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Employee recognition isn’t limited to special occasions. Rather, it should be at the core of your workplace culture. You can – and should – tell your employees how much you appreciate them and their contributions any time during the day, week or year.

In a recent study, more than 80 percent of employees said they were motivated to work harder when their boss showed appreciation for their work. More than half said they would stay longer at their company if they felt more appreciated.

Say Thank You
Along with “please,” this is still one of the most powerful verbal stimulants in our language. Identify the specific employee action that you found admirable and thank your employee for it in an appropriate manner. Do this consistently and don’t be surprised when morale, engagement and ultimately productivity, are enhanced as a result.

  • Make it public. The most meaningful form of employee recognition happens when others, namely coworkers, supervisors and executive leaders, are present – if not personally, then via other means of communications. As appropriate, recognize team members during team meetings and in newsletters and other company media.
  • Show them that others need them, too. If a client or co-worker makes you aware of an employee’s extraordinary contribution, be sure to share the details – not only with the employee themselves, but also with other key stakeholders.

Recognize Employees as Individuals
The more you acknowledge employees’ specific contributions, the more irreplaceable they’ll feel. Throughout the year, show a genuine interest in your team members by getting to know their interests, hobbies, passions and motivators.

  • Be intentional with everyday conversations. Ask about employees’ families, hobbies, weekends or events they attended. Get to know their interests well enough to present relevant, personal recognition gifts such as gift cards to their favorite restaurant or tickets to see their favorite sports team play.

Money Really Does Talk
Cash incentives are not the be all and end all, but they can be highly effective as incentives for continued improvement, engagement and performance. They can be in the form of a bonus or perhaps a coupon book offering free or discounted company apparel and related items.

Above and Beyond the Cash
Among employees who responded to the above-mentioned survey, 46 percent said they would feel more appreciated if their managers gave them unexpected treats such as lunches, dinners or even simple thank-you notes.

  • Time can be the greatest gift. So can telecommuting, flexible scheduling or even just a few hours off on a Friday afternoon.
  • Celebrate with food. Take the staff to lunch for a birthday, other occasion or no occasion at all. If a particular employee is being recognized, ask them to pick the restaurant.
  • Provide growth opportunities. Encourage valued employees to participate on committees where their talents will be utilized and noticed. Provide time off and pay for them to attend professional meetings and workshops.

Need more ideas for employee appreciation and other areas of workforce development? Read our related posts or contact the team at Alternative Staffing today.

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Before you know it, the calendar year will reach its midpoint. How can you look ahead to the second half of the year with an eye on renewing morale, performance and productivity? There’s still plenty of time to lay the groundwork for your best year yet in several key areas.

Work Area Enhancements
A simple step toward kick starting employee motivation is revitalizing the physical work area to make it more user friendly and appealing. A welcoming environment is a great way to start your day or shift.

  • Consider each employee’s work space. Is it comfortable, ergonomically sound and not too cramped? Fix that thermostat or air conditioner so the temperature is comfortable. Allow access to natural light whenever possible or at the very least, consider such adjustments as lower-wattage bulbs that may alleviate harsh fluorescent lighting. Small changes can add up to big improvements.
  • Take advantage of wall space. Put up a bulletin board where employees can post pictures, birthday greetings and other relevant news and information. This also can be used for recognition; for instance, colleagues can post notes congratulating one another on accomplishments and challenging projects completed.

Employee Recognition
This is the perfect time to reevaluate your employee recognition program. If you set out to honor an employee of the month, did you? How did that go? On both formal and informal bases, get your program on – or back on – track.

  • Improve both individual and group recognitions. Take time to call an employee into your office and acknowledge their successful contribution. Write an email and copy company leaders. Then let the team know by recognizing the individual in a group meeting.
  • Give appropriate gifts. Tailor them to the employee’s personal interests and preferences. A gift certificate to Starbucks will backfire if a person isn’t a coffee drinker. On the flip side, a busy parent may appreciate movie or amusement park tickets for the family.

Engagement
Engagement stems from a sense of involvement, ownership and autonomy – and it needs to be cultivated on a regular basis, all year round.

