Category Archives:Blog

How to Avoid Work-Related Employee Burnout

It’s ironic that our modern devotion to working harder, for longer hours, getting an employee background check before employment and continuously pushing to get more out of our employees can often result in the exact opposite. Employee burnout is a growing problem, particularly in the middle management and lower executive levels of a high performance culture, where workers are constantly pushing themselves to keep climbing the ladder.

Employee burnout is bad for individuals, it’s bad for teams, and it’s bad for companies. Here’s what you need to know to help prevent it in your company.

What Is Employee Burnout?

Employee burnout is a type of work related stress that goes beyond what would be considered “normal” to the point where employees are mentally and physically exhausted, may become physically ill, and are completely disengaged and disinterested.

Prolonged and ongoing stresses are typically ignored until they become overwhelming.

What Causes Employee Burnout?

There are many causes of employee burnout, and the truth is, most cases don’t have a single cause, but rather, they’re the accumulation of months or years of problems that are not dealt with at the time. Those problems might include”

  • Workplace bullying or toxic teams. Workers spend a third of their lives with their colleagues, and when there are bad apples in the proverbial bushel, they do tend to infect their peers.
  • Sometimes, burnout is simply a matter of putting in too many hours, for too long, or taking on too many roles. This is one of the reasons why it’s often the best employees that suffer burnout. They try to do it all, and it simply gets too much.
  • Physical working conditions. Excessive heat, cold, noise or other factors can result in stress, and if stress goes on for too long, it can lead to burnout.
  • Boredom or lack of mental stimulation can also lead to burnout. If financially literate, potential star employees are forced to do boring, menial, or meaningless tasks for a long time, they will eventually “check out.”

Who Gets Burned Out

The interesting thing about burn out is that while it can happen to anyone, it typically happens to good employees more often. That’s because good employees start out more invested, want to achieve great results, and are likely to push themselves too hard for too long to get the job done. A comprehensive employee background check will be able to alert you to the possibility that you have one of these workers, so you can take steps to protect them.

Preventing Burnout

Preventing employee burnout starts with your hiring processes. Since so much of it is related to office politics and professional relationships in the workplace, careful employee screening to ensure you’re hiring or promoting the right people is crucial to prevent this problem.

Limiting overtime by your star performers, and ensuring that employees take breaks and vacations is another important part of the process. As tempting as it is to give your star performers more and more to do, don’t. Keep them focused, and keep them from over extending themselves.

Listen to problems and grievances, and be approachable. Most employee burnout happens gradually over years, so there is always time to solve problems before they affect your employees and your business.

Finally, pay close attention to the relationships on your team. If there’s one person that seems to be causing trouble, consider changing their role or taking disciplinary action. A toxic work environment will almost certainly result in someone important burning out at some point.

 

Drug Testing in the Workplace: Can You Do It?

If you’re wondering whether you can implement pre-hiring or general workplace drug testing, then you’ve probably realized it’s not all that simple. In fact, while there are some federal laws that do apply to workplace drug and alcohol testing, most of them are state specific, and they often change.

That means that there’s no simple answer to the question of whether you can implement a blanket drug and alcohol policy, and you will need to consult the law books in your state before you do.

However, while we can’t give you a definitive answer on that particular question, we can give you some general information that can help you to do your due diligence, stay within the law, and protect your company.

Drug Free Workplaces

While there is no blanket act of US government that requires or entitles all employers to have drug free workplaces, the Drug Free Workplace Act of 1988 did require certain types of employers to develop drug-free workplace policies. Often, these employers were in the public sector, or are government contractors, but there are other industries that are covered.

As of 2010, however, the Department of Labor ended their drug free workplace program, and the law making and enforcement once again became a case by case process.

Industry and Career Specific

The federal laws about having a drug and alcohol policy in the workplace are complicated and confusing, and that’s made worse by state level laws that alter those rules and regulations. One area that is not complex or complicated, however, are the various industry-specific rules and regulations. Some of these include:

  • Oil and gas industry jobs, which often require drug and alcohol testing for on site employees, due to health and safety laws.
  • Transport and trucking industries, where employees may be required to undergo testing to receive or keep their certification, or by laws against driving under the influence.
  • Military, police or other civil service professions.

There are several industries and careers where drug and alcohol testing are the norm, generally in order to protect the public. If you’re not sure what the standard practice in your industry is, contact industry bodies and licensing authorities, who should be able to give you the information you need.

