific information about the values and characteristics of the wanted applicant pool can help alleviate these types of situations. There is also a possible opportunity cost with an ERP. What if your perfect candidate does not know anyone who currently works at your company? Have a contingency in place for those candidates that may not find your opportunity through word of
mouth. In other words, traditional job postings might be necessary to complement the ERP.

ERPs are a great, cost effective way to mine and generate warm candidates who hit the ground running and are engaged. The business case for ERPs is also solid and can be an easy sell to management. The program can be self-funded and can be easily aligned to business needs. Take time to look at the way an ERP would work best for your company. They are certainly worth the effort.

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I Heart NY!

As you may have heard, New York legislators recently signed a same sex marriage law for their citizens (in case you have been on vacation, here is the NY Times article – http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/25/nyregion/gay-marriage-approved-by-new-york-senate.html). This makes NY the largest state to pass a law like this to date. The influence this decision has on the country is also significant, since NY is a barometer of potential future trends and change movements.

The decision aside, HR professionals are now confronted with changing policies and programs to meet the mandates of this new legislation. I spoke to someone I know who works for in HR at a major university in New York City and they shared some comments from their peers with me. Apparently, the biggest challenge is not the integration of benefit structures  (although, this is a task in itself) or the tax implications but rather the training and education of staff members to be aware and respect those who will be entering into same sex marriages within the state. With all the open-mindedness of some parts of NY, there are areas where this law will still not allow those who enter into same sex unions to be acknowledged openly and publicly. NPR had a story the other day about this topic (http://www.npr.org/2011/07/07/137672101/coming-to-work-but-not-coming-out). While laws and policy are great on paper, changing the attitudes and perspectives of some people is a much more challenging task. Especially same sex marriage may violate some convictions held by those with certain religious and personal feelings against it. It is easy to say “just get over it” to those who are opposed to same sex unions, but those who are anti gay marriage need to heard and integrated into the new law. Remember, we always agree to disagree. The key is to respect each other’s thoughts and feelings and see the value each can bring to the table. We spend so much of our lives at work and it should be an environment of collaboration and regard. Yes, it may sound like some sort of Utopia, but this is the root of Diversity and Inclusion thought and as HR rofessionals we need to be looking at it from this perspective.

In 2011, it is amazing to me that some groups are still thought of as “weird” or “different”, even to the point of being targeted for aggression and violence. We all have feelings and prejudices but the key is to keep them in check and respect others. I find it particularly interesting when I hear other HR professionals share personal (and sometimes vehement) feelings about religious or political topics. We are all welcome to our opinions (hey, it is AMERICA!) but we need to make sure we do all we can to promote and maintain a diverse and inclusive workplace. Whatever your feelings are about what happened in NY (and 6 other states as well as a Native American tribe), the tide is moving toward national recognition of same sex unions and marriage. Will you and your company be ready?

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Promote the Promotable!

One of the things I love about recruiting is seeing the joy and satisfaction that comes to some selected candidates. Whether they have finally landed that job that will get them to the next step in life or they have worked hard and gotten their dream job, it always brings a smile to my face. Of course, there are always those applicants who get the job and don’t seem to care either way. I won’t concentrate on them; let’s keep it positive. Apathetic applicants haunt too many of us!

Getting a promotion usually brings the most excitement from an applicant. These would normally be existing employees of the company who have developed their skills so they would be poised for the next great role to take them up the career ladder. The feeling of accomplishment and salary increase make for a celebratory environment. Promotions can work wonders for morale by retaining talent and showing a commitment to all employees. Promotions can be a win-win opportunity for both employer and employee.

However, there are times that promotions can bring ire and discontent when they are given to employees who may not be perceived as deserving by their coworkers. Few and far between, these types of promotions almost feel like a punch below the belt for your staff and reek of favoritism. Hopefully your organization monitors these types of position changes and strives to promote the most qualified candidate. After all, that is the ethical thing to do, right? Often companies make the right decisions and promote candidates who are qualified and competent. However there are times they don’t. No matter what hiring decision is made, somebody is bound to be unhappy with it but a company should use the most transparent process to make hiring decisions in order to maintain integrity and morale.

Please note that I am not advocating that companies defend their promotions to their associates. But rather make it known to all employees that hiring decisions are made fairly and are free from discrimination and bias. Providing accurate and appropriate feedback to the candidates who are not selected can help alleviate any feelings of sour grapes. It also might help to foster a culture promoting internal promotion and offer opportunities for employees to develop their skills so they are ready when that next big break becomes available. These learning options could be casual like brown bag lunch and learns or more formal like offsite trainings and even encouraging further education by offering tuition reimbursement. Investing and promoting internal employees has proven time and again to benefit all parties.

Promoting the promotable – it’s just good business.

