Category Archives:Blog

Avoid the Hassle of Evictions with Proper Tenant Screening

In 2015, an estimated 2.7 million people were evicted in the US.

That’s a mind-boggling number, and with the upward trend in evictions, that’s likely to have grown in the two years since.

The largest factor driving this eviction trend is the rising cost of rent, while salaries and wages have simultaneously stagnated, and the data shows that the higher the portion of take home salary rent comprises, the more likely an eviction becomes.

While this is an alarming socio economic trend in general, and one that will certainly affect this country deeply in years to come, it’s also a major concern for landlords. After all, with more families opting to rent for one reason or another than ever before, this could happen to anyone.

Evictions Are Hard for Everyone

Let’s be honest: no-one wants to put anyone out on the street. Chances are, even if you have done so in the past, you didn’t take this drastic action lightly, and you probably lost some money in the process.

The fact is that evictions are bad for everyone. They put families in impossible situations, they cost landlords money, and they’re likely to leave your property empty and losing money for at least a little while.

If you’ve had to do this more than once, you might even have chosen to use a third-party property management company, simply so that you don’t have to deal with the fallout directly.

This is one situation where prevention is infinitely better than cure.

Tenant Screening Is Critical

The single most important thing you can do to avoid having to deal with evicting a tenant is to conduct thorough tenant screening. Here’s how this can help:

  • The key issue here is affordability. Since families who pay larger chunks of their salaries to rent are more likely to default, leading to eviction, knowing what your prospective tenants earn is a very important.
  • Another important issue you want to check when finding the right tenant is the length of time your prospective tenants have been in their jobs. Even if they’re earning great salaries, the ink may not be dry on their employment contracts, and it might not stay that way.
  • A credit report or basic credit check will also tell you if your prospective tenant is in financial trouble in general. When there are lawyers and debt collectors knocking on the door, they might decide to use their rent money to buy some time.
  • Finally, don’t forget criminal record checks. Even if people are completely above board today, they may have a criminal past, and when money is tight, sometimes people choose to do things that are not completely legal, especially if they have a history of criminal activity.

Proper screening might not be able to predict a tenant being fired or racking up unexpected medical bills, but it can help to show you what their track record and character is like. People tend to behave the way they have in the past, so if there are any red flags there, you should at least address them.

Ultimately, renting out your properties remains a risk, but you can take steps to limit those risks and help to protect your investment.

5 Reasons Your Company Needs a Sound Employee Screening Policy

The right people can make all the difference to your company’s success, but the wrong ones could literally sink it.

Great people make great companies. Or as Sir Richard Branson so often says, “teamwork makes the dream work.” However, while the right people can make all the difference to your company’s success, the wrong ones could literally sink it.

There are companies that choose to wing it when hiring new employees, but they are also often the companies that find that their dream candidate turns into a nightmare quickly. We’ve heard horror stories that range from grossly unqualified new applicants (who looked great on paper!), to discovering that the new hire has a long criminal record under their own or another name.

The fact is, when hiring on the fly goes wrong, it very often goes wrong spectacularly.

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

Even if you operate in an at-will employment state, getting rid of bad hires can be costly in terms of restarting the hiring process, undoing the damage that’s already been caused, and potentially hiring temporary help during the process. It’s always better to hire right the first time.

The best way to ensure that your company hires the right people is to create a detailed and comprehensive interview and employee screening policy. Here are some of the reasons why this is so critical:

  1. Narrow your candidate list easily. One of the biggest problems with any hiring effort is that you’re likely to get a large group of applicants who all seem to be suited to the job. An in-depth employee screening process can help to eliminate some of those candidates right off the bat.
  2. Eliminate the risk of hiring employees who are unqualified or inexperienced for the role.
  3. Weed out employees who have hidden criminal records.
  4. Avoid hiring employees who have tax troubles.
  5. Ensure that your requests for criminal record checks, medical screening and other potentially tricky checks don’t land you in hot water.

