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Top 10 Suggestions for Supervisors – 2013

by Jeanne Knutzen | February 14, 2013

0 Blog, Human Resource Roles Employee Evaluations, HR tips, human resources, Job Performance, Job Performance Evaluations, Management Tips, PACE Staffing Network, Seattle Staffing Agency, Temporary Staffing In Seattle, Work Place Environment

The following article was published by the ASA, as written by A. Kevin Troutman of Fisher & Phillips Law Firm.  As the New Year unfolds, supervisors may have even less time to manage all the complexities that arise in the world of employment law. With goals and deadlines to meet, well-intentioned managers may be tempted to rely on experience and “common sense” to guide them. Unfortunately, this approach often creates headaches and even litigation, despite managers’ good intentions. Today’s alphabet soup of employment laws (ADA, ADEA, FMLA, OSHA, NLRB, etc.) are simply too vast and complicated for most supervisors to digest on their own. Other issues are so subtle or counterintuitive that even seasoned HR professionals can find it difficult to recognize and/or deal with them. There is a silver lining to this cloud. A few basic practices can help supervisors avoid many problems—or at least recognize when to turn to HR for guidance. 1. Always tell employees the truth This rule encompasses more than avoiding outright falsehoods. Instead, it emphasizes the importance of making sure that employees always know how you assess their job performance. Of course this includes telling employees what they are doing well—but perhaps even more important, it means telling them how and where they are not meeting expectations. While many supervisors may prefer to avoid delivering “bad news,” this rule is an increasingly critical aspect of their jobs. Performance evaluations illustrate this point.  Audits routinely show that well over half of all evaluations rate employee performance above average, a de facto impossibility. Unfortunately, evaluations that overrate employees’ job performance can be devastating during litigation. Judges and juries are generally unsympathetic toward supervisors who suggest that they did not really mean what they wrote on a performance evaluation. This simple rule is so important that companies should consider discontinuing annual performance evaluations unless they can be done accurately and honestly. 2. Communicate clearly and directly Going a step beyond Rule No. 1, supervisors should expect employees to do their jobs and cannot let “politically correct” language obscure their message. Specifically, they must communicate clearly without being insensitive or disrespectful. For example, instead of telling an employee that he or she has an “opportunity” to improve, identify what specific aspects of performance are below expectations and what must be done to improve. Offer to assist, but make it clear that you expect improvement. When documenting these communications, be succinct and explicit. Always try to address “who, what, when and why.”  (As simple as it seems, this includes ensuring that documentation is legible, dated and signed where appropriate.) This rule applies to policy violations, poor attendance and simple coaching or reminder sessions. 3. Avoid surprises Many lawsuits result from anger or hurt feelings, which may be the result of an employee being surprised by disciplinary action or a termination. Remember, a supervisor’s silence is typically interpreted as approval, but if communication is consistent, clear and direct, employees should never be surprised by disciplinary action. They may not agree with the supervisor’s decision, but they should never be able to say truthfully that they did not see it coming. 4. Always get both sides of the story It’s surprising how often supervisors violate this simple rule. As a practical matter, there should be no exceptions to it. No matter how egregious or clear-cut the facts appear to be, always give accused employees a chance to tell their side of the story. (The only possible exception might be when there is a legitimate objective or safety concern that would prevent this from occurring.)  