How Employers Can Fill the Skill Gap

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Organizations across the region continue to face challenges in finding the right employees and talent. What's the solution to this dilemma? We weigh in on the skill-gap problem facing many employers and several practical things you can do to obtain the skills you need.

Is your offer competitive?

You've likely changed and tweaked your sourcing strategies several times to find the right talent, but have you changed your offer - the pay, benefits, and perks of working at your organization? People with the most in-demand skills know what they are worth and are drawn to the most lucrative opportunities, with higher salaries, better benefits, more advancement opportunities, and unique perks.

You must have the right package to draw the talent you need. If you haven't taken a look at what starting salaries and benefits packages are in the market currently, and how employers are communicating this information to applicants to draw them into their organizations, it may be best to start there. Your pay rates may not be competitive anymore.

Do you need to redefine what talent means?

The perception of a skill gap sometimes is created by our unrealistic expectations of everything talent should be. Talent is more or less a set of characteristics and abilities which predict success on the job. Talent is not necessarily an exact match of all the skills and experiences you need, however hiring processes often seek this precise match.

Consider how employers define top talent - usually in terms of attitude, integrity, work ethic, passion for the work, and motivation to succeed. These are talents worth seeking, but more often than not, interviews, assessments, and other hiring methods focus heavily on concrete skills and experiences - the easiest of which to teach prospective employees. That being said, keep these things in mind when hiring talent:

  • Be careful what you are screening out in the hiring process. Don't needlessly turn down candidates because they don't meet an unnecessary skill requirement.
  • Focus interview questions on relevant behaviors and experiences needed to be successful on the job, not necessarily exact experiences that the job will entail. Target abilities and transferable skills.
  • Consider hiring inexperienced employees to build and grow talent from the ground, up. They are a blank slate with fresh perspectives. This strategy has been highly successful for many organizations, particularly entrepreneurial firms.

Who's already on your bench?

Companies often don't realize their bench strength in that many of the technical skills and capabilities they need either already exist in their organizations or have the potential to be learned. Frequently, they don't take the time to understand what each of their employees has to offer, and consequently overlook talent that already exists in their organizations as well as opportunities to engage and develop their current staff who desire growth.

Don't assume that employees don't want to learn a new skill, take on a challenge, go to a training, or that you know an employee's full potential. Regularly inventory employees' skills, document their education and training, and ask employees what skills they would like to attain. Skills can be learned, and our guess is that you have plenty of employees eager for a new challenge.

Can they be grown?

More employers are realizing that in order to gain the skills and talent they need to grow and advance their businesses, they will have to start growing those skills internally with training, coaching, and development. Hiring talent externally may seem easier as well as less costly and time-consuming, but the cost of operating with vacancies, wasting time unsuccessfully sourcing talent, and paying a premium for external hires can outweigh the cost of investing in your current employees.

An added bonus of growing talent internally is that doing so engages and retains current employees, who often will leave for greener pastures and new opportunities that aren't afforded to them. In our experience, too much external hiring can cause a great deal of disengagement, eliminating possible opportunities for your current employees. Here are some tips to grow your own:

  • Conduct a training needs assessment to understand what skill gaps exist.
  • Determine what skill gaps can be filled internally and which employees have the ability to learn.
  • Identify opportunities for cross-training - can employees be trained by current employees?
  • Where skills can't be cross-trained and outside expertise is needed, seek external training.
  • Prioritize training and development opportunities based on the most critical skill gaps to manage costs and time away from work.

ERC's Director of Technical Training weighs in on the importance of development to retaining employees and closing the skill gap. He says, "To help maintain their competitive edge, organizations will need to continually invest in workforce development. Contrary to a popular myth, companies who invest in developing the technical skills of their people are more likely to retain those people--- not lose them to a competitor for an extra 25 cents an hour. Studies have shown that when employees develop new technical skills, they are more loyal, productive and motivated to do an even better job…for the company who invested in them."

The skill gap is here to stay and employers will be tasked with coming up with creative solutions to fill the gap in the months and years to come. Employers that are able to fill their skill gaps more creatively and thoughtfully, while retaining their best people in the process, will end up gaining a competitive advantage.

