A Simple Guide to Employee Background Checks

Employee background checks can be an important part of the hiring process. Not only do they help you hire the right people, they also play a role in reducing organizational risk and keeping your workplace safe. 

There are many kinds of background checks available and many rules for conducting them correctly. If you’re looking to add an employee verification element into your hiring process, here are a few ways to maximize your return on investment. 

Stick with what’s relevant  

The kinds of background checks an employer can conduct are wide ranging and include everything from credit checks, education, and driving records to social media, drug testing, and criminal history.  

To put each candidate through all possible background checks is both expensive and unnecessary. Do you really need to know if your new accounting hire has a bad driving record or if your receptionist has a low credit score? Probably not.  

Evaluate each position and job description individually to determine what background checks are necessary and why, and then follow through with checks that make the most sense. 

Know the law 

Background checks can be a good thing, but they also have the potential to go bad. If you’re unsure of how to conduct them correctly, you could end up creating more problems than you were hoping to solve.  

Many states, including California, have passed laws regulating how to deal with criminal background checks. These laws are intended to help even the playing field for candidates 

reducing discrimination during the hiring process and increasing workplace diversity.  

Employers used to be able to screen out applicants with any kind of criminal history by placing a simple check box on a job application inquiring about criminal convictions. This may sound like a good idea in theory, but in reality, “Do you have a criminal record?” isn’t always an easy question or a simple answer. It’s also not necessarily a good indication of whether or not someone will be a good employee.  

The Fair Chance Act and other “Ban the Box” laws are in full effect and require employers to follow certain procedures. It’s important to know which laws apply to you and your candidates so you can make the most of your hiring practices while staying in compliance.  

Do it the right way 

  • Inform candidates if a background check is part of the hiring process. This is required by law. 
  • Pay attention to restrictions regarding the timing and nature of various background checks. Doing a criminal background check too early in the hiring process can get you in trouble. Doing a credit check when it’s not necessary can also get you in trouble. It’s important to know the rules here. 
  • Use these tools to your advantage. Yes, you can make hiring decisions based on background check results, but you have to follow the proper Adverse Action process when doing so. Skipping out on this process will open you up to legal risk.   

What NOT to do 

  • Decline to share background check information. Candidates are entitled to see this information upon request. Having this discussion not only gives applicants their results, it also allows for an opportunity to explore mitigating circumstances and clear up any potential mistakes. 
  • Institute a one size fits all policy. While this kind of policy may seem clear and easy to enforce, it could also put you in violation. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recommends tailoring your policy based on each individual position and role so that any basis for rejection is relevant and necessary. 
  • Skimp on your background service provider or processes. Googling a candidate isn’t enough. Make an investment in getting it right. Any money you might save going the inexpensive route will mean nothing if your background checks are incomplete or your business is out of compliance. 
  • Forget the little things. Always check references and employment to make sure your candidate’s resume speaks the truth. Consider skills testing to make sure they have what it takes to do the job.  

 The payoff? A better organization.  

Hiring the right people requires having effective recruitment and hiring processes in place, and background checks can be an important part of that equation. Taking the time to create a system that works for your HR team, your employees, and your candidates while keeping your business in compliance will put your company on the path to success. 


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Scott Betts

Recruiting Tip: Trust Your Candidates

Hiring the right candidate can be a headache for any HR team. It’s a difficult process that has ramifications on employee retention, engagement, and productivity. Hiring one bad egg can negatively affect an entire team, not to mention the cost of having to train or re-hire for the position. Getting it right the first time is what every hiring manager wishes for. But how?

Here’s a tip that might just blow your mind: Let the candidate choose you.  

Stay with us here, this isn’t as crazy as it may sound! 

By setting up the hiring process so that potential candidates can make an informed choice about whether or not they’d be a good fit, you eliminate a lot of work on your end.  People know what they’re looking for and what they’re good at. Give them a chance to assess what it is you’re offering and decide for themselves if the job will be a good fit. If they opt out of applying, you’re saved from having to spend the time and money on interviewing and vetting the wrong people.  

So how do you do this? Here are four things to keep in mind during your next hiring process.  