Consistent with this rule, do not document conclusions or prepare termination paperwork until the investigation is finished. 5. Keep your promises Don’t make promises that you cannot keep. Supervisors who promise to meet periodically with employees or to provide periodic feedback must do so. Again, jurors are unlikely to forgive supervisors who criticize an employee’s job performance, but fail to abide by their own follow-up schedule. So do not set deadlines or timetables that you cannot meet—instead, maintain some flexibility. Don’t make oral promises such as, “as long as you do your job, you will always have a place here.” In some states, these promises can be legally enforceable. 6. Do not ignore protected status in making employment decisions At first blush this rule may seem illogical, but when considering disciplinary action it is always important to consider how you have handled similar situations in the past. If an employee in a protected classification (race, sex, religion, age, disability, etc.) is treated differently under the same circumstances from someone who is not in the protected class, supervisors and HR must be able to justify the reasons clearly. When considering which employees fall in a protected classification, don’t overlook employees who recently took FMLA leave, sought an accommodation under the ADA, or provided information in response to an investigation of alleged workplace discrimination. These activities protect employees from retaliation and likewise require consideration of comparable situations where no employee had engaged in protected activity. 7. Think before hitting “send” Email traffic provides increasingly fertile ground for both sides in employment cases. Supervisors must therefore recognize that their email messages are potential trial exhibits. A quick, off-hand message has the potential to be extremely embarrassing if presented out of context to a jury. Therefore, it is never a good idea to fire off quick responses, especially when emotions are running high. Wait a few moments before hitting “send” and be especially careful about using the “reply to all” button. 8. Document important facts when they’re still fresh Important details can easily get muddled in today’s fast-paced work environment, so make a habit of jotting down those key facts when they occur. When doing so, be sure the documentation is dated, legible and understandable (see Rule No. 2). Always include objective language describing “who, what, when, where, why” and identify any witnesses. Identify the author of the documentation—sometimes nothing can be more difficult than retrospectively trying to determine who prepared unsigned material. 9. Send it to HR When supervisors keep files containing notes or information that has not been forwarded to HR, it almost always creates problems when litigation ensues. This can force the employer to change a representation it has already made to the EEOC or plaintiff’s counsel. More importantly, it can support a plaintiff’s contention that the supervisor (who is usually the alleged wrong-doer) cannot be trusted or is hiding something. On a related note, always refer employment verification and reference inquiries to HR, who will ensure company-wide consistency in responding. 10. Never forget that you are the boss Even during meal breaks, after hours, on weekends, or away from the workplace, supervisors still carry the mantle of company authority. Unguarded, inappropriate or “joking” comments can and do come back to haunt supervisors who forget this. When an employment relationship goes bad, seemingly innocuous comments often emerge. Comments made in jest rarely look good in front of a jury.  This is a critical and sometimes painful lesson for supervisors to learn. Bonus Rule 11 Always strive to be fair, consider “how would this look to a skeptical third party (like the EEOC or a jury) who knows nothing about me or the employee?” The workplace is complex and demanding, especially for supervisors striving to meet deadlines, maintain positive employee relations and avoid legal pitfalls. While they are not a “cure all,” these suggestions can help supervisors manage more effectively.

