The Desk

September 11, 2017

Getting in the Temp Agency Door

The New Workforce

The New Workforce

At one point in time, getting formal temporary work was simply a matter of finding an agency. Well, actually, a little more than that. It was necessary to actually go in and fill out an employment application so that you could become a registered candidate. Then there were screening tests followed by an interview with the agency recruiter. Finally, you were asked about your availability and walked out with (1) a couple of time sheets in order to keep track of the hours you worked for (2) the job you were going to start doing the next business day.

In the Last Century

No, it wasn’t necessary to make an appointment. Having a resume was a nice thing to have. It showed a modicum of professionalism but more importantly, it showed you were prepared to work and show your work history.

Things changed a bit, but not drastically. The industry had little bearing on the protocol. It didn’t matter if it was office, labor, construction, nursing, or care giving. The routine was still the same. Labor agencies were even less formal. Simply go in, register, if the drop-in was not for the first time, simply put your name on the sign-in sheet, then sit and wait to be called for the next job.

Client Priority Changes

Some clients strove to streamline and formalize their operations. Their usual mode was to use their informal registration of applying to work via referral or emailing a resume and cover letter. They contacted their database of past workers to learn whether they were available for the next regular project and then did an new orientation. There was outreach for new workers who were sought by small advertisements and solicited referrals. But some decided to remove the paperwork and management from their workload. They turned to temp agencies to handle the administrative side of the employment issues. So the cadre of workers were required to register with the contracted agency during a registration period. The rest of the steps were the same.

New Game Plan

Sometime between 2008 and May 2017, the manner of working with an agency (from the worker’s side of the picture) changed. No more drop in, complete the application, go through testing, and walk out with a time sheet. Instead, applicants are now discouraged from even going into the agency office.

Instead, the applicant goes to the agency’s website and completes an application that’s accompanied by the applicant’s uploaded resume. In July, Joe Cummings, CEO, President, and owner of Royal Staffing, posted to LinkedIn by encouraging those who were seeking work to do so through his agency. The campaign was very similar to a current one that says, “Looking for a job? If so, we’re looking for you. Make your life easier and visit http://www.royalstaffing.com Look at the great opportunities we have waiting for you or someone you know.” What a great opportunity to find out how to be found. So I asked him to explain the new intake process used for registering temporary candidates.

“What we have our candidates do is fill out the online application. We reach out to each and every one of them once the applications received… If the applying candidate has the skills and a good work history for our niche market, we schedule an appointment for them to come in and interview. Prior to them coming in we do send them the assessment tests online and they complete them at home before they come into the office.”

This is now the protocol used by all agencies. Joe added some cautionary advice here. “[T]he job seeker is also responsible for following up on his or her application submittals to potential employers. The old adage still is very much alive today, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

But, What About?

There are still unanswered questions. This also begs the question of how the application / resume needs to be constructed in order to get temporary work – not gig work, just the fill-in stuff that used to be “easy-peasy”, walk in, take a test and complete forms, walk out with a time sheet and an assignment for the next day (and a paycheck the next week!).

Since there was no response by the end of June, I turned to the American Staffing Association to seek information. I explained my association and standing with the organization and asked for clarification about the change in protocol for registering with an agency. The burning questions were, “When did this practice begin and what is the reasoning for it?” Well, there’s been no response.

Digital and Modernization

Perhaps the reason for the change has to do with cost containment as well as the fact that we now do so much in a digital format. As each year since September 11, 2001 has passed, the need for security increases. Perhaps this manner of applying for work via the Internet has a small amount of attention to security issues. There is less need for office space and equipment so overhead is also reduced. Does that in turn mean that the contract workers can enjoy a small pay increase? It’s hard to say.

In the past, workers would choose an agency that was geographically easy to reach. At the end of the week, they could leave the work site and go directly to the agency office to drop off the verified time sheet. That also meant the previous week’s check could be held for them (not mailed) so they could personally receive it and handle it in whatever manner was necessary for their needs. Are checks now done via direct deposit? Security, as mentioned before, is growing to more than just physical site issues. Cybersecurity is now an important business concern. So perhaps that modicum of pay increase because of reduced overhead got absorbed by the expense of shoring up the vulnerabilities from the different weak spots. More open issues with no explanations.