A well thought out, fair and above-board employee screening policy that complies with the law and covers all the important bases might not eliminate 100% of the hiring risks you could face, but it will certainly cut them right down to a minimum.

Create a Lifetime Employment Policy

Many people think that employee screening begins and ends with new hires, but the truth is, it’s an ongoing process, that will require additional steps throughout the duration of your association with an employee.

You may need to implement annual or regular screening of certain types of employees to ensure your compliance with industry regulations, or you may need a policy to “rescreen” before choosing from a pool of employees up for internal promotions.

Proper Screening Is Always Cheaper

Professional employee background screening may carry costs that you’d rather avoid. The process may slow down your HR processes. However, with the true cost of a bad hire estimated to be well over $200,000 (and that’s without any lawsuits that may result in extreme cases!), it’s certainly worth the investment.

 

Managing an Effective Compliance Program in Your Business

There’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution to corporate due diligence, so you have to look for the right fit for your company.

Ignorance of the law is rarely a defence in a court of law. That’s just as true in business as it is in your personal life. But while it’s usually fairly easy to keep yourself out of legal trouble, it can be a lot harder to stay on the right side of the law in business.

Laws, regulations, certification requirements change all the time, and your business needs to adapt and add policies and procedures to ensure that you change with the times. That’s corporate compliance in a nutshell, but while it sounds simple, it’s actually much more complex than one might think.

No “One Size Fits All” Solution

One of the major stumbling blocks for companies when it comes to corporate compliance is the lack of a one size fits all solution.

Because there are so many elements to any compliance program, based on your industry, your state, and a host of other factors, you really need to create a tailored system that is unique to your company. There are professionals who can help you to create an effective compliance program if you are struggling, so that you have a solid foundation to work from.

This can be even tougher when your company does business in emerging markets, where the local legal frameworks may differ significantly from US laws.

Some Universal Factors

Even though your corporate compliance is often driven by what you do and where you do it, there are a few basics that all programs should incorporate:

  • Leadership involvement. This is the most important step. Without a complete leadership buy-in, corporate compliance programs almost invariably fail. Leaders might not draft the actual policies, but they need to ensure that they are adopted universally and applied absolutely.
  • Properly trained staff. While you might not have a dedicated compliance official in your business, it’s important that department managers understand what their role in compliance is, and what their department needs to do to ensure companywide success.
  • A list of state and federal laws governing your industry and company, and policies that outline how your company will comply.
  • A list of certifications and accreditations required to practice in your industry, if required. This may include things as simple as maintaining a current business license for the city or cities you operate in.
  • Documented policies that outline your business ethics, what constitutes corruption, and how it is handled in your business.
  • Any other documented policies relating to human rights, legal compliance, service level standards, and any other regulations that affect your company.

The smaller your company is, the less complex your compliance program is likely to be, but companies of all sizes should consider having their policies and procedures documented. It’s always easier to remember what you need to do when it’s written down!

When Buying a Company

When you are considering buying or merging with another company, it’s always a good idea to include some investigation into their corporate compliance program when conducting your due diligence, too.

After all, companies that don’t have a good handle on complying with state and federal laws, and good, solid internal policies, may well come with all sorts of surprises that you weren’t expecting, and that aren’t likely to be pleasant. No one wants to inherit legal troubles based on someone else’s lack of good corporate governance.

Use a Bigger Pool of Prospects to Find the Right Fit

Jobs have gotten a lot more specific these days. Roles are far more complex, and there’s a good chance that at least one of the positions you will need to fill will combine a weird mish mash of skills, some of which may be scarce. After all, there’s no longer room for one trick ponies at the top of major organizations. You need to have candidates who are flexible, knowledgeable, and adaptable.

The good news is that while the number of candidates who fit the bill may have gotten smaller, you have a bigger pool of prospects to choose from to find the perfect fit.

