Monthly Archives

February 2018


Top Reasons to Run Pre-Employment Background Checks

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When it’s time to hire a new employee, there are so many steps to the process that sometimes it can seem a bit overwhelming. Wading through applications, conducting countless interviews, checking numerous references, and let’s not forget all of the paperwork you have to do! It all seems a bit much at times, doesn’t it? You may even wonder if you can skip a few steps here and there, to make things easier on yourself. On the other hand, you might end up missing a step or two without meaning to or realizing it. This is understandable, since there’s only so much one person can do, right?

While your business will dictate what all your hiring process encompasses, one step no business should miss is the pre-employment background checks for your new hires. Here are three reasons why this should be one of your top priorities.

You Get to Know Your Employees

While the interviewing process is vital, there’s only so much you can actually learn about a potential new hire from it. They’re often nervous and trying their hardest to impress you, instead of just being themselves. Let’s face it, there are some people who’d say anything to get hired, whether it’s true or not.

Pre-employment background checks, on the other hand, can tell you what things they might be embellishing, or leaving out. You can get a clearer picture of what kind of employee they’ve been, jobs where they may have not been a good fit or personal issues they may be struggling with. While some of these things may not matter to your particular business, many of them will. This will help you weed out the people who aren’t the best candidates.

You Hire The Right Fit For The Position

There are times in the hiring process when you’ll end up facing the ‘feast or famine’ dilemma — either you’ll have no real good candidates, or you’ll have way too many. Either way, you’re going to have a difficult time choosing who to hire.

Doing pre-employment background checks can make this a little bit easier for you, however. You’ll be able to see who has the best mix of training, schooling, and work history for the position if you’ve got too many choices. If there’s no one who quite fits that bill, you’ll still be able to pick the candidate most likely to grow into the position, given the proper training and care.

You Protect Your Business

One of the most important assets your company has is trust. Your customers trust you to deliver on your promises, your vendors trust you to act with integrity, and your employees trust you to keep your word and create a safe and productive work environment. Conversely, you put a lot of trust in your employees, vendors, and customers as well.

Background checks help maintain that balance of trust, between you and everyone else involved. You’ll be able to build a team that you can trust to work hard, be there when you need them, and get things done right. This will also help your team work better together, knowing they can trust each other to do what needs to be done and to have each other’s backs.

You also have to look at the legal aspects of a background check. If you hire someone with a history of violence and aggression towards coworkers, you’re potentially putting your team and your customers in a dangerous situation. The same goes for a history of theft, drug charges, or drinking. You wouldn’t want to hire someone to drive for you who’s had several DUI’s, would you? That’s a lawsuit waiting to happen.

The good news is, you don’t have deal with all of this by yourself. At Harbor America, we understand how overwhelming all of this can be at times. That’s why we offer a wide range of HR solutions for your business, including pre-employment background checks. We can help you find the best employees for your team, and keep your business running smoothly while saving you serious time and money.

hiring best construction employees

Guidelines for Hiring the Best Construction Employees

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If you’re a construction owner searching for new employees, you know there’s a problem when it comes to finding qualified workers. As it’s becoming more challenging to attract good employees to the construction industry, employers need to find ways to draw the most capable and experienced people to their companies. Here are some basic guidelines for hiring the best construction employees:

Determine the Qualifications You Need in Candidates

Before you even start to recruit people, you need to determine the qualifications you’re looking for in potential employees. Hone in on the particular skills and experience that specific positions require. Other considerations should include those such as if a position is a permanent or a temporary one and the amount of training or specific certifications a candidate should have to fill a position. Furthermore, determine the type of prospects who you think are most likely to possess the expertise and skills that are needed for being successful.

Update Job Descriptions and Ensure Candidates Are a Suitable Match

You first need to define the job description of a position before it can be filled. Thus, be sure all your company positions have an updated job description. When interviewing applicants, it’s critical to decide if a candidate has the skills and practical experience needed for a particular job. Moreover, does a candidate have the background and training or education for a particular position? Additionally, determine if an applicant shares the same goals as your business and if he or she seems to be well-suited for the environment of your workplace.

Conduct an Effective Interview

In order to snag the best applicants, you must be able to conduct an effective interview. A big part of interviewing candidates involves getting people to reveal stuff about their lives without giving clues on what you want them to say. Also, when you see candidates having a hard time in providing information or answering questions, let them struggle. In other words, don’t give them an escape route, so they can avoid tough questions.

