Tips for recruiting and hiring good employees and retaining the ones you have.

Take care when classifying your workers to avoid costly audits

Job duties, not job titles, determine pay classification and workers’ compensation codes. Not making the correct choice can cause problems, or even prompt a workers’ comp or federal wage audit

When hiring a new employee, it is important to review the individual’s primary job responsibilities before determining whether they will be paid on an hourly or salaried basis.  It is also critical to determine a correct job code when reporting the new employee to your workers’ compensation carrier.

Although employers may have business reasons for making decisions, without professional guidance, employers can get caught on the wrong side of a Department of Labor wage and hour audit or a workers’ compensation audit.

Here are some key areas to consider:

Salary/exempt employees:  Many employers pay all office or supervisory employees on a salaried basis.  For most employers, that means no docking for missed time and no overtime pay.  This is a common violation with the U.S. Department of Labor and without timekeeping documentation, employers often lose during an audit.  Additionally, employees should not be paid on a salaried/exempt basis unless they make at least $455 per week and the employee’s primary duties include “the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance.”  Other factors may also apply to this decision about exempting an employee

Workers’ compensation class codes:  Insurance carriers often conduct workers’ compensation audits to determine whether employees are in the correct class code. Misclassification discovered during an audit can result in unexpected, additional insurance premiums. This can add up to thousands of dollars you were not expecting to pay.

1099 contract employees:  This is another area where employers should be sure they understand regulated guidelines.  Contract employees set their own hours, determine the amount they will be paid, determine how the work will be done, pay their own taxes and carry workers’ compensation insurance on themselves.  If you are issuing 1099s to individuals, yet directing their work, you may want to review this situation with one of our HR professionals.

Remember to take the proper steps to classify your employees correctly when they begin employment or change positions.  Let BCN help you before you get audited. Our HR staff is available to discuss any concerns you have in these areas, either regarding existing staff, or in determining direction before you make your next hiring decision.


Sue Kester, HR Manager

It’s all about the employee and a focus on tech and digital trends

In 2017, organizations focused on the well-being and satisfaction of their employees. Business leaders looked to build a better environment for their workforce and invested in strategies to help recruit and retain top talent. Buzzwords like ‘culture’ and ‘engagement’ were in the forefront of business discussions.

The year 2018 will bring a fresh set of trends that may significantly impact the way businesses operate. Leaders will look for ways to provide employees with the tools they need to thrive and develop.  Key trends will focus on technology and digital integration, collaboration and the employee experience.

There will be a focus on collaboration, including the use of social networks. Another popular prediction includes innovative work arrangements allowing work to become more adaptive and less formal. Interested? Read on for more.

Digital Integration and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Alexa. Siri… Hey Google…

Technology continues to transform the way employees go about their daily activities. Digital tools have become more user-friendly than ever before. With these advances, investment in digital tools and strategies is expected to reach an all-time high in 2018.  Artificial Intelligence (AI) is seeping into every industry and profession. While AI can take many forms, in 2018 we will most likely see a sharp increase in recruitment using the AI-enabled ‘chatbots’ to match candidates with jobs.

Cisco forecasts that by the end of 2018, 82 percent of all consumer Internet traffic will be video. Live and recorded video, as well as video ads, increasingly dominate our feeds across Facebook and Snapchat and even on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. It’s estimated that nearly half of businesses are implementing social videos, with another 25-30 percent planning to implement them in 2018.

The Employee Experience

Culture and employee engagement were top priorities in 2017.  The ‘employee experience’ is quickly becoming the new focus for 2018. Susan Peters, Senior Vice President of HR at General Electric, defines this as, “seeing the world through the eyes of our employees, staying connected, and being aware of their major milestones.”

With the growing influence of younger generations and the increasing transparency of the digitalization age, employees are expecting a more engaging and enjoyable work experience.  This will be a year where leaders develop the ‘employee experience’ to include engagement, culture and performance management.

We can expect to see more businesses move away from traditional, structured training programs leaning towards more self-directed, social, informal learning platforms. Social connectivity will also help create an environment of user-generated content and shared ideas, making learning more digestible and engaging. In place of fixed, formal content, this will lead to a more organic workplace learning environment with a viral-like impact.