If you’d like to use a global talent search to find that one special employee, then there are a few things you need to know.

Job Sites Are Your Friend

The good news is that while you’re searching the world for that one special employee, special people are looking to emigrate too. They’re searching internet job sites as you read this, so the very best way to reach them is to start posting your jobs not only on local job sites, but also on their global equivalents.

Language Is a Factor

When you hire internationally, you are going to get involved in immigration issues, and one of those will be linguistic ability. With few exceptions, candidates who emigrate to the U.S. to take up a position will have to prove their proficiency in English, so make that a part of your international screening process.

Post all your ads in English only, and ask for proof of ability early in the hiring process.

Have a Credential Verification Plan

Another big factor in international hiring is the equivalency of credentials. Not all titles or specializations will be called the same thing in other countries, and there may well be different qualification levels in the countries you’re targeting. Be prepared to enter a more complicated education and professional credential verification process, and if licensing is an issue in your industry, bear in mind that you might need to arrange bridging courses or U.S. exams for your international hires.

Health Is a Factor

You might not be able to request medicals as a part of your local hiring process in most cases, but if your candidate is emigrating from abroad to take up a position, medicals will be a part of their immigration process. Make sure you mention that they need to be eligible for U.S. immigration on medical and criminal grounds. These are usually legal deal breakers if not met, from an immigration point of view, and the last thing you need is a tricky legal situation where you’re forced to break a contract because of factors outside of your control.

Hiring a Pro Is Recommended

Having the world’s most talented people a mouse click away is a huge boon to companies who need scarce skills and exceptional candidates, but international hiring is a very different, very complex undertaking.

Unless you have a highly skilled HR department in your company who can deal with all aspects of international screening and verification, and who know how the immigration process works, it’s always best to defer to the pros.

How to Negotiate Commercial Rentals with Your Tenants

Anyone with any experience in commercial property leasing will tell you that this type of property rental is a very different beast. While you still need effective tenant screening to make sure you’re renting to the right person or organization, there are many other factors to consider too.

Types of Commercial Rental

Commercial leases come in many different forms and formats, with a huge variety of terms and contract clauses, but while there’s certainly no one size fits all solution, there are few basic options:

  • Percentage leases, which are common in retail spaces, include the base rent for the unit, as well as a percentage of monthly sales.
  • Net leases, double net leases and triple net leases are another common commercial form of lease, which leave tenants liable for taxes, insurance, and maintenance costs in addition to rent. They’re great if you want to be a hands-off landlord.
  • Gross leases are much less common, and are also known as “fully serviced leases.” In this type of lease, the landlord takes on all the extra costs and hassles, and the tenant just pays their rent, which includes the costs and management fees, often called a “load factor.”

Insuring Your Investment

One of the biggest factors in commercial leasing is ensuring that your long-term property investment is secure, and that’s why insurance is such an important part of this type of lease.

This is one of the reasons why commercial landlords need to think so hard about what the acceptable use of your property will be, and how insurance will be handled. Aside from regular insurance, you will also need to ensure that your tenants carry adequate public liability insurance too, because that helps to prevent third party injury and damage claims.

Choosing a Good Commercial Tenant

Commercial property leasing is a much more complex process than its little residential cousin. While your tenant selection for a residential property is all about character, track record and employment checks, there are several other factors to consider when choosing a tenant for your commercial rental:

  • The nature of the business. Is it high risk or dangerous? Seasonal? Is it in a high-risk industry?
  • The length that the company has been in business. Brand new companies might not have access to credit or any credit rating at all. Are the business owners prepared to take personal responsibility?
  • If the business is new, have they offered to provide you with a business plan? This can be a good indicator of how their business will fare.
  • Do they have all the certifications and licenses necessary to operate in the city and in their industry? Get written verification and copies of all these.
  • Do they have all the insurances needed to protect their business and your property? Again, everything in writing.
  • Are they willing to agree to a specific use provision? Just because their business is in one area now, does not mean it will stay in that industry, and you want to be able to cancel the lease if they switch to an undesirable sector or business model.

