Recruiting Outside the Box: Indiana Dual Career Network

Recruiting has become something of a dance. It’s no longer as simple as placing an ad and waiting for candidates to knock on your door. Recruiters must be creative and utilize a multitude of tools to source talent.

The standard avenues for recruitment still exist – word of mouth, employee referrals and job boards. There is one piece, however, that has been a challenge for individuals recruiting for highly specialized fields: What happens to the spouses of the candidates being courted?

Recently, I was invited by a colleague at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) to participate in a group called the Indiana Dual Career Network (IDCN). Laura Farkas, interim president of IDCN, summarizes the goal of the group:

The IDCN is a network of professionals throughout the state who are involved with talent recruitment, with the added focus of paying attention to Dual Career issues, which is another way of saying “Trailing Spouse” challenges. In other words, as Indiana companies and institutions of Higher Ed are trying to recruit talent to their organizations, a pool of talented spouses and partners develops alongside them, who will be wanting to envision compelling work for themselves. Instead of a problem, we want to engage with each other and share information, resources, and networking contacts to make sure we all see “Trailing Spouses” as opportunities.

IDCN started a little under four years ago specifically for the academic world. Department heads at a number of Indiana universities were having difficulty attracting talent and realized that often the reason a candidate rejected a position was the lack of job opportunity for the trailing partner.

Farkas shared a recent IDCN success story: A candidate for a job at Purdue University had received six offers, but chose Purdue because of the additional job search assistance available to their partner.

This is creative networking at its best. Communicating through ListServ, the group can spread the word within the academic world and to surrounding business partners and work to secure employment for those partners of job prospects.

IDCN’s goal is not only filling positions, but also attracting and keeping talent in Indiana. I definitely will continue to reach out to this group for upcoming open positions.

Judge Strikes Down Obama-Era Federal Overtime Rules

A federal judge in Texas last week struck down an Obama-era federal rule on overtime pay that would have added to the regulatory burden and increased the salary threshold for overtime-eligible workers – thus increasing employers’ labor costs.

The rule would have made about 4 million people eligible for overtime that were not previously eligible and would have impacted the “white collar exemption” of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Mike Ripley, Indiana Chamber vice president of health care and employment law policy, pointed to the overreach of the previous administration’s Department of Labor (DOL) rule and that the judge’s decision makes way for more reasonable agreement and discussion between employers and the DOL.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue released this statement about the judge’s decision:

“(The) decision is another victory for the effort to free our economy from the regulatory stranglehold of the last eight years. We have consistently said that the last administration went too far in its 2016 ­overtime rule, and we are pleased that Judge Mazzant granted a final judgment that makes permanent his previous ruling against the overtime rule.

“This means that small businesses, nonprofits, and other employers throughout the economy can be certain that the 2016 salary threshold will not result in significant new labor costs and cause many disruptions in how work gets done. The Obama administration’s rule would have resulted in salaried professional employees being converted to hourly wages, reduced workplace flexibility and remote electronic access to work, and halted opportunities for career advancement. 

“We look forward to working with the Department of Labor on a new rule to develop a more appropriate update to the salary threshold.”

A coalition of national and local business groups challenged the rule in 2016 and the Indiana Attorney General’s office filed on behalf of the state of Indiana.

The Department of Justice this week dropped an appeal to save the rule after the judge’s decision.

Don’t Forget to R-EAP the Benefits of Employer-Sponsored Plans

While salary, vacation time, insurance payments and creature comforts are the highly-touted employer benefits offered to employees, there’s an extremely valuable resource that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves: the Employee Assistance Plan (EAP).

Though benefits change from plan to plan, an EAP often covers services such as free counseling or therapy sessions, phone or internet-based counseling options, assistance with elder care/child care, financial assistance, stress management, help with legal concerns, addiction and recovery assistance, concierge or convenience services and more.

While not all companies offer the plans, over three-quarters of employers named to the 2017 Best Places to Work in Indiana list reported offering an EAP to their employees. And as the top-rated workplaces in the state based on their own employee surveys, they must all be on to something.

I sat down with the Indiana Chamber’s director of human resources, Michelle Kavanaugh, SPHR, to discuss why EAPs are sometimes underutilized and what human resources professionals can do to help boost involvement. She points to the EAP often getting lost in the open enrollment or new hire process.

