Sunday, October 25, 2015

Individual Assessments ~ What They Are & Why You Need to Use Them in Your Small Business!

#BackgroundChecks #Hiring #SmallBiz
No two people are exactly alike. They are made up of unique backgrounds and circumstances, and even specific life experiences. And this could not be more true than when it comes to a criminal past.
Even when two people have been charged with the same crime, not all things are equal. Things like ~ were they arrested, but not convicted?, how long ago did the crime occur?, were there any relevant mitigating circumstances?  

Understanding these differences and accepting them is important ~ especially when it comes to hiring.
This is where Individualized Assessments come into play.

In our view, these assessments are an inevitable extension of “Ban the Box”. They are an integral part of the movement to eliminate the immediate disqualification of ex-offenders from being hired.  

Why Your Small Business Needs to Use Individual Assessments Now! Tweet This

Individualized Assessments are used when the background check on your applicant uncovers a "red flag" or a criminal past that may keep you from hiring them. And when this happens, there are specific steps you must follow to be compliant with EEOC guidelines.

These steps involve informing your applicant, in writing, that they may not be hired due to their background check findings; giving them a chance to explain or mitigate your findings; and assessing the additional information provided before making a final hiring decision. 
The challenge for anyone involved in the hiring process ~ from human resource departments, to hiring managers, to company owners ~ is to use what you find out during these assessments correctly and fairly.

In most cases, your hiring decision will rest on 2 factors ~ whether the mitigating information supplied by your applicant is relevant and whether their history has a direct bearing on their ability to do the job safely and effectively. 

When your applicant is given the chance to explain the circumstances of these "red flags" or their criminal history, or to refute the background check findings, they are essentially being given the opportunity to state their case

Relevant information supplied by your applicant could include:
  • Any proof that the background check information is incorrect.
  • Any mitigating facts surrounding the findings.
  • Any efforts at rehabilitation, education, or training since the offense.
  • Any employment or character references.
  • Any evidence of successful employment history pre and post conviction.
If your applicant does not respond to your attempt to gain additional information on their history, then you are within your rights to make your hiring decision without it.

It is also important that you consider whether the information uncovered is relevant to the job and if using it to deny employment is a decision of “business necessity”.
When it comes to a Criminal History, Factors You Need to Consider Include:
  • The nature and gravity of the offense.
  • The time that has passed since the offense.
  • Their age at the time of the offense.
  • The nature of the job.
In addition, you should only consider offenses for which your applicant was convicted, not just arrested.

The EEOC guidelines state the importance of considering convictions, not arrests, in your hiring decisions. In their estimation, arrests do not necessarily indicate guilt. Convictions, on the other hand, can be treated as evidence of guilt. 

Find out more about the importance of using Convictions, not Arrests, in your Hiring decisions, Here!

However, even when only considering convictions, the EEOC still requires Individualized Assessments. 

This is why it is so important that you have sound policies in place to cover the use of Individualized Assessments in your hiring practices. Doing this well in advance of placing your “Help Wanted” sign is key.

And any time you can put hiring policies in place to keep your company from the notice of the EEOC, it is a good thing!

You can find additional tips to help you stay under the EEOC’s radar Here!

What You Should Do:
  • Be Sure to Draft and Finalize Steps You will Take During Individualized Assessments
  • Be Sure all the Steps Comply with EEOC and all State/Local Guidelines
  • Be Sure any Decisions to Disqualify an Applicant from Employment is Reasonable and Specific to the Job
  • Be Sure to Notify the Applicant, in Writing, of all Decisions Made Regarding the Background Check & Your Hiring Decisions
  • Be Sure to Keep Detailed Records of all Steps Taken
Following these will ensure that You are complying with all aspects of the Individualized Assessment and document the steps taken during your decision-making process.

Individual Assessments ~ Fair to Your Small Business & Your Applicants!  “Tweet This

At API, we believe that using Individualized Assessments as part of your hiring process is a good thing.  

They keep a strong balance between the rights of Your Company to hire safe and qualified employees, and the chance for ex-offenders and applicants with other "red flags" to gain employment.

Using Individual Assessments brings common sense and second chances into the hiring equation ~ without resulting in any excessive burdens on Your Company or Your Applicant!

Remember ~ No two life stories are exactly alike. People are more than what is written on paper and they can grow and change. Bringing that view into your Hiring process makes sense. And this is where Individualized Assessments come in!

Are You Ready to Use Individual Assessments in Your Small Business?

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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Are You Ready to Make a Difference? How Pope Francis Inspired Me in My Small Business!

#SmBiz #MakeaDifference

Each year, one Saturday in October is celebrated as “Make A Difference Day”.

It is a time to really think about what we can do both as individuals and as a country to make a positive change to the people and to the world around us.  And I believe that inspiration on what we can do can come from anywhere.

