Using ERC to Hire for a New Position

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Hiring a new employee can be challenging and time-consuming. ERC members have access to resources at every step to make the process efficient and effective:

  1. Writing the Job Description
  2. Determining the Right Compensation
  3. Posting the Job
  4. The Hiring Process
  5. The On-Boarding Process

Writing the Job Description

When creating a job description for a new job, using secondary sources of job information can help you better understand a position and the typical duties a person would perform in that role. ERC members have free access to Bloomberg BNA's Custom Job Description tool, which allows you to search a huge database of job titles and customize a description that fits your job.
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Findings from 9 Recent Court Cases to Help You Stay Compliant

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Do you need to adjust performance expectations under FMLA? Can regular attendance be considered an essential function of a job? Is telecommuting a reasonable accommodation? Is it okay to terminate an employee after they request FMLA? Several recent court cases provide answers to some of your most common questions about administering various employment laws.

 

You may be required to adjust performance expectations under FMLA.

A decision made in 2012 by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Pagel v. TIN, Inc. finds that while employers do not need to adjust performance standards for the time an employee is actually on the job under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), FMLA can require that performance standards are adjusted to avoid penalizing an employee for being absent during their leave.
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The 5 Most Common Pitfalls of Performance Reviews

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Performance reviews are important tools that managers can use to boost employee performance and productivity to higher levels, but often fall prey to some common mistakes. As your organization prepares to review employee performance in the coming months, we recommend avoiding these 5 pitfalls.

 
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4 Hiring Practices Successful Employers Use

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4 Hiring Practices Successful Employers Use

Ever wonder how employers select a perfect match for a job? In our research, their secret lies in using certain hiring methods to select the right employees, specifically these four practices.

1. Behavioral Interviewing

Behavioral interviewing is one of the most accurate hiring techniques and ideal for evaluating skills and competencies necessary for effective job performance. Behavioral interviewing, as opposed to traditional interviewing, evaluates candidates' past performance by having job candidates describe specific stories, examples, experiences, and results that indicate their ability to perform certain job tasks and responsibilities.

Examples of behavioral interview questions include:"Provide an example of...", "Tell me about an experience when...", or "Describe how you did...". Typically, a candidate is asked to provide a description of the situation, task, action, and result in response.
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12 Answers to Common 'Paid Time Off' Questions

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12 Answers to Common Paid Time Off Questions

Paid time off policies (PTO), managing absenteeism, and administering summer holidays like July 4th are always common issues for employers during the summer months. Here are 12 answers to common questions about PTO and summer holidays to help your organization navigate these challenges and create a competitive PTO plan.

1. Are employers required to provide paid federal holidays or PTO?

No employer is required to pay for time off on holidays, but there are many holidays that employers choose to observe and pay employees. Similarly, there is no requirement that employers must provide PTO, but it's generally an HR essential to attract and retain good employees.

2. What is the average number of paid holidays provided?

The average number of paid holidays offered by employers is 9-10. Usually organizations provide at least 5 paid holidays, however we've seen organizations provide as many as 15. Additionally, nearly 40% of employers offer at least one floating holiday each year, according to our most recent Paid Holiday Survey.

3. Should we credit paid holidays that occur over a vacation?

Generally-speaking, yes. It's a good practice to credit PTO if a paid holiday occurs over a vacation. For example, if employees take July 2nd through July 6th off work and July 4th is a paid holiday observed by your organization, this day would be credited back to the employee's vacation or PTO bank.

4. How should we handle employees who take off unscheduled days before or after holidays?

A main way that employers deal with this problem is to state in their attendance or paid time off policy that patterned absences such as before or after holidays or weekends are considered unexcused absences and may be subject to discipline. Employers can also require time off to be approved. The best way to prevent this from happening is to cover it in your policy and enforce it consistently.

