Conducting workplace in-house investigations

By Jim Annis

 

The words, “in-house investigations,” might lead to CLUE board game flashbacks like: Case File Confidential; suspects that begin with names like Colonel and Professor; Rooms and Weapons; and “Who dunnit?”

Failing to perform in-house investigations will not result in fun and games — that’s how employees win lawsuits. Why do an investigation? The onus is always on the employer. Ignorance equals risk. Begin an investigation when the gossip starts, before you receive a complaint and before you are sued. The three most common issues involved in an investigation are harassment, whistleblower, and discrimination. Whatever the issue, following the suggestions below can help manage the risk.

What should be investigated? All gossip, what you hear through management by walking around, subtle “please do not tell anyone” conversations (then do not promise confidentiality — you must address a problem) and comments in anonymous suggestion boxes. Small bumps can become a cancer. Assume each issue is legitimate and drive that type of cultural commitment daily.

When should it be investigated? Immediately. No exceptions. Look forward and reason backward. Go big-picture and follow the trail, with an eagle-eye view. Imagine the timeline spread out from when it happened to two or three years down the line if you wind up in court. If an employee put you on notice Monday, October 1 and then you did not do anything for three weeks, you’re toast. If you took action Monday afternoon upon notice, then you should be evaluated more positively.

Why would you investigate it? You have a responsibility to employees. You’ll lose them is they perceive a lack of commitment to a healthy work culture. Response to an investigation is generally positive: “Management is handling the issue.” If you get rid of the issue, good job — shareholders will be happy.

Who should do the investigation? Investigations are hard. Period. Who you assign to do them is crucial. Options include in-house HR, a PEO, outside HR consultants, an objective person in leadership with no direct reporting, or a person who is not highly emotional.

What’s the end game? Document the following in order:  failure, conclusion, report and follow-up. The most important point is to reach a conclusion. Write it all down on a factual basis, no opinions, based on tangible information. It’s harder to do than you think. Follow up with the complaining party by calendaring three months down the road, and develop a feedback loop. If you do wind up in court, this is what you want the suing employee to relay to the judge: “My employer followed up with me so I felt good.” You win. Investigation is not a dirty word. It’s clean and can help make your environment “sparkle.” You will almost always discover something in the process that will help improve the workplace.

Jim Annis is president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Applied’s COO, contributed to this article.

The Growing Role of Video in Recruitment and Interviewing

According to a study by PGI, video interviewing has increased 49 percent since 2011. Six in 10 recruiters currently incorporate video into the interview process. Sixty-six percent of candidates say they prefer it. Here are some things to consider when adding it to your HR strategy if you are a company or your personal job search if you are a candidate:

Is it Legal?

Yes, with parameters. According to the EEOC, it is not illegal for an employer to learn the race, gender or ethnicity of an individual prior to an interview; however, video can increase the risk or appearance of discrimination. All individuals should be provided equal, nondiscriminatory treatment throughout the hiring process. Employers need to focus on the person’s qualifications, be sure that all candidates go through the same process and receive the same set of questions. If recording the interview, be sure that the candidates have agreed. Candidates, as the employer is focusing on your qualifications, should be able to communicate effectively.

What types of technology is available?

A one-way (asynchronous) requires the employer to independently create interview questions and watch the video responses on their own. Candidates independently answer the questions and record their responses via video. A live video interview allows an employer and candidate connect face to face via webcam (via cloud service, Skype, or other service).

How do I stand out from the crowd?

Employers can compete for top talent using video as an attractive option. Storytelling on the recruiting side is maximized by video and it is a great tool for discovering if a candidate is the right fit. Interviewing a large number of people in a short amount of time becomes possible and cost efficient.  If your candidate pool is Gen Y or younger, video is a must.

Candidates should plan, prepare, and practice. Know your resume inside and out, and have it at your fingertips. Engage the camera as if it were a person. Research appropriate dress and grooming (hair, makeup, nails, etc.) for video, clean the camera lens and test the technology including sound, minimize distracting body language, and avoid photobombs by kids and pets. Once the basics are covered, then you need a wow factor. Recently, we video interviewed a U.S. military veteran who used a background with a single American flag. The only thing he didn’t have was an apple pie or a Chevy. It worked. De-clutter your surroundings then use space behind you to sell your work-related accomplishments and create a memorable dialogue. If you are applying for a warehouse position, you could have a poster in the background that says, “Zero work-related accidents in the last 20 years.”

