Protecting your most Important Investment: Essential HR Practices for your Business
As a small business owner, you are keenly aware that even if you worked 24/7 there still would not be enough time to get everything done. Being an effective manager requires knowing the critical elements to lead your team. We, at Warren Whitney, strive to inform you of the essentials to run your business. To help get you started with your HR program, Beth Williams, Director of Human Resources at Warren Whitney, has provided guidelines for a sensible and practical HR program. Included in these guidelines are three basic requirements:
- Creation and maintenance of three specific employee files
- Publication of an employee guidebook with specific policies
- Posting of required state and federal notices
Beth Williams advises that every employee have 3 separate files; Employee Payroll File, Employee HR File, Employee Medical/Benefit File.
- Employee Payroll File. This file should include: Direct Deposit Form, W-4, VA-4 and other withholding forms, and the offer letter. The file may be shared with the payroll or finance department (Note: The file may be kept with the finance department).
- Employee HR File. This confidential file will have general employment information on the employee and include his/her: Resume, Employment Application, Offer Letter, Contract or Agreement, Performance Evaluation, Awards, Disciplinary Documents and finally termination or exit interview information.
- Employee Medical/Benefit File. A separate, confidential medical/benefit file for health and medical issues on each of your employees should include: Applications for insurance, notes from a doctor excusing a person from work, medical examination results, information related to a disability, beneficiary forms, open enrollment forms and any other benefit related documents.
Next on the list is the Employee Guidebook. “A good employee Guidebook should contain several key sections and information on your company culture, policies, and procedures” Beth explains. Listed below are must-haves for the guidebook:
- An introductory statement to explain the purpose of the handbook and at will employment.
- The guidebook should list the following company policies:
· Equal Opportunity Statement
|· Onboarding Information||· Harassment and Discrimination|
|· Open Door Statement||· Confidentiality||· Employment at Will|
|· Social Media||· Computer Use||· Alcohol and Drug|
|· Personal Appearance||· Solicitation||· Immigration Law|
|· Disclaimer Statement||· Business / Work Hours||· Company Property|
|· Ethics Policy||
· Standards of Conduct
3. Below are some remaining key topics that may be included based on your business and industry:
Timekeeping and Payroll: Timekeeping Procedures, Paydays, Pay deductions, Time Off
Work Conditions: Violence in the Workplace, Workplace Safety, Drug Free Workplace Policy, Employee Standard of Conduct and Disciplinary Policy, Office and Facility Information
Benefits: Sick Leave, Personal Leave, Vacation, Holidays, Bereavement Leave, Jury Duty Leave, Military Leave, Maternity/Paternity Leave, Group Insurance, Worker’s Compensation Insurance, Healthcare Continuation, 401K, Business Expense Reimbursement
POSTING OF REQUIRED NOTICES
To make your life easier, Beth suggests buying a combined state and federal poster that keeps you in compliance with posting regulations. If you have more than one office, you will need to post this in each location. While there are many sources, this recommended version costs less than $20.00:
Contributor: Kathy Alward
The Fourth Quarter 2016 CEO Economic Outlook Survey conducted by the Virginia Council of CEOs (VACEOs) and the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business reported central Virginia CEOs shared the highest level of optimism in six years for projected hiring, capital spending, and sales. Nearly 62% of the CEOs surveyed expected employment would increase over the next six months.
While 2017 has not unleashed a full-blown hiring frenzy, the competition for top talent is proving to be fierce. Employers focused on improving the candidate experience want to stand out and attract the very best talent, while significantly reducing the time-to-hire period.
What happens when you find the perfect candidate? Their resume is the ultimate blend of experience, education, knowledge, skills, and abilities for the job you need to fill. They breezed through the interview process. They seem to fit like a hand in a glove with your company culture. You need the job filled now and the candidate says they can start work right away. BINGO—we have a winner!
Are you inclined to jump into overdrive and get an offer letter to the candidate right away? Or, is it worth taking the extra time it takes to do a thorough background screening, realizing you could risk losing the perfect candidate to a competitor?