  • Be as transparent as possible. Provide employees with regular updates on company and departmental performance and plans. Let them in on any strategies you may have, seek their input and help them understand how they fit into the big picture.
  • Provide performance feedback. Regularly set aside time to meet with employees for this purpose. If their work is not up to par, work with them to develop ideas for improvement. It’s important that team members feel supported by you and by their company.

Communication
Successful communication is based on active listening and approachability.

  • Have face-to-face conversations. They strengthen working relationships, collaboration, trust and respect. Personal interaction also helps avoid miscommunication, which can occur if you limit yourself to emails and text messages.
  • Provide venues for sounding off. Use surveys, staff meetings and an open-door policy to give employees ample opportunity to air their concerns and share their ideas. Then, it’s absolutely critical that you follow up on what you hear. Nothing less than your credibility is at stake here.

Looking for more ideas on revitalizing your team for the second half of the year? Read our related posts or contact the workforce development team at Alternative Staffing today.

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As an employer, you have the right to impose guidelines on employee dress code at your place of business. Regardless of the season, your goal is to maintain a workplace environment that’s professional, comfortable and inclusive for every staff member.

Summer business attire, though typically more casual, should exhibit the same level of common sense applied during the rest of the year. Factors to keep in mind as you implement your summer dress code policy include good judgment, professional image and taste, and courtesy to customers, suppliers and coworkers.

Where to Start
Employee appearance should support your company’s image in the eyes and minds of your stakeholders. When you develop your summer dress code policy, be sure to write it down, make it definite and specific, and be very precise in the descriptive language used.

  • Keep health and safety in the forefront. The more complex the safety standards within your industry, the greater your need to focus on this area. For instance, manufacturing environments have more concerns than most offices. Review the specific terms of your policy with your legal team and safety leaders before signing off on them.
  • Review for sensitivity. Another good reason to review your policy with your attorney is to ensure that you correctly draft portions that may be prone to legal pitfalls; for instance, items that differentiate between men and women or impact religious dress.
  • Avoid red flags. These are protests on union rights, religious practice or unfair burdens on one sex or race that may result from the introduction of your policy. Be sure to send a copy to every employee so they know the rules leading into the summer months. You may want to take this a step further by having them sign a copy acknowledging that they have received and read it in full. If you have an employee handbook, include your policy in it.

Key Parameters
As you create your dress code policy, keep these points in mind:

  • State your business objective. Your intention is to present a professional and identifiable image to customers, suppliers and the public. (You may want to provide summer polo shirts or similar items imprinted with your company logo.) In addition to ensuring safety, your policy is designed to promote a positive working environment and limit distraction caused by inappropriate dress.
  • Define what’s appropriate. For instance, specify whether “casual” means dress slacks and collared shirts or jeans and tee shirts. If you don’t want employees to wear flip flops, shorts, sleeveless shirts or sundresses, specify this. If you don’t observe casual dress at all times, identify which days are designated for it. How about tattoos and body piercings? Do you require that they not be visible? Make your verbiage very detailed and precise.
  • Identify standards for employees who have direct customer contact or attend outside meetings. Often, employers require that these individuals dress more formally at these times.

Be consistent as you enforce your dress code policy. Hot weather and summer fashions can test even the most carefully-designed document, so be prepared to deal with this reality. It’s still work, not the beach or a pool party. Make HR contact information readily available in case employees have questions.

Contact the team at Alternative Staffing for additional guidance as you develop policies and strategies for effective workforce development.

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How can you step up at work and make impactful positive changes? The more you focus on changing things for the better, the more opportunities you’ll recognize.

Start by asking yourself:

  • Who needs help and how can I provide it?
  • Who benefits from what I’m doing?
  • How does what I’m doing impact what the organization is focused on?
  • Who can be more productive as a result of what I do?

Show Up Positive|
A positive attitude is critical – and it may involve a few changes to your lifestyle and overall outlook.