The Same but Different

What remains is applying to work for more than a quick project now requires greater amount of formality. Yes, people do take vacations, go into hospital or take a leave of absence. Some employers manage the contingency by hiring one or two extra staff who have flexible skills. (That can become expensive over the long run.) And contingency work is still a great way to try out the talent before extending an offer of employment (also known as “temp to hire”) to get a 360, in-house evaluation of the talent. If the situation isn’t a good match, at least the “supply chain” of work continued without the usual interviewing / screening / onboarding interruptions created by traditional hiring methods.

And perhaps this is why the gig economy is not only growing but thriving today.

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June 27, 2017

Revised Healthcare Legislation

In May, the revised healthcare bill was presented to the House – and was approved. It was then sent to the Senate for approval and enactment.

We talk about the importance of transparency in business in order to gain trust and support. Apparently no one had that conversation with the crafters of the Senate’s version of the healthcare bill. The revisions were taken into a Star Chamber environment where the details were kept under strict secrecy.

We talk about the importance of diversity in creating product that appeals to a broader cross section of customers. That diversity provides for more input from different perspectives that result in a stronger product. It seems those conversations were also forgotten by mentors of Senate members. No women were included in the committee that hammered out the details of the bill.

Many have voiced concerns about matters such as women’s health issues (which present in a different manner than men’s), reproductive rights for women, pre-existing health conditions and coverage for them. Our veterans are concerned about coverage for disabilities acquired during warfare and military service. PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) is on the minds of many because of how that condition is growing. We need to be mindful of the fact that PTSD affects more than just military and veteran populations. Those who are survivors of major traumas and abuse are also prone to suffer from various forms of PTSD. However, that could now be considered a non-covered, pre-existing condition.

The House version of the healthcare bill had some major difficulties. Citizens raised their voices. The Senate version of the bill was modified but there have been many white knuckle days while the arcane revisions were crafted. The revisions did not satisfy the tastes of the entire Senate. Probably to the relief of many HR and benefits administrators, the vote on the revised healthcare bill has been delayed.

The costs associated with gaining coverage are skewed against the middle and lower classes of our population. According to an analysis on CBS This Morning, costs for those two income levels will eventually be four times greater than they are now while those in the upper class will enjoy tax breaks and premium increases that are not as draconian.

AARP published an article about the House version of the bill. It raised concerns and cited flaws in the bill. However flawed, the bill passed over to the Senate for review and approval; that is what brought us to this juncture in our review of things reaching The Desk today. The Senate version of the bill (formally called “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017”) has problems. So many, in fact, that even the partisan support that was expected for it failed. There was simply too much secrecy. The bill failed to address the concerns of the greatest boss of the Legislative branch – The People.

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May 14, 2017

Conflict: Metrics cf. Performance

Filed under: Ethics,Management,Morale — Yvonne LaRose @ 1:57 PM
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The idea for it was probably spawned by fitness tracking appliances. Whether it becomes a standard practice embraced by employees remains to be seen. Right now electronic badges worn by employees can track their physiology and provide information about their performance and engagement in the workplace. The badges are also equipped with two speakers that track the quality of vocalizations (not the words) in order to detect tension. The only time the speakers aren’t in operation is when an employee enters the bathroom.

Employers and managers use the data provided by these trackers in order to determine who is performing and at what level. The question is whether these badges are then useful for determining who needs additional training or coaching or maybe even a transfer to a different department where the employee skills are better used.

What the trackers do provide is feedback to the employees who elected to use them. The data also provides them with information about what may have contributed to a good, productive day compared with one of those days when their performance wasn’t as stellar.

What are the ethics in using this type of tracked information? One argument is the badges are only issued to employees who are willing to use them. That is the PR statement. It doesn’t address the matter of how many employees submit to using the badges because they fear retaliation or negative consequences if they refuse.

