The Importance of Open Communication in the Workplace

April 9th, 2014

If you are going to lead a successful business, you must create an environment with open communication and trust.  Open communication allows your employees to be more engaged and understand that what they do matters in the success of the business. Making sure your employees understand the big picture and the part they play in the success of the organization will help them understand why decisions are made and how those decisions impact them specifically and the company as a whole.   Effective communication will lead everyone to be on the same page; moving in the same direction toward the same goal.

Effective communication seems simple, but it does take effort.  Management should communicate their goals as well as those of the company. Routinely talking with your employees about their goals, both personal and professional, will create accountability for both management and employees.  When an issue surfaces, it must be dealt with immediately so everyone can move on.  Achievements must be recognized and communicated not only directly to the deserving individual, but publically so all can take part in the celebration.    When you create an open environment, it will lead to greater job satisfaction, reduced stress, loyalty and mutual respect throughout the organization with the outcome of creating a more productive work environment and a positive workplace.



Don’t Miss Out: Evaluating a Candidate’s Social Profiles In Addition to a Resume

February 14th, 2014

A resume and a detailed cover letter can provide volumes of information about a candidate’s personality and her readiness for the job. But when you’re faced with a stack of fifty resumes and only five available interview spots, you may benefit from an additional source of data that can help you make smart decisions and narrow the field. Enter social media. As you factor social profiles into your interviewing and hiring decisions, keep these considerations in mind.

Use Caution

Before you take this step, recognize the risks you incur to your company and its reputation. For example, simply opening a profile and discovering that the resume in front of you belongs to someone who is confined to a wheelchair can create a host of problems that you didn’t have two minutes before you made this move. Ensure that you know what you are looking for when opening social profiles, and take great care to not allow any bias to enter your evaluation.

Make Intelligent Use of the Information You Find

The HR world is full of sad stories like the one about the manager who opened a candidate’s profile and found pictures of her wearing a backpack and trekking through a remote part of the world. The manger rejected the candidate, since the photo made her appear “frivolous, unfocused, and out of touch with corporate culture.” This brilliant and talented marketing professional was later hired by the company’s competitor. A huge loss for the organization, based on nothing but a foolish Facebook review. Don’t miss out on great hires who cavort with their friends, wear unprofessional clothing, or have a life outside of their jobs. False impressions lead to self-defeating hiring decisions.

Use Social Profiles to Find Cultural Matches

If you’re ready to keep these warnings in mind and move forward with your social media search undeterred, use what you find to identify signs of a strong cultural match. If your office is populated with outdoorsy types, for example, then a candidate who likes camping, hiking or surfing might fit in well here.

For more information on how to work social media profiles into your candidate search, reach out to the Des Moines employment professionals and workforce specialists at The Palmer Group.

When is the Best Time to Start Looking for Candidates?

February 7th, 2014

At this time of year, employment professionals find themselves fielding plenty of questions related to timelines. Clients and business owners want to match their hiring plans with their business cycles, and job seekers are trying to anticipate these plans in order to position themselves for the best opportunities. So staffing and HR professionals are faced with questions like “Should I start the summer hiring process now, or wait until the spring?” And “I know my employee won’t retire until the fall, but I need her replacement to pick up exactly where she leaves off. What should I do?” And the most common question: “I expect my business to grow this year. I’m pretty sure we’re going to hit this one out of the park. Should I wait until my orders pile up, or should I hire right now?”

Our response can be broken down into two parts, or two schools of thought. Here are a few key benefits of each.

Just-In-Time Hiring

Lean hiring and lean manufacturing are built on the same basic principle: less is more. If efficiency is your goal and excess hands translate directly into lost money, then JIT hiring may be a wise move for you. Regardless of your business cycle, hire only when your current teams are bursting under the strain of their workloads and are about to become resentful. If your employees have already passed resentful and are now looking for other jobs, you’ve gone too far. But right up to that critical moment, if you take on extra hands, you’ll be setting yourself up to pay employees for their availability, not their productivity.

This strategy works best when your new employees step in the door already trained and experienced and ready to grab the ropes. To find these candidates, you’ll have to balance JIT philosophies with enough lead time to conduct a thorough search.

Pipeline Building and Long Term Planning

On the other hand, employees with highly specialized skills are hard to find, regardless of the state of the job market. And if you don’t give yourself enough lead time (sometimes months or even years), you won’t have a replacement ready when your senior employees give notice, and you won’t be able to transfer their wealth of institutional knowledge before they walk out the door.

If you’re more concerned with quality than efficiency, then the more lead time you give yourself, the better. In fact, you may want to develop a long term staffing plan that carries your company through the next two, three or five years. Approach your entry level employees now and start the grooming process that will carry them up through the ranks in the years ahead.

For more information on how to develop and carry out your long term and short term staffing plans, contact the experts at the Palmer Group.

