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Can Employees be Fired for Discussing Pay Rates?

By | Corrective Action, General HR, Manager Training, Newsletter, Termination | No Comments

Most people would consider sharing their pay information as taboo. But if an employee were to discuss their pay rate or salary level with fellow coworkers, could they be fired? The short answer: no. Here’s why.

The NLRA protects an employee’s right to discuss wage information

In 1935, Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to protect the rights of workers. Although many companies believe the NLRA only applies to companies with unions, the NLRA actually protects all employees that work for any business entity.

According to the NLRA, employers cannot limit employees’ concerted activities (or, in other words, the ability for employees to discuss their work conditions with others) for the purpose of “collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” While a little ambiguous at first, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which enforces the NLRA, has ruled in several cases to clearly define the discussion of wages as “protected, concerted activity.” For example:

  • 1980: The NLRB ruled that employers could not prohibit employees from discussing wages with non-employees because it substantially interfered with their organization efforts. (Texas Instruments v. International Union of Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers, AFL-CIO)
  • 1989: The NLRB ruled that an employee who came across confidential pay information – who then copied it and distributed it to fellow employees – was protected because the employer had violated the NLRA by prohibiting employees from discussing wage rates. (Brookshire Grocery v. Mark Moise)
  • 2003: A company was found in violation of the NLRA when it refused to rehire two men because, as former employees, they had discussed their wages with coworkers (Custom Cut, Inc. v Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners of America)
  • 2011: An employer fired a worker for discussing merit pay increases after specifically prohibiting employees from discussing the increases, which was in violation of the NLRA. (Ambriola, Co. v. Unnamed Charging Party)

Although the NLRA does allow employees to freely discuss their work conditions such as pay, benefits, and workplace safety, it doesn’t protect malicious or reckless behavior. So, for example, if an employee were to post confidential trade secrets on social media, which is in violation of company policy, the worker would justly face disciplinary action pending an investigation.

Employers should periodically review their employee handbooks to ensure they are up-to-date and do not have language that could be interpreted as a violation of the NLRA. Please contact your Status.hr Rep at HR@stratus.hr for more information about employee rights and/or to receive a professional review of your handbook .

sharing pay information is legal

An employer may be at risk just for getting upset about employees sharing wage information!
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What to Do with an Overly Chatty Employee

By | Employee Morale, General HR, Manager Training, Newsletter, Performance | No Comments

Socializing at work helps build relationships and leads to higher job satisfaction. But what do you do when an overly chatty employee keeps coworkers from being productive?

With an increase in open work environments, there are now fewer barriers between coworkers in today’s work spaces than those of just 10 years ago. Although these workplaces may be great for collaboration, they also have their negative downsides that often point to distractions. According to Mark Gorkin of Columbia, Md., here are several suggestions to help combat a productivity-killing chatterbox at work:

1. Find time to have a one-on-one conversation about the problem with the talkative employee in a non-threatening way. (A group discussion may miss the target if the employee has no idea they’re creating any negative effects.)

  • Start by creating a safe environment and sharing all of the positive attributes and contributions the employee has, including their ability to talk with anyone.
  • Then explain the problem and use examples (in a non-accusatory way) and invite them to talk with you about the concerns of their chattiness.
  • Be kind but candid; you need to deliver the message clearly and directly, with specific details about the outcome you want to achieve.

2. Try to identify the root cause behind the excessive chatter. Is the employee stressed? Do they show signs of anxiety? Are they bored and need more work to do? Any of these can cause a person to become more talkative.

3. Talk to employees that have complained or been within earshot of the chatty employee to help discover other areas of concern. You may discover that the talkative employee is doing more than killing productivity if they’re sharing destructive gossip that is hurting morale. If this is the case, employees may need coaching on how to say “no” to an inappropriate conversation and how to stand up for themselves in an appropriate, assertive way. You may also need to incorporate corrective action in your one-on-one meeting with the chatty employee.

If your workplace has available space, you may want to offer private work spaces for employees to temporarily work when needing to focus on a project or simply want to be distraction-free. Another option for employees to be away from workplace distractions is to offer telecommuting, at least on a part-time basis.