In 2018, companies will increasingly turn to existing employees to fill open positions, offering training and encouraging employees to seek promotions. With fewer new employees expected to enter the workforce in the coming years, employers are seeing the advantage of investing in people that are already familiar with, and loyal to, their company.  Businesses can no longer rely on a one-size-fits-all approach to talent management if they want to attract and retain top talent. Tailored and personalized learning opportunities for employees of all types will become the norm. Continuous learning will be a hot trend this year. Digital training is an increasingly attractive option because it gives employers the ability to measure employee productivity through user data. It also allows for a more collaborative experience between departments. As a result, work-from-home and other flexible workplace options are expected to become more and more common place.

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Thom Moore, Partnership Manager

A consistent approach will help you find the best job candidates

Clients frequently ask us for recommended questions to use during an in-person interview, but there is much more to the hiring process than just the questions you choose.

Our HR professionals at BCN Services will tell you that consistency is key and that you may want screen candidates before inviting them for an in-person interview. You may also want to assess whether there is a good fit between the candidate and your business.

An in-person interview can take a lot of time and, therefore, your company’s resources. Before you are ready to meet a candidate face-to-face, consider phone screening applicants first by asking a few simple questions. You can usually get a pretty good idea whether to move forward based on this initial contact.

Phone interviews take much less time than in-person interviews and allow you to fine-tune your candidate list. Good phone screen questions include:

  • Tell me a little about yourself.
  • Why are you looking for a new position?
  • What are your “must haves” in your new job?
  • What are you looking for from your new employer?

After an initial phone screening, you should have your candidate pool narrowed to a reasonable number of applicants. This lets you focus your time and effort on the most valuable candidates for the in-person interview.

Great in-person interview questions include:

  • Tell me a little about yourself
  • What are your long term and short term goals?
  • Tell me about a time that you had to deal with a challenging situation and how did you overcome it?
  • What motivates you?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses and how are you working to overcome them?
  • Tell me about a time you were juggling multiple projects and how did you deal with them?
  • What does customer service mean to you?

Interview questions to avoid:

  • Are you married?
  • Do you have kids?
  • Have you had any prior convictions?
  • What religion are you?
  • Anything that could cause disparate impact to one candidate over another. According to SHRM, “Hiring managers should keep in mind that even “facially neutral” (those that do not appear to be discriminatory on their face but rather are discriminatory in their effect) job requirements relating to education, experience and physical characteristics may be considered unlawful when the requirements screen out a disproportionately high percentage of candidates on the basis of protected status and are not justified by any business purpose” (

After a phone screening and an in-person interview, you may still want to narrow the pool to two or three candidates for a second interview and possibly an assessment of some kind. Many employers use a personality quiz. Others will also use IQ tests, physical ability tests and aptitude tests. You would decide which makes the most sense for your industry and then maintain consistency in using the tests for these positions.

Following a consistent hiring practice can help reduce the amount of time it takes to fill a position as well as maintain compliance with each applicant. Please contact your BCN Services HR professional if you have questions or want to discuss how to implement a new hire process.


Kari Stanley, HR Customer Care Supervisor

Take time to appreciate, and keep, your employees

Last year, the U.S Department of Labor reported that the leading reason that employees quit their jobs is due to lack of appreciation. According to a recent survey, 53 percent of employees said they would stay longer at their current job if they received more appreciation from their supervisor. Also, four of five employees reported that they’re motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work. This data is clear evidence that maintaining a happy staff takes more than a competitive salary and benefits.

The good news is that showing appreciation for your employee’s is a simple task. Try applying these effective appreciation tips from

  • Treat employees as valuable assets, instead of just saying so.
  • Communicate thoroughly and effectively. Sharing information with employees allows them able to take on more responsibility and participate at a higher level. It is important for employees to understand a company’s and supervisor’s expectations.
  • Design reward programs to influence people to develop their potential as contributing employee.
  • Create suggestion programs encouraging employees to contribute ideas and experiences, whether they have a big or small impact on the organization or its customers.
  • Watch for employees who are doing things right, then acknowledge and reward them.
  • Pay attention to the surrounding work environment, making sure that people have satisfactory equipment, furniture and working conditions.
  • Celebrate success. Set a time at regular intervals during the year, especially a difficult day or week, to celebrate companywide achievement.
  • Encourage managers to be the type of supervisors that employees want to work for because of a commitment to developing employees personally and professionally.
  • Have fun! Encourage the organization of employee group activities.