1. Transparency

This is a simple one. By including compensation in the job description, you are giving potential candidates the opportunity to find out if the job you’re offering is going to meet their requirements. The financial needs of any candidate will drive their decision on whether or not to apply for a position. If you aren’t offering them what they need, they won’t have to spend time going through the steps of the application process just to find out it’s a bad fit. They can opt out altogether and save you both time and money.  

Wage transparency also says something about your company. It shows that you aren’t hiding any major pay gaps and helps to build trust that you valuyour employees with fairness and honesty.  

2. Job description: Does it actually fit? 

When was the last time you reviewed your job description? Has it just been copied and pasted over and over? If so, it’s time for a refresher. Your job description should match the expectations of the role as closely as possible. This is not only important for attracting the right people with the right skills to apply, but having a description that doesn’t fit the actual position can cause frustration, confusion, and resentment on behalf of the new hire.  

If the description that drew someone in to apply doesn’t match up with the actual position, you lose the trust of your new employee—and you come off as disorganized (at the very least). If your hiring manager can’t write an accurate description, it means they: 

  • Haven’t taken the time to understand the position they are hiring for  
  • Don’t value the time and energy of the applicants  
  • Don’t value the hiring process  

Seeing the job description is often the first time your candidate has interacted with your company. It is your organization’s chance at a good first impression and the importance of this should be reflected in the quality of the description.  

3. Does the culture match?

People are often drawn to companies based on their perception of the companies’ culture and values. Use your description to highlight what it’s like to work for you and what your organization cares about. If you are able to convey your values and culture through the description, application, and interview process, candidates will be able to feel out if your company is the right community for them. 

4. Test it out 

Finally, find out for yourself what it’s like to apply for the position youre posting. If the hiring process is easy, more people will apply, and you’ll have a wider pool of candidates to choose from. Have someone from your team go through the process as if they were applying for the position themselves. Find out from first-hand experience what processes you can optimize and areas that you can improve.   

Trust goes both ways  

By providing job seekers with accurate information about the position you’re looking to fill and the type of community and values your company fosters in its workplace, you are giving people the chance to decide for themselves if it’s a good fit. Trust in your candidates to make the best choices for themselves. Not only will it increase your chances of hiring the right candidate, but it will show your candidates they can trust you. 


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Photo by Tatiana Gladskikh

Finding the Remote: Keeping Your Mobile Employees from Getting Lost

If you are looking for ways to expand your new talent pool and make your current and future employees happy, offering remote work options could be just the solution you need. 

Obviously, teleworking isn’t right for everyone. Certain businesses require their staff to be onsite for a variety of reasons, and that’s okay. That said, if your organization doesn’t fall into that category, you might want to start thinking outside the couch cushions. And outside the office.   

Research has shown that employees value flexibility and will take benefits such as remote work options into consideration when making their career choicesStudies have also shown that remote employees are happier, more productive, and more likely to see themselves in their positions for longer.  

If increasing employee engagement, productivity, and/or retention sounds good to you, it may be time to go remote. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy.  

Remote work doesn’t come without challenges, and your strategy should be developed with thought and care. Here are three ways to make sure your remote work policy works for both your employees and your company.  

Do your research

If you’re a company committed to offering remote work options, start by creating a policy that makes sense for how your business and employees operate.  

What to keep in mind: 

  • Which positions could successfully work remotely?  
  • Will these employees be 100% remote or will there be in-office requirements also? 
  • How will you structure your teams? Your communications? Your performance management? 
  • How will you hold people accountable for their time, work, and results? 

It may be tempting to jump right in without a thoughtful plan, but don’t do it. Pouring your energy into creating a solid remote work policy will save you lots of frustration when the time comes to implement and manage it.  

Find the right people

Just as some businesses aren’t well suited to remote work, neither are some employees. Not everyone likes working remotely or functions well in that environment. It’s important to keep this in mind during your hiring processes.  

If you want to hire people who will be more likely to thrive as remote employees, here are some ways to find them.  