Helping clients deal with difficult employees is part of our Stratus.hr services. For more tips or information, please contact our HR experts at HR@stratus.hr.

Chatty Employee - what to do

If your workplace has an overly talkative employee, here are steps to address the problem.
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Does the White House have an HR person?

By | Corrective Action, Employee Morale, General HR, Manager Training, Newsletter, Retention, Termination, Turnover | No Comments

Every morning I listen to the news. And every morning I wonder why the White House doesn’t have an HR team to prevent them from doing things like firing people over Twitter or telling someone who’s planning to retire at the end of the week to take a hike two days before earning their pension.

If you’re not in HR, it’s pretty easy to overlook a key responsibility of Human Resources: prevention. HR is supposed to prevent people on your team from doing or saying really stupid things that could land the company in hot water. That’s unfortunate for the White House because a really great HR person would have told them the following won’t fly …

1. Firing via Twitter or any other social media.
We’ve been cautioned for more than a decade now that employees shouldn’t quit over text message or social media. But the same goes for employers. Terminating through social media (or any other media) won’t result in a lawsuit, but the action resonates through all employees, eats at morale, and drives off new recruits. It speaks volumes about your culture and kills your employer brand — not to mention that ugly tweet is now part of the public record.
HR advice: Keep your cool and talk one-on-one with employees, no matter how angry you are. Your HR professional will guide you on how to communicate with an employee you’re terminating, including procedures for written warnings and why documenting everything is necessary.

2. Terminating just hours before retirement.
I’ll admit that it’s possible a situation may arise that forces you to fire an employee shortly before they reach retirement or become fully vested in their 401(K). Most HR experts, however, would prefer you take alternative disciplinary action so the employee can still collect benefits that he or she earned during their years of service. Aside from being the humane thing to do, retirement benefits are a key driver for employees when considering jobs.
HR advice: Unless a law has been broken, allow an employee who is close to retirement to remain on the job until they reach retirement, even if that means placing him or her in a “mentoring” position of reduced authority. Firing an employee just days before earning their vested benefits may also lead to litigation.

3. Ignoring onboarding.
We all make mistakes — both employees and employers. But when a new member of your team lasts less than two weeks before it becomes painfully obvious that they’re not working out, you may want to review your onboarding process. Proper onboarding ensures employees know from day one what is expected of them.
HR advice: Have employees complete all legally-required paperwork electronically so they can be ready to work on day one. This will give both of you a jump start and provide you with digital records of an employee’s acceptance of company policies. Here are several other onboarding tips to implement, both before and on the employee’s first day.

4. Overlooking high turnover.
Some industries, such as restaurants and hotels, are known to have high turnover rates (Compensation Force estimates around 29%), perhaps because little education is required and demands are high. However, the White House’s high-ranking staffers currently have a 43% turnover rate. When you notice a significant increase in turnover at your company, it’s time to dissect the numbers.
HR advice: Watch your turnover rate for key indicators about your workplace. Are your benefits competitive? Is the salary in line? Is there a management problem that’s driving away key employees? Are you hiring people who aren’t right for the job? Your HR professional can help you come up with ways to identify the problem and help you develop a budget-friendly solution to retain key employees.

5. Failing to delegate.
Relinquishing control is a problem all business leaders have to face eventually. Although your instinct may be to quickly post employee concerns via social media, it’s best to discuss your concerns with the employee’s manager and let them determine the best approach.
HR advice: Instead of trying to do everything yourself, let your managers manage.

6. Not following protocol or policy.
Be sure your company’s policies are clearly stated in the employee handbook and include disciplinary action that will result from policy violations. That way your team’s actions won’t contradict your words, and you have consistency from manager to manager.
HR advice: Don’t expect informal policy reminders to work. Have your HR pro update your employee handbook, provide regular trainings on policies, and ensure employees have easy access to the handbook so the temptation to go rogue and use private email or inappropriately discuss confidential information never happens.