  • Take steps to improve your diet, exercise and sleeping habits. Something as simple as getting up a half hour early to avoid rushing in the morning can make a difference in how your entire day plays out.
  • Be positive in an authentic way. For instance, make it a habit to admire someone else’s work and accomplishments. Give credit where it’s due.
  • On the flip side, refuse to contribute negatively. Think of the old adage, “If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.” Resist the urge to join complainers or gossipers. Complaining with not action to make a positive change is a toxic habit. If you need to be critical, do so with a constructive purpose and realistic suggestions for improvement.
  • Focus on issues, not personalities. You don’t have to like everyone you work with, but at least agree to disagree. Don’t let your differences get blown out of proportion or allow interpersonal feelings to override objectivity.
  • Set aside issues unrelated to work. This isn’t always easy, but try and leave them at home if they have the potential to negatively affect your attitude.

Be Ready to Tackle the Job
Show up prepared and stay on top of it throughout your shift or workday. This means having:

  • All the information you need for every project and meeting. Look at it this way: A promotion or expansion of your current job are both ways your employer gives you more responsibility. If you’re not handling what’s already on your plate, how can you expect to be given more?
  • An informed opinion. Know the state of your division and of the marketplace. Then define realistic ways that your team could initiate something to improve it. Having an opinion is the most common thing in the world of business, but having an informed opinion is rare and refreshing. Politely present it to your boss, along with an interpretation of how your company could act on it.

Save the Company Money
Keep your eyes peeled for ways your organization can spend less, control costs and increase efficiency. Share your ideas early and often.

Improve the Social Culture
Take steps to build a sense of community within your work area. Instigate changes that enable people to connect outside of work; for instance, arrange group lunches, after-work drinks or an outing like a night at the ballpark. Start small and keep building.

As you develop your career growth opportunities, a professional coach can be an invaluable partner. To learn more, contact the workforce development experts at Alternative Staffing today.

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Spring is here! For most of the nation, it’s especially welcome this year after a brutally hard winter. And for the global economy, it’s a breath of fresh air as businesses are on the rebound from the recent recession.

If you’re a job seeker, it’s a good time to refresh, regroup and reorganize. Companies are hiring again and this is an ideal opportunity to introduce your own new “spring line!”

Make a New Schedule
If you live in an area where you reset your clocks to “spring ahead,” you may feel the significance of the reinvigorated scheduling of time and activities that often accompanies the March and April time frame. If you’re job hunting, use these longer days to revise your time schedule when it comes to your search strategy.

  • Dedicate blocks of time to searching message and job boards, updating your social media profile, networking, and revising your resume. Go back to basics and give your search the time and attention it deserves.
  • Assess your time management. Guard your time carefully. If you’ve been out of work for a while, especially during the depths of winter, you may have allowed your schedule to slack. Remember, your number-one priority is your job search. As the seasons change, this is a good time to remind others of that fact, too, before they start to call upon you to help with unrelated tasks and errands.

Refresh Your Network
Take a fresh look at your lists of contacts and put some spring into your networking initiatives.

  • Attend more meetings and events. Take a step – or more – outside your comfort zone. Make good use of your professional associations and other groups to reconnect with colleagues and meet new ones.
  • Get out there in the community. Take a course or volunteer with an organization where you can use your capabilities and expertise. Become a docent at a museum, teach an adult education course or offer to edit your church newsletter. This will keep your skills fresh, as well as offer possible networking opportunities.

Refresh Yourself
It’s time for a self-evaluation. Which strengths and skills do you passionately want to act upon? What kind of people, culture and work environment would meet your ideals? Answering these questions will help you redefine your search strategy – and people will be in a better position to help you if you know what to ask them for.

  • Update your personal marketing campaign. Your resume is your primary tool, so tweak or rewrite it if you’re not getting the desired response. In addition, make sure your social media messages are professional and consistent across all platforms. For instance, your LinkedIn profile should be rich in keywords and you should be actively participating in industry groups and building connections. Consider a blog and/or digital media to display your work and experience.
  • Find balance and have fun. Truly spring clean by letting go of any lingering anger or bitterness you may have regarding your previous – or current – job. Come to terms with those feelings and let them go. Make it a point to socialize and have fun. It will keep your spirits up. And you never know where or when a job lead may arise!

Partnering with a career coach can open the door to myriad ideas and directions as you take your career to the next level. To learn more, contact the team at Alternative Staffing today.