The Pros and Cons of Hiring Passive Candidates

January 31st, 2014

Hiring “passive” candidates refers to a practice that some employers and recruiters also call “poaching,” or approaching potential employees who haven’t specifically reached out to the company or formally applied for a position. Candidates can also be considered passive if they make inquiries or submit an application, but are comfortably employed and show no specific interest in leaving their circumstances unless they’re presented with something better. Chasing passive candidates and selecting from an active applicant pool are two very different actions with different rules for success. And your choice between the two will depend on your hiring needs, your budget and several other factors. Here are some of the pros and cons of the passive search.

The Benefits of Passive Candidates

Passive candidates are often considered high value, in accordance with the logic of Victorian marriage proposals: If somebody else currently wants the candidate, she must be more talented and noteworthy than a poor unwanted soul who has to actively put some energy into the search for a job. If you buy into this arithmetic, then passive candidates are the ones you want. And if you aren’t willing to take a take a sedentary role in the courtship process, and would rather do some research and aggressively pursue the employees you want– regardless of their job search status– then use this method.

The Drawbacks of Passive Candidates

The problem with passive candidates is simply the other side of the same coin: with high contentment comes low motivation. You may need to pull and pry these candidates out of their current positions by making salary offers at the highest end of the spectrum…and you’ll have no guarantee that these high investments will bring high returns. In addition, once passive candidates are lured on board, they’re more likely to resist the status quo and may not easily adapt to your company’s culture and workplace practices. Active candidates often show higher levels of gratitude, greater adaptability, and lower salary requirements than their counterparts.

The end result usually comes down to a balance of power between the candidate and you, the employer. The passive search will help you find exactly the person you need to fill a very specific role, but you may pay a high price for this level of precision. For more on the steps required to find, approach, and negotiate with passive candidates, reach out the Des Moines Staffing pros at The Palmer Group.

Flu Season: How to Keep Your Employees Healthy

January 17th, 2014

As snow starts to fall and the stresses of the season begin to build, employers can expect to see a drop in general productivity due to colds and flu. Not only are teams run-down by general malaise this season, but absenteeism tends to hit record highs. So in order to keep your employees healthy and fight back against this expensive seasonal liability, consider taking a few steps like these.

1. Don’t hesitate to send employees home when they’re sick. And don’t just let them go home, send them. Some employees simply have to be ordered out the door on no uncertain terms.

2. Have an intelligent sick time policy already in place. If being sent home means the loss of a day’s pay, then you have a conflict on your hands. And you also have a choice to make—let the sick employee stay and infect everyone else, or send them home and lose a day of productivity and the good will of the employee who loses the hours. To avoid this problem, amend your salary policy.

3. Reject a culture of heroism. If most of your employees are salaried and have access to sick days, then there’s no reason for them to fight for the privilege of coming to work with the flu. Actively discourage employees who think this move will result in rewards, praise, or positive attention.

4. Don’t skimp on alcohol based hand sanitizer. A few economy sized bottles of this may bring the highest return on any investment your company makes this season. Place a bottle at the front desk, at every work station, near the copy machine, and in every bathroom. Periodically treat shared surfaces like doorknobs and elevator buttons.

5. Hold a brief seasonal meeting or training session in which employees are taught to keep their desks clean, keep their hands clean, and sneeze into the crook of the arm instead of into their hands. Use the meeting to encourage liberal use of hand sanitizer.

6. Watch out for other seasonal threats to health and productivity, including icy parking lots, treacherous outside steps, and wet floors. While you’re at it, make sure your employees aren’t sitting inside all day breathing recirculated air. Encourage them to put on proper winter gear and leave the building at least once every eight hours.

For more tips on how to keep your workforce safe and you employees healthy and happy until the spring, reach out to the Des Moines staffing experts at the Palmer Group.

The Fine Line Between Fun Company Culture and Lost Productivity

January 10th, 2014

Most managers recognize that a positive culture can do wonders for teamwork and productivity. But some employers are reluctant to allow too much fun into the professional workplace, and they’re even more reluctant to encourage employees to bring the fun on their own. Everybody loves fun, but unregulated fun in the workplace can sometimes  result in increased absenteeism, missed deadlines, insubordination, and a casual approach to the dress code. If you want your employees to relax and socialize, but you don’t want them to keep relaxing after break time comes to an end, here are a few ways to tell when you’re crossing the line.

A Fun Workplace:

Employees dress casually on Fridays, and “casual” is clearly defined in the dress code. Jeans, sweaters and sneakers are okay. Offensive T-shirts are not.

A Productivity Problem:

Employees dress “casually” in ways that upset their coworkers, threaten safety, and result in endless quibbling over shoe structure, hem length, and fair enforcement. These arguments eventually cut into time that should be spent on work related issues.

