This guest column is by Paul Edwards, CEO and Co-Founder of CEDR HR Solutions. Paul is definitely a “go-to” guy when it comes to human resource questions in dental offices, and he has shown considerable interest in the area of embezzlement.
Seminar Attendance & Travel Pay: The Office Policy that 8 out of 10 Employers Get Wrong
I’m frequently asked “When is travel time or seminar attendance compensable?” For continuing education credits, seminars, or company trips, remember two rules:
1. The “Butt in the Chair” rule – employers must pay for ALL hours employees are attending mandatory trainings or meetings, regardless of the day of the week and their normal work hours.
2. The “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” rule – employers must pay for ALL hours employees are traveling to and from a seminar or meeting if it crosses across their normal work hours.
Why do we bring these rules up? Because in the last year, CEDR Solutions’ HR experts have evaluated more than 250 employee handbooks for practices across the United States. Of those, nearly 92% failed to get their seminar & travel pay policy correct.
Here is a common example: “If a seminar falls on a normal workday you will be paid your regular pay for that day. If a seminar falls on a Saturday or Sunday, you will not be paid for this non-work day, but all expenses will be covered such as lunch and parking. You will not be required to attend a non-paid seminar.”
Does the above sound familiar? If so, bad news: this policy is illegal. Employers must pay for all hours employees attend training or seminars for work, regardless of the day of the week. Plus, if this time puts the employee over forty hours in a week, overtime must be paid.
A good rule of thumb is that in order for time spent at a seminar toNOT be compensable,ALL of the following must be TRUE.
Attendance must be outside of normal work hours. Note: this does not say normal work “days.”
Attendance is voluntary. Note: The word “voluntary” will not stand up if an employee can show the employer led them to believe that the training was critical or related to their job.
Event is not directly related to the job or does not benefit the employee.
The employee performs NO productive work during this period.
The exception to these rules:if the employee is participating in continuing education in order to maintain his/her state licensure and would not be able to continue to work without it, you do not have to pay.
What about travel pay? If an employee’s travel time to or from a mandatory training or meeting cuts across their normal work hours, then those hours are ALSO compensable and subject to overtime. This is true regardless of the day of the week.
For example, if your normal business hours are 8 am to 5 pm, and the employee travels to an event leaving at 3 pm and arriving at 6 pm, the employee is entitled to two (2) hours of travel pay. This is true EVEN IF the travel is on Saturday, and EVEN IF your business is only open Monday through Friday.
CEDR HR Solutions (www.cedrsolutions.com) provides individually customized employee handbooks and HR solutions to dental offices of all sizes across the United States. Paul Edwards has over 20 years’ experience as a manager and owner, and specializes in helping dental offices solve employee issues. Paul is a featured writer for The Profitable Dentist magazine, a regular contributor to Dentaltown and AADOM, and speaks at employment education seminars, conferences, and CE courses across the country. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (866) 414-6056.
David Harris describes his friend Laura Nelson as a “bastion of common sense.” After building up several successful offices with her dentist husband, Laura started her own consulting firm with the interesting name “Front Office Rocks.”
Three Vital Keys to Finding and Training Good Employees
Is it time to bring on a new employee? I know a lot of office managers and dentists are frustrated with the entire hiring and training process. As an office manager myself, I get it. But I have good news: the process doesn’t need to be a negative one, if you go at it the right way. In my experience, there are three key aspects of hiring and training that will make the process less painful and far more effective.
First, step back and check your attitude about the process. If you go into the hiring game with the attitude that there are no good employees out there, then guess what? You won’t find any. It’s important to start the process with a sense of determination that you intend to find that next great team member. However, you’ve got to be clear about what type of person and what skills you are actually looking for. If you’re just looking aimlessly without a good idea of what you want, there is a good chance you will never find that person. The next part of this equation is understanding that your attitude shines through in your job advertisement. If your advertisement is so specific that very few applicants will fulfill the requirements, or so hum-drum that no good candidate would want to apply to the position, then you’re not going to find your next superstar. If you have the right attitude, understand that finding a good employee is possible, and recruit with the idea that you are trying to find a great employee beginning with the way you write your advertisement for the position, the right person will show up on your doorstep.
Next, prioritizing training is a key to making this new employee successful. Too many times, we hire employees with no real training plan in place for how we will teach them what they need to know. We either have them passively sit and watch someone else do their job, or we throw them into the deep end and see if they sink or swim. Both methods are ineffective. Honestly, all that these methods accomplish is creating stress for the team as well as your new employee, who could be your next superstar with the right training. A job outline and training plan should be established prior to the new employee’s start date, and it should include specifics about what the employee will be doing, who will be teaching that employee the job requirements, at what step during their training the employee will learn certain duties, etc. Creating a detailed training strategy prior to the employee’s start date is vital for many reasons:
1) Many times we are teaching the new employee too much at once, which is overwhelming and does not allow them to fully grasp what is needed. Or it’s the opposite: we don’t teach them enough, which makes the job boring. 2) We tend to try to train the new employee while doing our own job at the same time. This causes stress on the employee who is doing the training, and it compromises the job at hand and the training quality for the new employee. 3) Not everyone is cut out to train others on specific job duties simply because they’re good at performing the task. In other words, we frequently ask current employees to train new staff on tasks that they might be good at doing but aren’t necessarily good at teaching. Simply showing the new employee how things are done is not necessarily training. Teaching the employee effectively is a very different thing, and that needs to be the purpose and the intention of the person doing the training.
