Thursday, September 27, 2012

Guest Post: New Graduates: 3 Things your HR Program Didn't Teach You in School

It's a busy week of guest posts and this one comes from Maria Rainer, a former human resources manager turned freelance writer. She now regularly contributes to, a website that is dedicated to higher learning as well as an array of other business and career-related blogs. She welcomes your comments. Here is what Maria had to give as advice to new graduates starting out in the workforce: -----------------------

So you've finally graduated and landed your first job in human resources—congratulations. While school may have prepared you for some common scenarios you may experience during your first year on the job, instructors most likely didn't tell you everything. After all, there are just some things you must learn through real-life trial and error. However, there are a few tips I can share with you that I learned during my first year as a human resources manager.

It's ok to Occasionally Network/ Socialize 

My first dip in to the HR pool was working as the head of Human Resources for a small start-up internet marketing company that was more or less modeled after Google: it was a completely relaxed environment, employees could wear jeans and sneakers, and there was an X-box and pin pong table in the break room. Not to mention everyone (aside from upper management) was under the age of 30, so I transitioned quite nicely coming directly out of college.

A few weeks into the job I quickly learned that my co-workers loved to drink—a lot. Happy hours were the norm. My third week on the job I went to my very first Happy Hour which turned out to be my last. I was just completely terrified of what I saw/heard during my co-workers' drunken states and I wasn't quite sure what I was supposed to report or not.

Shortly after that night I started to distance myself from my co-workers completely, even at lunch— I would eat by myself in my office, always wanting to uphold my image as HR manager. After all, that's what I was told to do in school: you can't fraternize with your subordinates. But in retrospect I was miserable. I didn't make any co-worker "friends." People were afraid to approach me. There's a difference between being respected and feared and I know now that you can still achieve the former and still do your job if you choose to socialize and network every once in a while. It's ok to have lunch with you co-workers! There are boundaries you must still respect, but it's ok to make a friend.

Be Timely/ Organized 

Since the company I worked for was so small, technically my title was HR Manager/Accountant. In my opinion I was over worked. I was constantly juggling both duties. When Christmas came around I was exceptionally overwhelmed. Vacation days did not roll over and were not paid out, so during the end of the year I began to get a flood of emails from co-workers requesting confirmation of how many PTOs they had left. To make things easier on me, I asked that I only be emailed on Mondays about PTOs. I never gave them a timeline of when I'd get back to them but said I would as soon as I could. My disorganization got the best of me and there were a few people I never even responded too. I dropped the ball. I got so caught up with other duties that requests and questions weren't getting answered fast enough, and soon people began to lose faith in me and went about other ways to obtain their information.

While it's understandable that you're new and are just learning to adjust, you need to do the opposite of what I did and make responses in a timely manner. If you say you're going to get an employee a needed form, information, or answer by the end of the day—do it!

Don't Discuss Employees' Pay, Even with Friends 

This last faux pas didn't happen to me, but to a friend that was working in the same field during her first year in human resources. Coincidentally my former classmate got hired as an HR manager at a company that her best friend's boyfriend was employed at. In HR school were told to never, ever discuss pay with other employees in the office. But to discuss it with someone who doesn’t work there? That was always a little blurry for some students. But my former classmate learned the hard way that even outside of the office discussing an employee's pay it's a huge no-no.

Over dinner my former classmate's best friend started venting that her boyfriend kept complaining he couldn't participate in all these date activities she planned because he was "broke." My former classmate said rather abruptly, "Broke? How so? I put [x] amount of money in his checking account and [x] amount of money in his savings. I wonder where all that money is going?"

The best friend broke up with her boyfriend—tuned out he impregnated another woman and was paying medical expenses—and my former classmate lost her job. The story is scandalous, but you should never ever discuss your employees' salary with anyone. Not even your family. You never know when it can come back to haunt you and get you terminated.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Guest Post: Background Check Errors: Prevention and Negative Consequences

Today we start off the week with a great guest post from Jane Smith, a writer and blogger who regularly offers tips on where to find the best background check service, possesses a great understanding of business and what it takes to find and keep great employees. Email her your questions at Here is what Jane had to say about Background Checks: -------------------------

Just recently, the second largest civil penalty for violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (a law that governs use of consumer information) was handed to an Oklahoma-based company that failed to verify the accuracy of their criminal background checks.