Additional Resources

Training at ERC
Hundreds of companies turn to ERC every year to develop and enhance the skills of their managers, supervisors, leaders and professionals at all levels. We offer a variety of technical skills, workplace/soft skills, supervisory/management/leadership skills, computer skills, and legal/compliance training on-site as well as at our Workplace Center.

2012 ERC Local Salary Data Published
For more information or to purchase our most recent ERC Salary Survey and ERC Wage Survey which provide local salary and hourly wage data from Northeast Ohio employers on over 300 jobs, please click here. Not an ERC member? Join today and receive free access to our newly published survey results!

Make a Difference in Productivity and Your Bottom Line!

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ERC encourages you to select CareWorks as your new MCO. CareWorks can help make a difference in the health and productivity of your employees and your bottom line. There are no direct costs for an MCO, fees are already included with your BWC premium. As Ohio’s most selected MCO,* CareWorks:

  • Medically manages nearly one out of every three workplace injuries in Ohio.*
  • Had the #1 return to work performance on the 2012 BWC MCO Report Card*and over a nine-year period.**

Even if you already have a TPA, your MCO choice matters! Learn more about CareWorks here.

(*Source: BWC’s 2012 MCO Report Card).
(**Source: Average of BWC’s Quarterly MCO DoDM Results from 1st Quarter 2003 through 4th Quarter 2011.)

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.

2012 Manny Award Winners

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Congratulations to the 2012 winners of the Manny Awards. The Manny Awards, hosted by Inside Business magazine, honor manufacturing excellence in Northeast Ohio. ERC members who received honors in 2012 are: Freeman Manufacturing & Supply Company, GrafTech, Olympic Steel, Inc. and PartsSource, Inc.

For the past 15 years, the Manny Awards have been committed to recognizing the manufacturing industry's greatest accomplishments, and in so doing, honoring local companies for their innovation and best practices. The 2012 awards will took place on Thursday, May 17, from 6-9 p.m. at Windows on the River in Cleveland, OH. The awards celebrated the 2012 winners who reflect the manufacturing strength and future of Northeast Ohio as well as featured keynote speaker Dr. Chad Moutray, Chief Economist, National Association of Manufacturers. For additional details on the 2012 Manny Awards recipients please visit http://ibmag.com/mannyawards/mannyawardsrsvp.aspx.

ERC Releases Wage and Salary Data for Northeast Ohio

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ERC, Northeast Ohio’s leading publisher of local workplace information and salary data, has released the results of its 2012 annual wage and salary surveys. These surveys serve as a critical compensation benchmarking resource for employers across Northeast Ohio that are looking to stay competitive in the region by attracting and retaining top talent.

The 2012 ERC Salary Survey reports annual salaries for 8,508 individual employees in 241 professional and management positions from 196 Northeast Ohio organizations. The 2012 ERC Wage Survey reports hourly pay information for 8,127 individual employees in 80 hourly production, maintenance and service positions from 149 Northeast Ohio employers.

“To effectively compete for talent, it’s important for employers to benchmark their pay rates and practices,” states ERC’s director of research and membership. “These surveys provide Northeast Ohio employers with comprehensive local data that helps inform their decisions regarding wages and salaries.”

The 2012 results suggest fairly stable pay rates overall, and continue to reflect the same stagnant growth pattern that has become the norm for the region in recent years.

View ERC's Wage & Salary Adjustment Survey Results

The survey reports data from Northeast Ohio organizations regarding their actual and projected wage and salary adjustments.

View the Results

How to Pay a Fair Salary: 5 Principles

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It probably seems like some of your employees are never satisfied with their salaries and that fair pay is always an issue needing to be addressed with either job applicants or current employees. If your organization and its managers haven’t heard the following questions and complaints from your current or prospective workforce, consider yourself among the lucky few...

  • “I do the work of 2 people, why aren’t I paid more?”
  • “If I’m doing a great job, why aren’t I getting a bigger pay adjustment than 2%?”
  • "Can you pay me 'x' for the job given my credentials?"
  • “The company had a record year last year and we didn’t receive a bonus or raise.”
  • “I haven’t gotten a pay raise in 3 years.”
  • “I’m working harder than ever with fewer resources and my pay doesn’t reflect my contributions.”
  • “Why don’t we get cost-of-living increases?”
  • “Why is she paid more than me when she does less work and performs worse?”
  • “The company down the street pays more for this job.”
  • “I found data on the internet which says that I should be paid 'x' for my position.”

