It's only money
But it's your money, so invest wisely when hiring and screening employees
By: Christy Witzke
The stats are in and the evidence is conclusive - making the wrong hiring decision can cost you big bucks. According to the most recently completed OAN/SAIF group plan year - July 1, 2001, through June 30, 2002 - employees of OAN members who have been employed less than six months account for 42 percent of the total number of claims and 37 percent of the total cost of all claims. Translated into "real" figures, that accounts for 258 claims with a total cost of more than $440,000. But, it's only money, right?
We all know that hiring new employees can be a time-consuming task. Beyond the advertisement cost, there is time spent on reviewing applications, interviewing potential candidates, checking references, sending promising applicants for drug-screening tests and much more. Oftentimes we wonder if the right person has been chosen for the job, and we may not find out the answer to this question for several weeks or months.
The outcome of a poor hire can cost you a lot of money, and it also can disrupt the productivity of other employees and change the morale of your entire operations. Because of the large number of claims filed by employees with short tenure, it is essential to your bottom line that you hire the best-qualified candidates and correctly train them for the job.
Hiring is generally a three-stage process. Employers must first develop a pool of potential workers to select from, screen for the best available candidates and, finally, match individuals to specific tasks that need to be completed.
Building the pool
In agriculture, this step varies depending on geographic location and local economy. Techniques known to enhance availability of labor include word of mouth, incentives and advertising.
One goal of pre-employment screening is to encourage self-screening - to discourage unqualified or otherwise undesirable applicants from even trying to get a job with your company.
Many employers have historically done very little to pre-screen potential job applicants. As more and more employers develop a selection process, what happens to those applicantswhom other employers screen out? They go looking for an employer who doesn't ask questions. Do you want to be that employer?
Some powerful tools to consider include requiring written job applications, stressing that reference checks will be conducted, drug testing and making department of motor vehicle checks for employees that will be required to drive company vehicles.
Remember, interviews are notoriously ineffective at screening out "problem" applicants, because some of the least desirable persons may be particularly skilled at selling themselves.
Whatever system is developed, it must be applied uniformly. Avoid those "protected" lines of inquiry such as marital status, family size and prior work injuries.
Once you have selected a candidate, there is the matter of matching the individual to the jobs to be done. Consider physical capacities, skills and abilities, and planned job rotations. The task assignments need to be reviewed periodically and may require adjustments over time.
Based on the numbers presented above, you may want to take a closer look at your hiring and screening processes. A little bit of time and money invested upfront could potentially save you much more than a workers' compensation claim. Because new employees (employed less than six months) statistically account for the largest group of claims in your industry, this is an area where you can have a major impact. In conjunction with good hiring practices, proper employee training and orientation will greatly reduce the chance of an injury at your workplace.
Christy Witzke is a loss-control consultant with the SAIF Corporation, the OAN's workers' compensation insurance carrier.