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Archive for May, 2013

To Check or Not To Check: A Background Check Primer

On May 24, Randy Pullen, President and CEO of WageWatch, Inc., published an article in HotelNewsNow.com about a local Arizona case involving a registered sex offender who allegedly used employment in the hotel industry as a front desk agent to target his next sexual assault victim.  The article concludes that thorough pre-employment background checks are a critical tool in mitigating new hire risks. 

There are many types of background checks available to HR professionals that can be conducted in house or externally by vendors who specialize in employment screenings.  HR professional should take a strategic view of onboarding as a process. By doing so, several layers of checks and screenings are implemented to best reduce new hire risks.  It is the old adage that the result is more than the sum of its parts.

New hire selection process starts with the job advertisement or announcement.  The announcement needs to be designed to attract specific skills and behaviors while discouraging those without. Posting in the advertisement that the position requires a drug test or criminal background check is a potent deterrent.  Those still interested should be directed to a job application that captures information that will form the groundwork for the pre-employment screenings in the next recruitment phase.

The EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act; Age Discrimination Act; Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act; Equal Pay Act; and Title II of the Genetic Information Act.  Employers are welcome to use all manner of pre-employment screenings – as long as they comply with EEOC standards. None of these Acts directly prohibit employment discrimination based on credit information, conviction records, previous employment, education, or psychological/behavioral profiles. However, the EEOC has a published a Compliance Manual and provides guidance on a number of pre-employment scenarios, because of the disparate impact facially neutral polices can have on these numerous protected classes.

This is the tightrope that causes many HR professionals to gloss over background checks out of fear of inadvertently triggering an EEOC investigation.  What you don’t know, can hurt you.  HR has a duty to the company to traverse this tightrope and understand the often gray and contradictory playing field (between state and federal guidelines) in which they conduct pre-employment screenings.

Criminal Background Checks – Treat each criminal record individually in the context of the job sought, work environment and conditions, and risk to the organization. Ask the candidate about the situation. Deliberate omission and lies can be used a basis to disqualify the candidate.

Credit Check – Most commonly used for positions that have are executive level, have financial responsibility, or have access to confidential information such as social security numbers to reduce the risk of theft or embezzlement.  Allow candidates the opportunity to explain negative results as some reasons, such as medical bills, are protected.

Physical/Medical Exam – This screening is allowed only after a conditional offer of employment is extended and is used in specific jobs that require a proof of fitness in order to safely perform duties.  All candidates in the job category are required to have the same medical examination.  The candidate medical history is confidential and must be kept separate from employment records.  HR professionals need to keep in mind that the medical examiner does not make the final hiring decision.

Motor Vehicle Record – This is a critical check for positions that are required to operate a company vehicle as part of the job requirement.  In some states, DUI convictions are kept with the DMV not the criminal court system.  There are vendors that make multi-state verification easier by consolidating searches.

Work & Education History – Past performance is a strong indicator of future performance.  The goal of the work history and education background check is to establish that the glowing resume represented to the recruiter is factual and accurate. On education, check with the governing body on the authenticity of the degree.  We recommend asking for full transcripts for recent graduates with a short work history.

As a company, it is important for you to understand the new regulations set forth by the EEOC and implement them in your hiring and workplace practices. Additionally, for the good of your employees, it is helpful to analyze benefits survey data, compensation surveys and salary reports. Having this information at hand allows you to plan a budget, including competitive employee salaries and benefits, which will help you to hire and retain a happy, talented team.

At WageWatch, our expert evaluators provide businesses in a large range of industries with accurate and beneficial benefits survey data, compensation surveys and salary reports to ensure that payment and benefits plans are on par with those in the industry. For more information on market compensation data, please call WageWatch at 888-330-9243 or contact us online.

Human Resources: The Gatekeeper for Company Ethics

Business ethics are important to every business and are often a component of a company’s core values.  However, that doesn’t mean that the organization as a whole is ethical.  To build an ethical organization, leadership must establish, and model the company’s core values.  Ethics must be woven into the fabric of the organization, fully supported by leadership and integrated into the company’s philosophies, values, policies, procedures and practices.   HR departments represent the employees, their concerns, and deal with employee fairness issues and therefore, HR’s role in ethics management should be central to ensure real benefits for the organization and the employees.  Human resources deals with a variety of ethical challenges that if not handled properly can damage a company’s reputation, lead to serious legal issues and potentially high cost impact to an organization.  For example, discrimination issues, sexual harassment and unfair employment policies can damage a company’s reputation as well as have severe financial impact. 

However, HR departments should not be expected to manage ethics initiatives on their own. In order for ethical behavior to become part of an organization, there needs to be a collaborative effort that also includes Legal, Audit, the top management team, and the board of directors.  HR should have a primary role in the development and integration of ethics programs into key organizational activities, such as the design of performance appraisal systems, management training, and disciplinary processes.