And here’s the last of the three keys to effective hiring and training. During training, the new employee is generally shown how to do something, but it’s rare for the new employee to learn why the task needs to be done. Superstar employees aren’t created by simply mimicking the actions that were modeled for them. This is how we end up with an office full of busy employees who are all doing the right actions but not being very effective. An effective training program will not only address “how” to do something but also the “why,” so that every employee has a clear understanding of their part in the bigger picture. If the new employee understands the why, they will be more vested in learning how to do the task correctly and want to accomplish the goal of that particular task, knowing that it is vital to the success of the overall mission.
The takeaway: If you want to create superstar employees, start by adding the right people to the team by targeting your recruiting efforts with a laser focus. Then, once you’ve hired a promising candidate, give them the chance to excel by providing well-thought-out training that helps the new employee understand the “why” of what they’re doing. Ultimately, these actions are the keys to success and growth for any dental office.
Much has been written about hiring the right people for dentists. Finding a good personality fit and ensuring that employees properly project your office’s personality are topics I will leave to others. My expertise lies in helping you avoid the biggest hiring mistake of your life.
To watch a webinar on how to hire properly, click on the button below:
However, my background and experience provide some insight into how “serial embezzlers,” who are the very LAST people you want to hire, successfully conceal unsavory pasts. I’d like to share what I have learned about their tactics.
Published studies suggest that over 60% of resumes contain some form of lying. This might be as basic as some form of skills enhancement, or it could extend to covering up that the applicant was fired from a previous job for stealing.
Let’s start by profiling typical embezzlers. They are smart, organized, and have strong computer skills. They present well in interviews, convey an understanding of the preciousness of your time, and commit to creating an environment where that time can be used most effectively. They present an attractive resume without typos (seemingly a rarity today). And, of course, they have dental experience, although you don’t yet fully comprehend the nature of that experience.
It is likely that you are thinking that I have just described a perfect employee. One of the ironies of embezzlement is that thieves superficially resemble the ideal team member. Fortunately, there are areas where embezzlers differ from truly ideal employees, and this article will help you differentiate.
The first step in the verification process is to confirm the identity of the applicant. The most energetic background check imaginable is useless if it is performed on the wrong person. So at the interview stage, be sure to check at least one government-issued photo ID and at least two pieces of secondary ID (which could be anything — credit card, student ID, gym membership card, etc.) Can a driver’s license be forged? Of course it can. But most applicants for dental office jobs know how trusting dentists are and typically are not expecting to be asked.
The most obvious area is that many, but certainly not all, serial embezzlers have criminal records. A properly conducted criminal records check will uncover this, and allow some rotten apples to be foregone. Two things should be kept in mind here. Many embezzlers don’t have criminal records either because charges were never brought, or because of the agonizing slowness of the justice system. Also, since a criminal record could reside in many different places, criminal background checking is complicated and best contracted out to professionals. Did you know that 65 million Americans (i.e., 1 in 4 adults) have criminal records?
Next, it amazes me that, while there are many organizations that require prospective employees to be screened for drug use, even with the direct access to controlled substances that most dental offices have, drug testing is not normally part of pre-employment screening. It should be. It makes no sense that I can’t get a job working for UPS or FedEx without a drug test, but I can work in most dental offices without one. And unlike UPS, you have prescription pads readily available.
Let’s talk about references. Speaking with “character references,” unless you know them personally, is a complete waste of time. Even the most despicable people imaginable have a fan club of three or four people who will say nice things about them. The only people who I am interested in speaking with are coincidentally those in the best position to tell me what kind of employee an applicant will make — former employers.
When checking with former employers (and when verifying other information like education) eschew any phone number provided by an applicant. We have seen many cases where doctors thought they were speaking to former employers, finding out much later that it was actually a friend of the applicant pretending. So when verifying past experience or a credential, locate the phone number independently so that you know with whom you are speaking.
Now that you are speaking with the right person let’s consider what you should ask. What you are protecting against is the “undisclosed job” that the applicant wants to conceal. This job can be hidden either by covering it with non-employment (“home with children,” “traveling through Europe,” etc.) or by “stretching” the dates of other employment to cover what they want to hide.
If an applicant claims a lot of time out of the workforce, request a copy of their tax return and assessment from the IRS. Like any document, a tax return could be forged, but the nature of this form makes the forgery a lot of work, so most applicants trying to hide something will simply move on to another victim.
My other suggestion is to ask each former employer (and you should normally contact all employers from at least the last five years) a few strategic questions.
Get them to provide the exact dates of employment. Don’t prompt them with the dates in the resume and ask for verification; human nature may result in them agreeing without verifying
Verify job title and responsibilities
Ask who the previous and subsequent employers were (most former employers know this)
If the applicant claims to be currently working for that employer, confirm this with the employer. People who have been fired tend to conceal this fact from you.
Finally, ask each former employer a very specific question, “if this person were available and if you had a suitable opening, would you rehire them?”
The attractiveness of this question is that, while former employers are often cautioned by attorneys to avoid derogatory statements, most will find this question, which simply asks about future intent and not about specific actions or characteristics, to be a “safe” question to answer. And a single word answer, like “no” (or anything short of an enthusiastic “yes”), shouts volumes about the applicant. Compare all answers to the resume, and reject any applicant where dates or job history do not line up exactly with the information you determined independently.
While there is no foolproof means of identifying resume cover-ups, the simple techniques outlined here give you an excellent chance of spotting situations when resumes have been “doctored”. It is tempting, particularly in areas where qualified applicants are in short supply, to shortcut the hiring process. However, doing so can have disastrous consequences.
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