Be Continually on the Lookout for Good Candidates

Although the ideal time to hire people is when you most need them, you still need to constantly be looking out for potential employees as this gives you more choice. When you’re always alert for highly qualified workers, you’re more likely to obtain the kind of employees who will be the most beneficial to you and your company. Therefore, rather than waiting to hire when you need people, recruit during the off-season as this gives you more preferences, besides an advantage over your competitors.

Partner with a PEO

The hiring process can take up a significant amount of hours and energy. That’s why a growing number of employers have turned over this job to a PEO, who is able to devote the needed time and effort required in sifting through a stack of job applications and making the right selections.

Once a prospect is chosen, there’s more work to do, such as setting up a contract and getting new employees on board, so they know what’s required of them to be successful. As time is money, consider how a PEO can easily and effectively handle those tasks that currently eat away at your time. Hiring employees and managing HR are just a few jobs of a PEO as these professionals provide many other valuable services.

Other Considerations and Warnings

  • Don’t hire people when in a panic. For example, it’s tempting to hire just about anyone off the street when you’re under pressure to get a job done. However, this can result in having employees who may disappoint you.
  • Pay close attention to an applicant’s character and personality as this is just as important as their skills. Unfortunately, too many construction owners grab prospects who are equipped with the right skills, but they lack the character needed for a position.
  • Make sure you offer attractive wages, benefits, and ongoing training.
  • If you have outdated technology, upgrade it. Keep in mind that construction applicants tend to be younger now and that updated technology is important to them. When you have the latest technology, you have an edge over your competitors when hiring and keeping employees.

Using a PEO for your business can give you more time to run your company. Harbor America is a PEO that provides HR, along with benefits, payroll, compliance and several other services to small and mid-sized business owners in the construction industry, besides other blue-collar industries. Please contact us for a free consultation.

HR challenges

4 HR Challenges to Look out for in 2018

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A new year is a perfect time to evaluate and make adjustments to current Human Resources operations. For the new year, there are some interesting trends and challenges within the HR world to look out for. Keep these trends and potential challenges in mind as you set your HR strategy for the next year:

1) Balancing flexibility with work-life balance

One of the biggest challenges within HR in the new year will be learning to balance agile and flexible working options. Many HR departments will be looking for ways to provide their employees with a better work-life balance. Recent reports demonstrate that almost 61% of workers expect to have agile work opportunities within the next year or two.

Furthermore, research demonstrates that workers are becoming increasingly expectant of more flexible work options and other unconventional employee benefits. The challenge will initially lie in developing and evolving these options, but they are shown to increase overall employee retention, making it worth the investment.


2) Data compliance, security, and privacy

With the increasing amount of data being collected about the company and employees, one of the biggest challenges for HR will be cultivating data privacy and compliance operations. This will ensure the safety and privacy of both employees and the company itself. These changes may extend to a variety of vital HR functions, such as privacy and access to online performance reviews, employee references, and payroll, just to name a few.

Recent data breaches have illustrated how vulnerable companies can be to data breaches, but designing policies that address these issues will be a combined effort by HR and other departments to really ensure it covers the full breadth and scope necessary.

3) Bridging the gap between paper-based and digital operations

Another challenge that HR departments will continue to struggle with is transitioning paper documents to digital or cloud-based systems. Though most departments have already started the process, maintaining that and continuing to innovate will be challenging.

For departments who have not started digitizing more of their operations, the initial implementation process will be slightly tough to navigate. Moreover, The earlier point about data security will tie into this as well. Balancing the digitalization of operations with protecting sensitive data will be a unique challenge for many HR departments.

4) Constantly learning about the company and the industry

The onslaught of digital means that there are constant streams of information from all ends. Keeping track of all this news, as well as industry news, will be another somewhat unique challenge for HR departments as digital continues to reign in 2018. From the industry standpoint, HR departments must ensure that they are aware of new trends and developments within the industry itself. It is also worth exploring what competitors are doing to differentiate themselves, how they are approaching payroll, benefits and compliance and what practices could be adopted from them.

From a company standpoint, though it might sound redundant, HR departments must take time out to develop and learn about company culture, and ways to celebrate and highlight what makes their workplace culture so unique compared to other companies. This will mean diving deeper into employee insights, using their feedback as well as industry trends to continually evolve and update existing HR policies and implement new ones.

