Would you marry me? Would you hire me? Tips for finding staff with leadership and other key skills

Would you consider marrying someone you have never met before, but looks good on paper? I’m guessing most people would not accept a marriage proposal from someone they have not previous met, even if that person looked great on paper. A job offer is similar in that it can be a potentially life-changing event that needs careful deliberation.

Job interviews provide an opportunity for the employer to assess how well an applicant’s skills align with the company’s needs. Job interviews allow applicants a time to get better acquainted with a prospective company and co-workers.

Traditionally, interviews usually consist of an employer asking applicants about their skills and experience to see if they would be a good fit for the job. Interviews can range from in-person or over the phone, to one-on-one or in group settings. According to a recent Global Recruiting Trends 2018 report, traditional interviewing methods rank especially bad for assessing soft skills and weaknesses.

These soft skills, such as leadership, relationship building, communications, adaptability, strategic thinking and work ethic, take up to 25 percent of the skills required to do the job and to be a great teammate. Unfortunately, these skills are arguably the most difficult to assess. You can test for soft skills using such tools as a 20-minute survey, which can provide a more objective measure of a person’s traits.

Using interview questions to determine soft skills is another method, but can be difficult, as most candidates prepare for interviews and put on their best front. This makes it difficult to assess soft skills. Also, interviewers sometimes contribute to the assessment problem by how they ask questions. For example, asking, “Are you a team player?” sets the applicant up for answering with a simple “Yes”, which doesn’t offer additional information about their skill set. Below are a few examples of interview questions that can be used to better help assess important soft skills:

Leadership

  • Tell me about a time when your team was in a difficult position and you took the lead.
  • What would you do if your team members disagreed with your instructions?

Teamwork

  • Tell me about a time you dealt with a team member who constantly opposed your ideas.

Communication

  • Tell me about a time you had to deal with a difficult co-worker.

Adaptability

  • How would you prioritize multiple tasks with the same deadline?

Strategic Thinking

  • Tell me about a time you had to make a decision with incomplete information.
  • If you spotted a mistake in a report but your manager wasn’t available, what would you do?

Work Ethic

  • Tell me about a time you faced an ethical dilemma at work. What steps would you take if you discovered your supervisor was breaking the company’s code of conduct?

The experts at BCN Services are available to help you and your supervisory team develop good interviewing techniques. Contact us for assistance.

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Thom Moore, Partnership Manager

Consider this: Who is your trusted business partner?

Who comes to your mind when you hear the words “Trusted Business Partner”? Many would quickly respond with my “CPA, banker, lawyer, or partner.” These individuals have absolutely earned the title.

You hear about this term often now, because people are working hard to earn this moniker as they realize the impact it has on their business relationships and their clients’ business successes. Typically, these relationships fall into three categories:

  • Transactional: These individuals get things done for you on your terms. You call upon these individuals as needed, and they complete the tasks requested. Few questions are asked of, or leadership and ideas expected from, these individuals.
  • Consultants: These are the individuals you can count on for quality tasks, but who also have demonstrated a solid level of expertise that you need and rely upon. Their expertise gives you confidence which helps you weigh decisions and select the best direction for your business.
  • Trusted Business Partner: These individuals have earned your trust, have strong expertise and are proactive in helping you anticipate your needs and sharing their well-thought-out opinions and guidance. They are knowledgeable about your business goals, focused on helping you achieve them, and are long-term thinkers when considering the impact of change in your organization. They listen, ask insightful questions, and are creative in looking at the status quo and recommending change. These are their strengths. Their opinions, expertise and thought leadership is highly regarded by your managers and executives.

Trusted business partners can bring you new ideas, offer expanded and new solutions and evolve your business etc. Your Human Resources Partnership Manager (HRPM) at BCN Services is an individual who you can trust to fill this role. Your HRPM understands the value of your time and the impact your employees have on your overall business success.

Get started by communicating your immediate, short/long-term goals and business plans with your HRPM. Keep this communication frequent. Have conversations about trends they are seeing, best practices they suggest and ask for recommendations on changes to your organization.

