Reference checks can be one of the most valuable tools for making an informed hiring decision – but, as you know, it’s often tough to learn anything from a contact besides employment dates, titles and salaries. 

How can you convince reluctant references to open up?

The 5 best approaches

Here are some strategies experts recommend:

  • Keep it light. As with any discussion, it’s important to warm up the reference before asking him or her to divulge any information. You can start the conversation by talking about your company and the position you’re filling. Mentioning that the candidate spoke favorably about the reference could also get the ball rolling. Another tip: Avoid using the word “reference,” which raises immediate red flags.
  • Try a manager-to-manager talk. HR often does all the reference-checking to avoid potential legal issues. But some companies say they get better results if the hiring manager calls the candidate’s former supervisor directly. Managers have a better idea of what questions to ask for each position, and the reference may be more open when talking to a fellow supervisor, rather than someone from HR.
  • Have candidates sign a waiver. The main reason companies withhold information about former employees: They’re afraid of being sued for giving negative comments. One tool that can help: a waiver signed by candidates giving you permission to ask about their history. Be prepared to email a copy to the other employer.
  • Tell the reference what the candidate said. Open-ended questions about a candidate’s performance often aren’t received well. Instead, have references verify or deny what candidates already told you. During the interview, ask what candidates think their references will say. Then repeat that back to the reference and ask if it rings true.
  • Read between the lines. Many managers are reluctant to say anything negative about a former employee – but neutral statements might indicate there’s a problem. That’s why it’s important to listen for lukewarm responses and ask probing follow-up questions to find out why the reference isn’t saying something positive.

Or ask for applicant’s help …

Finally, personnel consultant Mel Kleiman suggests you go to the source: the applicant. Tell applicants that some of the references are reluctant to talk, he says. Ask if they could give them permission to speak freely when you call. Sometimes that’s enough to get a real conversation going.

Employee development is a buzzword that human resources professionals and business owners alike are accustomed to hearing. It’s also a powerful and critical success strategy. When executed properly, its benefits are fruitful. Employers will find that development fosters loyalty among their team, inspires engagement and cultivates an attractive workplace for prospective new hires.

However, there is an overlooked group in professional development: entry-level, nonprofessional workers.

According to a report published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 78 million Americans — or nearly 59 percent of the U.S. workforce — are hourly workers. Encapsulating such a substantial percentage of the workforce, it’s vital that companies implement employee development programs that will focus on this underserved sector of the American workforce.

There are many reasons organizations should enact employee development programs that serve entry-level, nonprofessional positions:

Benefiting from your untapped workforce

Too often, development programs are slanted toward people in professional careers. These individuals are groomed for higher-level positions, which lead to higher salaries and increased responsibilities. Left behind are those who are overlooked by upper management: entry-level workers.

While the backgrounds of these individuals vary, more often than not they have less education and less experience than those already in professional positions — one reason why they often get passed over for promotions and development opportunities. Typically, individuals in these roles serve in jobs such as customer service representatives or manual laborers.

To offset this problem, employers should create professional development programs that are offered to everyone — regardless of position, title or experience. By changing the professional development program to a deliberate effort rather than a checkbox exercise, those who wouldn’t typically raise their hand are able to opt-in more readily. Programs that everyone can participate in push all employees to focus on professional and personal growth.

It will also help prepare the organization to pivot and shift focus as needed in order to improve efficiency. Being a forward-thinking organization that focuses on what’s next, through means such as employee development, can have a positive impact on the team.

Reduced turnover rates

When training is offered from the bottom-up, employers will see a reduction in turnover rates. According to Accenture, 56 percent of those in entry-level jobs don’t plan to stay in their positions for more than two years. Since recruitment takes time and money, investing in lower level employees can greatly benefit a company in the long term.

Moreover, employees who are offered opportunities to be trained and grow are more likely to be engaged in their role and want to stay in the organization. This is a great perk for selling employee development programs to those in upper management who are always watching the bottom line. To some, a program of this sort may not seem beneficial enough to financially back it. However, over time, the impact is evident through advantages such as higher retention rates.