Employee? Independent Contractor? Somewhere in between?

by Jeanne Knutzen | February 13, 2013

0 Blog, PACE News!, What's New in Staffing? 1099 Workers, Employer of Record, Employer of Record services, Independent Contractor, Seattle Sick and Safe, Seattle Temporary Staffing, staffing agencies seattle, staffing Seattle, W2 Employees

With healthcare costs rising and mandated benefit requirements either already in play (e.g. Seattle Sick and Safe) or just around the corner (e.g. ObamaCare), employers are contemplating their staffing decisions related to the use of Independent Contractors compared to W2 employees. … Read More »

Ask What You can Do for the Company

by Jeanne Knutzen | February 7, 2013

0 Blog, INFO AND RESOURCES FOR JOB SEEKERS employment in Seattle, employment in seattle wa, employment seattle wa, employment services seattle, employment services seattle wa, staffing services in seattle wa, staffing services seattle

Here at the Pace Staffing Network, we often hear the same lament from job seekers over and over again: “I was turned down for a position I really wanted…What did I do wrong?” Nine times out of ten, a closer look at the applicant’s resume and cover letter will reveal a similar problem, and that problem has to do with what the marketing world calls a “value proposition.” Your resume is a proposal of sorts, or a request, and all effective requests and proposals can be summarized in ten words or less. For example, a company selling a car will research its target audience and present a simple message that appeals to that specific audience, as in “This car will keep you safe”, or “This car will make you look cool in front of your friends.” Your resume needs a value proposition. And as you put your simple message together, you’ll need to focus on your target audience. Ask yourself what your customer wants, NOT what you want. Don’t think of this as a two-way dialogue, or a negotiation in which you both gain something you need (in reality, that’s what it is—after all, you’ll work hard in exchange for your pay, and you’re not asking for a favor. But before you negotiate the terms of this agreement, you’ll have to edge out twenty other candidates in order to receive an offer.) Instead, figure out exactly what your potential employer wants and make it clear that you can offer this specific service, skill, talent, or attitude. Focus on Your Value Proposition: What do you have to Offer? Before you sit down and start typing, think. Read the job posting very carefully, then read it again. Visit the company website and think like a detective. Use your instincts, study the way this company’s business model works, and put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager who will review your application. If you were in her position, what would you be looking for above all else? Remember these four truths that are very likely to apply to her situation: 1. She’s busy. She’s not going to spend an hour trying to figure out why you’ve suddenly decided to give up your retail career in order to pursue a job in IT. If you’re making this switch, clearly tell her why, and do so within the first three sentences of your cover letter and resume summary section. 2. She has a pile of resumes on her desk from candidates just as qualified as you are. 3. She needs something done that she can’t do herself. That’s why she’s in hiring mode. 4. Her reputation is on the line. If her chosen candidate does well, then she’s done well. Keep these things in mind as you formulate your value proposition. This simple, short, elegant statement should provide the central framework that supports your entire application. For more guidance on assembling and fleshing out this framework, turn to the Seattle job search experts at Pace.

Dealing with Professional Adversity

by Jeanne Knutzen | January 30, 2013

0 Blog, Human Resource Roles staffing agencies in seattle, Staffing Agencies In Seattle WA, staffing agencies seattle, staffing agencies seattle wa, staffing agency seattle, staffing firm seattle, staffing firms seattle wa

 So you’ve had a rough day. Or maybe you’ve had a rough year. You fought hard for your promotion to management, but the reality of the position isn’t playing out as you imagined. Or maybe you fought hard for your new job, you celebrated the day you received an offer, and now you’d rather die than spend another day in this nightmare. Or maybe, like countless professionals these days, you weathered the ups and downs of office life until the day you didn’t, and now you’re out on your own doing whatever you can to make ends meet until you can get your career back on track. Whatever your position may be, it’s no picnic, and no crystal ball can assure you that things will look brighter by the end of the day, the week, or the even the decade. So what should you do? And how can you channel the optimism you need to carry you through this challenging chapter of your professional story?  Try these simple tips. Staying Optimistic During Challenging Times 1. Line up your role models. Many of the people who we consider paragons of “success” didn’t face an easy path on their way to the top. In fact, some of the most successful people in history struggled with crippling setbacks, disappointments, and episodes of uncertainty. Who are your adversity role models? Think of the person at the top of your list (either a famous name or a personal hero drawn from your circle of family and friends.)  Take a close look at this person’s life, and recognize that during his or her darkest periods, she was just as uncertain as you are about how the future would play out. 2. Stop negative thought cycles. One negative thought (or imagined worst case scenario) tends to lead to another. So when you feel yourself losing your footing and sliding into a dark place, recognize that this is happening and do three things: 1.) Stand up from your chair or change your physical position. 2.) Take three deep breaths in and out for a count for five seconds each. 3.)  Switch gears and turn your unrealistic negative fantasies into realistic positive ones. 3. Fail hard, and fail smart When you fail (which you will if you’re a human being), learn from the experience. But actually learn, don’t just surround yourself with cheerful sounding platitudes. The lessons your failure brings may not resemble the lessons you have in mind, or the ones you’ve absorbed from movies and TV. In fact, they may not look familiar at all and may be unexpected and utterly unique to your own life. Be quiet for a while and stay alert to the real lessons, the ones that will have meaning for you, and only you. When you face a rocky stretch of road, remember that you don’t have to navigate your situation alone. You can, but you don’t have to. Reach out to the career management and staffing experts at Pace for insight, perspective, industry news, job leads, and other information that can help you find your footing and move forward with confidence.

