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.

Change in the Workplace

By Anastasia Warren

 

The Applied Companies has been around for more than ten years. They have an established reputation in the Reno, Nevada community, a well-received message and a popular company culture among employees with proof to show it – they have been honored as one of the Best Places to Work in Nevada more than a few times over the years.

When I joined the team just out of college, I assumed it was safe to say the company was pretty set in its ways – that there wouldn’t be much room for culture change or workplace progression… or so I thought. Seeing as my personal values matched up with the present company values and practices, I was basically okay with that.

However, my assumption was incorrect – and that is why this company is successful.

In the short six months that I have worked at The Applied Companies, the company has changed their paid time off policy to better suit employee needs, implemented a “Go Green” initiative to decrease their carbon footprint, started a “Bring Your Pet to Work Day” every few months, changed their policy on business attire (yes, jeans are now allowed) and much more.

The leadership within the company recognizes the changing world of business and seeks to remain current and moving in the fast-paced culture. Established companies must continue to look for new ways to improve their organization both internally and externally, and stay up with and even sometimes ahead of industry trends.  

In an employee market, where good candidates can sometimes seem scarce, creating an innovative and collaborative company culture is essential to success and employee retention.  

As CEO Jim Annis often states, “the only constant is change,” and I am proud to be a part of a company that honors that progressive, innovative and forward way of thinking. 

The fly on the interview wall

By Jim Annis

 

The interview can be a game-changer in both the company’s and the individual’s lives. A fly on the wall would be a great judge as to the skill of the interviewer and interviewee…

Scene: Typical interview room. “A” candidate Rachael is very interested in working here. The busy HR manager, Bob, has had six interviews today and this, the most qualified candidate, is the last. The fly has been buzzing around for a few weeks.

Fly: Bob’s been primping for two minutes! Tie, check! Mouthwash, check! Nose, check!

Bob: (Leans on the desk, head on his hand). Hi Rachael. Thanks for doing the phone pre-interview. Summarize your sales achievements over the past few months.

Rachael: (Sitting at an angle)My team surpassed our quarterly goals by 300 percent in the accounting tech software market. I read in the Wall Street Journal that you are prepping for the launch of your new upgraded product. When does that hit the market?

Fly: There’s no I in team! She’s nailed the three Ps – planned, prepared and practiced. She is not rushed and confident. When a human sits directly across from someone he/she recalls less of what was said. It also causes a perception of negativity and opposition. By sitting at a slight angle she changes this automatic bias. And she’s done her homework. Questions are relevant. Smart!

Bob: (Sighs) We’ve been working overtime to get it out. Go live is March 1, but we’ll be lucky if it sticks.

Rachael: Tell me about the corporate culture. What are your expectations of the work week and hours? How do you incorporate green initiatives and volunteerism into your daily operations?

Bob: What do you mean?

Fly: He’s fumbling. Hope he can get a grip.

Rachael: What’s your company’s commitment to quality of life? Preserving natural resources? Do you encourage volunteer activities through corporate social responsibility?

Bob: Well, all that is on our website. Right here. (Points to the screen on his iPad). Is that really important to you? You are a salesperson. And a good one!

Fly: I better dive bomb Bob and get him out of his funk. He is going to lose her to the competition. Bzzzzz … incoming! Whack!

Bob: (Swats the fly and gets focused). Rachael, you’re the kind of person we’re looking for with this position. We’d like to begin negotiations today and get you on board.

Fly: Awesome, she’s got the job!

Rachael: Bob, I appreciate your time but I am not sure if it is the right fit. Best of luck.

Bob:(Shakes her hand, sheepishly). Thanks.

Fly: Too bad. She was a keeper. (Buzzes off, humming, “Nah nah, nah nah nah nah, hey hey hey, good bye.”)


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

The Dos and Do Nots: Retaining Employees

By Anastasia Warren

 

We are now in an employee market.

