4 Advantages of Hiring Externally

October 13th, 2021

When you set out in search of a new hire for an open position, you’ll need to make one key decision first: Should you promote or relocate an employee who already works for the company? Or should you cast your net outside the company walls and do your best to attract a highly qualified person who may also be a stranger to your business and its culture? Here are a few reasons why the second option—seeking an external candidate—may be your best bet.

You’ll have plenty of diverse points of access.

Seeking an internal candidate will mostly involve reaching out to qualified workers directly, making an internal announcement, or asking managers to recommend qualified members of their teams. But if you turn your attention outward, you’ll a long list of avenues you can use to reach willing and capable candidates, for example, job fairs, online ads, independent agencies, college employment offices, and even radio and TV commercials. The options are limited only by what you can afford and what method seems best suited to your business model.

Your candidates will all view the company with fresh eyes.

There’s certainly an advantage to taking on a new hire who knows the company inside and out. But a complete stranger will come in the door with no prior knowledge, and therefore no long-term baggage, overfamiliarity with company quirks and flaws, existing relationships within the organization which may be problematic, burnout, distrust, or skepticism. New hires from the outside are usually eager to establish their relationships on the right foot, and they also bring a sense of fresh air and previous exposure to operations and innovations that existing hires haven’t seen.

External hires allow you to break negative hiring patterns.

There may be something incorrect, unconsciously biased, self-defeating, or even just imperfect, about the way the company and its managers hire and promote. Seeking only internal candidates can perpetuate these problems and harden them into the system. Going outside of the company can break these negative patterns, even if they haven’t been clearly identified.

External hiring keeps great people in the right jobs.

Pulling or promoting excellent workers out of their roles isn’t always the best way to run a business. When a promotion is used as a reward for great work, the promoted employee tends to walk away from a role in which they excelled, and into a role that is entirely new, unfamiliar, and possibly not even a great fit for their skills and experience. Ironically, it’s sometimes best to reward great performers by leaving them right where they are and offering them a different incentive, such as higher pay or better working conditions. But to do this, you’ll need to staff open positions with newcomers.

For more on how to find the right people for your team—inside or outside of the organization—contact the staffing experts at PSU.

Creating a Safety Checklist

September 30th, 2021

Is your manufacturing facility a safe place to work? You may feel prepared to answer with an immediate “yes” if you don’t happen to have a questionable record of recent injuries and incidents. But a lack of incidents does NOT mean you’re operating a safe workplace. It might just mean you’re either lucky, or you’re relying on the judgement, reflexes, and skill of your employees to keep themselves and others out of harm’s way. That’s not the path to success. Instead, consider tightening up your layout, procedures, and policies so your workers and visitors are safe even in the event of off days or lapses in attention. Start by creating a safety checklist that each employee can adhere to at all times.

Here are a few simple guidelines.

First, divide universal items from individual ones.

Every employee who enters your workplace should have a list of shared rules and protocols. These will all be the same, and everyone will follow them (from part timers to executives) with zero exceptions. For example, you may need all workers to sign in, or to wear helmets while inside the building. You may need every incident to be reported, no matter how small. And you may need every person who touches a machine to be certified on that machine. Keep these checklist items separate from the checklist items that apply to specific, individual jobs.

For individual checklists, gain input from relevant workers.

Start with OSHA requirements, HR data, and manufacturers guidelines for specific machines. But don’t rely on these three things alone as you create your safety checklist for individual jobs. Walk through the job with an employee who holds that job. Gain insight into every detail that may impact employee safety. What happens if the machine isn’t cleaned properly between uses? What if the floor of the work area is wet? What if the lighting is too low? What are the steps that must be taken by the company and by the worker to keep this job safe?

Gain buy-in from management, employees, and HR when changing official policies.

Don’t require an employee to take certain cumbersome safety steps if you aren’t prepared to enforce those rules. For example, if requiring an employee to slow down for safety makes it harder to meet productivity quotas, the quotas must be changed or employees might not comply. Don’t put anyone in the company into a catch 22; instead, make sure rules and policies work for everyone before you put them in place.

Allow flexibility in the process.

Chances are, you’re create a safety checklist that contains a few oversights and mistakes…or more than a few. Be ready to revisit your checklists again and again, adding, removing and editing items that need adjustment. Let science and experience be your guide. If a new rule seems like it SHOULD make the job safer, but it actually adds complications that make it more dangerous, revisit the rule. For more on how to support workplace safety, contact the experts at PSU.