Employees who feel valued, and feel like their contributions to the company’s well-being are meaningfully considered will help boost morale and overall employee satisfaction. As companies ramp up their recruiting and benefits, this will become a crucial base upon which to upsell the company’s profile and attract and retain the right talent.

For more helpful tips for business owners and HR managers, be sure to subscribe to our Harbor America blog.


Important HR Tips for Small Business Owners

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Running a small business involves managing many responsibilities at once. One of the main tasks of a small business manager is finding the right employees as well as managing staff. These tasks fall under HR (Human Resource) management. If you run a small or mid-size business, you need to have exceptional HR skills. HR management covers several important functions in a company, such as employee recruitment, onboarding, and management, resolving interpersonal conflictslegal and regulatory compliance, and benefits administration. Here are seven HR tips for business owners, along with some thoughts on the importance of hiring a PEO:

Communicate Effectively

Exceptional communication is critical. You need to know how to communicate effectively with your employees and also be able to listen compassionately when they voice their concerns. Besides communicating well with employees, you should instill in them the necessity of solid communication skills, such as writing clear emails, in addition to speaking effectively.

Have Exceptional Negotiation Skills

Being able to effectively negotiate is especially important. Usually, when problems arise, there is more than just one viewpoint. In order for a resolution to occur, an agreeable middle ground must be reached. Also, the parties involved need to be satisfied with an outcome, which can be challenging.

Know When to Turn to Professional Advice

Often, business owners are forced to deal with problems that contain vague or “gray” areas. For example, they may have to decide whether a complaint made by an employee against another employee involves sexual harassment or sexual discrimination. Sometimes when these matters come up, there can be limited information. Therefore, you may need to turn to certain professionals, such as lawyers and other specialists.

Be Extremely Organized

Being exceptionally organized is another critical requirement when it comes to Human Resources. In other words, everything must be in its proper place so that documents, files, and other items can be found quickly.

Enforce Company Policy Diplomatically

When you manage employees, you need to have good diplomacy skills. This means protecting your company by establishing and enforcing boundaries, and putting the organization first, while still listening to the viewpoint of your employees. There may be situations when you need to stand by your company’s policies, but this doesn’t mean you can’t let your employees state their opinions in a safe environment where they don’t feel threatened.

Be Able to Multitask

Running a business involves having to juggle several things at the same time. Think about how you may need to help an employee with a personal issue and then, a few minutes later, another matter needs to be quickly resolved, such as filling a specific job. When this occurs, each person can think their crisis is the one that needs the most urgent attention. Instead of panicking, you need to multitask without losing your cool.

Promote Educational Seminars and Additional Training

Another basic aspect of Human Resources is providing training and education. As a business owner, it’s your responsibility to offer your workers with the tools and training required for performing their job well. In many cases, company training is a job requirement, but sometimes it is non-compulsory. When optional seminars and other types of educational opportunities are offered, you should encourage your employees to take advantage of them so that they can do a better job, enhance their skills, and have access to promotions and other opportunities.

The Benefits of Hiring a PEO

HR management is just one of the reasons for using a PEO, which is a firm providing outsourcing services to businesses so that employers have more time to run their companies. These services include payroll administration, safety and risk management, employee benefits, workers’ compensation, commercial insurance, technology, employee recruitment, training and development, along with other jobs.

Considerations and Warnings

  • Always acknowledge your employees’ accomplishments. In addition to verbally recognizing their achievements, think of tangible ways to reward them for exceptional job performance.
  • Let the employees take ownership of their ideas. This can mean allowing them to present their viewpoints to senior management. Consider how doing so can promote team spirit and help employees feel like they are truly part of the organization.
  • Be sure you handle confidential information properly. This means being ethical and discrete. Never share private information with people who are unauthorized.
  • Be a positive role model. Instead of simply telling your employees how they should perform, show them by example. In other words, let your actions speak louder than your words.

You don’t have to feel overwhelmed about running your business when you hire a PEO. At Harbor America, we focus on small and mid-sized business owners in the construction industry as well as other blue-collar fields. Please contact us for a free consultation and learn more about how a PEO can give you have more time for operating your business.

flu season tips hr

Don’t Let This Flu Season Get You Down

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Nobody wants to get the flu, do they? If others around you are sick, however, it may seem like a foregone conclusion. It’s only a matter of time, right?

