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Employment Law Blog: Keep These Resolutions...or Else! - December 21, 2012

So, it’s January 6 and you have paid up your new gym membership online but you haven’t yet printed out the directions to the gym.  The new elliptical is in the corner stacked high with the work-out clothes you bought.  Your resolution to be a model of patience and grace to your children went the same time the new puppy went…on the carpet.  In the spirit of this the season of new beginnings we have a few HR resolutions to offer up.

  1. Quit making bad hires:  There is always the moment in a horror movie where a character, invariably a young, blonde, female in high heels, even though the movie takes place at a hiking trip in the woods, makes a very bad choice.  She chooses to enter the basement, wood shed, cave or haunted house in the middle of the night with nothing but a broken flashlight to investigate the weird cackling noise. This is the moment in a movie where you turn to your companion and say, “Exactly who is that stupid?”  Learn to recognize this moment in human resources.  We all make bad hires, it’s inevitable. People pad their resumes, some people talk a way better game than they play and sometimes we just make a mistake.  Some mistakes can be avoided.  Why are you re-hiring the person you fired twice before for insubordination? Why would you be hiring someone as a favor to someone else?  Lots of mistakes get made including hiring in desperation when you simply cannot find the right candidate or hiring the person who is really not qualified or a good fit but “might” work out.  Just like our character entering the cave alone, these choices will not end well.

  2. Clean up your policies:  You have cleaned out your fridge and the cupcakes, cookies, Christmas candy and potato chips are gone (we won’t mention the midnight run to the local convenience store) and you are now surrounded with the super fruit du jour and nothing but healthy options. The same is true of your policies.  Have you updated them, have you reviewed what policies are posted to see if they are consistent with practice? Every year the legislature, at least in Iowa, comes up with something new and a little quirk that we may need to incorporate into policies. One year it is a Veteran’s Day holiday, which is mandatory for Veterans but does not have to be paid.  Another year it might be a change in the payroll requirements. Review and update your policies, your general practices and your job descriptions.

  3. Train:  Having an elliptical in the corner does not make you any healthier, actually using the elliptical might make you healthier.  The same is true of training.  If you don’t train, employees do not understand what is expected of them, they don’t understand the rules and you can be held liable as a company for the mistakes that they make, either by their actions or inaction.  There are many regulations including HIPPA, the Red Flag Rules and things like sexual harassment, where when employees fail to report bad behavior by others, the company as a whole will be held liable.  You need to focus on those items that you believe employees need for training and review and revise training on an annual basis. No one likes to watch reruns on television, at least not five or six times, and the same training over and over really won’t have impact. Employees don’t like training for the most part, they are bored, they feel it takes away from their general work and a lot of training is not very interesting.  So keep it specific, keep it directed to your employees and teach them with real life examples the things they need to know.  Don’t load training into a single day.  Sprints work better than marathons in most employment training. You also need to think outside of your mindset when you design training.  This is especially true of things like social media where the perspective of the company and the perspective of somebody who texts in their sleep are probably different.

  4. Fire the Bad Employees:  Everyone has an employee or two that really isn't a good fit but for some reason we just haven’t done the appropriate discipline.  We haven’t created the paperwork, we have not documented or given them a chance to improve their performance and they linger.  Employees like this create an enormous amount of work for those who must supervise them, including human resources, and can be difficult for co-employees to work with.  Now is the time with a fresh start to create those documents, hold people accountable to your credible performance standards and move people out when they simply are not a good fit.

  5. Look at your strategic plan:  The mere mention of strategic plan frequently sends chills up the spines of HR because work demands and position requirements fluctuate on a regular basis.  The workers we may need today aren't always the workers we need in six months and HR typically is expected to respond to all of circumstances.  Have a plan.  Know where you have weaknesses, know where your supervisors need more training and know where you need to evaluate practices.  If other HR professionals who you network with have indicated they have started to pick up wage hour concerns, put on your list for evaluation. Work towards one or two big goals which will eventually make your life easier.

Have a happy holiday and a great new year . . . And don’t forget to eat your vegetables!