The Rewards of a Job in Manufacturing

September 15th, 2021

Should you explore a career in manufacturing? How about just a job, one that pays well, offers opportunities for growth, and provides benefits you might not expect?

Here are a few reasons to add manufacturing companies to your list of potential employers.

This isn’t your grandparent’s industry.

Our culture associates manufacturing jobs with old-fashioned images of conveyor belts and smelting pots and dank, loud, dangerous workplaces with lifelong employees toiling at repetitive jobs until they retire. Maybe they take a break each day to eat lunch from a tin pail. But in recent decades, manufacturing workplaces have seen regulations that make them safer, cleaner, innovative, respectful, and often places where new employees don’t stay for life, but instead launch fulfilling careers into a wide variety of other fields. Take a closer look; what you see on the manufacturing floor may not be what you expect.

Manufacturing jobs are offering better pay.

Along with safety, cleanliness and advanced technology, manufacturers all over the country are beginning to increase salaries to ensure that they can compete for labor against other industries. Minimum or non-livable wages won’t cut it anymore, and a growing number of employers are not just grudgingly offering the new minimum. They want the best workers they can find, so they’re willing to pay the true cost of your commitment, energy, and time.

…And if you want to stay, they want you to stay.

Smart employers recognize that ambitious workers won’t stay on board forever. They’ll come in the door, give everything they have, learn, grow, and then leave to begin the next chapter of their lives. Smart employers don’t resent this—they encourage it. They want to be your stepping stone to “better” things. But they also want to create career paths within the company, so they can retain the talents and productivity of their most ambitious workers. If you want growth, you can find it in manufacturing. If you want stability, you can find that too.

The doors are wide open.

As it happens, the current balance between employers and employees in this sector is tipped in favor of workers. Workers willing to step onto the factory floor are in very high demand right now and fairly short supply. If you’re willing to consider a job in this field, employers are ready to roll out a red carpet for you…or at the very least, they’re eager to take a look at your resume. In fact, many employers have far more open positions than they’re able to staff, so the cards are in your favor at the negotiating table. Have a seat! If you listen to what these employers have to offer, you may find yourself in a great new job—one with a bright future, benefits, competitive wages, a respectful environment, and the opportunity to learn new skills that you can apply wherever your lifelong career may take you. For more information, contact the job search experts at PSU.

Motivating your Production Line

August 30th, 2021

How can you keep your production line workers safe and happy while also making sure they maximize productivity during every hour on the job? A few simple moves can help you keep things running at top speed without increasing the risk of injuries, mistakes, or turnover.

keep these in mind as you look for ways to optimize your performance as a manager or supervisor.

Praise and Reward

Praise and reward the employees who you hope to position as role models in the eyes of others. Never underestimate the power of peer influence, and respect the fact that as much as your employees want to impress you and stay in your good graces, most of them (like all of us) pursue the good graces of their peers even more. If you have someone on your team who’s always in a good mood, who shrugs off minor hassles like boredom, repetition, or mild discomfort, who’s kind to others and lends a hand when needed, who’s encouraging, who’s indefatigable, friendly, energetic, and simply makes “work” feel fun and purposeful, make sure that person recognizes her enormous contributions to the company.

Establish Meaningful Incentives

It might seem economical, from the company’s perspective, to offer cheap, easy incentives for performance like half-price coupons at a local ice cream shop or five minutes added to a ten-minute break. But most of your employees are adults with complex and demanding lives, and as much as they might like half-price ice cream treats, they value two things above all others: Real time, and real money. Provide meaningful bonuses and raises that can help them pay their bills, and provide meaningful time off, which means full days of no-strings-attached PTO.

Allow Small Concessions

If your employees would like a new couch in the break room, control over the radio that plays while they work the line, or some other small thing that costs you very little but helps them relax and focus as they work, don’t resist. Even a show of mild resistance can send the wrong message. Don’t let your employees get the idea that your feel entitled to things they own, including their time, money, comfort, or attention. Negotiating too hard, or haggling over small concessions, can imply that you and your

employees are adversaries, both of you in the game to gain as much as possible at the expense of the other. This is not a winning proposition for the company in the long run; employees can always find other jobs, but you can’t easily replace high performing employees.

For more on how to frame your employee relationships and shape your company culture to maximize productivity, talk to the experts at PSU.

