With a transparent approach to hiring and candidate development, you will keep the employer brand intact and maintain recruiting power. Photo via Getty Images

One of the latest HR terms grabbing attention today is “ghost hiring.” This is a practice where businesses post positions online, even interviewing candidates, with no intention to fill them. In fact, the role may already have been filled or it may not exist.

Usually, an applicant applies for the job, yet never hears back. However, they may be contacted by the recruiter, only to learn the offer is revoked or a recruiter ghosts them after a first-round interview.

Applicants who are scouring job sites for the ideal position can become discouraged by ghost hiring. Employers do not usually have any ill intentions of posting ghost jobs and talking with candidates. Employers may have innocently forgotten to take down the listing after filling the position.

Some employers may leave positions up to expand their talent pool. While others who are open to hiring new employees, even if they do not match the role, may practice ghost hiring when they want a pool of applicants to quickly pull from when the need arises. Finally, some employers post job roles to make it look like the company is experiencing growth.

When employers participate in ghost hiring practices, job candidates can become frustrated, hurting the employer brand and, thus, future recruiting efforts. Even with the tight labor market and employee turnover, it is best not to have an evergreen posting if there is no intention to hire respondents.

There are several ways employers can engage candidates and, likewise, build a talent pool without misleading job seekers.

Network

A recruiter at their core is a professional networker. This is a skill that many have honed through the years, and it continues to evolve through social media channels. While many recruiters lean on social media, you should not discount meeting people face-to-face. There is power in promoting your organization at professional meetings, alumni groups and civic organizations. Through these avenues, many potential candidates will elect for you to keep them in mind for future opportunities.

Employee Referrals

When recruiters want to deepen their talent pool, they cannot discount the employee referral. Simply letting employees know and clearly stating the exploratory nature of the conversation can lead to stellar results. Employees understand the organization, its culture and expectations, so they are more likely to refer the company to someone who would be a good fit and reflect highly on them.

Alternative Candidates

In recent years, organizations and recruiters are more dialed into skills-first recruiting practices. Creating job postings that emphasize the skill sets needed rather than the years of experience, specific college degree or previous job titles, can yield a crop of candidates who may be more agile and innovative than others. Fostering relationships with people who fit unique skills needed within the organization can help you develop a deeper bench of candidates.

Contingent Workforce

Part-time workers, freelancers, and independent contractors are a great way to build connections and the talent pool. These workers and their skills are known entities, plus they know the organization, which makes them valuable candidates for open roles. If their expertise is needed on a regular basis, it is easier to have open conversations about a potential expansion of their duties or offer full-time work.

Internal Talent

Human resources and recruiters need to work with managers and leadership to intimately know what kind of talent lies within their own organization. Current employees may have the strengths, skills, and capabilities to fill new positions or roles. Through conversations with employees and their managers, you can identify who can flex different skills, but even more importantly, the ambition to grow within the company.

In every instance, it is crucial for recruiters and hiring managers to be transparent in their intentions. Communicating within your network that you are always looking for great talent to fill future roles sets the tone. When communicating with candidates, whether there is a pressing job opportunity or not, be clear from the onset regarding your intentions for hire. With a transparent approach to hiring and candidate development, you will keep the employer brand intact and maintain recruiting power.

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Jaune Little is a director of recruiting services with Insperity.

On the precipice of the new year, be sure you're factoring these human resources trends. Photo via Getty Images

Houston expert shares 5 HR trends to expect to see in 2024

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Several catchy names to common workplace issues surfaced in 2023, from “quiet quitting” and “quiet promotions” to “monk mode” and “coffee badging.” What came to the forefront of these conversations was employers need to take care of their people to increase engagement and productivity, which results in happy employees and business success.

On the precipice of the new year, there are HR trends that will carry over and other trends employers may want to consider to create a workplace culture that supports its employees and sets the organization up to meet its goals.

Building Skills to Fill the Labor Shortage

Depending on the industry, business leaders continue to have a hard time finding qualified workers to fill open positions, even though there are 6.3 million unemployed workers in the U.S. labor market. The reason this is difficult, many times, is the need for a specific educational background, exact experience or new skills in technology.