5. What are some reasons for considering PTO plans versus vacation and sick time?

PTO plans lump all time off into one bucket, versus separate buckets of time off for different types of leave like vacation, sick leave, and personal time (and typically excluding holidays, bereavement leave, jury duty, etc.). PTO plans allow employees to use days off for any reason and as a result tend to make the administrative process of managing and tracking time off easier. The focus of PTO is not on managing the reasons for the absence, but rather giving employees the freedom to use their time as they see fit. More employers are moving to PTO plans for these reasons.

6. How many PTO days do organizations typically give?

The standard across most benefits surveys is providing 10 vacation days after at least 1 year of service, 15 vacation days after 5 years of service, 18 vacation days after 10 years of service, and 20 vacation days after 15 years of service. Maximum amounts of vacation days are typically between 20-25 days, but vary greatly by employer. If sick and personal days are also included (such as in PTO plans) the number of days provided typically increases by 3-5 days at each interval. Vacation or PTO time is generally based on anniversary hire date or calendar year.

7. Should we consider unlimited vacation time?

Unlimited vacation time is becoming more popular, particularly among progressive employers and for salaried/exempt employees. There are many perks of unlimited vacation time if your culture is conducive to it. Not only does it eliminate the need to track time off and administer cumbersome details, but it gives employees more freedom to take personal time off and is an attractive benefit.

On the flip side, unlimited vacation time typically is difficult to administer with hourly workers and doesn't work effectively if your organization does not have the right employees on deck to responsibly handle this freedom or a culture that values results over hours worked. It also can make it difficult to monitor the reasons for employees' absences which can trigger your responsibilities under certain laws like ADA and FMLA.

8. How much time-off should new-hires receive?

New-hires typically receive between 5-10 days of vacation. In some companies, particularly those administering PTO plans which include sick and personal days, 10-15 days is more common. Allowing accrual and use of PTO to begin within the first 30 days of employment for new-hires versus after the traditional 90 day period is becoming a more common trend among employers.

9. What should we consider when developing a PTO donation program?

PTO donation programs which allow employees to voluntarily transfer PTO hours to qualified employees experiencing either their own medical hardship or one in their immediate family, are becoming popular. When developing these programs, employers should:

  • determine who is eligible to receive PTO donations - define specific circumstances, length of time expected to be absent, etc.
  • create an application to determine eligibility and a donation form indicating how many hours donating employees will provide
  • work out administrative details - such as how and when paid time off will be transferred and who is responsible for taxes incurred

10. How many PTO carry-over days should we allow?

The majority of employers have a use-it or lose-it policy where unused time off is forfeited at the end the end of the year, but many allow carry-over of unused time for future use. While allowing modest carry-over of vacation time from year to year is somewhat common, allowing too much accrued leave could potentially be a financial burden if it compounds over several years and you must pay out this leave when the employee terminates employment with the organization. It also may result in an extended leave because time is combined from one year to the next.

As a result, if carry-over days are allowed, it may be worthwhile to specify if days must be taken by a certain date, how many days can be carried over from year to year, and a maximum allowable time off period (i.e. 2 weeks).

11. Should employees be able to cash out their unused time?

Sometimes employers allow employees to "cash in" their accrued vacation hours at their full value or at a lesser cash value (such as 50% or 70%, if allowed according to state law). There are, however, extra payouts associated with this option and employers must determine if the payment will be calculated based on the employee's current base pay and/or base pay after pay enhancement, etc. This option is by no means common, but is a nice perk to offer employees as part of your PTO plan.

12. Do we need to pay out vacation time upon termination?

Finally, employers often inquire about if they need to pay out vacation time after an employee has been terminated. Accrued vacation or paid time off is normally paid to employees who leave the company voluntarily or involuntarily. Termination payments, however, are governed by state law. Here is Ohio's stance on payout of paid time off upon termination.

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An Employer’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Device Policies

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As new technology continues to shape the workplace and the use of social media and mobile devices at work becomes more widespread, organizations must create and enforce employment policies to protect themselves from the risks and liabilities associated with these new applications for working. Here's a short guide which contains important tips and guidelines for creating social media and mobile device policies.

