Recently, Mintz Levin held a seminar in New York City that addressed some of the major challenges employers are facing in the New Year.  Our program contained segments on New York City’s paid sick leave law, effective management of HR Issues, the Affordable Care Act, employment practices liability insurance coverage, and workplace privacy.  We have been posting a series of entries following up on the critical workplace issues raised during these segments.

Today’s topic: Making Workplace Training a Priority

During our segment on effective management of HR issues, our moderator, Andrew Bernstein of Mintz Levin, and presenters, Lisa Barse Bernstein, the Global Head of Human Resources at Apollo Global Management, LLC, Remy Nicholas, Vice President of HR at Alma Bank, and Leslie Ballantyne, Vice President, Absence Management & Employee Wellness at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center discussed a variety of issues and challenges HR managers face in attempting to minimize exposure to employment law claims.  Among the topics discussed by our panelists: ensuring compliance with the complex web of Federal, state and local employment laws, issues raised in the context of hiring, social media in the workplace, and the topic we will discuss in this post: the importance of workplace training.

Ask any employment lawyer or HR professional, and they will tell you the value in effective workplace training.  Workplace training takes many forms and is often highly dependent on the nature of a company’s business, the industry it occupies and its particular culture.  As touched on by our speakers during the seminar, smart HR professionals know that every business presents unique issues and requires particularized solutions to address those issues.  Below, we highlight some of the broader points our speakers made about workplace training.

The Importance of Ensuring Buy-in

An often neglected issue relates to buy-in.  Stated another way, does management understand the value in training and in adopting the guidance and overall message of HR training?  Here, a company’s culture can have a huge impact.  In some organizations, management understands the value in training and proactively encourages it.  In other cases, communicating the importance of training to upper management can be an uphill-battle.  In those instances, “selling” the benefits of HR training and highlighting the risks associated with foregoing training becomes an HR professional’s main task.  The stakes here can be high: our speakers expressed a common concern among HR professionals regarding maintaining compliance with the ever-changing regulations and employment laws employers must contend with.  Ensuring management buy-in promotes smart, effective responses by management when problems arise, and in some cases, prevents issues from ever occurring.  Perhaps the most important take-away here is the old adage: “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Growing Pains

Most companies welcome consistent, and even exponential growth – and they should.  However, from an HR perspective, a company’s growth, particularly rapid growth, can present issues for effective HR training.  For many smaller employers, HR training for management often takes the form of a yearly or semi-regular presentation to management on various employment topics.  When issues arise, many HR professionals at smaller companies will direct managers to report the issues and HR takes over at that point.  When a company grows past a certain size, that model may no longer fit.  As Andrew Bernstein remarked, in such an instance HR can no longer be everywhere at once and management, rather than HR, will be the first responder.  Accordingly, ensuring that managers have the proper skills and tools to address issues when they arise is critical, and smart employers know that boils down to effective training.

Unique Issues with New Managers

A final area the panelists explored concerned new managers.  Often, the qualities associated with a good manager from a business perspective (i.e., performance, results) don’t necessarily align with the skills required to be an effective manager of people.  New managers, in particular, pose a concern for employers, since they often lack both the training and the practical experience of managing others.  Here, our panelists emphasized the importance of training new managers before problems arise.

Conclusions

The benefits of ensuring effective training are myriad.  Study after study has confirmed that successful HR training promotes employee retention, increases productivity and improves employee morale.  In addition, effective HR training helps limit a company’s exposure to liability and gives management the tools to properly respond to issues as they arise, which benefits both workers and the company.