It is important to remind employees how valuable they are to the success of the company.  Engaged employees are committed to the company’s vision and core values, and have a higher sense of self-worth and well-being. Lack of recognition is not only crippling to employees, but it hurts company success. When employees know that their strengths and potential will be recognized, they are more likely to produce more positive efforts and performance.

BCN encourages you to consider building a consistent and on-going recognition program in your workplace.


Taylre Reed, Partnership Manager

Why so many employees call it quits and what you can do about it

Do you ever wonder how much it costs when an employee quits their job? The Society for Human Resources (SRHM) predicts that “employers will need to spend the equivalent of six to nine months of an employee’s wages in order to find and train their replacement.”

So employee retention is really about being financially responsible. With this in mind, we share the 4 biggest reasons employees quit their jobs and offer recommendations for reducing turnover.

Lack of training

Remember the last time you started a new job? The feeling can be terrifying! Employees appreciate knowing what is expected of them and how to be successful at their jobs. Oftentimes, employees are hired and thrown straight into work where they must “sink or swim.” A lack of training can also fester into other issues, quickly provoking employees to quit their jobs.

Recommendation: Review your strategies for training with simple questions such as “Do my employees exhibit the skills necessary to successfully fulfill their job duties?” or “Can employees successfully complete their job duties without seeming confused or lost?” (The larger goal is to strategize for future training techniques.)

Feeling underappreciated

Showing simple appreciation for employees is one of the most underestimated strategies for retaining a strong workforce. Employees of all levels are often hungry to know they are appreciated by their employer. More often than not, underappreciated employees feel disconnected from the work they achieve because they feel it goes unnoticed. This disconnect results in employees who go through the motions of their jobs rather than caring for the success of the organization. It also signifies a ticking clock: It is only a matter of time before this employee burns out and quits.

Recommendation: Host a lunch for employees dedicated solely to acknowledging their hard work. When you take time to show admiration and encouragement, employees will feel valued and proud of their organization.

Feeling of constant, meaningless work

Employees need to know how and why they contribute to the success of your organization. American author and business consultant James C. Collins once said “it is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life. And it is very difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work.” Employees who like their work is meaningless will have no loyalty to their position or the organization. Every job holds a certain value and though not every job can hold immense importance, employees who feel like their job lacks value tend to be in high-turnover positions.

Recommendation: Find a simple way to show employees that their work is not meaningless (which is different from showing them they are appreciated!). Several things to try: call a meeting focused on explaining job importance, hang a poster showing the outcome of employees’ work within the organization’s model, or put employees in contact with people they help so they see the impact of their work.

Lack of workplace community

A workforce is only strong when a healthy community exists. Too often, organizational leadership teams produce important goals but do not create a workforce culture to successfully carry them out. In return, culture and positivity diminishes over time and can lead to unhealthy community among coworkers. Sadly, many work spaces provide atmospheres akin to a nasty episode of “Gossip Girl.” When the atmosphere turns poisonous, employees have no regret or remorse after quitting their job.

Recommendation: Strive for organization citizenship behavior (“a person’s voluntary commitment within an organization or company that is not part of his or her contractual tasks”). Organizational citizenship behavior is becoming a golden standard for companies who want to reduce retention while creating a sense of pride among employees. Take time to host group initiative sessions geared towards building community within your organization.

If you would like to further discuss different methods for focusing on increasing retention within your organization, please reach out to BCN Services. We pride ourselves in helping organizations maximize on their potential through building strategies to increase retention.

Sources and more information: Allen, David. “Retaining Talent.” Society for Human Resource Management, Sept. & Oct. 2010. Web. 22 Jan. 2017. Bateman, T. S., & Organ, D. W. (1983). Job satisfaction and the good soldier: The relationship between affect and employee “citizenship.” Academy of Management Journal, 26(4), 587-595.