  • Look for people who have worked remotely in the past. If they’re applying for another remote position, chances are it’s something they like to do.  
  • Talk to applicants with demonstrated success in positions where they took initiative, worked independently, and managed their own time.  
  • Consider candidates who describe themselves as being disciplined, self-motivated, and tech savvy. Excellent communication will be another important skill to look for. Responsiveness is also a plus. 

Ask your applicants why remote work seems appealing. If they say it’s because they can’t bear to be away from their dog/cat/hamster for 8 hours a day, that’s not a compelling reason. If they talk about how having control of their time and environment allows them to think creatively and get more done, you’re on the right track. 

Be flexible

Research has shown that remote workers have higher levels of productivity, loyalty, and satisfaction when they choose to work remotely. But these results were significantly lower when employees were forced to work at home.  

Having both remote and onsite work options is really the best of both worlds.  

  • If you have a great employee who is moving but wants to keep working for you, that’s now an option.  
  • If you have a remote employee who decides they are happier working in an office environment, you can welcome them back into the fold.  
  • If an onsite employee needs to go remote for a specific period of time, they can be accommodated.  

These are the kinds of flexible situations that benefit both employers and employees. 

Ready to run with it? 

Watching your employees walk out the door isn’t always a bad thing… especially when you know they are working harder (and happier!) than ever in their remote locations.  

If you’re thinking about offering your employees the option to do their jobs offsite, do your research and put together a plan that works for everyone. You may be surprised at just how quickly you’ll find that magic remote you’ve been looking for.  


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Recruiting Employees for Keeps

The importance of employee engagement and satisfaction is getting a lot of recognition. And it should be! Happier, more satisfied employees lead to lower turnover rates and increased loyalty and productivity—all things that are good for business! What’s good for your employees is good for you. 

With all the talk about how to encourage a culture of employee engagement within your business, it’s important not to overlook the first step: hiring the right employees for the right positions. You can have all the benefits, growth opportunities, and employee recognition you can muster, but if you’ve been hiring the wrong candidates, you’re bound to fail.  

 When hiring for your next position, here are three key ideas to keep in mind.  

Think about your candidates 

Who are you trying to attract to fill the position? Think about what their needs are and create a job offer that draws those candidates in. When writing your description, take the time to think about that ideal candidate and ask: what benefits and perks would stand out to them the most? What salary range is applicable to the role and the location?  

If you’re hiring for a remote work position, you want to make sure you’re attracting people with an independent disposition, who’re tech savvy, and able to work without direct supervision. If you’re hiring for an in-office position, you want to look for people who are okay with structure and like to work in a social environment.  

The hiring process is an opportunity for you to showcase your company culture and emphasize the traits you value most. Make the description clear and keep it honest. If you do this well, chances are they’ll be able to tell if it’s the right job for them.  Much in the same way you’d think about how you can create a positive experience tailored to your ideal customer, you want to attract the right candidates to the right positions. 

Don’t shy away from a challenge  

When you challenge your candidates in your interview process, you are giving them a chance to demonstrate their strengths and show you what they’re bringing to the table. Higher employee satisfaction rates have been found to correlate with a more challenging interview process. This is also a chance to set clear expectations for your candidates which, when they match up with the reality of the position, promotes trust long term. 

Make it easy 

In a study cited by The Society for Human Resources, it was found that conversion rates increase by 365% when a job application process takes five minutes or less to complete. Make your application process concise, straight forward, and easy to access. Show that you value their time by responding promptly, allowing them to respond back to you in a reasonable amount of time, and being on time to your meeting.  

Taking the time to invest in your hiring process and your candidates’ experience can increase the quality of hires by 70%. Remember, you are asking someone to give their time and energy to your team. Make sure you are giving them time and energy in return—it’ll pay off, we promise.   


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Encouraging Remote Employees: Why Shouting Down the Hall Won’t Work

So you’ve heard how remote work can promote job satisfaction, productivity, and save you real money. Your company has decided to offer remote working positions and you can’t wait to get started. But have you prepared for the challenges of having a remote workforce? Have you thought about how you’re going to show employee recognition when you can no longer walk down the hall and tell them facetoface or throw them an office party?  

Here are three great ways to make your remote employees feel valued and recognized. 