“The benefits process and open enrollment can be overwhelming to people; they’re just trying to figure out the medical side of insurance and a lot of times the extras get missed,” she offers. “The EAP benefits that people hear about, you just sort of put them away and don’t think you’ll ever need to use it.”

Another issue is the stigma that surrounds mental health.

“There is also a misconception about reaching out for help with mental health issues that prevents people from utilizing it too,” she adds.

Her recommendations for getting the word out include utilizing existing communications methods – highlighting various pieces of the EAP in a company newsletter, for example. And using personal testimonials from employees who have benefitted from the resources can make a big impact.

My personal testimonial is this: I was never aware of the benefits of an EAP myself (I have no idea if any of my previous employers even offered such a service) until the time came that I needed additional help outside of the office, particularly after my first daughter was born and I struggled with post-partum anxiety. My first piece of advice to any friend or family member dealing with myriad issues is, “Does your employer offer an EAP? Go talk to your human resources representative and find out.”

Employers benefit from offering the programs as well. While I don’t have return on investment numbers to share, it’s well documented that emotional and mental well-being are critical to employee performance and productivity. If employees are able to manage their stress – financial, emotional, family and otherwise – outside of the workplace, they’re less likely to have those issues impact their performance on the job.

Help your bottom line by ensuring your employees know they have valuable resources available to them. Or, if you don’t have an EAP, talk to your benefits provider about how to get started. And don’t forget to spread the word to your employees – it only works if they use it!

Management Performance Hub Picks Up Speed

The Indiana Chamber has been a key advocate for Indiana’s Management and Performance Hub (MPH) by recently supporting legislation to codify and fund it so it can achieve more.

MPH is a data hub that can link and aggregate state agency datasets with other data to help improve the performance and outcomes on many issues, including education/workforce, the opioid crisis and traffic safety. Think of it as a depot, where data can be assembled and studied to further outcomes and make better data-driven decisions.

Beyond improving state government performance and enhancing transparency, there is the ability to provide useful information to external partners including researchers, the business community and not-for-profit organizations. There will be an external-facing component of MPH to determine protocol on how this information can be utilized for maximum benefit.

The Indiana Chamber is a member of an advisory group to review guidelines and policies being established by MPH. We are also part of the Indiana Open Data Council to provide advice and guidance as MPH evolves; this includes the state and researcher and community advisors to help further MPH’s goals, scale innovation and increase utilization of the MPH.

For more information about the latest with the MPH, read its newsletter.

What To Do About Negative References

Reference checking is often viewed as a routine matter. But not for the company or the job seeker when certain information is shared.

Allison & Taylor, a company engaged in the reference business for more than 30 years, offers the following:

It’s an all-to familiar scenario – a job seeker with strong employment credentials has interviewed well, and received positive feedback from a prospective employer.  After being asked to provide a list of references, communications suddenly stop; no explanation is provided, and the job seeker’s attempts to follow up elicit a vague “we decided to go in a different direction” statement.

What is happening here?

While there may be multiple reasons why a prospective employer has suddenly lost interest, one possibility is that a reference they’ve contacted has offered negative commentary about the job seeker.  When this happens, the employer begins to see the job seeker as an employment risk, and it’s highly likely that the entire process will stutter to a stop.

The employment process can be tricky, and there are three common ways that an unfavorable reference can derail even the most promising job prospect:

  1. The Supervisor Dilemma – A potential employer will often ask, “May we contact your former supervisor?”  If they are told “no”, it sends up a red flag and makes the employer wonder what a job seeker has to hide.  If the contact is permitted, a job seeker runs the risk that the reference may offer some negative feedback – supervisors often give a mix of favorable and unfavorable commentary about their former subordinates.    
  2. HR’s Influence – Human resources, which most former employees feel is a “safe” reference bet, can actually be quite problematic.  While company policy may not allow them to provide damaging commentary, they may indicate that the employee is not eligible for rehire or suggest that the separation was due to involuntary, unfavorable circumstances.  
  3. “Do Not Hire” – Still another possibility is that a job seeker is on a former employer’s “do not hire” list.  This could be due to any number of reasons, including a failed background check, minor corporate infractions or resume fraud. While most U.S. hiring managers rarely admit that they keep such records, they do exist.

