Blind Hiring: Genius Idea or Epic Fail?

As an HR professional, a resume is often my first introduction to a prospective candidate. As an employer, the resume is in many ways like a promise of what you can expect the candidate to bring to the table, how he or she might change your organization, and how she or he will perform as a member of your team. But what is all this talk of doing away with resumes entirely? Have you heard of this new craze?

Blind hiring is the idea of throwing out the resume as a critical tool in the selection process. Instead of accepting and screening resumes, according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, some hiring managers are choosing to skip the paper altogether and go right to the task at hand! In lieu of resume reviews, hiring managers are assigning tasks to prospective job candidates and then proceeding with interviews for those who successfully complete the task. The only information that the hiring manager sees is the results of the task; the hiring manager is not aware of where the candidate went to school, what previous job titles he or she held, tenure at any one employer, or any other details about the candidate’s employment history and successes or failures. Interesting concept, right?

Here’s a few flaws that we can think of with this whole concept…but if these details were to be ironed out, maybe blind hiring could lead somewhere amazing. After all, blind hiring already eliminates the bias that comes with a prestigious school or a competitor in the industry.

  1. You may be eliminating a large section of the candidate pool who are simply not in need of work and don’t want to play this game, or who have other reservations about this innovative and out-of-the-box method.
  2. Hiring managers will have less of a “gut feel” input in terms of the culture fit for their organization (results will be more of a black and white task-oriented approach to hiring).
  3. The presentation of the resume, the details, the cover letter – these all add up to a 360 representation of the candidate before you even have to speak to prospective talent. If someone takes the time to have an impeccable resume, maybe that is a quality you’d like to have on your team.
  4. Basing interviews on tasks will eliminate some of those candidates who may not respond well to pressure or are having a bad day. Some may argue this is not a thorough approach to hiring and selection of quality candidates who will be in it for the right reasons.

That being said, we definitely think entertaining this idea has some merit as well. Removing bias before it has a chance to play into the selection process, rating individuals based on their ability to do a job-related task rather than their perfect resume, and eliminating details that could sway a hiring manager in one direction or another definitely has its positive points as well. What do you think of this new idea in the search for talent?

A Parting Gift: Severance Pay & Legal Tips

Severance packages are an attempt on the employer’s behalf to soften the blow of a layoff or termination, and also a protection against future litigation. According to @LegalHero in their recent post on this topic, the idea of a severance package may be written in to an employee’s contract or employment agreement. However, in states where at-will employment is in effect (such as California where Peoplescape is headquartered), a severance package can be offered as a nice parting gift to the employee and gives the employer a sense of security against future lawsuits. Before implementing and using severance packages in your organization, there are a few things to consider.

1. Include a clause in the severance package that waives the employee’s right to sue the employer, and ALSO protects the employer against disparaging remarks made by the employee against the employer moving forward.

2. Make sure you note the employer property in the employee’s possession and stipulate the means and timeline by which the employee is to return those items. I.e. company car, company cell phone, etc.

3. Clear statement regarding maintaining confidentiality not only of the severance agreement itself, but also any confidentiality regarding the employer, non-compete agreements, client lists, etc.

4. Include an agreement on the employee’s behalf to cooperate in any future lawsuits on the employer’s behalf. It’s nice to know you have a friend out there should any sticky situations arise!

5. An agreement acknowledging that the employee will not solicit the employer’s current clients for a certain time frame (one year is typical).

As with all things human resources related, there are pro’s and con’s to severance agreements. In situations where the employer does want to keep company information confidential, a severance package may be a nice parting gift for outgoing employees depending on the circumstances of each individual’s termination. But, it is also important to weigh the benefits and risks of implementing this type of policy. As always, we suggest consulting with your employment lawyer or a human resources labor law expert before going forward.

4 Tips for Posting Jobs and Attracting the Best Candidate

Composing the perfect job ad can be quite the daunting task for recruiters and HR professionals. How do you paint a picture of the company’s culture, the job requirements, and the “it” factor that will attract those top candidates? Recuiter.com says employers should follow these four tips to ensure their job posting stands out and attracts the best candidate.