These are just a few of the things you will need to discuss with prospective business tenants for your commercial rental property. Most importantly, verify as much as possible, and get everything in writing. If it’s not in the lease, signed and sealed, it cannot be enforced.

How Federal Tax Liens Impact Employment

You’ve probably heard the old saying that there are only two things in life that are certain: death and taxes. A Federal tax lien is the literal documentation for the latter. The Federal government issues these liens to recover unpaid taxes, and they are proof that when it comes to their money, the IRS is a well-oiled and ruthless machine.

In fact, once a Federal lien has been issued, the government has the power to seize assets, attach property and more. It can prevent the person who is subject to the lien from getting loans, and may bar them from certain jobs in your organization.

In short, if you’re hiring, tax lien searches should be part of your employee background screening process, and here’s what you need to know about the process.

It’s Not Top Secret… But Close

Tax liens are what is commonly known as “secret” liens, in that the Federal government is prohibited, by law, from disclosing anything at all about them with anyone other than the tax payer in question. So, if you thought you could just call up the IRS and ask about a particular candidate, think again.

What the government does do, however, is issue a notice of Federal tax lien (or NFTL) that is lodged with the deeds office in county in which they reside. If you know how to search those records, you can establish that there is a lien against a particular person.

Credit bureau also record tax liens on individual reports, so if credit checks are part of your hiring process, you should find out during that search.

But You Might Not Be Able to Ask..

The challenge with employee screening in the U.S. is that it’s not only a Federal matter. Different legislation in each state could impact your ability to even request a credit report from a prospective employee, with a few exceptions.

Generally, even in strict states like California, which typically doesn’t allow employers to request credit reports, if you can show that the report is relevant to the position (for instance, a direct financial position), you can still request the information.

As with everything, your tax lien search request needs to be justified, relevant, and non-discriminatory, and if you’re not sure whether your process fits into those criteria, you should definitely seek professional or legal advice.

How Tax Liens Affect Employees, and You

While you can’t always find out if current or prospective employees have tax liens, you can be sure that if they do, there will be an impact.

Employees who are in financial distress are always a risky gamble, depending on the severity of the problem. Owing taxes to the Federal government is usually a pretty severe one! Employees who have tax liens may also be barred on working for projects for state or federal government too, which may impact your company’s chances when bidding on projects.

Finally, the IRS also has the power to garnish wages, so you may find that you have more administrative tasks when paying employees who do have tax liens, which can make the process of managing your payroll more complex.

Risks of Hiring Unverified Employees: Fraud, Espionage and ID Theft

If you’re not doing everything possible to perform identity verification on all your employees, you are leaving yourself open for unimaginable financial, organizational, and even legal damage.

Consider, for one moment, that the average teenager in America probably knows someone who can get them a fake ID that could get them into a club. Now consider that there are people out there who make a living out of identity theft, and have considerably more resources at their disposal.

Even the most convincing looking documentation could easily be fake, and identity theft and fraud are far, far more pervasive in the U.S. than you probably realize. If you are taking any credentials or documents at face value, you might already be at risk.

The Figures Don’t Lie

Of the nearly two million complaints that the Federal Trade Commission received and investigated in 2014, approximately 14% were identity theft related. Of those, 6% were employment related. That works out to about 16,800 cases in that year alone. That’s a little over 46 cases, on average, every single day.

That’s just the cases that were discovered, reported, and investigated too. If the alarming trends in identity theft around the world are anything to go on, the true figure might well be considerably higher than that.

People are lying their way into jobs, and to keep them, and it’s happening all the time.

Why Do People Commit Employment Related Identity Fraud?