Your Rights and Responsibilities

Even if your state is one where drug and alcohol testing is allowed, there are still several pieces of legislation that protect various worker rights, which may include:

  • Disclosing your policies when you hire employees, or requiring employees to sign agreement to policies implemented after their hiring date.
  • Requiring written consent to testing (although certain states do allow disciplinary action for refusal)
  • Most states require that employers allow employees to explain or contest negative results.
  • Drugs used to treat disabilities or diseases are usually exempt from disciplinary procedures.
  • In most cases, employees who do test positive for drugs or alcohol in the workplace must be offered counselling or assistance in dealing with substance abuse problems.
  • Laws change all the time, so make sure that you schedule regular reviews and updates to any drug and alcohol policy you put in place.

A Potential Mine Field

The truth is, drug and alcohol testing in the workplace are a very tricky prospect for any employer, and developing a fair and enforceable policy can be a mine field that may best be left to an attorney or specialist in the field. It’s a balancing act, and as important as it is to ensure safety in your workplace, it’s just as important to ensure that you are legally compliant.

 

Landlords: How to Give a Reference on a Former Tenant

One of the more challenging aspects of being a landlord is getting asked to provide a reference. In our litigious society, you are probably concerned that you’ll handle it wrongly one way or another, and that one of the parties will seek legal remedies against you.

That’s not an unheard-of situation, and it is a legitimate fear, but at the same time, other landlords need to have accurate references, just like they need proof of income and criminal background checks. Here’s how you can give a tenant reference while still protecting yourself from retaliation.

Stick to the Facts

Many landlords have heard rumors that they can’t give tenants a bad reference. This is not true, and if there are definite, verifiable facts that pertain to a particular tenant, you have a responsibility to let other prospective landlords know.

Information you might want to share includes if a tenant was a slow payer, or skipped payments altogether. If they did documented damage to a rental property, you might share that information too, or if they were arrested for criminal activity while they were residing on your property, that is definitely something you would need to share.

Likewise, if they were quiet tenants who never caused any trouble, documented or otherwise, those are facts that their new landlord could use to finalize his (or her) decision.

Avoid Opinions and Emotion

We’ve all had that one tenant who was annoying, rude, or otherwise unpleasant to deal with, however, just because you didn’t get along with them, that doesn’t mean they’re bad tenants. If you can’t prove it, and your comments are based on opinions, emotion, or personal issues, they have no place in your tenant reference.

Remember that if you can prove that your statements are true, that’s not slanderous. If you simply don’t like someone and give them a bad reference for that reason, however, you may well find yourself in court.

Keep It Short, Sweet, and Neutral

Even if you don’t like a tenant, and they haven’t earned a glowing reference from you, they are entitled to a fair tenant reference. So, if they are relatively easy to rent to, pay their rent on time and have been reasonably responsible and easy to work with, just say that. You don’t have to provide a long, complicated reference. Just state the facts, answer the questions you think you’re qualified to answer, and leave it at that.

Understand That No Reference Could Be a Reference Too

If you decide not to give a tenant reference because you’re afraid of the fallout, your refusal may influence your tenants’ new prospective landlord negatively, and that might still get you in trouble.

Don’t Lie to Get Rid of Them

Finally, there are instances where landlords lie about truly terrible tenants, simply to get rid of them. Don’t do it. If you do lie about your tenant and mislead their new landlord, and they do suffer a loss, not only do you lose landlord credibility but they may well decide to come after you for damages.

Terrible tenants tend to leave large swathes of destruction in their wake, and there’s almost certainly going to be proof that you lied about the tenant reference in that trial.

Developing an Effective Compensation Plan for Employees

It’s one of the toughest elements of running a business: figuring out how to compensate employees well enough that they stay, without putting your finances at risk. You need great people, but you also have to be able to afford them, and keep your costs as low as possible, so you can stay competitive.

You’re certainly not alone, but the good news is that there are some creative ways you can develop a compensation plan that works for everyone.

Be Prepared to Hire “Green” Employees

A great trick for employers with limited wage budgets is to look for employees who don’t have a lot of experience, but have shown an aptitude for the field. Recent graduates know the theory, are eager to learn, and most importantly, may be willing to work for lower starting salaries, in exchange for that experience.

Hire Recent Immigrants

It’s not only recent graduates that have the knowledge but lack experience, it’s also recent immigrants. Many immigrants have extensive qualifications and experience in their home countries, but their lack of local experience puts them at a hiring disadvantage. If you are willing to go through the process of global screening in addition to your usual screening, you could literally have a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon working in your company, for a great rate!

Make Part of The Package Performance Based

Jobs that only offer commission tend to attract desperate people who don’t stick around very long. That’s usually not good for your business, so it’s best avoided.

However, while commission only packages are a bad idea, making a portion of the overall compensation package performance based is a great one. Employees will work harder if they know they’ll be rewarded for their efforts, and if you’re only paying that extra portion for real results, it makes good business sense too.

