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Workplace Discrimination, the ADA and Caregivers of the Disabled

June 20th, 2012

When it comes to discrimination, most human resources professonals know about discriminating against people based on certain characteristics they have, such as race, religion, age, gender, national origin, or disability.

But there is one type of discrimination that often falls under the radar because the characteristic that is protected is unseen – a person who is caring for someone with a disability. This type of person is protected from discrimination under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), and also state and local laws. So it is something for human resource people to watch out for.

So, the person suffering from discrimination does not have to be disabled himself, only caring for someone who has a disability. And the disabled person being cared for does not have to be a relative.

For example, if there is an employee who needs to be involved in therapy sessions for a child with autism, and this employee, who is on a flex-time schedule,  is turned down, without reason, when he requests returning to a part-time status to care for the child, this is considered discrimination.

Another example that could be considered discrimination is when an employee, who has been going home during lunchtime to care for a disabled husband, is subject to a new policy where employees are barred from leaving work for lunch.

Another example of discrimination: a teacher gives birth to a child who is disabled and is given a new position with less authority and responsibility.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the provision dealing with people associated with the disabled is intended to prevent employers from discriminating against people because of stereotypes and assumptions about people who care for those with disabilities.

However, according to the ADA, employers do not have to make special accommodations for a person who does not have a disability, even if the person is caring for someone with a disability.

However, the law does require that employees who care for the disabled are treated just like any other employees, and are not subjected to any harassment or other intimidation to force them to quit.

When you need employees – either temporary or regular –  for your Portland, Anchorage, Seattle, Lake Oswego, Tacoma, or Chicago company, contact a recruiter at the Opti Staffing Group. We look forward to hearing from you.

Workplace Safety Tips

May 24th, 2012

Yes, we know, you’ve probably heard workplace safety tips for years.

But you truly can never hear or read these tips too many times. After all, just one little slip or accident can mean years, or even a lifetime, of disability. It pays to pay attention, even if you’ve heard it all before.

Therefore, here are some workplace safety tips we found courtesy of WorkplaceSafetyTips.org.

  1. Save your reading for your desk. Don’t read while walking.
  2. When it comes to filing cabinets, never open more than one drawer at a time. Close any drawer before opening another. And, even if you’re going to be away from the filing cabinet for “just a second,” close the drawer. A “second” can grow to several minutes and an open filing cabinet drawer is just waiting for someone (perhaps someone who didn’t heed No. 1, above) to trip over it.
  3. Speaking of cabinets, don’t put anything on top of a filing cabinet or a tall bookshelf.
  4. When carrying something, never place it above your eye level. Always carry it so that you can see where you’re going.
  5. Make a point of keeping walkways clear. Don’t store boxes, cables, wires and other bundles in walkways.
  6. Always look at the chair before you sit on it. Even if you just got up a bit ago, look behind you to make sure the chair didn’t move back. Also, don’t lean far back to reach something if it means you have to tilt your chair back to reach it. Far better to just get up and to get what you need and avoid falling backwards.
  7. When walking up or down stairs, use the handrails. Also, if you’re carrying something heavy, use the elevator. Safety trumps calories.

If you’d like more tips on keeping your workplace safe, contact us here at the Opti Staffing Group. Contact us today!

Job Listings and the Job Search

May 2nd, 2012

Throughout the world today, many employers are having problems finding the workers they need, and one of the big reasons they cite for this is applicants’ lack of experience.

The lack of experience problem crops up with first-time job seekers because they have no experience, and for those who have been in the workforce, it becomes a problem when their skills or experience do not match exactly the kind of experience the employer is looking for.

The problem has become even more acute with the downturn in the economy, as employers, trying to do more with fewer people, have been combining parts of jobs or even entire jobs into new positions. This adds to the confusion as job candidates try to figure out from the new job descriptions if they have the skills and background to handle the work.

So, if you are looking for a job, how do you handle this problem? There are several things, according to business executive Tammy Johns.

One thing to do is to stop using the laundry list of skills and experience on the resume. Instead, talk about your abilities and tie them to the needs of the employer, to show how your abilities can help the company achieve its goals. This also will help you better show your qualifications if you lack experience.

Also, know your skills, knowledge and abilities well enough that you can show how they apply to the job description that outlines the exact experience wanted. Even if the job has a different name than the one on your resume, you can show how the skills you have are transferable.

Also, you have to keep trying to improve your skills and gain more experience. What skills do you still need to develop? What skills will help you develop your career? Then take courses or volunteer to try and get those skills.

