Compliance is the foundation for effective HR

It is hard to read recent business news coverage without finding evidence of ineffective, if not downright incompetent HR operations. Compliance with laws and regulations affecting the employment relationship is the foundation of effective HR and a necessary component of healthy and growing businesses. While good compliance does not guarantee success, those without it are extremely vulnerable and disadvantaged. These companies can be damaged in ways that are painful, public and costly.

One area of great financial exposure is compliance with wage and hour requirements at the federal and state level. The two largest class action lawsuit settlements of 2016 involved FedEx Ground and claims that employees were misclassified as independent contractors. These settlements were valued at $240 and $226 million.

Join us for a program on employment law

On Thursday, November 9 from 7:30 to 10 a.m. at CONSOL Energy (1000 Consol Energy Drive, Canonsburg) the Southwestern Pennsylvania Human Resources Organization is hosting a program on Employment Law.
Karen Welton from the US Department of Labor will be speaking on the Fair Labor Standards Act; Rachel Lozosky, Esq. will cover Pennsylvania wage and hour laws and I will be talking about how HR audits can support compliance initiatives. Go to www.swpahro.com to register.

What can you do?
Be a part of the solution when it comes to contributing to a strong culture of compliance at your company:

  1. Acquire baseline knowledge in your areas of responsibility or associated with your desired career through degree, certificate or certification programs.

  2. Choose your employers carefully and wisely. Probe to assess the organization’s commitment to a culture of HR compliance. Look at the reporting relationship of HR and the status of the HR executive. Ask questions about compliance programs, Codes of Conduct and training provided.

  3. Never stop learning. Laws and regulations change. Court decisions alter interpretations of laws and regulations. Professional organizations, law firms and consulting firms provide ongoing opportunities to learn the most up-to-date information through seminars, webinars and publications. Government agencies provide how-to guides and direct assistance. The Department of Labor has particularly robust on-line resources.

  4. Know what you don’t know and where your resources are because, let’s face it, it’s complicated. Employee benefits consultants and brokers, labor and employment attorneys and HR consultants are most effective when they help you design compliant policies and practices before issues arise.
November 5th, 2017|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Compliance is the foundation for effective HR

LaRoche College Spring 2017 HRM Series Begins January 30

Learn, earn professional development credits (HRCI and SHRM) and network with students and colleagues by attending one or more sessions in this popular professional development series. Bill Thomas of Centric Performance kicks off the evening series with “Is it Time to Kill the Performance Review?” on Monday, January 30. Preceded by a reception from 6 to 6:30 p.m., all sessions run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. I am honored to present “HR Audits and Investigations: Necessary and Value-Added Approaches” on April 10.

At $15 per session, this series is budget-friendly and the two hour evening time-slot allows for more relaxed conversation and dialogue. Visit laroche.edu/hrmseries or call 412-536-1193 for more information or to register.

January 10th, 2017|Uncategorized|Comments Off on LaRoche College Spring 2017 HRM Series Begins January 30

Book review: Learning Leadership: The Five Fundamentals of Becoming an Exemplary Leader

For years the following phrases were taped to my desk blotter: “Model the Way; Inspire a Shared Vision; Challenge the Process; Enable Others to Act; Encourage the Heart”. These are the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership ® and formed the foundation of an in-house leadership development curriculum at the health system where I worked in the 1990s. I found daily inspiration and concrete guidance in these dozen words and they shaped the way I understand how effective leaders work.

James Kouzes and Barry Posner are scholars of leadership; their best-known and best-selling book, The Leadership Challenge, was first published in 1987 and is now in its fifth edition. They have authored many other books and articles on leadership and are renowned speakers and consultants on the topic that is the focus of their academic research and professional lives.

Their newest book, Learning Leadership, was just released this year. The authors begin by describing a current leadership shortage and pipeline that is inadequate to meet the needs of institutions of all kinds. They attribute it to three factors: demographics, insufficient training/experiences and prevailing mindsets. Millennials are overtaking the workplace and transitioning into supervisory roles, often with little or no training. We have all likely observed the dearth of investments in leadership development, with initiatives that are inconsistent, under resourced and generally deficient. This is coupled with a reluctance of individuals already in leadership positions to see themselves as leaders who can be developed and grown into more effective ones.