7. Ignoring job vacancies.
While running lean and mean is admirable from a budget perspective, it could ultimately cost you more due to high turnover rates, low productivity, a crumbling culture, and simple errors. (See this cost of turnover chart for more details.)
HR advice: Stay on top of your job vacancies to avoid being short-handed. Automate the hiring process with an applicant tracking system to quickly fill available positions with the most qualified candidates.

An effective HR expert can prevent a lot of headaches, hassle, and employment lawsuits, which ultimately saves any business time and money. But you don’t have to be a big operation (like the White House) to get this kind of expertise. Small businesses can outsource HR and get all of the same protections that large corporations and government entities (should) have, which evens the playing field to where every business can succeed. Learn more today by requesting a free demo.

White House HR

Looking at recent reports from the White House, I’m starting to wonder if their HR team is on extended leave or so overloaded with other jobs that they can’t actually advise on HR issues at the moment.
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IRS Releases 2018 W-4 and Withholding Calculator

By | Newsletter, Payroll | No Comments

The IRS recently released the 2018 W-4 with an accompanying Withholding Calculator. Although the IRS issues an updated Form W-4 annually, this year’s release was later than anticipated due to modifications that needed to be made in conjunction with the tax reform bill passed in December of 2017.

Employees are encouraged to use the Withholding Calculator to ensure they have the proper amount of taxes being withheld from each paycheck, particularly due to major changes made to tax law. “Withholding issues can be complicated, and the Calculator is designed to help employees make changes based on their personal financial situation,” said David Kautter, Acting IRS Commissioner. “Taking a few minutes can help taxpayers ensure they don’t have too little – or too much – withheld from their paycheck.”

Who should verify W-4 withholdings?

According to the IRS, those who are particularly encouraged to check their withholding amounts include:

  • Two-income families.
  • People with two or more jobs at the same time or who only work for part of the year.
  • People with children who claim credits such as the Child Tax Credit.
  • People who itemized deductions in 2017.
  • People with high incomes and more complex tax returns.
What information do I need for the Withholding Calculator?

Although the Calculator does not ask for sensitive information such as name, Social Security number, address or bank account numbers, it will ask you to estimate:

  • Tax filing information
  • Values of 2018 income
  • Tax deductions
  • Number of children that will be claimed for applicable tax credits

The more accurate the information is, the better the Calculator will predict your anticipated income tax for 2018, along with their recommended withholding amounts. (As a reminder, withholding changes do not affect 2017 tax returns.)

How do I make changes to my withholdings?

If modifications need to be made to income tax withholdings, employees should complete a new Form W-4 and submit it to their Stratus.hr payroll rep. Remember: Stratus.hr employees can easily make adjustments to their W-4 via Stratus.hr Mobile at any time to avoid the hassle of paperwork.

For questions about the new IRS tax withholdings, please visit irs.gov or contact your Stratus.hr payroll rep.

2018 W-4

Employees should check to make sure they have the proper amount of taxes being withheld from their paychecks, particularly with all the changes from tax reform. Changes can be made to their 2018 W-4 via Stratus.hr Mobile.

Unlimited PTO: How One Company Transitioned from an Accrued Plan

By | Benefits, Employee Morale, General HR, Newsletter, Performance, Retention | No Comments
Interview with Jeremy Sabin, Vice President of Human Capital, Vivint Solar

Unlimited PTO is a lucrative benefit that more and more businesses are wanting to offer. But how do you make the transition when you’ve been offering an accrued PTO plan? We asked Jeremy Sabin, VP of Human Capital for Vivint Solar, how his company did it.

How long have you had your unlimited PTO plan in place?
We implemented our unlimited PTO policy in April of 2015 for salaried employees.

Why did you transition from an accrual-based plan to an unlimited PTO plan?
Our culture was already very flexible, and we felt an open PTO policy fit our style. Managers weren’t requiring employees to enter PTO time or approving it. When these employees left, the company would pay out “unused PTO” that had actually been taken already. Overall, it has been a great benefit that is administratively easier and much more cost-effective for us to offer.