Review, Edit and Revise your Job Postings: Candidates spend an average of 50 seconds reading a job posting and an additional 22 seconds on postings they like and want to pursue. So how do you ensure your posting stands out? Make sure to convey your organization’s brand by describing what makes your workplace culture different. Then, step outside the box and include examples or a ‘day-in-the-life’ to the job description. Also, consider framing your job requirements as ‘preferences’ to entice candidates who may not check all the requirement boxes but could be a perfect fit for the organization.

Plan your Posting Time Accordingly: With the plethora of positions listed on job boards, it’s important to know when your posting will get the most views and engagement. So when is the best day and time to post, tweet and share your position? Job hunters are most active Wednesday from 11 am to 1 pm and again between 4 and 5 pm EST. To get the biggest bang for your buck on social media, schedule your Facebook post on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday for the most engagement, ideally between 1 pm and 4 pm EST. For Twitter, tweet early in the week between 1 and 3 pm EST to receive the most views.

Get Creative, Add a Video: To go above and beyond, consider adding a video to your job posting. A video can capture what the typical day is like along with the culture of the company. A video allows your company to market themselves and sell the job like a product and will ensure that you stand out to potential candidates.

Be realistic: When creating the job description, set realistic requirements and don’t create a disparity between your expectations and the available workforce. Clearly communicate the organizational needs in the description and then imagine you’re a candidate reading the post. Be realistic, simplistic, and honest to ensure you are not relying on a “phantom workforce” to fill the position.

So when developing your recruitment plan, follow Recruiter.com’s advice to accurately describe the realities of the position, convey your company culture, heed the best posting time, add pizazz to your posting with a video, and be realistic to ensure you land the rock star you need!

Is Your Open Office Plan Cutting Into Employee Productivity

Has your company followed Facebook, Google, Yahoo, eBay and American Express in creating an open office plan? Many companies, especially tech companies and startups have removed cubical walls and replaced them with communal desks to boost creativity, communication and collaboration. Additionally, an open office plan can save a company on office space expenditures, cutting the amount of space needed per employee and saving on cubical purchases, as well as convey an image of efficiency and innovation. However, could an open office actually be hurting employee productivity?

Sharing spaces with a chatty Cathy, an incessant coffee slurper and having the constantly prying eyes of co-workers may do more damage to productivity than is worth the monetary savings and Silicon Valley-esc image. A study by the University of Sydney, which polled 42,000 employees in 303 different work spaces, determined open office setups were “disruptive to productivity” as a result of a lack of privacy and increased noise level. A separate study found that employees in open offices are more likely to take sick leave than those who have their own office.

So what can your company do to make an open office plan work for everyone?

  1. Know the personalities of your employees and job function – An open office may be a good fit for those with extroverted, laid-back personalities or individuals in specific types of departments like design or sales. However, see our next point for introverts, individuals easily distracted or personalities that need quiet for work…
  2. Provide private rooms: Whether meeting rooms or thinking spaces, it’s important to provide an appropriate number of quite, private spaces for those individuals or projects that require more concentration.
  3. Emphasize workplace etiquette: Keep noise (and smell) to a minimum, don’t come to work sick, be respectful of other’s spaces. Allow employees to highlight hot button issues and use those to create a guide to workplace etiquette in order to decrease open office nuisances and promote the intended collaboration and creativity.
  4. Encourage a “virtual wall”: Promote those who need help focusing to bring in headphones and make it known as workplace etiquette to not interrupt those wearing headphones but to rather come back or send an email. This will provide employees with a way to signal other employees they need privacy and are hard at work.
  5. Offer flexible working hours: Offering for employees to flex their start and end times around core hours will allow employee with a job or project that requires concentration to work hours when the office may be less busy and less noisy.
  6. Allow for remote working: Provide employees with increased flexibility to work remotely when the job and/or project allows. However, make sure to read our blog on remote work pitfalls to set up a system that works for both company and employee.

Sexism in Recruitment: Do Women Still Struggle with Equality in Hiring?