On the other side, if you are in human resources, what can you do to increase the chances of finding the right person when you advertise for a position?

One thing to do is to focus on the most important skills, abilities and attitudes that are needed for the job, instead of simply creating a grab bag of all of the skills that could possibly be used in doing the job. If you are clear about the most important skills that are needed, the odds are that you will get a more limited but more qualified applicant pool, rather than everyone who sees themselves as having any of the long list of skills that are advertised.

Also, think about how you list the job title. You need to use titles that describe the nature of the job as it is practiced now, not in the past. The same care needs to be taken with emerging jobs, such as cloud computing and green jobs.

Whether looking for work or looking for great workers, contact the Opti Staffing Group. We have offices in Anchorage, Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, Lake Oswego, and Chicago and we look forward to hearing from you!

Spotting “Fraudulent” Job Candidates

April 11th, 2012

They’re definitely out there: the job candidates who are “sheep in wolf’s clothing.” That is, they look good on paper, they’re great at interviewing, they claim to have the skills you need.

But do they really?

Here’s how to spot the job candidates who aren’t what they claim to be:

  •  Google the person and see what comes up. Is it far different than the person claimed?
  •  Check out their social media presence. What shows up in their Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles and feeds.
  • Let the candidate/interviewee have plenty of time to talk. Don’t be the one who speaks the most. Let the candidate speak and pay attention.
  • Aim for a longer interview rather than shorter. You can learn a lot of things about someone in an hour or 90 minutes; you won’t learn nearly as much in just 20 minutes.
  •  Check references and former employers. We’re constantly surprised about how many companies skip this important step. Did the candidate work where and when he or she said? Did the candidate have the job title claimed?
  •  Contact educational institutions to verify that the candidate did indeed graduate or receive certification in the degree or training he or she claims. If the candidate will be working with money or other sensitive information, consider paying for a thorough background and/or credit check.

If you’re tired of the interview candidate after candidate, speak to the Opti Staffing Group about performing initial screening and interviews of job candidates. We can cull through resumes and set up preliminary interviews and then just send the top candidates on to your office for second and even third interviews with just the cream of the crop! Contact us today!

4 Ways a Staffing Service Saves You Money

March 15th, 2012

Why should companies use a staffing service? Let us count the ways:

  1. Your cost per hire will decline. Many companies don’t have a dedicated human resources department, let alone experienced recruiters on staff. A staffing service has a laser focus on recruiting trends, is completely up to date on hiring laws, uses the latest in recruiting tools and, because of its focus only on recruiting, tends to know “where the good guys are.” A staffing firm will take on all the expense of advertising, resume screening, interviews, testing and background checks.
  2. You’ll find that your overtime costs also go down. When business is booming but you don’t have enough staff, partnering with a staffing firm will help you ramp up production with temporary employees rather than paying your regular staff overtime. In addition, the staffing firm is responsible for all temporary employees’ benefits and payroll expenses.
  3.  Have you ever ramped up your hiring due to increased business only to see the business decline, yet you still have employees to keep busy? A staffing service can bring you temporary employees to work only when there’s work to be done. Once you’ve no need for their services, you needn’t worry about having to pay laid off workers unemployment insurance.
  4. We can recruit for just about any type of position. Many smaller companies need certain types of professionals most of the time, such as accountants, administrative assistants, sales people, electricians, etc. But what happens when you need to hire someone outside of your experience? It will be harder for you to source these individuals. A staffing service, however, knows how and where to find professionals in all job sectors, saving you time and money in your search.

The recruiting experts at the Opti Staffng Group can help you find workers of all kinds for your Anchorage, Seattle, Tacoma, Chicago, Lake Oswego, or Portland company. Contact us today!

Growing Your Willpower Bit by Bit

March 7th, 2012

It’s a struggle for all who work in human resources or anywhere else for that matter. Having willpower is more than just resisting the temptation to do the things we shouldn’t, it’s also about establishing good habits and getting a handle on our behavior so that we can be more effective at work and in life as a whole. It’s something that can separate the best performers from the worst.

The bad news is that many of us don’t really believe we have much willpower. A recent survey of more than one million people revealed that willpower is the trait that most said they lack. And what we are confronted with today in our daily life only makes self-control more difficult. We surf the Web, jumping from one site to the next, checking out Facebook or Twitter, or checking our smartphones.

But willpower is something we cannot do without if we want to maintain our effectiveness at work and reach our lifestyle goals as well. Here are a few things you can do to increase your willpower, taken from the book Willpower by John Tierney and Roy Baumeister.