Stay Connected 

If you’ve got a remote workforce, chances are you have an online chat system to keep them easily connected. (If you don’t, you’re missing out on a vital resource). Online chat forums are a great place to recognize individuals and teams both in group conversations and oneononeThis is a great space to offer more informal and consistent encouragement and recognition for smaller, more frequent accomplishments. 

Going beyond “good job” 

Close the distance between you and your employees by being specific when you thank them for their work. What did they explicitly do to deserve positive recognition? Highlighting key moments and challenges they overcame shows them you are paying attention to their work.  Feeling seen for specific accomplishments promotes a sense of closeness and connection that is easily lost when you don’t have a shared office space.  

Support their space (and their backs) 

Make sure they’re comfortable. A great way to show you value your remote workers is to offer them a budget for upgrading their inhome workspaces. Help them build a comfortable, functional workspace by providing a budget for key office supplies such as a good chair, wrist supports for their mouse pad and keyboard and supporting tech that optimizes their space.  

There are many, many ways to encourage an atmosphere of recognition and community in your remote workforce. Make sure you do your research and put time into figuring out what works best for your team’s particular needs and location. If they are based close enough to each other, you could encourage employee outings, or monthly meetings where you can have the chance to thank and encourage your team face to face.  

Whatever ways you chose to thank them, make sure you have a way of gauging what works best and be open to improving the systems you put in place. Remember, employees who feel valued, value their position. 


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How to be an Employer of Choice

Is there a magical way to become an employer of choice and attract top talent? Nope. But there are a couple of quick and easy tricks to recruiting and retaining great employees.

  1. Find out what they care about.
  2. Provide it.

Just what do employees care about?

Lots of things! That said, every employee is different, and what appeals to one person may not appeal to another. Employee motivations are wide-ranging and can change over time. The more diverse your group is, the more diversity you’ll want to build into your employee benefits. This doesn’t mean your company has to start offering everything under the sun. It just means you‘ll want to think about the kinds of people you want on your team and the kinds of perks and benefits that will be most attractive to them.

If you don’t know where to start, here’s a very simple idea: Ask your current employees what they love most about working for you. If the answer is “The Paycheck!” this could mean that your employees care most about financial security. It could also mean they aren’t super excited about your culture— or anything else you’re currently offering.

If you want a more well-rounded answer, follow up by asking your employees for one thing they wish they could change. This will provide additional insight into what motivates them and what they feel is missing from the current environment. If the top answer here is “More vacation days!” it could mean they need more time to rest and recharge. Reading between the lines, it could also mean they value flexibility, or that workloads have gotten out of control, and it’s time to hire additional team members.

As an employer, you have the power to dig as deep as you want on these topics. There is one caveat here: If you love your current business model, aren’t ready to make major changes, or don’t want to stir up a bunch of negative feedback, a survey may not be your best course of action. If this is the case, you can simply look to the research that’s already out there to get an idea of what employees want and how you can deliver on those things.

Top employee desires

While it’s true that each person, company, and work group is different, it’s also true that the majority of employees are looking for a few key things. Today’s employees want to work for organizations that provide the following:

Financial security

While many things matter to employees, money is still the top deciding factor for the majority of job seekers when taking or leaving positions. Employees aren’t just looking for financial stability, they also want the hope of a secure future.

Things employees value: competitive compensation, tuition assistance, student loan repayment programs, retirement plans

Health benefits

Having great healthcare doesn’t just keep employees well physically. It also helps with financial  and mental health. Many employees can’t afford healthcare on their own, and they value the security and wellness this benefit brings to their lives. (According to one survey, 88% of respondents said they would give this benefit “some consideration” or “heavy consideration” when choosing a job.)

Things employees value: low cost medical, dental and vision plans, HSAs, telemedicine

Work/Life balance

All work and no play makes for an unhappy team. Both work and life can get incredibly complex and busy, and employees are looking for ways to artfully manage it all. At the end of the day, even the “Rise and grind” types want to be able to work when, where, and how they want to. The good news here is that flexible hours and remote work often cost nothing for employers to provide. These things can actually make employees happy AND save companies money at the same time.