What does this mean? If you’re not working to retain your good employees, there is a chance they are looking elsewhere or being recruited.

Now is the time to be proactive and protect your company, your goals, your progress and most importantly, your employees. Here are the most crucial factors in increasing employee retention.

1. Culture

A company’s culture must be driven and maintained every day. It is not an easy task, and it is not something that develops and maintains itself. For every negative action, word or setback within your business – it takes around three positive ones to offset it.

You must be proactive in counteracting any sort of pushback – strive to push your culture each day and create the environment your employees want to work in. It’s exhausting, but it’s well worth it.

2. Work/Life Balance

We hear the phrase constantly, but that’s because it matters. Your employees are your employees, but they are people first. Work to value a work/life balance within your company, and make sure the value is known.

Don’t just preach it, practice it. Avoid telling your employees how much you value their personal lives and then turning around and saying “no” the first time someone asks for a few hours off to attend to family business.

3. Flexibility

It’s time to face it. The workplace is changing. Whether you change with it or not, companies are now offering different options such as remote working, flexible hours and more. Get in tune with what your employees want and need – and be sure to discuss reasonable and earned options for employees to feel trusted, respected and free in their role.

4. Compensation

Although employee pay is not the main factor in retention, it needs to be competitive. Wages are increasing and again, this is an employee market. Some of the employer’s power is gone in that, opportunity – good opportunity, is not lacking in the market place.

What is lacking? Good employees. Check-in on your market often to ensure your pay isn’t falling behind your competitor down the street.

5. Benefits

It is no longer only about dental, medical and vision for benefits (although that is extremely important – see ACA). Benefits now include things like paid time off for volunteerism, unlimited vacation time, free meals and more. How are you remaining relevant to the workforce? Try to think of new ways to provide benefits to your employees, and if you haven’t taken the plunge into good ol’ health benefits, I highly suggest you get to work before you lose employees to more generous companies, or you are penalized by affordable care requirements.

6. Value of Work

In the end, we all want to mean something. We want to wake up each day and do something that matters and has value. On top of that, we want to work for a company that matters and has value. Does your company have a corporate social responsibility and give back? How do you help and belong in your community? Why does each employees’ position matter in the bigger picture?

Answer these questions, and make sure your employees are aware. Value of work and daily significance matters in the long-term for employees to be happy, healthy and in this market, loyal. 

5 ways to make the upcoming fall season your best one yet

By Anastasia Warren

 

As the summer months come to a close (how did that happen so fast?), we find ourselves looking to the fall season – ready to take on new challenges, goals and projects.

Fall isn’t a new year, but it is a chance to re-motivate yourself and get back on track.

Here are 5 ways to prep for the new season in the workplace and in life:

1. Set aside some time

Give yourself a few hours to reflect on the changing season and the new opportunity. What do you want to accomplish? What would you have done differently? Don’t just think about it, but physically (or electronically) write it down. Schedule your time around it, set yourself up for a successful new beginning.

2. Review your goals, and if needed, set new ones

Most of us have goals, or at least things we would like to improve upon. Go back to your New Year’s Resolutions or whatever else you’ve set in your mind – have you followed them? Decide if those are still the right goals for you. If they are, make sure you’re taking the steps to making them a reality, if they aren’t, define new ones and then do the same.

3. Cut things out

Once you’ve figured out what it is that you truly want to accomplish, look at what you have actually been doing with your time. Hours of television? Days of unhealthy eating? Cut out whatever it is that is holding you back. Maybe it’s an organization or commitment, maybe it’s a bad habit – whatever it is, cut it out or at least cut it back to open up your time for what’s important.

4. Make a list

Make a list of fun things for yourself that you’d like to do. It could be a list of books you want to read, movies you want to see, places you want to go or restaurants you want to try. Make a vow to yourself to at least try to do some of these things within the next few months. What’s life if you’re not living?