How did you handle the transition from an accrual plan to an unlimited PTO plan?
We froze all PTO accruals at the day of transition and then explained that if an employee were to choose to leave the company, they would be paid out for the balance of that accrued PTO when they left.

Did you give employees advanced notice about the implementation of an unlimited PTO policy?
Yes, we gave employees about 3 weeks’ notice of the policy changing.

Have you experienced any abuse from your unlimited PTO policy?
We’ve had very few issues over the years. Really, it comes down to the manager and whether they’ve had open, honest dialogue with employees. If deliverables haven’t been met, the manager sits down with the employee to discuss performance. Managers can always say no when they receive requests for time off if there’s a real need. If they’re concerned that an employee is taking too much time off but is still meeting deliverables, then the manager isn’t giving them enough to do. As long as we have sharp managers, we have no issues with abuse.

Is your unlimited PTO policy available immediately upon hire?
It’s available day one. Some candidates have pre-negotiated trips coming up that they tell us about in advance, and it’s no problem. We explain that they may need to be available if something comes up, but we can usually manage to work around what needs to be done.

Do you have any non-exempt workers that have unlimited PTO?
No, our unlimited PTO benefit is only available to exempt employees. Timekeeping laws in several key states pose challenges to opening this up to hourly employees.

What advice to you have for companies considering an unlimited PTO policy?
Train your managers well. If you have a manager that is very inexperienced, it could create problems rolling out a policy like this. Sometimes candidates can be skeptical with this policy; they may think you provide “unlimited PTO” so that you can say no whenever you want. Recruiters have to be well trained to explain the policy and how it works, and you have to build a culture where employees feel like they CAN take time. If it feels like they haven’t taken enough time off, managers should encourage them to take a vacation. We’ve actually noticed that, overall, employees have taken less time off on this policy than on our accrued policy. Give employees time to plan, consider all the possible “what-ifs,” and train your managers.

Any other thoughts about businesses considering an unlimited PTO policy?
On a general basis, that which we fear the most for worst-case scenarios hardly ever comes to pass. Don’t be afraid to take risks because of the potential consequences. Expect the worst, plan for it to happen. But being prepared will make you pleasantly surprised when the worst doesn’t happen.

For more information or details on how to transition your company from an accrued-based plan to an unlimited PTO policy, please see Unlimited PTO: Right for Small Businesses? or contact us at HR@stratus.hr.

Unlimited PTO - interview

Considering an unlimited PTO policy? Learn how this company made the transition.
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Fair Workweek Rules – What Employers Need to Know

By | Articles, Employee Morale, General HR, Manager Training, Newsletter, Retention, Turnover | No Comments

Predictive scheduling, or Fair Workweek Rules, seem to be the latest trend in workplace regulations to protect hourly workers. When San Francisco first enacted these laws in 2015, the intent was to provide more advance notice regarding work schedules and to ensure schedules were fair. For employers, however, these laws have signaled greater fines and penalties. With several more cities and two states now following suit, what exactly are the rules? Are they really necessary? And will they soon be coming to a city near you?

What are the Fair Workweek Rules?

There are four primary rules consistently found among the Fair Workweek regulations:

  1. Two-weeks’ notice: Schedules must be made available to employees for a minimum of two weeks in advance.
  2. Minimal changes: If the scheduler must make changes within that minimum two-week notice window, they must be documented and have good reason. Employers may also need to pay premiums to employees for any schedule changes made within that window if it’s for anything outside of filling in for a sick employee.
  3. No “clopenings” allowed: Employers cannot enact the practice of “clopening,” which is scheduling employees to work closing shifts and then having them return hours later to open the business. Employees must be allowed a rest period (11 hours) between the end of one shift and the start of another. If an employee must return prior to the rest period ending, the employer must pay a premium.
  4. Maintain records: scheduling records now must be retained for three years, including original hours, schedule changes, time off requests, shift swap or change requests, shift cancellations, and more.
Fair Workweek Rules

Whether or not you are currently impacted, ask your timekeeping solution about their implemented adaptations to comply with the Fair Workweek Rules, such as flagging potential violations and allowing employees to easily trade shifts.

Who is affected by the Fair Workweek Rules?