Things employees value: flexible schedules, remote work options, unlimited vacation policies, paid time off, parental leave

A sense of belonging and purpose

The lines between work and personal lives are blurring. More and more employees want to feel like they can bring their whole selves to work. They want to be accepted as individuals and they want to feel like they are making a difference in the world. For today’s workers and job seekers, culture has become nearly as important as compensation.

Things employees value: company culture, workplace diversity, paid volunteer time, defined career paths, professional development

The bottom line

Talented employees have options. They aren’t afraid to leave bad bosses or bad companies. More importantly, they will be inspired to seek out organizations who have solid values, do great work, and treat employees well. Investing in your people and your benefits program is a great way to increase employee retention and make sure you stay on the nice list.


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Why Hiring for Soft Skills Might be Your Best Recruitment Strategy

There are certain types of people you just want to have on your team. People with lots of enthusiasm, positive energy, and a willingness to try new things. Unfortunately, these aren’t the kinds of things you can necessarily train for.

You may be good at bringing out the best in your employees, but at the end of the day, some of these qualities are more likely to be innate personality traits than teachable skills. So how do you go about finding new hires who are wired this way?

Appreciate the softer side

Soft skills are personal attributes and behaviors that enable people to interact effectively and harmoniously with others. And they can make all the difference in the world.

Let’s face it. You can be the smartest, most qualified employee or boss on the planet, but without soft skills, you could be rendered ineffective.

Soft skills include things like:

  • Attitude
  • Empathy
  • Communication
  • Conflict resolution
  • Time management
  • Critical thinking
  • Self confidence
  • Adaptability
  • Creativity

These are the kinds of things that make for good leadership, positive work environments, better employee engagement, and high levels of productivity, teamwork, and collaboration.

It’s true that employees may be able to do their jobs without these attributes, but when they’re missing, your team will feel the effects. Organizations lacking in soft skills will experience more internal conflict, increased levels of frustration, decreased morale and engagement, and more frequent turnover. All of which adds up to unstable workplaces, lost revenue, and poor results.

Hiring should be hard. And soft.

Finding great employees isn’t easy. It takes the right processes to find the right people.

  • If you focus too much on speed and time to hire, you may not get it right the first time. Or the second. Or the third.
  • If you’re too meticulous, slow, and careful during the hiring process, your best candidates could get snatched up by other employers.
  • If you’re committed to finding an exact replica of the person who just left, you’re going to be constantly disappointed.

More importantly, if you focus purely on hard skills, you could easily end up with a group of talented employees who aren’t particularly good managers, communicators, or problem solvers. And nobody wants that.

How to hire for soft skills

Yes, hard skills are important, but soft skills are what allow people to successfully work together to get the job done— and have fun while doing it. Here’s how to make sure your new hires have what you need:

1. Identify the soft skills that are most critical

Depending on an employee’s given role, there may be particular soft skills that are more important than others. Project managers need good time management and communication skills. Marketing people need to be creative and adaptable. Supervisors need conflict resolution skills and a healthy dose of empathy. To maximize your hiring success, you’ll want to match the right skills to the right positions.

2. Incorporate them into your values and culture

Talking about soft skills and making them an integral part of your organization are two different things. If you commit to making certain attributes a critical part of who you hire and how you do business, individuals with those qualities will naturally be drawn to your company.

3. Pay attention

You can tell a lot about a person before a job interview even takes place. Does your candidate have good phone skills? Are they accommodating? Do they show up on time? Make eye contact? How did they treat the person who greeted them? With respect and gratitude or with a dismissive attitude? These things can be good indicators of the kind of person you’re hiring.

4. Use behavioral interview techniques

Storytelling is an effective way for candidates to demonstrate past behavior and soft skills. Asking questions like these can be a good way to assess a candidate’s typical behaviors and responses:

  • Tell me about a time when you solved a tough problem.
  • Give me an example of a conflict you experienced at work and how you resolved it.
  • Have you ever had to give someone negative feedback? How did you handle it?

5. Check those references

This may be a tempting step to skip, especially if you’re convinced you’ve found THE ONE. But don’t do it. The one time you neglect to call could be the one time you get a key piece of information that influences your decision.