These regular conversations and their knowledge of your business plan will fuel contributions to help you achieve your goals. Being considered a client’s trusted business partner takes time to achieve, diligence to maintain and enthusiasm to continue but the impact can be irreplaceable. This earned honor is one we take seriously every day at BCN Services. Contact us to assist in moving your business to the next level.

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Corey Decker, Sales Manager

Preparing for a workplace violence event in your company

Also see Part 1: What employers can do to prevent workplace violence and situations from escalating

The increasing number of workplace violence incidents in our country have employees increasingly concerned for their safety at work. Last week’s blog addressed many ways employers can prevent workplace violence. Those suggestions range from strong employment practices throughout the employment life cycle, to policy choices, customer service and building security options. No matter how many steps we take, if our facility is public or the wrong person gets access somehow, violence can still erupt in our workplaces.

A recent example of this is an incident that occurred recently in a Los Angeles Trader Joe’s grocery store. A chase related to a domestic dispute ended in a crash outside of the store and the gunman ran into the store where employees and customers ended up in the middle of gunfire and many became hostages. There was no way for Trader Joe’s to anticipate this situation or prevent it. But the actions of several employees indicate they may have had some training. It’s important to have a plan for how management and employees should react to such an event that focuses on a prompt response to minimizing injuries and casualties.

There are steps employers can take to prepare for the possibility of an act of violence that can’t be prevented or predicted.

If you are preparing your company for the potential of an act of violence, it’s good to let your employees know. If employees know that you are making work environment safety a priority, that will help reduce the feelings of uncertainty. Tell them what you already have in place. They may know or may need a refresher. It may be a good time to encourage suggestions, as well, since your employees may have already formulated some ideas about how to be safe at work.

Employers should develop emergency procedures, so all staff members are on the same page. In Part 1 of this blog, we discussed the potential for allowing or encouraging properly permitted individuals to carry guns to assist in the event of an active shooter situation.  If you are considering this as a company, it should be considered with proper counsel, as there are many cascading responsibilities to consider. Whether or not this is an option, it’s important for all employers to have a plan that guides employees should such an incident occur.

Your local law enforcement agencies are a good resource to assist in forming a plan. Additionally, the FBI has created a resource for companies called “Run. Hide. Fight. ® Surviving an Active Shooter Event.” (https://www.fbi.gov/about/partnerships/office-of-partner-engagement/active-shooter-resources/responding-to-an-active-shooter-crisis-situation). The video contains practical, general suggestions for employers and employees that are presented in a brief, concise, simple to understand format. The video takes the “run, hide, fight” approach, in that order.

In the recent Trader Joe’s incident, many employees took the first approach of fleeing the scene. They were seen heading out doors and windows throughout the facility. The second option of hiding or setting up barriers between themselves and the shooter can also be seen in the Trader Joe’s example, where there were reports of many barricading themselves into spaces to stop the shooter from getting to their part of the facility. Finally, when all else fails, the video suggests employees may have to fight the shooter. That didn’t happen in the Trader Joe’s incident, but there have certainly been incidents where that has happened causing the situation to be resolved quickly.

In uncertain situations, many employees will find comfort in knowing that there are procedures in place for such an occurrence and what their roles are if an incident happens. As always, it’s important to clearly communicate the expected procedures to employees. Remember though, that while some will be relieved to know the plan, others may think it’s a worthless waste of time if the reasons for the procedures aren’t clearly defined.

New procedures can be rolled out at regular meetings or a special meeting can be held to communicate procedures. If your company chooses to show the FBI “Run. Hide. Fight.” video in a meeting, it, is a great way to start a productive discussion about your company’s expectations of employees in such an emergency. Ongoing training, such as reminders at regular meetings and posting procedures throughout the building or in a visible, central location may be good options for many employers, as well. And always remember that new hires will need to be brought up to speed with everyone else.

The responsibility of keeping employees safe is a heavy burden to carry, but there are many things employers can do to prepare for an incident to should it happen. Communicating prevention and preparedness strategies to employees can empower them and put them at ease as they face the uncertainty that comes with the modern-day reality of increased violence in the workplace.