Alex Pattenaude, HR Administrator

New trend prohibits employers from asking prospective hires about wages

The City of Philadelphia recently amended its fair practices and discrimination ordinance, prohibiting employers from requesting or requiring applicants to disclose wage history during the recruiting and hiring process.  This includes asking about any form of compensation or benefits and the ordinance also prohibits employers for retaliating against an applicant for failing to comply with such an inquiry.

The amendment to “The Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance” was signed into law in January and takes effect on May 23, 2017. Philadelphia follows the lead of the state of Massachusetts, which last August became the first state in the country to enact a law prohibiting employers from asking about a prospective employee’s wage history.

Laws like these appear to be a trend and a likely path to where employment laws and employment practices are headed.  As employers, it’s important to be ready to adjust your practices to be appropriate and compliant with all laws, whether federal, state or local.

The basis for the law is important.  The goal is fair pay, with a specific focus on narrowing the gender wage gap.  The law’s proponents suggest that pay should be based on the position, not on the applicant’s previous arrangement. Based upon this trend, if your practice has been to ask about an applicant’s wage history, consider focusing primarily on the value the position has to your company as the basis for your salary offers.  Some other actions to consider:

  • Remove questions on your applications relating to an applicant’s wage history
  • Train your staff to ensure they don’t ask these sorts of questions during the interview

If you have questions about your company’s policies as it relates to the hiring and interview process, the experts at BCN Services can assist. Contact us anytime for help.



Trisha Crigger, HR Generalist

Workplace-appropriate Valentine-themed events can boost morale

Although we typically think of Valentine’s Day as a romantic holiday, it can be one of camaraderie and team-building in the workplace.  This week we expound on some fun facts and offer ideas for you to create a celebration of your own.

Fun Fact #1: 220,000 is the average number of wedding proposals on Valentine’s Day each year.

Even though Valentine’s Day is typically celebrated between sweethearts, why not bring this sweet celebration into the workplace to boost morale and show employees your appreciation during that mid-February Winter funk.

Fun Fact #2: Did you know that about 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged each year?  This makes it the second-largest seasonal card sending time of the year.

Remember the excitement you felt when exchanging Valentine’s day cards at school?  Why not consider an old-fashioned card exchange in the workplace?  Ask everyone to bring a work-appropriate Valentine’s Day card for each of their teammates and you can even create mailboxes for your employees out of paper bags or shoe boxes to put them in.

Fun Fact #3: Although perhaps old-fashioned y today’s standards, girls in medieval times ate bizarre foods on Saint Valentine’s Day to make them dream of their future spouses.

How about hosting a Valentine’s day potluck (no bizarre food allowed)? Ask employees to bring Valentine’s Day themed dishes such as heart-shaped casseroles, cakes, cookies, pizza, etc. Use red decorations and encourage attendees to wear red clothing and accessories. Get creative and award prizes for the most festive red outfit, most unexpected red food, the tastiest dish, etc.

Fun Fact #4:  More than $1 billion worth of chocolate is purchased for Valentine’s Day in the U.S.

Who doesn’t like free chocolate? Fill a large glass vase or candy jar with foil wrapped Hershey’s kisses or other small candies.  During the week, ask employees to submit their guess for the number of kisses in the jar (post contest rules on the front of the jar).  The employee who gets closest to the actual number wins.  Movie theater tickets, a box of Godiva or other specialty chocolates, dinner for two at a great restaurant, or a bouquet of red roses could be prizes awarded.

Fun Fact #5:  More than 35 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate will be sold for Valentine’s Day.

Since February is American Heart Month, Valentine’s Day is a great reminder to focus on heart health for employees. Get active: take the team roller skating, hiking or just be silly and have a hula hoop contest and see who can hula hoop for the longest time. Start a healthy recipe exchange or invite a local nutritionist to come into the workplace and provide a seminar on cooking healthy foods. Hire a massage therapist to come on-site for a few hours each week for an afternoon to give free 10-minute shoulder, back and neck massages.