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Workplace accidents can often be prevented, but even companies with industry-leading safety records can’t escape them entirely. When an incident does occur, respond promptly and effectively. Have a plan in place, conduct a thorough investigation, and do whatever it takes to prevent a recurrence. It’s your number-one priority and most important responsibility.

Your Comprehensive Incident Report
Your accident plan ensures that when an incident occurs, everyone involved knows what steps must be taken and who’s responsible for them.

  • Appoint an individual to be in charge. This person will lead a team that should include your facility manager, as well as appropriate department managers, union representatives and other key personnel. Nothing matters more than safety – and the involvement of top-down leadership underlines this commitment.
  • Define the scope of the investigation. Your team leader should clarify what information is to be sought and communicate the goal and time frame of the investigation.
  • Create a preliminary brief. The investigation team should compile an initial incident review including the date, time and location of the accident, as well as a damage estimate, witness list and details regarding environmental conditions and specific injuries incurred. Any relevant events and circumstances also should be cited.
  • Inspect the site. The team should spend time at the accident site looking for any details that may have been missed in the initial brief. This includes a thorough check of equipment and a review of maintenance records and operator manuals.
  • Interview victims and witnesses. Discuss the incident in detail with anyone who was affected by or involved in it. Employees who regularly work in the area or who had contact with victims before the accident also should be interviewed.
  • Determine the sequence of events. Using their notes, observations and interviews, team members should be able to define events leading up to, involved in and immediately following the incident. Diagrams or photos may be helpful at this point.
  • Review relevant documents. This helps round out the investigation. The team should look at training records for victims and others who perform the same job. In addition, investigators should review related policies and procedures and company safety committee minutes. The latter will help determine whether any related incidents have occurred and been addressed in the past.
  • Prepare a summary report. This should include all data and information collected, along with the sequence of events, presumed cause of the incident and recommendations for preventing future accidents. The team may suggest enhanced safety training, better preventive maintenance, an evaluation of related job procedures, engineering or administrative changes, or other measures.

When their investigation is complete, findings should be reported to senior management and union leadership, along with a briefing to present all team findings.

It’s not a task anyone wants to perform. But it can literally be a life saver when it comes to the future health and well-being of your greatest asset: your workforce. For additional resources to enhance your safety and HR strategies, contact the experts at Alternative Staffing today.

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Does your 2014 business plan include supplementing your full-time staff during the summer or other busy seasons? This should be part of your overall hiring strategy: knowing exactly which employees you need and when, with a talent pipeline in place for the unexpected needs that will inevitably occur.

The Power is in the Planning

Your search for right-fitting talent should be ongoing throughout the year. Success is based on continuously assessing needs and anticipating when you’ll have to make changes.

  • Look at your sales plans and current coverage. Then you can statistically forecast your staffing requirements. Create a roadmap and from there, fill in the blanks. For instance, when will you need more sales strength? What about extra help in the stockroom? Are there specific time slots that will need fleshing out?
  • Always be recruiting. Use your contacts, professional networks and a staffing agency partner to build a pool of qualified candidates who can hit the ground running when the need arises.
  • Make sure job descriptions are correct, complete and current. Consider asking the author of each JD to spend a few hours shadowing an employee in the relevant position.
  • Provide adequate resources for onboarding seasonal staff. You can’t just throw them onto the factory or sales floor and expect them to flourish. Don’t view them merely as a way to fill your schedule, but rather as the company representatives they are. Customers won’t forgive poor service, regardless of who provides it.
  • Think ahead. Give preference to candidates who are likely to return for another season. This will streamline your hiring in the years ahead.

No Shortcuts or Assumptions

Seasonal workers can be a valuable repository of talent for your company’s future. You have the opportunity to make employment decisions based on hard performance data built up over the length of their assignments. Industry experts have noted that “in an ideal world, all our full-time people would have started out as part-timers.”