The Fair Workweek rules are primarily aimed at large employers in the retail and restaurant sectors and have already been enacted in San Francisco, San Jose, Emeryville, Seattle, New York City, Oregon, Washington DC, and New Hampshire. If your business is not in one of those industries or areas, you may still need to prepare since these regulations are likely to drive changes to other businesses that employ blue-collar workers nationwide.

Are the Fair Workweek laws necessary?

At first glance, these laws seem a little extreme to employers. However, the working class that these laws are trying to protect are typically those with the lowest incomes (see statistics here).  Many of them work more than one part-time job and/or are caretakers that have to juggle multiple schedules. Because these employees tend to experience greater work-family conflict and related stress due to their irregular shift times, these laws are to help employers consider the implications before mandating any last-second schedule changes.

What should employers do about the Fair Workweek Rules if they aren’t currently affected?

Rather than wait to be acted upon (and be penalized for violations), employers should start today by adopting the principles within these rules:

  • Provide employees with two weeks’ notice of their schedules.
  • Try to make very few schedule changes within the two-week window.
  • Avoid scheduling employees for any “clopening” shifts.
  • Consider allowing employees to choose their own schedules and/or request their input:
    • Would they prefer to have the same, more or less hours?
    • Which nights would they be available as back-up to come in if customer demands require additional working staff?
  • Provide incentives for employees who were needed to clock in when they weren’t otherwise scheduled.

Adopting employee-friendly practices that include employee feedback will not only help employees feel valued, it will also create loyalty and help reduce turnover. Your proactive efforts may also improve manager relations with employees, particularly when it comes to dealing with scheduling problems. For more information about this or any other workplace regulation, please contact our HR experts at HR@stratus.hr.

Our Stratus.hr team provides expert guidance for compliance and other employee issues. For more information, simply fill out the form below and our business development team will be in touch with you shortly.









Dealing with a Bully Boss

By | Corrective Action, Employee Morale, General HR, Manager Training, Newsletter, Performance, Recruiting, Retention, Termination, Turnover | No Comments

Scenario: a once highly-competent employee was promoted to manager, but their lack of people skills has created more of an authoritarian bully boss. Because they’ve built rapport with their years of service to the company, and because they have significant knowledge and expertise, it’s become a delicate situation for upper management to even want to acknowledge there’s a problem. What do you do?

Employers: How to Deal with a Bully Boss

What are the risks of retaining a bully boss? Beyond motivation and morale concerns, a bad manager may create issues such as poor productivity, stifled recruiting efforts, difficulty retaining key talent, legal issues, and even public backlash. Consider the lessons learned from Uber’s HR nightmare, which stemmed from upper management not listening to employee complaints.

With a number of things at risk, take a step back to observe whether you actually have a bully boss employed as a manager. Is the team sufficiently producing results? Have you noticed a drop in morale? Are good employees quitting or getting fired? Are incompetent employees still employed when they should have been fired? Have you received employee complaints? Any combination of these factors could point to a manager problem.

Next, it’s time to gather feedback from employees. Find out about their interactions and feelings toward the manager. If there is any apprehension about giving candid feedback directly, allow employees to provide their thoughts anonymously. You may want to contact your HR rep for help with setting up a 360-degree manager effectiveness evaluation.

Finally, have a candid conversation with the manager about the issues brought to light by employees. Develop a performance improvement plan that documents specific areas needing improvement and include a description of performance issues and consequences for any repeated misbehavior. Allow the manager to be part of the collaborative improvement process. Solutions may include manager training, communication skills training, personality sensitivity training, role realignment (where available), and so on. Consider providing a points-based assessment completed by employees working under the manager to regularly provide feedback about the manager’s performance.

Employees: How to Deal with a Bully Boss

In an ideal work environment, your manager and/or HR department would be a comfortable place to disclose any feelings of being bullied. If, however, your manager and/or HR is the bully, try implementing some of these self-defense strategies.

1. Treat the situation as a work project.
Be cognitively aware of how you behave at work and stay unemotional. More than ever, be sure your outward appearance (hair and clothes) is calm and tasteful. Maintain a positive attitude and be determined to not react poorly.