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Technology Working for (and Against) Us

I read yesterday that the Department of Labor (DOL) is launching a Wage and Hour application (app) for Smartphones. This app will allow employees to track their hours worked and when their paycheck does not accurately reflect their records, they can submit their complaint to the DOL. There is even a connection the DOL has to the American Bar Association that offers attorney referral services to employees whose cases the DOL chooses not to take on. Sounds good, right?

According to the DOL, there was a significant increase in 2010 of wage and hour lawsuits (close to 6,800 about 700 higher than 2009). While that number may seem low in the grand spectrum of employment, the DOL has added a few hundred more examiners to combat the forecasted increase in these types of claims. The DOL’s thought process is that this app will make it easier for effected employees to issue complaints and receive their proper pay. Employees who work for companies that may not follow all wage and hour regulations (whether intentionally or out of ignorance) will surely be benefitted. For those companies that follow the rules, this could be a problem. Wage and hour claims can take up valuable resources and cost companies large amounts of money – even if the company is compliant with the law!

From an employer standpoint, this new app should be concerning – if not alarming. As with any computer related application, the information that is input is only as relevant and factual as the person entering it wants it to be. Therefore, any unhappy or disgruntled worker could potentially wreak havoc for a company who follows the guidelines. Most Wage and Hour claims are related to improper classification of exempt employees and not paying non-exempt employees the right amount of overtime. Having a firm grasp on your company’s pay practices is the best remedy to future claims.

This is a great time to make sure your pay policies and compensation programs are in line with the law. Using the exemption tests to check the status of each position helps to alleviate wage and hour complaints. Also, communicating to all non-exempt staff that they must log all hours worked is a good idea. There is always an employee who might stay an extra 15 minutes to finish a project or who may come in early to help cover the office and not log this extra time (for whatever reason). One area that seems generate questions is off site training classes that may or may not include work hours. Check with your compensation team or consultant to find out the criteria paying employees correctly. If an employee happens to work unapproved overtime, they can be disciplined but they must be paid for that time. The important thing to remember is that they must log and be paid for all time worked.

If you follow the DOL rules and regulations, it does not guarantee that you will be safe from wage and hour allegations however you will have a solid standing and response if there is a case brought against your company. Another to remember is to not give any impression of retaliation against an employee who brings either a false or legitimate Wage and Hour claim. That could lead to a whole other set of problems.

The rule we should always remember is – Do what you can to prevent the DOL from knocking on your door.

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AAP – What’s the Plan?

I know AAP stands for “Affirmative Action Plan” but I sometimes refer to it as the “Always Around Plan” because no matter how we strategically recruit and diversify our searches we always have some sort of underutilization. Maybe you do, too. Here are some ideas I have been using to help meet our needs for our AAP.

First, I always post our positions with the SC Department of Employment and Workforce (SC DEW). They are an “official” diversity recruiting source that has access to minority and female candidates. Recently, we implemented an online Applicant Tracking System (ATS), Kenexa 2XBrassring, that allows external applicants to apply online. Prior to this system, the SC DEW would screen our applicants for us and provide us with the most qualified for the position. Using the SC DEW as a recruiting source is a great way to garner a wide range of candidates.

If your company requires more targeted sources, there are several options depending on where you are located and what types of positions for which you are recruiting. Where I am currently located, Coastal SC, there are some targeted sources but a recruiter has to really ferret them out sometimes. Of course I use the local Veteran’s outreach, Vocational Rehabilitation office and the SC School for the Blind, but I needed more and here’s what I did.

I usually have a penchant to remember things. And last year, we converted from the traditional paper I9 to the E-Verify system to confirm employee’s eligibility to work in the US. (Perhaps some of you have made the conversion and know what I went through.) Anyway, when we were auditing our files, we had to have some employees come in and redo their eligibility and bring in their forms of ID. One employee brought in their Native American Tribal documentation. This was rare and stuck in my mind so when I needed a targeted, diversity recruiting source, I contacted this employee. I explained what I wanted to do and this employee was more than happy to connect me with the Chief of their tribe. When I contacted the Chief, I was told that there were about over 500 members of the tribe and he could definitely help us find some candidates. I also offered to come out and present a resume and interviewing seminar to the members, if it would help. The Chief jumped right on that and we booked a day and time. So, I got a new recruiting source and a community outreach opportunity out of this one call (mining new recruiting sources and performing outreach activities are a part of my incentive goals.)

The moral of my story – you never know where you will find a connection. As many of us have learned, always value networking because leads and opportunities can come from some very unique, unforeseen places. This employee was as happy to help his people as he was to help me. It was a win-win and isn’t that what we always look for?

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Why So Testy?