Video interviewing can be your edge. How will you use it to your advantage?

Written by Jim Annis, President/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Tom Miller, and Suzanne Chennault, Applied’s division directors, contributed to this article.

The Best Interview Questions Asked By an Employer and the Best Candidate Responses

“Trendy” interview questions on the internet drive us crazy. Employers, you’re recruiting talent, not  trying to be cool. “How many cows are there in Canada?” isn’t going to get a skilled and qualified candidate to give you meaningful information. Candidates, you may not shine without a question’s connection to your responsibilities.

Employers - Great questions get past “the forehead” of the candidate. Legal questions eliciting relevant responses will determine the right fit. Seek the candidate’s locus of control (extent to which individuals believe that they can control events that affect them). Locus of control is either internal (the person believes they can control their life) or external (they believe that their decisions and life are controlled by environmental factors that they cannot influence, or by chance or fate). We want the former.

Candidates - Give truthful responses so you never have to “squirm.” Squirming happens when you are lying, have something to hide, or are trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. Be honest and comfortably confident. Answering the way you think an interviewer wants backfires. You can “hold your belly in for so long,” but you’ll let it out sooner or later. Know your strengths/weaknesses, go to the internet and research the company before the interview, and know your resume.

We’ve crafted a few favorite questions and the associated answers we would appreciate hearing:

Q: Tell us about a time when you reached a goal.

A: Have an example – work related not personal – prepared. This is a success/failure question. Include others in your story and be humble. Smart candidates link their own experience with the job description.

Q:  What do you love about work and why?

A: Your response should cause you to light up and have passion. Control your non-verbals. Truthful answers aren’t on the ceiling. Avoid looking up and creating something from thin air. We’re looking for a long-term values match.

Q: What is it that you are working on when you lose all track of time?

A:  Answer with what gives you joy. That thing that makes you wonder, “How did six hours pass so quickly?” Are you building something? Are you volunteering? It could be work related, or if not, then relate it to the position.

Q: How is disagreement valuable in the workplace?

A:  We value disagreement because it results in growth in the organization. There is always more than one right answer. This is supposed to make you uncomfortable. Don’t squirm.

Remember, relevant tops trendy every time in our HR world. We want good results for the company and the candidate.

Jim Annis is president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Tom Miller, and Suzanne Chennault, Applied’s division directors, contributed to this article.

Jobs – What’s Hot and What’s Not!

There are global forces of change that are and will affect businesses and the resulting job market over the next 40 years including: a global balance of power shift from West to East and North to South; resources and practices are protected (not open to all); increased connectedness due to tech with instant global communities; earth with changing climate/fewer natural resources; move to transparency (social media where your business is everybody’s business); and a shift and focus on values with the decline of blind consumerism.

The Hot List  

What’s key to sustained employment? People skills that machines can’t copy (e.g. during the second week in February 2014, it was reported that Facebook had more than 170 sales related positions open, which was almost twice as many openings as software engineers). Recently, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) updated a report where it expects the most job growth by 2022 (see Tables 1.3). Top 10 areas for expansion include two that are customer facing: retail sales and customer service, as well as four health-care sectors in which basic people skills such as empathy are critical.

People with skills that are in demand will be appreciated by the market. The rub is that many of these skilled positions are in areas where companies are already experiencing a shortage of qualified labor: technology, health care and other key sectors. Locally, we have observed increases in hiring for the following: sales, logistics, and staffing part-time positions, call centers, manufacturing, construction, biomedical engineer, pharmacy, long-term care, and home care.

The Not List

The U.S. job market will not be better for everyone, with labor-market disruptions brought on by new technologies; self-driving cars, robotics, online commerce, and transfer of jobs overseas. The BLS also updated its report for the fields where it expects the most decline by 2022 (see Table 1.5). Nationally, for tree-fellers, shoemakers, and postal clerks, 30 percent of these jobs may disappear. Locally, the gaming jobs that were lost during the recession have not returned, and although construction growth has been strong, we are not at the numbers of jobs represented before 2009.

Employers, take a look at your strategic planning including flexibility in your vision given global trends and how you will leverage them to your advantage, and be willing to train, mentor, and create the learning environment needed for the skills sets you require.

Employees, be flexible about your career choices and assumptions given the global trends; be willing to have training; be open to a mentor so you can always be “teachable”; and embrace the learning environment needed for the skills sets your desired job requires.