The reasons why people commit this type of fraud vary significantly from case to case. Sometimes, they’re simply trying to hide a checkered past. Sometimes, they’re deliberately hiding who they are, with the intent to cause chaos within your organization. In those cases, some of their reasons may be:

  • They are employees of your competitors, engaging in industrial espionage.
  • They have falsified education and other credentials, with the goal of being hired for jobs they are not qualified to hold.
  • Insinuating themselves in positions of financial authority, to siphon or embezzle funds.
  • They are hoping to gain access to your network, to copy or share customer’s digital records from inside your company.

When employees do deliberately engage in identity theft during the hiring process, it’s often with the intention of achieving their goals, and then simply disappearing.

The more sophisticated the fraud and the higher the position, the more damage and cost there is likely to be, and it’s significantly harder for the authorities to catch someone if they have no idea who they are chasing.

Protecting Yourself from Employment Related Identity Fraud

These scenarios may sound far-fetched. Like something out of a Hollywood movie, that could never happen to you.

But they can, and in many well-documented cases, they have. Those are just the cases that have made main stream media, too. There are plenty more tied up in court, or in the hands of the authorities, never to be solved.

The simple fact is that had the employers in all these cases (reported and not), conducted a thorough identity verification process before hiring the individuals in question, they could have avoided many of these situations. You can too, and you should.

If the position in question is high powered, and the credentials are complex and hard to confirm yourself, then hiring a company that specializes in professional due diligence services can cut through the Gordian knot of information for you. It may delay the hiring process slightly, or cost a little more than your in-house checks, but it could save you time, money, and even legal trouble later.

Top 5 Questions to Ask Potential Tenants

They say we decide whether we like someone or not within seconds of meeting them. Often, without even realizing it, and before we’ve even shook their hand, we know whether we are going to get along or not.

First impressions can be surprisingly accurate, and if you’re a landlord, you’ve probably experienced an instant like or dislike of a potential tenant more than once. But while gut feel can go a long way towards choosing the right tenants for your property, it’s not the only thing you should be relying on. At the very least, you should be asking these five questions as part of a tenant credit check before you short list anyone.

1. Why Are You Moving?

Most people work for work, school, or family reasons. If a tenant doesn’t have a good reason, or avoids the question (or eye contact for that matter) that’s a big warning sign that something might not be right. Question them a little more if you don’t get an answer you can believe. The last thing you want is someone who’s running from criminal activity or something worse taking up residence in your property!

2. How Many People Will Live with You?

Most normal people assume that if you’re renting a three-bedroom condominium to a family, there will be two parents in the master bedroom, and a child in each room. Maybe one extra child sharing with another, if one room is bigger. However, not everyone sees it that way. Some people will cram two kids into each room, and then a few family members in the basement, with one on the couch for good measure!

Not only do you not want your rental property to be overcrowded because it will increase wear and tear, but that might well be against fire codes and other bylaws in the area. Make sure you state how many people are allowed in the property!

3. When Are You Moving?

You might be willing to be flexible on moving dates for the right tenant, but if they’re moving months after you need to fill your property, or far too early, then it’s probably not a good fit. Keep their tenant credit check information on file if they seem like great tenants though. You never know what might happen in future!

4. What Do You Earn?

This can be an uncomfortable question for new landlords, but it’s not an unreasonable one. If someone earns too little, they probably can’t afford to rent your property and pay their bills, and at some point, they’re going to be late with one of those.

Don’t write them off immediately though. Sometimes, a single tenant may earn too little, but they may share the rent with a romantic partner or a roommate. Find out what their arrangement will be, and what their collective earnings will be before you make a decision.

If anyone refuses to share information for a tenant credit check, however, take them off the list. This is not an unreasonable question in this situation, and if they won’t answer it, they probably don’t make enough to afford the rent.

5. Do You Have References… and Can I Call Them?

This is another big question, and an important one in deciding who you rent to. You want to rent to someone who has at least one previous rental relationship, and who was a good tenant. Track record is a very good indicator of behavior going forward.