Another thing to consider with regard to performance is the degree to which outside factors, such as family stresses, influence a worker’s performance or reaction to various stimuli. Health conditions can also figure into how people manage situations, health conditions that were previously a private matter. Still another critical issue is the level of ethical practices an employee uses in executing their job. An aggressive sales person will use many questionable tactics in order to close the deal. Concerns about consequences after the fact are negligible, if they exist at all. Obviously, those more aggressive tactics are not going to be reported to the supervisor or manager. And it may be that the manager is the one who set the example for the strategy.

Still, we are told it’s the data that is the payload for the founder of Humanyze. So there’s little incentive to make these badges a pricey item to add to the management toolbox and increases its desirability for increasing productivity, engagement, and more informed management strategies. It provides more information, metrics, insight into what makes the worker tick.

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March 2, 2017

Terms of Art: Multitasking

Multitasking gone wrong

Multitasking gone wrong

The job ad called for someone who know how to multitask. The interviewee said they’re an expert at multitasking. In actuality, they were probably talking about being hyperactive and distracted while doing multiple things that are not in any way related to the other. What they’re actually talking about is double (or even triple) scheduling several tasks that aren’t related and then getting burnout because the person’s attention is being simultaneously pulled in many directions. Guess who’s going to drop the ball. Guess who’ll get blamed for the mess that results.

Terms start out meaning one thing. They’re an evolution of the language we use. Eventually the term becomes accepted and used without having a sense of what it actually means. It just gets used at an increasing rate and in more places until it’s just a more sophisticated sounding term that people assume means one thing. But in actual practice, what the person is thinking it means is a totally different situation.

In a business sense, you might think of multitasking as similar to supply chain management or SCM. SCM is a large scale multitasking endeavor. It involves more of the picture and more points of reference to track and manage. It involves managing and coordinating different parts of a process so that the entire thing comes together at the same time. This is very important when you have schedules that need to be kept. The degree to which the project is well organized and orchestrated indicates there will be few glitches.

Still in a business sense, a prime example of multitasking would be in the kitchen of a restaurant (or even a fast food establishment). You start with preparing the tools in order to cook the food. Then you begin the food preparation while the stove (or oven) is heating. Maybe it’s the pot or skillet that needs to hold the food. No matter. While those are in process, it’s time to cut, peel, dice the items that will go into the cooking container. Likewise, the food that needs the longest duration for cooking will be the first into the container. Meanwhile, whatever utensils that were used and are no longer necessary for the preparation can be washed and stored as the dish continues to cook. All the items for the plate are being processed to reach the plate at the same and with the same temperature.

In a domestic setting, it’s entirely possible to start washing a load of laundry while another load dries. Since neither of those activities need to be monitored, it’s possible to start the dishwasher as well as vacuum (or sweep) the floor. The machines are minding the long duration, automated activities while the one task that requires human management is done.

So when you’re talking about multitasking (or any other jargon of the day), make certain you know the proper definition of what you’re doing and discussing. To do otherwise may bring you to the end of a conversation filled with misunderstandings and disappointments. Make certain you’re both talking about the same thing and that you understand the concepts behind the definition.

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December 25, 2016

Colorado School of Public Health Dean Description

Filed under: Education and Training,Management — Yvonne LaRose @ 7:34 PM
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An announcement from American Public Health Association on December 13 announced an opening for the position of Dean at the Colorado School of Public Health.

The position descriptions were two .PDF attachments. As a one-time courtesy, those descriptions are being included in this post.

The announcement said

“Greetings ICEHS!

Please see attached job Description and advertisement for Colorado SPH Dean. The deadline ‘to receive full consideration’ is January 9, 2017.”

The description: coloradosph-dean-job-description-final

The advertisement: coloradosph-dean-ad-final-003-1

Best wishes to all who apply.

November 24, 2016

Post-Election Stress

Filed under: Diversity,Leaders,Morale — Yvonne LaRose @ 12:01 PM
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There are some who are still going through the decompression phase of post-election stress. There are still some experiencing anger, anxiety, depression.