Answering Questions During Your Manufacturing Interview

August 15th, 2021

You’re about to step into your first interview for a manufacturing job, and you’re ready to start strong and make a great impression! You have a clean and appropriate outfit ready to go, you’re going to show up on time, and you’re going to make eye contact and project a can-do attitude. While you prepare to give yourself every advantage, add another to the list by anticipating the kinds of questions you’ll be asked and having some answers in mind.

Here are a few questions you’re likely to face. Be ready!

Tell me about yourself.

When you hear this question, answer by telling your life story, but with some very large edits. Turn the entire story into three sentences, and take out every detail except the parts that brought you here to this interview on this day. Explain that you were born, then something happened, and because of that event, you decided to interview for this job. Skip the rest.

Why do you want a manufacturing job like this one?

Answer this question with an honest explanation of what you hope to get out of this role over the long term. Do you have a personal connection the product made here? Do you have a background or any experience with this specific type of production? If you chose this job simply because you respect the company and it’s close to where you live, it’s okay to just say that.

Why do you want a job that involves hard work?

Physically demanding or mentally taxing jobs that come with odd hours, discomfort, and a higher level of sacrifice are not for everyone. Your interviewer will likely ask why you think this type of environment will work for you, and how you plan to deal with these demands. Again, be honest. If you don’t mind spending long hours on your feet, or you truly enjoy the stimulation of working with your hands and staying in motion, say so.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

There are two answers that employers want to hear when they ask this question: They want to hear that the interviewee plans to stay right here with this company, OR they want to hear from a generally

bright, focused, ambitious person with long term goals outside of this place, goals that will require her to work hard here and make a great impression before moving on. Let your interviewer know that in five years, you plan to be right here within these walls. OR let them know that you’re using this job to get somewhere else. You’re putting yourself through school, you’d like to work your way into a supervisor role, or you’d like hands on experience with the company’s technology so you can leverage those skills later on. Just don’t shrug and act as though your future doesn’t concern you.

For more on how to impress your interviewer and land the job you’re looking for, talk to the staffing pros at PSU.

Why the Third Shift May be Right for You

July 25th, 2021

The “third shift” is a term that applies to almost any hours worked during the night, but most often, it means a shift that begins soon after midnight and ends at about eight in the morning. The third shift, or the graveyard shift, isn’t an evening; it’s a whole workday put in during the very dead of the night. Taking on this responsibility usually means reversing your circadian cycle so you’re sound asleep while everyone else is bustling through the day, and rising for breakfast at 10 or 11 pm. Not for you? That’s not a surprise. Most people are put off by the physical stress this lifestyle places on the body, not to mention the extreme inconvenience. (It’s hard to schedule personal appointments, talk to friends and family, or run errands when you’re only awake at night.)

But keep in mind, most employers recognize the unpopularity of the night shift, and they really need team members who can do this valuable work. Without night shift workers, some companies would quickly go out of business. Before you give this awkward schedule a hard pass, consider the benefits.

Night shifts come with higher pay per hour.

This can be called a shift bonus, a shift differential, or simply higher pay for doing the same work as the day-shifters, but doing it at night. Paying more for the night shift is standard business practice for 24-hour employers. (Don’t be bamboozled into thinking it’s a “perk” or a benefit. It’s expected. If a potential employer doesn’t provide this differential, walk away.) Over weeks, months or years, a few extra dollars per hour can really add up.

Night shifts are typically less stressful.

In almost every company, through no specific design, night shifts tend to be quieter. Even on a factory floor where the line moves at the same essential pace, the vibe is calmer, voices are quieter, and the overall level of demand tends to change. And most factory or warehouse environments do actually slow down lines and production speeds, for practical reasons; people tend to move slower at night and they often make more mistakes, so slowing down demand is good for business.

Some people don’t respond biologically the same way others do.

Most people experience a level of biological stress while working on a reverse circadian schedule. But just as some of us require eight hours of sleep and some require six or fewer, some suffer from the night shift and others don’t. For reasons that can’t really be explained, some people just aren’t negatively affected by working as night owls. You may be one of them. You’d have to try it for a while to find out.

If a quiet, calm atmosphere, a little darkness, and an introverted lifestyle seem like a match for you, and you don’t mind making more cheddar for doing the same job–just on an unpopular schedule—give the third shift a try. Employers usually scramble to staff these positions, and you might find out you’re the exact employee they’re looking for. Reach out to the team at PSU to learn more.