Background checks serve as a defensive tool for preserving an establishment’s assets. According to Forbes, background checks are “so important that nearly seven out of 10 organizations (69 percent) claim they conduct criminal background checks on all job candidates.” Furthermore, both Forbes and The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) recommend the following components as part of a background screening: employment screening, criminal records history check, education, employment, identity and address, and reference verifications.
Knowing as much as possible about a potential employee, before they know your organization and customers, is crucial. Every organization needs to find employees who are not just able to do a certain job, but who are also reliable enough to handle the business’s assets.
In a recent report from CareerBuilder, the job posting site found that 58% of résumés include misleading or incorrect information, such as falsified education details and inaccurate job titles, seniority levels, and employment dates. If a candidate doesn’t really have the experience or education they say they do, they may not be fit to do the job. That’s a costly error for any business. It can take 17% of a supervisor’s time to manage a bad hire, instead of spending their time helping the business grow!
U.S. Department of Labor estimates show the average cost of a bad hiring decision can equal 30% of the individual’s first-year potential earnings. That means a single bad hire with an annual income of $50,000 equates to a potential $15,000 loss for the employer. In reality, the costs to an employer can be much higher: loss of productivity and time; the investment in recruiting and training a new employee, and other “soft costs” such as loss of customer goodwill or degraded employee morale when a newly hired employee is unable to meet the performance criteria expected of all team members.
Because employers have a moral and legal obligation to provide a safe work environment, knowing whether a potential employee has been involved in criminal or dishonest activity (such as drug or other substance abuse, reckless endangerment to self or others, theft, or violent behaviors) allows the employer to better determine if an applicant is appropriate for the job and work environment.
Conducting thorough background checks can turn up red flags, like previous rape or assault convictions and other dangerous behaviors that may pose a potential threat to other employees or customers.
Perhaps one of the most significant costs that can be incurred by an employer is their potential liability for negligent hiring and/or negligent retention. Negligent hiring or retention holds the employer responsible both for what they know and what they should have known about their employees. It can even result in employers being responsible for employees’ actions off the job.
There is never a good time to shortcut the hiring process by eliminating the time required to complete a thorough background screening. It makes good business sense for an employer to conduct solid due diligence with a background screening to protect their assets, their employees, and their customers.
From a risk management perspective, consider reaching out to a human resource professional to discuss employer best practices for background screenings or to review your current policies to make sure they comply with the strict processes outlined for employers under The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
Kathy Alward, Senior Human Resources Consultant at Warren Whitney
Society for Human Resources Management Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP)
Contact Kathy at KAlward@warrenwhitney.com or at (M) 804.512-2521 or (O) 804.282.9566.
We offer cost-saving, practical guidance to help you streamline compliance efforts, manage risk, and introduce HR best practices and suggestions to improve organizational effectiveness. While every effort is made to provide accurate and current information, no advice offered by this HR representative of Warren Whitney, in any form, should be considered as a substitute for legal advice or your professional judgment. You should always review applicable laws in your jurisdiction and consult with experienced counsel for legal advice when making decisions for your organization.
Contributor: Beth Williams
Today in business, there are more acronyms, legal agencies and regulatory requirements than ever before. If you employ people in your business, you must understand and comply with some of these requirements, many of which can be daunting. The number of people on your payroll will determine the magnitude of your time involved and, ultimately, the work expended to comply with the requirements. The full life cycle of an employee from recruiting strategies through terminations and all actions in between, present opportunities for a lawsuit. The key is creating best practice processes, policies and a workplace culture that protects your company and manages risk.rements than ever before. AND they just keep on coming with the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) being at the forefront this year for many employers.
If you are a smaller company, the business of managing the needs of employees may not be a full time job. But, if you are doing it along with running your business, it can be distracting. Outsourcing professional roles in the infrastructure of your organization may lend the expertise, efficiency and be the most cost effective approach. That enables you to spend more time growing your business. If your business is expanding, the human capital needs may be overwhelming enough that hiring a human resource professional is the best option.