The first step to including ethics in company policy and strategies is to put ethics on the agenda, make it part of the conversation. This can begin the process for ethics to become part of the organization’s culture, business plan, and goals.  HR professionals can help leadership define ethics for the organization. For example, what are the specific types of ethical issues that impact your organization, your competitors and your industry?  This process of defining what ethics means to your organization can also help you determine safeguards that can be included in your policies and processes such as recruiting, onboarding, and leadership training.  Ensure ethics policies are in place for issues such as discrimination, sexual harassment and employee fair treatment.  Establish and communicate expectations for your employees to ensure each employee understands their role.  Communications surrounding ethics and other core values should be on-going.  And of course lead by example.  HR professionals are in leadership roles and employees look to the leadership to guide their own behavior. Organization leaders need also to set the example by engaging in legal and moral behaviors and by showing their respect for the employees and for the organization.  It is critical to create a supportive environment of trust and transparency.  Employees need to see fair treatment across all levels and need to trust in order to come forward regarding ethical concerns.  Ethics panels can be created for the review of issues and violations.                                                             

Treating employees ethically can bring tremendous benefits to an organization.  It can earn long-term employee trust and loyalty.  Loyal employees gain more experience, and master processes, becoming more vital to the success of the organization.  Loyal employees are happier employees and this can also translate into increased productivity and efficiency as well as minimizing recruiting and training costs.  Putting a Code of Ethics in place and encouraging leaders to model desired behaviors are important first steps toward creating an ethical organization.  Holding ethics high as a core company value is key to a company’s success and longevity.

Having the appropriate employee fairness policies and processes in place is critical to maintaining an ethical organization.   But it is equally important that these policies and processes are supported by fair and competitive compensation practices.  For the good of your employees, it is helpful to analyze benefits survey data, compensation surveys and salary reports.  Having this information at hand allows you to plan a budget, including competitive employee salaries and benefits, which will help you to hire and retain a happy, talented team. At WageWatch, our expert evaluators provide businesses in a large range of industries with accurate and beneficial benefits survey data, compensation surveys and salary reports to ensure that payment and benefits plans are on par with those in the industry. For more information on market compensation data, please call WageWatch at 888-330-9243 or contact us online (https://www.wagewatch.com/Contact/ContactUs.aspx).

Intern Program: Rules and Best Practices

Hopefully you have your summer intern program ready to launch but whether you do or not, here is some important information to help make your program a success.  First ensure your program is compliant with Department of Labor regulations regarding internships.  In the last couple years, both the federal and state governments have been cracking down on the use of unpaid interns.  The use of ‘free’ interns has been significantly reduced since 2010 when the Department of Labor issued new criteria for employers using unpaid interns: 

  1. In general, the internship should be structured as a training experience, similar to a classroom as opposed to the employer’s actual operations.
  2. The training given to the interns must be for the benefit of the intern, and not the employer.  Employers should see no immediate benefit from the intern’s work.
  3. The intern cannot displace regular employees but they should work under close supervision.
  4. You need to establish in advance that the internship is for a fixed duration of time and the intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship.
  5. There is a clear understanding by both the employer and the intern that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

If your program includes unpaid interns, consult federal and state wage and hour websites or legal counsel regarding regulatory compliance.  In addition to the regulations, many universities and colleges have specific requirements for the internship program up to and including providing educational credit.  If your intern program does not fit the regulatory criteria for unpaid interns, the same wage and hour guidelines that you follow for your hourly (non-tip) workforce will apply.  Interns are often paid at rates comparable to entry level positions within the department or discipline in which he/she will be working.  Local market or industry salary surveys can assist you in setting competitive pay rates for your interns.

In addition to the compliance component of your intern program, below are some best practices you may want to consider integrating into your program.

  1. Recruit the right candidates by having a clear and thoughtful internship description and get referrals.
  2. Designate a program manager and a manager as well as a mentor for each intern
  3. Provide structure, even when they aren’t paid.
  4. Hold orientation sessions for all involved.
  5. Provide interns with a handbook and/or website.
  6. Provide interns with real work that is related to their major, that is challenging, that is recognized by the organization as valuable, and that fills the entire work term.
  7. Consider offering flex time for the interns.
  8. Host social events and activities for the interns.
  9. Encourage team involvement.
  10. Conduct exit interviews.

Today’s world moves fast, and as an employer you should constantly be monitoring and adjusting your business operations to meet the ever changing wants and needs of your employees. At WageWatch, we offer accurate, up-to-date benefit survey data, market compensation data and salary reports that will allow you to stay current with the times. This information is highly beneficial in creating the best salary and benefits packages that meet or rival the industry standards. For more information on our services, including market compensation data, benefits survey data and salary reports, please call WageWatch at 888-330-9243 or contact us online.