Written by Jim Annis, President/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Tom Miller, and Suzanne Chennault, Applied’s division directors, contributed to this article.

Table 1.3 Fastest growing occupations, 2012 and projected 2022
(Numbers in thousands)

2012 National Employment Matrix title and code

Employment

Change, 2012—22

Median annual wage, 2012 (1)

2012

2022

Number

Percent

Total, All Occupations

00-0000

145,355.8

160,983.7

15,628.0

10.8

$34,750

Industrial-organizational psychologists

19-3032

1.6

2.5

0.9

53.4

$83,580

Personal care aides

39-9021

1,190.6

1,771.4

580.8

48.8

$19,910

Home health aides

31-1011

875.1

1,299.3

424.2

48.5

$20,820

Insulation workers, mechanical

47-2132

28.9

42.4

13.5

46.7

$39,170

Interpreters and translators

27-3091

63.6

92.9

29.3

46.1

$45,430

Diagnostic medical sonographers

29-2032

58.8

85.9

27.0

46.0

$65,860

Helpers–brickmasons, blockmasons, stonemasons, and tile and marble setters

47-3011

24.4

34.9

10.5

43.0

$28,220

Occupational therapy assistants

31-2011

30.3

43.2

12.9

42.6

$53,240

Genetic counselors

29-9092

2.1

3.0

0.9

41.2

$56,800

Physical therapist assistants

31-2021

71.4

100.7

29.3

41.0

$52,160

Physical therapist aides

31-2022

50.0

70.1

20.1

40.1

$23,880

Skincare specialists

39-5094

44.4

62.0

17.7

39.8

$28,640

Physician assistants

29-1071

86.7

120.0

33.3

38.4

$90,930

Segmental pavers

47-4091

1.8

2.4

0.7

38.1

$33,720

Helpers–electricians

47-3013

60.8

83.3

22.4

36.9

$27,670

Information security analysts

15-1122

75.1

102.5

27.4

36.5

$86,170

Occupational therapy aides

31-2012

8.4

11.4

3.0

36.2

$26,850

Health specialties teachers, postsecondary

25-1071

190.0

258.6

68.6

36.1

$81,140

Medical secretaries

43-6013

525.6

714.9

189.2

36.0

$31,350

Physical therapists

29-1123

204.2

277.7

73.5

36.0

$79,860

Orthotists and prosthetists

29-2091

8.5

11.5

3.0

35.5

$62,670

Brickmasons and blockmasons

47-2021

71.0

96.2

25.2

35.5

$46,440

Nursing instructors and teachers, postsecondary

25-1072

67.8

91.8

24.0

35.4

$64,850

Nurse practitioners

29-1171

110.2

147.3

37.1

33.7

$89,960

Audiologists

29-1181

13.0

17.3

4.3

33.6

$69,720

Dental hygienists

29-2021

192.8

256.9

64.2

33.3

$70,210

Meeting, convention, and event planners

13-1121

94.2

125.4

31.3

33.2

$45,810

Therapists, all other

29-1129

28.8

37.9

9.1

31.7

$53,210

Market research analysts and marketing specialists

13-1161

415.7

547.2

131.5

31.6

$60,300

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors

21-1011

89.6

117.7

28.2

31.4

$38,520

Footnotes:
1 Data are from the Occupational Employment Statistics program, U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.Source: Employment Projections program, U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

 

Table 1.5 Fastest declining occupations, 2012 and projected 2022
(Numbers in thousands)

2012 National Employment Matrix title and code

Employment

Change, 2012—22

Median annual wage, 2012 (1)