Ask Your Employees

The best way to figure out a compensation strategy that will keep your valued employees happy is to ask them. Very often, employees already have an idea of non-monetary perks and rewards that they’d be willing to take in lieu of extra money. They may ask for additional paid time off, or job specific training that will benefit you too.

Don’t Forget Equity

While you’re working on a compensation plan that will help you to attract and retain top talent, don’t forget equity. Top employees may be happy to accept shares in your company, or a profit sharing arrangement, instead of financial reward. Be careful with this option though. You don’t want the wrong people to own a stake in the company you struggled to build!

Outsource Non-Essential Jobs

A great way to free up more cash for your star employees’ compensation packages is to outsource non-essential functions to freelancers or companies. If you are going to use companies, however, make sure you have a small business background check policy in place!

Know Your Limit

It’s always tough to balance the need to attract and retain qualified staff with the financial constraints of business, and sometimes, no matter how creative you are, and how much you want to keep an employee happy, you simply can’t manage to meet their needs. It’s important to know what your limit is, and to be prepared to walk away if you can’t negotiate a deal. It hurts to lose a great employee, but there are others out there.

Guide to Finding the Right Tenants for Your Rentals

You’ve got a healthy rental portfolio. You’re happy with your property investments, and you’ve built up some solid equity in your properties. The only problem is, you can’t seem to find or keep the right kind of tenants, and you find yourself scrambling to fill vacancies a lot more often than you’d like.

Believe it or not, you’re not alone, but there are several things you can do to change all that.

Know Your Ideal Tenant

The very first thing you need to do is define your ideal tenant, and be realistic while you do. If you’re renting out a plain but serviceable apartment that’s close to public transport, you’re not going to be renting to slick young professionals.

Likewise, if you’re renting a home that’s near to the best school in the district, you should be tailoring your rental to families with school age children, rather than trendy young hipsters.

The most important thing you can do is to have a clear picture of who your ideal tenants are, and what’s important to them.

Be Honest About the Property

Take a long, honest look at the property that you hope to rent. Is it clean? Functional? Does it have an orange ‘70s kitchen and grimy grout lines?

If you’re trying to rent a property that you can’t imagine yourself ever living in, you can’t expect to find great tenants, so if things need a little refreshing, it may be worth making the investment.

Make It Easy to Rent from You

Most people these days find apartments to rent on the internet. So, if you’re still advertising in the newspapers, you’re probably missing out on the majority of tenants in your area.

Sign up for internet rental sites, and consider other convenience upgrades, like making it possible for tenants to pay rent by credit card or even PayPal! The easier it is to rent from you, the more likely people will be to make that initial call.

Don’t Skimp on Screening

If you haven’t had tenants in your property for a while, it can be tempting to rent to the first person who contacts you. That’s the biggest mistake you can make, and you are not only taking a gamble that the tenant is a good one (and not a complete nightmare), you’re putting your property investment at risk!

You should always conduct a thorough tenant check, including rental reference checking, bankruptcy searches and credit reports, and criminal record checks. The only way you can be sure you’re not renting to someone who is going to avoid paying, or turn your basement into a meth lab, is to do those checks!

Be a Good Landlord

The secret to profitable rental properties is not only to find great tenants, but to keep them. If you can keep good tenants in your property for several years, you have hassle-free, regular income on tap. The best way to do that is to be a good landlord.

Be reasonable, be available when they need you, and make sure that you carry out all your responsibilities on time. After all, you can’t expect your tenants to be perfect if you’re not willing to do the same!

 

 

Creating a High Performance Culture - What It Looks Like

Many managers and business owners mistakenly assume that “high performance” is a synonym for “workaholic.” It might surprise those people to learn that just putting in longer hours does not guarantee that an employee is a top performer. In fact, if the research is to be believed, it may be the employees who work fewer hours who are more productive.

So, if you’re just watching to see who’s still at their desk an hour after quitting time, stop. If you want a high-performance workforce, it may be time to change your company culture.

Put Results First

If you’re the boss who stands at the door, handing out frowns and tardy slips to anyone who dares to stroll in one minute after starting time, and who records which employees work the most hours, it’s time to forget that whole attitude.

High performance teams aren’t the ones that reward quantity of time worked. They’re the ones that reward results. After all, squeezing ten extra unproductive hours out of an employee won’t help your bottom line, but rewarding employees who save you money, or increase sales, will. Single out the employees that get the best results, and figure out how they do it.

Give Your Team the Tools They Need

If your team is working harder than ever, but it’s not showing on your balance sheet, then they may not have the right tools for the job. Review how you do everything, and look for tools, software and training that will help your team to do their jobs better, more efficiently and with better results.