One of the core competencies of recruiting is pre employment testing. Some companies forego the testing and others have so many that it can be mindboggling. In December 2010, SHRM published a good article on their website about selecting pre employment testing (for those of you who are members here is the link: http://www.shrm.org/Research/Articles/Articles/Pages/SelectingPre-employmentTests.aspx). This blog is not about the selection of these tests but the administration of them. And the stress that can come from it.

An applicant can have many emotions when attending pre employment testing. If your company is like mine, you give all your tests at your facilities. Our location is secure and requires all visitors to sign in with Security and be given a visitor’s badge. When they get to the testing room deep inside one of our buildings, their stress level tends to peak. As a Generalist, one of the many hats I wear is Recruiter and I usually administer pre employment testing to our applicants. Back before online tests, we gave paper tests which required several days to grade and left applicants hanging for days or even a week with no knowledge of their results. Today, we are able to let applicants know right away how they did. You would think the rapidness of results would allay some of their concern but I think it merely escalates some applicant’s stress level. Hopefully I can share some tips that have helped me, as the recruiter, alleviate some of their anxiety.

It pains me as a recruiter to watch applicants become so stressed out during pre employment testing. I have witnessed applicants exhibit all types of behavior while testing including, but not limited to, shaking, sweating, hyperventilating and, on one particularly bad occasion, becoming physically ill which halted the testing session and required housekeeping to use the biohazard clean up kit. None of these situations are pleasant to watch unfurl which is why I use respect and empathy with a dash of light humor to release some of the pressure. When I go into the testing room, I acknowledge each applicant and thank them for coming and acknowledge the time they have committed to taking the test. I speak with a warm professional tone as I lay out the expectations of the session (how long the session will last, what they will be taking and what they should expect), ask if there are any special accommodations or requirements (which usually is met with a series of blank, unknowing stares) and finally I let them know when they should receive their scores. Then I say something like, “Now that I have given you a ton of information, what questions can I answer for you?” which is always met with a chuckle or two. Ah, the ice is starting to melt! I might even throw in some anecdote about my work or life experience depending on how the crowd is or even share how I felt when I sat in their seats. This inevitably helps loosen the tension and allows for clearer thinking on behalf of the applicant. Then I let them get started on their test(s). During the test, I try not to “stare” at the applicants however I regularly glance up from what I am working on to make sure the test takers are engaged and not experiencing any problems. When they are finished, I escort them to the exit so they may go on with their day.

One comment I regularly hear from fellow recruiters is how the volume of candidates is overwhelming and does not allow for the human experience. I think when our stress level is high we often forget that we are dealing with people; people who are making an important step to work with our company. Usually, the recruiter is the first impression an applicant has of your company and it is part of the recruiter’s job to make sure the applicant has a positive first impression. I understand that there may be too many candidates and resources are tight, but that does not negate the need to be aware and acknowledge the potential anguish (yes, I said anguish) that a candidate can feel. I try to remember that they are nervous and might need someone show some sensitivity. I know when I am in the pre employment process I would probably feel the same way. After all, it’s only human.

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Thanks, But No Thanks, Mr./Ms. Applicant!

Remember the days when every applicant was acknowledged by a company? I do and lately I have heard from several job seekers that companies are no longer contacting applicants about the status of the position they have applied for. It can be frustrating to apply for a position and receive no response. And it’s even more frustrating to go through the interview process and not hear anything back from the company. What is happening to this mainstay of recruiting?

Times have certainly changed and so has the volume of candidates. Many recruiters argue that it is time consuming and a drain on resources to contact each applicant. I see their point but I think the lack of communication could potentially tarnish an employer’s brand.

Back in 2001 when I relocated from Manhattan to Wilmington, NC, I had applied to work as a staffing person for a large temporary firm. I went through the entire interview process and even the background checks and drug screening. I never heard back from the company. They just left me hanging. Fast forward to 2 months later and I was gainfully employed with a company and lo and behold this temporary firm came knocking on my door to get our business. It was even the same person who had interviewed me! It is amazing how things come around. Moral of the story – it is always good to respond to candidates as honestly as possible because you never know when you will see them again or when they might become customers of your company.

Ironically, I found out from the employer who hired me that there was a case of identity theft that tarnished my record. I was able to clear it up and maintain my clean background. I have always wondered if this error is what held me back from being hired by that temporary firm. They never shared anything with me so I will never know.

We all get busy and have jammed packed schedules. However taking a minute to even send a generic group email to the applicants who were not selected can not only alleviate the wonder the applicants have but potentially save face for the company. It can be a bummer when you are not considered for a position but at least a bit of solace can gained by knowing where you stand in the process. At my current employer, we recently implemented a new HRIS that allows applicants to see the status of all their applications at any time. This feature has reduced the phone volume in our office which is a BIG time saver in itself. In the past, we did everything we could to connect with each applicant. Now it happens automatically. Thank goodness for technology!

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