Human resources professionals can assist you in wading through the acronyms and their impact on your business. 2016 brings an awareness of some important employer risks, including:
1. Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) – New federal rules defining exempt and non-exempt employees are very likely to become effective during late 2016. The rule proposed by the Department of Labor (DOL) includes increasing the salary threshold for white-collar exemptions from the current $23,660 per year or $455 per week to $50,440 a year or $970 a week. This includes those in the categories of executive, administrative and professional. Consider the reclassification exercise as a way to review job duties, schedules and staffing levels as well as salaries. This could have a profound impact on payroll and budgets by making more employees in the workforce eligible for overtime pay when converted from exempt to non-exempt. Above all, ensure that your approach is consistent across the organization.
2. Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – Even before the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling, the DOL made news by revising the FMLA’s definition of “spouse.” While the Supreme Court ruling subsequently made same-sex marriage lawful nationwide, the DOL’s standard followed the “place of celebration” standard, recognizing as spouses for purposes of the FMLA those lawfully married under the law of the state where the marriage took place. Now, however, same-sex spouses are clearly covered by the FMLA regardless of the place of celebration.
3. Affordable Care Act (ACA) – Employer mandates kick in this year for most every employer along with big fines for failing to provide health benefits and also for failing to properly comply with ACA reporting requirements. Your payroll and benefit advisors can assist you in defining your workforce for reporting purposes. Ultimately, it is the organization that is responsible for compliance.
4. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – the number of I-9 audits has spiked significantly in the last year due to new federal initiatives. It is expected that I-9 audits will continue to be a significant hot button for ICE in 2016.
Reaching out to a human resource professional to discuss employer best practices, to review current policies and to obtain advice for strategic initiatives for your organization can result in very high returns from a risk management perspective.
Beth Williams, Director of the HR Practice Group at Warren Whitney
Contact Beth at BWilliams@warrenwhitney.com or at (M) 804.301.8009 or (O) 804.282.9566.
Contributor: Paul Shelley, Sr.
For over 15 years, Warren Whitney has been assisting both non-profit and for-profit clients with their human resources and staffing needs and issues. During this time, we have learned that the summer months can present staffing and productivity challenges since many employees take vacation during the summer months. The following are suggestions that we advise our clients to do (or not to do) in order to minimize staffing headaches during the summer months:
- Have a scheduling procedure, and ask employees to schedule time off as far in advance as possible. Make the departmental vacation schedule available to those in the department. Make it clear that the department must continue to operate smoothly and everyone can’t take vacation at the same time. Those who schedule vacations far in advance are those that will most likely be approved. Those who wait to make their vacation plans may find that the time-off request must be denied due to the department needs and other employees’ scheduled vacation.
- Hire high school and/or college students to work during the summer. They are not expensive, want to learn and can fill in gaps in the workforce during the summer. Many organizations hire several students/interns and rotate them around to different departments as needed. The student gets a summer job, makes some money and learns some skills. The organization gets some workload relief for employees who are out on vacation. Also, the organization gets to know the student and his/her work performance/skills and may want to hire him/her for several summers, part-time work during the school year, or even for a full-time position once he/she graduates.
- Hire individuals who are willing to work on a part-time, fill-in or temporary basis. There are plenty of people, such as retirees, who would like to work some hours but not all the time. Ask your employees for referrals and/or contact some of your former employees to see if they might want to work a week or so at a time or a few days per week or month to fill in for employees on vacation. Many of these retired people and very flexible and highly skilled.
- Call a temp agency. We suggest that if you use a temp agency, use one that you have established a relationship with over time and are satisfied with the services and quality of people they provide. If you don’t have a relationship with a temp agency, start now to establish a relationship with one or two. Ask around to other organizations to determine the temp agencies they use and which ones they like best. Organizations that use temp agencies can tell you very quickly which ones they like best and which ones provide the best services, rates and assign good workers. Although Warren Whitney is not a temp staffing agency, we can provide employees for short-time, temporary assignments especially for administrative or accounting (all levels) needs.