Hire Right

There’s an old saying about trying to force a square peg into a round hole, and the same goes for hiring. If you’re trying to force an employee who is not used to being super productive into a high-performance team, you may be fighting a losing battle.

Take a closer look at your talent recruitment strategies. Create profiles of your ideal employees. Take more time on pre-employment checks, and upgrade your employee verification process.

Look beyond college results to employment track records. Has the employee done amazing things elsewhere? Do they have the habit of job hopping? If so, why? Tailor interview questions to find out how candidates would improve your team’s performance, and whether they’re simply putting in time, or a genuine go-getter.

Embrace Change

One of the most common issues for companies these days is often that they’re too set in their ways to change. They’ve been around for so long, and things have always been done a certain way, that they stagnate, and their younger, quicker, more nimble competitors run rings around them.

If you ever catch yourself saying that you’ve always done something that way, then it’s probably time to force change. Hire a top performer from one of those younger competitors. Change how you do things. Investigate new technology. Embrace change, and make continuous improvement a part of your culture.

Competition is tighter in business than it has ever been, and you need to be the very best that you can be to stay relevant and profitable.

Understanding Broadband Privacy Regulations and How They Impact Your Company

In our modern world, big brother really is watching our every move, every second of the day. Every time you log into social media, surf the web, perform employee background checks or buy something with a credit card, there’s a company out there somewhere that’s collecting that information, so that they can add it to their “big data” repository, and analyze your behavior along with the behavior of millions of people like you.

That analysis can be used to drive marketing plans, develop new products, or in many other ways. It’s exciting, but it’s also kind of scary. Which is why so many people welcomed the recent decision by the FCC to limit the data collection abilities of broadband companies.

What Was the Big News?

In case you missed it (and a surprising number of people and companies did!), in October of 2016, the FCC voted 3 to 2 to impose new privacy restrictions on broadband companies.

The ruling, which was widely reported as ground breaking, requires companies like Comcast, AT&T, and others to obtain express permission from consumers, before they can collect or share certain browsing data and information.

That’s a huge deal, because it means that those companies can no longer spy on everything you do if you don’t want them to, or sell the information they gather about you to companies looking for a marketing edge.

The ruling does not cover private, opt-in services like Facebook, Twitter, and other websites, which are still allowed to collect data, but that you can choose not to use.

Why This Is a Good Thing

Until this new legislation was passed, companies could track users unless they opted out. There was no requirement to give permission. It was assumed. You had to proactively approach individual companies to remove that permission. It’s no surprise no one did that.

That change is good news for consumers in general, but it’s good news for companies too. After all, every time employees used your computers to browse the web, they were building an information profile of your business… and that might have included things that you probably wouldn’t want recorded about your company!

A Great Time to Review Information Security Policies

While we celebrate a landmark change in internet browsing, it’s worth taking the time to review your own digital policies.

Have you created one? Does it set out how your computers and internet connections may be used, and what may not be done? Have you expressly informed employees that when they use your computers, their browsing history is not private? Make sure you have watertight policies, that they are updated regularly, and that each employee signs them.

Just like broadband companies are now required to ask your permission to track consumer information, you need to be very specific about what you track and review. There may come a time when your employee’s browsing history becomes a legal matter, and you really don’t want to take any chances in this area.

Finally, while we’re on the topic of all things digital, don’t forget to include an online search and social media review in your employee background checks. You would be surprised what you can find out about most people, just by searching online.

The Importance of Non-Financial Factors in Employee Retention Programs

There’s an old saying that goes “people don’t quit jobs, they quit managers.” What that means is that the number one reason most people leave jobs is because they don’t get along with a manager or supervisor, and that’s usually true. It may surprise you to learn that, but it’s not money, location or any other single factor that impacts employee turnover the most. It’s the people they work for, and when you’re looking for ways to improve culture and retention, this is a good place to start.

Identify departments where you have high turnover, and take a closer look at the management structure, and if that doesn’t solve the problem, consider the following options.

Hire Right

Getting and keeping the right people in your organization can have a huge impact on your bottom line, and it all starts with your hiring policies. Instead of using the hiring process to exclude as many people as possible, use tools like character reference checks to find people who are skilled, experienced, and loyal team players.

The right team goes a long way to company success, and to employee retention.

It’s Not All About Money

There’s no denying that money is a core factor in the employment relationship. People work because they need money to live, and if they didn’t have to, most would probably be out surfing, climbing mountains or creating art.

If you’re already paying your employees market-related or better salaries, and you’re still struggling to hold on to them, then you need to start looking at non-financial retention methods, which may include:

Access to in-house or external training. Great employees are always looking for ways to improve their skills, and this benefits them and you!

