Posted by: Jay | December 1, 2012

Performance Management Software by TalentQuest

Performance Management Software


Several years ago, I recall having to fill out a 360 review on paper.  The whole process was very tedious and redundant.  There were several questions that I had to complete during this paper intensive process and my peers did as well.  At the conclusion of the performance review, the conglomeration of several pages of information had to be managed delicately, as the data was entered into the Human Resources Management System (HRMS).  As we roll the clock forward, there have been significant improvements in the way this data is collected and integrated with the organization’s HRMS.  Once such organization that handles this quite well is TalentQuest, located in Atlanta.  Through the perfect blend of consulting and technology, TalentQuest provides a paperless performance appraisal by implementing their robust performance management software solution.

In order to really get a feel for this process, imagine completing a full self-rating online, followed up by an evaluation from your select peers within the organization.  Once the process has been completed and electronically signed by both the employee and manager, the data populates the HRMS without any manual entry, thereby eliminating most, if not all of the errors.  If you have the budget for 2013, or even if you don’t, you should seriously consider implementing an automated performance appraisal solution.

Google just recently announced a change to their search algorithm called “penguin.”  The team at PersistSEO has been working diligently to ensure our methods for assisting clients reach the top of the search rankings utilize best practices and industry standards.  Our clients have remained at the top of Google search results due to our persistence and ability to remain relevant in an ever-changing market.  

In the next few weeks, we’ll be blogging about ways to increase your visibility online and drive more traffic to your company’s website.  With our expertise in Human Capital Management technology solutions, we would be very interested in hearing from you.  Leave a comment or visit us online.

Posted by: Jay | August 6, 2011

How to Eat an Elephant

Just over 2 years ago, I had a very aggressive client project manager inform me that his organization was going to go live with a new ATS, onboarding application, an HRMS solution, and several interfaces flying between all systems by January 1st.  The only problem with this schedule was that it was early October when he made these plans.  As a project team at Emerald Software, we tried our best to convince the client that it was just not feasible to take on such an aggressive timeline for a project of that complexity.  However, inflexibility prevailed and we embarked upon the near impossible task of gathering specifications, creating a Statement of Work, and learning about the new system configuration that was non-existent for both the ATS and HRMS.  Our client missed several deadlines on this schedule but somehow still expected us to work a miracle.  To make a long story short, this project manager was soon dismissed by the company and 2 years later, they still haven’t completed the project.

This example should be a lesson to all HR Project Managers: set realistic goals and be open to a phased approach.  There are several reasons this approach is best but first and foremost, clients should listen to their consultant and ask them what they deem as a reasonable schedule of implementation.  If you have a good consultant, most of them have been in the trenches for many years and can speak from experience.  By trimming the scope of a project, an aggressive schedule becomes more realistic and most team members on both sides of the aisle should have buy-in.  By going live with a reduced scope, there is certainly an ROI to be gained, albeit not as much as a completed project but certainly better than nothing.  Team members will have an opportunity to learn the new system prior to implementing additional functionality in future phases of the project.  And, last but not least, you will most definitely get a win with your executive team by meeting a reasonable deadline.  How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time…

OSHA is gearing up to create a new program for preventing injury and illness in the workplace. This I2P2 (Injury & Illness Protection Program) is still in the development and discussion stage, but employers should be aware that significant changes are probably on the way. The updated rules are likely to be based on common sense, so it’s possible to begin making improvements now to be in better compliance once the program goes into effect. You can find out what to expect in this informative article from

Prevention Tops List of Priorities

Discussions so far are centering on prevention as the gold standard. If someone gets hurt on the job, the first question OSHA asks is “could this have been foreseen and avoided?” Employers are going to have to take a step back from just looking at protocols and protective equipment on a task-by task basis. There will be no one-size fits all solution for developing a safety program under I2P2. Each work environment, and the actual work processes that take place in that environment, will have to be evaluated as a unique “organism”.

Customization Based on Worker Input is Essential

Bringing in an outside consultant may be part of the solution, but employers must also learn to involve their workforce from start to finish in developing, implementing, and continuously improving a safety program. The downside to this approach is that it will be more resource intensive. It may also bring disagreement between management and workers to the surface to finally be dealt with (which can be good or bad depending on how well the situation is handled). The upside is that workers are much more likely to adhere to a program that makes sense from their viewpoint and that respects the value of their input.