2012

2022

Number

Percent

Total, All Occupations

00-0000

145,355.8

160,983.7

15,628.0

10.8

$34,750

Fallers

45-4021

6.6

3.8

-2.9

-43.3

$35,250

Locomotive firers

53-4012

1.6

0.9

-0.7

-42.0

$44,920

Shoe machine operators and tenders

51-6042

3.5

2.3

-1.2

-35.3

$24,310

Postal service clerks

43-5051

66.9

45.7

-21.3

-31.8

$53,090

Log graders and scalers

45-4023

3.5

2.4

-1.1

-31.6

$32,880

Postal service mail sorters, processors, and processing machine operators

43-5053

129.6

91.0

-38.6

-29.8

$53,090

Semiconductor processors

51-9141

21.3

15.5

-5.8

-27.1

$33,020

Textile cutting machine setters, operators, and tenders

51-6062

15.5

11.3

-4.2

-27.1

$24,050

Postal service mail carriers

43-5052

295.1

215.8

-79.2

-26.8

$56,490

Motion picture projectionists

39-3021

8.0

5.8

-2.1

-26.5

$19,830

Sewing machine operators

51-6031

161.4

119.7

-41.7

-25.8

$21,270

Word processors and typists

43-9022

104.4

78.2

-26.2

-25.1

$35,270

Fabric and apparel patternmakers

51-6092

6.5

4.9

-1.6

-25.0

$38,650

Data entry keyers

43-9021

220.3

166.1

-54.2

-24.6

$28,010

Textile knitting and weaving machine setters, operators, and tenders

51-6063

21.9

16.5

-5.4

-24.5

$26,540

Postmasters and mail superintendents

11-9131

23.0

17.4

-5.6

-24.2

$63,050

Textile bleaching and dyeing machine operators and tenders

51-6061

11.4

8.6

-2.7

-24.0

$24,210

Animal breeders

45-2021

1.3

1.0

-0.3

-23.4

$34,250

Drilling and boring machine tool setters, operators, and tenders, metal and plastic

51-4032

20.9

16.2

-4.7

-22.5

$33,940

Textile winding, twisting, and drawing out machine setters, operators, and tenders

51-6064

27.5

21.8

-5.6

-20.5

$25,850

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers

11-9013

930.6

750.7

-179.9

-19.3

$69,300

Meter readers, utilities

43-5041

40.2

32.5

-7.7

-19.2

$35,940

Pourers and casters, metal

51-4052

10.7

8.7

-2.0

-18.7

$34,060

Computer operators

43-9011

74.6

62.0

-12.7

-17.0

$38,390

Foundry mold and coremakers

51-4071

12.4

10.4

-2.0

-16.2

$30,540

Extruding and drawing machine setters, operators, and tenders, metal and plastic

51-4021

74.9

63.0

-11.9

-15.9

$32,330

Molding, coremaking, and casting machine setters, operators, and tenders, metal and plastic

51-4072

125.0

105.8

-19.2

-15.4

$28,630

Door-to-door sales workers, news and street vendors, and related workers

41-9091

92.7

78.5

-14.2

-15.3

$21,470

Cutters and trimmers, hand

51-9031

14.2

12.1

-2.2

-15.3

$24,530

Manufactured building and mobile home installers

49-9095

5.3

4.5

-0.8

-15.1

$28,080

Footnotes:
1 Data are from the Occupational Employment Statistics program, U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.Source: Employment Projections program, U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How You Know When It’s Time To Go

Some people are so certain it’s time to go that they have enough chutzpah to video their rapping dancing resignation, encourage it to go viral on YouTube and then luckily get hired by Queen Latifah a week later.

Perhaps you’re wondering — hmmmm... am I there yet? How do you know?

A work relationship is damaged beyond repair

A lack of trust and confidence can create a chasm so deep that it cannot be surmounted. Step back and observe the relationship. Is there anything of value that keeps you connected? Can it be saved? Have you exhausted every avenue? If you have not, what will you do to make a valiant effort?

At the Applied Companies, we would hope our employees would take all avenues necessary to rectify the situation.

Your personal life has changed

The big ones have come into play — death, divorce, children, injury or illness. If you are under different circumstances than when you were hired, the opportunity for conflicting priority arises.

Remember when you were single and didn’t have a life? Then, when you graduated from college, got married and then you dropped from 60 hours a week to 40 for a better quality of life and your boss couldn’t understand? It’s okay. Priorities change.

Your values are at odds with the company values

When you physically do not feel well, with that nauseous feeling in the pit of your stomach, and you dread walking through the office door every day, it’s time.

You have identified ethical issues, assessed that you cannot be part of the activity in question, and there are expectations not acceptable within your limits or your morality and staying would compromise your values.

You stopped having fun

Why? Are you not challenged? Have you become complacent? Is your role relevant? Have your achievements been recognized? Are you making excuses? Is it your responsibility to have fun and make your job challenging, meaningful and rewarding? Can you learn to have fun again and find a new aspect of your work, ask for a promotion, a new position or volunteer related to your company’s corporate social responsibility activities?

