Safety Council Recap: 5 Questions to Ask About Your Business

Security prevention and response is more important than ever. Here are five security-related questions attendees of the July 12 COSE Safety Council were asked to consider.

Corporations today have a greater need to be more cognizant and proactive about physical security prevention and response for their businesses. This is more important today than ever in the history of America. The COSE Safety Council provided a unique presentation to address these issues at their July 12 Safety Council meeting.

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    Here’s an overview of what was discussed.

     

    Tim Dimoff and SACS Consulting delivered the first segment by explaining the current security threats that now play into the many different businesses in America. After Dimoff’s presentation, five security-related companies explained cutting-edge counter solutions to the growing security exposures.

     

    These experts discussed the following five points: 

    1. Has your company recently conducted a complete security assessment? 

    2.Have you determined what are the most likely security risks that you face? 

    3. Do you have a strong keying or card access system? What are the advantages to each? 

    4. What non-lethal defense mechanisms can you access?

    5. What are the top three cyber security threats and how can you prevent them?

    In conclusion, it makes sense for all businesses to proactively update their preventive defensives to today's security threats. 

     

    Learn more about COSE’s Workers’ Compensation program by clicking here

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    Next up: Safety Council Recap: 5 Steps to Take After a Serious Workplace Incident
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  • Safety Council Recap: 5 Steps to Take After a Serious Workplace Incident

    Attorney and consultant William Haak spoke to the Northeast Ohio Safety Counsel Aug. 9 concerning serious workplace incidents (and how to ensure things go right after they've gone horribly wrong). Haak, the founder of environmental, health and safety legal and consulting firm Haak Law LLC, has more than 23 years of environmental experience and 17 years of occupational safety experience.  During his presentation, he provided real world examples of workplace crises and how employers should respond to protect their people, their business, and the communities surrounding their facilities.

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    According to Haak, serious workplace incidents include:

    1. Injuries and fatalities;
    2. fires, explosions, and other accidents;
    3. workplace violence;
    4. spills or releases of hazardous substances;
    5. severe weather incidents; and
    6. incidents that might not seem "serious" that become serious because of social media such as Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram

    The above-listed incidents could strike at any business regardless of size. Preparedness and knowing exactly what to do before a serious incident occurs is the key to success.

    Haak recommends having policies and procedures in place to guide your business through what he refers to as "the Serious Incident Golden Hour"—the first 60 minutes after a serious incident occurs. In addition to protecting life (including employees, visitors, etc.), protecting your property and assets, and securing the scene along with first responders such as police and fire personnel, it is important to:

    1. Establish an incident commander and an incident command post;
    2. begin early stages of an incident investigation to determine what went wrong;
    3. preserve the scene (for investigation) and collect evidence and witness statements;
    4. make required notifications to regulatory agencies such as EPA and OSHA; and
    5. communicate any facts you know to interested stakeholders including superiors and subordinates, first responders, the community (the media), and impacted family members

    All of these important steps can—and should—be practiced in routine crisis drills. Carefully crafted crisis drills can provide important insights into the strengths and weaknesses of your crisis response plans.

    Finally, as an attorney, Haak advises legal counsel be involved early on for more serious incidents.  Legal counsel can assist your incident commander in many tasks including making regulatory notifications and developing talking points. An attorney with the right background and experience can also help lead your incident investigation. Most importantly, involvement of legal counsel can help establish the attorney-client privilege (which can provide you with some important protection should an incident lead to litigation).

    For more information, please contact William Haak of Haak Law LLC at whh@haaklawllc.com or 216-772-3532.  You can also visit www.haaklawllc.com.

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    Next up: Selection Process for Hiring Star Employees
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  • Selection Process for Hiring Star Employees

    It is not new news to hear how difficult it is to attract, retain and develop talent. It seems nearly everyone agrees one of the most challenging responsibilities is to hire and onboard employees.

    It is not new news to hear how difficult it is to attract, retain and develop talent. It seems nearly everyone agrees one of the most challenging responsibilities is to hire and onboard employees.

    In fact, few dispute the pitfalls commonplace to staffing. Living with a bad hire is one of the biggest mistakes we can make. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates the average cost of a bad hiring decision can equal 30% of the individual’s first year potential earnings.