5. Incorporate gratitude

While you’re planning, making lists, re-evaluating goals – remember to add in a significant amount of time to remember just how great it all is. Be grateful for the experiences this past half year and appreciative of what is coming. Decide to incorporate gratitude into your everyday life this season.

Although the first official day of fall doesn’t come until September, it is never too early to plan and prepare. But for now, grab a hat and some sunblock, go outside and enjoy the nice weather. 

4 Ways to Make Today Your Most Productive Day

By Anastasia Warren

Competition is not unfamiliar. The constant expectation to be productive, get results, and remain relevant are prominent in the workplace of today’s society.

We read articles much like this one, explaining different life hacks that will allow you to perform at your best – we set goals and try new things.

So what’s missing?

Although the different articles and methods of maximizing productivity are beneficial, and often times they do prove valuable, simply reading about them isn’t enough.

Here are five ways to make today your most productive day, and I challenge you to walk away from this with not only a few tips, but also with the motivation to act upon them and improve your performance.

  1. Rid of distraction

 

The hardest part is starting. Put your phone away, logout of social media profiles, turn on your most soothing music, and stop over-anticipating your workload. The amount of time we spend getting lost in mindless tasks adds up to hours and hours of potential productivity.

2. Make a manageable plan

Prioritize your tasks, go over your pending projects, write down your goals and obligations. Set up a schedule for your day-to-day workload. Use an electronic calendar, buy a physical planner – whatever you need to do. Make sure to not overbook yourself or set unrealistic expectations. It may seem daunting at first, but once everything is written out and set into a manageable time frame, you will feel ready to take on the world.

3. Get to work

Now, quit reading these articles or staring at your perfectly formed plan, and start working. Activities drive results, and there comes a time when simply performing your tasks and work is more important than prepping for it.

4. Breathe

Take a walk outside and breathe in the air. You are making efforts to improve your productivity, and you should feel good about that.

4 Ways to Make Today Your Most Productive Day

By Anastasia Warren

 

Competition is not unfamiliar. The constant expectation to be productive, get results, and remain relevant are prominent in the workplace of today’s society.

We read articles much like this one, explaining different life hacks that will allow you to perform at your best – we set goals and try new things.

So what’s missing?

Although the different articles and methods of maximizing productivity are beneficial, and often times they do prove valuable, simply reading about them isn’t enough.

Here are five ways to make today your most productive day, and I challenge you to walk away from this with not only a few tips, but also with the motivation to act upon them and improve your performance.

  1. Rid of distraction

 

The hardest part is starting. Put your phone away, logout of social media profiles, turn on your most soothing music, and stop over-anticipating your workload. The amount of time we spend getting lost in mindless tasks adds up to hours and hours of potential productivity.

      2. Make a manageable plan

Prioritize your tasks, go over your pending projects, write down your goals and obligations. Set up a schedule for your day-to-day workload. Use an electronic calendar, buy a physical planner – whatever you need to do. Make sure to not overbook yourself or set unrealistic expectations. It may seem daunting at first, but once everything is written out and set into a manageable time frame, you will feel ready to take on the world.

      3. Get to work

Now, quit reading these articles or staring at your perfectly formed plan, and start working. Activities drive results, and there comes a time when simply performing your tasks and work is more important than prepping for it.

      4. Breathe

Take a walk outside and breathe in the air. You are making efforts to improve your productivity, and you should feel good about that. 

HR / Benefits Outsourcing and You

 

Has your company had to cancel health care coverage or suffered financial difficulties due to the extreme increase in healthcare costs? We are a powerful strategic business alliance with answers to healthcare, the on-going compliance with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and much more. We can offer large group health insurance whether you have 6 employees or 150 employees. From benefit packages to record keeping and reporting let The Applied Companies get your company back to its core mission. 

