March, 2002


Is it legal to contact individuals not listed as
references without asking the potential employee? *
"Tater Tots" * Too Much to Do, Not Enough Time to Do It
In! * Cool Calls * How TRAINING SYSTEMS, INC. Helps
Organizations See the Value of Reinforcing Learning &
Measuring Outcomes * What Kind of Training Do You Need? * Post Log to Last Month's Dead Co-Worker Story *
* Conferences/Seminars & Volunteering/Donating

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QUESTION: Is it legal to contact individuals not listed
as references without asking the potential employee?

ANSWER: Pre-employment background checks can help
employers avoid problematic hiring decisions and ensure
that applicants are qualified and do not present
dangerous risks on the job. Generally, if the employer
engages a third-party to perform background checks, the
employer and/or third-party are subject to the
requirements and protections of the Fair Credit
Reporting Act (FCRA).

The FCRA mandates (among other things) that when an
employer uses a third party to conduct a background
check on a prospective employee, the employer must
disclose that a background check may be conducted and
must obtain the applicant's written consent. These
checks may be a consumer report, which involves
checking and compiling information from written records
and a consumer investigative report, which includes the
consumer report plus personal interviews of the
subject's neighbors, friends and associates. The
investigative consumer report may involve calling
individuals not listed as references on an application.

To use investigative consumer reports, employers must
do the following:
(1) provide a written disclosure that an investigative
consumer report may be made;
(2) include in the disclosure a statement that the
applicant or employee may request additional
disclosures regarding the nature and scope of the
(3) include in the disclosure a written summary of the
applicant or employee's rights under the FCRA, and
(4) certify to the consumer-reporting agency that it
made the above disclosures and it will comply with
requests for additional disclosures.

Employers can perform a search for information
regarding criminal convictions of current employees and
applicants from publicly available records. This type
of investigation is not covered by the FCRA if
performed by the employer itself rather than a
third-party consumer-reporting agency.

The FCRA does not apply to employers that conduct
internal investigations independently without utilizing
credit-reporting agency. However, certain state laws
may require additional disclosures to applicants in
some situations. Moreover, state and local
anti-discrimination laws may prohibit employers from
taking adverse employment actions based on
investigatory results.

Contact your state or local government to determine
local requirements.
From Proskauer Rose Legal Clinic at

    **TOOL BOX**
    #Jobnet Works! Lets you build your own job site,
    #"Effective Recruiting Strategies, available at
     (10% off by typing "RIR" in Special Instructions)
    #"Straight Talk for Employers: How to Recruit,
     Inspire & Retain Great Employees", by Carolyn B.
     Thompson, 30 five minute audio segments packed
     with immediately useable ideas, available at
     (10% off by typing "RIR" in Special Instructions)

Get more tips on recruiting great employees at and then click on RECRUIT TIPS.

Have a recruitment, inspiration, training, or retention
idea or question? Send e-mail to
and we'll post your idea or question (and the answer)
in Answers & Ideas on Recruiting, Inspiring, Training,
& Retaining Great Employees at


"Tater" Tots

"Speck Taters": people who never seem motivated to
participate, but are just content to watch while others
do the work.

"Comment Taters": people who never do anything to help,
but are gifted at finding fault with the way others do
the work.

"Dick Taters": people who are very bossy and like to
tell others what to do, but don't want to soil their
own hands.

"Agie Taters": people who are always looking to cause
problems by asking others to agree with them. It is too
hot or too cold, too sour or too sweet.

"Hezzie Taters": people who say they will help, but
somehow just never get around to actually doing the
promised help.

"Emma Taters": people who can put up a front and
pretend to be someone they are not.

"Sweet Taters": people who honestly love others and do
what they say they will. They are always prepared to
stop whatever they are doing and lend a helping hand.
They bring real sunshine into the lives of others.

Thanks to Jack Wilner who submitted these to the
Training & Development listserv. He's the author of "7
Secrets to Successful Sales Management".

   **TOOL BOX **

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   can add in your own slides. (a great place to slip
   in your objectives!)
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Too Much to Do, Not Enough Time to Do It In!