One way is to practice your willpower on small things. For example, by making yourself sit up straight at your desk, you are exercising the same willpower force you use to discipline yourself to lose weight or stop smoking. So, even keeping after yourself to sit straight can gradually also increase your self-discipline in other areas. A daily exercise routine works the same way to improve self-control.

Another piece of advice is to focus on just one thing at a time. For example, focus at first only on reducing the number of times you check your Facebook and Twitter feeds. Then, once you have that bad habit under control, move onto your next item, such as a new diet. You only have a certain amount of willpower and attempting to do too much all at once actually will exhaust it, impairing your ability to get anything done at all.

Another important thing to do to improve self-discipline is to keep track of what you do. If, for example, you want to reduce the number of times you look at Facebook, keep track in writing of the number of times you look at it each day.

Also, give yourself time to recover. Take some downtime, and make sure you are eating enough and sleeping enough. And finally, stay organized. If you work in a messy atmosphere, that may infect your self-discipline as well.

It takes no willpower at all to contact the Opti Staffing Group about available positions or for help with your staffing needs. If you live or staff a company in the Anchorage, Portland, Lake Oswego, Seattle, Tacoma or Chicago areas, contact us today!

Pregnancy and Discrimination in the Workplace

February 29th, 2012

Discrimination in the workplace against pregnant women is still a problem, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The bias persists even though there is a federal law prohibiting such discriminatory practices. The information is a red flag for human resource departments to take a look at their related policies and enforcement.

The EEOC investigated 20 cases in 2011 where there were indications that discrimination against pregnant women was happening. The number of discrimination claims filed by workers during the same year, however, was nearly 6,000, a 15 percent increase from 10 years ago, according to the agency.

On major discrimination case involved a security company that provides services to the federal government. In 2010 the company, Akal Security Inc., settled with the government for $1.64 million for allegedly forcing pregnant workers to take leaves of absence or being let go because of their pregnancy.

Discrimination can also take other forms, such as harassment. Those at most at risk for discrimination are low-wage pregnant workers who have few sick days, according to the EEOC. These women often are not given any consideration because of their pregnancy.

According to the law, discrimination occurs when a woman is treated unfavorably because she is pregnant or has a medical condition related to pregnancy. According to the EEOC, if a woman cannot perform her job because of a medical condition that is related to her pregnancy, she must be treated the way any other disabled employee would be treated.

Even though employers have policies relating to pregnancy discrimination, it still happens. Managers who may not be aware of the law and are just looking at job performance may discriminate against a pregnant employee if they assume she will not return to work and give her job duties to someone else, or assume she eventually will drop out of the workforce to raise the child. These kinds of attitudes have to be eradicated through better training and enforcement of policies, according to officials.

The biggest problem with discrimination seems to be at smaller companies, who don’t have the training needed to inform employees about the law. Women report that they were fired as soon as they informed the company about their pregnancy, and were told they were let go specifically because they were pregnant.

When you’re looking for reliable and professional temporary workers for your Chicago, Anchorage, Seattle, Tacoma, Lake Oswego, or Portland firm, give a recruiter at the Opti Staffing Group a call. We look forward to hearing from you!

How HR Can Be a Change Leader

February 22nd, 2012

In order to make a greater contribution to business, human resource departments need to focus more on speeding up improvements in the operations of business, and less on its usual administrative and compliance duties.

That’s the message of Brad Power, a business consultant. To speed up process improvement, human resources can do several things, Power says.

One is to hire people in HR who have a lot of experience in bettering the operations of businesses. These are people who have the know-how to work with managers on the line and talk to them about making operational changes, Power says. They have the knowledge and the credibility to confront managers over whether they are improving the skills of their employees when they redesign jobs.

As an example of this, Power cites the work of Tony Scibelli, a human resources manager at a medical center. Scibelli brought in a director of organizational development, creating a new position at the medical center to do it. This person directs the training and education programs at the healthcare complex, as well as working on problem-solving skills, team building and worker engagement.

Lowe’s did the same thing when it hired someone with a management background to lead its process improvement program from human resources.

Another thing HR departments can do to focus their energy on process improvement is to whittle down and, if possible, even outsource the traditional administrative activities. Functions such as payroll and benefits should be run efficiently and reliably at the lowest cost possible. They need to be simplified, standardized and automated as much as possible, so that HR can focus more on the operational aspects.

Also, within human resources, a group should be formed that focuses specifically and exclusively on operational improvement, Power says. The group’s sole objective should be to speed up operational change using new strategies and developing people to play new roles. This group should act as a change agent within the organization.

