Tag: Hiring

Are You Certain You Own a “Small” Business?

It might make sense to strike “small” as a descriptor for any business.  National Public Radio (NPR) has been running a series on small business which has left me thoroughly confused as to what the definition of small business is.  In her NPR segment “Small Businesses: Big Concerns and High Hopes” (9/24/13), Marilyn Geewax states,

“In reality, small firms overwhelmingly are made up of individuals working alone — they are freelance writers, lawn mowers, consultants and housecleaners. U.S. Census Bureau says 3 out of 4 firms have no payroll, and collectively, they account for only 3.4 percent of all business receipts.  But while most of the nation’s roughly 28 million firms have no workers, about 6 million do hire, fire and pay people. Of those, roughly 5 million really are small, with nine or fewer workers.  That leaves those approximately 1 million firms that hire at least 10 people, but not more than the 500 — keeping them within the Small Business Administration’s usual definition of ‘small’.”

However, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA), a small business is one that is independently owned and operated, is managed for profit and does not dominate over the competition.  The SBA also says that the maximum number of employees in a “small” business can vary from 500 – 1500 depending on the industry.  The SBA’s definitions of “small” are important because they help determine which businesses are eligible to get special loans or loan guarantees. It can also determine who can bid on government contracts that are set aside for small business. The SBA’s work also helps inform other parts of the government that have programs aimed at small firms.

Take, for example, the new health care law. Employers with 50 or more full-time workers have to either provide health insurance or pay a penalty. Even 50 is not a standard measure across the federal government.

So if the government cannot agree on the definition, then why should I get hung up on it?  Good question.


The HR Experts for Small Business

Racial Bias Costs Merrill Lynch $160 Million

12 current and former black brokers of Merrill Lynch were awarded a large settlement in a racial discrimination class-action lawsuit against that firm, one of Wall Street’s biggest.  The brokerage house had been accused of creating a hostile work environment and of having allowed discrimination in hiring, promotion and pay.  It is hard to imagine that of approximately 14,000 financial advisors today only 2% are black; in 25 of the 50 states there are no black brokers.  But beyond the statistics, what’s wrong here?

The Merrill Lynch Board of Directors is ignorant or stupid.  That is what is wrong.  If they claim ignorance, then I hope that they have replaced their most senior HR management with professionals who actually have a clue.  Even average managers understand that a diverse workforce usually leads to better business performance.  New HR management should immediately establish a Diversity Council comprised of cross-functional leaders to spark the charge.  What they should do?  It’s not rocket science, but taken to lengths see the below extract for practical ideas and initiatives from an article by Michele E. A. Jayne and Robert L. Dipboye [Human Resource Management, Winter 2004, Vol. 43, No. 4, Pp. 409–424 © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Published online in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com)].

Sample Diversity InitiativesDon’t be stupid or ignorant about diversity.   Ask our HR Experts for more advice at www.hrinsights.com.


The HR Experts for Small Business

To Hire or Not To Hire

With only 2 months left in the 4th Quarter, many business owners are now looking at tasks that need to be completed before year-end and also with an eye towards 2013 goals and objectives.  Both year-end holiday needs and 2013 goals and objectives may include adding staff.  Before you decide to hire full time, HRInsights has this rule of thumb:

Only hire full-time if sales are forecasted at a level necessary to maintain that person’s salary for at least a year.  If not, but you still need assistance, temporary employment may be the option for you.

Although there is a cost associated with hiring through temporary agencies, they are not as expensive as one might think.  The agency takes on the burden of finding the individual(s), paying the individual, paying taxes on their behalf, performing background/criminal checks and paying workers’ compensation costs.

Finding the right person can take a considerable amount of time; time you or your staff may not have.  HRInsights has found that the average number of resumes received for administrative positions is between 300 – 500.  Does your organization have the resources to sort through that many resumes, perform phone screens, in person interviews, make an offer, etc.?  Probably not.

When looking for a temporary agency, two questions to keep in mind are:

  • Is the agency slightly more expensive but provides additional value added services?
  • What is the agency’s own turnover rate internally in addition to that of their temporary workforce?

HRInsights has also found it critical to have one point person at the temporary agency with whom to communicate.  With one contact, you reduce confusion, improve the consistency of the candidates you screen, and, therefore, reduce the time needed to find the right worker for your particular needs.

