The SESCO Report – March 2012


How to Survive a Department of Labor Audit

One of the most disturbing letters that an organization may ever receive is a letter from the Department of Labor (DOL) stating that your company has been selected to be audited. When you get this letter, the worst thing that you can do is ignore it and wait for the DOL investigator to show up at your door. The DOL usually gives you a very short window, usually one (1) to two (2) weeks, between receipt of the letter and when the audit is scheduled. In order for an organization to survive such an audit, it is critical to use this time to your advantage.

"Why am I being investigated?" More and more employers are asking this question. There are several possible answers. A Department of Labor Wage-Hour investigation will take place typically because a complaint was filed by a former or present employee who feels he/she was paid improperly.

As a general practice, the Wage-Hour investigator feels no obligation to give you advance notice of an investigation. Usually you will be notified of his/her intent to make an investigation by his/her personal presence at your office or at one of your establishments. You may also receive a telephone call from the investigator advising you that an investigation will take place.

Typical compliance issues include:

• Improper minimum wage and overtime payments

• Hours of work that have not been recorded or paid properly

• Improperly compensating employees on a straight salary method of payment

• Improper payroll deductions on garnishees, tools, uniforms, and company merchandise

Within these broad categories, there are a host of loopholes and vulnerability areas that the investigator will be checking with a fine-tooth comb. Therefore, ask yourself:

If a Federal Wage-Hour investigator conducted an investigation of your organization today, would you be in full compliance?

If your employees were interviewed by an investigator, what would they tell him/her?

Are you absolutely certain your present pay methods, personnel policies, and payroll records meet all the latest requirements of the Federal Wage-Hour Division?

Whether you are complying 100% with all aspects of the accounting and recordkeeping requirements depends upon your particular situation as well as the current interpretation of the Federal Wage-Hour Administrator and his/her enforcement policies. SESCO recommends an immediate in depth Wage-Hour accounting compliance audit be conducted to determine your current status under Federal Wage-Hour enforcement policy. It is recommended that all areas of non-compliance involving methods of payment, compensable work time, personnel records, compensable payroll records, payroll deductions and all other areas be corrected as soon as possible using professional guidelines on how to meet these requirements.

When the investigator shows up, you should:

• Ask for the investigator's credentials

• Treat investigator with courtesy and give him/her a suitable place to work

• Cooperate but don't volunteer facts or records not specifically requested

• Contact SESCO immediately!

The teeth of enforcement of the law are injunctions, shipping bans, safeguards for employee informants, liability for attorneys' fees, court costs, and possible damages in wage suites filed by employees, and possible criminal penalties.
You can be legally restrained from future violations. In lawsuits, employees can recover minimum and overtime wages owed, plus damages in an amount equal to the back wage recovery.

In summary, you should ensure compliance. Compliance is attainable and affordable for all employers. And if ever contacted, call SESCO.


How Organizations Can Maximize Customer Satisfaction

Organizations can improve customer satisfaction through excellent account management in relationship building. Organizations who apply the skills of good account management in serving their clients can create openings to find new opportunities as well as extend current relationships.

Proper account management starts with understanding who the customer is and how he or she would like to be served; it culminates in trust and respect. Organizations can influence customer satisfaction and build long-term, fruitful relationships through the following actions:

1. Thoroughly understand your customer's business – Studying the business and learning what does and does not make the customer successful will enable organizations to spot deficiencies and opportunities. Addressing this gap can create an opportunity to improve customer satisfaction.

2. Spend time with customers – Investing in your relationships through continual contact and substantial onsite time can measurably improve customer satisfaction. If distance or budget makes face time difficult or too expensive, organizations can still make phone calls and be proactive. The more time spent with your customers, the more the company demonstrates how much the customer is valued.

3. Always add value – Organizations should make sure management and fulfillment is visible to the customer, enabling the customer to see value.