Are You Hiring Game Changers?

by Jeanne Knutzen | January 25, 2013

0 Blog, Hiring.Best Practices

The following article was written by Randall Birkwood, owner of Ascendant Talent and a good friend of the PACE Staffing Network.  We think Randall’s list of changes we should be making to the hiring process in order to hire Game Changers is must  reading for Hiring  Managers and HR/Recruiting  professionals.  You have staffed your team with all the right people: they graduated from top universities, worked at leading companies, stayed at each company the requisite length of time, and exuded intelligence in the interview process. Yet you see other companies with far less surface talent achieving incredible results and outstripping you. Why is this? The most likely reason your company is failing to progress is that you still hire based on standard interview processes that have been followed for decades. You focus on qualifications only, and ignore focusing on the individual attributes that will help you find the game changers. A game changer is a person who thinks outside the box and approaches problems differently from the rest of us. They approach problems with passion, a unique perspective, and their thinking inspires others to build on their ideas. With game changers on your team you can move from average to an industry leadership position. Good examples are Apple and IBM, which transformed themselves from fading brands into dominant positions by adopting the ideas of leaders who were game changers. Three football teams have had great success this year bringing in game changers. The Seattle Seahawks (Russell Wilson), Washington Redskins (Robert Griffin III), and Indianapolis Colts (Andrew Luck) have seen vast improvements after they drafted rookie quarterbacks who have the unique attributes of game changers. An example of a game changer in the music industry is Steven Tyler. In his entertaining autobiography he discusses how he approaches the four elements of writing a song: melody, words, chords, and rhythm. He explains, “You know right away if a song has that magic. It has to have those extremes—the one thing it can’t be is okay. Okay is death.” He adds: “Never mind the melody, never mind the chords—no, no, no. You start with infatuation, obsession, passion, anger, zeal, craze, then take a handful of notes, sew them into a chord structure, create a melody over that, and then come up with words that fit it perfectly.” His diverse way of thinking is completely different from standard music writers, but as a game changer, his unique perspectives have resulted in incredible successes. If we analyze the way the majority of companies hire, we see a system that is designed to hire okay performers. We focus solely on the tangibles: the candidate’s job history, education, and interview performance. We ignore the game changing intangibles like diversity of thought, work ethic, intelligence, and common sense. As an example, diversity of thought means approaching challenges using varied thought processes based on personal creativity and different life experiences. If you can combine diverse thinking with a strong work ethic, intelligence, and common sense, you have a game changer. The results of game changers can often transform the way we do business. To hire game changers, you will need to make modifications in the following areas:

  • The job description. The hiring manager and recruiter should schedule an hour meeting at minimum. Focus on listing what the new hire will successfully achieve in the first year before there is any discussion of candidate requirements. Then list minimal technical requirements and the personal attributes needed to be successful. You will likely discover that there is a far wider gamut of backgrounds that fit your position than you did prior to the meeting. The final position description should place more emphasis on what the new hire will do versus just a laundry list of candidate requirements. In fact, make sure you are displaying the minimum requirements so you don’t exclude potential game changers from the candidate pool.
  • Attracting game changers. They didn’t necessarily go to the best universities and score high on interview presence. They are sometimes the quiet person who got big results, and didn’t necessarily look for attention. To find game changers you should build recruiting strategies that focus on meaningful achievements at other companies or universities, and then find out who was responsible for them. Many times you will find a game changer came from a small- or medium-sized company where there were fewer resources available, thus the need for more personal initiative. This part involves hard work as you will need to network with your company’s employees, as well as outside contacts—but if you want to improve company performance you will need to take these steps.
  • Assessing for game changers. Re-examine your standard interview questions and hiring process. Your focus and emphasis should be on assessing for diversity of thought, work ethic, intelligence, and common sense, and not just work experience and technical skills. Sure, the candidate will need to meet minimum technical requirements of the role, but you will also need to focus on the four areas above. First dig into how they approached specific challenges in the past. (Example. “At your last company, describe something that was implemented primarily because of your idea. What was your role and what was the outcome?”) Learn in great detail how they got from point A to Z. What were they specifically responsible for, and how did they approach each situation? Second, present real challenges or problems in the interview and look for their diversity of thought, work ethic, intelligence, and common sense in solving them. Finally, ensure you include diverse thinkers on the interview team. (You may also want to explore assessments that test for these personal attributes, as a supplement.) With an interview process that focuses on assessing for these attributes you have a much greater chance of identifying game changers.
  • Making offers. Game changers are motivated by challenges far more than their peers. Yes, they like to be compensated well. But you know you have a game changer when she has been presented with your challenges, and creatively and passionately digs into solutions — and she doesn’t even work for you! Your best bet is to challenge her and let her know what she will be responsible for achieving when she takes the role. If your challenges are interesting, a game changer will take the bait every time.
  • Keeping game changers. Since their main motivation is creatively and passionately attacking challenges, the manager’s job is to keep them engaged in the long term. This is done by keeping them challenged on an ongoing basis, giving them resources, praising and rewarding, and simply getting out of their way except when needed.
Challenge yourself to move beyond traditional hiring methods, looking only for tangibles — and hire game changers who will bring the intangibles. Redefine how you approach the job description, how you attract and assess candidates, and how you hire and motivate, so you are a destination for game changers. You need them, because they will move the dial forward from average to spectacular. Your alternative is being okay, and as Steven Tyler says, “Okay is Death.” Randall Birkwood is a former director of recruiting at T-Mobile USA, Cisco Systems, Microsoft Corporation, and Intermec Technologies. While at T-Mobile his organization was cited as  a top 10 benchmark firm in recruiting and talent management. He has been an advisory speaker at General Electric and AT&T for VPs and HR Directors, and has spoken at a number of conferences in the U.S. and UK. He was the subject of a cover story on the "War For Talent" in Internet World Magazine.