Social Media Policies

Social media policies must balance a range of interests. First, they need to protect other employees and the company’s information and reputation without prohibiting employees from engaging in conversation about employment at your organization. Second, social media policies need to be flexible enough to allow your marketing, sales, recruiting, and PR employees to promote your company and network, but restrictive enough so  employees won't excessively use these platforms for non-business related purposes.

Below are several guidelines and best practices for creating social media policies, consistent with recent guidance issued by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and endorsed best practices published by the Society for New Communications Research. Additionally, this 2012 policy was approved by the NLRB and is helpful for employers as they create their own guidelines.

  • Require that social media usage is consistent with other workplace rules and policies, including federal laws related to discrimination and harassment.
  • Encourage employees to be respectful and fair to coworkers, customers, vendors, and other individuals affiliated with the company online and when using social media. Promote dealing with conflicts or complaints directly with one another rather than via social media outlets.
  • Educate employees that if online complaints or remarks are construed as disparaging, malicious, or threatening, their postings could be perceived as harassment or contribute to a hostile work environment, and thereby be unlawful.
  • Communicate that social media postings be accurate, factual, and truthful. Clarify how your organization will handle mistakes and edits to content. For example, many organizations require that mistakes be corrected promptly and edits or deletions to online content be communicated.
  • Define specific types of appropriate and inappropriate content to publish online. For example, trade secrets, private or confidential information, and financial disclosure laws/regulations can be reasonable content to protect.
  • Specify how employees should represent themselves online. Make clear that employees are not to represent themselves as spokespeople on behalf of the company and that employees who publish anything online related to their work or subjects associated with your organization should identify who they are and that their views do not represent those of their employer.
  • Specify if and when employees are able to use social media on the job. You may restrict employees from using social media at work if it is not job related or delegated by one’s manager, or if excessive use of social media is affecting job performance.
  • Don’t prohibit employees from talking about your organization online or expressing their personal opinions. The NLRB has been especially critical of employers who are trying to prevent employees from discussing terms and conditions of the workplace.

Bring Your Own Device to Work (BYOD) Policies

In addition to social media policies, every organization should have a Bring Your Own Device to Work Policy (otherwise known as a BYOD or a Mobile Device Policy) because employees are increasingly bringing their own mobile devices to work and accessing company networks through smartphones, tablets, IPADs, and laptops - to name just a few.

Although these devices can be of benefit to employees and employers alike by increasing productivity and providing flexible access points to company information, BYOD creates huge risks for employers in terms of compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), privacy and compliance mandates, etc. if mobile device policies are not in place. Here are some guidelines for developing those policies.

  • Consider the adverse effects of not allowing these devices in the workplace. Bans on mobile devices are usually not feasible because inevitably there is an employee who needs mobile access.
  • If your organization needs to remain compliant with certain regulations (HIPAA, etc.), take special precautions to safeguard this data and restrict employees’ access to it on their own devices. Work with your IT department to design those precautions.
  • Define and provide examples of what is acceptable use and transfer of organizational data on mobile devices.
  • Put into place guidelines regarding confidentiality and data ownership, including a procedure for data retrieval when an employee leaves the organization via voluntary or involuntary termination or when a device is lost or stolen.
  • Require strong or complex passwords in order to login to your company networks on mobile devices.
  • Have employees formally consent to an acceptable mobile device use policy, such as by signing off on your policy.
  • Establish clear rules for non-exempt employees about what they can and can’t do with their mobile devices during non-working hours to protect you in terms of FLSA requirements
  • Suggest that employees not use their phones or mobile devices with driving, in light of Ohio's recent ban on texting while driving
  • Indicate disciplinary consequences for employees who inappropriately use business data on their mobile devices.

Two final pieces of advice when creating these policies. Collaborate with your employees to create a policy. Be sure to include your legal department, your core users of social media for business purposes (for social media policies) and IT department (for BYOD policies). Finally, update these policies on an ongoing basis. With technology constantly changing, these policies need to be revisited at least annually.