Recently, one of our favorite blogs from the UK wrote about sexism in recruiting, citing a case in which the hiring manager of a pharmaceutical company made remarks about only hiring beautiful women. In Lucia Pagliarone v. Immuno Biotech (2016), the plaintiff accused the hiring manager of keeping sexist notes on her resume following her employment offer with the company. The notes were to the effect of “high heels – good, wearing a dress – excellent”.  @MpmLegal offers a list of ideas to keep your company out of hot water when it comes to sexism in recruitment. Clearly with cases such as this still out there in the business world, the struggle for women facing equality in hiring does indeed exist even in 2016. These, tips can help protect your company from unequitable hiring choices.

  1. Start with a job ad that does not target certain demographics. Avoid the use of words such as “young” or “mature” and do not list high heels as a job requirement.
  2. Use standard interview questions for all candidates. Questions should be the same for everyone, and fair across the board. Don’t play favorites, and don’t change things up in the initial interview. In the U.S., several government employers operate under the merit system, in which all panel interview questions are exactly the same, scoring is done in one way for all interviews, and scores are calculated with a strict method. This ensures that everyone who goes through the selection process is treated fairly from start to finish, arguably ensuring that the most qualified applicant will be hired.
  3. Do not make any personal comments on interview notes. See example above. Dress, high heels, makeup, wrinkles, hemline, and clothing brands – all of these are hands-off topics (amongst many others!).
  4. Managers should receive training on what discrimination is, and how to avoid it. This is a must for all employers!
  5. Monitor email and the company website to make sure statements made on company property (including employee email and company cell phones) are not discriminatory.
  6. Make sure your social media policy is up to date and adequate for today’s technology-driven world.
  7. Construct a solid anti-harassment and zero tolerance policy for discrimination. Make sure it is included in the employee handbook and that all employees sign off on this policy. Signature sheets should be kept in your human resources records.
  8. Follow through with any complaints – do a thorough investigation or hire someone who knows how to do these investigations to make sure the job is done correctly.

Unfortunately, even in 2016, the struggle is real for women in the workplace. Of course, women are not the only targets as we have many categories of minorities and differences amongst our employees that can be subject to discriminatory behavior. Be mindful of the choices you make in hiring, and train your managers to do the same!     

Leadership Lessons from Bad Situations

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – JFK

Last year, you may have heard about the University of Oklahoma’s (OU) former members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity making incredibly bad choices. These former members were filmed chanting a racist tune while on their way to a party. The leader of OU, President David Boren, took a strong stance against their actions and shut down the fraternity. Acting swiftly and taking a strong stance is something that we do not see enough in the world today. Too often, people are afraid to make a statement that might not be popular at the time, but President Boren’s actions should be modeled by other leaders. Leadership is about learning, and setting a good example, even if those two things come from a bad situation.

Leadership lessons come in all shapes and sizes. When was the last time your company’s president or CEO spoke to the company about the organization’s goals, mission, and values? Do you know where the leader of your company stands on important business issues? These are truths that should be out in the open, so that when a bad situation presents itself, the employees are not surprised by the actions of the leaders. Instead, everyone will know what to expect, and you will be creating a culture of doing the right thing; two positive lessons for the entire company.

As a company trailblazer, here are a few simple steps you can take from bad (and good) situations to make a difference and stand out as a positive leader.

  1. Be thoughtful – use documented decision-making processes that are objective and clearly explained. Using a systematic approach to dealing with challenges in the workplace will go a long way to gaining your employees’ respect and compliance.
  2. Be consistent and fair – Not only does inconsistency and apparent favoritism make you vulnerable to legal claims, it also goes against the “do the right thing culture” that we encourage you to build in your organization.
  3. Take your time – But don’t wait too long! Do not make decisions in the heat of the moment, but do not wait too long to issue a statement on important workplace situations or problems.
  4. Be respectful – Treat employees with respect even when making tough or uncomfortable decisions (such as terminations, demotions, and disciplinary actions).
  5. Promote learning – Leadership is about learning, as JFK said. Be a good example and show a desire to learn from your employees, your peers, your colleagues, and influential leaders. Support your employees in their own quest to learn and develop their skills and knowledge in the field. Encourage employees to attend conferences, take college courses, and participate in webinars when given the opportunity.