    If that’s true, then why is it that hiring practices for many organizations have changed so little during the past 50 years? Why are organizations not making better use of affordable, time-sensitive, activities that can drastically improve a company’s batting average when it comes to selecting and retaining talent? Why are companies not investing in ways to review hiring data that can predict the next star employees?

    These activities seem critical given the aging workforce and the need for organizations to improve their succession planning processes. “Companies need formal succession plans to be competitive in 2015,” says Josh Bersin, principal and founder of Bersin by Deloitte. In a 2015 HR Magazine article, Bersin wrote many organizations struggle to facilitate internal talent mobility. Fewer than one-third have formal succession plans for all but the very top levels, according to research conducted by Bersin by Deloitte and published in November 2014.

    While it can be easy to see the typical pitfalls when we step back, it is much harder to catch ourselves from making missteps when we are in the middle of filling a critical role. For example, hiring managers often admit the pressures they are under to hire, often sacrificing diligence and patience when it is needed most. Others readily point to a time when they experienced groupthink and didn’t question a peer or boss when making a poor decision after a final interview.

    Others say they overlooked, and/or justified their decisions in the face of contrary objective personality or ability data, after living with a bad hire.

    In other words, people are so busy with the day-to-day, they often do not invest the time to proactively work on their organization’s hiring process. In fact, it seems that many organizations engage the hiring process as a reflexive, knee-jerk activity in response to an opening or vacancy. All that said, many organizations have a way to go when it comes to tightening up their hiring processes. So, how do you avoid making a bad hire? Here are my five suggestions:

    1. Stop making the common errors we make under pressure to hire. For instance, mistakes such as falling for candidates who remind us of ourselves, or not having a structured interview format so that we can compare apples to apples.

    •    RELATED: Learn how adding diversity to your workforce can help your business grow.

    2. Start treating the entire hiring process as a way to collect data and then incorporate ways to review the information in a consistent manner. Many organizations do not have a common way to synthesize all of the information collected throughout the hiring process, such as interview notes, personality data, resumes, etc. In the end, many feel that there is so much data to comb through that it can be overwhelming.

    3. Pay attention to what the research tells us. For instance, new insights from Glassdoor data suggests that globally, the time required for hiring processes has grown dramatically in recent years. Based on a sample of 344,250 interview reviews spanning six countries, key findings from their survey indicate that, “Hiring policies of employers can have a large effect on the length of the interview process. Choosing to require group panel interviews, candidate presentations, background checks, skills tests and more each have a positive and statistically significant effect on hiring times.”

    •    RELATED: Check out the BizConCLE workshop: “How to Get the Right People on the Bus and the Wrong People Off.”

    4. Copy from those companies that know how to hire effectively.  Leading companies have incorporated the latest advancements in personality assessments, combining them with world-class hiring practices, to drastically improve their selection success. Instead of getting mired in too much data, top organizations have systems to assist hiring managers with making sense of the data, thereby allowing them to achieve quick consensus.

    5. Learn from mistakes.  When mistakes happen—as they occasionally do when it comes to predicting talent—the best organizations look at any missteps made along the way. And the learning is perhaps the most crucial when it comes to the outliers—those who are performing well outside of expectations. With data and systems in place, the best companies can quickly pull together data to hypothesize why and how some people are drastically outperforming their peers.

    Looking into the future, it is safe to say that attracting and keeping talent will continue to be a challenge. Paying attention to what you’re doing, as well as what others are doing (like making use of a personality assessment combined with HR best practices) is a wise way to maintain a distinct advantage relative to the competition.

    Mark Kogelnik is part of the leadership team at Watterson & Associates, Inc., in Chagrin Falls.

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    Next up: So Why Is It So Hard To Get the Right People On Your Bus? Part Three: Hiring, With Particular Emphasis on Interviewing
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  • So Why Is It So Hard To Get the Right People On Your Bus? Part Three: Hiring, With Particular Emphasis on Interviewing

    If you have been reading this series of blogs, you already know the previous two blogs were concerned with hiring for some specific positions.  This blog extends that more generically, but with much the same set of rules.

    If you have been reading this series of blogs, you already know the previous two blogs were concerned with hiring for some specific positions.  This blog extends that more generically, but with much the same set of rules.