– Improve the working environment. While you might be far from sick building syndrome, there’s no denying that a nice, comfortable work space makes being at work more enjoyable for everyone. Install standing desks. Paint the walls a bright, sunny shade. Start an employee graffiti wall. Whatever it takes to spruce up your space.

– Listen to your employees. Even if you think your managers are the best thing since sliced bread, it’s your employees that have to work with them, and they might be having a very different experience. If one employee complains, it may be personal. If they all do, it’s a cause for concern, and a reason for action.

– Stop micromanaging. Employees want to have some autonomy, and to feel that they can make decisions and take action within the scope of their job. If you’re hanging over their shoulder all the time, that can’t happen, and they’re going to find somewhere that they can be creative and make a real difference.

– Have an internal promotion policy, and stick to it. Your people want to know that they are working towards something, and if you’re hiring outside the organization for all the best jobs, they won’t feel that way.

As much as we’d like to, we can’t all be like Google, with their free food, chill out rooms and maker spaces. But there are things every company can do to make working there more enjoyable for everyone, and when people like their workplace and their jobs, they stay longer, and that’s good for the bottom line.

Dealing with HIV-Positive Employees: Why It Requires Due Diligence

Health issues are a fact of life. At some point, most employees will experience some sort of health scare or be diagnosed with a serious or chronic illness.

For the majority of employers, not only is it tough to handle the legalities and loss of productivity that health issues invariably raise, but we also genuinely don’t want our valued people to have this sort of worry and stress.

Those concerns are all valid and apply in all cases, but they’re even more relevant when it comes to incurable diseases, like HIV. Here’s what you need to know, as an employer, about what your rights and responsibilities are, and how due diligence can help answer some of your questions.

HIV and Discrimination

It’s not possible to solve the issue of dealing with HIV in the workplace by simply requiring medical screening and not hiring anyone who is positive. Not only are there very tough restrictions on when you can require medical screening for most jobs, but if you don’t hire a qualified candidate because of their HIV status, you could be guilty of discrimination, and you might well be sued.

Like most other diseases and disorders, it’s illegal to exclude or fire candidates or employees simply because of their status. Just don’t do it.

Requesting Medical Screening

When it comes to pre-hiring due diligence, you usually cannot request medical screening at all. In fact, the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission has some very strict guidelines about medical screening.

– You may not ask most employees to take a medical screening test before you hire them.

– You also may not enquire about the nature of a particular visible disability.

– You may ask the candidate how they would go about performing the job.

– You can make a job offer, on the condition that the applicant undergoes screening or answers certain health questions.

– If you do make this a condition of hiring, it is only allowed if all employees who are hired in similar positions must undergo the same screening.

– Once hired, employers may request medical screening only if it’s to accommodate an employee, or if there is a question about the employee’s ability to complete their work safely.

In all cases, relevance of the health questions and testing is key. If there is no reason for you to know, you can’t ask. It is really that simple.

Privacy Issues

If you do discover that someone you have hired is HIV positive, for instance, if they ask for modified work due to their condition, then there are some privacy issues you need to address. Under no circumstances can you disclose anything to do with your employee’s health to any other member of your team, and you need to make completely sure that their privacy is protected at all times.

Modified Work

In certain cases, an HIV diagnosis may impact an individual’s ability to do their job. Examples of this would be in specific medical fields, when working with children or in physical work environments.

In every case where this happens, the onus is on the employer to attempt to find an alternative position for the employee, where their condition will not be a factor, such as an administrative role.

If an employee does disclose their health condition to you, you are allowed to ask their doctor whether there are any risks to the employee, other staff or the public if that employee continues to work in their existing or a modified role.

Regardless of what happens, dealing with employees with serious health conditions in the workplace is tough, but with tact, compassion and planning, but with due diligence you can make difficult situations work.

How Artificial Intelligence Will Impact Privacy Regulations

Technology has changed our lives in so many ways. It’s changed how we shop, communicate and find new opportunities. It has made millionaires out of college dropouts, and it’s made encyclopedias and phone books obsolete.

It’s also changed the way that companies and governments collect and share information, and there’s a saying about the world-wide web that rings very true in this instance: if you’re not paying for it, you’re probably the product.

Free services online are mega earning machines thanks to advertising, marketing, and data gathering. Everything you do online is known, to someone, and that does make creating and enforcing privacy legislation a lot trickier.

It’s all about to get more complicated too, as companies around the world get closer and closer to launching true artificial intelligence. You thought finding good international background check companies was difficult… try safeguarding privacy when machines know everything we do, say and think!