This year, I found it in Pope Francis‘ visit to the United States.

You would have to have been completely off the grid to be unaware of Pope Francis’ every move while he was in the U.S..  
Not only was his visit covered extensively in the media (updates on the Pope’s progress filled every channel) but it was a shared topic of conversation among many.  

The outpouring of positive support for the Pope and his message carried across people of mixed denominations, races, and classes.  
His words became a shining example of what it means to come together as a people.

Pope Francis shared his views on issues such as immigration, the environment, and religious freedom.  He encouraged both liberal and conservatives to find common ground and work for the good of all.

Pope Francis’ even challenged Congress to use their power to heal “open wounds” caused by hatred and greed.  This is indeed a lofty goal ~ but not impossible.  The key is willingness to move beyond self and to “remember the Golden Rule: 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’.”

The Pope also spoke of the importance and role of businesses in promoting change.  He stressed a focus on carefully using our natural resources and our growing technology to keep the spirit of entrepreneurship alive.  

In his own words, Pope Francis believes in Business as “a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world”

He also addressed the selling of weapons to those intent on terrorizing others, “Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money”.

Pope Francis calls for all of us, individuals and companies, to move beyond a focus on profit at any cost and think about what we are doing and the impact it will have on the world.

photo via Climate Caretakers

And even weeks later, his message has left me with a calling of my own to try and Make a Difference.

Especially when it comes to using my own Small Business!

The changes I make do not have to be on a global level.  Instead, I choose to focus on doing things that can make a difference in my own community, to my clients, and to my company.

In my community, I can make a pledge to “Shop Small” whenever possible.  I can volunteer my time and my company to help other small businesses and non-profits in my area.  And I can make sure that I run my business with integrity, making sure to give my very best to my clients.

I can vow to not fall into the trap of making decisions solely based on the bottom line.  While making a profit is of course necessary for any small business, it doesn’t have to be my ultimate goal.  

Instead, I can carefully choose what I do so that first and foremost, it will make a difference.  

I can treat others with respect.  

#SmBiz #MakeaDifference

And although this quote focuses on employees, I believe it can pertain to everyone we come in contact with.  Keeping it in mind, I can approach others with the faith that we are all worthy.  And that we are all capable of facilitating change. 

I can do what I can to use my Small Business to truly Make a Difference and Pay it Forward to those around me.  By helping other small business owners through my services and offering my support where needed, I am able to achieve this goal. 

I have found that the “greatest way to realize success myself is to help others achieve theirs”!

Read more about my thoughts on how you can use your Small Business to create a “Pay it Forward Cycle of Success”!

As Small Businesses, I believe we have the power to enact change. We can dedicate ourselves to it within our own company, and we can band together to promote change on a larger level.

Needless to say, while I believed in this concept before, Pope Francis’ visit really touched a nerve.  As individuals we may feel we can’t do enough to really promote change, but that is not true.

Even One Person can Make a Difference!  “Tweet This

What it does take is many individuals doing the absolute best they can.  And as more of us take up this challenge, we can change our world.

I close with these words from Pope Francis;

“The challenges facing us today call for a renewal of that spirit of cooperation, which has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United States. The complexity, the gravity and the urgency of these challenges demand that we pool our resources and talents, and resolve to support one another, with respect for our differences and our convictions of conscience”.  

In addition, “We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.”

I believe We can Do it!  Are You Ready to Make a Difference?

Please Pay it Forward and Share!  Leave a comment too.  I would love to hear from you!

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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Dangers to Your Small Business Pt. 3 - Violence and Drugs in the Workplace

#SmBiz #DangerousEmployees
Could Your Employee turn Violent?
Hiring the right employees for your company is an important factor in your success. But what happens when instead of being an asset, that employee actually harms your business?

In this 3 Part Series, we have taken a look at Employees who can put Your Business in Danger. The final Installment ~ Violence and Addiction in the Workplace!

Violent and Addicted employees pose a special danger to  businesses. Not only are they a problem for your other employees and clients, they can have serious complications for your company.

The Dangers of Violence in the Workplace
While violence in the workplace is not common, it can happen.  
And as an employer, it is your obligation to do what you can to prevent, recognize, and stop it whenever possible.

As with most business dangers, prevention should be your focus. Being proactive before hiring a potentially dangerous employee simply makes sense.

Your First Line of Defense against a Violent Employee is the Background Check  
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You need to review and, if necessary update, your company's hiring policies to include criminal background checks. At the minimum, this screening should include court record checks at the county and state level. Best practice is to cover all jurisdictions where your potential employee has lived for the past 7 - 10 years (unless different parameters are dictated by federal and local laws).