Multiple plan Benefit Package with claims management

  • 4 Healthcare options (including a Health Savings Account)
  • Dental/Vision
  • Section 125 pre-tax
  • Supplemental Coverages
  • 401(k)

 

Human Resource support

  • New Hire compliance / Termination Processing
  • Documentation and Record Keeping
  • Unemployment Insurance Claims management
  • Orientation / Training (Employee and Management)
  • Handbooks, Job Descriptions, Compliance Audits, Risk Management
  • EPLI (Employment Practice Liability Insurance)

 

Weekly payroll processing

  • Including compliance for Certified Payroll & Prevailing Wage
  • Employee inquiries, verification, payroll issues and W-2’s completed
  • Employee real time web access to wage data (paystubs, W-2’s, history, etc.)
  • All tax reporting and payments completed accurately and timely
  • Real-Time (24/7) web access to employee, project, location hours

 

Worker Compensation / Risk Management

  • Work Compensation coverage available
  • Regulatory Record Keeping, Reporting and OSHA compliance
  • Claim investigation and Management
  • Medical Exams and Drug Testing

 

For more information, email us at becky.higgins@theappliedcompanies.com or call (775) 398-5113

2016 and the ACA

 

New requirements for the Affordable Care Act are coming up in 2016. Upon January 1, employers now with 50-100 full-time employees must provide health care coverage that qualifies with the ACA. What does this mean? If you have 50-100 employees, things are changing – and you need to act.

Employers with 50-100 employees will now have to provide ACA qualified healthcare to employees or possibly pay a penalty of either $2000 or $3000 per employee.

Contact us for more information today on how to stay compliant with the ever-changing ACA.

Email us at becky.higgins@theappliedcompanies.com or call (775) 398-5113

6 habits of successful salespeople

By Jim Annis

 

I was born a salesperson. At seven years old, I was selling greeting cards door-to-door. My experience has revealed that some people have innate sales ability and can be a star on day one. I’ve also learned that people with the right skill set can be developed to have a prosperous career. Both have certain habits in common that contribute to prosperity.

Identify the “right” prospect

Sales is about a lot of the “right” activity. An epic fail begins with trying to be all things to all people. Identifying an “A client” profile is key. Sticking with that decision will work for you as long as you are flexible and keep tabs on market changes. Think “dinosaurs aren’t here for a reason.”

Organized… to a point

A successful salesperson is organized but not detail-oriented. If you have ever looked in a salesperson’s desk that has left your business, you know exactly what I mean. Most salespeople will leave a huge mess because they always want to get along to the next deal. Use of software like Salesforce can help.

Plan your work and work your plan

Weaknesses in time management will kill commissions. If you do not plan your sales work, you will not make money. There is a delicate balance between prospecting and closing. A two-week plan mapped out with the call targets, including an integrated travel schedule for the next month, is a great, replicable system.

Two ears and one mouth

An excellent salesperson will not show up and throw up. They ask questions and gather information. They “listen” through social media and connect with potential clients through LinkedIn and Facebook so face-to-face meetings are not cold calls. They read voraciously about a prospect’s industry news, allowing for dialogue during a sales meeting. People still buy from people they like and trust. Sincere authenticity is the basis for fruitful relationships. Feigning interest in the client or target, their business and their hot buttons means instant death.

Daily courage

Salespeople need, and have, a great deal of courage. Some products and services are simply demanded every day and sell easily. For others, hourly rejection is the norm. The courage to say no – and realize when to “fire” a client before you even hire them – is a bonus.

Emotion management

Successful salespeople do not take things personally. Upon rejection, they simply say, “Next!” However, if a salesperson doesn’t show enough emotion and enthusiasm for what they are doing, then it is a red flag. When a salesperson is “truly” working, they are communicating to everyone about their results.

Habits are important for consistency. Fluidity and the ability to respond and be in the moment is a “master” skill. Salespeople who can flex their approach as the situation demands – to make another person more comfortable or to best accomplish the task at hand – are much more likely to be successful in influencing others.

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