If you are like most people, you are now a couple of weeks into the new year with a variety of resolutions such as losing weight, getting fit, eating healthier, or getting organized. Without impeding your opportunity for success on your personal resolutions or curing the skeptics who refuse to partake in such resolutions, consider some areas where you can make improvements at work. Do not seek perfection in achieving these goals, but rather evaluate whether there is room for improvement in each area.
- Train Managers. While it would be nice to spend weeks designing a comprehensive training program, many of us face time constraints and reluctance from management to allow employees time away from their jobs. Instead of seeking perfection, consider alternative steps to take. Would it be possible to stop by “crew meetings” and do a five minute refresher on sexual harassment? While we all dread meetings, consider if it would be better to do a shorter presentation at a set meeting instead of having multiple meetings to prepare for training. If your workforce is spread out, on-line training may be a good alternative.
- Hold Managers Accountable. We have all met managers who just don’t get it. While training will help with some managers, additional action is often needed to address a manager’s poor work performance or abusive management style. When you become aware of such behavior, discuss the problem with the manager’s boss and make sure the problem is addressed with the manager during the performance appraisal process.
- Retain Relevant Email. If you are like me and your company allows it, you may have thousands of email in your inbox. If cleaning out your entire email box is too daunting, focus on how best to retain relevant email. Review your company’s retention policy to determine what to keep. If there is no policy, consider what records will be helpful to you in making or defending an employment decision. While we have all seen the “bad” emails that we wish would never see the light of the day, emails often also contain a plethora of valuable information. For example, you may want to retain an email from a customer complaining about a particular employee if that complaint was the basis for disciplining the employee. Emails relating to the development of HR processes can also be helpful for a short time, but remember the usefulness of email passes with time. No matter what grade you currently give yourself on separating out relevant email, make sure you come up with a system to use in the upcoming year in which important emails are retained on a regular basis
- Go paperless. While most files we deal with on a daily basis are electronic, many of us can still improve in reducing the amount of paper we us. While an employee signature acknowledging a written warning is important, scanning it and saving the electronic copy may be more efficient than storing a hard copy of the document. Although it may be ideal to go back and scan historical files, as well, don’t let the scope of that project stop you from implementing a paperless system going forward. Make sure the scanned copies are stored on a server that is backed up and in a location where access is limited to users who are authorized to view the files.
- Secure your personnel information. With the rise in identify theft, it is more important than ever that social security numbers and other personal data be protected. While IT may be responsible for protecting the data from outsiders, it is important that the dissemination of data within the company be limited to only those individuals who have a need to access it. For those who do have access, take steps to ensure that the data is not copied from the Company’s servers and stored on a laptop or other removable media such as a thumb drive.
- Check the contents of your personnel files. While most of us know that certain things, like medical information, should not be kept in personnel files, how often do we check to see if reality matches our understanding? With the number of employers who have wellness programs on the rise, make sure any documents relating to an employee’s participation in those programs is stored outside the personnel file. This applies to review files kept by individual managers, as well.
- Keep politics out of the office. The old adage “No politics or religion at the dinner table” is good advice for employee discussions in the break room, as well. With the presidential election approaching in November, employees will likely have a wide range of beliefs on political issues. In a year where the debated issues include immigration, same-sex marriage, the acceptance of Syrian refugees, and protection from Islamic extremists, such discussions could potentially be related to a protected class. Encourage your employees to keep any discussion of those topics outside the workplace.
- Prepare for FLSA changes. The Department of Labor’s proposed rules governing overtime may be effective in early 2016, and planning for the changes is a must. The proposed overtime rule may add as many as five million people to those eligible for time-and-a-half pay for working more than 40 hours a week. The primary focus of the rules is an increase to the minimum salary and compensation level needed to be exempt from overtime. Analyze your current workforce to determine how your organization will be affected. Once you know the potential impact of increased wages, you can plan for ways to minimize the negative impact, whether that be through hiring new employees, reassigning duties, or finding another solution.
- Have fun. One of the most difficult tasks for a person in HR is to get someone to seek advice before a small problem becomes a large problem. Spend some time building relationships with employees and managers so they do not see HR as the enemy. While there are often “potluck lunches” for particular work groups, HR is often left out. Consider sponsoring a fun event that allows you an opportunity to get to know people in your organization better. When you interact with managers, don’t hesitate to share the successes you have had with other work groups.
- Take time off. It is easy to fall into the trap of trying to get everything done. But studies show that people who take time off are more productive. Spending a week on the beach is a good way to shake off your frustration and forget about whiny employees or uncooperative management.
Don’t stress out about completing each resolution. Instead, evaluate each goal and take fresh steps moving forward. You may not be at your target weight, “fit as a fiddle”, super-organized, or the healthiest eater, but you will have in place changes that will lessen your load and improve your organization by 2017.