Accountants: How to Polish Your Job Search Strategy

by Jeanne Knutzen | January 23, 2013

0 Blog, Finance/Accounting Roles, INFO AND RESOURCES FOR JOB SEEKERS accounting jobs in seattle, accounting staffing agencies in seattle, accounting staffing agency in seattle, accounting staffing agency seattle, staffing agencies in seattle

While accountants have suffered from the recent economic slowdown just as much as professionals in other fields, laid-off accountants with great job search strategies don’t tend to stay on the market for very long. If you’ve recently been turned loose by your employer, dust yourself off and get back in the game as quickly as possible by keeping these considerations in mind.

Job Search Tips

1. Take on private work. If you specialize in tax management or any other aspect of the field that you carry with you, reach out to potential private clients while you search for a new employer in order to keep your track record current. Licensed CPAs are always in demand, so stay busy until you find a new full time position.

2. Don’t gather moss. If you need to take a few days to decompress and deal with the emotional aspects of your transition, do so, but don’t let your wheels start to spin. As soon as you feel up to it, start scanning your list of contacts on LinkedIn, Facebook and your private address book. When you see the name of someone who can offer you guidance and advice, pick up the phone and make a lunch date.

3. Get resume help. Of course you’ll need to update and polish your resume, but this time, get some real outside assistance. A professional resume editor can take you through the process, clean up the mistakes you can’t see, and provide vital perspective.

4. Think about expanding your range of options. If you see a job posting in another state, are you in a position to move? Make these kinds of decisions now, so you can buckle down later and keep your eyes and typing fingers aimed only at the realistic jobs you really want.

5. Get face time. A flawless resume might get your foot in the door, but even better, try to show up at the conferences and networking events where your potential employers may be making an appearance.

6. Reach out to others in the same position. Were you laid off with a large group of peers? If so, stay in touch and find ways to help each other. Share leads, ask for leads, and turn to one another for conversation and support when the going gets rough.

A layoff isn’t the end of the world, especially for finance professionals and certified CPAs, who are still in demand in many areas of the country. Just stay positive and keep moving and you’ll put this chapter behind you as fast as possible. If you are looking for accounting staffing agencies in Seattle, contact Pace for job search tips and a list of available accounting positions in your area.