Naturally, Power says, HR cannot ignore its traditional administrative functions, and it won’t get very far at organizational improvement and change if it doesn’t take care of these activities. But at the same time, human resources needs to be more proactive and get out from under its traditional functions. It may involve taking some risks, but if human resources departments don’t take the risk, they will be missing great opportunities to help add real value to their companies.

If you’d like to take some of the tedious recruiting and staffing tasks from off of your plate, contact the Opti Staffing Group. We can help businesses in Anchorage, Seattle, Portland, Lake Oswego, Tacoma and Chicago find great workers for their temporary and direct-hire needs. Contact us today!

Crowdsourcing: The Way of the Future?

February 16th, 2012

If you work in human resources, a trend to keep an eye on is something called crowdsourcing.

It is part of a larger trend in business where having access to resources is more and more replacing the traditional model of ownership of resources, according to Rita McGrath, a business school professor. One example of this that McGrath cites is the ZipCar, where you rent a car when you need it and then return it when you’re finished. You may need it for just one trip, or longer. Another access model is called AirBnB, where people share rooms. Another access-model company is called oDesk, which allows businesses to hire independent contractors in almost any area.

These models are changing people’s ideas about what is needed to operate a business, McGrath says. She says outright ownership of any resources, including permanent employees, soon may become an outdated kind of model. Resource-access models fit better with our globalized world, where being flexible is a big priority. When things change, it is more difficult to make changes in your business when you have to readjust everything you have, rather than simply going out and finding new resources that you can use, McGrath says. And often businesses don’t need resources permanently, so accessing the resources you need just for the time you need them is another attractive aspect of the resource-access model.

And this is where crowdsourcing comes in, which is based on the idea of using services just for when you need them. It is like outsourcing, but it is different in that you are using the labor of hundreds, even thousands, of people who each are doing a very small task, which when taken together, can do things machines cannot. The employer doesn’t have to take on even temporary contract help, let alone use permanent workers.

The obvious disadvantage of such a procedure is that it reduces the number of full-time jobs. But McGrath points to some advantages as well. It is useful for people who are just looking to make a little walking-around money, when it’s not practical for them to get a full-time job, maybe for physical reasons, for example.

McGrath contends that norms are changing in society, and that includes traditional ideas about stable working relationships. She says that in the future, more companies may be turning to things like crowdsourcing.

Contact the recruiting experts at the Opti Staffing Group when you’re looking to bring on workers for temporary, temp-to-hire or direct-hire assignments in your Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Lake Oswego, Tacoma, or Anchorage company. Contact us today!

The Problem with To-Do Lists

February 9th, 2012

If you work in human resources, you probably have the ever present to-do list. Everyone has them, and they may think that using them is helpful, but one business analyst says get rid of them – and he offers an alternative.

Daniel Markovitz says that there are a number of problems with to-do lists that really make them pretty much useless. The first is that they give you too many choices. All of these choices actually create more problems than they solve because they increase our frustration. And this happens because we see the opportunity costs – the value of what we could be doing but are not – go up. Other research has shown that we can actually only handle about seven choices before we become overwhelmed, according to Markovitz. It is easier to decide and act on things when there are fewer choices. So, when you look at a long to-do list with many items on it, all it does is foster a sense of paralysis.

Another problem with to-do lists is that they lead us to focus on the things that we can do quickly, and avoid those that take some time, so the more time-consuming tasks (which often are the most important) inevitably get pushed aside.

In addition, a typical to-do lists sees you taking care of those tasks that you identify as a high priority first, neglecting the ones that are lower priority, until the lower priority tasks can no longer be ignored. But if you had taken care of the low priority tasks without delay, they would never have become urgent tasks to begin with.

Another problem with the list is that sometimes you get no idea from it how long a task will take or how much time you have to devote to the task, which prevents you from making a good decision on which item to work on. And the to-do list really provides no incentive to do the more important task over the more pleasant task.

What Markovitz recommends instead is to first estimate how much time you think each task will take, and then transfer it to your calendar. This will force you to decide which task you will handle at what time – and will alleviate the problems mentioned above.

By doing this, you also get a better picture of what time commitments are involved, and whether you can meet them. You will be forced to decide whether you can do a certain task, or even if it is worth doing.

If you need help with recruiting, place the “task” of contacting the Opti Staffing Group at the top. We can help source, vet and place terrific workers for your Anchorage, Seattle, Portland, Lake Oswego, Tacoma and Chicago company’s temporary, temp-to-hire and direct-hire assignments. Contact us today!

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