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    A Story

    I had a long term consulting assignment with a manufacturing firm in the Southeastern United States a few years ago.  The company had been around for almost 40 years, employed about 200 people.  The company culture was very conservative.  Located in a small town, the firm even had its own company chaplain!. The COO knew the names and key metrics of every one in the plant, including birthdays and anniversaries.  The COO of the company wanted to put the firm on a faster growth trajectory.  Sales at the start of the assignment were around $12 million. 

    On my first trip to the plant, I met the senior management for the first time.  Since the major goal was faster growth, I paid particular attention to the Sales Manager.  He had just come off the road working with the sales force.  I asked him what the customers were saying and how he saw the potential for more sales from his sales team.  Rather than answer those questions, he evaded them, telling one semi-objectionable joke after another.  After a group lunch at a local diner, the CEO and the COO and I rode back together.  The COO asked me what I thought of Jerry.  I told him Jerry might be his Sales Manager, but he would not be mine.  That confirmed what they both thought even though I had no previous discussion with them.  Two weeks later, Jerry was gone.  Not surprising to me, he had been promoted to Sales Manager a couple of years prior because he was one of the most productive salespeople in the company! 

    Over the next several trips, the Controller, the head of IT, the HR manager, Customer Service manager  and a couple others were all replaced.  The major problem with each of these people wasn't their willingness to do their jobs, but it was their capacity to grow. The company started  working with an executive search firm which had a solid reputation for screening potential candidates and administering various tests for fit.  The two companies were pretty much locked at the hip.  The search Firm took the time to get to know the client company's culture and the need for fit long before Gino Wickman wrote his Traction book emphasizing "Wants It, Gets It, has the Capacity to Do It". Over a period of about three years, I was known as the 'bad guy' because people had figured out that shortly after many of my visits, one or more heads were going to roll. 

    While the COO and the search firm were joined at the hip, the CEO wasn't always on board with prospective hires.  Since this was a family business and the CEO was the majority shareholder, he held the power to override decisions and made it (albeit infrequently) a habit of hiring relatives whose major strength was having the right last name.  Every time the CEO overrode the search firm's recommendations, we had to repeat the hiring process.

    The firm grew organically to about $20 million over a five year period.  That was not the accelerated growth desired, and the blame was mainly due to a very comfortable sales force that was well compensated but had little desire or aptitude to prospect for new customers.  The incentives were there, but the wrong kind of sales person (a maintainer) was the norm.  New blood who had to develop their own territories started a sales improvement process. 

    Back to the Basics

    Let's briefly review the basics that are prelude to actual hiring.  First, establish what your firm's core values are.  Without that you will have no standard metrics to help you determine the fit with your culture of a given candidate.  Next, prepare a detailed job or position description that outlines the expectations  you have for the person to occupy that position. 

    Now you can begin your search.  Assuming you have identified some candidates and have reviewed their resumes, you can then vet the candidate's history, check his/her references, and do at least some background checking.   If all goes well, you are then in a position to establish whether or not the candidate(s) might fit your needs. 

    The Interview

    There are well-defined steps to conducting good interviews. 

    l. Do your homework.  If you are doing the interviewing, you should have a thorough knowledge of what the candidate has done and his/her background.  You cannot get that done in 10 minutes before the interview. 

    2. Decide ahead of the interview the questions to ask that are appropriate to the position. 

    3. Consider having two (or more) interviewers in the room so that four or more ears hear what is said.

    4. Schedule the interview in an uninterruptable space and time.  There should be no outside distractions if at all possible. 

    5. For important positions, set aside at least 45 - 60 minutes for the interview.  Data show that the longer the interview, the more accurate the quality of the interview.  Behavior can be 'faked' in a15 minute interview, but rarely in a 60 minute interview. Sidebar: If you determine in the first few minutes that the candidate simply doesn't fit your criteria, but you advertised the interview to be 45 - 60 minutes, what should you do?  The best advice I have on this subject - and it comes up a lot - is to simply terminate the interview.

    6. Listen a lot.  Your job is not to sell the candidate on coming to work for you, no matter how much you would like to do it.  If anything, a discussion at the end of the initial interview about the company benefits, advancement opportunities, etc. is a post script to that interview, but only if the interview went well.  Selling the candidate on the company is a logical step after you have decided you have a match. 