Feeling buried makes it difficult to feel inspired. Help your
staff/help yourself:
*Try some "slack time" (Are you crazy? Time to do nothing but
think - I thought this was an article on getting more done!)
If you're leaning back in your chair wit your feet on the desk,
you may appear to be a slacker, but you could easily be thinking
about something profound. If you're chatting on the phone or near
the coffee machine with a colleague at work, you're probably
simultaneously slacking off-talking about vacations, the weather
or office gossip-and working hard, addressing why your project
will be a little late and what to do about the latest master
stroke of your competitor.

In fact, if you're not good at slack talk, you'll find it
difficult to get people to share important knowledge with you.
Most humans in the workplace seem to realize that slack time is
important, no matter how diligently industrial engineers and
systems analysts try to remove it. Many of us intuitively know
that we get into trouble when we don't have time to think.

How to do this in an increasingly structured/timed workplace?
In Japan, pharmaceutical organizations manage information and
knowledge with "conversation plazas", areas in which staff
exchange ideas and general chitchat at designated times during
the day. In the United States, we're a little less formal, so we
could have a café, cappuccino bar or tea room in which people can
comfortably share ideas.
Excerpted from Tom Davenport, Darwin Magazine, 3/01

*How about "Clear the Decks Day" - Pegasus Communications has a
semi-annual day to help employees gain the upper hand on hidden
drains on productivity. These days are scheduled well in advance
so everyone can clear their calendars. On that day, anything that
impedes work productivity is fair game. One person may choose to
clean his office while another may catch up on paperwork and make
long overdue phone calls to potential vendors. To avoid diluting
the process, Pegasus lets voice mail pick up any phone messages.
Sending or responding to e-mail is done only if doing so fulfills
on of the person's personal goals for the day. And they only talk
to each other in the middle of the day, when they meet for lunch,
and at the end of the day, when they gather to assess progress
and suggest improvements for future days like this.

After tidying up, people feel more energized and clear-headed.
And each person has noticed lasting progress on their personal
organizational challenges.
Excerpted from Clear the Decks, an article by Pegasus
Communications, 2001

    **TOOL BOX**
    #Call TRAINING SYSTEMS, INC. at 800-469-3560 for more ideas
     on increasing productivity.
    #Square Wheels of Productivity: The famous Square Wheels
     overheads with workbook and facilitator's guide for group
     training. Available at
     (10% off by typing "RIR" in Special Instructions)



How TRAINING SYSTEMS, INC. helps organizations see the value of
Reinforcing Learning & Measuring Outcomes.

We have a whole other take on the 4 vs. 5 level models of
measuring training ROI. Many of our clients haven't heard of the
"Four Levels of Evaluation", so we call the different ways to
measure training ROI by the activity (see below):

REACTION (learner satisfaction with the training)

PLANNED ACTIONS (what learners plan to do with their new
Knowledge, Skills & Attitudes)

ACTUAL LEARNING (achievement/changes in learners Knowledge,
Skills & Attitudes)

APPLICATION OF LEARNING (achievement of learner objectives

ORGANIZATION RESULTS (achievement of organization objectives)

RETURN ON INVESTMENT (compares Organization Results in $ to
expenditures on the training)

The idea is for us to get organizations to participate in
measuring (which we believe also really aids in learning
reinforcement) - when people hear terms they don't know they are
less likely to think they need this - hence the "street

We also talk about measuring and reinforcing in the same breath,
and incidentally, in the same breath as learning. Many people
tell us that they have a hard time getting their
companies/clients to measure because it's extra time, work, $. We
have found no problem and believe it's because it doesn't sound
"extra" - it's all in the words. We never say "before" the
training or "after" or "later". We say things like "on Friday
you'll be reading ... to work on so you'll be ready for what
we'll be doing on Monday" (this is code for pre-work for group
training on Monday) . We say "the next thing you'll be doing in
the learning is on March 6 when your supervisor will be watching
you do... and giving you feedback" (this is code for a
measurement of the on the job behavior one month after the group
training). You get the idea.

