2014 / 05

Weed and Work – In Colorado? Soon to be Washington?

by Jeanne Knutzen | May 28, 2014

0 Legal Issues - Staffing bellevue staffing, drug policies, marijuana policies, safety policies, Seattle Staffing Agency, staffing, stephen dehoff, tacoma staffing, washington, workplace

In statewide elections in November 2012, Washington and Colorado made headlines by becoming the first US states to legalize the non-medical use of marijuana. Colorado is leading the way while Washington’s law goes into effect later this year.

In both states, employees and employers are asking questions about the impact of marijuana legalizations on a variety of common workplace scenarios. Employees often get confused by what the legalization of marijuana actually means; believing that many of the corporate drug and drug testing policies will need to be changed. Employers are wondering if employees will be able to refuse drug tests. Contest personnel actions based on drug tests? Or avoid drug testing altogether – either as a prerequisite for hiring or ongoing employment?

Based on what is going on in Colorado NOW, the answers to these questions are a resounding NO. While it is expected that employers in both Washington and Colorado currently have the power to implement any anti-marijuana policy they want, what happens down the road, on the other hand, has some elements of uncertainty.

The following are excerpts taken from a recent article written by Stephen DeHoff, a business and employment partner at Fortis Law Partners, LLC, and published by our network affiliate, J. Kent Staffing headquartered in Denver Colorado. Mr. DeHoff outlines several factors that he believes will be considered by the courts as “zero tolerance” policies are tested.

1. Employers Need to Ensure Strong Workplace Safety Policies… which almost always includes some format for promoting and enforcing a drug-free workplace. Under current law, employers are still liable for acts of their employees that occur while on the job, which means that if an employee is impaired and makes a critical mistake that results in injury to themselves or others, both the employee and their employer are likely to be found liable for the injuries. Drug free policies are likely to be viewed as necessary to protect employers and their employees from management negligence.

2. Employers Are Not Required to Permit Employees to Use Marijuana – Even Outside of Work… at least not for now, not in Colorado. One of the biggest questions facing Colorado employers is whether or not they will be required to allow marijuana use “off-the-job;” an issue that comes up in the context of pre-hire drug testing policies. Employers who have pre-hire drug testing policies are by definition identifying “outside the workplace” marijuana users, theoretically not directly related to the use of marijuana on the job.

At the current time, this issue is resolved in the drug testers favor because at the federal level it is still illegal for people to use marijuana. This means that Colorado employers can continue to terminate or refuse to hire an employee if they test positive for marijuana or any other federally illegal drug – regardless of when, where and how the employee used the drug.

These rulings are currently under appeal and ultimately will be tested in Colorado Supreme Court. In the meantime, studies show that drug testing policies in Colorado are growing in popularity, not shrinking. Washington employers stay tuned…

3. Written policies regarding the company’s commitment to a drug free work environment are still vitally important on a number of fronts.

Mr. DeHoff outlines the following steps all employers should take with respect to their formal drug use policies:

  • Make sure your drug and alcohol policies cover all drugs considered illegal under state, federal, and local laws, and
  • …clearly prohibit any detectable level of any illegal drug.
  • Avoid policy statements that reference “impairment” or “under the influence,” which are difficult to enforce. Stick with the drug testing “detectable level” standard.
  • Make sure your policies apply to all your locations, regardless of state laws. Train your staff to deal specifically with issues involving marijuana so that issues will be managed consistently.

Thank you J.Kent Staffing for sharing your Colorado experience and asking for guidance from a trusted member of your legal community. Washington employers can take note!

At the current time, over half of our employer clients require some form of drug testing as a component of their compliance/onboarding process. The PACE Staffing Network administers all pre-assignment compliance requirements, including customized drug testing and background checks. For more information on how these new marijuana-use policies might impact your workforce and data on the incidence of marijuana use in non-drug testing environments, contact us at infodesk@pacestaffing.com.

The ACA and Employer Mandates. They’re Back!

by Jeanne Knutzen | May 22, 2014

0 Affordable Healthcare – ACA Smart, Staffing News Affordable Care Act, Affordable Healthcare – ACA Smart, Seattle Staffing, Seattle Staffing Agency, staffing services bellevue, staffing services tacoma, Temporary Employee

Are You Ready?  