If you have any small business HR issues, feel free to contact the HR professionals at www.hrinsights.com.

“The Small Business HR Resource”




Yes, I am talking about the coveted Golden Ticket from the Wonka Bar!  If you’ve seen the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, then you know that ticket gave a select few children the opportunity to visit the infamous Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory.  They were very special guests of Mr. Wonka and received a tour of the eccentric Chocolate Factory.  Mr. Wonka had an ulterior motive for inviting the guests.  He was planning on selecting one of the children to be his successor to lead the business and run the chocolate factory into the future!  During the visit, Mr. Wonka treated the children as honored guests.  They were privy to see the inter-workings of the candy maker’s magnificent operations, taste test the goodies, ask questions about the business, and even see what the company was planning for the future.  These children were candidates going through an evaluation process.  As the story goes, Mr. Wonka had predetermined criteria which he is using to evaluate the candidates which included ethics, respect, selflessness and passion.

While Mr. Wonka’s interview process was unique and unprecedented, each of you have your own Chocolate Factory and Golden Tickets when you invite candidates to come in for an interview.  Determining who should get the ticket is just the very first step in the recruiting process.  The most important part of the process is when the candidate arrives at your office and how you treat them while they are at your company.

Similar to the Wonka experience, a solid recruiting process is based on some of the same principles:

  • When your guests (candidates) arrive, be ready for them and greet them as special, invited guests.
  • Determine what selection criteria are important to you and assure your interview is based on those criteria.
  • During the interview process if you discover someone is not a fit, treat them respectfully.
  • Share who you are what the company is about including products and guiding principles.
  • When you do decide on a candidate, have and share enthusiasm with the candidate.

Some other recruiting quick tips that don’t require significant investment other than thoughtfulness:

  • Tell the candidate when you are scheduling an interview how long you expect them to be at your office so they can make appropriate arrangements.
  • Thank them for taking time out of their day to come see you.
  • Coordinate interviews to assure candidates don’t see other candidates.
  • Communicate the next steps in the recruiting process and when they can expect to hear from you.  AND call them when you say you will…even if you haven’t made a final decision, you need to be courteous and let them know that.  It can be a simple call or email.

While the above items may not be a major revelation, they are often mistakenly overlooked.  Your company’s ability to execute these will distinguish you from your competition.  It doesn’t take an inordinate amount of time, work or money to execute these things well.  Identify someone in your organization to own, coordinate and focus on the candidate experience.  Additionally, assure everyone in the interview process understands the “special guest” approach.  Candidates will want to work for you because you are a great company, not just because you have a job opening.

Your golden tickets are special and so are the people who receive them.  This holds true for every position you are hiring.  EVERY candidate is important and EVERY candidate has contacts.

Fueling Small Business Growth with Aligned Compensation

The natural dilemma of every small business is investing in growth ahead of realizing profitable and positive cash flow results.  It’s a constant push/pull realizing you need more resources – product, plant capacity, people, etc. – to deliver growth you have confidence will materialize, but don’t have the capital to invest.

Maybe there is a creative solution on the people side of the ledger.  These are tough times and the market is ripe with great people looking for work and a chance to prove out their worth.  Small businesses need great people resources and “can’t afford” the investment.

Consider an incentive laden “hiring” approach that is directly tied to “money coming in” for the firm:

  • Offer low to no wages.  Definition of relationship as contractor or employee with benefits depends on the ability and willingness to pay wages
  • Provide benefits as incentive to “hire” commensurate with lower wage scale
  • New business has associated Gross Margin attributes after Cost of Goods Sold (COGS).  Include in COGS a fee for marketing, sales, development talent for these people who can directly drive these new customers or new revenue growth.
  • The approach requires analysis to ensure that this new growth adds incremental margin that does not disrupt any current SG&A requirements or cash flow
  • Overpay market for the risk taken on by these individuals and you may find them hungry to deliver for future employment rewards and direct alignment of compensation with success for your business

This solution certainly is not for everyone, on the employer or individual side.  However, there are times when it’s an alignment of needs where this approach can be mutually beneficial.


In a unique comparison, Frank McCabe is back with some recommendations for job candidates. As employers, are these the characteristics you want to see in interviewees?

Frank McCabe is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications at The Beacon Group, a Massachusetts-based construction, logistics and facility services firm.

