Monthly Archives: April 2017

Job Seekers a Boost

What It Is, an online job placement and training platform, enables job seekers to bone up on specific skills required by prospective employers. Companies post their open positions, ranging from bakery clerk to technology associate, then add links to training videos on YouTube or other approved material. For example, Staples candidates might be asked to watch the YouTube video “How to Make a Business Card.” Once users complete the training, their LearnUp résumés are automatically updated to reflect their efforts, and they can be considered for the open slot.

How It Started
After her startup Valence Energy was acquired in 2010, Alexis Ringwald became interested in the unemployment problem. She spent six months interviewing people in the unemployment lines in the Bay Area, trying to determine what was keeping them from landing work.

“It seemed a lot of people’s skills were out of sync with the labor market needs of today,” Ringwald says. “There was a sense of confusion by the job seekers, a paralysis over what they needed to learn to be qualified.”

 In September 2011 Ringwald met Kenny Ma at the education-themed Mega Startup Weekend at Microsoft’s campus in Mountain View, Calif., and the two joined together to launch LearnUp, which was announced in June at the Clinton Global Initiative America meeting in Chicago.

Why It Took Off
“Even employers with entry-level positions are having a hard time finding skilled workers,” Ringwald says. Her vision was for LearnUp to bridge the gap, giving job seekers the expertise they needed and companies an educated employee pool from which to choose. Staples and Safeway were on the board of the San Jose, Calif., unemployment office and signed up immediately. Gap, KPMG, TeleTech, Whole Foods Market and others came on shortly thereafter.

The Business Case
Backed in part by venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates, LearnUp recently received $1.9 million in funding, enough to build the team and expand throughout California. The company’s revenue model is based on a finder’s fee for successful job placements. Job seekers are not charged to access the listings or to complete any required training.

Still in startup mode, Ringwald won’t divulge the number of positions LearnUp has filled so far, noting that the company is using San Jose as a test case.


Things Your Body Language Is Telling Your Boss

1. Feeling vulnerable

 Look at items such as a your colleague or client’s pen or glasses–are they chewed at the ends? How do they hold a book or briefcase? Scrutinizing these behaviors indicates how that person approaches negotiations, as well as his thought processes and business confidence.

“When we feel vulnerable we protect our neck area. When another person feels vulnerable too they will try to protect themselves–holding a book or papers over their chest or touching their neck–these are all self-assurance techniques,” Hoppe said.

2.Standing position

 If you want to have the best face-to-face rapport with someone, take a small step to your left so that your right eye is directly facing your colleague’s right eye. Hoppe said 75 percent of people surveyed feel more comfortable than when standing to someone’s right.

3. Posture

 People make up their minds about others in just the first four seconds, Hoppe said. “In business, you’ve got to remember that when you walk into a boardroom, people have already made a decision about you by the time you sit down.”

To ensure you go into business meetings as equals walk in with a good posture. “Stand upright, have a brisk walk, you want to convey that you want to be there and are confident,” Hoppe said. “If you slump your shoulders–what message will that give?”

We all have “fronts” but you have to make that outward appearance of confidence believable–people can see through it easier than you think.

4. Handshake

Touch can be a big part of body language, get it wrong and you can end up with a black eye or dismissal–get it right and you can literally gain the “upper hand” in a business transaction.

“For most parts of the world, a handshake in business is the norm and just from that you can get an idea if the person is being dominant and aggressive or passive,” Hoppe said.

One word of warning: Watch out for the “power play” that can take place.

Simple observations such as a limp or firm handshake are easy. Watch out if when shaking someone’s hand the other person tries to turn the handshake so that their hand is on top. “This is a power play,” Hoppe said. Most handshake power plays are sub-conscious but occasionally you will find that in order to appear submissive someone will willingly give you “the upper hand.”

Also watch what the “free” hand does in a handshake. Does the other person use the second hand to shake your hand or to pat your other arm?

“The higher up [your shoulder] the free hand goes, the bigger the power play,” Hoppe said.

George Bush and Tony Blair were a classic case of touch power play, for instance. “Who would pat the other’s arm higher up or who would enter a door first was always an issue,” Hoppe said.

Just one more thing to remember. Don’t hold a drink in the hand you use to greet people. “All people will feel is a cold, wet hand,” Hoppe said. “That won’t give a good impression.”

Questions to Ask When Firing an Employee

1. What should I say to the employee when I fire him?

“Be prepared to face a range of emotions, from sadness to anger,” Rampenthal says, “No matter what, stick to your plan, your script, and be professional — which isn’t easy when someone cries or slams the table or threatens you with violence.”

Related: Should That Employee Be Fired? Ask These 5 Questions First. 

Most importantly, remember that everything you say can be held against you in a court of law. Be brief, calmly state that you’re dismissing the employee “for cause,” but don’t go into specifics because they could be misconstrued, he says. Many employers find it best to simply state that the company is “going in a different direction.”

2.Where and when should I fire the employee?

Whatever you do, don’t fire the employee over the phone. Afford him or her the respect of a face-to-face exit interview.

If you’re concerned for your personal safety when letting someone go, Rampenthal suggests that you have another person — preferably a fellow manager — present during the firing.

In terms of which day is best to let someone go, Rampenthal says he’s heard it all. “Some say always do it on a Friday, never on a Monday,” he says. “Others say never on a Friday, always on a Monday, and don’t do it after Thanksgiving or before the New Year. Truth is, there is no right day and time. It’s going to be uncomfortable no matter when you do it.”

3. Am I following state and federal employment law?

To be sure you don’t violate state and federal law when terminating someone, Rampenthal advises that you consult with your company’s human resources personnel or employment attorney ahead of the termination, or that you research applicable employment laws yourself, if needed. The U.S. Department of Labor thoroughly details federal rules and regulations regarding termination here. To find your state’s labor laws, you can search here.