  • Hire for attitude as well as aptitude. The best seasonal workers are flexible and can get up to speed quickly. At the same time, they are highly dependable, support your mission, and place a high emphasis on safety and customer focus.
  • Don’t shortchange HR processes. It may be tempting to bypass certain procedures to save time and money, but this can lead to longer-term problems. Keep seasonal workers on you regular HR platform. Disseminate related information – such as interview and hiring procedures, orientation and training instructions and relevant paperwork – to satellite sites or branch offices that utilize seasonal employees.
  • Provide incentives for workers to stick out the season. Consider structuring compensation to reward those who stay as long as you need them. This avoids having to “replace your replacements.”

Partnering with a recruitment firm that specializes in your industry can yield excellent strategic results to meet all your hiring needs. To learn more, contact the experienced Charleston, SC recruiters at Alternative Staffing today.

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When you’re job hunting, keep your mind open to any and all networking possibilities. Anywhere you visit can become a venue for making new contacts – and anyone you meet can be a potential source of information, insight or professional contacts.

Stay Fit While You Network
Whether it’s the gym, the golf course or the tennis court, your physical workout site can serve a dual purpose. You can burn calories and raise your endorphin levels while at the same time, meeting people with whom you share a personal interest. As relationships develop, conversation spills over into your work life. A chat before yoga class may lead to a business card exchange or an invitation to have a latte afterward and discuss possible opportunities.

Spectator Sports
If you prefer watching sports from the sidelines, you can use this time as a networking opportunity. Think of it as multi-tasking in the best possible way. You get to cheer on your favorite team and during halftime or the seventh inning stretch, strike up a conversation with your “friend for the day” who’s been sitting next to you. Use your common interest in the team as an ice breaker.

Book Clubs and Hobby Groups
Groups of friends, neighbors and local residents who form clubs based on their common free-time interests often wind up discussing myriad topics, including their careers. Think about seguing your reading, knitting, bridge or poker hobby into a chance to advance your career.

  • If you can’t find a group, form your own. A great place to start is Meetup, which helps groups of people with shared interests plan meetings and form offline clubs in their own local communities.
  • True story #1: A woman in Denver started a club to read and discuss books on women’s issues. An account executive with a web-based application development company joined and through this new friend, the woman secured two major clients for her own company. They could just as easily have been prospective employers.
  • True story #2: The president of a Houston software company joined a neighborhood Bunco group. He connected with a former Microsoft executive who played one evening as a sub. Subsequently, his company became a recommended Microsoft provider as a result.

Members get to know each other as people first. Though not created for business networking, these groups turn out to be just that. The premise is simple: People do business with people they like.

Church or Synagogue Events
Becoming involved in your church, synagogue or other place of worship is by its very nature based on the value of forming a community. In such a setting, members naturally reach out to help enhance each other’s lives. Your parish may even sponsor networking events, offer a job board, or have an individual assigned to providing related assistance.

People Who Share Your Passions
Sometimes the most unlikely places become the best places to network. Events like a Comic-Con convention are attended by large numbers of people who share a common interest in the comics and animation industries – and related industries and jobs.

Even a small event can lead to great career connections, as long as you’re open to meeting new people and making small talk. And remember, never leave home without a supply of business cards!

Partner with a career coach from Alternative Staffing for additional guidance and resources as you build your professional network. Read our related posts or contact us today.

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The entire nation has been wrapped up in – or buried under – this winter’s infamous polar vortex since the season began. And as recently as this month, the icy meteorological clutch refuses to let up. It’s been too cold to stay outside for long, too gloomy to be motivated, and too snowy to go anywhere.

  • It started early. In December, the U.S. recorded the eighth largest snowfall cover on record and the highest since 2009.
  • It went on and on and on. As recently as March 3, schools and businesses closed from the South and Mid-Atlantic to the Northeast due to cold and snow. On that date alone, more than 2,400 U.S. flights were cancelled due to inclement weather. So you couldn’t get away from it if you tried!

And of course, it’s had a huge impact on our work life, as well. Scrambling to find sitters when school is closed? Massive hits on attendance because people simply can’t get out of their driveways? Even for those who’ve managed to avoid the emotional stress – not to mention physical ailments like never-ending colds and flus, which spread like wildfire when people are cooped up inside – a bout or two of cabin fever is virtually inevitable.