 

New EEOC Requirements on Arrest or Conviction Records

In the past, criminal background checks were used only to review the backgrounds of candidates applying for more sensitive positions, such as those that required working with children. Due to advancements in technology, which have provided easier access to information, this is no longer true. Today, an astounding 73 percent of employers have reported using criminal background checks on all employees, regardless of the job position and the duties entailed.  

The job market today contains a surplus of applicants and a shortage of jobs. When a company has positions available, the human resources department receives a very large quantity of applications. In order to more easily sift through the pool, background checks have been employed to narrow down the numbers of qualified applicants, discarding those with arrest or conviction records.

Advocates of employee rights were well aware of this practice, and recently came out victorious in approving regulations that will make it easier for those with records to obtain jobs. In a vote of 4 to 1, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) approved new laws that require companies to change how they use background checks for hiring activities and in the workplace.

Criminal background checks have long created racial disparities at companies because members of racial minority groups statistically have higher rates of arrests and convictions. When background checks are performed for all jobs, these minorities immediately become locked out. The new regulations intend to prevent this kind of discrimination from occurring by changing when and how background checks can be used. Now, the approved regulations state that criminal background checks can only be performed if it is proven that they are necessary and relevant to the duties of the job. The law also state that employers should exercise caution when reviewing background checks as arrests do not necessarily mean criminal activity has occurred, and these candidates should not be wrongly eliminated from consideration.

While the new guidelines passed by the EEOC are a win for both employees and those seeking employment, they are also still beneficial for employers. The rules on when and how background checks can be used by companies may have changed, but employers still uphold the right to use criminal background checks in their business operations when appropriate. Many businesses see them as necessary for creating a safe work environment as well as building a team that they can trust.

The new requirements serve the interests of both the employers and employees. While these laws act as a check on employers, protecting the rights of job seekers and employees, they aren’t banned from running background checks should they see it fit for the job at hand.

As a company, it is important for you to understand the new regulations set forth by the EEOC and implement them in your hiring and workplace practices. Additionally, for the good of your employees, it is helpful to analyze benefits survey data, compensation surveys and salary reports. Having this information at hand allows you to plan a budget, including competitive employee salaries and benefits, which will help you to hire and retain a happy, talented team. At WageWatch, our expert evaluators provide businesses in a large range of industries with accurate and beneficial benefits survey data, compensation surveys and salary reports to ensure that payment and benefits plans are on par with those in the industry. For more information on market compensation data, please call WageWatch at 888-330-9243 or contact us online(https://www.wagewatch.com/Contact/ContactUs.aspx).

 

Aligning Compensation with Company Culture

Many organizations today are focusing on their company’s culture including determining their culture, deciding what it should be, aligning with strategic goals and transitioning to the desired culture.  Culture is important because it reinforces the values in the organization, which in turn shapes team members behavior.  There are many success stories of companies with cultures that are aligned to their business goals including Google, Zappos, and Patagonia.  These companies have not only developed a culture that supports their business, but have fully embraced their culture.

Organizational culture is the collective behavior of the people who are part of the organization and has important effects on the morale and motivation of the organizational members.  It includes the values, norms, systems, beliefs, attitudes and habits of the organization and affects the interactions of the employees with each other, and with customers.  Even before you define it, you know it is there and that it has an impact on your business. This is why it is so important to internalize the culture and understanding when company activities are in sync or not with the culture.

Once the company values and desired culture are defined, compensation can support and help drive the values and corporate culture.  It is important that the role of compensation in an organization and the compensation strategy are also defined.  For example, where does the organization want to set pay levels in comparison to the competitive market?  Perhaps the organization’s culture is strong on training and developing its employees, acknowledging their successes and offering advancement opportunities. This in turn may allow the organization to set lower pay levels than what is paid in the market.  Of course, when recruiting it is important to align the compensation strategy to support the values of the culture through highlighting performance management, performance appraisals and the goal setting process for each team member. 

Once values, business objectives and desired behaviors are determined then compensation plans can be put in place to support the culture.  For example, if the business objective is innovation and the desired behavior is risk-taking, then short term incentives may be the compensation strategy.  If the goal is for a highly trained workforce and the behavior is learning and upgrading skills, then skill or competency based pay may be the compensation strategy.

Corporate culture is about people’s behaviors – how goals are accomplished – so to establish a culture that drives company success, organizations should link a significant component of their compensation systems to behaviors.

At WageWatch our compensation consultants can assist with your organization’s compensation needs and help you ensure that your compensation programs are supporting your company’s business strategy and objectives.  WageWatch also offers accurate, up-to-date benefit survey data, market compensation data and salary reports that will allow you to stay current with the times. This information is highly beneficial in creating the best salary and benefits packages that meet or rival the industry standards. For more information on our services, including consulting, salary survey data, benefit survey data and market compensation reports, please call WageWatch at 888-330-9243 or contact us online .