The end of the road

If you have not seen change after going to management and you have mentally checked out, then prepare to go.

We do not recommend making a video. Your company culture might be welcoming. It might be led by fear. Take the high road with open, honest and professional communication.

Oh, and here’s a lifesaving tip: Be sure to talk to your spouse or significant other first. I learned that lesson the hard way.

Written by Jim Annis President/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Tom Miller and Suzanne Chennault, Applied’s division directors, contributed to this article.

Negotiating for Employment

A fair amount of negotiation takes place in the workplace regarding employment. Typically the employer has the upper hand; however, your ability to sway a negotiation will help achieve the terms you deem favorable.

When should I negotiate?

For candidates actively pursuing work, negotiate when you have multiple offers. Negotiation helps confirm a range of pay will be acceptable upon entry, or can help negotiate upfront that you will perform like crazy, prove your worth, then receive desired pay after probation.

Negotiation often backfires for internal employees. If you tell your current employer that you have another job offer, they may feel pressure to counter offer, which creates ill will. The negotiating employee is often not being honest as there are undisclosed environmental issues that prompted resignation. Upon acceptance, the employee will leave within six months on average.

What is negotiable?

Any portion of the employment agreement is negotiable, including:  time off, contributions towards certain benefits, office hours, reporting structure, etc. Ideally employee handbook policies are written in general terms so that there is room for negotiation. Employers recognize real talent and years of experience, so if you have those qualities, then you’re in a good position. For example, if you can do the job description easily, but your work experience traditionally has been to report to a VP versus a director position as advertised, then ask for the VP as a condition.

What are the boundaries?

You know when you are being greedy or not. The pig gets fat and the hog gets butchered. This will likely be the character you establish going forward. Are you coming from a position of strength? How willing and how hard will you push? Be assertive and truthful; lying about having a counter offer when you don’t is discouraged.

Should I tell them I have another job offer?    

It depends on the relationship. The employer can just walk away if they have a candidate of equal value, and may have the perception that you do not really want to work for them. On the other hand, starting a relationship with open and honest communication can display transparency and confidence. By telling the employer that you really like their company and negotiate in a non-threatening manner will engender respect.

Overall, negotiating is selling a relationship. When you determine what risk you are willing to take, you have won either way because you defined success in your own terms.

Written by Jim Annis, President/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Tom Miller, and Nissa Jimenez, Applied’s division directors, contributed to this article.

You’ve Graduated High School: Now What?

Memories of high school prom are fading, the end of school is looming and most likely if you are graduating this year, you have a wicked case of senioritis. What are you going to do after you walk across the stage? As a staffing agency, we see many graduates wander through our doors wondering what to do next. With careful planning, creative experimentation, and old-fashioned persistence, your high school diploma can turn into a world of possibilities.

What are your choices?

  • College is there for anyone, any time. If you can’t commit to college now, wait.
  • Trade and technical school career training (e.g., culinary, bank, media focus, photography and computers). Find out if these programs are available in your current school now or if you need to wait until after high school graduation.
  • ROTC/military
  • AmeriCorps/Peace Corps
  • Work experience is key. Try different things that you might like. You can always change your mind. A career is not set in stone.


How will you decide?

  • What is your skill set? Your passion? Your personality? If you don’t know, your high school guidance counselor has assessments readily available.
  • A staffing agency is a great place to start. If you can pass a drug test, you’re hired!
  • According to Workplace Magazine, less and less four-six year degrees are required. Fulfilling employment does not require a degree; however employers say that post-secondary education (skill building, certification, etc.) is attractive and shows a commitment to lifelong learning.


To whom should you listen?

  • People in your circle who are happy with their career choices and are willing to share their experiences.
  • High school counselors, religious leaders, and teachers you admire in specific subject areas can all help you formulate next steps.
  • Your parents and role models like relatives and neighbors.


Remember, nothing is going to happen overnight. It is never too late to start. Today’s choices will not be the same choices you have six months from now. As cliché as it sounds, you can do anything you want to do. We have a friend who started medical school at 35. She will be 42 when she is done…and it’s okay! Set priorities based on your values, make a decision, and then go do it. If you don’t like it, make a new decision and make something else happen. Repeat after me, “I trust it is going to work out as long as I am proactive. I will find support for the actions I wish to take.”

Written by Jim Annis, President/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Peterson, Tom Miller, and Nissa Jimenez, Applied’s division directors, contributed to this article.