Wrong. There are steps you can take to help you get through the flu season unscathed, regardless of others around you being sick or not. This guide will help you stay in top shape, so you can give the flu a run for its money.

Skip The Late Nights

It’s no secret that sleep is nature’s repairman. Your body is like your phone’s battery — when you deprive yourself of sleep, it’s like constantly draining the battery without letting it charge all the way. In your phone, that means the battery is going to lose the ability to hold a charge, and need to be replaced sooner than normal.

In your body, it means that the cells don’t have time to repair the daily stress and damage. This weakens your immune system and makes you more susceptible to all illnesses, not just the flu. So when you think about it, skipping sleep can do more than just make you cranky!

Get a Flu Shot

Despite what you may have heard from friends and coworkers, it is definitely not too late to get the flu shot. The flu shot won’t get you sick either. And, getting a flu shot not only helps you avoid the flu but helps you to protect the health of everyone around you, including those with compromised immune systems.

Give Your Diet A Boost

Your immune system is great at fighting off intruders, but it often can’t do it alone. You need to make sure that you’re eating properly, giving your body the building blocks it needs to stay strong.

Vitamin C is great for boosting your immune system, and antioxidants help keep your body running strong and fit. If you don’t normally eat a lot of fruits and veggies, however, you may find it hard to drop your old diet and just start cramming in the good stuff.

It’s okay to take small steps, as long you’re increasing your intake of key vitamins and minerals. Take your morning coffee or daily drink, for example. Try replacing these with tea, if you’re not already drinking it. There are so many varieties available now that it should be easy for you to find something that suits your tastes perfectly. Citrus flavors are particularly good for boosting your immune system, and honey has many natural healing properties.

You can also try replacing your daily snacks with fruit. Start your day with a healthy and tasty green smoothie to give your body the nutrients it needs.

Don’t forget your vitamin supplements, either. If you’re worried you’re not getting enough of what you need, adding a daily supplement will go a long way in helping you to boost your health.

Certain herbs can also boost your immune system, help your body fight off colds and the flu, and cut down the length of illnesses you do catch. Echinacea is one such herbal remedy, often found in the form of herbal tea. Elderberry syrup has also been shown to naturally boost immune function.

Don’t Forget To Clean Your Office

Germs like to hide everywhere! While you should be cleaning periodically anyway, it’s especially important during cold and flu season.

Stop for a second, and think of all of the things you touch throughout the day, whether it’s intentional or not. It’s a lot, isn’t it? Your coworkers touch the same things. Unfortunately, you know that not everyone covers their sneezes or washes their hands as frequently as they should, which means they’re spreading germs every time they touch something.

By cleaning the surfaces you touch frequently and washing your hands often, you’re helping reduce the contact you have with those germs. You’re also doing your part in helping to prevent spreading those germs even further, and reducing the risk of reinfection later on down the line for anyone who has been sick. Antibacterial cleaning wipes make cleaning door handles, phones, and other surfaces quick and easy.

Cut The Stress Where You Can

Stress is one of the biggest factors that can put a strain on your body, and weaken your immune system. While a little bit of stress can potentially be beneficial, too much can actually make you sick all on its own. This, of course, will pave the way for the flu to weasel right on in, so you’ll want to cut out as much stress as you can.

Trying to do too much yourself is one of the top sources of stress, and it’s also one of the easiest places you can cut stress out. If you need a trusted partner to help streamline your business and cut down on your stress levels, Harbor America can help. We’ve got the tools that’ll help make sure that your business runs smoothly, allowing you to focus on the important things, like the health of your employees, yourself, and your company.

Habits of Successful Construction Business Owners

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If you own a construction business, you know the various demands and problems that can occur as well as how competitive the construction industry can be. To succeed as a construction business owner, you need to develop certain habits. Here are six habits of successful construction business owners, along with why it’s a good idea to hire a PEO (Professional Employer Organization):

Honing Exceptional Organizational Skills

Most construction business owners have several projects going on at the same time. Therefore, being exceptionally organized is a must. In fact, the more complicated and lengthy a construction job is, the more organized you should be. You want to prevent being overwhelmed when forced to manage several tasks or problems simultaneously.