Soft can be strong

Delicately nuanced soft skills may seem less valuable than clearly defined hard skills, but the most successful companies and hiring managers know better.

Soft skills make for strong teams. And strong teams make for healthy businesses, engaged employees, and very happy business owners. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get soft on hiring! 


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Want to Save Money on Healthcare? Five Things Not to Do.

No matter which team you cheer for, what your political party is, or whether or not you think pineapple is an appropriate pizza topping, there is still one thing we can all agree on: Healthcare costs are ridiculous.

There are lots of reasons this is the case, many of which we have no control over. As individuals, we can’t change the structure of our hospitals, the way our prescription drugs are priced, or the fee-for-service model our doctors operate under. We can’t reduce administration costs, and we can’t change the fact we love our expensive screenings and diagnostics.

The good news is that there are some things we can do to keep our individual and family healthcare costs down. They may not be big, exciting, life-altering changes, but in our own little ways, we can take steps to reduce health expenses and improve health results.

And yet so often we don’t actually do them.

Instead, we fall into patterns and habits that make our ridiculous healthcare expenses even more ridiculous.

Here’s how to be your own worst healthcare enemy:

1. Consult with Dr. Google

Have a symptom? Or two? Or seven? Just Google it! Chances are you’ll come up with sixteen different conditions, at least three of which are fatal. In no time, you’ll be at your primary care doctor, begging for referrals and testing. And because your physician knows the stress of self-diagnosis can be dangerous, she will go ahead and order those tests.

Dangers: Your blood pressure and anxiety will rise. You will think you’re dying. Fearing for your life, you may try to reunite with your long-lost neighbor or cousins.

Cost savings: How much is a CT scan? An MRI? An EKG? We’ll never know. Until the bill comes, that is.

2. Avoid establishing a primary care physician

Why would you call a doctor when you’re not even sick? So dumb, right? I mean, why spend precious minutes getting set up with a physician who can actually help you when something does go wrong? This would take away all the fun of frantically trying to get an appointment with random doctors all over town while you have a 103-degree fever. Seeing the same doctor regularly allows them to become familiar with you and your medical history instead of always starting fresh. So boring!

Dangers: You may not be able to get care when you need it. If you do get seen, your diagnosis could be less accurate. You may avoid going to the doctor entirely— or head to the ER instead. You might let your drunk uncle diagnose you with Small Pox on Thanksgiving.

Cost savings: Did you see that part about going to the ER? Have you ever been to the ER? Have you ever gotten an ER bill? What about a misdiagnosis? Treating someone for the wrong thing isn’t cost effective. Neither is avoiding the doctor until a small problem becomes a big one.   

3. Don’t get a second opinion

Did a doctor say you need an expensive test, medication, or procedure? Did you simply take their word for it? Even though you had a nagging feeling it wasn’t necessary or appropriate? If you’re feeling unsure, it’s okay to get a second opinion. Yes, it means an additional office visit, which will cost you in the short run. But if it helps you better evaluate your diagnosis and treatment options, it can also do wonders for your wallet— and your peace of mind.

Dangers: You may get treatments you don’t need. You could forget how to ask questions and/or advocate for yourself. Your doctor will start seeing dollar signs when you walk in the door. You could become a medical zombie.

Cost savings: The right diagnosis and treatment is important for your health— and your bank account. High expense does not equal high value. And here’s a not so fun fact: Some medical providers may have referral relationships with other providers, which means they could be benefitting from suggesting procedures, treatments, equipment, and drugs you don’t need.

4. Ignore telemedicine

Easy, quick, and inexpensive medical consults from the comfort of your couch? That’s the stuff of fairy tales! You should definitely be suspicious of this new technology. Plus, who would want to give up those time-and-money-sucking trips to the urgent care clinic? If it doesn’t take three hours and include a co-pay, it must not be real medicine.

Dangers: Wasting time and money on germ-spreading trips to the doctor. Having to drag your sick, cranky toddler to the doctor’s office and the pharmacy.

Cost Savings: Spend less money on gas, parking, and co-pays. Eliminate mandatory bribes for sick, cranky toddlers.