A business on the verge of growth needs to fill roles as quickly as possible, but it can do more harm than good hiring the wrong people. Training current employees whose positions are easier to back-fill to take on a new role and building the specific skills needed in-house can be the ideal solution.

Hiring Based on Experience

Many people are not taking the traditional career path and business leaders must look beyond the degree and standard experiences when hiring. With the tight labor market, it is imperative to look at the entire person and skills that can translate into the role. For example, military veterans were quickly trained in several very technical areas, they can make quick decisions, lead effectively and many are goal oriented. Even though they may not tick the standard boxes, the soft skills they bring to business can make them great hires. With training, they will quickly learn the skills needed for the specific task at hand.

Offering Wellness Programs

Employee benefits took center stage during the pandemic, from extended medical benefits to mental health resources. An even more well-rounded approach to wellness will continue into 2024. Beyond health-related benefits, wellness extends to child and elder care, including flexible schedules, as more employers require in-office days. Additionally, financial wellness programs continue to gain momentum. These benefits take shape with financial education classes/coaching, savings programs, investment opportunities, budgeting tools and credit resources. When employers implement financial wellness benefits, they help reduce employees’ financial stress and boost their financial confidence, which impacts every facet of their lives, including work engagement and productivity.

Creating a Living AI Policy

AI is in the workplace, but it is changing daily. Employers will need to set policies on how AI can be used with their organization if they haven’t done so already. That said, the policy needs to change as the technology evolves. AI is a tool that will change the way we work; however, it is important to know its weaknesses and not lose sight of the human element of business. For example, AI can help streamline administrative tasks for the organization, which frees up staff time to have one-on-one conversations, collaborate more effectively and develop broader strategies to move the business forward.

Offering Frontline Manager Support

Frontline managers are in a precarious position. They have the difficult task of managing remote and hybrid employees, ensuring they are taken care of and meeting expectations, while also managing up to leadership. Frontline managers ensure work gets done and new initiatives are implemented. Many managers were put into the position during the great resignation and others are still struggling with managing today’s evolving workplace structure. Training frontline managers and offering them the support and tools they need to do their jobs well is something employers need to make trend in 2024.

Bottom Line

There are always trends in the workplace, but there is one thing that holds true year after year. Great relationships inspire great performance. These relationships start at the top and require real conversations to take place. When a culture is established where employees know they are heard and there are people within the organization who care about them and their success, business becomes easier to conduct and success follows. Start 2024 by putting intentional effort into relationships. It’s the best decision any leader can make.

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Jill Chapman is a director of early talent programs with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.

Retirement is coming for the energy industry's workforce. Here's how to prepare for it. Photo via Getty Images

Houston expert shares strategies for addressing  potential workforce shortages

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The energy industry, a vital part of Houston’s business ecosystem, faces the challenge of a shrinking workforce.

A U.S. Chamber of Commerce report indicates the workforce has nearly two million fewer workers today as compared to February 2020. A considerable part of this decline can be attributed to retirement and early retirement rates, with the pandemic prompting three million people to early retirement. Furthermore, with an estimated 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 daily, the entire generation is expected to reach retirement age by 2030.

The tight labor market, coupled with the growing brain drain associated with retirement rates, should serve as a wake-up call for employers in the energy sector. There are tried-and-true strategies to prepare businesses for waves of retirement and ensure the knowledge does not walk out the door.

Upskilling: Invest in the workforce

Knowledge and skills go with workers are they retire. To mitigate the brain drain, companies need to invest in upskilling their existing employees and new hires. Establishing formal training and development opportunities can help enrich the workforce to pick up the responsibilities of retiring colleagues. This investment ensures a smooth transition, shows employees they are valued by the organization, and increases employee loyalty and engagement.

Adopting innovative training programs that cater to the specific needs of the energy sector is one approach. Technologies rapidly evolve, and employees must stay current to remain effective in their roles. Investing in the latest training programs, workshops and certifications will enable the workforce to thrive in a rapidly changing industry.