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Trisha Crigger, Human Resources Generalist

Employers can take steps to prevent workplace violence

First of two parts

According to the FBI, gun violence in the workplace between 2007-2013 nearly tripled from of the years 2000-2006. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2016 alone there were 83 more cases of workplace homicides than there were in 2015. Recent news reports on these incidents have many employees concerned for their safety at work and employers feeling the added responsibility of making sure they keep their employees safe.

Employment practices
There are many steps an employer can proactively take to prevent violence in the workplace.

The best prevention is to incorporate supportive management practices that can help to prevent many of the reasons violence erupts. You can tailor these practices to your work environment, facility and management style.

Foster a culture of respect in your company.  Employees will follow the example of their leaders. If you treat people with respect and set that expectation, you will minimize issues that have typically generated some of the workplace violence events. Promptly addressing bullying and harassment, as well as any other concern employees raise, will keep issues from escalating out of hand. Those actions support that environment of respect and assure employees that the employer is doing what’s necessary to create a safe workplace.

Review hiring practices to be sure you are doing due diligence to not hire an employee with a violent criminal record or violent tendencies. An obvious way is to complete criminal background checks on prospective employees once extending an employment offer. Another is to ask interview questions that give candidates opportunities to disclose when they’ve been violent in the past. This could be carefully inquiring why a candidate left a job, why they may have gaps in the employment history, or why they may have asked you not to verify an employment reference. Employers may even directly ask if candidates have been released from a job due to violence in the workplace. Asking open-ended questions about these topics will lead to learning important, relevant information about their background. Checking references is important, especially if a previous manager is willing to share some pertinent information. Some employers choose to use personality profiles that could identify violent tendencies. Personality profiles come with some risks, as they can identify things you aren’t allowed to ask or inadvertently screen out protected groups of potential employees if they aren’t well done, so use caution.

Once employees are hired, provide clear work expectations and timely feedback. If employees know what’s expected, that calms nerves and allows the employee to focus on being productive. It will also help them maintain confidence as to their place in your organization. Address performance issues promptly so there are no surprises when disciplinary action or termination for performance arises.

If an employee isn’t meeting expectations, take the first step in progressive discipline, moving from verbal warnings to written warnings, as needed, help an employee appreciate the seriousness of an issue and giving them time to improve their performance. A written warning will help the employee understand that additional consequences could be forthcoming. If you’ve done progressive discipline, a suspension or termination should be less volatile because they’ve been informed along the way.

If you must terminate an employee, be brief and clear about the reason(s) and do not encourage discussion to avoid the employee escalating their emotions. Protect the employee’s dignity by keeping the discussion private and timing it to minimize the visibility after the fact. Often doing it at the end of the day is good because others have left, and the employee can have privacy when clearing out their workspace. If you ask the employee to return at a different time to clear out personal items, offer options for that. Accompany the employee through the office by management or security personnel at all times once a termination takes place. Obtain keys and company property immediately and have IT change any passwords or remove any access they have as soon as possible. This eliminates the terminated employee’s access and prevents them from having the opportunity to create an undetected, volatile situation.

Employees sharing information
Dabbling in the employees’ personal lives can border on invading someone’s privacy, but there are some observations or voluntary reporting employees can do to make management aware of potential threats of violence. Employees and managers can voluntarily report any domestic violence or restraining orders happening in their lives as a courtesy to the employer, which would need to be handled with great discretion to protect the privacy of those involved. Employees could also report any signs of significant emotional distress or mental health issues in a colleague, such as someone suddenly being aggressive or isolating themselves. An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or mental health options through a medical plan could help individual employees and, ultimately, the company.

Appropriate weapons policies
Weapons in the workplace is a hot topic of discussion. In some states, employers can prohibit all weapons on company property. In other states, employers can prohibit weapons inside a facility, but if an employee has a “conceal and carry” permit, they are allowed, by law, to keep a weapon concealed in their private vehicle in the company’s parking lot. Alternatively, some employers allow, or encourage, licensed employees to have weapons at work to help defend in case of an eruption of violence. Employers have many factors to consider when implementing gun policies: Weighing state and local laws, culture, and the potential benefits and drawbacks of having guns in the workplace. Allowing or inviting them can bring additional implied responsibility and obligations. Either option should be considered with much care and professional counsel.