No More “Bloody Pocket Syndrome”?

One major change may be in the field of safety incentive programs. Many employers currently use a punishment and reward system that may tend to discourage honest reporting of injuries. If an incident is not reported, the hazard that caused it is unlikely to be identified and fixed, leading to additional injuries. When reporting simply results in the employer taking immediate steps to correct the unsafe working condition instead of penalizing employees, reporting accuracy is expected to improve.

HR’s Role in I2P2

Collaboration in program development, policy revision, and workforce safety training are all areas where HR will play an important role. This will include bringing employees up to speed on how to spot and report hazards before an injury occurs. Our Universal Onboarding and Acculturation Portal applications are flexible enough to support these changes to your safety program as it relates to new hires. Contact us to find out how we can incorporate your new forms and orientation materials into these modules.

The IRS and DOL have some pretty steep penalties in store for employers who misclassify workers as independent contractors when they are actually employees. But there are peripheral legal issues involved as well. A recent court case in Pennsylvania demonstrates what can happen in litigation.

Categorization Impacts Enforceability

A company that hired an independent sales representative was denied a preliminary injunction enforcing a non-compete agreement. The federal court of appeals found that the worker was actually an employee of the company rather than an independent contractor. The covenant itself was not necessarily in violation of Pennsylvania law (although the laws in that state don’t look favorably on non-competition contracts).

However, the main sticking point for the courts was that the company had treated the sales rep as an employee. This included exerting a great deal of control over how the rep conducted business. By doing so, the company had effectively breached the agreement to the extent that it was no longer enforceable.

Another interesting point affecting the case was the timeline. The employer had the sales rep sign the agreement 6 months after he commenced work. Pennsylvania state labor laws prohibit employers from requiring employees or contractors to sign a restrictive covenant after hiring unless there is a change in the relationship such as a raise, promotion, or other incentive that would benefit the employee or contractor.

What this Means for Pennsylvania Employers

First, employers must make every effort to classify workers correctly so that agreements won’t be breached by the very nature of the employment/contracting relationship. Second, restrictive covenants should be signed during onboarding rather than being negotiated after the fact whenever possible. With automated Universal Onboarding, there is no risk of accidentally overlooking an important form, policy, or agreement during hiring.

Have you read the recent article about workplace ranking programs? It raises some interesting questions.

  • How does entering this kind of contest benefit employers?
  • How does it benefit employees?
  • What are the downsides of participation, and what happens if you don’t win?

Employers’ Perspective

The benefits most employers hope to gain from entering a workplace ranking program are an increase in brand awareness and better recruiting results. It allows businesses to showcase what makes their workplace culture stand apart from the crowd. Of course, employers may find additional, unexpected benefits such as an increase in retention as workers realize that they really do “have it good” where they are.

Employees’ Perspective

There are plenty of consulting firms that do internal surveys for employers to gauge worker satisfaction and engagement. However, these surveys may leave workers feeling disempowered since they know that the results will only be reviewed internally and might not result in any real change. When workers’ responses determine how highly an employer ranks, employees can feel like their voices are being heard beyond the walls of the workplace.

Potential Drawbacks & Poor Rankings

The downside of choosing to enter a “best workplace” contest is that it can represent a significant time investment. The larger your organization, the more total hours will be taken away from other tasks for employees to participate in the survey. If you’ve recently done other surveys, workers may be tired of taking them and respond poorly.

If your organization doesn’t rank well, that’s not the end of the world. You might find that changes are needed in your benefits communication, management methodology, or other areas. The survey results just shine a spotlight on the factors that may be affecting how employees perceive your workplace.

How Can Emerald Software Group Help?

Since corporate culture is a heavily weighted factor in how well workplaces are ranked by employees, a strong acculturation onboarding program could make a big difference. Our Acculturation Portal can support you in improving the new hire experience.

Workplace data privacy compliance is a big issue in HR right now. Chuck’s been talking a lot about this topic at his blog. Now, has published an article about another aspect of privacy in an age where transparency is increasing every day. Social media background checks are becoming more and more common. This isn’t usually a formal process – most hiring managers just Google a job candidate and do some poking around. Unfortunately, this can be a risky activity. The fact that there are no real controls on this process or standardized documentation of how the information was collected and used is part of the problem.