Mentoring programs: Pass the torch

Mentorship programs can play a pivotal role as more employees retire. Experienced employees nearing retirement can mentor younger workers, transferring knowledge and skills while ensuring a seamless transition of expertise. The value of mentorship programs can be priceless for an organization as they help transfer on-the-job learning and experiences that are not taught in the classroom.

A structured mentorship program usually proves most effective as it outlines the responsibilities of the mentors and mentees. A structured approach, which should have built-in accountability measures, ensures there is a productive knowledge transfer process.

Intentional recruitment: Attract and retain talent

A proactive recruitment approach is essential as businesses work to fill knowledge gaps. Companies in the energy sector should seek out talent to bridge the generational divide. This may include targeting candidates who have the relevant skills and knowledge, yet they are willing to adapt to the industry’s changing landscape.

Workplace culture is still a relevant and important component of attracting and retaining top-notch talent. Beyond competitive compensations packages, today’s job candidates look for growth opportunities and a focus on work-life balance.

Retaining knowledge: Document the expertise

Institutional knowledge will walk out the door as experienced employees retire. Companies can prepare for and mitigate the knowledge migration with knowledge-sharing systems and comprehensive documentation processes. An established process can help preserve information that may seem like second nature to more experienced employees and make it accessible to current and future employees. Asking retiring employees to document their expertise and best practices can safeguard their insights within the organization.

Covering bases: Create an alumni network

Retirement does not always mean the employee wants to hang up their proverbial hat entirely. Filling the knowledge gap as employees retire can be daunting. However, the development of an alumni network can extend the life of the institutional knowledge and knowledge-sharing process. Bringing back retirees on a project basis or to consult is a solution benefiting everyone involved.

Every industry must prepare for the impending wave of retirements. The energy industry’s significant impact on the Houston economy requires proactive and thoughtful solutions. The tight labor market and retirement rates should have businesses in this sector working diligently to fill the upcoming knowledge gaps through upskilling, mentoring, intentional recruitment, knowledge-sharing systems and alumni networks. Taking these steps now, the energy industry can circumnavigate workforce shortages and prepare for continued success.

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Jill Chapman is a director of early talent programs with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions. This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

In times of crisis, here's what businesses big and small need from a human resources team. Photo via Getty Images

What HR can provide in times of company crisis, according to this Houston expert

GUEST COLUMN

In times of crisis, organizations face numerous challenges that can disrupt operations, impact employee well-being and jeopardize the overall success of the company. During these trying times, the role of human resources becomes absolutely critical.

HR professionals play a multifaceted and indispensable role in managing crises, supporting employees, and ensuring business continuity. While it may not seem obvious, HR takes on a pivotal role in times of crisis, and organizations should take this into consideration when developing crisis communications plans. A few of the key responsibilities are as follows.

Crisis communications and employee support

During a crisis, effective communication is paramount. HR professionals work closely with leadership and the crisis communications team to act as the primary communicators within the organization, providing timely and accurate information to employees. As leadership deals with the crisis at hand, HR acts as the bridge between senior management and employees, ensuring crucial updates, safety measures, and policies are effectively communicated.

HR teams also play a crucial role in providing emotional support to employees. Crises often create anxiety, stress and uncertainty among the workforce. HR professionals are trained to provide guidance, reassurance and resources for employees to cope with the situation. Measures to provide support to employees include organizing counseling sessions, creating support networks, and establishing appropriate channels for employees to voice their concerns.

Emergency response and preparedness

HR departments are responsible for developing and implementing emergency response plans and protocols. They collaborate with relevant stakeholders to ensure the organization has effective crisis management strategies in place. This includes creating evacuation plans, establishing communication channels, and coordinating with external agencies, like emergency services and healthcare providers.

In a crisis, HR professionals also ensure the well-being and safety of employees. They coordinate efforts to provide necessary resources, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), medical support or remote working arrangements. Additionally, HR teams facilitate employee training programs to enhance preparedness and provide guidance on crisis-specific protocols.