If a tenant says no to reference checks, find out why. They might still have a compelling reason why you can’t. In that case, decide whether you will accept personal character references or references from employers instead.

6 Reasons to Use a Professional Background Screening Company

You wouldn’t take your kid to an unqualified dentist, would you?

A professional background screening company offers accurate results, applicant privacy, fewer mistakes, improved outcomes, compliance knowledge, well-developed solutions, use of best practices

Chances are, you’ve considered doing your own screening, your own due diligence, and your own reference checks. If you own or manage a company of a certain size, you probably have competent people who could probably manage the process adequately, and you sure would like to shave a little off the budget.

However, while saving money in business is usually a good idea, foregoing a professional background screening company might not be the best way to do it. In fact, using a professional company might save you more time and money than you think, now and in future.

1. Lower Cost

You might not realize it, but unless you have a highly skilled HR team already on the payroll, DIY screening can cost you more right off the bat. If you use an employee or employees who don’t know how to conduct screening to do the checks, you’re still paying them their hourly rate while they figure out what to do and how, and go through the process. Those hours add up quickly, and the result may well cost more in wages to staff members than hiring the pros.

2. Improved Accuracy

There are plenty of ways that data can be corrupted when running background screening, from a subtle misspelling to missing one crucial organization when conducting your screening. Professionals double and triple check information before they present it to you, and they already know who to contact and what to request.

3. Less Legal Risk

A professional background screening company team knows what they can ask and how, but they also know what you absolutely cannot ask an employment candidate, potential tenant, or someone else. Asking the wrong questions can get you in legal trouble, and that gets expensive fast. If you’re not absolutely sure, trust a professional.

4. Improved Privacy

We’ve all seen the chaos that happens when an online company gets hacked, and private information is leaked. Screening results are the same thing, on a smaller scale. If you are not absolutely sure that you can protect every shred of personal information you gather on a candidate, then you should absolutely hire professionals to do your screening. Because they will only share information that you need and are entitled to, and because they will store and or destroy screening results correctly, you’re protected from breach of privacy claims.

5. Knowledge of Requirements

A professional background screening company won’t need to research what you can and should know about any candidate. They already know. They have a list of items that need to be checked off, and how to go about getting the information needed to do just that. They won’t skip crucial steps, and they also won’t waste time and money on unnecessary or illegal screening processes.

In fact, most companies will work with you to determine your own best practices, based on the application of the screening results, your industry and needs, and various other factors.

6. Peace of Mind

There’s a reason you take your car to a licensed mechanic rather than the guy down the street, or trust the best orthodontist with your kid’s braces. You know they’re going to get the job done right, and if they don’t, you know that they will go out of their way to fix the problem.

That peace of mind may be last on this list, but it’s probably the most important item. Because no one needs any more worries when you’re trying to run a company.

Protect Yourself Against Professional License Suspension with Due Diligence

Keeping a documented trail of your actions can be very beneficial in the long term.

Joining any profession is a long, hard, expensive process. It’s an achievement to finally be entitled to those letters behind your name, and to practice in the field you worked so hard to become a member of. You probably spent many years in college and possibly graduate school, and a few more climbing the ladder from the very bottom.

Having your professional license revoked, and all that work be for nothing is probably unthinkable, and it’s certainly the worst thing that could happen to most professionals, whether doctors, lawyers or engineers, or any other profession.

Sometimes, due diligence is all that stands between you and the decision leading to professional license suspension by the governing body of your profession. Here’s what you need to know.

Reasons for License Revocation

The reasons why professional licenses are revoked vary from profession to profession, and from state to state, but there are a few common and not-so-obvious reasons why you might get in trouble:

  • In many health and therapy professions, any inappropriate relationship with a patient.
  • In financial professions, falling behind on taxes or any financial impropriety.
  • A lack of ethics or moral compass.
  • Criminal activity not related to the profession. Usually, this falls under the umbrella of bringing the profession into disrepute.
  • Knowingly steering clients in the wrong direction, and failing to honor the special relationship between professionals and their clients.