Questions to Ask your Skilled Laborers in an Interview

July 15th, 2021

You’re on a hiring mission, and you need a candidate who can do a very specific task. Sure, you also need a friendly, adaptable person with a can-do spirit who can learn new things quickly—who doesn’t?—but in this case, all of those qualities pale in comparison to the one you need the most.

You may need a CDC machinist, a cook, a translator who can speak fluid Hindi, or someone who can step up to a podium and command a crowd with their public speaking skills. You might need a trained electrician, an X-ray technician, or someone who can clean the soot out of an industrial chimney. In all of these cases—and many, many more—it’s not practical to hire a cheerful, smart, friendly employee who lacks these skills and simply train them on the job. These are tasks that take years to learn and a lifetime to master, and you need an employee who can step up to the plate on day one.

So how can you be sure that your candidate has what it takes? Here are a few questions to pose during the interview so you can rest assured that you and your candidate are on the same page and both of you understand what’s required and what’s being offered in terms of skill and value.

Ask them to describe their training.

This is a quick way to get a sense of how many hours (or decades) your candidate has been immersed in this activity. Depending on the nature of the skilled task and the needs of your company, a completion statement for a 20-hour training course or a simple state certification may be enough. In other cases, you may need someone who’s possessed this skill since childhood, or someone who has been taking formal lessons for five years or more. It’s easy for a candidate to say “I can do this”. It’s more helpful if they can say “I’ve studied with a master craftsman for a year”, or “I’ve been licensed and practicing since my early 20’s”, or “my grandmother taught me to do this when I was a teenager.”

Ask for a quick demonstration if the circumstances allow.

Of course you can’t usually ask a candidate to bake a cake or cut a child’s hair for you during an interview, but you can ask them to speak a few words in a non-native language or solve a common

puzzle that the task in question may present. Make the task or demonstration reflect the level of difficulty that the person will be likely to experience on the job.

Use tests.

Simply offering a written test can cover a lot of ground when it comes to skill assessment. But keep a few things in mind: some experts at a craft may not be able to convey that in a written test format, so don’t risk losing an expert candidate because you relied on only one weak metric. Also, it’s essential to use the same test for every candidate who applies for the job.

Ask tough insider questions.

If you don’t know what to ask because you yourself cannot bake a cake, speak Italian, or wire a house, then get your questions from someone else—someone who’s fluent in this area of expertise. Bring the candidate’s answers back to that person or source to find out how valid they are. For more, reach out to the staffing experts at PSU.

Is Your Team Following These Commonly Broken Safety Rules?

June 25th, 2021

Safety rules are an important part of work, life, productivity and success for any company that operates an active non-office workplace. (Offices can be dangerous too, of course, but that’s a subject for another post.) If your business requires the use of a warehouse, manufacturing facility, shipping and receiving area, press, cold storage, or any other place where the unexpected can and will happen, make sure these frequently ignored safety rules are actively enforced.

Hard hats and protective coverings.

Hard hats, safety goggles, masks, and other items that slip easily on and off without interfering with regular clothing can provide a powerful layer of protection. But only if employees can be bothered to grab and apply them when it matters. Far too often, they can’t and don’t. Once a few managers get away with casting aside this rule, it becomes acceptable for rank-and-file employees to do so also. And since what we wear (or don’t wear) can have a strong influence on social cohesion, a little bit of peer pressure can easily expose employees to grievous harm, and the company to expensive claims. Think a bunch of tough factory workers don’t care how they look and always put responsibility and safety first? Think again.

Certification-only machinery.

If an employee hasn’t received official (and completed!) training on the forklift, meat slicer, box crusher, or chromatograph, they shouldn’t use it. End of story. It doesn’t matter if deadlines are looming and certified operators aren’t present. Employees usually bend this rule when pressured to help “get things done” and motivated to impress their bosses by “pitching in”. Don’t let this tendency work its way into your workplace culture.

No entry zones.

No entry means no entry, even if the forbidden area provides a shortcut between one frequently used area and another. Find a way to re-route foot traffic or physically close the area off to those without keys or digital access cards. If a “no-entry” sign is placed at the entrance and it doesn’t really need to be there, take it down. Otherwise, signs in more important areas are likely to be ignored.

Floor protection measures.

Wet and slippery floors can be a leading cause of accidents and problems in the workplace, and these incidents and tragedies are often entirely avoidable. Protect indoor-outdoor thresholds with carpets or rubber floor coverings, and keep danger zones clean and dry. Meanwhile, make sure employees take proper precautions in those areas, such as slowing down motorized carts. Clean up spills and leaks immediately; don’t let them sit.