Related: How to Let Go of Employees With Love and Dignity

As you likely know by now, federal law prohibits discrimination in employment based on certain protected classifications. Among them are race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, religion, age, veteran status, sexual orientation and disability.

If you’re firing someone on medical leave or an employee who recently revealed that she’s pregnant, you might be at an increased risk of being sued, says Rampenthal. You could also be at a higher risk for legal ramifications if you’re firing an employee who recently blew the whistle on a co-worker or a superior, or if you’re dealing with an employee who has made claims of harassment or discrimination.

4. What documentation of the cause of termination is needed?

Rampenthal says there’s technically no paperwork that’s required to let someone go. However, documenting consistent underperformance is key when firing someone for not fulfilling his or her job duties. Keep a thorough written record of warnings you’ve given the employee and of any improvement or probation plans provided. With consistent, written evidence of unsatisfactory performance in hand (or other offenses like absenteeism, misconduct or tardiness) you’ll increase your chances of mounting a winning defense should a suit be filed.

Related: How to Respectfully Terminate Employees

“The more paperwork you have, the better paper trail you have, the more evidence you’re going to have to show that you didn’t fire them for an improper purpose,” says Rampenthal. “A failure to document makes it easier for someone to say, ‘Well, it obviously wasn’t due to my performance. They fired me because I’m over 40 or because I’m an Asian-American or because I’m a female or because I’m a Protestant.’ If an employee can find another reason for termination and that reason is protected, then the lack of a paper trail is going to really look poorly on the employer.”

5. What should I do if I hear from the terminated employee again?

The best course of action is to be cordial and quick to refer the employee to your company’s attorney or human resources representatives. “Most of the time it’s sour grapes and doesn’t amount to much,” Rampenthal says, “but you can’t afford to buy a lawsuit because you failed to follow up on a claim of harassment or discrimination.”

Industrial Internship

LONGVIEW, Wash. (AP) — Six months ago, Steven Jordan lived in survival mode. As the sole provider for his unemployed mother, young sister and himself, the 19-year old scraped together whatever he could to pay the bills with part-time work at Burger King, painting houses and other odd jobs. On knowledge tests, he rated below high-school level. Although he managed to enroll in a few Lower Columbia College classes, thinking about the future wasn’t easy.

“It was terrible. I was constantly going,” said Jordan of Longview.

Alaska Looks to Washington for Infrastructure

Then Jordan got a big break: he landed a paid internship with Northwest Motor Sales & Services, a Longview company that repairs, maintains and installs electric motors. For Jordan and two other interns, Tanner Willman and Jessica White, the internship offered something low-income, at-risk youth don’t often get: mentorship and a launch pad into a new career and way of life.

“For years, I’ve just been kind of winging it,” Jordan said. Now he’s a paid employee at Northwest Motor and he’s thinking ahead at least a few years, he said. He moved into his own rental house and recently bought a new car. He hopes to build a career around industrial sales, and his co-workers are encouraging him to get a college degree.

The recently-completed pilot program organized by Goodwill Industries and Workforce Southwest Washington proved to be so successful, Northwest Motor agreed to host the 10-week internship three times a year. It’s inspired a similar program in Clark County and an industrial internship at Norpac in Longview.

The program provides a model for how to give local youth industrial skills often missing from their resumes, plus employment and intangible life skills that can propel them out of poverty.

“I would say if (these youth) had just applied for any entry-level job position, they wouldn’t have been at the top of the pile. This allowed them an audience with a local employer and the chance, with no pressure on the employer’s funds, to really show their ability to grow,” said Tori Skinner, business development manager for Goodwill Industries in Longview. “And that made a big difference.”

Goodwill’s program is geared toward a demographic called “opportunity youth” — typically low-income people ages 16 to 24 that have some significant barrier to employment or education. They may not have a high school degree or they may struggle with homelessness, poverty or lack of English-language proficiency.In Cowlitz, Wahkiakum and Pacific Counties, about 16 percent of young adults fall into the “opportunity youth” category (2,325 people), which means they don’t have a full-time job and they’re not attending school, according to Workforce Southwest Washington.

About 59 percent of opportunity youth here are living below the federal poverty line, and 37 percent have less than a high-school diploma or equivalent. Many of these young adults are living independently without financial or emotional support from family. Overall in the region, about 33 percent of “opportunity youth” females have their own children to support, too.

Skinner said she wanted to find a new way to develop opportunity youth by working through a local employer, so she reached out to Northwest Motor President Spencer Wiggins about a potential partnership. Wiggins said he saw it as a way to train more local young people in the kinds of industrial skills employers here often bemoan are lacking.

“One of the challenges we face in this (motor) industry, but I think it’s also fairly universal across most of the skilled trades, is that there is a skills gap, a very noticeable one when you’re in a position that does hiring,” Wiggins said.

More importantly though, Wiggins said he saw it as a way to give back to the community.

“It takes work, it takes supervision, it takes planning . (but) this is a small contribution that our organization can make to make an impact,” Wiggins said.

The week before Thanksgiving last November, Skinner launched the program, thinking she would get a few responses on a Facebook post. She was shocked to receive 70 applications. After an initial screening and interviews, three interns were selected: Steven Jordan would work in sales, while Tanner Willman and Jessica White would work in the motor shop.

Funded through federal and state grants administered by Workforce Southwest Washington, the interns worked part-time for minimum wage ($11 an hour) for the first six weeks, then got bumped up to full-time for the last four weeks of the program.

“Paid learning — that’s a big deal so they know they’re not having to take out student loans to do this program. A lot of those (financial) stressors are eliminated through this type of support,” Skinner said.