Big Data Is Driving AI Development

Companies, individuals and governments are just realizing the privacy challenges AI presents, but the truth is, the cat has been out of that particular bag for a very long time.

From self-driving cars to personal robots, all of the hardware and software currently being developed in the AI field already uses big data as the basis for algorithms and programming. In other words, all the information that companies have been collecting about consumers and users for decades are being used to create products that meet genuine needs, and to make them as useful and tailored as possible.

Even Facebook is moving away from human moderated news to an AI system that has used data gathered via their platform to “learn” which stories to post.

If you use the internet at all, a piece of you and your preferences is already part of all that.

The Trouble with Machines…

One of the biggest concerns when it comes to privacy issues related to machines is that unlike people, machines can be owned. That also means that the person or company that owns that machine owns the information that is stored in its databases.

If you, as a consumer, use that machine, and unwittingly and unknowingly provide personal information about yourself to it, does the company who owns that machine also own the data you provide?

It’s a very complex ethical question, and one that will need to be solved very soon. By all accounts, we’re only a few short years away from seeing AI devices, product and services in our daily lives. That’s as exciting as it is scary.

Privacy Is a Big Deal

The fact is, in every aspect of life and business, privacy is becoming more and more of a focal point. People want to be assured that their choices and their activities don’t infringe on their rights, and that includes applying for jobs.

If you’re hiring globally, make sure that you choose international background check companies that understand and adhere to global privacy laws, or you may find yourself in the same challenging situation as those AI companies where you’re under scrutiny for your privacy policies and practices.

Why Employee Financial Literacy is Important

In a perfect world, there would be a clear, defined separation between work and life, and never the twain would meet. Ideally, your employees wouldn’t have any problems outside of the office, or at the very least, they would be able to leave them all outside the door when they reported for work, ready, willing and able to give 110%, and deliver consistently excellent work. There would be no need for efforts such as an employee background check, because people would do what was expected of them at all times.

But we don’t live in an ideal world. Whether we like it or not, employees have personal lives, and those lives will sometimes make it difficult for your team to do their job at their peak. Sometimes it will be personal issues. Sometimes it will be health concerns. Increasingly, it’s financial problems that will sneak into your office, and distract your employees.

Whether you’ve had this issue already, or you’re hoping to head problems off at the pass, there are several steps you can take to keep financial worries out of your workplace, including conducting an employee background check on all candidates before you employ them.

How Big Is the Problem Really?

No one wants to write company policies to address non-issues, so the first thing you’re likely to ask yourself is how big of a problem this really is, and whether it’s something you should even worry about.

According to studies at leading universities’ in the US, it’s a big one. Up to one in four employees are currently experiencing some type of financial distress. That means a quarter of the average office or work environment is made up by people who are worrying about money.

Not only is that tough on your team, but it also affects productivity, and that impacts your bottom line.

In the worst possible cases, it may be even worse. Remember that desperate people do desperate things, and if you have staff who are struggling financially, they may choose to do things that are dishonest or illegal.

Credit Checks Part of the Solution

Of course, if you’re already running employee background checks as part of your hiring process, and if credit checks are part of that process, then you might be able to avoid some of this problem. However, there are two big problems with this:

#1: If you exclude great candidates because of their credit history, you might be missing out. Remember that most people in the U.S. are only a couple of paychecks away from financial trouble!

#2: Pre-employment screening won’t get rid of the problem entirely, because many of your employees had healthy finances when you hired them, and then things change.

Life happens. People get laid off. They have health care expenses. They get divorced. They make bad investments. Credit checks during the hiring process can weed out people who are habitually bad with money, but it isn’t a “one size fits all” solution by any means.

Making Financial Literacy Company Policy

Instead of running an employee background check before hiring and then forgetting about this big issue completely, companies need to make their employees’ ongoing financial health a matter of company policy.

Running seminars and offering workplace programs to help your team safeguard their financial futures,  build—and grow—their nest eggs just makes good sense. Not only will it keep your team focused on the job at hand, but it will help to earn you a reputation as a company who cares, and that will mean higher quality candidates the next time you’re hiring.

5 Indications Your Tenant May Be Dealing Drugs, and What to Do

As a landlord, you have many things to worry about. Is the rent going to be paid on time? Do you have sufficient insurance on your properties? Are you going to have big, unexpected expenses, or a tenant who disappears in the night?

If you’re like most landlords, you do your best to prevent nasty surprises, by running tenant background checks that include criminal and credit checks, calling references and verifying employment, but even if you do everything right, there are still things that can go wrong down the line.

One of the most difficult to prove and deal with is a tenant who you suspect is dealing drugs, but since this is a big issue for many landlords today, we thought we’d outline a few common signs, as well as your rights and responsibilities as a landlord.