    Special Problem: Resume Truth

    Data shows that about 80% of all resumes contain one or more significant omissions, outright lies, or embellishments.  Case in point: One firm was hiring a key engineering manager.  Late in the hiring process, the top candidate was discovered to have embellished his academic accomplishments.  His resume stated that he had graduated from a top engineering school when in fact he had only attended that institution for one year.  Knowing that, what do you do?  If one of your core values is "high integrity", you go to another candidate.  If he hid something or embellished that, what other issues are going to emerge?  In this case, the company decided that while his track record was solid, they felt they could not trust him.

    Some Conclusions

    Hiring takes time and money.  Using an outside firm that can bring qualified potential candidates to you is worthwhile IF you (and they) take the time to understand what you are looking for and the core values you espouse.  That investment in a professional search firm to help screen out unlikely candidates and vet more likely candidates can be valuable.  They do this all the time; you usually do it only in trying to fill an immediate need.  Getting the expectations clarified and articulated up front makes the process better and more productive.  Remember the experience of the Southeastern US company above.

    Most small businesses I have worked with don't have a good handle on the hiring process, and they waste a lot of time and money on hiring ill-fitting or poorly fitted people for positions.  It is more usual to begin searches when crises arise - the resignation of an incumbent or the 'final straw' act of the incumbent that results in searching.

    Over the years I have frequently recommended to my consulting clients that they should always be gathering leads on prospective potential hires.  Naturally, given all of the other duties of the CEO's job, that advice usually gets ignored, to the detriment of the progress of the firm, its performance, and the amount of Maalox the CEO imbibes due to his/her dissatisfaction with incumbent performance.

    Sidebar: I am a strong proponent of hiring people who have already demonstrated their capabilities in larger firms because smaller enterprises rarely provide the training and guidance that gets them to the next level of growth with inexperienced people.  That creates consternation for people who make the "Gets It, Wants It"  but lack the experience (think recent college graduates without a lot of experience).  Here's the good news/bad news on that.  The people who don't have the experience can overcome the deficit over time.  They most likely will not have sufficient guidance/training to gain sufficient capacity to take a high growth firm to the next level.  However, those people, as they grow because of their desire and commitment to you can usually be very effective middle and senior managers in companies that expect more normal (definition: sales growth in the range of 5% to 15% annually) growth and are critical cogs in the company wheel.  High growth/scaled companies trying to grow from (pick a number - $20 million to $50 million over a rapid time frame) cannot usually achieve that growth with people who haven't already worked in a larger, high growth environment.  If you are trying to scale your company, your HR requirements are simply different.  If that is what you are trying to do, I highly recommend that you read Doug Tatum's book, No Man's Land.          

    Some Takeaways

    l. Follow the process - see above.

    2. Don't settle for OK.  Go for potential and very good to great.

    3. Look for people who, even if they don't have all the experience you would like, but have the potential, with help, to grow into the position or even the next position above the present one.

    4. Hire people who "Can Do, Will Do, and have Capacity.”  Anything less represents less than optimal company performance.

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    Next up: Why Is it so Hard to Get People on Your Bus? Part One: Sales People
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  • Why Is it so Hard to Get People on Your Bus? Part One: Sales People

    I've been consulting with and advising entrepreneurs/small business owners for over 45 years. In my experience, the most troublesome job to fill is the technical salesperson position. That does not mean there aren't other positions that are hard to find competent skilled people, but this blog will focus just on technical sales.  Why technical sales?  The combination of knowledge and a proper mindset, coupled with the problem that most small ventures do a really bad job in this area makes this very difficult.

    I've been consulting with and advising entrepreneurs/small business owners for over 45 years. In my experience, the most troublesome job to fill is the technical salesperson position. That does not mean there aren't other positions that are hard to find competent skilled people, but this blog will focus just on technical sales.  Why technical sales?  The combination of knowledge and a proper mindset, coupled with the problem that most small ventures do a really bad job in this area makes this very difficult. 

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    If you don't have problems finding and keeping good sales people, you are not only in the minority, but you don't need to read the rest of this blog!

    Here are some of the most memorable examples I have encountered that illustrate the difficulty of finding and growing the right sales people for your business.  