4. Don't always actively sell – Trying to sell too much can damage a customer relationship. Organizations should always be on the lookout for opportunities but let them come naturally by being present and sensitive to a customer's needs.

5. Actively pursue customer feedback – Talking with your customers about how you are doing and whether their needs are being met is key to ensuring customer satisfaction and long-term relationships.

6. Manage service providers at least once a month – Your employees are delivering your product or service and are hopefully in constant contact with your customers. They typically have great insight into each account they manage. It's important to know what is happening in each account and whether or not you are providing the service as you promised.

7. Stay involved with your customers – Organization representatives should schedule meetings and events on a constant basis to keep on top of customers' businesses.

8. Conduct self-audits – Organizations should make it a practice to conduct a 30, 60, or 90 day audit after providing a service or the sale. This audit can be marketed when making the sale, explaining that part of the purchase or service process is to visit and follow up to ensure needs have been met.

In Summary

Your customers are obviously the life blood of your business. It's critical that you get to know them, take care of them, and express appreciation. Service is not a one-time event but an ongoing journey – an evolving journey. Organizations should establish customer service satisfaction measures as well as hold company representatives accountable for meeting your customer service and satisfaction expectations.

SESCO provides customer service and sales training. You may contact your SESCO representative or visit our website to review our training modules available.


Hiring the Best Match for the Position –Use of Pre-employment Assessments

The government regulates screening and hiring processes and practices from how employers accept, consider, and maintain applications all the way through to what we can and can't ask as well as oversight of our decision making process. Background checks, reference checks, and other screening and hiring practices are closely regulated and scrutinized by federal and state employment regulations.

Therefore, it's incumbent upon employers to implement systems that are valid and legal as there are so much that an employer cannot do in considering applicants for hire. SESCO recommends at least the following:

• Reference Checking – Check the references of previous employers/supervisors – not personal references as provided.

• Background Checks – Conduct background checks to include job-related topics such as driving, credit, workers' comp history, and others – ensure that you comply with Fair Credit Reporting Regulations.

• Behavioral Interviewing – An organization should develop and utilize questions based upon the behavioral interviewing model – a model that recommends questions based upon an individual's past practice/history as one's history is the best predictor of his or her future.

• Trained Managers – Managers who are involved in the screening and hiring process should be trained to avoid pitfalls such as discriminatory questions and processes but also learn to professionally interview so that the organization makes an informed and calculated decision on who they're hiring.

• Pre-employment Assessments – Finally, SESCO strongly recommends the use of pre-employment assessments to include skills, personality, management and leadership, risk assessment, and others.

When filling an open position, organizations obviously want to select the person who is worthy of an opportunity and who is the best fit for not only the job but also the team. To assist as noted above, organizations should implement testing to include:

• Matching employees to the work culture.
• Placing employees in appropriate positions.
• Ensure skill level meets job requirements.
• Ensure that personalities match with leadership and coworkers.
• Determine risk of drug use and work-related injuries to reduce significant financial liabilities.

1. Personality Assessment – Knowing your organization's history and culture as well as your own personality and that of the team is important in considering successful hiring. It's critical that personalities and behavioral styles are supportive and compatible and not disruptive and combative. Through the use of the DiSC Profile, you can assess applicants' personality and behavioral styles as well as management and team styles. These profiles are extremely inexpensive and are extremely valid and accurate.

2. Background Checks – It's no surprise that research tells us that the majority of resumes are not completely accurate nor do tell an individual's entire story. Further, unless an interviewer has been trained as an expert "interrogator," an interview, no matter how well constructed, will not reveal the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Thus, background checks are vital.

3. Reference Checks – When training, we most commonly hear from managers and supervisors that reference checking is a waste of time. They feel that most employers will not provide accurate or factual information. However, it is proven that reference checks do provide good and useful information. Many organizations, particularly if the individual has left in good standing, will provide a positive reference or at least state that they are eligible for rehire. Additionally, through contacting managers and supervisors of the applicant, you can gain a sense of an individual's work performance and behavior based upon the tone as well as interest. Does every reference check work out? The answer is no but certainly considering the cost of a hiring mistake, it's worth a few minutes in conducting these checks.