Workforce management and business continuity

HR plays a vital role in managing the workforce during a crisis. They assess the impact of the crisis on the organization's operations and help formulate strategies to mitigate risks and ensure business continuity. No matter how much crisis planning is done prior to an incident, each issue is unique and will require custom solutions. HR professionals work closely with department heads and managers to identify critical roles, create contingency plans, and redistribute workload as necessary.

Moreover, HR departments are responsible for addressing workforce-related challenges arising from the crisis. This includes managing employee absences, ensuring leave policies are flexible, and implementing work-from-home arrangements where feasible. HR professionals also evaluate and adapt performance management systems to accommodate the unique circumstances of the crisis.

Legal compliance and ethical considerations

During a crisis, organizations must navigate legal and ethical considerations. HR professionals are compliance experts who ensure the company follows labor laws, health and safety regulations, and employment standards. HR teams stay abreast of changing legislation, update policies and advise senior management on legal implications and requirements, both in times of crisis and not.

In addition, HR professionals must consider ethical aspects of crisis management. They advocate for fair treatment, equal opportunities and non-discriminatory practices. HR plays a crucial role in preventing discrimination, supporting diversity and inclusion, and maintaining a positive work environment during challenging times.

Talent retention and recruitment strategies

Even in the midst of a crisis, HR professionals actively engage in talent management. While workforce reductions may be necessary, HR plays a pivotal role in retaining critical talent and ensuring a smooth transition during downsizing. Communication is always key in these situations, and HR develops strategies to minimize the negative impact on the workforce, provide assistance with job placements and offer career counseling.

Furthermore, HR professionals remain involved in recruitment efforts during a crisis, particularly for essential roles. They adapt recruitment processes to accommodate remote hiring, conduct virtual interviews and collaborate with managers to identify urgent hiring needs. HR's role in talent acquisition ensures the organization can continue to operate effectively and recover from the crisis with a skilled workforce.

In times of crisis, the role of HR is indispensable. From crisis communications and employee support to emergency response, HR truly envelopes the human aspect of business. No matter the size of the organization, ensuring HR is incorporated prior to a crisis, whether it is outsourced guidance or an in-house team, is vital to business success.

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Karen Leal is performance specialist with Houston-based Insperity, a provider of human resources offering a suite of scalable HR solutions available in the marketplace.

Managing a workforce with varied skillsets can be an obstacle for businesses of any size. Here are three tips for navigating this challenge. Photo via Getty Images

Houston expert shares 3 tips for making employees top performers

Guest Column

As each person is uniquely different, their capabilities are directly reflected in the workplace in terms of how work is delegated to high performing, standard performing and underperforming employees based on their skill sets. For some employees, they thrive when being recognized as the individual who is trusted to always get the job done or complete a last-second task. Meanwhile, other employees may struggle with execution or efficiency, which may mean fewer new assignments for them.

Experienced managers will be able to decipher what is wrong in this scenario. Although it has become a societal norm to assign added work to high performers as a reward, this well-meaning intention can ultimately lead to performance punishments. As the overachievers are “awarded,” the average or below average performers are not placed in conditions that will push them beyond their comfort levels nor to their personal optimal performance capacity. This tactic is also referred to as a “quiet promotion,” in which top performers are given additional work without the benefit of a promotion or increased compensation.

“Quiet promotion” can have severe repercussions for top performers such as increased stress and burnout, which can subsequently lead to lowered productivity. According to a 2022 study by the American Institute of Stress, 76 percent of workers reported that stress harms their overall productivity. To avoid unintentional performance punishments, managers can implement opportunities for continual skill development, provide more balanced workloads and practice honest communication.

Create spaces to develop skills

Yearly reviews are a critical opportunity for managers to highlight their employees’ achievements and identify areas for improvement. However, a formal review is not the only time employees should receive praise or constructive criticism from their managers.

Managers have a more accurate scope of which skills the employee may lack and can assign development opportunities when they touch base with employees throughout the year. This creates a level field for performers to feel eager for development opportunities, and candidates who perform at a lower level will benefit, too. When a culture of continuous development is cultivated, it keeps top performers engaged and mitigates the sense of needing to catch up for those on a development track.