Under Pressure

Under Pressure

According to an interview with Washington-based psychologist Alison Howard, which appeared in Psychology Today, “. . . “I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Howard, who stressed that such feelings were natural and not a mental health pathology. (Emphasis supplied)

There are other accounts of how this election has taken a toll on the population. “Stephen Strosny, a psychologist in a Washington suburb who voted for Clinton, said he started noticing a spike in election-related stress in April, when he coined the term Election Stress Disorder, whose symptoms include anxiety, trouble concentrating and nervousness with resentment.”

Although the article recommends being mindful of self in order to overcome the stresses being experienced at this time, there is something more that I would recommend.

  • Find a positive aspect of things that happen.
  • Develop an attitude of Life as filled with teachable moments.
  • See your life as a continuing path.
  • See your role and your activities as purposeful and meaningful.
  • Endeavor to fulfill some aspect (or become prepared to do so) of those activities each hour of each day.
  • Be open to candid and respectful conversations with others about how your endeavors can be a cohesive effort toward improvement – for living together, working together, bein part of the same community.
  • Identify the things in your life that have mutualities with others of opposite positions.
  • Build on the differences of perspectives and how each can be applied to something that is of mutual benefit.

No matter what you do, it isn’t necessary to carry around a mental self image like the one above. Make certain your endeavors are lawful and leading toward a positive outcome.

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July 23, 2015

About Anna’s Linens

A few days ago I passed by an Anna’s Linens store. To my surprise, the window walls were covered with “GOING OUT OF BUSINESS” signs. Goods and store fixtures were still behind the signs, which indicated the move was recent. I wondered whether it was merely the one store or the entire chain and made a mental note to check news about the business before I spoke of the siting.

Planning for success

Planning for success

Yesterday I found the answer to my question. There are quite a number of news stories about Anna’s attempts to be bought out by a stronger entity rather than file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The talks fell through; bankruptcy papers were filed; the entire chain is closing.

Before reading the news accounts of the business’s status, I speculated about what may have led to the closing. Their target market seemed to be a particular demographic by virtue of the location of their stores. It was typical to find them near or renting space from a discount grocery store in a heavily Hispanic and/or Black community.

Perhaps economic pressures contributed to the downfall. Although in the early days, goods were at bargain or reasonable prices, that practice did not hold true as time passed. The new order showed that the prices of goods were very much comparable to other similar vendors. In fact, it was entirely possible to get the same goods at a Target or Walgreens for a better price.

In addition to pricing, there was the matter of misleading advertising. The print ads lured customers in for the (for example) standard-sized pillow at 30% off. But once the customer entered the store, either the pillows were all sold out or the actual goods on sale were the over-sized pillows that were not on sale and at a higher price point. (A little bait and switch brought back to life.)

With the typical bait and switch, it appeared that was the lead-in training for questionable practices by the staff. They were helpful but it seemed they were too willing to look for that item the shopper really wanted while they no longer had it but something similar for a little higher price. After working in that type of environment, how much of the sales and business ethics practices became a part of the workforce psyche and how far was that cast? Second-hand learning could be passed on to children, friends, and siblings of the workers. Associates of the workers may have fallen victims of the practices used outside of the store, things such as trade items, collaborate on activities, or build terms of relationships. It became an environment much akin to “Big Brother” or “Survivor” and I finally had enough. I stopped shopping there and sought better bargains at places I felt were much more ethical.

News accounts say the company over expanded too rapidly. The act of gaining more funds and committing oneself to to many financial obligations stretched resources too thin. Most likely economic factors such as people no longer in possession of discretionary spendable dollars also contributed to the downfall. The fact that many of those in the business’s target demographic are existing on slightly more than minimum wage incomes probably didn’t help the circumstances for anyone. And now, as a nation, we’re talking about incrementally raising the minimum wage to $15 over the next five years.