Becoming an employer of choice

When a company places an importance on development and caring for their employees, they inevitably become the employer of choice for individuals looking to grow professionally. In turn, this benefits culture, engagement, hiring and retention. It will help companies become highly sought after and will attract top talent.

Even when development doesn’t appear to directly benefit the company, showing team members that their employer cares can be extremely impactful.

By implementing a robust employee development program that emphasizes the growth of entry-level and nonprofessional workers, companies will witness reduced turnover rates, inspire a generation of underserved workers, and develop into a highly sought-after employer.

Also read: It’s Time to Rethink the Value of Training and Development

Also read: J&J Human Performance Institute Banks on the Science of Behavior Change in the Workplace

The post Focus on Entry-Level Employee Development appeared first on Workforce.

Marc Coleman is guest-posting for China Gorman.

As we get closer to 2020, it is an exciting time for the human resources profession. Workforce and HR technology is the enabler that will optimize talent and ensure HR becomes the most important function in an organization.

The next decade will unleash the potential of innovative HR technology, empowering functions to build smarter frameworks for workplaces. Led by HR, all functions of the business will evolve quicker, become agile and stronger, and be more cost efficient.

Artificial intelligence is the fuel. After the introduction of on-premise software and cloud-based technology systems for HR, AI is the third wave of HR technology. 

On the vendor side, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Slack, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Salesforce are entering the space. We are seeing new names and investors coming into the HR industry each week, investing in blockchain, health and well-being, and AI. While it’s still not front and center, the “people first” approach of the HR industry is being pushed further to the side with these newer – and buzzier – innovations.

There is a risk that’s becoming increasingly clear in this growing movement. HR technology gives organizations unprecedented access to employee data and seeks to know everything about them. This can be well-intentioned but may also breach an employee’s right to privacy. Snack maker Mondelez International is one example of a company using sophisticated HR analytics to help employees make health care choices. Other companies use the technology to pinpoint employee skill shortages and identify and reward top performers. However, all this raises the question of how accurate the data is and how ethical it is to use it.

Last year European governments enacted General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, to protect the privacy of citizens and employees in Europe, posing another compliance challenge to organizations. Having reliable HR systems is essential for ethical data management.

Legacy systems are holding employers back. Big Brother behavior, privacy laws and quality of data are also causing the snail pace of HR analytics innovation. It’s made worse by HR professionals still being last to the table. Fortunately, much of the initial hype around big data and AI has subsided to a more realistic level.

But regardless we need to raise the level of debate, better protect employee privacy and ensure our governing institutions are held accountable. There is no doubt we need a plan to keep employee data safe in a world full of uncertainty. IT and HR need to work together towards cybersecurity in the workplace. Basic cyber hygiene and automated HR processes coupled with reliable HR systems that still offer flexibility for innovation are a way to keep employee data safe. 

Bringing an inclusive and diverse group of HR professionals and technology vendors together can help ensure a better and stronger future. It’s a conversation that is overdue.

The post Keeping Data Safe: The Next Wave of HR Tech Innovation appeared first on Workforce.

California’s expanded sexual-harassment-prevention training requirements raise new challenges for staffing firms and their diverse working environments.

New York City this week is issuing the country’s first-ever ban on employer policies and practices that discriminate against how black people wear their hair.

How many different ways can one employer discriminate? How about eight?

The EEOC recently settled a national origin and disability discrimination lawsuit against a staffing agency, brought on behalf of a group of Latino employees working at an Alabama poultry plant.

The eight different acts of discrimination alleged by the workers?

    1. They were harassed, which included ethnic slurs, threats, verbal abuse and other abusive working conditions.
    2. They were paid less than they were promised.
    3. They were placed in more hazardous conditions.
    4. They were denied bathroom and lunch breaks.
    5. They received fewer hours of work than their non-Latino co-workers.
    6. They had exorbitant relocation, housing and transportation fees deducted from their pay.
    7. They were denied medical treatment and other accommodations (such as breaks or time off from work to recuperate) after suffering repetitive motion injuries to their hands, forearms and shoulders.
    8. And, when they complained about all of the above, they were ignored.