2. Stay social and avoid isolation.
Make a conscious effort to keep up personal relationships with other coworkers. If you need to interact with the bully, try to be around others of “importance” that will make you less likely to be bullied. If you’re being pursued, never enter a bathroom or other area of isolation.

3. Use excuses or distractions.
In the event of an uncomfortable encounter with the bully, make an excuse and say you’re late for an appointment or need to use the restroom. You could also pick up a file or note with a customer’s phone number that needs to be called as a form of distraction.

4. Control what you say.
Avoid talking to coworkers about your situation in a way that could be perceived as gossip. Write down the interactions that have you concerned and discuss with a close confidant outside of work to hear their perspective. If they concur that this is a bully situation, and you haven’t yet done this, take your concerns to another member of HR or upper management.

As an HR company, we advise employers to take employee complaints seriously and to immediately investigate any incidents of wrong-doing. For more tips and information, please contact our HR experts at HR@stratus.hr.

Bully Boss

Here are some questions to ask when deciphering between an employee’s “dirty laundry” versus truly having a manager problem.
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Post OSHA Summary Feb 1 – Apr 30

By | Newsletter, Risk Management | No Comments

It’s that time of year when *employers with 10+ full-time employees are required to keep record of all reportable worksite injuries and illnesses that need treatment beyond first aid that occur on the worksite. The complete record is maintained on their OSHA 300 logs (page 7 of the OSHA 300 booklet) and includes details such as where and when they occurred, the nature of the case, the job title of the injured employee, and the number of work days missed (or on light duty) due to the work-related illness or injury.

Then, from Feb 1 – Apr 30 of the following year, these employers must complete OSHA 300A, which is a summary of those injuries and incidents (page 8 of the OSHA 300 booklet) and post it in a conspicuous place for employees to see, such as a break room. According to osha.gov, all work-related cases must be recorded if they involve any of the following:
• Death,
• Days away from work,
• Restricted work or transfer to another job,
• Medical treatment beyond first aid,
• Loss of consciousness, or
• A significant injury or illness diagnosed by a physician or other licensed healthcare professional.

If any employees do not have access to where the summary is posted, perhaps because of a remote worksite or travel requirements, they must be sent a copy of the report.  Even if no injuries occurred in the previous year, employers are required to post the summary to meet the requirements of this law.

Stratus.hr clients who are required to post the OSHA Summary and for whom we administer their Workers’ Comp policy should receive their OSHA 300A Forms prior to Feb 1. Please ensure this form is posted in a visible place to employees from Feb 1 – Apr 30. For more information about this OSHA requirement, please contact us at wc@stratus.hr.

*To see if your industry is on the partially-exempt list that is not required to post OSHA injury and illness records, click here.

Small business: Is your applicant tracking system working against you?

By | Articles, Company Growth, Human Resources Information System (HRIS), Newsletter, Recruiting, Retention | No Comments

I remember when we all hired from resumes. Really, it wasn’t long ago, but it was a very slow and sometimes painful process.

That’s why I was thrilled when the first ATS (applicant tracking system) hit the market. Because they make short work of screening candidates so the cream rises to the top, these solutions were quickly adopted by big businesses looking to fast-track quality hiring.

Small businesses, however, were frequently left behind in this process: an applicant tracking system was expensive, standalone software. Although reading only a handful or resumes for an occasional available position was doable, requiring paper resumes was not only a waste of some occasional spare time, it was limiting the applicant pool. Fortunately that’s changed, since now small businesses can affordably access applicant tracking software, too.

My question now for small business isn’t “when are you going to adopt the technology,” it’s “are you using your ATS right so you get the best candidates?”

How to use an Applicant Tracking System

Back when we read resumes and used our own wits to assess which applicants moved to the screening round, it was pretty rare that a really amazing candidate got past anyone. But it was even rarer that key roles were filled in a timely manner, which put those amazing candidates at risk of finding another job in the mean time.