With the first tier of the “postponed” ACA employer mandates just around the corner, (January 1, 2015), large employers (defined as employers with 100 or more employees) are once again getting poised to offer healthcare insurance to their eligible workforce or be subject to penalties. This time the requirement is that 70% of their eligible employees need to be offered coverage – a slight break to account for issues with Medicaid eligible employees. Less large employers (defined as employers with 50-99 employees) have until January 2016 for the employer mandates to kick in.

It has been a long winding road getting us to this place with regulatory guidance filled with potholes of uncertainty and confusion. There are over 15,000 pages of rules and another 45,000 pages of guidance. The delay in the employer mandate gave regulators one more year to clarify their intent, and those of us in the staffing industry one more year to prepare ourselves and our clients for what lies ahead. Most of us are just now getting back into the ACA saddle. With the new deadline only six months away, we need to start our readiness count down now!

As a context for our clients with large flexible workforces, there are several unique features of the ACA that are specific to the staffing industry and need to be shared with our customers as part of their readiness process. We are subject to the law as are all employers - but the difference is that most staffing companies have further to go to become compliant. As an industry we have never been benefit rich. Our workforces are short lived and transient, with most employees coming to us for interim work, with no expectation of benefits. The low levels of healthcare insurance specifically written for staffing companies fall well below ACA minimums and are being discontinued as we speak. The ACA will significantly impact our cost structures whether we elect to pay or play.

Your staffing provider faces three big challenges which hopefully by now they are discussing with you.  They face the challenge of 1) new cost structures that are likely not absorbable, 2) limited access to insurance solutions that fit the needs and requirements of flexible workers, and 3) an enormous amount of new administrative complexity. Not all staffing companies will have the capacity to comply with the new ACA regs, even if they wanted to.

Most of our issues as well as some of our customers revolve around issues of employee eligibility – who is and who is not eligible to receive benefits. Our employees work for our clients in so many different ways – short, long term assignments, full time, part time, auditioning for hire, project work, day labor – it is hard to get our arms around who will not be considered full time, eligible for benefit coverage at point of hire.

In the last three months, regulators have offered several new employee classifications that are exempt from ACA mandated coverage:

Seasonal Employees – employees who have been hired into positions where the customary duration of the job is six months. Agriculture, retail, and other highly cyclical industries will not be required to offer coverage to employees who meet the “seasonal” requirements.

Part Time Employees – employees who work less than 30 hours a week. While some employers, like Home Depot and Trader Joes, have announced plans to cut back the hours of work for all their part time staff to contain their benefit costs, other employers like Starbucks, Costco etc. have renewed their commitment to provide benefits to their large and loyal part time workers.

For staffing companies and their customers, greater attention must be given to nailing down the actual number of hours our employees will be required to work each week so as to properly classify them as part or full time employees. An employee’s classification as either full or part time while working on assignment can impact your bill rate your staffing provider has to charge you just to cover increased costs!

“Variable Hour” Employees – are employees whose hours of work or the duration of their  ongoing work assignments are such that we cannot be “assured” they will average 30 hours of work each week for the number of weeks in the “measurement period” used to baseline the employee's work patterns. Measurement periods can vary from no less than 3 months to no more than 12. Most employers will elect the 12 month measurement period option.

The "variable hour" employees is the classification most applicable to staffing company employees but is also the most difficult to administrate. While on the surface most temp and contract workers are by definition “variable,” the IRS requires the staffing agency to classify each employee as either “full time” or “variable hour” at the time of hire, considering several factors which they have listed in examples and regulatory comment.

Get it wrong and not offer benefits when you should, your staffing company can face serious penalties. Get it wrong and offer benefits not required, and your staffing company's costs can sky rocket, making significant price increases to you, a given.

The gain for both you and your staffing provider comes when employees can legitimately be classified as "variable hour" employees because of the unique position they have under the ACA mandates. Employers are not required to offer variable hour employee's healthcare benefits until their “measurement” period is completed – which can be a delay of up to 13 months. The “variable hour” employee provision can be used to contain costs but only if specific administrative and eligibility requirements are met at the point of hire.

At minimum, employers should expect their staffing providers to work with them to make changes in how they place requests for staff. In the bigger picture, it is more important than ever for employers and their staffing providers to work together to ensure ACA compliance while keeping a sharp eye on ways to contain unnecessary costs!       

Jeanne-KnutzenThe PACE Staffing Network is a network based recruiting and staffing company headquartered in the Pacific Northwest with particular expertise in the development and management of flexible workforce strategies. The ACA is of particular interest to us because of its projected impact on workforce organization and cost containment strategies.  Our goal is to help employers become ACA compliant while taking full advantage of the special provisions of the law that can provide competitive advantage. For more information on the ACA and its impact on your company contact us at 425-637-3312 or e-mail us at infodesk@pacestaffing.com.