According to Marsha L. Rucker, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Birmingham District Office, “We cannot allow any employer to prey on vulnerable workers by recruiting them and then subjecting them to such gross mistreatment.” Adds Bradley Anderson, the EEOC’s Birmingham district director, “The EEOC has made combating discrimination against vulnerable workers a strategic priority so that employers cannot profit from victimizing them.”

All of the above cost this employer $475,000 to settle the EEOC’s claims.

It also earned this employer its nomination as the Worst Employer of 2019.

Previous nominees:

The 1st Nominee for the Worst Employer of 2019 Is … the Philandering Pharmacist

The 2nd Nominee for the Worst Employer of 2019 Is … the Little Rascal Racist

The 3rd Nominee for the Worst Employer of 2019 is … the Barbarous Boss

The 4th Nominee for the Worst Employer of 2019 is… the Flagrant Farmer

The 5th Nominee for the Worst Employer of 2019 is… the Fishy Fishery 

The post The 6th Nominee for Worst Employer of 2019 Is … the Diverse Discriminator appeared first on Workforce.

Bruce Sarchet, Corinn Jackson, and Eli Freedberg with Littler’s Workplace Policy Institute explore a recent trend pitting progressive city councils against more conservative state legislatures. They discuss the proliferation of local ordinances regulating workplace issues (such as “fair workweek” requirements) and the resistance from some state lawmakers to these municipal assertions of power.

Re-entering the workforce after a significant time away for any reason can be difficult. New mothers returning to work after childbirth and women who have taken a career break to have children, however, experience a unique set of stressful challenges.

In 2019, employers will entice applicants by hiring for soft skills and potential, offering more-flexible work options and being more open about pay.

Early Friday afternoon, Henry Pratt Co. informed one of its employees, Gary Martin, of his termination.

Shortly thereafter, he opened fire with a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson, killing five of his co-workers and wounding five police officers. Martin himself was the sixth casualty, killed in a shootout with police.

After the news of this tragedy broke, reports surfaced of Martin’s history of violence —s ix prior arrests by the local police department for domestic violence, and a decades-old felony conviction for aggravated assault.

All of which begs the question, should this employer have known that Martin was prone to violence, and, if so, should it have taken added measures in connection with his termination.

A criminal history of violent arrests and offenses is not necessarily a predictor of workplace violence. Still, there are certain warning signs for which an employer can look to help determine whether an employee is at risk for potential violence.

According to ESI Group, these warning signs include:

  • A chronic inability to get along with fellow employees
  • Mood swings and anger control issues
  • Expressions of paranoia or persecution. Being a “victim”
  • A history of problems with past jobs and and/or personal relationships
  • An inability to get beyond minor setbacks or disputes at work
  • A fascination with guns, weapons, or violent events
  • A sudden deterioration in work habits or personal grooming
  • Signs of stress, depression, or suicidal ideation
  • A major life problem, such as divorce or legal problems

If one more of these red flags surface, it is recommend that you refer this employee to an employee assistance program, for assessment and treatment.

If you are compelled to fire an employee who you think poses a risk of violence, it is recommended that you take further steps to mitigate against the risk of your termination transforming into a workplace tragedy.

ESI Group recommends the following:

  • Consider a professional threat assessment
  • Consider using a neutral manager or outside security consultant to carry out the termination
  • If there is manager or supervisor who has been the object of threats or anger, that person should not be the person to conduct the termination
  • Have security nearby—not in the same office, but close enough to hear signs of a problem and to act
  • Do not take a break. There are numerous instances of an employee asking for a bathroom break or time to compose him- or herself, and using the break to retrieve weapons
  • Wait until the end of the workday to terminate, if possible. This protects the dignity of the fired employee and minimizes the number of employees on hand should a situation escalate
  • Minimize any reasons why the employee would have to revisit the workplace. Mail a check; have uncollected belongings sent to the person’s home via a delivery service
  • Allow the person as much dignity as possible, but be brief and to the point. Do not get into a back and forth
  • Emphasize any severance benefits and outsourcing help that may be available. Some organizations decide they will not contest unemployment or offer the option of resigning.

As with most issues in the workplace, the proverbial ounce of prevention really matters. While there exists no foolproof way to protect your workplace against these kinds of tragedies, a few preventative steps can go a long way to putting you in the best place to deter and respond.

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