5. Stick with your unhealthy habits

  • Are you still smoking cigarettes and paying for that gym membership you never use?
  • Do you think Flamin’ Hot Cheetos are a major food group?
  • Are you into street racing and base jumping?
  • Did you give up sunscreen back in ’96?
  • Do you hate seatbelts, helmets, and anything else that might keep you safe and healthy?

Yes, life is short. And you should enjoy it. But you probably aren’t going to enjoy the medical bills that accompany these unhealthy lifestyle choices.

Dangers: Chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and COPD. High risk factors for cancer and other diseases. Perpetual orange fingertips from those dang hot Cheetos.

Cost Savings: Do you know how much those cigarettes cost? Fewer speeding tickets, car repairs, and expensive emergency surgeries. Oh, and you might fit into your old jeans again.

Do yourself a favor

The healthier you are, the easier it is to prevent expensive treatments and avoid getting constantly dragged back into the healthcare system.

A few small choices can make a big difference. Ditching bad habits can save you money— and maybe even your life.


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Employers Beware: Comp Time Could Land You in Hot Water

Employees are often more than willing to put in extra hours to help accomplish a specific team or company goal. Participating in special events, trade shows, product launches, and other occasional high-intensity activities can be fun and rewarding for motivated staff members.

In these circumstances, it can be tempting to get creative when compensating helpful employees for this additional time. It can also be a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

What is comp time?

Compensatory (comp) time is sometimes offered to non-exempt employees in lieu of overtime pay. Rather than paying employees time and a half for those extra hours, a company or supervisor might offer additional paid time off to make up for the additional time worked.

Here’s an example: An employee works 48 hours one week as a result of helping out with a company special event. In return, their employer offers to give them an additional paid day off at some other time. Everybody’s happy, right?

Not quite.

While this may sound like a great idea to many employers and employees, it’s usually illegal.

When is comp time legal?

If you’re dealing with public sector employees under a union contract, you may be able to provide comp time in a manner that doesn’t violate the FLSA. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • The comp time strategy must be spelled out and agreed to before the extra hours are worked, not after the fact.
  • Employees can’t be required to work mandatory comp time on a regular basis.
  • Comp time must be paid at the same rate as overtime pay, meaning they should receive one and a half hours of comp time for every additional hour worked.

Some states have passed laws that allow private employers to provide comp time instead of overtime. If you’re in one of them, you may be in the clear. Just keep in mind that these laws can be complex and difficult to interpret. Make sure you have a clear understanding of what you can and can’t do. Working with an employment law expert when developing your compensatory time program is always a good idea.

When not to use comp time

If you’re a “better safe than sorry” kind of person, you may want to toss the idea of comp time out the window altogether.

Focusing on a clear compensation system that includes accurate time keeping, fastidious record keeping, and careful attention to hours worked and overtime pay calculations might be the best solution for your business and your employees.

If your employees are putting in extra hours, here are few things to keep in mind:

  • Workers can’t volunteer their time or waive their right to overtime pay. Businesses are required to pay overtime to eligible employees, even if that employee wants to work unpaid.
  • Non-exempt, overtime-eligible employees must be paid overtime for additional hours worked, even if the overtime was unauthorized or prohibited.
  • Simply paying overtime isn’t enough to keep you in compliance. Overtime must be paid at the correct rate. Compensating employees for overtime incorrectly is also a wage and hour violation.
  • Overtime can be mandatory, but comp time cannot.
  • Private sector, non-exempt employees who are covered by the FLSA must be paid at time and a half for all overtime hours worked. Offering them comp time for extra hours worked is a violation of federal law. (Unless your state says differently.)
  • Exempt employees are not entitled to overtime pay. However, exempt employees must be classified correctly according to their job role, duties, and salary. Classifying someone as exempt to avoid overtime pay is a big no-no.

it’s not uncommon for employers to do everything they can to avoid paying overtime, but sometimes it isn’t a matter of ill intent or gaming the system. Sometimes, your employees really do just want to go above and beyond, working extra hours in the process. And you may want to let them.

Unfortunately, those helpful staff members may not realize they are actually putting the company in jeopardy— and you might not realize you’re in danger of non-compliance.