These salary questions are tough and complicated for employers. They don’t have easy answers. Plus, with the wide availability of pay information on the internet, employees can quickly become skeptical of your pay practices if they don’t match or seem fair to what they see, hear and read online.

What’s an employer to do? Try to keep salaries as fair as possible and ward off perceptions of inequity as best they can, keeping in mind the needs of the business and market. Below are 5 widely accepted comp principles that employers have successfully used to keep pay fair and complaints to a minimum.

Principle 1: Play to the market.

The best way to stay on track with compensation is to know what your immediate, local competitors are paying and how they pay. Conduct thorough market analyses. Look at details like county and industry comparisons. Consider years of experience and education factors. Explore how other employers pay – do they offer variable pay, merit increases, pay premiums or bonuses in addition to base pay? These factors can lead to substantial differences in total pay.

Principle 2: Make internal comparisons.

What are you paying a premium for at your organization? Are certain skills, behaviors or job attributes more valuable than others to your business? Should they be paid a premium as a result? Who is most important to your company? Comparing the value of positions in the organization can help make sure that employees are paid fairly in relationship to their contributions to the business. Just make sure employees know what skills and attributes are valued.

Principle 3: Directly tie pay to performance.

One of the biggest criticisms employees have about their pay is when underperformers are paid as much as them and when working hard and performing well doesn’t necessarily bring a higher pay raise. It can be frustrating to your highest performers when better performance doesn’t equal better pay. That's why it's critical to accurately measure performance regularly and reward it with pay increases or variable pay.

Principle 4: Share the wealth.

If your organization is having record financial years, employees will eventually notice and become disenchanted if they aren't able to share in the wealth and success they helped create. The majority of employers share their business' financial success with their employees in some way, such as bonuses, profit-sharing and merit increases. Their pay should be tied to your organizational results. If pay can't be adjusted, consider other rewards to recognize employees.

Principle 5: Provide a living wage.

This means compensating employees in a way that allows them to meet their basic needs. When there is a consistent problem or complaint of not being able live on a certain amount of compensation, consider exploring your pay practices and how they meet your talent’s needs. If a segment of your workforce can't survive on what they are being paid, then it may be time to re-evaluate your pay practices, even if the market differs. Take care of your own.

Fair and competitive salaries are absolutely essential for attracting, motivating and retaining employees. When unfair pay is a main issue in a segment of your organization, use these five principles and adjust your pay practices accordingly.

View ERC's Wage & Salary Adjustment Survey Results

The survey reports data from Northeast Ohio organizations regarding their actual and projected wage and salary adjustments.

View the Results

7 Things You Might Not Know About Salary Survey Data

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7 Things You Might Not Know About Salary Survey Data

Being a well-versed salary survey user is an important part of managing employee compensation at your organization. After all, salary surveys are the leading source for setting pay rates.

What data should you use, and what data shouldn't you use? Why is some data lower and some data higher? Should you do a custom survey for better data? If you can't find a given job in a survey, is it okay to use internet or recruiting firm data? How many sources should you use? Here are the answers to these questions and more that we routinely get asked by employers—7 things you may not know about salary survey data.

1. Government data is conservative.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is a great, reliable resource for salary benchmarking, but compensation analysts find it to be conservative when compared to other compensation data sources. This is because of the time frame in which it is captured, the types of organizations surveyed, and variables covered.

2. Custom salary surveys are less reliable.

Conducting a custom survey for a niche job is commonly believed to be more targeted and accurate than a larger salary survey, however these surveys tend to have lower sample sizes than expected and are not replicated regularly. Custom surveys can be good options for niche jobs and industries, but be aware of their limitations. They certainly aren't always the best option.

3. Internet comp data is generally invalid.

Not only are internet resources for comp data indefensible, but their sources can’t be verified. Research has found that these sources are highly inaccurate and comp experts raise serious questions about the data's validity. Be wary of any data found on the internet that does not publish participant names, demographics, effective dates of data, and sample sizes.