Experts Are Standing By to Help

Of course, where there’s a liability issue in HR, there are always lawyers and insurance companies on hand to offer assistance and advice. If your HR department is performing social media screening of job candidates (or existing employees), it’s actually not a bad idea to run this by an HR legal expert to make sure you aren’t crossing any lines. Then, double-check with your liability insurance partner to ensure you’re covered if someone brings a discrimination claim.

What Are the Dangers?

Why is carrying out an internet search potentially problematic? The main reason is that it gives HR access to information that they can’t ask for in an interview. You could find out a person’s age, whether a woman is planning to have a child, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, and much more. You might not be looking for that information. But once you have it, there’s no way to prove it didn’t affect your decision about whether to hire a job candidate. Read Joanne Wojcik’s full article to find out what advice legal counsel has for employers who want to use in-house internet searches anyway.

One potential way to use social media background checks with less liability is to hire a third party to do this for you. They can sift out any information that might be viewed as discriminatory and just present relevant data to you for decision making purposes. With our Universal Onboarding module, you can make this type of screening part of the hiring process by automatically sending new hire data to your vendor. That way, you are putting everyone through the same degree of screening and you have documentation of the results.

We’ve talked a lot about what ICE is doing to increase compliance levels with form I-9 processing for U.S. employers. But the fact is that even steep monetary penalties levied by USCIS pale in comparison to the hard line approach state governments can take. Recently, the South Carolina Department of Labor took the drastic step of shutting down a company entirely when it was discovered to be employing unauthorized workers. The restaurant was closed for 10 days. But the state DOL has the prerogative to pull the business license for a longer period or revoke it entirely if investigators believe the business knowingly violated workforce verification laws.

State Run Audits are Just Beginning

The SCDOL is actually planning to audit 4000 employers this year. Over 20 auditors have been brought on board to carry out this initiative. Businesses will be investigated for their compliance with the South Carolina Illegal Immigration Reform Act. The regulations under this Act supplement the federal I-9 requirements. Employers who do not use E-Verify must verify the legal status of workers via an SC drivers’ license or state issued ID. Out of state licenses may or may not be accepted depending on whether South Carolina deems the sister state in compliance with stringent standards for license issuance.

Punishment Has Several Aspects

The state DOL fines employers $100-1000 for each violation of the Act. They also report these employers to ICE for further investigation. Even worse from a PR standpoint, the state publishes the identity of employers who are caught hiring undocumented workers. Given the high state of emotions surrounding this issue, such negative publicity has a serious impact on consumer relations. Employers in South Carolina would do well to review their I-9 administration process and ensure that it complies with both state and federal laws. Universal Onboarding is one tool that can help both automate the process and bring it into better compliance.

Attorney Kevin Troutman recently posted an article over at that highlights the increasingly complex world of healthcare employment. The triple threat of new laws, court rulings, and administrative changes is placing additional pitfalls in the way of hospitals and other healthcare organizations. Troutman investigates the top 10 hazards in his informative article. Here are two that may impact hiring and onboarding.

Social Media Policies

Not having a social media policy is a serious oversight for employers these days. There are many illegal activities such as workers downloading or sharing pirated materials on company computers that employers can be held accountable for. However, an overly broad or restrictive policy can open a business to costly litigation as well. The recent case of a worker being disciplined for FaceBook postings critical of a supervisor shows that the NLRB is eager to step in and protect employee’s right to discuss working conditions.

HR should partner with IT to explore actual workplace behaviors to target illegal and unethical activity without overstepping the bounds of privacy and freedom of expression. All new hires should receive & sign an acknowledgement showing that they understand both the policy and the measures that will be taken to enforce it. Making responsible social media and general internet use a part of acculturation training is also advisable.

Federal Contractor Designation

Apparently, the OFCCP is expanding its definition of what constitutes being a federal contractor. Previously, organizations that received Medicare reimbursement were not included in this designation. However, that is changing and healthcare providers may have to significantly alter their hiring practices as a result. For example, many federal contractors must use E-Verify as mandated by the government.

This represents an ideal opportunity to fully automate the onboarding process to ensure that I9s are completed without errors and omissions in compliance with ICE best practices. Our Universal Onboarding module can play a role in this transition since we have the ability to interface employers with the free E-Verify web program for a seamless HR experience.

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