Other overtime hazards

Overtime isn’t just about money or being in compliance. Sometimes, it’s about how much work there is and who may or may not be willing to do it.

Even if you are following all the rules, classifying your employees correctly, and accurately paying people for all of their time, there are a couple of reasons you may want to keep overtime hours in check.

Expecting your exempt employees to work more than their fair share on a regular basis isn’t a good employee retention strategy. Employee burnout is real. And so is math. If your exempt employees get to a point where they’re calculating out their hourly wage, will that salary you’re offering still seem appealing? 

Some employers pay out loads of overtime as if it’s a good thing. But be careful about whether those additional hours are optional or mandatory. Not every hardworking employee thinks being paid time and a half is worth missing every one of their kid’s soccer games.

Finding that sweet spot where work hours, employer compliance, and employee satisfaction all come together won’t just keep you out of trouble. It will make your business healthier and your team happier. 


Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Carolyn Franks

Have You Trained a Manager Today? Here’s Why You Should.

Of course you train your new hires on how to do their jobs. That’s a given. But what about your newly minted supervisors? Are you teaching them how to be good at managing people and processes? If not, you should be.

Being a good manager or supervisor requires a combination of hard skills, soft skills, and most importantly, people skills. If you’re expecting every new manager to come in hardwired with these things, you’ll be in for some serious disappointment. Even when you’re dealing with highly experienced supervisors, they may be bringing management techniques with them that aren’t aligned with your company culture, values, or style. 

Don’t assume your managers know what to do

It’s common to promote your most capable employees and assume they will be capable leaders, but just because someone is good at their work doesn’t mean they will be good at managing people.

Effective supervisors require some very specific skills that they may not have needed or learned in the past. Critical managerial skills include:

  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Performance management
  • Conflict management
  • Process management
  • Time management

It’s likely your supervisors will come into the job strong in a few areas but leaving them to figure out the rest on their own isn’t a good strategy for long term success. The longer you let them flounder, the more likely they are to make mistakes. And when you’re talking about managing people, these kinds of mistakes can have huge consequences.

Finding the balance

Managing people is part art, part science.

The art:

  • There’s the art of developing people in a structured, helpful, and positive way to bring out their best.
  • There’s the art of educating and incentivizing people to both buy into and work to achieve company goals.
  • There’s the art of managing conflict in a healthy and constructive manner.
  • And perhaps most importantly, there’s the art of communicating your various messages in an effective way. This means being responsive and receptive to what employees have to say. When it’s good news, this may seem easy. When it’s a difficult conversation or challenging feedback, not so much. Good managers need to approach tough topics in a way that still feels professional and respectful.

The science:

  • Knowing the ins and outs of your employee handbook so you can enforce rules and reinforce behaviors.
  • Understanding all relevant policies, laws, and regulations to make sure all processes and managers are in compliance.
  • Creating appropriate performance metrics based on individual and company goals, results, and outcomes, and following performance management procedures accurately.

Not training your managers on these kinds of things can lead to some very uncomfortable (and expensive!) situations.

Management training tips

The art:

  • Make sure you have supervisory role models and mentors on your team.
  • Talk about management styles and philosophy.
  • Provide classes on conflict management, dispute resolution, effective communication, and sensitivity.
  • Create a culture that values open communication and collaborative efforts.
  • Support ongoing leadership development.

The science:

  • Train your team on your employee manual and all other corporate policies.
  • Clarify organizational expectations and priorities.
  • Make sure all managerial procedures are well defined.
  • Create a library of tools and resources to help new managers develop their skills and confidence.

At the end of the day, it’s important to hold your managers and supervisors accountable not just for the hard skills they bring, but for their soft skills as well.

Not sure where to start? Consider using a skills assessment for managers and supervisors to help determine key strengths and weaknesses. You may also want to bring in an outside leadership expert and/or training company to help get your team up to speed.

Whether your managers are just starting out or have been doing it for years, chances are all of them have somewhere they can improve.

Bad management can cause good employees to walk out the door— and nobody wants that to happen. Training your managers on how to effectively lead their teams well will help everyone be their best.


Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Lois McCleary