Encourage collaboration

While top performers can complete tasks without additional support, collaboration with colleagues at all levels can elevate work across the board. Partnering top performers with those who may need to fine-tune and develop relevant skills allows top performers to improve their leadership and training skills while building trusting relationships within the team or organization. Group collaboration allows employees to discover and hone their strengths and identify weaknesses so even better work is done together.

Implement honest communication

Top performers, more often than not, work above set expectations. When top performers feel they are due for a promotion as a result of their performance, but have not received it or are overlooked, a once content employee might consider searching for a new job. To avoid potential dispirited employees and impromptu resignations, managers should practice clear and effective communication with their team.

Whether during a yearly review or a biweekly check-in, take the time to ask top performers directly about where they see themselves now, where they would like to go within the organization and whether a promotion is on their radar. In a transparent and open culture, employees will feel more inclined to be outspoken about their intentions. Those who are exploring the idea of moving on will give their manager the opportunity to present other opportunities, advocate for a deserved promotion or articulate a detailed career path to reach the desired position.

Performance punishments are often unintentional, but managers need to be aware the practice can ultimately cause a disconnect within their team and burnout with their top talent. With continual opportunities for skill development, distribution of balanced workloads and transparent communication, managers can lead everyone on their team to growth and success.

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Karen Leal is performance specialist with Houston-based Insperity, a provider of human resources offering a suite of scalable HR solutions available in the marketplace.

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Houston tech platform raises series C round backed by Mastercard

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Hello Alice, a fintech platform that supports 1.5 million small businesses across the country, has announced its series C round.

The amount raised was not disclosed, but Hello Alice reported that the fresh funding has brought the company's valuation to $130 million. Alexandria, Virginia-based QED Investors led the round, and investors included Mastercard, Backstage Capital, Guy Fieri, Golden Seeds, Harbert Growth Partners Fund, How Women Invest I, LP, Lovell Limited Partnership, Tyler “Ninja” and Jessica Blevins, and Tamera Mowry and Adam Housley, per a news release from the company.

“We are thrilled to hit the milestone of 1.5 million small businesses utilizing Hello Alice to elevate the American dream. There are more entrepreneurs launching this year than in the history of our country, and we will continue to ensure they get the capital needed to grow,” Elizabeth Gore and Carolyn Rodz, co-founders of Hello Alice, say in a news release. “In closing our Series C, we welcome Mastercard to our family of investors and continue to be grateful to QED, How Women Invest, and our advocates such as Guy Fieri.”

The funding will go toward expanding capital offerings and AI-driven tools for its small business membership.

“Our team focuses on finding and investing in companies that are obsessed with reducing friction and providing superior financial services solutions to their customers,” QED Investors Co-Founder Frank Rotman says in the release. “Hello Alice has proven time and time again that they are on the leading edge of providing equitable access to capital and banking services to the small business ecosystem."

Hello Alice, which closed its series B in 2021 at $21 million, has collaborated with Mastercard prior to the series C, offering small business owners the Hello Alice Small Business Mastercard in 2022 and a free financial wellness tool, Business Health Score, last year. Mastercard also teamed up with other partners for the the Equitable Access Fund in 2023.

“With Hello Alice, we’re investing to provide support to small business owners as they look to access capital, helping to address one of the most cited business challenges they face,” Ginger Siegel, Mastercard's North America Small Business Lead, adds. “By working together to simplify access to the products and services they need when building and growing their business, we’re helping make a meaningful impact on the individuals who run their businesses, the customers they serve, and our communities and economy at large.”

While Hello Alice's founders' mission is to help small businesses, their own company was threatened by a lawsuit from America First Legal. The organization, founded by former Trump Administration adviser Stephen Miller and features a handful of other former White House officials on its board, is suing Hello Alice and its partner, Progressive Insurance. The lawsuit alleges that their program to award10 $25,000 grants to Black-owned small businesses constitutes racial discrimination. Gore calls the lawsuit frivolous in an interview on the Houston Innovators Podcast. The legal battle is ongoing.