    Ineffective Sales People

    One company hired a salesman (we'll call him Fred #1) who had great credentials.  His sales performance over the 18 months he was with the firm didn't cover the cost of his fringe benefits.  Interestingly, when he returned his company laptop , the owner discovered solid evidence that Fred#1 had been running a side business out of his office.  Fred #1's successor, Fred #2, was also highly credentialed; his demise was a stubborn attitude that he could do his job (technical sales) exclusively using Linked In.  It only took the company 4 months to release him, with the final straw being Fred's refusal to call a major customer to set up a meeting - he insisted on using email instead. In both instances, neither Fred # 1 or Fred # 2 would spend any time in the plant to find out what the company's real capabilities were despite ownership's demands that they do so.   

    Another company has been trying unsuccessfully to develop a salesperson to cover a territory 200 miles from the home office.  The latest hire (there were at least 4 others over the past ten years) came with good recommendations and a track record of some success in a closely aligned industry.   Without effective supervision and training (this was also a technical sales job), after 16 months the company President recently concluded this hire was a failure as well.

    Successful sales people but not effective in developing new business 

    Then we have companies with very good to excellent sales success servicing existing customers but little/no success with acquiring new customers.  Two examples come to mind.  The first one is a SE United States firm with multiple territories.  The salespeople were almost all very experienced and had long relationships with their customers. They were generally well compensated for customer retention.  Their compensation was so high (the average compensation was $85,000 in the l980's - you figure out what that translates to in 2016)   that there was little motivation to find new customers even though the incentive plan would have rewarded prospecting sales success very handsomely.  At least two of these super salesmen were so comfortable that the company could not hold a sales meeting on a Monday morning or on a Friday because they would both be 'on holiday'.  A similar experience occurred at a Virginia company with which I consulted for several years in the late l980's.  The salespeople were great at satisfying existing customers, and it was a good thing they did because the top two customers constituted 90% of total company sales. The goal was to hold onto those two customers and build new business to reduce customer concentration risk.  The effort ultimately failed because the company never could figure out how to attract a different kind of salesman who was comfortable with prospecting for new customers.

    Some Analysis

    In the first examples above, the salespeople needed experience and understanding of the capabilities of the company as well as an appreciation of customer needs for which the company could provide solutions.  There is a technical aspect to almost all sales, and the more difficult the technical side of the business, the more difficult it is to find good salespeople to sell those technical solutions.  Could either Fred # 1 or Fred # 2 have been turned into productive salespeople for that company?  In my opinion, they were destined for failure because both felt it was beneath their dignity or stature in the firm to get their hands dirty.  The fact that it took a shorter time to fire Fred # 2 than it took to fire Fred # 1 tells me the company was getting smarter about recognizing  hiring mistakes had been made. 

    In the examples of the companies with good relationship sales people, at least two critical mistakes were made.  First, all of these salespeople were great at holding on to customers but did not have the demeanor or fire in their bellies to do the difficult task of finding new customers.  Those who are good at keeping ( maintaining) customers are rarely the same people who are good at acquiring (prospecting) new customers.  The sad fact is that there are a lot more people who are good at maintaining customers than there are people who are good at finding new customers.  The second critical mistake these firms made was that not only did they have the wrong people in place to find new customers, but their compensation systems were such that there was little incentive to go after the higher hanging fruit in the market. 

    The People Analyzer

    One of the best books in the market today that should be required reading for any entrepreneur/business owner who wants to make his/her company demonstrably better is Traction, by Gino Wickman (disclosure: we make use extensively of this book in the COSE Strategic Planning/CEO Development course, beginning its 37th year this coming Fall).  Wickman's Chapter 4 talks about getting the right people on your bus (which I borrowed as the header for this blog), and a key component of getting the right people on your bus is Wickman's concept of the People Analyzer.  It starts with determining what the core values of the company are and then looking for people who Get It, Want It, and have the Capacity to Do It.  In layman's terms, that means determine what the job is and seek out candidates who fit the core values and who have the capacity to do the job and want to do the job.   In none of the examples I have discussed above were any of those factors seriously considered in the hiring process.

    Takeaways

    l. Hiring the right person for the job begins with determining exactly what the job is.  If, in the case of sales people, the job is to find new customers, the fit of the person to that job is critical. Likewise, compensation/incentive plans need to be structured to drive sales behavior. 