Please note that by providing you with research information that may be contained in this article, ERC is not providing a qualified legal opinion. As such, research information that ERC provides to its members should not be relied upon or considered a substitute for legal advice. The information that we provide is for general employer use and not necessarily for individual application.

3 Keys to Good Customer Service

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3 Keys to Good Customer Service

Good customer service is the heart of every business. It flows from employees who engage internal and external customers, meet their needs, and exceed their expectations. Good customer service creates a "wow" experience for your customers, leaves a positive impression, encourages repeat business, and ideally refers other customers to your organization. So how do you get your employees on-board? Here are 3 critical elements of good customer service.

1. Good customer service starts with the right attitude and mindset.

Customer service starts with having the right underlying attitudes and motivations. This means not only hiring people with the right customer service mentality and who want to help and satisfy their customers, but also encouraging the right focus and attitudes by talking positively about customers in the organization, repeatedly communicating the importance of customer service to your business' success, training employees on the customer service practices your organization has decided to emphasize, and recognizing employees who serve the customer extraordinarily well.

Key employee attitudes that drive good customer service include viewing customers positively, understanding that customer service is important to the organization's success, feeling motivated and accountable for providing good customer service, having the information and tools needed to provide good customer service, viewing leaders as enthusiastic and supportive of good customer service, and believing that they can take initiative to do what is best for the customer.

2. Good customer service requires effective communication.

Exceptional customer service requires mastering communication with internal customers (other employees) and external customers (those outside of your organization) as well as with difficult customers. Without both quality communication through a variety of channels such as face-to-face, over the phone, or via email, as well as effective communication in a diverse range of situations both internal, within the organization, and external, outside the organization with a diverse group of customers, service can suffer.

Customer service issues almost always arise from a failure to communicate properly.

For example, customers may not know what to expect or may not be accurately informed of changes and schedules. Customers also could perceive a lack of responsiveness or courtesy. A customer's tone may unleash an emotional reaction from your representative. The underlying problem in all of these issues (and most customer service dilemmas) is a failure to communicate well.

Effective communication with customers involves listening and understanding your customer's viewpoint or problem, handling emotions, organizing and preparing one's thoughts, speaking clearly and succinctly, responding to or following up on questions directly and in a timely manner, watching non-verbal cues like tone and body language, problem solving, and closing conversations or interactions to keep the door open for an ongoing positive relationship with the customer.

Communication is as much an art as a science and takes practice. Building self-awareness of communication strengths and weaknesses and teaching skills through training, role-playing, scripts, and conversation coaching are just a few methods to use to drive better customer service. But beware: not all customer service training and skill-building is created equal. Traditional lectures or "guides" simply won't cut it. Employees must practice, engage in the changed behaviors, and obtain feedback as they are doing so by a trained professional.

3. Good customer service is practiced on your internal customers.

Practice good service with your internal customers. Employees generally don't provide good customer service to their customers if they aren't serving one another in a consistent, reliable, friendly, and timely manner.

Good customer service is the result of positive, supportive interactions between staff members who are interdependent on one another for information, especially when multiple people and departments are involved in the process of delivering a product or service to the customer.

Organizations that provide good internal customer service:

  • Have collaborative cultures that recognize and reward teamwork
  • Freely and efficiently share information with one another; create processes that enable free-flow of information
  • Respect each others' time; respond and resolve internal inquiries in a timely manner
  • Listen and try to understand the concerns and demands of one another
  • Have clear communication channels for communicating product and business process information
  • Speak to one another courteously and respectfully

If you expect and want good customer service from your employees, the best way to achieve it is by modeling the attitudes, behaviors, and communication practices you seek inside your organization and creating a workplace that lives, breathes, and teaches what it means to put the customer first.

Customer Service Skills Training

Customer Service Skills Training

This training helps you build better relationships with your customers.