For tips on getting the best criminal background check for your needs, read “Be Smart ~ Why You Need to Do More than Just a State Criminal Check”!

In addition, you need to be vigilant about checking your applicant’s past employers and references. Dig into their workplace demeanor and behavior towards fellow employees and clients.

Developing a sound Written Policy to deal with Workplace Violence is another important part of your prevention plan

This plan should include language that specifically prohibits any violent behavior and the consequences should it occur.  

Your policy should address violence on many levels. Verbal harassment that leads to physical contact, fighting, and even the more serious instances of assault.

You should also include your stance on bringing weapons to the workplace. It is best to prohibit the possession of all weapons on company property.  

You need to communicate your workplace violence policy clearly and consistently throughout your company. Make sure everyone understands that there is zero tolerance for violent behavior and the ramifications if your policy is violated.

Some other steps you can take to curb workplace violence include:
  • Creating a Strong Relationship between Employees and Management ~ Foster and encourage an atmosphere of trust, honesty, and respect.
  • Protecting specific employees who are likely targets ~ Human resource employees, managers, and you as the owner of the company.
  • Establishing Strong Termination Procedures ~ Treat fired employees with dignity. Be sensitive to their feelings of failure and anger. Be sure to include exit interview protocol and security procedures that calmly but clearly remove the terminated employee from company property.
  • Taking all Threats Seriously ~ Identify procedures to report any threats made against specific employees and your company. Be sure to follow up and investigate.
  • Consider Hiring Outside Security ~ Control who goes in and out of your company. Prevent any weapons on your premises. Respond to any violent incidents.  

The Dangers of Drugs in the Workplace
#SmBiz #EmployeeDrugAbuse
Employees Who Abuse Drugs are:
  • Often late or frequently call off
  • Unproductive
  • Perform Poorly
  • Distracted or Unfocused
Signs of Employee Drug Abuse Include:
  • Frequent Accidents
  • Frequent Absenteeism
  • Erratic Behavior and Mood Swings
  • Slurred Speech
  • Dilated Pupils
Employee drug abuse can have serious implications on your entire company. When an employee is on drugs, they are often incapable of making sound decisions, on top of often being physically impaired. This can result in more on-the-job accidents and injuries, both for the employee using drugs and those around them. This can cost you both in harming your workforce and being dangerous to you financially.

Once again, your best offense is a good defense. 
This means creating an effective workplace drug policy that includes a drug-testing program.  

A Strong Drug Program Includes:
  • A Company Drug Policy ~ Include information on Prevention, Drug Testing, and Consequences of Violating Your Policy
  • An Employee Assistance Program ~ Your program should help those that either self-identify their drug problem or who are identified as having a problem.
  • A Procedure to Familiarize Employees with Your Policy ~ Make sure everyone understands your drug abuse policies including use, penalties, and assistance programs available to them.
  • Open and Frequent Discussion about Drug Abuse ~ Informational programs on drug use and how it impacts employee performance. 

Why Both Workplace Violence and Employee Drug Abuse are Dangerous to Your Business
Many times businesses may think that putting procedures in place to prevent, identify, and manage violence and drug abuse in the workplace is beyond their means or really don’t make much of a difference. This mindset can have serious consequences.

Having strong workplace violence and drug abuse prevention and identification policies can actually help your business.  

An immediate benefit is that your company will be viewed as proactive and preparedThis can attract better employees, increase morale and productivity, and reduce employee turnover.

You will also create a safer work environment that can help put your employees at ease. Workplace accidents often decrease, along with fewer insurance and worker’s compensation claims.

It is important to realize that employers are often held responsible for the behavior of their employees. You can be found liable for what they do while in your employ.

If someone is injured or harmed by your employee, you can be responsible for any compensation they are due. This can include medical bills, physical therapy, and even counseling.

It is often easier to assign blame and get compensation from you, the employer, than it is to sue your employee.

Most importantly, being vigilant against Workplace Violence and Drug Abuse can help protect you against Negligent Hiring lawsuits.

Negligent hiring suits are built on the premise that as the employer, you should have been aware of the dangers your employee posed and you were careless in hiring them.  The blame is placed on you for putting your other employees or clients in harms way.
Background Checks Protect Your Business from Negligent Hiring Suits
Your number one protection against negligent hiring suits is the Employment Background Check.  

Making sure to screen for any past issues of violence or drug abuse is key.  

This is also where recognizing the signs of potential problems comes in. Show that you take the signs seriously. Follow all your procedures to the letter and document everything each step of the way.

These steps can help you avoid liability due to negligent hiring.

It is important that you are aware of any Potential Dangers to Your Business. Taking the time to recognize and plan for them now will go a long way towards helping Your Company Succeed!

In case you missed them, please click on these links to Parts 1 and 2 in this series highlighting "Dangers to Your Small Business" ~ "Employees Who Steal” and “Workplace Bullies”.