4. Use recruiting firm and job board data with caution.

Data published by recruiting firms and individual employee data (such as from job boards) tend to not be as reliable sources of information as others since they often report inflated pay rates. This information is not a good indicator of how much a job is actually paid.

5. Choosing the right survey makes a difference.

All compensation surveys cater to a certain audience. Make sure that audience fits your's. If a survey contains very large employers on a national scope that you don't compete with, it's probably not a good survey to choose for benchmarking. The wrong survey source can lead to higher or lower data, so always look at the participant list and demographics.

6. Salary data sources are shrinking.

The number of third-parties offering salary data is shrinking which means that employers have fewer sources to select from for their compensation data, though the strong ones still remain. As a result, it’s critically important that organizations support and participate in compensation surveys they value so that valid and reliable information continues to be available.

7. The magic number is “3.”

Ever wonder how many sources you need to make a good pay decision? Some sources say 2, some say 5. Comp experts agree that reliable pay decisions should result from 3 separate sources of salary survey information. Choose three surveys that make the most sense for your analyses.

To make good pay decisions, you need quality data and multiple sources of it. Reliable salary data is tough to come by these days, so be careful about what you use.

Do’s and Don’ts of Employment Background Checks

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The "Do's"

DO: Obtain Applicant Consent. The first step in pre employment screening is to obtain applicant consent. This isn’t just good advice—it’s also the law, as outlined by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). You must make applicants aware that they will be subject to a background check, and the candidate/employee must sign a written consent form before you conduct the screen.

DO: Make Sure the Background Check Relates to the Job. Establish a clear link between the items you’re screening for in the background check and the job duties. Understand what you “need to know” and what could potentially violate an individual’s privacy rights or cause unfair discrimination.

DO: Apply Your Criteria Consistently. Another way to help keep your company within legal grounds and promote fair hiring is to make sure you apply your policy in a consistent manner. For example, for a particular job category such as “Help Desk Support”  make sure you use the same type of background check on everyone in that job category and that you use the same criteria for assessing the results. You can vary your background checks to make sure they are relevant for the job – but do not vary them within the same job.

DO: Notify Your Applicant of Any Records Found. Before you take any action on the results of a background screen in hiring, promoting, or suspending an employee, make sure you’re aware of the Adverse Action requirements. These requirements are mandated by the FCRA and are very specific about how to notify an applicant of an adverse decision you’ve made concerning the results of their background check.

DO: Consider the Use of Employee Monitoring After Hire: Just because an applicant has cleared a background check, don’t assume that you will know if and when that person might get into trouble once they are in your employ. Monitoring your current employees to make sure you know if an arrest occurs is a growing best practice.

DO: Establish and Publish Your Background Screening Policy. Make clear—in writing—your background screening policy. Detail what types of screens you conduct, and the information for which you’re screening. Make sure you include federal, state and local laws in your guidelines. Additionally, make it clear how you’ll apply your background screening results.

The "Don'ts"

DON’T: Create a Blanket Policy. Fair employment laws require that you only make hiring decisions based on job-related capabilities. Therefore, avoid bright line “no criminal record” policies. Often, old and non-serious convictions have little or no bearing on a person’s ability to fulfill the job obligations.

DON’T: Rely Solely on National Criminal Database Searches. With today’s mobile workforce, it’s wise to conduct criminal searches on a national level to see if there are any criminal activities beyond where your applicant works or worked. But, always back up your national search with a local-level search to verify the results. Otherwise, you’ll risk making decisions on old or potentially inaccurate information.

DON’T: Forget to Screen Your Subcontractors & Temporary Workers. Everyone who works for your company should undergo a background screen. This includes contractors and vendors who are working for you. There is a large body of legal precedent that suggests you can be held liable for anyone who is paid by you; whether they are an employee or a subcontractor.

Percentage of Companies that do Background Checks

Eighty percent of U.S. companies ran criminal checks on job applicants in 2011, compared to about 50 percent of companies in 1996, according to a 2012 report from the Society for Human Resource Management.

What the New EEOC Guidance Means for You

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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) 2012 guidance on background checks suggests that employers need to exercise more due diligence in their hiring practices. Its guidance on background check practices underscores the importance of five key practices in the hiring process.