Employees Want Flexible Companies

by Jeanne Knutzen | January 16, 2013

0 Blog, Human Resource Roles company flexibility seattle, seattle staffing firm, staffing agencies seattle wa, staffing agency seattle, staffing agnecies seattle

A little flexibility in the relationship between employee teams and their employers can go a long way in terms of raising morale and can even have a dramatic effect on a company’s bottom line. Despite evidence supporting the positive influence of flexibility, many managers still see this as counter-intuitive and are reluctant to increase wiggle room in scheduling, time management, and company policy. But these managers do so at their peril. If you find yourself having a hard time releasing your grip on rigidity and corporate tradition, here are a few things to consider. Reasons to Implement Flexibility

  1.  Allowing proven and trustworthy employees to work remotely, even just once a week or a few times per month, can help these employees attend to other obligations and then move work to the top of their priority list. A strong work life balance means grounded, well-adjusted and focused employees, which provides a cascade of positive benefits for the company.
  2. Working outside the office actually appears to increase, rather than decrease employee work hours and overall productivity. The reasons behind this aren't clear, but they may have something to do with the overcompensation employees often display when they aren't used to working with low supervision.
  3. Allowing an employee to leave the office on a Wednesday and make up the hours on Thursday or Saturday can have a surprising impact on appreciation and company loyalty. This shift takes nothing away from you, or your business, but it brings disproportionate reward since it often means so much to the employee.
  4. Flexibility with company rules, rather than by-the-book rigidity, may seem to open the door to all kinds of grey areas and weaken the entire concept of “company policy”. But if you demonstrate a case-by-case attitude toward dress code enforcement, for example, it shows that the company culture is humane and reasonable. Just know where to draw the line; dress codes are one thing, but hard hat zones and safety violations are another. It’s also important to make sure flexibility is distributed fairly.
  5. A flexible approach to onsite versus offsite project completion also demonstrates that your organization is tech savvy and unafraid to rely on wireless connectivity. An increasing number of offices are not only allowing their employees to work occasionally offsite, but are in fact hiring full time remote employees who live in other states. This flexibility may be the key to attracting and retaining the best talent in the business, regardless of location.
For more information on the benefits of flexibility, or how to hire, manage, and retain offsite employees, reach out to the Seattle staffing experts at Pace. We can connect you to the best candidates available and help you hold onto them once they’re onboard.

How to Improve Your Financial Resume

by Jeanne Knutzen | January 9, 2013

0 Blog, Finance/Accounting Roles financial job seattle, financial jobs seattle, Improve Your Financial Resume, jobs seattle, Seattle Staffing, Seattle Staffing Agencies, Seattle Staffing Agency, Seattle Temporary Staffing, Staffing In Seattle, Temporary Staffing In Seattle

Even in the age of online job search sites and mobile job apps, a great resume is still an important and telling component of a complete job application package. But the first step to creating a great resume is simple and often overlooked: Applicants need to understand exactly what a resume is, what it does, and how it’s used. Once an applicant can recognize the true purpose of the resume as a supporting document, she can understand how the claims and phrases in this document sound to a recruiter or employer. She can gain a better grasp of what these people are looking for and how to get their attention. If you’re in the job market and you’d like to take your resume to the next level and use it to help you shine, try these tips. Make a Good Resume Even Stronger 1. Remember that your resume is there to support the first impression you make, not to make it for you. Face-to-face networking still ranks higher than any resume in the eyes of most potential employers. Of course, you’ll need to do all you can to make your resume great. But if there’s any chance you might be able to make your greeting, connection, or impression in person, spend more time on that project than you do on resume editing. 2. A strong resume tells a story. As great writers and marketing managers already know, story is everything. For some reason, narrative structure helps people focus on what they’re hearing, develop an interest in it, and remember it later. If your resume is a dry list of fact after disconnected fact, try making some adjustments. Each section should fit smoothly into the whole and should tell employers a complete story about who you are as a professional, where you’ve been, and where you’re headed. 3. Recognize what sets you apart. No matter who you are, there are a few details about your work life that differentiate you from other applicants at your level. What have you done, what have you been part of, where have you been, and who have you worked with that your competitors probably haven’t? These small details can stoke the curiosity that gets you noticed and moves you through the screening process. 4. In the financial world, detail matters. So much so that one small error in your resume can actually set you back more than a hundred right moves can drive you forward. Don’t miss a step. Is your email address unprofessional? Have you misused a semi-colon or misspelled a single word? Have you fact-checked your own history and removed all exaggerated or questionable claims? Do these things before you send or risk tanking your chances. Remember, your resume—while important—is only one component of your job search marketing material. For help polishing the rest of your application package, including your cover letter and interview skills, reach out to the Seattle staffing and job search pros at Pace.