West Sound Workforce head addresses Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce

West Sound Workforce head explains ins and outs of hiring to PO Chamber.

Prevailing economic conditions have presented small businesses with a significant challenge with regard to acquiring and maintaining a capable staff, according to an address to the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce last week.

“It is very expensive to be a small business,” said West Sound Workforce President Julie Tappero. “When you own your own business you go home every night and wonder if you are going to make it. Minimum wage costs are more very year, and the Legislature passes more laws that make it more expensive and complicated to run a small business.”

As a staffing company, Tappero is involved in supplying businesses with personnel — the most important resource of all.

“It’s hard to find good employees who will hunker down and do the job,” she said. “And most businesses want to hang on to the employees they already have because it’s less expensive to keep employees than replace them. ”

Tappero said her business provides an economic barometer.

“The staffing industry is a bellwether for the economy,” Tappero said. “When companies are having a hard time, the first thing they do is cut their employees. When it starts to get better, things will pick up and they will start to hire temporary workers. So if you want to find out if the economy is getting better, give me a call.”

Tappero said her company gets specific requests from companies that don’t want an elderly person or a woman. These aren’t necessarily discriminatory, rather they are looking for someone who can lift a certain load or perform a physical task.

In these cases Tappero will not necessarily fulfill the stated request.

“When filling a position you need to get to the essential functions,” she said. “This doesn’t have anything to do with gender or age, and you shouldn’t make any assumptions. There are a lot of senior citizens and women who are very strong and can lift 75 pounds.”

Smokers, on the other hand, are not a protected class. Employers are justified in denying a job to someone who smokes, even with the understanding that that workplace is a non-smoking environment.”

Job requirements such as physicals, drug tests, background checks and credit checks are legal within certain boundaries, but also need to be uniformly applied.

A company that generally does not require pre-employment drug screening cannot evoke the practice if a biker-type applies for the job.

“With the economy, we see fewer people passing credit checks,” she said. “But you can only ask for a credit check if you have evidence they have violated the law or whether they handle money as part of their job.”

References provide the most important protection to employers.

“Many people will provide their friends or co-workers as references but ask you to not call their current supervisors,” she said. “In those cases you should look elsewhere. When hiring someone their current supervisor is the most important reference.”

While healthcare is one of the largest expenses for a small business it is also most important, since a healthy work force is an effective one. And an essential part of good health is taking vacations.

“Everyone should take regular vacations,” Tappero said. “Everyone needs to get out of the office, and it is important to take time away. You may also find that someone who doesn’t want to take a vacation could be embezzling because they don’t want anyone to find out about their activities.”

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