This article was written by Jeanne Knutzen, founder and CEO of the PACE Staffing Network.

Recruiting Metrics – Staffing Style

by Jeanne Knutzen | May 13, 2014

0 Staffing News healthcare placement, healthcare recruiting, Healthcare staffing, IT Staffing, Seattle Recruiting, Seattle Staffing Agency, staffing, Staffing Agency

Healthcare, IT, Creative, Other

Each year InsightSquared, a business analytics company, and Staffing Industry Analysts, publishes a report of recruiting metrics for the staffing industry.

Their last report was published in June 2013, showing data from 200 staffing firms generated between 5/1/2012 and 4/30/2013 – approximately one year of placement data, over 30,000 individual placement records.

Their report covers two key metrics:

  1. Fill Ratio – of orders taken that were successfully filled, and
  2. Time-to-Fill (some call it Cycle Time) – the number of days it takes to fill an order (from point of req to hiring decision).

Both metric types were analyzed by two types of placements:

  1. Contract/Temporary Placements
  2. Permanent or Direct Hire Placements

The industry segments studied were a cross section of IT, Healthcare and Life Sciences, Media/Advertising/Creative and Other.

For those of you who want an idea of how your internal recruiting services compare to typical staffing industry metrics, here are the highlights of the 2013 staffing metrics you can use for comparison.

1. Across all industry segments, the Average Fill Ratio was:

  • 34% = Temp/Contract Placements
  • 22% = Permanent Placements

The segment with the highest ratios of fill were Healthcare and Life Sciences; 63% for temp/contract placements and 27% for Permanent placements. The lowest ratios of fill came out of the IT segment where only 28% of contract reqs were filled and 22% of direct hire reqs.

2. Across all industry segments, the Average Time-to-Fill (number of days required to fill a job order) was:

  • 46 Days = Temp/Contract Placements
  • 75 Days = Permanent Placements

The segment showing the longest “time-to-fill” was Healthcare and Life Sciences; 66 days for temporary/contract placements and 158 days for Permanent placements.  Media and Advertising talent had an average of 21 days for contract staff and 53 days for permanent staff.

Because we (the PACE Staffing Network) do so much work in the healthcare market, we paid attention to the unique recruiting stats for Healthcare and Life Sciences. We think there may be two factors in play that are impacting just how much outside the norm this market segment performs:

  • The healthcare industry has unique recruiting requirements (many high level and “hard to find” professional level requirements), which requires tightly engineered staffing processes and requirements – not required by other segments of staffing, and in some ways limiting the number of staffing companies operating in that field.
  • The purchasing models used in many healthcare organizations is based on valued, trusted and committed relationships between hiring managers, “favorite” vendors” and “hard to find” talent. This is oftentimes very different from the more transaction focused purchasing models used in other areas of staffing. Purchasing models based on one off relationships between hiring managers and vendors can change the staffing landscape considerably – driving up both fill times and fill ratios. Fewer staffing vendors, all with strong relationships with decision makers, is a scenario that can get translated into more fills per vendor, with decision makers more willing to wait for their favorite vendor to deliver the trusted talent they need.

The PACE Staffing Network has been servicing the healthcare industry for over 20 years. Our expertise in recruiting the specialized non-clinical candidates needed for hospitals, clinics, physician groups, surgical centers, etc. and creating networks of clinical recruiters and vendors working in niched areas of healthcare offers a unique one stop service delivery model for busy administrators and HR teams. Our focus is on improving your fill ratios and lowering your fill times, all while ensuring that every step in your compliance process is carefully managed. For more information on our recruiting networks, contain Nancy Swanson, our VP of Partnership Development at 425-454-1075 ext. 3010 or email Nancy at nancys@pacestaffing.com. You can also visit us online at www.pacestaffing.com.