Problems arise, however, when you either have your ATS do too much or too little. Like all HR technology, your applicant tracking software needs support from experts. Companies that sell you access to an applicant tracking system but don’t provide guidance on how to get the right candidates could saddle your hiring efforts with the following problems:

Thesaurus unwanted — so is creativity. When you set up a job in an applicant tracking system, you’ll include keywords that you want the ATS to find in the application. Candidates are graded on the usage of these keywords/terms, and scored based on the number of times specific keywords appear (“keyword density”). Our ATS is no exception. For some roles, however, we caution against relying on keywords too much: really great candidates may also be very creative causing them to steer clear of repetitive descriptions for jobs. They may also use terminology that was unique to a former employer. You can tell your applicant tracking system to look for synonyms, but I’d also suggest consulting an HR pro and taking a quick glance at any application that doesn’t quite make the cut but seems awfully close. That way you’re not eliminating truly creative minds.

The slacker who found the right article. Have you ever Googled “Applicant tracking system?” It’s why I wrote this article — because of the plethora of articles for job applicants that look at how to talk to the ATS, not to the prospective employer. Each of these articles centers around one thing: maximizing an ATS score without increasing experience. While I could never fault a candidate who speaks the language of their audience, if your small business is only inviting the top 10 applicants from the applicant tracking system to an in-person interview, you want to fill the interview slots with the best applicants. Period. Your ATS scores should single out the top candidates … but it’s still advisable to review anyone who scores a “close second” to ensure you’re getting candidates with the greatest potential to excel at the job, not the application process.

Experience is all wrong … but not really. You need your applicant tracking system to send you people with the most relevant experience. Be sure, however, you consider the following:

  • Limiting experience to 2-8 years could rule out great candidates with 12 years of experience. Not everyone is concerned about upward mobility in a company — sometimes candidates just want to be experts at the one thing they love to do.
  • Rigid job titles and levels might eliminate applicants who held relevant positions in companies that used different titles and hierarchies. “Manager” seems like a pretty straightforward title, but at some companies, every frontline employee is deemed a manager; at other companies, senior managers are labeled as “group leads” or “strategists.” You just never know.
  • Screening for MBAs-only could cause candidates with three undergraduate degrees, a JD or an MFA to score lower, even with relevant experience that far exceed the MBA candidate.
  • Ignoring a candidate with a recent work history gap could mean you might miss a strong contributor who took a few years off to raise a child, write a book, care for a parent, start a business, travel, or finish an advanced degree. Imagine what that background could do for your business.

HR technology is one of the best ways to make employee management easier for companies of all sizes. But if your small business relies solely on technology without expert guidance to back it up, you may be missing the mark in everything from compliance to recruiting and hiring.

Today’s applicant tracking systems are pretty incredible, but it’s still a good idea to consult with an HR professional when you start using one and to ensure your team is trained in more than just how to use the system. Ask the provider of your HR tools if they offer training on how to write effective job descriptions and how to conduct screenings and interviews, too (if they don’t, it’s time to move elsewhere — training and accessible expertise are essential for small teams). While you no longer have to buy a big-business, big-expense applicant tracking system to tap into the productivity advantages that enterprise-level counterparts have, you do have to stay competitive by finding the right candidates for your small-but-growing team. Just be sure technology is working for you, not against you.

applicant tracking system

How to ensure you’re getting the most from your applicant tracking system.
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the real cost of employee turnover

Vacancies can add up to big costs for businesses (see infographic above); when you’re staring down a stack of 90 applications for a single opening, your applicant tracking system is a lifesaver.

Are you ready to start using an applicant tracking system? Contact your Stratus.hr rep today! If you aren’t currently a Stratus.hr client, please fill out the information below and we’ll be in touch with you shortly.









Are you the reason employee engagement stinks?

By | Articles, Employee Morale, General HR, Manager Training, Newsletter, Performance, Retention | No Comments

Personally, I love your pool table. The last thing I want you to do is stop having stress relievers available to employees, especially when they commit so much time to be at work. However, if employee engagement, motivation, or morale seem off, it’s not because you need to add to your collection of stress-relieving toys; it may just be YOU that’s the problem.