1. Hiring policies should not exclude people from employment based on status.

Policies that automatically exclude people from employment based on only certain criteria (such as criminal status, age, disability, etc.) could pose liability. Employers should refrain from developing narrow policies of this nature to avoid potential legal issues.

2. Employers need to monitor adverse impact.

Hiring practices that result in adverse impact for a protected group are unlawful. If a hiring practice or selection method is adversely impacting a protected group, employers should not use it. This is true of any method used to base a hiring decision such as ability/personality assessments, drug tests, background checks, credit checks, etc.

3. Employers must hire based on the essential functions of the job.

The EEOC’s guidance suggests that employers must make hiring decisions based on whether candidates can do the essential job functions. Employers must identify those essential requirements in the hiring process and determine if a criminal record (for example) prevents a candidate from performing those functions.

4. Hiring criteria has to be job-related.

One of the most consistent trends in guidance provided by the government (and EEOC) on hiring practices is to keep all hiring decisions based on job-related criteria. If the criteria that employers are using to evaluate job candidates are not job-related, it will likely not hold up in court. For example, if an applicant's criminal offense is unrelated to the job, then you may not be able to exclude an applicant.

5. Employers must train decision-makers about employment discrimination.

The EEOC’s guidance emphasizes the importance of employers training both HR practitioners and managers on employment discrimination. Any individual who makes hiring decisions should understand employment law as it relates to recruitment and hiring.

While the EEOC only specifically addressed criminal background checks in its guidance, employers should be cautious with using any hiring practices, criteria and/or policies that are questionable against the guidelines provided.

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.

Additional Resources

Save on Background Check Services!ERC’s Preferred Partner Corporate Screening Services, Inc. offers ERC members discounts averaging over 20% off standard background screening products. 

Behavioral Interviewing
This workshop gives participants the skills they need to effectively plan for and conduct an effective behavioral-based interview. It also guides participants through effectively evaluating candidates so they can hire the best candidate. Emphasis will be placed on the selection process, including legal issues facing interviewers.

3 Steps Toward a Complete LinkedIn Profile

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Signing up for a LinkedIn Profile requires only a few simple pieces of information. However, the more complete your profile is, the more opportunities will likely open up for you.

According to LinkedIn, a "100% complete profile" includes the following items:

  • Industry and postal code
  • A current position with description
  • Two more positions
  • Education
  • At least 5 skills
  • Profile photo
  • At least 50 connections
  • A summary

In this article, we'll discuss 3 of these items that will be valuable additions toward a more complete profile.

Add at least three positions with descriptions

Likely one of the first things you'll do is add your current position. If you've gotten that far, you're off to a great start. But having a more complete employment history provide several benefits for you:

  • Connect with past co-workers - Adding employment history with past employers will allow you to reconnect with past co-workers, potentially opening the door for networking opportunities, partnerships with your current employer or simply reconnecting with an old friend.
  • Demonstrate experience - By adding multiple work experiences, you're demonstrating your experience with different employers in different positions with different job roles. You may also be able to show career progression as you move from one position to another.

Add previous education

Just as adding employment history gives you the ability to re-connect with past colleagues, adding education history allows you to reconnect with former classmates. It also shows relevant education as it pertains to your job or career.

  • Add relevant coursework - Be sure to add your concentration/major if you're adding a post-secondary education, but also include any relevant coursework to assemble a thorough education history.
  • Add activities and societies - This is another easy way to connect with people of similar backgrounds. You may find that you have a closer connection with some of your existing business relationships through past activities or societies.

Add a summary

A summary acts as your personal branding boilerplate. If you were in an elevator with your dream employer (which may be your current employer) and had to summarize your career, experience and expertise on the way up, what would you say? Luckily here, you have more than an elevator ride's amount of time to craft your summary.

  • Think in keywords - What are they keywords that you want people to associate you with? If you're a job seeker, you might use terms like "action-oriented" or "goals-driven." If you're looking to connect with other professionals in your industry, write in terms of tasks or responsibilities.
  • Share relevant extracurriculars - Are you affiliated with an industry association? Do you volunteer with a prominent group that may boost your credentials? Be sure to add that here.
  • Be concise - This isn't the place to write your life story. Try to use short sentences, bulleted lists and no more than a paragraph or two.