Train Your Employees

Drug Testing Policies in the Workplace

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Drug testing has become a hot button political issue with the 2012 report by the  National Conference of State Legislatures that 28 states across the country have either considered or passed legislation establishing drug testing requirements for individuals enrolled in various types of public assistance programs, including unemployment benefits. The constitutionality of many of these laws is currently in question, but what do drug testing policies look like outside of the realm of the State?

While some limited data on drug testing policies and practices in the workplace does exist, ERC’s 2012 Drug Testing Policies and Practices Survey provides data about drug testing policies for 163 organizations right here in Ohio. In addition, the report offers a detailed look into the frequency with which organizations have encountered failed drug tests, many of which result in rescinded job offers to otherwise qualified job applicants or even termination for existing employees.

Drug testing policies were common, with 78% of employers reporting that they would not hire an otherwise qualified applicant based on a failed drug test. This policy was applied to hourly positions (78.6%) slightly more often than to salaried positions (77.5%), a trend that continued across all breakouts regardless of industry or organizational size.

Although these hiring polices around drug testing were slightly more common for hourly than salaried positions, the survey found much larger differences in the reported testing failure rates among the hourly (33.5%) than the salaried group (13.2%). By and large, employers reported that their failure rates have remained the same from 2011, both for pre-employment testing as well as for drug tests performed on existing employees.

To download the full survey report of 163 participating Ohio organizations, please click here.

Additional Resources

ERC members save on drug testing with Preferred Partners.

10-Step Guide for Your Company Summer Picnic

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10-Step Guide for Your Company Summer Picnic

The annual company summer picnic or outing is a tradition for many organizations and a time to get creative to give your staff and their families a memorable experience. We’ve compiled a 10-step guide to creating a fun and unforgettable summer picnic for your employees which includes suggestions for possible local venues, entertainment, activities, food, and tips for managing the logistics.

1. Determine who to invite.

Choosing who to invite impacts many of your other decisions about the event. Will you invite just staff, their spouses/significant others, or their families? You'll need to know how many people you need to accommodate and your prospective audience in order to plan a successful picnic.

2. Choose a time.

When choosing a time for your organization's picnic, consider your organization's work schedule, employees' vacation schedules, and who you are inviting to the picnic. If the picnic involves other family members and children, after work or on a weekend may be best; whereas if you are only inviting staff, a weekday picnic may be more appropriate. Saturday around lunchtime and early-mid afternoon is usually the most common day/time to host a family picnic.

3. Pick an attractive local venue.

Selecting a new location for your summer picnic each year adds some excitement. Depending on your budget, local park pavilions, amusement or water parks, dinner cruises, outdoor festivals, or even the company premises (if conducive) are all good options for company summer picnic venues.

4. Plan fun, appealing activities that suit your audience.

Rides, inflatables, carnival games, sports, craft-making, paddle boats, pony rides, and karaoke are just a few of many activities that you could offer. Whatever activities you choose, make sure they fit your audience and the ages in attendance. Also, if your picnic involves activities, it's best to provide an agenda for the day.

5. Hire an entertainer.

Caricature artists, clowns, balloon artists, event artists, trapeze artists, gymnasts, stunt men, magicians, DJs, acrobats, face painters, jugglers, ventriloquists, comedians, fortune tellers, puppeteers, bands, soloists, dancers, and impersonators are different types of entertainers you could hire for the event.

6. Add new prizes to your raffle.

A raffle or drawing is often an anticipated highlight of the company picnic for employees and their families – especially if you give away great prizes. Skip giving away the extra PTO day this year or company logo gear. Rather, include employees’ kids and offer exciting prizes like new technology, money, gift cards and certificates, and the latest toys – all things most people love to win.

7. Theme your event.

It helps change the atmosphere and adds a fun twist. Insert your theme into your activities, food, decorations (tablecloths, center-pieces, etc.), and even communications about the event (invitations, reminders, response cards, etc.). Possible themes could include a beach party, safari, wild-west, casino, circus, Olympics, luau, field day, etc.