Cabin fever isn’t an actual medical diagnosis, but psychological experts concede that it does exist. As explained by Josh Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist at the University of Alabama, “it’s your mind’s way of telling you that the environment you are in is less than optimal for normal functioning. It’s when you’re in a space of restricted freedom for a period of time that you can no longer tolerate.”

Symptoms of cabin fever include:

  • Feeling cooped up.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Feeling lethargic, unmotivated, irritated or edgy for no apparent reason.

Up the Mood at Work
Kicking cabin fever is all about mental and physical activities that release pent-up energy built up after being stuck inside for so long. In a sense, we all become like restless kids. We need to open the back door, go outside and make snow angels. Or something like that …

  • Spring clean. This is a great time to change up the office a bit by rearranging furniture, cleaning out dead files and creating more space. If possible, relocate work areas nearer to windows. Brighten things up with colorful plants, artwork and colorful décor. Make it a group effort. Show off your handiwork and celebrate with spring-themed desserts including healthy options like fresh fruit.
  • Launch a “Spring for Health” campaign. Form a committee from various departments to make it happen. Involve your health office and cafeteria staff if applicable. Encourage friendly competitions to exercise more or hold a weight-loss competition. Advertise it. Decorate for it. Make it fun. How about a company-wide flash mob or hula hoop contests at lunch or in the break rooms?
  • Get some fresh air. Hold a meeting outside on the first day the temperature allows. Make it a walking brainstorming session. You can always jot down the notes right afterwards. You’d be surprised how invigorating even 10 or 15 minutes of sunlight and fresh air can be.

With a minimal commitment of time or money, you can turn cabin fever into an opportunity to build rapport, wellness and overall morale.

For additional helpful workforce development tips, read our related posts or contact the Charleston recruiting experts at Alternative Staffing today.

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“Rapport is the ability to enter someone else’s world, to make him feel that you understand him, that you have a strong common bond.”

So says motivational speaker Tony Robbins as he describes rapport. It’s a skill anyone can learn – and perhaps at no time is it more important than when you’re building a relationship with a new boss.

Leadership Style
Everyone has a different leadership style. A simple observation of your boss during the first few days you work together can tell you how they like to relate to their employees.

  • It may take a while. Some people simply don’t concern themselves with pleasantries in the workplace, so it could take some time before your boss stops treating you with formality. Don’t worry too much if this happens.
  • Use mirroring. As you get to know your boss’s spoken and body language, you can reflect them when the two of you interact. (Law enforcement officials do this when interviewing witnesses to get them to open up.) If your manager uses simple, direct words, you should too. Research has shown that copying a person’s speech patterns and vocal tones and volumes makes them feel more comfortable and as though they are being understood.

Dealing with Awkwardness
If the situation with your new boss feels particularly awkward, take some time to reflect on the situation. Talk with someone you trust. Their perspective could prove invaluable in determining the source of the problem.

Become wary if your boss:

  • Fails to include you in meetings you feel are important to your success.
  • Fails to return your messages.
  • Appears generally disinterested in what you’re doing.
  • Never says hello or chats with you, at least via a simple salutation.

Without these simple communication mechanisms in place, you’re powerless to know whether or not you’re doing a good job.

Make a Connection
In a sincere manner, take steps to create rapport with your new boss.

  • Start with the basics. Ideally, your boss will introduce him or herself to you but if not, take the initiative. Shake hands, look them in the eye and smile. If they have not done so, suggest a one-on-one meeting.
  • Follow up. Watch for opportunities to help your boss, and take them. If your boss doesn’t respond to your request for a meeting within a reasonable time, revisit the request.
  • Actions speak louder than words. Show your new boss what you can do. In the process, be open, friendly and communicative.
  • Find common ground. Look for something other than work that connects you to your boss. Do you live in the same town, have kids at the same school, like the same sports team? Do you both ski or golf or share a passion for jazz music?

New relationships can be like walking on eggshells at first. But if handled correctly, you’ll soon be on firm ground with your new boss and the two of you can collaborate – and make great things happen for the future of your company.

For further tips on reaching your career goals – and perfecting the many steps along the way – read our related posts or contact the experts at Alternative Staffing, North Charleston and Orangeburg, today.