A Fun Workplace:

Employees have access to work-at-home schedules if their managers approve. Clearly defined “summer hours” are available between June and August, and managers always know which employees do and don’t make use of these hours. At all times, managers know exactly where their direct reports are and when they’ll be back in the office.

A Productivity Problem:

Some employees work at home and some don’t. Some have access to flex time and some don’t have this access. But nobody knows exactly who’s working on which schedule at any given time, even the employees themselves. And these flexible hours are distributed without rhyme, reason, seniority, or fairness.

A Fun Workplace:

When employees need a break from their desks, or they’d like to hold a meeting at a local coffee shop instead of a conference room, they request permission, which is granted unless there’s a reason why it should be withheld.

A Productivity Problem:

Employees who need a break or a change of pace simply disappear.

A Fun Workplace:

The boss has a sense of humor and her employees like to engage in lighthearted ribbing sessions, both with the boss and with each other.

A Productivity Problem:

Some employees enjoy lighthearted ribbing sessions, but others don’t. And some of those who enjoy this game lack the sensitivity and social skill to recognize when they’ve gone too far. Meanwhile, the boss doesn’t know how to control the climate in the room or rein in a potentially toxic exchange before it’s too late.

Encourage your employees to relax and have fun in the workplace, but make it clear that sometimes work and professionalism come first. For more on how to navigate this fine line, reach out to the staffing pros at The Palmer Group.

How to Handle Candidates with Long Term Unemployment in Their Job History

December 27th, 2013

Most employers in the private sector are free to hire any candidate who meets the requirements of the position according the manager’s best judgment. This is a highly subjective decision, and as long as your personal selection criteria don’t reflect bias based on ethnicity, gender, religion, race, handicapped status, or family status, you’re free to hire any candidate you choose over any other.

But even though it’s legal to hire or reject a candidate based on single traits or sweeping assumptions, this is almost always a terrible move. Rejecting a candidate outright based on traits that lack legal protection—like hair color, presumed sexual orientation, political leanings, or age– can ruin your company’s reputation over the long term, which will drive away strong applicants. Over the short term, acting on a silly bias will allow great candidates to walk out the door and increase your chances of signing on second rate contenders.

Managers are most often guilty of this blunder when it comes to employment status. Foolish employers turn away excellent candidates simply because they’re currently out of work, which means they’re more likely to make offers to second rate stragglers simply because these people have managed to convince someone else to hire them.

Here at The Palmer Group, we adhere strongly to Business Management Rule #1: Mindless, knee-jerk, un-researched decisions rarely bring positive results. In the staffing game, this means it’s never smart to reject unemployed candidates simply because they are unemployed—especially candidates with strong qualifications. In fact, unemployed candidates are usually more affordable, harder working, and more highly motivated than the reverse, for a host of obvious reasons.

Questions to Ask Unemployed Candidates

When you encounter a highly qualified candidate who has been out of work for six months or more, we recommend asking any, or all, of these five questions during the interview process.

1. “Can you tell me about your last position and explain why you left?”
2. “Can you briefly describe your job search strategy?”
3. “What have you been doing during the past six months in addition to looking for work?”
4. “How are you staying in touch with what’s happening in this industry?”
5. “I’ll be honest with you. As a matter of policy, we’re concerned about your employment gap. What can you tell me that might alleviate these concerns?”

Listen carefully as the candidate speaks, and if the answers he or she provides are satisfactory, move past the subject and return your attention to the candidate’s qualifications for the job at hand. For more on how to look beyond a candidate’s current employment status during the hiring process, contact the Des Moines staffing experts at The Palmer Group.

Holding Out for a Better Candidate: Hiring for Potential Rather than Filling a Position

December 13th, 2013

If you have more than a few years of hiring or HR management experience under your belt, then you probably recognize this common scenario: Your interviewee has every skill he needs to tackle your open position. He’s clever enough, focused enough, and experienced enough to handle the tasks you place in front of him…right now. He can manage the work that shows up on his desk—the basic budgeting and scheduling and document management described in detail in your published job post.

But you have long-term plans for this position, and ideally, you’d like to take on a candidate who has no interest in managing these tasks indefinitely. You want a candidate who will use this job as a stepping stone and climb as quickly as possible into higher and higher levels of responsibility within the company. You want a candidate who will set his or her sights on a promotion starting on day one, and who won’t be content to idle at a given level. But unfortunately, you haven’t met this ambitious candidate just yet. So what should you do? Hire the applicant in front of you and hope for the best? Or let him go and hold out for someone with a little more ambition?

The Benefits of Holding Out

If you really want a candidate who will find the inside track to the next level, strive for a position of leadership, and use that position to help your company grow, then hold out until you see the resume you’ve been looking for. This may mean letting a valuable position stand empty for a while, but consider this a manageable risk. You may lose time and money as you scramble to get the work done while scheduling interview after interview, but when you find the right candidate, your investment will quickly pay off.