This book is based on the premise that “learning is the master skill”. Can anyone learn to be a (better) leader? Yes, say the authors, by believing you can and working at it. So learning as a continuous process of engagement and discipline is essential. One of the core recommendations, based on sound behavioral and management research is to keep a leadership journal. By using it to set goals, reflect on progress, document activities and reinforce values, the journal is living documentation of learning.

Divided into seven parts, Leaning Leadership first examines what we know about effective leaders, including a review of the Five Practices noted above. The following five parts describe five fundamentals essential to skill development and the final part is a call to action and to be “positive, energetic and hopeful”. In addition to Belief, these fundamentals involve Aspiration, Challenge, Support and Practice. Each chapter ends with a Key Message summarizing the chapter in a few sentences and a SelfCoaching Action, an assignment designed to build a fundamental skill.

Kouzes and Posner write in a style that is adult, direct, values-based and remarkably jargon-free. Their work is enduring because it is well-researched and not based on the latest fad or catch phrase.

This book is best approached and digested in small pieces over a period of time. I do not recommend it as vacation reading because it is a call to action. This is not a book to read for content and place on a bookshelf for later reference or pull out when you need a pithy motivational quote. It is a serious book for a serious student of leadership who is willing to work to get better; it would be a great gift to a newly-appointed leader.

Book review from Perspectives, Pittsburgh Human Resources Association, November 2016

December 16th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Employees are Customers: Think About How You Communicate

Book Review from Perspectives, Pittsburgh Human Resources Association, July 2015

The Definitive Guide to HR Communication: Engaging Employees in Benefits, Pay and Performance. Alison Davis and Jane Shannon. New Jersey: FT Press, 2011. 295 pp.

Need to deliver news about restructuring? Tell employees about upcoming benefit changes? Revamp your new employee orientation program?

Many (or maybe most) HR professionals do not have the luxury of an HR communications specialist on staff. This means that HR professionals, who have varying degrees of comfort in planning and preparing communications, often have to do it ourselves. Or we partner with a communications specialist who has limited understanding of the HR-related subject matter.

This book is a resource that can assist both HR and communications professionals to deliver information effectively. Written by two authors with decades of experience, their expertise is apparent in this comprehensive treatment of an essential aspect of HR.

Divided into two parts, “Taking a New Approach” covers principles and practices applicable to employee communications generally. “Communicating in Key Situations” addresses common issues and problems including policies and handbooks, orientation, pay, benefits, performance management and workforce reductions.

The authors write in a simple and direct style, consistent with their direction to the reader on how to do employee communication. Short sentences, bullet points, bolded text and checklists at the end of each chapter make the book easy to read from beginning to end. To save time or meet an immediate need, the reader can also zero-in on a specific subject, like retirement savings, using the table of contents or index.

Their core message is that employees are to be treated as customers, and the foundation of effective communications is an understanding of workforce demographics. Knowing your employees requires research and is then followed by the creation of a plan. They provide a simple structure for organizing a communications plan, adopted from the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC).

The range of potential tools (e-mail, meetings, posters, websites, newsletters, etc.) is presented with advice on when and when not to use each one, including tips on how to maximize impact.

Executives and managers are recognized as a distinct audience. A chapter is devoted to meaningful meetings with recommendations on how to best equip managers to respond when employees come to them with questions.

They observe that if you want fast, high-quality and cheap, you can only have two of them. Other useful reminders include the well-researched conclusion that “People do not read”! They describe how to use visual cues and ‘chunk’ information for easy skimming and scanning.

A review of ways to measure effectiveness considering five possible dimensions (participation, satisfaction, understanding, belief and action) closes out Part I.

Part II follows the employee life cycle beginning with recruitment and ends with leaving the company.
Sandwiched in between are chapters on orientation, policies, benefits, compensation, performance management and saving for retirement. Examples from companies like Google, John Deere, Smuckers, FedEx and Procter & Gamble enhance their how-to guidance for typical situations, including writing job descriptions, explaining open enrollment processes and orchestrating workforce reductions.

This book is a welcome addition to my bookshelf as a comprehensive guide to proactively addressing the challenges of HR communication. I recommend it.

Rosanne C. Saunders, J.D., SPHR, SHRM-SCP

March 24th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments