Time Theft: Is It Really a Crime?

A reader writes…

Hi, Anita:

One of my co-workers always shows up to work right at 8:00 a.m. and clocks in. After she makes her mark on the time card, she is out the door to park her car in the lot down the street and then to the cafeteria to get breakfast. By the time she actually starts working, it is at least 30 minutes past. Is it just me or is there something seriously wrong with this picture?

Dear, Time Sensitive:Time

What a great question! This applies to everyone from employees and supervisors to managers and business owners. Your belief that this practice is unethical is spot on. The official term for this type of behavior is “time theft.” Time theft happens when an employee is paid by their employer for work that has not actually been done. Many people may not even know they are doing something wrong but, in reality, they are costing their employers thousands of dollars a year.

There are a few types of time theft that everyone should be aware of. Your employees, co-workers, and even you may be guilty of time crimes.

  • Time Clock Theft: Employees who do not show up for their scheduled shift and have a friend clock in for them are committing time card fraud. This can also include our reader’s co-worker who comes in to work and clocks in but gets to work later than the start of hershift. Most of us are not being paid just to be in the building. We are paid to work and produce results. Forging time sheets to show additional hours worked is another way that unethical employees are trying to cheat the system.
  • Excessive Personal Time: Most managers and employers understand that their employees have lives outside of their jobs that may require attention during work hours from time to time. But when this becomes a routine, that is where the time theft concern arises. Non-work-related calls, emails, personal discussions, and social networking are the primary time wasters that are making employers pay the price.
  • Over-Extended Breaks: Employees are due a break or two during their shift according to federal labor laws. The most common instances of time theft occur when employees either take more breaks than allotted during their shift, do not clock out for breaks that they take, or extend the break time without making up the time.
  • Using Sick Time Inappropriately: Sick time is set aside to help employees in the event that they are ill and cannot be at work. Sometimes, employees will use these days to receive pay when they are taking a personal day off.

For a better understanding of how much these small actions can affect your productivity and profitability, take a look at the following chart from Acroprint. It shows how much arriving even five minutes late and leaving five minutes early can cost employers on a typical, full-time (250-day) work year.

Number of employees

2

5

10

25

50

Hourly Pay

Cost/Minute

Profit Loss

$8.00

$0.1333

$1,333

$3,333

$6,667

$16,667

$33,333

$12.00

$0.20

$2,000

$5,000

$10,000

$25,000

$50,000

$15.00

$0.25

$2,500

$6,250

$12,500

$31,250

$62,500

As you can see, even a small bending of the time rules can cost employers thousands of dollars.

While I applaud you for doing the ethical thing and not committing time theft yourself, I do suggest that you keep your co-worker’s behavior to yourself. Eventually, your supervisor will catch on and the employee will have to face the consequences. It is best to only be concerned with your work ethic and your performance. These issues typically work themselves out in the end.

Readers, do you find time theft occurring in your workplace? What would you do if you noticed your co-workers bending or breaking the rules and committing time crimes?

Best wishes,

Anita

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Declining a Job Offer Professionally

A reader writes…

Good Morning, Anita:

I have great news to report! After searching high and low for job opportunities, I was able to get not one but two job offers. I have taken both into consideration and analyzed the pros and cons of each position. Now that I have made my decision, I need to tell the other employer that I am not going to take their offer. How can I politely decline the position so as not to burn any bridges for the future?

Dear, Job Offer Juggler:

Congratulations on this exciting news! It is always great to hear from readers who have successfully found employment. For all you out there on the hunt for a new job, this is proof that you can and will find something!

Job offerAs for your question, I think that it is very important for your professional reputation to politely decline the other job offer. Just as you do not want potential employers to leave you hanging, you should show them the same courtesy. Who knows, the hiring company may have a future position you are interested in pursuing, and you do not want to sour a positive relationship.

Just as we previously discussed in my post Thank You for the Interview, it is important to be courteous and professional with your communications to the hiring manager. This will most likely be the last chance you have to leave an impression on them, and you want it to be a good one. Below are some rules to follow for declining the offer.

  • Use the appropriate means of communication. If you have been working with the hiring manager through email, you can  respond in that format. In some instances, a formal letter and even a phone call may be more appropriate. Choose  to communicate the news in whichever way  is more relevant to your experience.Job offer2
  • Take the time to plan your message. At this point, the hiring manager has spent a lot of time considering you for the position, and you need to be respectful of this. A well thought out message will show that you greatly appreciate the offer and will leave a more positive impact.
  • Be prompt with your response. Once you have made the decision to decline their offer, you need to let them know. They will have to make other arrangements and contact other candidates when you refuse, so try to make this process as timely as possible.
  • Keep the details to a minimum. The employer does not want to hear about how much better the other offer is. Let them know that you were impressed by their company and that you took all aspects of the offer into serious consideration before making your decision. A great “out” is that the job opportunity was not the best fit for you at this time.
  • Keep it short and sweet. There is no need to carry on about how great the company is and how much you wished it would have worked out. Think of it like ripping off a Band-Aid.

A great site to look at for examples and different ways to craft your letter can be found at Harvard Business Review blogger Jodi Glickman’s post Turning Down a Job Offer. It does a great job of laying it out for you, so take advantage of her advice!

Job seekers and employees, what would you do if you were offered two or more positions?

Managers and business owners, how would you like a possible candidate to break the bad news to you?

Best wishes,

Anita

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Importance of Annual Résumé Updates

A reader writes:

Hi, Anita:

I have been working at my current job for about two years. From the time that I started until now, my job responsibilities have grown. Even if I am not planning on leaving my current position, should I keep updating my résumé? If so, how often?

Dear, Résumé Refresher:Annual Updates 2

Thank you for your question! Keeping your résumé up-to-date is very important to your current and future career success. Creating a résumé that is high quality and worthy of attracting future employers takes a lot of time and effort to produce. Don’t let the cobwebs build up and cover up what made you shine in the first place. Even if you are not planning on making a job change anytime soon, it is important to keep your CV current and include your recent accomplishments and duties. With the way the employment market and economy has been over the past few years, it is always good to be prepared in the unfortunate event that you are laid off.

As a good rule of thumb, everyone should plan on updating his or her résumés at least every six months. Be sure to include recent accomplishments, newly bestowed responsibilities, and anything important that is representative of your current position. If you have joined new professional organizations or become involved in new community groups, be sure to include this as well. It is important to add these as you go along because we all have a tendency to forget important details. What will also be helpful is to make what I like to call a “kudos” file. In this file, you can keep copies of performance reviews, recommendations, or testimonials to show how great of an employee you are!

Annual UpdatesAnother thing to do is to review job postings that are similar to your field and pick out the important buzzwords. With the high number of companies using keywords to filter out unqualified applicants, it is an important step to add a few to your résumé. In the chance that your dream job comes knocking at your door, you won’t find yourself scrambling to have a strong and relevant résumé.

By staying on top of your CV now, you will be in better shape later, prepared for anything that may come your way! If you need more advice on how to make sure your résumé stands out from the crowd, see my post Reasons for No Résumé Responses for tips.

Here is a great video about  how to update your résumé effectively!

Readers, how often do you update your résumé? What tips do you have for making your résumé the leader of the pack?

Best wishes,

Anita

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Thank You for the Interview

A reader writes…

Hi, Anita:

I was fortunate enough to land an interview at a manufacturing plant close to where I live. I am very excited about the possible opportunity to gain employment with this company and want to leave them with a lasting impression. What can I do post-interview to continue to spark their interest?

Dear, Eager to Please:

Congratulations on your interview. Getting your foot in the door and meeting face-to-face with the hiring manager is a huge leap toward gaining employment. Now that you have aced the interview, it is time to seal the deal with a little something extra: a great “thank you” note.

Thank you notes are a great way to show how much you value the interviewer’s time and appreciate their interest in you. It also lets them know that you are serious about wanting to be their next stellar employee. In my personal opinion, thank you notes are a requirement after every interview. Follow these simple steps, and take five minutes out of your day to help land the job you desire!Thank you

  • Ask for a business card from the hiring manager before you leave the interview. You should always do this at the end of the interview to make sure you have the correct contact information and address.
  • Select a professional stationery or card on which to write your “thank you” message. Avoid unprofessional imagery or loudly designed cards. Some hiring managers may prefer email communication. In this instance, it may be appropriate to send an email. If you are unsure on which method is best, do both. Send an email and mail a hand-written letter.
  • Address the interviewer using Mr., Mrs., or Ms. For example, if you are interviewed by John Employer you would write Mr. Employer. It is best to be too formal than too familiar.
  • If you are sending a card, address the envelope and write the card by hand. This makes the card more personal and shows that you took extra time to write it just for them (not mass-produced).
  • Choose a message that resonates with the hiring manager and include some information from your interview. Below are two examples that you can use as a guide.
    • Dear, Mr. Employer: Thank you for taking the time to discuss the (Job Title) opportunity with me on (Date). I believe my previous experience and skill set make me an excellent candidate to join your team, especially since you mentioned that (Issue) was a challenge you wanted to tackle. It was truly a pleasure to meet with you, and I look forward to hearing from you. Best regards,
      (Your Name)
    • Dear, Mr. Employer: Thank you for meeting with me to discuss the (Job Title) opportunity at (Company Name). Your insights and additional information about (Job Responsibilities) were very helpful and helped solidify my belief that I am the perfect candidate for the position. I look forward to hearing from you soon, and thank you again for this opportunity. Sincerely,
      (Your Name)
  • Send the thank you card as soon as possible, ideally within 24 hours of the interview. You can either send the card in the mail or hand-deliver it to the reception desk where you interviewed.

To bring these tips together, take a few moments to view this video:

This small acknowledgement will take you very far in the interview process. It will help the hiring manager remember you and serve as a reminder to your professionalism.

Readers: What have you done in the past to make an impression on a potential employer?

Best of luck,

Anita

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Obamacare Effects: Employers

A reader writes…

Hi, Anita:

I am a small business owner with about 45 employees and have some questions about Obamacare. I have heard a lot of buzz about the subject but not much concrete information about the effects of its implementation. Can you help shed some light on how my business and I need to adapt to these changes in the law?

Dear, Unsure About Obamacare:Dr_Woman

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has been on the minds of business owners and  managers across the country. Though the next round of changes isn’t scheduled to begin until January 1, 2014 (can you believe we are halfway through May already!), now is the time to get the facts straight and figure out what steps you need to take to prepare. Below are some basic points all employers and managers need to keep in mind:

  • The Affordable Care Act applies only to employers that have 50 or more employees or full-time equivalents. Because you have 45 employees, you will not be required to “pay” (a $2,000 penalty for each employee after the first 30 not covered by insurance) or “play” (and provide coverage for each of your full-time-equivalent employees) come 2014. However, if your business grows and you need to add 5 or more full-time employees, you will be subject to these rules. Note that “50 full-time-equivalent employees” means that the total hours among all full- and part-time employees equals the amount of hours worked by 50 full-time employees.
  • State exchanges will provide individuals and small employers (those with less than 200 employees) a marketplace to purchase group health coverage plans.
  • Comprehensive health plans used by employers to leverage employment deals and keep the best talent on staff are subject to an additional tax. In 2016, health benefits that are valued at $10,200 for single coverage or $27,500 for family coverage will be taxed at 40%.
  • If the health care plan you offer your employees is too expensive and exceeds 9.5% of their income, you will be subject to a hefty fine. This piece is a growing concern for employers like manufacturing firms, restaurants, and retail establishments that offer positions at a lower wage. Employers will be facing a penalty of $3,000 if the plan is deemed unaffordable or inadequate.

If your head is swimming, you’re not alone. It’s a complex law but an important one for everyone to understand, especially you as a business owner. Because I’ve also received questions about Obamacare from employees and job seekers, I’m going to be writing a series of posts on this subject over the next couple of weeks. So check back next Tuesday!

In the meantime, you might want to watch the video below, in which CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen explains which parts of health care have changed or will change soon as a result of Obama’s health care reform.

Stay well,

Anita

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Power of Productive Teams

Hi, Anita:

Thank you for sharing your words of wisdom with my team and me. We look forward to your post every week and have a question for you. What elements or structure do you need to have a highly productive and effective group of employees? We are looking to boost and build our team to the next level!

Dear, Eager Leader:

It warms my heart when I get questions from my faithful readers. There isn’t much that will put a bigger smile on my face than you all do. Okay, I’ll lay off the mushy stuff. As for your question, I have seen plenty of professional teams, both good and bad. Through my observations and research, I have whittled down the big picture to find the special ingredients for a flexible, efficient, and effective team. I hope you’ll find them beneficial.Productive_Teams_1

  • Clear goals. As a manager, you must set clear goals and expectations for your team. This will make sure that each person both understands what is expected of them and has the direction to work toward a common goal.
  • Hire competent people. If you team does not have intelligent people that possess skills to contribute to the group, you might as well hang up your hat. Good people are the driving force to being effective and productive. Remember that you are only as good as your weakest link. If you do have a weak link, do yourself, your team, and the “link” a favor and let him go. Though it may be painful at first for all parties, everyone will be better off in the end, including the terminated employee.
  • Unified commitment. Each person on your team must be dedicated to achieving the end goal and willing to put in the effort  to get there.
  • Lead by example and set standards. Set the tone for your group by your example. Only deliver high-quality work and only accept it in return.
  • Create a collaborative environment. Encourage all members of your team to give their input and contribute ideas to the group. Being open and accepting will only make your unit stronger.
  • Recognize and support. When a member of your team or the group in their entirety accomplishes a task or works through a tough problem, by all means, celebrate. Recognition is a great way to motivate your employees and keep the momentum moving.

I hope you will implement (if you haven’t already) these key elements that I believe are the foundation for amazing teams. With a strong structure, clear understanding, and mutual respect, the possibilities are endless.

Manager/Supervisors: What element of your team do you think contributes most to your success?

Discussing a Job Offer

Hi, Anita:

I was contacted by a recruiter for a position at another company that is very intriguing. The opportunity would be a step up from my current position and offers a higher salary. It may sound like a no-brainer decision, but I really like my situation at my job now and have hopes of being promoted soon. What are your thoughts on discussing this job offer with my current employer? Can there be any benefit to bringing it up?

Discussing Job Offer Negotiate BlocksDear, Headhunted:

Luckily, this is a win-win situation for you. Most employees dream of finding themselves in this circumstance. Who doesn’t like being in demand and scouted for better opportunities? You should be very flattered. So let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of your question.

Presenting this situation to your current employer does have its benefits, but only if you are serious about taking this other opportunity. Interest from a competitor or other firm can serve as a little reminder to your superiors of how valuable you are to the company and to the industry. You can use this to your advantage if you are in the position to either stay or make a move. Here are some tips to a situation like this to help boost your salary base and move you up the ladder.

  • Do not discuss the other opportunity with anyone at your current company. If word gets out that you are contemplating another offer and, as rumors do, it spreads like wildfire, things could turn out very bad for you. My advice: keep your thoughts to yourself until you have all the appropriate players in your current position in the know.
  • Think long and hard about what you really hope to achieve through negotiations with your current employer or by Discussing Job Offer Womanswitching to a new company. Are you entertaining this other offer seriously because the base pay is higher? Are there more opportunities for promotion? Do they offer a better benefits package?
  • Remember that hiring a new employee will cost your company money. This could put you at an advantage. The Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California at Berkeley reports that the average cost to replace an employee for all categories of workers is about $4,000. The average cost for managerial and professional employees may be as high as $7,000. This doesn’t even factor in the time and energy it takes to train a new employee! Just this alone could help lead you to an increase in salary.
  • Be prepared that the negotiations may not go as planned or your way at all. Your current employer may be unwilling or unable to meet your demands or the competitor offer. Even if they do raise your compensation to keep you, they may feel as if you’ve proven you’ll leave at the next good opportunity and feel resentful toward you. If you are going to bring the other offer to your current employer, you must be confident that the possible new position is a sure thing and that you are okay with making the move. If not, you may find yourself without a job and without a reference.

Be sure to properly analyze and take into account all angles of your situation. This includes your job performance, relationship with your boss, flexibility, and other factors. It isn’t just the salary number that makes people happy at their job.

Readers: Have you ever been in this situation? How did you approach your boss, and what was the outcome?

Capitalizing on Team Member Assets

Hi, Anita:

Over the past few months I have assembled a great team of individuals to work on a very important project I have in the pipeline. Each person brings their own set of strengths to the table along with a few weaknesses. How can I capitalize on what each team member does best and minimize the impact that these weaknesses may have on our overall performance?

Dear, Smart Supervisor:

Ray B. Williams of Success IQ University said it best, “Organizations are merely a reflection of the individuals in them. Most organizations are like a puzzle put together in a dark room. Each piece is squeezed into place, and then the edges are ground down so they feel well positioned. But, Strengthpull up the shades, let a little light into the room and we see the truth.”

Capitalizing on team member strengths can truly transform you from doing a mediocre job to being a powerhouse that produces power-packed results. I commend you for the hard work you have put into finding your A team and for reaching out to me with your question. You have already done the heavy lifting by selecting and assembling your group. Now, you just need to fine-tune it to your exact specifications.

The best way to tackle the weaknesses that are lingering in your team is to first identify each person’s unique strengths and natural talents. Meet with your group members individually and together to discuss what they believe are their best assets and what Business_Liftingthey hope to contribute to the team. This is where you can really bolster your team’s résumé and gain some ground quickly. Distinguish between what the employee’s natural talents are and what skills they have or can learn on the job. These will be your saving grace in times of trouble and your team’s gold mine.

Once you have a list of team member talents, it is time to assign each person with a set of responsibilities and tasks that best suit their strengths. If you have a person who is fantastic at behind-the-scenes organization and management but may not be the best with client interaction, place them in a role that provides background support. For the boisterous people person, let them be the team ambassador and interact with outside contacts.

The bottom line is that high-performing teams truly understand each other and acknowledge their strengths and shortcomings. Take the time to incorporate group member strengths into the overall strategy and avoid overlooking obvious weaknesses. Capitalizing on individual assets will bring your team closer together, develop a sense of interdependency, and allow each person to have their moment in the sun.

To hear more about how leveraging team strengths are better for your business, watch this video below:

Readers, what are your greatest strengths and weaknesses? What do you do to allow your talents to shine when working on a team?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Warm Wishes,

Anita

Meet Your Mentor

Hello, Anita:

I took a new job a few months ago in an industry that I am unfamiliar with. I am very eager to learn as much as I possibly can about this new area and want to find a mentor to help guide me through this transition. What should I look for in a mentor and how do I find one that is best suited for me?

Thanks!

Hi, Mentor Wanted:

Mentors are great resources to help build your knowledge in a new industry. I strongly believe that everyone should have a mentor and develop a strong relationship during their career. Good mentors provide a source of inspiration, understanding, motivation, and knowledge. Their guidance and perspective can help shape your decision-making and help you become the best professional you can be.

When looking for a mentor, it is important to understand what you want out of mentor-mentee relationship. Before you begin inquiring about mentee MW_Mentoropportunities, be sure you have the answers to the questions:

  • What are your career goals?
  • How do you hope to benefit from a mentor?
  • How do you think you can contribute to the relationship?
  • How often do you wish to meet or communicate?
  • What are the expectations for each person involved?

Once you have a clear understanding of what you would like from your mentee experience, it is time to do some digging and find your new mentor. I found a great article called The Wealth of Mentoring from one of my favorite resources, TradePost, that spells out some great tips for finding a mentor that will mesh with you. Coupled with a few of my own, these suggestions are great to keep in mind during your search:

  • Similar Career Goals: Find a mentor who is not only accomplished in your field but who has career goals that match your own.
  • Be Selective: Find someone who you think will be the best fit to help you in your career.
  • Personality Match: Find a mentor whose personality complements your own.
  • Referrals: Ask your human resources department, colleagues, and friends for good ideas of possible mentors.
  • Look outside of your office: Finding a mentor that is not directly related to your company can be great. Look to associations, business groups, and even family friends
  • Your new mentor may be younger: Don’t discriminate because of age. I am a full supporter of teaching old dogs (like me) new tricks!
  • Don’t limit yourself:  Have a variety of mentors to help strike a balance in all areas of your profession.

WW_Mentor

Keep in mind that finding a great mentor is not a race. Select carefully and spend time developing the relationship. The mentor you decide to work with may become your next business best friend and ally.

Readers: What qualities do you look for when selecting a mentor? What is the most important must-have trait you want in your mentors?

Attracting Talent on a Budget

Hi, Anita:

I have been charged with finding a superstar financial analyst to join our growing company. We are a start-up company and my budget for this new employee is rather slim. How can I attract and retain high-quality staff while not breaking the bank?

Dear, Cost Concerned:People Money Stacks

All companies, large and small, depend on their employees for future success, and every employer wants to get the best people to join their teams. It can be hard to catch the attention of top talent when you don’t have “top talent” salary to offer. For the most part, the saying rings true that when it comes to employees, you get what you pay for. But surprisingly, according to a 2011 Harvard Business Review survey of Human Resource leaders, only 38 percent said that a high base salary was very important in the decision-making process. Just for you, I have found a variety of other ways to position your job opening so that it will hook the best candidates.

  • Flexible schedules. As much as some may try to deny it, employees do have lives outside of work. Work hours at many companies are often strict and have their 8-5 schedules set in stone. For employees that have families, school, or other obligations that make a standard work day difficult to abide by, the option to tailor their work hours (in exchange for some more flexible compensation) to fit their needs is a huge draw.
  • Employee health benefits packages. Health benefits are a hot topic these days and many people are using this as a deciding factor between choosing one employer over another. I think it is one of the number one ways to attract and retain high-quality employees. By providing affordable health insurance to your employees, you are showing that you have a general interest in the well-being of your staff and they are not just a number to the company.
  • Offer more paid time off than your competitors. It will cost you money in the short run, but people will jump for joy at the chance for more vacation time – and will stay more loyal in the long run (don’t forget the high cost of turnover). Another bonus is the benefit your company will receive in terms of increased productivity and a more pleasant work environment with happy and refreshed employees.
  • Career coaching and opportunities for advancement. By providing additional on-the-job training and advancement opportunities, you are not only improving the quality of your employees but also investing in their future at little cost to the company. If you show that you are genuinely interested in developing and having this person grow with the company, the salary numbers will become less and less important.

Career SignAs you begin your search for your next superstar, keep these ideas in mind. Though you may have a tight budget, you don’t have to let salary be the reason you do not find high quality candidates.

Wishing you the best of luck in your search!

Anita

Managers and Supervisors, what other incentives do you offer to attract top talent?

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Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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