    2. Even the best hires need to be educated and managed. Performance goals must be established  and results monitored.  One of my favorite sayings is "what gets measured gets done".

    3. Because small businesses rarely have much bench strength, there are very few instances where someone from the company's farm team can be brought in to fill a need, particularly for sales. That's why most new sales hires come from outside the company and an education process to integrate the new hire into the company culture and values is important.

    4. In technical sales especially, the temptation is to take someone with a technical background and try to convert him or her into a sales person.  The mindset of an engineer rarely coincides with the mindset of  the salesman.  If you find the exception, value him or her highly because you won't find it that often. 

    5. It should also be mentioned that the best salesmen rarely make the best sales managers, and that is true for all sizes of firms in all kinds of industries/markets.

    6. Finally, it only makes sense to admit mistakes earlier rather than later.  If the hire (sales or any other function) isn't right for the job,  admit the mistake and move on.  That also says take the time to hire the right person in the first place.  The notion of "hire slowly, fire quickly" should be embedded in the company core values and operations.

    These are the kinds of issues we routinely discuss and dialog about in the COSE Strategic Planning Course. If you would like to learn more about the course, consider attending one of our information sessions and/or look into the material about the course in this same website.

    Jeffrey C. Susbauer, Ph.D. is Associate Professor Emeritus at the Monte Ahuja College of Business, Cleveland State University where he has taught strategic management and entrepreneurship courses since 1970. A long-time consultant to scores of businesses, a member of the boards of advisors to over 60 companies, he co-founded and serves as the principal instructor for the COSE Strategic Planning/CEO Development Course for the past 36 years. The course is concerned with providing entrepreneurs with education to guide their vision, strategic thinking and execution in their businesses. 

    Learn more about the Strategic Planning/CEO Development course or contact Jeff via email

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    Next up: Tips for Your Business: Solving the Foreign Hiring Puzzle
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  • Tips for Your Business: Solving the Foreign Hiring Puzzle

    Nationals of other countries represent a significant portion of the U.S. workforce. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor  Statistics, there were 25.7 million internationally born employees working in the United States during 2014, a figure that represents 16.5% of the total workforce in the country.

    Nationals of other countries represent a significant portion of the U.S. workforce. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor
    Statistics, there were 25.7 million internationally born employees working in the United States during 2014, a figure that represents 16.5% of the total workforce in the country.

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    As hiring foreign nationals is essential to the U.S. economy—the BLS notes that the number of these workers over the age of 16 comprised 16.1% of the nation’s workforce in 2012—employers need to understand the process, limitations and benefits of hiring a foreign national, said attorney Erin Brown, a partner at Robert Brown LLC.

    “Before making an offer, companies need to be asking themselves, ‘What do we need to do to be sure we are complying with U.S. Immigration laws?’”

    She identified a number of factors an employer should be aware of in advance of hiring a candidate who is not a citizen or permanent resident of the United States.

    Sponsorship

    The first step is to determine whether the potential new hire requires visa sponsorship. If the person is a foreign national, know what type of visa the foreign national currently possesses, the type of visa they may require and the expiration dates (and maximum stay) for the particular visa type. 

    Expiration dates can be particularly tricky, she warned. Some visas, for example, are good for a limited duration, usually a few years, and need to be renewed. It is good practice to put a system in place to keep track of such expiration dates.

    Further, many visas are employer-specific. The employer will need to file a petition with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services to obtain employment authorization in the United States. 

    Plan ahead

    Advance planning will help ease employment headaches later on, Brown said. 

    Employers sponsoring a foreign national may have certain obligations and responsibilities as the petitioner. 

    “You want to know that before you hire somebody,” Brown said. Seeking consultation from a qualified professional early on can help facilitate the process and eliminate
    potential employment eligibility issues.

    At the end of the day, forward planning goes a long way, she said. “The further companies plan ahead, the less likely they are to run into issues or interruptions in employment.” She added that there are many benefits to hiring a foreign national and the more an employer is educated on the visa options, the smoother the hiring process will be.

    Want more expert advice? Check out COSE Expert Network, an online forum connecting business owners with creative solutions to the tough questions they face every day.

    This article originally appeared in the August 24, 2015, edition of Small Business Matters.


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