For more on how to encourage employees to pay attention to the rules under dangerous circumstances, contact the workplace experts at PSU.

Stay Safe While Operating Machinery

June 15th, 2021

We all know that sawmills and meat processing facilities are dangerous places to work. Giant spinning blades, boiling vats, and mechanized lifters and crushers are hard not to notice, and anyone with an instinct for self-preservation will increase their level of vigilance in an environment where injuries are common and obvious. But far too often, quiet and seemingly harmless machinery can lull workers into a false sense of safety and oblivion. Don’t let this happen in your workplace. Here are a few tips that keep everyone in a healthy and appropriate state of heightened awareness.

Post signs when needed, take them down when not.

Too many safety and warning signs can be more dangerous than none at all. Take a tour of your facility and review each warning sign for its level of effectiveness. Is the sign clear? Is it visible and readable? Does it make proper use of text and graphics? Tiny font, faded letting, unclear drawings, and excessive intensity can all make safety warnings useless. Fix what isn’t working, and if a machine is actually safer than the sign suggests, take the sign down. Otherwise, more important warnings will be ignored as well.

Don’t drive distracted.

Most workplace operators of forklifts, reach trucks, crushers, and conveyors are not intoxicated while on the job. But distraction and sleep deprivation are just as dangerous and are far harder to detect and prevent. Encourage your employees to use their common sense and trust their instincts if they aren’t in a safe state of mind. If an employee is ill or working on no sleep and they tell you this to protect themselves and others, thank them for their honesty and keep them away from the machine until they’re ready.

Horseplay is never okay.

Horseplay on or around dangerous machinery should never be tolerated in the workplace. Impose and follow through on strict penalties for dangerous clowning, and don’t let good cheer and friendly bonding interfere with a culture of responsibility, maturity, professionalism, and safety.

Walk the walk.

Make sure your managers and senior staff take safety rules as seriously as employees are expected to take them. There’s no excuse for walking in a hard hat zone without a hard hat, no matter how busy or important the non-wearer may consider him or herself to be.

For more on how to keep your workplace safe and your employees compliant with the rules that protect them, talk to the management experts at PSU.

It May be Time to Update Your Job Descriptions

May 11th, 2021

You hire new employees on a somewhat regular basis (or at least a few times per year), and each time you do so, you create new files and accounts for the employee for HR, IT, and a variety of departments and projects. So why not take a few minutes to update the job description that made that new relationship possible? In fact, why not update all of your job descriptions? This may seem like a non-urgent task, but in the long run, doing so can save you both time and money.

Here’s how to update your job descriptions:

You should have access to updated and accurate job descriptions during the hiring process.

You don’t need to hire for this role anymore. After all, you just brought a promising new star on board. But time flies by quickly, and it’s a good idea to be prepared for the day you’ll need to go through all of this again. It may not be tomorrow or even three years from now, but when it happens, save yourself a headache and simply access the file you’ve already created.

Clear away confusion and disputes before they happen.

Disagreements about an employee’s level of responsibility, the sphere of influence, or control over specific tasks all begin with a clear job description. Disputes may arise during performance evaluations (“I didn’t realize that customer service was essential to this role”) or salary negotiations (“You accomplished a lot, but we never asked you to do this”), or even accountability investigations when something goes wrong. Having a job description in writing can reduce the cost and drama associated with this process.

New employee onboarding will be easier for both parties.

Job descriptions let an employee know exactly who they’ll be reporting to and who they can turn to when they have questions or need resources to do their jobs correctly. Clear job descriptions can also allow both parties to set accurate expectations for success. Far too often, new employees clear every hiring hurdle and step in the door only to find out the job isn’t the one they thought they were applying

for. That kind of disappointment can be frustrating for them and expensive for you. If everyone knows exactly what to expect, employees are more likely to stay with the organization for a long time.

Update and take out the buzzwords and fluff.

When you’re pitching a position to potential star applicants, you’ll likely use exciting, attention-getting language that suits the culture and the time period. But all trendy language goes stale eventually. Modern job applicants look for different keywords now then applicants did ten years ago. As times change, talented candidates want and need different forms of compensation and flexibility. Stay in touch with these changes. For more on how to bring success to your hiring process, contact the experts at PSU.

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