On the other hand, hiring a second-rate, unambitious person can be an expensive operation with very little long-term payoff. Yes, you’ll fill the seat quickly and get a pair of hands on top of that overflowing inbox. But when you need to take the next step, you’ll have to start the hiring process all over, find a new position for your current employee (or lay him off, which is never pleasant), and start the training process all over from the beginning. Be patient, target your search, and keep the process on track. In time, you’ll find the exact candidate you need. When that happens, you’ll be glad you waited.

For more details on how to manage tricky staffing challenges, reach out to the Des Moines hiring experts at the Palmer Group.

Four Red Flags to Watch Out For During Interviews

December 6th, 2013

The candidate across the table from you is clearly a winner. Her resume is impressive, and so far, this interview is going well. She smiles politely, sits up straight, and obviously she has a lot to offer—If she didn’t, she would never have stepped past fifty other applicants in order to make it to this stage. She’s professional, polished, and well-spoken. And you expected nothing less. You still have five interviews scheduled over the next few days, but at this point, the job is hers to lose.

…Until you notice one of the four red flags listed below. If your terrific candidate shows any of these questionable quirks, take a closer look before you make a formal offer.

1. Your candidate gets angry. Unless you deliberately provoke your interviewees by baiting or bullying them, there’s no reason any employable person should show visible signs of anger or hostility during an interview. (And here’s a hint: You should not be baiting or bullying your candidates.) Monitor your own language carefully and conduct yourself with professionalism and respect, and as you do this, expect your candidates to do the same. If they don’t, they’re out.

2. Your candidate is easily confused by simple questions and simple requests. Lots of highly intelligent people are extremely literal and tend to struggle with metaphors and expressions. And lots of highly intelligent people are easily flustered, forgetful, nervous, or scattered. But if your candidate has trouble following simple directions or stringing simple ideas together, as intelligent as he may be, he’ll probably be very hard to work with. If you’re fine with this, proceed. If not, think twice.

3. Your candidate can’t or won’t tell you why he left his last position. If your candidate is unwilling to discuss the subject, even in response to a direct question, that’s a problem. And if he dances around the issue, making excuses and blaming others for whatever went wrong, that’s even worse.

4. You catch her in an obvious lie. Don’t aggressively cross-examine your candidates or question their assertions. Take them at their word. But if your interviewee makes a statement that clearly opposes reality or runs counter to a claim on her resume, that’s a bad sign. This can be crushingly awkward for everyone in the room, but if both you and your candidate survive the moment (which of course you will), your next move is clear…Keep searching.

For more on the red flags and positive signs you should be looking out for during your interview process, reach out to the Des Moines staffing experts at the Palmer Group.

Solving Staffing Problems with Restructuring

November 29th, 2013

Some staffing problems are best approached from a broad, long term point of view that takes the entire structure of the organization into account. No matter how much careful planning went into your original staffing strategy, all organizations and businesses evolve over time, and so do individual positions and sets of responsibilities. If you’re facing any of the issues below, it may be time for a close look at how your teams are designed.


This kind of staffing problem usually takes place after a merger or new partnership, and it sometimes takes a year or more for redundant responsibilities to be identified. Not all parallel positions are easy to spot right away—what your company called an “associate development manager” may not have exactly the same title and responsibilities inside your new partner organization. But as these overlap issues become apparent, it may be time to close positions. When one of your “associate development managers” decides to leave the company, strike the position from the payroll instead of hiring a replacement, and you’ll avoid a layoff later on.

Changes in the Business Landscape

As you make a hiring plan and consider bringing a new candidate on board, think first about the long term future of the position. And not just the position; factor in the market life of the product line she’ll be working on, and even the long term life span of that division of the company, or the branch office in that geographic area. Is this position poised to grow? Or is it poised to disappear within five years? In either case, ask questions during the interview that measure the candidate’s long term plans against those of the company.

New Technology That Facilitates Productivity

Technology changes can happen quickly, and as a new app, machine, or software platform sweeps onto the scene, the human labor involved in a position can change quickly as well. Before you hire a new personal secretary, for example, make sure his position won’t become obsolete as soon as you start using a smartphone. And if it does, make sure he has somewhere else within the company to take his skills, or be prepared to let him go.

As You Grow, Do So Carefully and Strategically

A new product idea, expansion into a new overseas marketplace, or a merger with another company can all bring exciting unknowns. But before you begin collecting resumes and adding positions recklessly, think. Keep your staffing plans lean and streamlined, and wait until your current labor is force is maxed out before you start adding new workstations to your office.

Get some professional guidance as you move your workplace into an uncertain future. Arrange a consultation with the Des Moines staffing experts at the Palmer Group.