- Provide a laptop computer, tablet or smart phone (if they don’t already have one) to an employee on vacation so that they can check emails and deal with any emergencies while on vacation. This may not be appropriate for some positions but may be highly appropriate for other positions. Some employees may not want to do this but some employees would rather do this than come back to work to find a large number of emails waiting for them and a lot of issues to deal with upon his/her return. Many of the issues are probably minor that could be passed to others to handle, or the employee can decide which ones can wait to be handled upon his/her return. At least they are keeping in touch during their vacation and will not be blindsided or overwhelmed upon their return to the office.
Paul Shelley, Director at Warren Whitney, is responsible for the Recruiting and Human Resources (HR) Practice Unit. Contact Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (804) 282-9566.
Contributor: Mallory Lundy
From a widespread and environmental incident such as Hurricane Sandy in 2012 to an isolated event like the sudden death or absence of an employee, there are many possible causes for a disruption of business. Because of this, it is beneficial to have a plan in place before an incident occurs so that your business experiences as few disruptions as possible. While not all business disruptions are foreseeable or preventable, there are key elements to include in each business continuity plan. Warren Whitney’s Mallory Lundy offers some general advice on where to begin.
1. Know the key operations and key operators. It is vital to identify the essential operations needed to keep the business running, as well as the people needed to perform these tasks. Remember to cross-train for essential functions.
2. Keep original files onsite.
a. Original company files will need to be accessible in the event of an emergency; therefore, they should not normally be kept at an employee’s home.
b. Make sure there is an electronic copy of each original document in case the hard copy should become lost or damaged. Keeping the electronic copy saved in multiple places and backed up offsite will provide extra peace-of-mind.
3. Perform regular back-ups. Any important information (e.g., accounting files) should be backed up off-site so that they can be accessed from another location in case a place of business cannot be reached. Be sure to perform these back-ups regularly. The cloud may be a beneficial tool. As an added precaution, also ensure you have applications on machines offsite as well to restore and run the data. This is especially important if you have legacy systems.
4. Identify an alternate work location.
a. Should a hurricane, snow storm, fire, or other event prevent you and your employees from reaching your place of business, have an alternate location identified in your contingency plan. This will cut down on losses from disruption of business.
b. Consider allowing employees to continue with key operations from their home when appropriate.
5. Create an employee absence manual.
a. This manual should include all of the information necessary for operations to continue in the event an employee is suddenly unable to perform his/her duties.
b. Define employee job descriptions with a detailed explanation of each task the employee performs. The task list should include important deadlines and where to find essential account passwords.
c. Identify who should handle an employee’s responsibilities in the event he/she cannot return to work.
6. Centralize contact information.
a. Update contact information frequently and redistribute the information on a regular basis, especially when gaining a new employee.
b. While traditional contact mediums are useful some companies may decide to use avenues such as social media to communicate during disruptions.
c. Consider whether you could need access to customer or vendor contact information and determine the best way to access and safeguard that information.
7. Inform all employees. All employees, including new hires, should understand the business continuity plan, their roles and how to communicate in the event of a disaster, prolonged employee absence, or other disruptive event.
8. Perform a regular review.
a. In some cases, documents and procedures will need to be updated on a rolling basis or perhaps quarterly or bi-annually. However, ensure that at least annually the plan and all documents are reviewed and practices, procedures, and documents are up to date.
b. If certain daily operations are essential to business continuation, perform disaster drills to test the preparedness and effectiveness of the business continuity plan, including testing the restore from back-up routine for each mission critical application.
9. Consider insurance. Evaluate, or review, business interruption insurance coverage annually with your insurance agent to discern if coverage makes sense based on the particulars of your business model.
While these measures take time, in the event of a crisis, your planning will prove beneficial.
A nonprofit museum needed a bookkeeper. The museum staff had searched for a few weeks, but was unsuccessful in finding the appropriate candidate to fill the position. The museum contacted Warren Whitney’s Paul Shelley to recruit for the position. In addition, Warren Whitney’s Pauline Murphy served as the interim bookkeeper.