Workplace search policies can be implemented, as well, regardless of whether you allow properly permitted guns in the workplace. Those policies can be crafted to allow the employer to search all company and personal property in the employee’s control or ownership, including vehicles. Again, compliance with state and local law is important when generating these policies.

Consider customer behaviors
Customer satisfaction and providing excellent customer service is a key component to a company’s success. In the event of a complaint from an unsatisfied customer, we have an opportunity to mitigate their concern and curtail a potential threat of violence. If a dissatisfied customer doesn’t complain, or their complaint isn’t satisfactorily addressed, the extreme but rare result could be a violent one.

This is one more reason that it’s important for all employees who interact with customers to know the company’s procedures for addressing customer complaints and to be trained in the importance of following those procedures in a timely manner when complaints arise.

Facility matters
Employers are making workplace security a priority. Companies can no longer rely on cameras and a secured front entrance to protect employees and their physical assets. Employers should assess their facility and current security measures and look for vulnerabilities. Ask employees for input, either in a staff meeting or through a survey. Employees often have some great suggestions. Some actions taken include adding capabilities for existing security guards and increased lighting in parking lots. In the end you want to be a difficult target for someone with the wrong motives.

Practicing these preventative measures can help your employees feel safe at work. And most of them have many additional benefits for your workplace, as well.

Next: What happens when violence occurs in the workplace and how employees should respond. We will address steps an employer should take, what employees should do and best practices for creating a policy and procedure.

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Trisha Crigger, Human Resources Generalist

Is hugging in the workplace considered appropriate?

When is it appropriate to hug a colleague or a client? Do you enthusiastically open your arms and move in for a hug, assuming it is alright? Do you wait awkwardly for a colleague or customer to initiate it? Some people are determined huggers and other definitely don’t want to be touched.

Personal interactions in the workplace have taken on a new focus based on recent workplace harassment allegations. First and foremost: Always treat your colleagues and clients with respect and in a way that you would want to be treated, or have your close friends and family treated.

The following are some tips from “Poised for Success” author Jacqueline Whitmore that can help you decide if or when such an action is appropriate.

Pay close attention to body language.
Another person’s body language will tell you whether he or she is willing to accept a hug or not. Pay attention to the person’s stance, body movement, and facial expression. Are the feet pointed toward you or away? Is the person leaning in, or distancing him or herself? Follow your gut feeling about what this person wants and, if there is any doubt, do the following.

Ask permission.
If you want to hug someone and you think it’s welcome, but you aren’t positive, just ask the person “May I give you a hug?” That question indicates both affection and respect for the other person’s feelings and will likely be appreciated.

The only down side to this is that some people may feel embarrassed or uncomfortable saying “no.” So if you’re getting a negative or uncertain vibe before asking, don’t even ask the question. If a person seems uncertain after you ask, distance yourself from the situation either by stepping away or moving on to another subject.

Consider the balance of power — always.
A boss hugging an employee is a very different matter from two business associates hugging at the conclusion of a meeting. Managers should be extremely cautious about hugging.  Because of your status in the office, you may be perceived as using your power to disrespect another person’s boundaries or personal space. A subordinate may feel obligated to reciprocate, even if they feel uncomfortable. For a manager, the safe bet is to not hug an employee under any circumstance.

Consider the occasion.
If you haven’t seen a colleague in a long time, or you’ve just gone through a powerful training or other experience together, or you’re at a celebration, then hugging might be appropriate. The same may apply if the person in question has just had a piece of very good, or very bad, news or is struggling to deal with a difficult situation. If you routinely see this person and nothing our-of-the-ordinary has occurred, then a hug probably isn’t warranted.

Keep it short.
A hug can go from natural to awkward if you keep it going for too long. So make your hugs brief. A duration of no more than three seconds is acceptable.

Most importantly: Err on the side of not hugging.
If you’re not sure whether a hug would be welcome and you don’t think it’s a good idea to ask, then don’t hug. You’ll almost never offend someone with a handshake.

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Lisandra Garrow, Partnership Manager