HireRight, a business owned by the holding company Altegrity, is based out of Falls Church, Oklahoma, and provides background check services to thousands of firms across the United States. Now, thanks to its failure to take the right steps in obtaining accurate criminal background checks, many people have been denied employment or employment-related benefits for the wrong reason.

This occurrence should raise concerns for anyone applying for a job that requires a criminal background check. This is especially important for people who have had past run-ins with the law, because many of HireRight’s violations involved reporting criminal offenses that had been expunged or reporting the same offense multiple times.

In addition to including the wrong information on reports, HireRight also reported criminal background checks that didn’t even belong to the employees being screened, so this error can affect literally anyone applying for work; a revelation that doesn’t sit so well in an economy where finding a job is already a difficult task.

Although regulators did not disclose how many people were affected by HireRight’s mistakes, we do know that the business was required to pay $2.6 million to the Federal Trade Commission to settle the charges. This indicates that the number of incorrect criminal background checks was certainly large enough to warrant a hefty penalty from the government.

The question any wise consumer and job seeker should ask after hearing this news is, “What can I do to prevent this from happening to me?” Even though there is no information about how the Federal Trade Commission discovered the violations, there are a few common sense ways for employees to find out if their criminal background checks are correct.

First, if you are turned down for a job opportunity or employment benefit that you know you qualify for, ask the employer to give you a detailed reason for the rejection. Second, if you do have a criminal history, let your employer know about this history in your cover letter or through a personal phone call before they do a check. Lastly, ask the employer if you may have a copy of your background check, or if you can at least check it for its accuracy.

Just like with credit reports, anyone can receive a copy of their criminal background check by using a reputable background check service. Many of these services operate online and can email your report directly to your email account. Although there usually is a fee to receive these reports, it can be well worth the cost, if you believe there may be errors.

The negative consequences of incorrect criminal background checks are greater than just a missed job opportunity. Incorrect reports can lead to widespread unemployment, long-term unemployment and loss of well-qualified, knowledgeable workers.

Because you can never know if the company being used for background check reporting is trustworthy, it may be wise to stay alert for any errors when searching for jobs or applying for employment benefits. If you have any questions about an employer’s reason to not hire you or not give you benefits, consider the possibility that your background check could be incorrect.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Astronology - Pay Equity in the Workplace - Do Gender Based Disparities Still Exist?

Astron Website Top 


Volume XIII

Issue 6

September 18, 2012

Dear Andrew,

Astron Solutions provides high-quality, low-cost, innovative human resources consulting services to organizations like yours. Call us for advice, innovative program design, and user-friendly Web/PC based software.


The Astron Road Show 

If it's almost October, it must be time for the Wisconsin State SHRM conference! Mike Maciekowich will be exhibiting and presenting again this year. The conference will be held October 3rd - 5th at the Kalahari Resort and Conference Center in Wisconsin Dells.


Then, rounding out our Road Show activities for 2012, Mike Maciekowich will present at the annual Nonprofit Human Resources Conference. This year's event, slated for October 7th - 9th, will be held in Crystal City, VA.


Thank you for your support of the 2012 Astron Road Show! We look forward to seeing you "on the road" in 2013. 


Pay Equity in the Workplace - Do Gender Based Disparities Still Exist?

The American Association of University Women released a report earlier this year revealing interesting statics regarding the pay disparity between women and men. In this issue of Astronology, we look into how broad these pay disparities truly are and how this situation affects human resources....
Continue article | Continue to Astron Solutions



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Copyright 2012, Astron Solutions, LLC

ISSN Number 1549-0467

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Sunday, September 09, 2012

How to Build a Startup Team

It's hard enough to build a team in an office but when you're a startup company, with limited resources and time is of the essence, you have to be almost perfect in your hiring. So then the question is do you go with family, friends and former co-workers--having the thought holding over your head that you may not be able to keep them on board if things go poorly--or do you go with talented strangers knowing that your loyalty to them is not as strong (but also knowing that their bond is not as strong as well)? Well here is what Inc. says you need to do to build a start-up team.

You can’t do it all yourself, but resist the urge to hire friends unless those friends have skills in areas critical to your venture’s success that complement your own. I found that the most successful ventures do a great job of dividing up the work that must be done among the most talented people. And they create a culture that binds them all together to focus on shared goals. 
That last sentence about the "focus on shared goals" is something that every company should strive for and, in that way, these suggestions really could apply to any company. The goal is to find people who complement each other and create a culture where everyone in your company is rowing in the same direction. That's one of the best ways to guarantee success.

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