Using these ideas may just make this Valentine’s Day a day to remember!

Fun Facts provided by


Lisandra Garrow, HR Generalist

Halloween: Workplace events can boost morale, build teamwork

Halloween has fast become a favorite holiday for employees to celebrate in the workplace. Not only is it a fun, morale-boosting celebration, it can also be used to encourage and build teamwork.

As with any office celebration, form a small committee to plan and execute any festivities. Instead of this being coordinated by the Human Resources staff, you may want to rotate primary responsibility for holidays from department to department to get more staff members involved.

This rotation is important and allows for team building and leadership development across the company, since planning and executing holiday celebrations builds staff skills.

Next, come up with new fun and creative ways to celebrate. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

Costume party or parade: Keep the event simple and encourage employees to wear their costume to work for the day. Alternatively, you can make the celebration more elaborate and hold a party or a parade of costumed employees around the company.

Costume contest: Have multiple categories such as best costume, funniest costume, the most sophisticated costume, the costume that took the most work to make, the scariest costume, and the most creative costume.  Advertise awards in advance and provide a nice gift to the winners such as a gift or catalog certificate.

Halloween breakfast: It’s the perfect time of the year to serve cider and doughnuts. Other options include pumpkin and apple bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin coffee cake, or pumpkin-and-apple muffins. For those who prefer healthier options, provide assorted fruits. Use this opportunity and make the breakfast a team-building celebration. Encourage employees to spend time together rather than retreating with their breakfast to their office or cubicle.

Halloween luncheon or potluck: You can as easily make a Halloween luncheon or potluck as a seasonal breakfast. For the potluck, suggest employees bring a fall-themed soup or chili. Or, order pizza, sandwich wraps, submarines or any other popular luncheon menu.

Halloween decorations: Offer prizes for best and most festively decorated work area and give out awards similar to those mentioned above for costumes. Encouraging teams to work together to decorate a shared work area will enhance the team-building aspects of this competition

Pumpkin carving contests: Make the pumpkin carving a contest between individual employees, or between departments. Either option is a fun, creative team-building opportunity.

Halloween appeals to the child in many of us and workplace events are a favored way to celebrate this increasingly popular holiday.

One word of caution: Not all employees celebrate all holidays and Halloween can be one that carries some connotations that may not sit well with everyone. Be sensitive to this and never force an employee to participate in something that makes them uncomfortable. Consider an alternative way for these employees to stay involved without compromising their feelings. Perhaps consider, instead, a more generic Fall-themed event for your staff.

Happy  Fall!

If you have questions about morale-building or other staff efforts and special events in your workplace, contact your specialists at BCN Services to discuss your individual situation.



Lisandra Garrow, HR Generalist

Recognizing and rewarding employees: It’s more than worth the effort

Employees want to know their efforts and accomplishments are recognized and appreciated. There is plenty of research confirming that rewarding employees leads to improved productivity and employee engagement. It impacts the bottom line!

Yet how many of us are caught up in the demands of managing an organization and miss opportunities to regularly recognize the contributions of the team that helps your organization accomplish its goals? Maybe an employee or team helped you break into a new market, launch a new product, break a sales record, exceed a metric or just handle a customer or client interaction with impressive savvy.

There are systems for tracking and rewarding employees and some show you how your efforts impact the bottom line. Maybe your company uses one of these systems. But fancy systems aren’t necessary to begin to regularly recognize and reward employees’ efforts.

The power of “Thank you”

Recognition doesn’t have to come in pretty packages with big bows or large price tags. Nor need it take a lot of time. Start by simply paying attention to your employees’ efforts and say, “thank you” when they work hard or accomplish something.

Some managers have a hard time finding these day-to-day moments. Why thank them for doing what they’re supposed to do? If this is you, it might be easier to compliment the creative way in which a required task is accomplished, the extraordinary effort someone put in to a task, or the fact that someone finally got all of the steps right in a regular process that they have found to be a struggle..

Utilizing a company social network system to give an employee a shout-out or sending a department-wide or company-wide email acknowledging an accomplishment is another great way to recognize an accomplishment and doesn’t require much time or money. Why not publicly acknowledge a special effort in a staff meeting?