Inspired by the lawsuit, Hello Alice launched the Elevate the American Dream, a grant program that's highlighting small businesses living out their American dreams. The first 14 grants have already been distributed, and Hello Alice plans to award more grants over the next several weeks, putting their grant funding at over $40 million.


NASA awards $30M to Houston space tech company to develop lunar rover

moon rider

Houston-based space technology company Intuitive Machines has landed a $30 million NASA contract for the initial phase of developing a rover for U.S. astronauts to traverse the moon’s surface.

Intuitive Machines is one of three companies chosen by NASA to perform preliminary work on building a lunar terrain vehicle that would enable astronauts to travel on the moon’s surface so they can conduct scientific research and prepare for human missions to Mars.

The two other companies are Golden, Colorado-based Lunar Outpost and Hawthorne, California-based Astrolab.

NASA plans to initially use the vehicle for its Artemis V lunar mission, which aims to put two astronauts on the moon. It would be the first time since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972 that astronauts would step foot on the lunar surface.

The Artemis V mission, tentatively set for 2029, will be the fifth mission under NASA’s Artemis program.

“This vehicle will greatly increase our astronauts’ ability to explore and conduct science on the lunar surface while also serving as a science platform between crewed missions,” says Vanessa Wyche, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Intuitive Machines says the $30 million NASA contract represents its entrance into human spaceflight operations for the space agency’s $4.6 billion moon rover project. The vehicle — which Intuitive Machines has dubbed the Moon Reusable Autonomous Crewed Exploration Rover (RACER) — will be based on the company’s lunar lander.

“Our global team is on a path to provide essential lunar infrastructure services to NASA in a project that would allow [us] to retain ownership of the vehicle for commercial utilization during periods of non-NASA activity over approximately 10 years of lunar surface activity,” says exploration,” says Steve Altemus, CEO of Intuitive Machines.

Intuitive Machines’ partners on the RACER project include AVL, Boeing, Michelin, and Northrop Grumman.

Intuitive Machines plans to bid on the second phase of the rover project after finishing its first-phase feasibility study. The second phase will involve developing, delivering, and operating the rover.

In February, Intuitive Machines became the first private company to land a spacecraft on the moon with no crewmembers aboard. NASA was the key customer for that mission.

Houston ecommerce scale-up company acquires Amazon advertising partner

all aboard

A Houston tech company has tapped an Amazon partner in a strategic acquisition and is bringing the company's full team on board.

Cart.com acquired Ohio-based Amify, a company that provides optimization and advertising solutions. The terms of the deal were not disclosed but Cart.com will on board Amify’s entire employee base, including its founder Ethan McAfee, CEO Chris Mehrabi, and COO Christine McCambridge.

As chief delivery officer, Mehrabi will take the helm of Cart.com’s professional services business and McCambridge will lead Cart.com’s marketplace services team as vice president of marketplace services operations.

“I’m happy to welcome the entire Amify team to Cart.com and have industry veterans Chris Mehrabi and Christine McCambridge join our leadership team,” Cart.com Founder and CEO Omair Tariq says in a news release. “Amify has been widely recognized for their expertise and technology and we’re excited to leverage their experience to help our customers maximize their potential across channels.”

Cart.com's membership will have access to Amify's proprietary technology platform, including advertising, creative content, supply chain strategy, and analytics. The company, which was founded in 2011, currently supports over 50 global brands and manages approximately $1 billion in gross merchandise value. According to LinkedIn, Amify has over 50 employees.

“We could not be more excited to join Cart.com and leverage the company’s resources and scale to deliver value to both our customers and employees,” Mehrabi says. “I’m honored to step into the role of Chief Delivery Officer and contribute to Cart.com’s incredible growth story and innovative reputation.”

Founded in Houston in 2020, Cart.com provides comprehensive physical and digital infrastructure for online merchants. The company raised a $60 million series C and grown its customer base to over 6,000 users. After making several acquisitions, the company also operates 14 fulfillment centers nationwide.

Earlier this year, Tariq sat down with the Houston Innovators Podcast to share a bit about how the company is currently in scale-up mode.