“The role of a great leader is not to give greatness to human beings, but to help them extract the greatness they already have inside them.” – J. Buchan

Legal Update: Employee Misclassification Claims for Lyft and UBER

Back in November, our own @ColleenCoco shared a blog post about the dangers of misclassifying employees. From independent contractors to temporary workers to exempt vs. nonexempt, employee classification can be a tricky web to weave. Employers are cautioned to evaluate the role of the employee and make sure that each is labeled correctly, because that classification plays out into different realms of employment law.

Lyft, the ride-sharing company (similar to UBER), settled its lawsuit as recently as last month. At the time of publication, UBER’s lawsuit was still pending. An employee misclassification suit was filed in 2013 against Lyft, and the company just agreed to pay $12.25 million in settlement to the employees involved. Lyft was accused of misclassifying individuals as independent contractors when in fact, the company exerted the type of control over these individuals that is normally reserved for employees. As part of this settlement, Lyft agreed to modify its terms of service so that its treatment of drivers will now comply with existing laws for independent contractors in the state of California.

Drivers must be notified in writing of any issue prior to termination of their services, and if drivers feel they are not being paid fairly, they will now be given the opportunity to go before a neutral arbitrator to argue their case. The best part for these drivers? The arbitration will be at Lyft’s expense!

This will benefit an estimated 100,000 drivers for Lyft in California, and has nationwide impact for all 300,000+ drivers for Lyft. The UBER lawsuit is pending for mid-June of this year, and could have a similar impact on its drivers. Stay tuned for legal updates on this potentially explosive topic as more and more companies look into flexible working options, from independent contractors to telecommuters to part-timers and interns.

Analyzing the Applicant: Employment Gaps, Education, and Self-Discovery

The struggle to find the perfect fit for your organization, whether it be in the warehouse shipping packages or greeting customers at the front desk or the top sales executive, can be intense and exhausting for everyone involved. The struggle is very real to recruit top talent that not only has the skills, knowledge, and experience required to succeed in the position but is also the right fit for your company culture. The perfect candidate for the leading pharmaceutical sales company nationwide will not be the same ideal applicant for a high-end boutique hospitality resort and spa. The characteristics that would lead one to success would possibly lead to failure for another.

In today’s fast-paced, media-driven, instantaneous information at our fingertips world, certain things that would be a major red flag fifty years ago are no longer such a huge cause for concern. The baby boomers worked hard to find a stable career path, and vowed their loyalty to one company for the vast majority of their working years. The Generation X’ers value education and seek a work-life balance while maintaining a pragmatic viewpoint of the world, while the Millennials question authority, demand challenges and want to find work that means something. So how do you, as the employer, seek out the perfect fit for any given role in your company? Here is a handy checklist for you to consider when evaluating candidates, and make sure you don’t let those employment gaps get in the way of your analysis. Just like a job hopper was viewed as disloyal and unable to commit to a job twenty years ago, employment gaps are not as detrimental to a resume as you may think.

  1. Does the candidate match your required skills, knowledge and abilities?
  2. Does the candidate meet your educational requirements?
  3. Does the candidate have the desired years of experience or background in the field?
  4. What employment gaps does the candidate show on his or her resume? When interviewed, what explanation does he or she have for each?
      1. Travel – travel and self-discovery are not bad things. A little time off between school and the “real world” may translate into a more determined and enthusiastic employee so dig deep on this one and consider the source.
      2. Education – keep in mind that community colleges in certain areas (especially Southern CA where Peoplescape is headquartered) are so overcrowded that many students struggle to earn an income and take a full class load due to scheduling conflicts.
      3. Family – time off may have been spent parenting or taking care of ill family members. From personal experience, I know those parenting years are no walk in the park, so a gap doesn’t mean the candidate was sitting home eating popcorn and watching soap operas. However, it could impact the candidate’s current knowledge of the field and recent legislature or other time-sensitive details so be mindful of this when recruiting.
      4. Economic downturns – even top talent is let go in layoffs so don’t scratch someone off your list because they were a victim of the economic twists and turns.
  • Conduct at least two interviews with different players involved. – Maybe the first one is done by HR, and the second is conducted by a panel of peers, supervisors, and potential colleagues.
  • What do the references have to say? – Although references should be people that the applicant feels would represent him or her in a positive light, by asking the right questions of the references, you can gain insight you would not receive from the candidate directly.