If you have never watched the ABC primetime reality dramedy, The Bachelor, (which I will fully deny seeing to the grave) then allow me to explain how it could translate into the business world.

The premise of the show is simple.  ABC selects one male (or female, depending on the season) and introduces them to twenty-five members of the opposite sex to see if one of them might be the person he/she wants to marry.  Over the course of the show, the bachelor and his suitors go an elaborate dates and adventures around the world– some of them as a group and some one-on-one dates.  These dates include everything from sky diving to skiing to Olive Oil Wrestling Matches in Turkey (nope, not kidding, that happened this week…I read).  At the end of each episode the bachelor gives out a designated number of roses.  Those who receive a rose get to stay for at least another week – those that don’t, go home.  The final show reveals the final rose…you get it.  It is all very silly and far-fetched but, nonetheless, entertaining…from what I am told.

However, I believe that certain attributes of The Bachelor can be applied to business.  Specifically, the art of getting hired for your next job.  As I have watched (I mean, been told by my wife), these men and women go to incredible lengths to make the best possible impression on this one person they just met to prove they are best suited for “the job”.

In this season of The Bachelorette, Ali has an incredibly sordid cast of characters vying for her love and affection.  Justin, an aspiring pro-wrestler, is actually leveraging the show as a publicity stunt to boost his career in the ring.  Casey, an advertising executive/blooming serial killer, got a ‘special’ tattoo on his wrist to prove his commitment and loyalty to Ali.  Depressing and insane acts?  You bet.  But, if we approach the next job opportunity for that position we want with similar (but less Charles Manson-esque) passion we may just find it successful.

  • Look your best.  The guys and girls on the show always make it a point to always be ‘camera ready’.  As they say, you only have one chance to make a first impression.  While your interview with a prospective employer is reality – not reality TV – it never hurts to have a neat and polished look about you; especially the first time you meet someone.
  • Have a game plan. Despite the perceived spontaneity of The Bachelor, no one could ever dream up some of the sappy garbage they feed one another.  My guess is these guys and gals spend many hours off camera inventing these cheesy romance novel-like lines.  You want to put the same preparation into your pre-interview process.  Research EVERYTHING about the company you want to join – its mission, corporate culture, board of directors, product lines, etc.  Anything that demonstrates your passion for this job you are seeking will only be an advantage during an interview.
  • Separate from the Pack.  Despite the pitiful and, frankly, scary tactics of Justin and Casey, they certainly proved they were different.  If it were not for their transparent and underlying craziness, they would probably still be chasing Ali around the set.  While I do not suggest a tattoo of your prospective employer nor some type of superhero outfit for the interview, I do suggest you bring something different to the table.  Think long and hard about what makes YOU different from the other candidates.  Creativity is always a plus in the eyes of an employer.  It will not be discounted when it comes down to final decision time
  • Relax! So many of the suitors on The Bachelor are trying frantically to be ‘someone else’ to impress the guy, they lose sight of their own identity and self-worth.  Don’t be that person!  It is very important to relax and be yourself during all interviews and screenings.  If you are comfortable in your abilities and talents, do not be scared to share that with the interviewer.  Confidence can be as sexy a quality to an employer as it is to the object of your affection.

Lastly, I will admit it.  I have watched the show.  OK?  Happy now?

What does HR mean to an outsider? A simple analogy.

HRInsights is fortunate to have two impressive interns working withe us this summer, Kyla Kelly and Lizzy Rewalt. In this post Lizzy, soon to be a junior at the University of Michigan, shares her impressions as a young person interviewing for the first time…Good perspective for business owners and HR…

As an undergrad, and newly immersed into the business dating world (or, as some would call it, ‘job searching’), I have quite a bit to say about HR practices across different companies.

The varying processes created by each company for hiring, and the standards associated with each directly impact my desire to work for them.  When a company fails to realize the importance of the candidates they are looking to hire, they are indirectly telling the candidate:

  1. “We, the HR department, will not be interested in developing a relationship with you, or helping you grow professionally”
  2. “Our lower standards for hiring directly correlate with the low quality of our current employees/your potential future co-workers”
  3. “The inefficient operation of our HR department is suggestive of inefficiencies elsewhere in the company”

On the contrary, a company that pays significant attention to the hiring process will attract conscientious candidates who are eager to demonstrate and deliver on their value.  A cycle of excellence and mutual respect will begin, leading to more positive growth for the company.