8. Brand your event and make it special.

Communications about the company picnic should include more than just a company-wide email or inclusion in a newsletter. Send out personal invitations to each employee and their family. Brand the picnic and display posters and communications around the workplace. Consider creating a special website or intranet site for the picnic. This helps generate excitement about it and makes your employees feel special and valued.

9. Change up the menu.

Providing “picnic staples” (hot dogs, hamburgers, salads, etc.) is important, but consider trying something different this year (see “Picnic Menu FAQs”). Trying new food options can liven up a traditional summer picnic. Additionally, while choosing a good corporate caterer is important, when management gets involved in preparing the food, this can be quite meaningful to employees.

Picnic Menu

Picnic Menu FAQs

  1. What are some popular choices this summer that companies seem to be ordering?
    Items that can be grilled on site, such as marinated chicken accompanied by some unusual side dishes such as a grilled sweet potato salad or a quinoa salad.
  2. What’s good guidance on amount of food and beverage per person?
    If grilling and offering a choice of entrees, make sure to have at least 1 to 2 pieces per person (i.e. one piece of chicken and one hot dog). By offering beverages in dispensers you are sure to have a nice variety and plenty to go around. If it is hot you want to make sure your guests stay hydrated with plenty of cold water (try infusing it with basil and cucumber for something a bit different), iced tea or lemonade.
  3. Best advice you would give a corporate summer picnic planner?
    Make sure that you are setup to keep your cold food cold and your hot food hot on your buffet line. Depending on the size of your event the logistics can overwhelming consider having either a portion or the entire event catered so you can take care of the entertainment details. Give us a call we would love to be part of your corporate celebrations this year no matter how big or how small.

Answers courtesy of Bonnie Matthew, Owner/President of ERC’s Preferred Partner Food for Thought

10. Don’t forget the classics.

Popcorn and cotton candy machines, ice cream and snow cone stands, or the annual company baseball game – the classics and traditions of company picnics – should also be included. Don’t get rid of the traditions and classic elements of a company picnic that your guests love and that are unique to your company culture.

Last but not least – don’t fail to consider the logistics – like contingency plans for rainy weather. These aren’t necessarily the most fun to plan for, but are important for a successful event.

The company summer picnic should make your guests have a great time, connect with one another, meet each other’s families, build relationships and camaraderie, and take pride in your organization. Using the tips in this guide, make your company summer picnic one that employees remember and look forward to all year.

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To Text or Not to Text - There is No Question

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By Pat Perry

In 2012 the Ohio Senate passed House Bill 99 (vote of 25-8) which would make it a secondary offense (for adults) and a primary offense for minors to text while driving. In addition House Bill 99 would prohibit drivers under 18 from using any electronic device while driving (with the exception of a GPS). Regardless of your political persuasion or your thoughts about the Bill, I hope you can agree that if you are texting while driving versus looking at the road, you increase the probability that bad things can happen. In addition to texting while driving, here are a couple of other offenses that seem to only be getting worse:

  • Texting while interviewing (yes, believe it or not…this is happening with some of our member companies).
  • Texting while attending seminars or business events. Instructors and keynote presenters tell us that they are seeing more and more of this behavior.
  • Texting while in a meeting. Equally as rude as texting at a seminar – but apparently much more challenging as the individual texting has a harder time hiding their mobile device while seemingly paying attention to the meeting.
  • Texting while engaged in a one-on-one conversation. I have seen this happen several times and consider it the crème de la crème of texting addiction.
  • Texting Receptionists. The “best” is when a Receptionist greets you and then asks you to hold on for a minute so they can finish their text “conversation”.

The text addiction does not discriminate based on age…seems like everyone is in the game. Next time you are at a stoplight, count the number of cars where the drivers are either texting or not using hands free technology to talk on the phone. Scary stuff.

If you text or call while driving, do us all a favor - please turn the phone off until you get to your destination. If you are one of those that believes that you can text/call without incident while driving, just check out the local, regional or national stats relative to accidents/deaths related caused by texting/cell phone usage – it’s sobering. 

It’s one thing to be rude texting in a business environment…it’s another to kill or hurt someone because of it.