I know it's just words but we all know that words make an
incredible difference in people's impressions.

There's more info one when to do each type of measurement and
examples of each in our book "Creating Highly Interactive
Training Quickly and Effectively": and in the worksheets we use
for getting training ROI and tracking it ("Ten Steps to
Determining the Return on Your Training Investment") - you can
see some pages from both at our web site.

Call TRAINING SYSTEMS, INC. at 800-469-3560 or e-mail to: for more info on how Training Systems helps
their clients.


*Jim Wheeler, Williams Employee Learning & Development - after
reading TRAINING SYSTEMS ideas of a "How We Help Clients Measure
the Return on Their Training Investment" (see Tool Box from
previous article) said, "Absolutely fantastic advice. I'm sending
it on to my peers to see how we can incorporate this into what we
do. Very shrewd."

*Jodi Lenkaitis, Sauer-Danfoss, e-mail us: "I thought you might
appreciate knowing that at a recent meeting for the Rock Valley
(Rockford and surrounding areas) ASTD group, we were having an
open discussion on ways to make training interactive when your
name came up. It was by a person who must have tried to work with
you in the past, and he said, with some frustration - 'you sound
just like that Carolyn Thompson - always wanting to know what
type of interactive activity is going to occur in the training!'
I would take that as a great compliment!"



What Kind of Training Do You Need?

People ask us all the time if we're
trainers or
coaches or
consultants or, or, or...
Our answer is always: "We help people learn - the method we use
is determined by the learners' needs."

If someone needed to learn how to ride a bicycle,
A CONSULTANT would explain how it's done;
A TRAINER would help the learner understand what others have done
to be successful on the bike complete with assisting them through
visualizing themselves on the bike succeeding, and practice;
A MENTOR would get on the bike and show the learner how to ride;
A COACH would encourage the learner to hop on the bike, and then
would run along side until they were steady enough to go on their

Thanks to Susan Andrews (who kindly shared this in the Training Ideas listserv)

   **TOOL BOX**
   #"Coaching & Counseling"
   #"Training Methods That Work"
   #"Death By Lecture
all the above available at

Get more tips on helping great employees learn at, click TRAIN TIPS.

NEW FEATURE AT OUR WEBSITE! In addition to Train Tips,
you can now get new ideas for learning methods you can
use right away. Click TRAIN TIPS, then LEARNING


**Post Log to Last Month's Dead Co-Worker Story

For all of you horrified by poor George's situation last month...

Craig, an avid reader of RIR, sent us this from the Internet's
Urban Legends web site:

I would be remiss if I let another week pass without commenting
on the strange story of George Turklebaum. According to reports
published in the British press, Mr. Turklebaum, a proofreader in
a New York publishing firm, sat stone-dead in his office chair
for five days last October before his co-workers realized it.
They didn't think it remarkable to see him slumped motionless in
his chair for five days running, because Turklebaum kept mostly
to himself and was always the first to arrive and the lat to
leave the office every day. This has aroused Yankee skepticism.
In England the item has appeared in the Birmingham Sunday Mercury
(which takes credit for the scoop), the Daily Mail, The Guardian,
the Times, on the BBC, and no doubt in other venues, but American
papers have by and large not seen fit to propagate it.

Hey, whether it's true or not, it's sure a wake-up call to me to
start paying more attention to others as my work load causes me
to focus so intensely!

**If you can't keep your co-workers at least keep your computer.
Ever had a PC stolen? Now if you could just have the purloined PC
tell you where it is...Brigadoon Software has a little freeware
Windows utility that does just that. You set your machine to boot
only from the C: drive, set a BIOS password so that the thief
can't change that, enter in a set of registration info, and
travel. If the machine is stolen, the software silently sends
"Help!" e-mails the next time it connects to the Internet. The IP
address is included in the e-mail; from that, a physical location
can be derived from the ISP's logs. The e-mail is designed to
give the police enough information to get a search warrant.