Allison & Taylor reports that approximately half of all reference checks it conducts reveal negative input from the reference.

Job Losses Have Lasting Impact

The ripple effects of large-scale job losses linger for years and can keep adolescents from attending college later in life, according to new research carrying significant ramifications for policy makers, college recruiters and counselors.

Poor middle school and high school students who live through major job losses in their region attend college at significantly lower rates when they are 19 years old, according to new research published in the journal Science. A 7% state job loss when a student is an adolescent is tied to a 20% decline in likelihood that the poorest young people will attend college.

Local job losses hurt adolescent mental health, researchers found. Job losses also cut academic performance. The negative impacts are not limited to children from families where parents lost jobs – they extend to those who witness their friends, neighbors and others in the community being affected by layoffs.

Researchers argue that large-scale job losses are not simply economic events touching directly affected families. They are community-level traumas, said Elizabeth O. Ananat, an associate professor of public policy studies and economics at Duke University who is one of the lead authors of the paper appearing in Science.

“Worse mental health and worse test scores, they are all going to be blows to you that knock you off the path,” Ananat said. “That was a difficult path to begin with.”

In the economic theory, a student may have watched their father lose his job when a mine closed. Or they watched a friend’s mother be laid off when the local factory downsized. Those students should then be drawn to a college education because of the promise of larger financial returns and more stable employment in the newly developing knowledge economy.

In other words, economic theory has tended to focus on the idea that a shrinking pool of blue-collar jobs increases the relative return on investment of a college education. But it’s not working that way in the real world.

“Economists tend to think about it as a change in relative prices – the return changes,” Ananat said. “They miss the fact that it’s an emotional blow, like another kind of community trauma would be.”

Report: Competency Focus Mostly on Adults

Three states considered bills that would have enacted competency-based education policies in 2016 and five considered such bills in 2017, according to a new report from the Education Commission of the States.

A number of states (including New Hampshire) and districts (including Chicago) are using or contemplating competency-based learning in K-12 schools. A group of prestigious private high schools recently began pushing for colleges to accept competency-based high school transcripts, which highlight students’ skills and accomplishments instead of more-traditional grades.

But the state legislatures seem to mostly be contemplating how to use competency-based education to serve adults. Lexi Anderson, the report’s author, notes that states’ competency-based education bills mostly target the growing population of people over 25 who are enrolled in postsecondary education.

“[C]ompetency-based education serves to award credit/degrees to students for meeting specific skill competencies agreed upon by faculty, industry leaders, and workforce representatives,” she writes. “This innovative delivery model could create greater access to postsecondary education for returning adults, low-income students, and working adults needing additional skills.”

Number of Independent Workers Continues to Climb

The independent workforce continues to grow and mature, even as the economy continues to rebound and the unemployment rate declines, according to MBO Partners, the nation’s largest provider of business services and tools to the self-employed and companies that engage them. The company released its 2017 State of Independence in America report, the country’s longest-running end-to-end survey of the American independent workforce.

According to the new report, the total number of self-employed Americans aged 21 and above rose to 40.9 million in 2017, up 2.8% from 2016. Independents, who now represent about 31% of the U.S. civilian labor force, are distributed across every demographic, age, gender, skill and income group.

Over 40% of the U.S. adult workforce reports either currently working or having worked as an independent at one time during their careers. Over the next five years, MBO Partners projects that fully half of the U.S. adult workforce will have experienced what independent work can offer.

Independents work in all segments of the U.S. workforce and are of vital impact to our economy, generating roughly $1.2 trillion of revenue for the U.S. economy, equal to about 6% of U.S. GDP.

Three key trends emerged from this year’s study:

  • The number of high earning independents rose for the sixth year in a row. Ongoing economic expansion enables those whose skills are in high demand to get more work and to command a premium for their services. Now, 3.2 million full-time independents make more than $100,000 annually, up 4.9% from 2016 and an annualized increase of more than 3% each year since 2011.