Moi? Yes. Workplace leadership both directly and indirectly drives employee engagement. I’m not saying that you or your leaders are bad bosses (those exist, they just don’t read articles like this). But you may be missing some easy opportunities to make your workplace better — even without a climbing wall.

You can start by asking yourself these six questions. Each one points to a pretty simple but necessary solution that you need to keep employee engagement high.

1. Are you giving employees the services they need … and want? If your business is small enough, you may not be required to provide health insurance (if you have fewer than 50 employees). Or you may have opted to keep expenses down by offering only a  high-priced/low-benefit plan. Either of these could indirectly hurt employee engagement. How? Because high-priced or low-coverage health insurance frequently carries the following unintended side effects:

  1. Employees (and recruits) look for employers that offer better coverage plans.
  2. Employees avoid treatment until the situation escalates because of the cash outlay required.
  3. Employees spend time fighting with doctor’s offices over bills.

Advice: Offer a competitive insurance plan. Yes, these do exist, even for small employers.

2. Are morale-building efforts actually a distraction? Anytime you’re attempting to build morale, you’re doing a good thing. Just remember that employees want and need to be productive, too.  Advice: Limit the number of big events to just one or two per year and add smaller-scale, drop-in activities at the workplace that have similar impact without the commitment. For example, schedule company-wide potlucks once a month in the breakroom or a Friday afternoon ice cream social on the front lawn. Small get-togethers not only improve morale, they can increase productivity, too.

3. Do bigger cultural issues slip by? Today’s news is filled with stories of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. These aren’t isolated incidents affecting just the victim or where responsibility lies only with the accused. Advice: Don’t try to do everything yourself. Work with your HR rep to set up employee training to review your company’s anti-sexual harassment policy and protocol to ensure compliance. This training in should be held on an annual basis.

4. Do employees know they’re appreciated? There’s a need in everyone to feel valued, to know that they’re making a contribution that matters. Advice: Praise employees one-on-one for a job well done. Set up simple appreciation programs, like an employee-of-the-month. (Want an affordable reward? How about access to a reserved parking space during the month that follows.) You could even set a goal for yourself: seek out one employee each day, shake their hand and thank them for a very specific thing they did — that way they know you’re paying attention. That little bit of effort can go a long way towards improving employee engagement.

5. Have you asked your employees how you can make the workplace better? The best workplaces survey their employees regularly and act on the results. Advice: Set up a survey today to gauge employee engagement, but keep it simple — even just three to five questions can provide you with great insight. You may also be able to use surveys to help you decide on workplace changes and new expenditures, like updated office chairs vs. a meeting room scheduler.

6. Do your employees know whether they’re winning or losing at work? This can be defined by whether you’ve set clear expectations and goals for your employees. If an employee always knows what is expected, where they stand, and how their individual work aligns to the company’s overall mission and goals, they are much more likely to be engaged and perform at a higher level. 

Boosting employee engagement starts by ensuring the workplace is working well first. By asking yourself a few simple questions, you’ll get a better view of what you can do to make affordable improvements. Be sure to talk to your Stratus.hr expert whenever you need help!

employee engagement

The solution to your employee engagement problems might be discovered in these six simple questions.
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One of the reasons your full-time employees give up 8+ hours of each weekday is because they want to provide comfort and security for their families — and that includes matters of health.

Sometimes formal, event-style, morale-building activities take a big bite out of schedules and result in employees working off the clock to make up for time spent having fun.

As an employer, it’s essential that you provide a safe, comfortable work environment for all employees.

When people are heads-down at work every day, it’s easy to forget that what you’re doing matters.

The answers your employees provide on an employee survey may include great ideas for improving the workplace, even if you don’t want to sign on for a Friday afternoon dessert cart.

If your only clarification of employee performance is from an annual evaluation, that leaves the rest of the year for employees to wonder whether they’re helping the company reach its goals, or if their behavior and actions are actually working against them.

Interested in learning more about how Stratus.hr can help improve your employee engagement? Simply fill out the form below and our business development team will be in touch with you shortly.