    **TOOL BOX**
    #"Inclusiveness 10", an interactive survey to help companies
     measure employee perceptions about how inclusive their
     company is. Available at
    #"50 One-Minute Tips for Retaining Employees"
    #"Disaster Preparedness", both available at (10% off
     by typing "RIR" in Special Instructions) 

Get more tips on retaining great employees by clicking and clicking RETAIN TIPS.


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March 4-7, 2002
"Making Yourself the Employer of Choice (Like Jesus
Did)", facilitated by TRAINING SYSTEMS, INC. own
Carolyn B. Thompson and colleague, Gary Shoup, at the
Christian Management Association Conference, Anaheim
CA, or 800-727-4CMA

March 24-27, 2002
Human Resource Planning Society (HRPS) Conference, Loews Miami
Beach, Miami, FL,

March 25, 2002
Deadline for submissions in The 4th Annual Corporate University Xchange Excellence Awards,

March 25-27, 2002
SHRM's HR Generalist Certificate Program, facilitated by TRAINING
SYSTEMS, INC. Associate, Catherine D. Fyock, CSP, SHPR in
Atlanta, GA,

April 1, 2002
NATIONAL FUN AT WORK DAY! Call TRAINING SYSTEMS, INC. at 800-469-3560 for ideas.

April 1-3, 2002
SHRM's HR Generalist Certificate Program, facilitated by TRAINING
SYSTEMS, INC. Associate, Catherine D. Fyock, CSP, SHPR in Dallas,

April 8-11, 2002
e-learning 12th Annual Conference, "Master the Knowledge Economy",
special keynote by former Mayor of New York, Rudolph W. Giuliani,

April 10-13, 2002
Association of Job Search Trainers (AJST) "Magical World of A Job
Search Trainer at the Sheraton World Resort, Orlando, FL,

April 12-14, 2002
The Humor Project, Inc. 17th Annual Conference, Saratoga Springs,
NY, or 518-587-8770

April 15-17, 2002
SHRM Global Forum Conference & Exposition: Where HR Meets the
World, New York City, New York,

April 19, 2002
ASAE "Advanced Leadership Skills, facilitated by TRAINING
SYSTEMS, INC. own Carolyn B. Thompson, Minneapolis, MN, 888-950-2723

April 21-24, 2002
International Federation of Training & Development Organisations
Ltd (IFTDO), Bahrain International Conference Center, Manama,

April 22-24, 2002
SHRM's HR Generalist Certificate Program, facilitated by TRAINING
SYSTEMS, INC. Associate, Catherine D. Fyock, CSP, SHPR in Las
Vegas, NV,

April 22-25, 2002
ISPI Conference: "For the Fastest Learning - All Learning Goes in
This Order", facilitated by TRAINING SYSTEMS, INC. own Carolyn B.
Thompson, Dallas, TX, 301-587-8570

April 29-May 1, 2002
SHRM's HR Generalist Certificate Program, facilitated by TRAINING
SYSTEMS, INC. Associate, Catherine D. Fyock, CSP, SHPR in
Washington, DC,

May 5-7, 2002
Fast Company RealTime, San Diego, CA,

May 5-8, 2002
Society for Technical Communication (STC) Conference, Opryland
Hotel, Nashville, TN,

May 14-15, 2002
Kaplan & Norton's How-To Training Seminar: Building the Balanced
Scorecard, Embassy Suites Hotel, Denver, CO, 303-297-8888

May 23-26, 2002
International Association of Facilitators Conference 2002 Texas,
"The Quest for Transformation", Fort Worth, TX,

Capella University Online Master's Degree in Training and

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a wedding dress and the funds will be used to grant wishes to
women with breast cancer. They also need volunteers.

disks are thrown away by PC users every year! They go into
landfills, where they can take over 450 years to degrade OR
they're incinerated, causing acid rain. Greendisk has a recycling
program that's easy and inexpensive. You ship used 3.5" disks,
CDs and videotapes to their recycling facility in Missouri. Greendisk takes them apart and makes new disks and other items.
Go to for details.


Copyright 2002 TRAINING SYSTEMS, INC. All rights


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