Please Pay it Forward and Share this with any Business Owners You Know!  Thanks!

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You will discover more About Us and how our Background Check Investigation Services can help.  Let’s Connect!  Visit our Contact Page for links to all our social sites. We would love to hear from you!


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Dangers to Your Small Business Pt.2 - Workplace Bullies

#SmBiz #OfficeBullying
Is Your Workplace Safe from Bullies?

You spend a lot of time and effort getting and keeping your  Business running. But there are things that can threaten to stop you in your tracks.

In this series, we will highlight 3 of them and share tips to help you identify and prevent them from becoming dangerous to your Business.  

In this installment, we take a look at Workplace Bullies!

First, it is important to recognize that Bullying does occur in the Workplace.  And when it happens, it can have serious implications on both the victim and your company.

Victims of bullying are often plagued by health problems. They may experience elevated stress levels, changes in sleep patterns, and may even find themselves prone to panic attacks.

Even more seriously, they are more susceptible to stress-related illnesses like high blood pressure and ulcers.

How Bullying Endangers Individuals:
  • Mental Problems ~ Loss of Self-esteem, motivation, and focus.
  • Physical Problems ~ Frequent Illnesses, Problems Sleeping, Stress
  • Personal Problems ~ Family Stress, Financial Problems
Being bullied can also effect a person's work performance. Many victims suffer from decreased self-esteem, resulting in them having difficulty making decisions. Their confidence is low. They may also experience a loss of motivation. Their work suffers because they can no longer concentrate. 

Frequent absences are not uncommon. Victims would rather not come to work at all instead of spending their day worrying what their bully will do next or doing everything they can to stay out of the bully’s path.

Many times victims also feel a sense of isolation. They believe they are in this situation alone and that they have no where to turn. This is especially true of adults who feel that they are showing weakness if they are unable to handle the situation on their own.

All of this makes them a much less productive employee.  

#SmBiz #BullyingintheWorkplace
Many of us understand the effect that bullying can have on an individual ~ even if that person is an adult. But when it occurs in the workplace, it not only impacts the victim, but it can cause problems for all your employees.

Office Bullying creates a stressful and mistrusting work environment.  

Not only will the victim feel that no one is in their corner, but your entire workforce can believe that you don’t care about their welfare.

The result ~ you may lose valuable workers and have to spend time and money to replace them.
Workplace Bullying can Seriously Impact Your Small Business!  “Tweet This

Bullying can have an impact on your business as a whole. The loss of productivity, increased absences, and work environment tension can all cost your company.  

You may not realize that the impact of bullying extends beyond the bully and the victim. It can impact your customers and clients, your other employees, and even their families.   

How Bullying Endangers Your Company:
  • Your Finances ~ Lost Productivity, Replacing Employees Who Leave, Cost of Investigating Incidents of Bullying and Possible Legal Action, Worker’s Compensation and Health Insurance Claims
  • Your Work Environment ~ Loss of Morale, Creating a Hostile Atmosphere, Poor Company Image 
  • Your Productivity ~ Increased Absenteeism,  Workers’ Loss of Focus, Goals and Projections not being met.
Turning a blind eye to Office Bullying is never the answer. Instead you need to be proactive. Putting sound practices in place to identify and deal with it makes sense. It will help you protect your employees and your bottom line! 
Workplace Bullying will Hurt Your Small Business!

What You Need to Do:
  • Be Proactive and Screen Before You Hire! ~ Our Motto, “Trust but Verify”
  • Make Your Office a Zero Tolerance, Bully Free Zone 
  • Draft and Implement a Strong Policy for Dealing with Complaints
  • Hold Meetings to Familiarize Employees with Your Policy and Create Awareness
  • Encourage the Reporting of any Bullying
  • Establish a Safe Contact for Reporting Incidents of Bullying
  • Investigate all Complaints Promptly and Thoroughly
  • Enact Any Changes Necessary to STOP the Bullying
To find out more about Workplace Bullying and What You and Your Company can do, read “Adults Do it To ~ The Problem of Workplace Bullying”.

Being aware of potential Dangers to Your Business is half the battle. Once you are able to recognize the signs, then you can do what is necessary to protect you and your company as much as possible.

Discover more about the Dangers to Your Business in Part 1 of this series, “Employees Who Steal” and in Part 3, "Violence and Drugs in the Workplace"!

Remember....Being Forewarned is Forearmed!

Please Pay it Forward and Share! Leave a comment too ~ we would love to hear what you think!

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API can help you create a Safer and More Productive Environment for Your Business.  

Get Started Now!  
Learn more by visiting our About Us and our Background Check Investigation, Security Consulting, and Business Mentoring pages.
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