I know a manager who “high fives” each team member at the end of the work day. He appreciates that they work hard each day, and this is his way to offer a genuine “thank you.” That might not be your style, but we can all be creative and find a way to be ourselves and appreciate our teams.

More than words

There are other low-cost options that won’t break the budget. Keep a stash of greeting cards in your drawer to write a quick note to an employee when you notice a job done well. Give an employee a treat, such as a favorite candy bar, a coffee from a loved coffee place, or even a nutritious smoothie. Small gift cards to recognize an out-of-the-ordinary effort can be nice, too.

Of course, the sky’s the limit when it comes to large-ticket recognition budgets. Some companies offer larger gift cards to fancy restaurants, books of gifts for employees to choose from, paid vacations and financial bonuses.

Work teams can also be rewarded with fun activities ranging from small games for the break room to providing a group with a snack or organizing an outing such as a picnic, nice dinner or a game of Whirlyball.

Things to remember

When you reward your employees, it’s important to be timely and consistent. Recognizing an accomplishment long after the fact may send the message that the manager wasn’t aware of the moment worth celebrating when it happened, which could make an employee feel less valued. Your efforts will backfire if you routinely recognize certain employees or teams and neglect to recognize the accomplishments of others.

And rewards should be appropriate to individual personality, makeup of the team and extent of the accomplishment. If an employee saves the company $100,000, a $5 gift card to Starbuck’s may seem a little trite. If someone has completed a task they’ve struggled with, a $100 gift certificate to a high-end restaurant may be excessive. And since there may be tax implications for rewards with a price tag (including gift cards or other purchased items), run the idea by your BCN Partnership Manager or Payroll Specialist to be sure you’re tax compliant as well.

The benefits of recognizing your employees’ efforts will far outweigh the cost and time it takes. Many employees will work with an improved outlook or a little more effort when they feel appreciated. Some will work harder in an effort to obtain more recognition or rewards. And you’ll all benefit when it improves your bottom line.

Trisha Crigger, Human Resources Generalist

How to best negotiate salary offers with qualified candidates

Filling a position within your company can be stressful and time consuming. Once you’ve weeded through endless resumes and applications, interviewed multiple applicants and have found the person you believe is the best fit, you’ll want to seal the deal and make the candidate an acceptable offer. Following are some tips about making that offer and the negotiation process that follows.

When making an offer of employment, you want one that not only benefits the company, but also satisfies the candidate’s needs. Consider the value of the person you have chosen. Determine the job’s salary range based on benchmarking similar jobs in similar industries. Then choose your offer somewhere in the middle. Avoid asking the candidate what they are currently making. There’s typically no way for you to determine what they tell you is fact, so there is no point in doing that.

Don’t start out low-balling the offer. This will undoubtedly create an awkward negotiation process from the start. Worse yet, if the candidate is truly perfect for the job and accepts the low offer, you run the risk of losing them within a short amount of time. They may realize their value is higher and they will continue to seek other opportunities.

On the flip side, when you’ve found that perfect candidate don’t jump the gun and offer them the highest wage possible during the negotiation process. Ultimately, the candidate may make a counter offer and that leaves no room for further discussion. This will make you appear inflexible and you run a bigger risk of losing the candidate if they are considering other offers.

If you’ve reached a roadblock during negotiations and still have no decision, offer other perks. A signing bonus may be the tipping point for the candidate. Additional vacation time outside of the standard company policy can also be used in negotiations (as long as it does not become a discriminatory practice in hiring). If your company allows flexible scheduling, or allows employees who have proven themselves to work from home at times, mention these earnable perks to the candidate.

While balancing your company’s interests with the value of the candidate, be open to discussing their counter offers. What may seem greedy or nitpicky to you at first blush may be valid requests based on the candidate’s personal needs and value of experience.
Consider the candidate’s rationale before making a final decision.

Lastly, if you or your managers need help as you negotiate with a new employee, or want to discuss your overall employment policies, contact the experts at BCN Services. We’re here to help!




Frank Lewandowski, Partnership Manager