Is Your Tenant Dealing Drugs?

While none of these are definite proof that your tenant is dealing drugs, they are strong indicators that something may be amiss:

#1: Your tenant has large numbers of visitors who stop by at strange hours and don’t stay long. If this is a regular occurrence, and they’re different people all the time, with very little in common, then this might be a red flag. Talk to your tenant, and find out if there’s a rational explanation (it may be a study group or a very enthusiastic book club!)

#2: Any requests to pay rent in cash should be viewed with suspicion, and not just for drug dealing. If your tenant wants to pay in cash regularly, they might be involved in any number of illegal activities, and may be using you to launder the proceeds of crime.

#3: A sharp spike in utility usage is another clue that something may be amiss. Grow houses and meth labs, among other drug operations, all use larger amounts of power and water than normal.

#4: You suspect the tenant you rented the property to was a front, because you never see them around now that the lease is signed.

#5: Finally, if you notice strange odors around the property or locked doors to sheds or garages, that’s another big red flag.

If you see any of these or other suspicious signals, even if your tenant background check was positive it’s good to investigate.

What Can You Do?

Suspecting that your tenant is dealing drugs is one thing, but actually taking any action is a very different story, and it can be difficult to figure out what you should do, and what your rights are.

The first thing you should do in a case like this is talk to the police in the neighborhood. If there is suspected illegal activity in your property, they may already know about it, or if not, they may investigate at your request.

In most states and in most leases, it is legal to enter a rental property without notice if there’s a reasonable suspicion of illegal activity, but if you do opt to do this, make sure you ask the police to accompany you too. Not only will this help to legitimize the unscheduled inspection, but if there is criminal activity in progress, it will help to protect you.

The only thing you shouldn’t do is ignore the problem. Not only is your property at risk, but there’s always a chance that you might be viewed as a possible accessory if you suspect or know about illegal activities and you don’t report them.

 

Are Criminal Background Checks Needed for Disabled Candidates?

It’s a tough call for any hiring manager: when confronted with a candidate who has a disability, do you ask for a criminal background check as you normally would, or do you waive it, to prevent any appearance of discrimination?

The answer may surprise you.

Skipping the Check Is Discriminatory

The basis of anti-discrimination laws around the world is that individuals are not treated differently because of their ability, ethnicity, religion, sexual preferences, marital status and other factors that are outside of their choice.

If you were to waive the criminal background check for a candidate because of their disability, you would in fact be discriminating in two ways: firstly, by treating them differently to able-bodied candidates, and secondly by requiring more from able-bodied applicants. Either of these forms of discrimination could get you in trouble.

Over and above all of this is the fact that disabled people want, as far as is possible, to be treated the same as everyone else. They don’t want special treatment, and they are likely to resent what you might think is a kind gesture.

The short answer? Do the check.

Disability Fraud

The second important fact that you might want to consider is that while we all think it’s distasteful and couldn’t possibly imagine anyone actually perpetrating disability fraud, it does happen.

Whether it’s to access social welfare benefits that aren’t due to them, or to gain sympathy, there are people out there who do fake disabilities for personal gain. It’s not all that easy to do, and it’s not as common as some would have you believe, but it does happen, and it could happen to you.

Verifying Disabilities

In many cases, a disabled candidate may be just one of a large pool of varying candidates applying for a job you advertise. In other cases, you may be eligible for state or Federal incentive programs, such as tax breaks or access to bid opportunities for hiring a certain number of disabled staff members.

Whatever the reason, there are likely to be times when you need to verify that a candidate is indeed disabled. This is particularly true when it’s a so called “invisible disability” like a mental health issue, or a congenital heart defect.

It’s not illegal to ask for verification of disabled status, including medical records or letters from doctors, as long as this information is not going to be used to exclude a candidate, and as long as the candidate agrees to disclose their information. Remember that employee medical records are covered by very strict privacy laws, and you do need their express permission to do any investigating. The same thing applies to a criminal background check for any employee.

Diversity Policies

In our modern world, it’s widely accepted that people with a variety of disabilities can be contributing, valuable members of society, and assets to your company. It never hurts to formulate a diversity policy, that sets out your goals for hiring and retaining people who might be differently abled.

If there’s any doubt that this is a worthwhile exercise, remember that Steven Hawking has been in a wheelchair for decades, and he’s still one of the smartest men on the planet!

The Threat of Terrorism and Its Impact on Employee Screening

Terrorism is nothing new. Throughout history, there have been endless streams of groups using violence to attempt to create political or religious change in countries around the world. Here at home in the US, however, we know the exact date that everything changed, forever.