A thorough investigation is required for any great hiring decision. Make sure you complete your due diligence as the hiring manager or human resources expert or CEO. Making a hasty decision without analyzing the candidate may lead to unhappy parties all around.

Two Benefits Never to Put on the Chopping Block

As we get settled into 2016, there are a few things employers need to know about benefits. First, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is alive and well.  Required notices to employees are different if employer-sponsored health plans are offered. Watch out, the details are many and tricky at best, and the potential for litigation abounds if employers are not following the rules. But, there’s good news! We have an inside scoop on what your employers want to see in their benefits package, and a few ideas on how to make it happen.

First, do not get rid of vision and dental benefits. Although these may seem like the easy choice to put on the chopping block first, the reality is that these two benefits can save the employer money in the long run. How?

  1. ER visits are drastically cut down when vision and dental insurance are offered. Costly emergency room trips for issues related to eyes and teeth are very minimal when employers offer vision and dental coverage.
  2. Routine eye and dental exams can be extremely beneficial in reducing the costs of problems later on. Preventive care is instrumental in diagnosing and treating problems before they become too expensive (significantly reducing both out-of-pocket expenses for the employee as well as overall health plan costs for the employer).
  3. According to @HRMorning, when vision and dental plans are set up correctly, the ACA regulations do not apply to these benefits. By creating separation vision and dental plans, these premiums will not fall into the threshold set for Cadillac taxes coming your way in 2018.

Of course, keeping your employees happy is just an added bonus because both MetLife and SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) conducted separate surveys in 2014 with the same results. Employees want to see vision and dental benefits on the table. SHRM reports that 83% of employees opted for vision coverage when offered (up from 78% the prior year) and MetLife reported that 76% of employees were interested in voluntary dental coverage if given the choice. The people have spoken…and the ACA cannot regulate. Win, win!

Thought Leaders #5: Creating a Company Culture of Doing the Right Thing

“Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.” – C.S. Lewis

 

Doing the right thing. It’s something we teach our children in school, and a lesson we hope is learned by the time young adults enter the business world. But in the world of work, where do people draw the line between right and wrong? How do we build a culture in our own organizations of doing the right thing, setting a positive example, and practicing integrity and ethical behavior?

 

Professor Chris MacDonald teaches ethics courses at Ryerson University’s School of Management in Toronto, Canada. He is a contributor to SHRM’s series of thought leaders in 2016’s HR Magazine, as we’ve been highlighting the past few weeks on our blog at Peoplescape. Professor MacDonald identifies four characteristics that set a culture apart as one that does the right thing. He writes, “As HR professionals know, a culture is a shared set of beliefs, practices and traditions that gives employees a sense of ‘how things are done around here.’ But what sets an ethical culture apart?”

 

  1. A clear set of values that are embedded in the way the company gets business done. These values are repeated over and over, both in word and action.
  2. Ethical issues should be open for discussion in a company where the culture is based on doing the right thing.
  3. An ethical culture will prepare employees for making the right decisions with proper training.
  4. A company that promotes ethical choices will empower employees to have the courage to make choices to do the right thing.

 

An interesting point that Mr. MacDonald makes is that every single decision the human resources department makes, and every choice or action taken by the CEO or company president is an opportunity to be an example of doing the right thing. This begins with hiring decisions, and being fair and consistent throughout the selection process. Fairness extends to promotional decisions, transfer opportunities, equity in benefits, and even disciplinary procedures and terminations.

 

Choosing the right individuals to be on your team, and letting go of the bad apples (even if they happen to be star performers) are both responsibilities that ultimately lie with the hiring managers and human resources team. Company culture can play such a huge role in the success of the organization that it is well worth the time spent analyzing and making necessary changes to the current organizational culture and employee dynamics within your workplace.