The best interviews I’ve had were the most engaging and challenging.  Interviewers who are prepared, (or just talented at impromptu BS-ing) will not only reap the most benefit from the interview to gauge if a candidate is a right fit, but they also set a high standard for future candidates that will flock to their company.

I’ve seen this theory congruently proven throughout my undergraduate experience.  My business fraternity’s (Alpha Kappa Psi, Phi Chapter at the University of Michigan) ‘hiring’ process is intricate.  Recruitment is the single-most important aspect of our organization because our people create our success, (a theory that should be similarly upheld in the business world).  The more we expect from our candidates, the more the fraternity grows.  Our members dedicate days of their time to recruiting: seeking out prospective candidates, preparing events, maintaining contact with candidates, interacting with them, reviewing their qualifications, and voting on the final selection.  In return for our dedication to this process, we have seen more involvement and loyalty from our selected recruits.  Recruitment periods that weren’t taken as seriously by the current membership resulted in a fade-away and disappearance of the selected candidates over time.

Whether you can measure it quantitatively or not, conducting your HR department properly and efficiently will only result in a greater ROI for your business.

Care about your business.  Care about your HR.

(Startupnation thinks so too: http://www.startupnation.com/articles/1399/1/human-resources-small-business.asp)

Why the Curious Employee is Your Best Asset

In his blog post today, “Measuring Curiosity in Talent – The Holy Grail of Hiring and Performance Management…”, Kris Dunn, the HR Capitalist, wrote about a panel he chaired at the ERE’s Social Recruiting Summit at Best Buy’s HQ in Minneapolis. He asked the Best Buy panel a question about how they are hiring to ensure they have the right talent they need to execute their social media agenda. Robert Stephens, the founder of GeekSquad, recalled the thoughts of Marc Andreessen and identified Curiosity, Drive and Ethics as the key attributes they look for in a new employee. All great attributes but curiosity (Dunn calls it the Holy Grail) can be so powerful. Frighteningly, there are companies (I have seen plenty) that not only don’t embrace and foster curiosity they stifle it.

Don’t be one of these companies.

Curious employees can have an impact on your business because they are the people who…

o Question the status quo.
o Strive for constant improvement.
o Drive new products.
o Ask lots of questions. And listen.

Finally, curious employees are hungry for knowledge in their field (the trait Andreessen discusses at length). These are people who are self-starting knowledge-seekers, needing no extra motivation but the opportunity to simply learn more.

If you are not exploring a candidate’s curiosity characteristic in the interviewing process, you would do well to do so.

More on Interns and Gen Y…

I’m a big advocate of the value of internships and Gen Y…A couple of good pieces on the the subject…

How Small Businesses Can Make the Most of Interns ow.ly/1MtNP
How to Create Your Own Summer Internship ow.ly/1Mu3z

Set Expectations On Day One

I had some time in between meetings the other day so I stopped by my local Panera Bread restaurant to pass the time. While I sat in the restaurant enjoying my soup and iced tea, I couldn’t help but overhear a store manager conducting a new hire orientation. This was my lucky day. I had picked the front row seat! There was the customary stack of papers that needed to be filled out, but what caught my attention was the communication between the manager and new employee regarding the company’s sexual harassment policy.

The manager told the new employee that she should just sign the policy and read it later. He said, “It is our sexual harassment policy that says that we don’t do that here.” I am pretty sure it said more than that. One thing is for sure, the manager should have said more to the employee about it. He brushed it off as if it was an unimportant formality and not a big deal.

This is one of the most important policies for any company. If only the manager would have spent just two more minutes on this topic, he would have set some key expectations for the employee and for the entire work environment.

Every company should have a basic sexual harassment policy which is reviewed in EVERY new hire orientation. Just spend a couple of extra minutes and it will be meaningful. If I had to make three quick summary statements, here is what I would say to new hires:

1. Our company doesn’t tolerate any harassment of any kind in our workplace. This includes harassment of a sexual nature.

2. If you experience or witness any harassment, please bring it to management or HR.

3. You will not experience any retaliation for bringing valid harassment issues to the attention of the appropriate members of management.

Watching and listening to this orientation made me realize that so many managers just go through the motions. They obviously don’t realize the impact they have in setting expectations for new employees and the entire workplace. Setting expectations begins on “day one” for new employees.