Ever since September 11, 2001, we’ve become hyper aware of the threat of terror, and since that threat has only increased and escalated in the years since then, it’s become a part of our lives. Everything from monitoring social media activities to what you can take on a flight in your carry on is dictated by the threat of violence from faceless terror groups. It’s no wonder, therefore, that it’s become more and more commonplace to make allowances for terror in workplace policies and practices.

Before You Hire

If you don’t already have policies in place to run terror specific employee security vetting as a part of your hiring process, it may be time to draft one. At a minimum, it’s a good idea to include No Fly lists in your screening, so that you can see if a prospective employee is considered a risk by the TSA.

Remember, however, that this is not proof that the candidate is a terrorist, it merely means that they have been flagged as potential risk. Not hiring a candidate on these grounds, or because of their religion or ethnicity could get you in big trouble for discrimination, so don’t make this a deciding factor, but be sure to bring it up in your conversations.

Emergency Preparedness

The truth is that there’s no sure fire way to identify a prospective terrorist during hiring processes. Most people who have perpetrated attacks in the US and abroad had no red flags prior to the attacks. Most have no criminal record of any kind, and most aren’t identified as a risk until after they plan and attempt an attack.

This leaves limited options for managers and company owners, but one of the most important options you do have is to create emergency preparedness plans. Discuss risks from within your organization and from outside. Draw up evacuation plans, and host training for staff.

Planning ahead for risks that may occur due to terrorism is a great way to empower your existing staff, and regular refreshers will help to keep your people alert and aware of what is happening around them.

If you regularly have staff members working in offices abroad, it may be a good idea to include training in how to deal with terror risks and attacks in other countries, and to make them aware of security differences in those countries or regions. This is particularly important if your employees will be working in areas that are considered less safe or stable.

Dealing with Fallout

Even the most prepared companies and management teams can’t do everything. There’s always a risk, even if you hire carefully and plan and prepare for the worst, that the worst will happen. The final thing you can do, as an employer, is to ensure that you have documented and accessible plans for dealing with benefits and compensation for the victims of an attack, or their families.

We all like to think that our companies are safe environments, and they usually are. However, as the old saying goes, it’s always best to plan for the worst and hope for the best and employee security vetting helps you to do so.

4 Trends Currently Affecting Healthcare HR Departments

Healthcare is booming. It’s one of the fastest growing industries in the US and beyond, and more and more people are choosing careers in the field. Combined with international mobility for the best and brightest, there are plenty of great candidates out there, but the demand is just as high.

All of that translates into a dynamic and fast paced environment, where HR professionals are kept on their toes, attracting, acquiring and retaining the best and brightest through due diligence. We’ve created the following roundup of top trends in medical HR departments throughout the country, so you can do just that a little more easily.

1. Results-Based Compensation on the Rise

Modern patients expect more. They are more in control of their healthcare options, and they have more choice than ever before. All of this is behind the shift towards results based compensation for healthcare executives. Salary packages are more likely to be structured to reflect results in key areas, with the idea of the large annual increase being replaced with an incentive to perform.

While this does make it easier for HR professionals to reward the best and brightest, it also means there’s likely to be a higher turnover in staffing, and it’s going to be tougher to keep positions filled.

2. An Aging Workforce

Another big problem in the healthcare field is that the existing workforce is aging, and as they move on and retire, it’s going to be a balancing act to train replacements and manage the changeover. Make sure that you focus on succession planning and find replacement candidates sooner rather than later, so these changes don’t catch you by surprise!

Hiring the right candidates is going to be more important than ever before, if you hope to mold newcomers to the industry into leaders of tomorrow, so make sure you revise your hiring policies, brush up on your methodology and focus on due diligence to get the best of the best.

3. Blurred Role Lines

The line between medical administration and operations has well and truly been blurred. It’s more common than ever before to see doctors and surgeons in roles that combine medicine and administrative functions. Finding candidates with soft skills (or developing programs that provide them) is one way to stay on top of this trend.

4. Engagement Is Critical

With the greater demands on healthcare workers to deliver superb care to a growing patient base, medical professionals across the board need to be engaged now more than ever before. Let’s face it. This is a grueling, emotionally difficult roller coaster of an industry, and one of the biggest challenge for HR professionals is finding ways to keep teams motivated. Due diligence and strategic and careful hiring is one way to achieve this, but there are other strategies and programs that might help too.

Whether it’s through bonus structures, mentoring or even workplace wellness programs, there’s no doubt that your role as an HR professional in the medical field is very different to what it might have been ten years ago. This is a sign of the times. Embrace it, and consider the trends and changes in the field new challenges and incentives of your own, to create better, stronger more motivated teams.