4. Skills/Risk Assessments – Finally, it's strongly recommended that employers utilize skills and risks assessments. There are numerous types of assessments on the market – measuring accounting, computer, engineering, maintenance, sales, customer service and many other skills and capabilities. Additionally, there are extremely valid instruments on the market that assesses an applicant's risk such as drugs, attendance, injury, workers' comp, and others.

As the job market shows signs of life, it's critical that employers screen and hire individuals utilizing every legal method and process available. The cost of a hiring mistake is at a minimum of $10,000 for entry level positions and for high level or professional, it's at least one times the annual salary.

SESCO specializes in screening and hiring systems, tools, training, and assessments and would be happy to meet with your organization to help design a process that will greatly enhance your screening and hiring success thereby contributing to your overall employee retention and subsequent productivity and profitability.


NLRB Required New Poster

Employers must post the new NLRB poster by April 30, 2012. SESCO is printing these posters at a discounted rate — laminated $9.99. To order, call SESCO at 423-764-4127 or email sesco@sescomgt.com. You can also order from our Online Publications Store by clicking HERE.

Special Thanks to SESCO Clients!

Fiber Innovation Technologies, Inc.
Johnson City, TN

HDK Industries
Rogersville, TN

Quantrell Cadillac
Lexington, KY

Companion Extraordinaire Nursing Network
Ashland, VA


SESCO Client Inquiry — Staff Response

Question: What are the legal issues related to background checks?

Answer: Conducting background checks is an important part of the selection process. Negligent hiring has become a common legal claim against employers who have made hiring decisions without making a diligent effort to check a person's work and personal history. It is particularly important to conduct a background check on individuals who are dealing with the public or who are in positions of trust, such as jobs which involve entering customers' homes. State regulations often require background checks for employees working with children, the elderly, and those providing patient care in health care facilities. One of the most important parts of doing a background check is to obtain a release from the applicant. This is especially important when a credit check will be performed. The Fair Credit Reporting Act imposes specific notification guidelines on employers.

Spring Seminar Series 2012

Seminar Agenda

Human Resources – The Basic Course
April 11-12, 2012 (Richmond, VA)
April 18-29, 2012 (Bristol, VA)

• Pre-employment Recruiting, Screening, and Hiring
• The Importance of Employee Handbooks and Clear Discipline Policies
• Determining Pay Rates and Developing Compensation Systems
• Effective Performance Appraisal Systems
• EEOC and Wage-Hour Regulations and Practices
• ADA, FMLA, COBRA, Workers' Comp Compliance

Human Resources – The Advanced Course
May 2, 2012 (Richmond, VA)
May 16, 2011 (Bristol, VA)

• Union Avoidance/Awareness
• Responding to EEOC Charges
• OFCCP Compliance
• Diversity
• Strategic Planning for the Human Resource Department

Tuition
$375.00 per person for 2 day classes and includes comprehensive take-home materials ($275.00 for 1 day)

Richmond, Virginia Location:

Virginia Community Healthcare Association (VCHA)
3831 Westerre Parkway — Henrico, VA 23233-1330

Bristol, Virginia Location:

Courtyard by Marriott
3169 Linden Drive — Bristol, VA 24202
To register contact:

Betty Treadwell, Seminar Registrar
betty@sescomgt.com
SESCO Management Consultants
P.O. Box 1848
Bristol, TN 37621
Telephone: (423) 764 4127
Fax: (423) 764 5869

For a complete seminar brochure and registration information, click HERE

State and National Business and Trade Associations, Chambers of Commerce and Human Resource Associations are welcome to contact SESCO to book a professional speaker for annual conventions and seminars. Contact Bill Ford at 423-764-4127 or by email bill@sescomgt.com.