Those are all very broad, and it’s always a good idea to review your own profession’s code of conduct regularly, to make sure you stay on top of the requirements.

Burden of Proof

Generally, when you are subject to disciplinary action or censure by a professional body, it’s a long process. You’re not likely to be stripped of your license overnight, except under extraordinary circumstances. The organization will probably receive a complaint, conduct an investigation, and then have a hearing or hearings to determine the accuracy of the claims.

The burden of proof will usually be on the accuser, or in the case of criminal charges, on the courts.

How Due Diligence Can Help You

Due diligence has a big role to play in protecting yourself from spurious claims, or from claims or accusations that arise through no fault of your own.

If you can prove that you did not break any laws, and that you acted in the best interests of your clients, and the reputation of the profession, to the best of your ability, there’s a good chance you will beat a claim of negligence or professional misconduct. But the trick is to make sure you have that proof, to avoid professional license suspension.

Take care to document every decision you make in your business and your professional life. Never take anything at face value. Research every deal, every situation and every scheme that is presented to you as a professional. Keep careful records of all your research, along with names and dates.

By having a clear, documented paper trail that clearly sets out your thought process in every situation, if you are ever required to defend your actions, you will have everything you need at your fingertips. Because no one expects professionals to be perfect. We all make mistakes. Due diligence just proves that it was, indeed an error, and not deliberate flouting of the rules.

The Shift Towards Using Big Data in Employment

While big data might not tell you Bob in accounting wants to write a novel, it can determine that males in his field are looking for creative ways to offset work stress.

Big data. Everyone is using it. Everyone is singing its praises, and it is, apparently, the best thing since sliced bread. While you’ve probably heard about its applications in marketing and sales, you might not have heard about the ways to use big data in employment and recruitment.

While many people believe big data is the solution to all recruiting problems, some concerns about privacy and discrimination remain.

What Is Big Data?

Big data is a term that refers to information that is collected from large groups. The internet has been a huge driving force for big data, since it has made it easy for search engines, social networks, marketers, and other organizations to collect massive amounts of information from users.

This data is usually anonymous, in that individual entries cannot be linked to one person, but they do offer unprecedented insights into trends, buying patterns, interests and more.

How Do We Use Big Data in Employment?

Every day, huge amounts of data are being collected by companies all over the world. That data is then analyzed to find trends. Based on the data these companies have on hand, they can tell you on which day people in a certain age group are more likely to buy a car in a particular city, or when a specific type of person might be inclined to start thinking about having children.

That’s great for developing marketing strategy, but it’s also being used by large companies to analyze their workforce.

These companies approach big data analysts, and request specific information on trends for their workforce, based on the city they live in, age groups, education levels and other factors. The data analysts then provide information based on the likelihood for that group to do certain things.

So, while they might not know that Bob from accounting wants to write a novel, they probably don’t need to do an employee background check to tell his employer that males between 45 and 50 in his particular field are likely to be looking for creative outlets to offset their work stress.

It’s surprisingly accurate, and even though it’s anonymous, it is a little scary that organizations out there know so much about us.

The Pros and Cons

On the one hand, companies are using information from big data to improve their health care policies, create employee wellness programs, and improve internal promotions.

On the other, big data is also telling companies when female employees may want to have babies, and things that relate directly to race, religion, or gender, or based on otherwise innocuous information in an international background check. That information may lead those companies to discriminate against employees, by passing them over for promotions, or screening them out of the employment process altogether.

It’s a double-edged sword, and it’s one that should be treated with the utmost care by every employer out there.

Big data in employment can tell you many things, but it’s no substitute for people skills, and you will always need to retain the human element in your hiring and promotion process. Because while big brother can collect all kinds of data about us, it still can’t see what we think or feel, or what we’re really like as people.

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.