Recognizing the Most Talented Workers and Treating Them Well

To succeed in the construction industry, you must be able to recognize and hire the most qualified and talented workers. This is especially important when you have to lay people off as you need to know which employees are the top ones to keep. Additionally, it’s necessary you treat your workers well so that they stay with you. Make sure they’re paid fairly and that they have the right benefits. Your company should be a place where your employees actually enjoy coming to work.

Encouraging Feedback and Building a Team Spirit

By asking employees for their feedback, a positive feeling of being part of a team can develop. This entails consulting with workers, which makes them feel more valued. Remember that part of being a successful leader is being a helpful team member. When you promote a feeling of being an important part of a team, your workers will pull together more and get the job done instead of simply considering themselves as individuals.

Staying Up-to-Date on Technology

The more you stay current on the latest technology, the more likely your construction business will thrive. For example, you need to make use of GPS and GNSS technology because it is imperative to know the location of your machines and trucks, besides the specific jobs they’re performing. Today’s technology can help you automate and streamline many of your processes, including scheduling and equipment rentals.

Keeping Track of Finances

Paying close attention to financial books is another habit of a successful construction business owner. This means having accurate bookkeeping records in which every dime is accounted for. This is one of the many advantages of hiring a PEO. By maintaining excellent financial books, you can bid better and be more confident than your competition so that money isn’t left on the table.

Knowing When to Outsource to a PEO

If you’re a construction business owner, you probably have more financial risks as well as more time demands than other business owners. An effective way to ensure you devote more of your time to jobs that generate revenue is by hiring a PEO. When wondering if you should outsource to a PEO, consider the size of your business. If you notice the administrative process slowing down your company’s productivity, it can be a sign you need help. Some of the many services of a PEO include:

  • Being sure a business is compliant with the various employment laws that are enforced by the Department of Labor
  • Managing cash-flow issues
  • Taking care of payroll and tax administration
  • Safety and risk management
  • Managing PR
  • Workers’ compensation management

Other Considerations and Warnings

  • Besides being able to manage money, successful construction owners should use their time constructively.
  • Being flexible or having a “Plan B” when unexpected issues arise is also important in succeeding in your business.
  • Networking is part of being successful. This involves having a diverse network of people you can rely on, particularly when problems arise. Networking is also a great way to bounce ideas for business growth off of fellow business owners.
  • Know when to say no. When you have more work than you’re able to complete, you can expect your clients to be dissatisfied as their projects are delayed or done haphazardly.
  • Do everything possible to solve problems, which usually means going the extra mile and sometimes involves working both harder and smarter than the competition.

For more information on the benefits of using a PEO, please contact us at Harbor America for a free consultation. We serve small to medium-sized business owners in the construction field, as well as many other industries.

communication in the workplace

Communication in the Workplace

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Communication is how we send and receive messages or, in other words, the exchanging of information. Workplace communication is the process of exchanging information, both verbal and non-verbal, within an organization. Communication occurs in various forms via emails, texts, tweets, phone calls, conversations, presentations, blogs, etc. Communication can be used to share thoughts and experiences, learn and exchange information and serve customers and clients.

The three main types of communication are defined as:

  • Verbal communication – the use of sounds and words to express yourself, especially in contrast to using gestures or mannerisms
  • Nonverbal communication – communication without the use of spoken language which includes gestures, facial expressions, and body positions
  • Written communication – involves any type of message that makes use of the written word

How your employees express themselves while communicating with customers and clients can ultimately set the tone for your business relationships.

There are many important aspects of workplace communication. Here are four important ones:

Be Efficient
You want to be able to deliver a clear message in the shortest amount of time. Keep the information brief and simple to understand.

Pause (in verbal communication)
Pausing gives the person a moment to think about what has been said. This can help people understand the information and allow them to think of rebuttal questions or comments. It also avoids the individual from using filler words to express their point; for example, words like, uh, well, umm, etc.

Build Rapport
When you build rapport with customers or clients, you build trust. You should find common ground and be authentic. Repeating what someone is saying demonstrates empathy, which strengthens rapport.

Listen (all aspects of communication)
Maintaining eye contact and appearing interested can greatly affect the other person’s responses. Listen to the needs of the customer or client so you are able to help them the first time. Be sure you answer all the questions asked. You want your customers or clients to feel valued and heard.

There are many ways to build your workplace communication skills. We all communicate differently, but we all want and need to communicate effectively. Check out a few of the links below for articles on ways to improve you and your employees’ workplace communication skills.