The shelves and racks, the counters of every store, no matter the size, were always filled to overflowing. There was even more in the back in the unlikely happenstance that a particular style, size, or color was not on the sales floor. Perhaps that was yet another factor that played into Anna’s demise – too much held in inventory. It costs money in terms of plant space in order to store quantities of things that aren’t being sold. After a time, items become shelf worn and need to be cleared, even at a slight discount, in order to make more space. But when your inventory isn’t moving, that should be a major indicator that you need to re-order in smaller quantities and at less frequent intervals. It seems someone at Corporate wasn’t using that philosophy.

It’s good that they have been responsible and made arrangements for paying last wages to all of their 2,500 employees.

The question in the back of my mind is how to interview those people to legally screen them for the types of ethical practices one should use in your own business. It would need to be the type of screening administered to every person who applies for and is interviewed for a job with the business and at any rung of the hierarchy of the enterprise. That will take some consideration and conclusions based on decisions from HR, management, and legal departments.

So Anna’s Linens is joining the ranks of many other businesses across the nation and adding to the number of empty building walls abutting one another. Anna’s Linens is closing.

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July 1, 2015

On Your Shoulders

Reliability

Reliability Definition Magnifier Shows Trust Quality And Dependability

Taking responsibility for failure to deliver is essential to reaching maturity. Recognizing when circumstances begin to build toward a failed commitment and making necessary, satisfactory adjustments is essential to having the right leadership ingredients. Those involve planning and foresight. Those involve being able to make contingency plans.

Compensation and resourcefulness are important to remember for the sake of projecting professionalism.

Whatever the dynamic, the “slippage” is not the fault of someone else or something else and responsibility for it is On Your Shoulders. Read more about it in the Career Coach Corner.

June 28, 2015

Compensation

Filed under: Career Tips,Morale — Yvonne LaRose @ 1:37 PM
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Compensation has several definitions. While it can mean the amount of money that’s paid someone for the work that they do, it can also mean making allowances to balance things out.

There are many times when we find ways to put responsibility for shortcomings on the shoulders of others. That is called blaming.

Compensation, on the other hand, is coming up with ways to meet the goal when there aren’t sufficient resources to do it alone. That’s also considered being resourceful. Read more about several prisms of Compensation in the Career Coach Corner.

December 24, 2014

When in the Course

Filed under: Career Advancement,Career Tips,Management — Yvonne LaRose @ 8:12 PM
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Maybe you’re also a fan of The Amazing Race, a TV reality show that has contestants conquer tests and obstacles around the world in order to win $1,000,000 (in addition to various segment prizes).

A few years ago, a middle-aged couple had the task of counting beads and reporting to the gatekeeper the number they’d reached. Mind you, there was a factory room filled with these beads. Just the sight of them would make your head swim. Counting them, while daunting by the sheer volume, was doable. The husband of the middle-aged team began counting. He kept getting the wrong number and had to begin again. In one clip, there was a record of his losing count by ten beads.

So it goes when you’re standing alone and dealing with an overwhelming amount of content. Things need to be brought into perspective. Things need to be organized into manageable chunks. Some things need to be delegated, if possible, to teams that have more hands, more ideas about how to effectively organize things, more experience in managing the scope of the project.

Sometimes it doesn’t really matter where you start nor what you choose to put first. It’s simply a matter getting an idea of how to organize the project and then choosing what will be the first line of attack. Just stick your hand into the mosh and make it the starting point. There are many great examples of dealing with the jumbled chaos of a huge project.

Bringing order from chaos.

Bringing order from chaos. (from Kozzi.com)

There will be times when the greatest distraction proves to be external circumstances that need to be resolved before starting the project. If they’re ignored, they prove to be like an elephant in a 4 x 3 room. Every time you try to do something, you find yourself bumping into a blockage. Clear up some of the distractions. Take care of the external; resolve it. Handling it in small bite-sized chunks won’t do because it’s still there being a distraction that needs to be settled. It’s like a burr in your shoe. Just not having it waiting in the wings will be a relief and free your mind to focus on what needs to be done.

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