Need Your Temporary Employee to Make A Difference? Try Beefing Up Your Onboarding Process!

by Jeanne Knutzen | May 6, 2014

0 Managing People. Team Leadership Contract Employee, contract staffing, Flexible WorkForce, hiring, Onboarding, Orientation, Seattle Staffing, Seattle Staffing Agency, Seattle Temporary Staffing, Temporary Employee

Speaking as a company who takes the time to 1) understand the work our temporary employees will be doing for our customers, 2) determine the skills, knowledge, and experience our workers need to have to do the work at the levels needed, and 3) evaluate each employee in terms of the soft skills important to placement success – we know that even the “right fit” isn’t always good enough to ensure that a temporary employee will hit the floor running. If our clients have high stakes work in play and need our temporary employee(s) to perform at high levels right out of the gate, we suggest a thorough onboarding process to get our employees up and running quickly. It goes without saying that the days of greeting a temp, showing them their work station, lunchroom and bathrooms, and then leaving them alone to figure out what to do next, are long gone – if they ever existed. Work is much too complex, the importance of following work policies too critical, etc. to leave a temp’s orientation to chance. While temps are known for the ability to figure things out, because work environments are almost never the same, when it comes to temporary or contract workers more time needs to be spent up front, explaining all those things that are unique about you, your work environment, and your expectations of their work. In some ways, because you need/expect productivity quickly from your temporary/contract workers, the timing and importance of their orientation may even be more important than the timing and importance of the orientation you provide to your core workforce. The two orientations are, of course, quite different. Orienting your temporary/contract employees must be done quickly and efficiently, requiring a clear roadmap or checklist of what they need to know. Here are FIVE THINGS you likely will want to cover: 1.  The Circumstance – the reason why you chose to hire a temp rather than a core worker.  Why does their job, even if temporary, exist? What goals must be reached in order for the employee’s work to be considered successful? You might be amazed at how important it is to share your reasons for hiring a temp instead of a core employee – it gives the temp a sense of purpose, sometimes showing them how they are both a unique and special contributor to an important team goal, “I chose to bring on as a temp, because I needed a level of skill and experience I didn’t have with my current team. Your skills are so strong in (describe) we are going to let you take the lead in those areas where that skill is needed.” A temp, who clearly knows you value them as a “contributor” if only for a short period, is an employee you can count on to go out of their way to “make a difference.” 2.  Your Expectations and Priorities.  “In order for our time together to be considered successful, I need you to__________________.” Define the work outcome you are trying to achieve, how success will be defined and the impact of success. Examples of goals might be, 1) “I need you to complete this project within the time frame frames we’ve discussed,” 2) “I need you to work very cooperatively with our accounting team who is watching this project with a very critical eye” or, 3) “I need you to bring any issues to my attention right away as it is important that we work through any and all problems very quickly. Senior management has their eyes on this project.” The impact of their work is also an important element to be communicated, “This project is one of three projects we will be working on this year that are most related to our company’s ability to compete for business in South America.” 3.  Explain when, how and how often they need to be checking with you.  If you need quick updates at the end of each day, let them know. If you want them to stop by your office at least once a week, let them know. Knowing what you expect from them in terms of keeping you informed is a key element of placement success. We’ve seen very talented temporary or contract employees not meet our customer’s expectations simply because they didn’t know when or how often to communicate with our client. 4.   Identify challenges and what they should do when they encounter them.  “I want you to know you are likely to uncover challenges with_______________________. When that occurs, I want you to get help from George who knows how to push through these types of obstacles.” Fill in the blank, honestly and completely, so that your temporary worker knows what to expect and how to get issues resolved. 5.  Your hiring policies. The employees’ chances of being hired.  Don’t beat around the bush – implying there is a chance your temporary employee can be hired if that chance is minimal. At the same time, if the chances are good that their time as a temp is looked on as an audition for a direct hire opportunity, let them know. Describe the policies and processes in place that allows a hiring manager to consider (or not consider) hiring a temporary employees and what they would need to do in order to be considered. If you have clear policies, you can expect your staffing vendor to have shared this information with their employee prior to their placement, but re-stating these policies during an onboarding process, is a good way to reinforce the rules. Some hiring managers will imply a higher probability of hire than actually exists as a way to keep the temporary employee motivated. In fact, just the opposite is what’s created when the offer of employment isn’t forthcoming. Kyle Update SignatureThe onboarding of temporary employees is another area of managing a flexible workforce that needs careful planning and preparation. The PACE Staffing Network typically works closely with our employer clients to share the responsibility of a well engineered communication process where both PACE and our clients need to pay a role. For more information about employee onboarding and other factors important to managing a high impact flexible workforce, contact me, Kyle Fitzgerald, at kylef@pacestaffing.com. I am PACE’s Director of Business Operations and part of what I do is consult with employers on how to use temporary/flexible employees in ways that create a competitive advantage.