  • More Americans are seeking to supplement their income with part-time independent work or “side gigging.”Though the economy is getting stronger, the typical American worker has seen very little – if any – wage gains. As a result, many Americans who are struggling to keep up with inflation and higher costs are supplementing their income with part-time independent work or side gigging. Fueled in part by the growth of the increasing number of online platforms, the number of people working as occasional independents (those working irregularly or sporadically as independents but at least once per month) soared 23% to 12.9 million, up from 10.5 million in 2016.

  • A strong job market has created a “barbell effect” on both sides of the independent work spectrum. Work opportunities are growing on both sides of the spectrum – both unskilled and skilled – creating a barbell effect. At the low end of the market, there is growing demand for online platform workers, such as Uber drivers or TaskRabbiters, who usually go independent to supplement income, learn new skills or even to socialize in retirement. On the other end of the spectrum, we see a strong rise in entrepreneurial independent professionals earning significant incomes by offering unique services in areas such as technology and marketing.

Survey: Social Media Screening on the Rise

Before posting pictures of your late-night revelry or complaints about your job on social media, think again – 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates before hiring, up significantly from 60% last year and 11% in 2006.

The national survey was conducted online on behalf of CareerBuilder by Harris Poll. It included a representative sample of more than 2,300 hiring managers and human resource professionals across industries and company sizes in the private sector.

Social recruiting is becoming a key part of HR departments – three in 10 employers have someone dedicated to the task. When researching candidates for a job, employers who use social networking sites are looking for information that supports their qualifications for the job (61%), if the candidate has a professional online persona (50%), what other people are posting about the candidates (37%) and for a reason not to hire a candidate (24%).

Employers aren’t just looking at social media – 69% are using online search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing to research candidates as well.

Of those who decided not to hire a candidate based on their social media profiles, the reasons included:

  • Candidate posted provocative or inappropriate photographs, videos or information: 39%
  • Candidate posted information about them drinking or using drugs: 38%
  • Candidate had discriminatory comments related to race, gender, religion: 32%
  • Candidate bad-mouthed their previous company or fellow employee: 30%
  • Candidate lied about qualifications: 27%
  • Candidate had poor communication skills: 27%
  • Candidate was linked to criminal behavior: 26%

Your online persona doesn’t just have the potential to get you in trouble. Cultivating your presence online can also lead to reward. More than four in 10 employers have found content on a social networking site that caused them to hire the candidate. Among the primary reasons employers hired a candidate based on their social networking site were candidate’s background information supported their professional qualifications (38%), great communication skills (37%), a professional image (36%) and creativity (35%).

Debating removing your social media profiles while job searching? Think twice before you hit delete. Fifty-seven percent of employers are less likely to call someone in for an interview if they can’t find a job candidate online. Of that group, 36% like to gather more information before calling in a candidate for an interview and 25% expect candidates to have an online presence.

Just because you got the job doesn’t mean you can disregard what you post online. More than half of employers use social networking sites to research current employees. Thirty-four percent of employers have found content online that caused them to reprimand or fire an employee.

Tech Talk: Catching Up on Indiana Chamber Activity

A busy June at the Indiana Chamber of Commerce included items of importance to the innovation and entrepreneurship communities. A brief overview:

Indiana Vision 2025 Report Card
The every-other-year evaluation of our state’s economic performance includes the Dynamic and Creative Culture driver. Unfortunately, the statewide statistical measures don’t match up to the progress being seen in central Indiana and other select areas. Indiana is tied for 44th in the Kauffman Entrepreneurial Index and 35th in venture capital invested.

There are strong performances in university business spinouts, foreign direct investment and exports.

Full details and summaries at www.indianachamber.com/2025.

10th annual employer workforce survey 
While the Report Card showed some progress in educational measures, this survey reinforced the ongoing skills mismatch. Two numbers: 47% of respondents left jobs unfilled in the past year due to under-qualified applicants and 79% indicate filling their workforce is among their biggest challenges. Both trends have only increased over the past four years.

The survey also looks at workforce recruitment strategies, training and drug testing.

Details at www.indianachamber.com/education.

Coming Your Way

  • The July-August BizVoice® includes, among other features, visits to four co-working spaces around the state and a column on the green Internet of Things.•
  • Coming in mid-July is the new EchoChamber podcast. Technology and innovation will be one of the featured subjects. Catch a sneak preview at www.indianachamber.com/echochamber.