Sunday, April 15, 2012

Good Boundaries Make Good Hires

And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

                                                 -An excerpt from Robert Frost's poem Mending Wall

Nothing is more frustrating when you need to hire 100 seasonal warehouse employees in 3 weeks than to have the post-offer, pre-employment drug test come back positive. Cost-per-hire time and money down the toilet (no pun intended), including but not limited to the wasted cost of the drug test, which could run about $35 - $50 a pop.

Now, you may not agree with the concept of drug-testing in the workplace at all: let's agree to disagree. In my experience in manufacturing and warehouse environments rife with automated conveyors, heavy forklift and cherry-picker lift-truck traffic, you want everyone to be clean, sober and constantly on the alert. A 5-story fall from a cherry-picker at the top of your typical warehouse to its cement floor is certain death. A human / forklift collision is at minimum a loss of physical capability and at maximum, life-changing paralysis or even death as well. You get what side of the fence I'm on.

Early in my warehouse hiring career, we had about 10 drug-test failures in one week. A $500 bite in one week out of my already thin Recruiting budget. The Operations, Loss Prevention (LP) and Human Resources teams got together and brainstormed. Here are some of the solutions we developed and implemented:
  • We inserted messages into our employment application and ads that we were a Drug-Free employer;
  • We posted signs with the same messaging in our interview areas;
  • We developed a fact sheet for applicants to read during the offer process that not only spelled out we were a Drug-Free Employer, but also that we also required a post-offer, pre-employment drug test.
These hiring boundaries had an immediate impact, and we saw a drop in our pre-employment drug test failures. But we still had one or two each week, which continued to be a frustrating waste of time and money. I reached out to our testing vendor and asked what drug was the most common reason for failing our pre-employment drug test. It was marijuana, hands-down. We gathered the teams together again. "It's easy to grow and readily available, that's why it's an issue," one LP team member observed. "True," I responded. "It's not considered a 'hard' drug," a member of the HR team added. "So maybe applicants don't think we're testing for it." Great point. "Okay," I summarized. "Let's add that we test for marijuana to the fact sheet and see what happens."

I hit the jackpot later that week. Two well-dressed and professional young women attending college locally came in during the 2nd shift open-interviews; they were friends and I interviewed them together. As I prepared their offer letters and pre-employment drug testing paperwork, I gave them the revised fact sheet to read that spelled out marijuana as an illegal drug included in the drug test. "Ma'am?" one of them queried politely. I looked up. Disappointed, they handed back all of the new hire paperwork to me. "We can't work here," the young woman continued. Her friend nodded. "We smoke weed every day," she added. "We don't want to waste your time. Thank you for the opportunity." I nodded my understanding. "Thank you for letting me know," I said, genuinely grateful. "I wish you both the best of luck." I appreciated their candor, but wondered how many opportunities they had to pass up because of that personal choice.

Are you clearly and constructively communicating your workplace cultural and compliance boundaries as part of the hiring process? If not, consider the opportunity to lower your overhead costs -- your cost-per-hire / cost-of-turnover -- by proactively and positively sharing your workplace running rules with your lead candidates.

Good boundaries make good hires.   

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