HR practices and policies must evolve over time to reflect emerging best practices, changes to regulations, and shifting cultural values.
Throughout the last decade, our shared understanding of what the workplace looks and feels like has gone through significant alterations, and as we near 2020, it’s a logical time for organizations of all sizes and industries to reassess their HR policies and procedures.
With that said, many of HR’s biggest challenges are baked into the nature of the work, but new technologies and innovative approaches are turning those challenges into areas of new opportunity.
Moving forward, we’ll take a look at the biggest HR challenges that growing businesses must have on their radar as we prepare for the new year.
1. Employee Performance
One of any HR department’s main responsibilities is creating a team and an environment in which people can do great work. No human resources department can operate at its highest level unless there’s a company-wide awareness of expectations and accountability. As a business, you can’t correct, reprimand, or discipline anybody with any real authority unless you’ve clearly articulated goals, KPIs, and an evaluation framework that everybody knows and cares about.
Getting termination right is just as important as getting hiring right. The way you separate from former employees affects your reputation in the talent marketplace and the morale of your remaining team.
If you don’t have a codified, iron-clad termination procedure that’s been vetted by your legal team, you could be leaving your organization open to potential lawsuits and fees. Regulations on termination practice vary from state to state, so it’s important to be aware of your local laws, especially if your organization has offices in various states.
3. Employee Leave (FMLA, Parental, Personal, Other)
The dialogue around planned employee leave has changed tremendously in recent years. The aging population means that many professional age workers are medical or legal custodians of older family members, and shifts in parenting practices, mental health awareness, and beyond have an increasing number of employees requesting time away from the office.
As the employer, you must be prepared for every conceivable leave request and have policies in place that explain when and how much leave is permitted, what process employees must go through for approval, and how their return to the team will be arranged and executed. Any gap in your explicit policies is a potential legal liability.
4. Harassment Prevention, Training, and Investigations
As we approach the fourth year of the #MeToo movement, public and individual awareness of harassment has never been higher. That means your prevention training procedures and reporting/investigation frameworks must be stronger and more comprehensive than ever in order to provide the best possible protection for you and your employees.
With that said, nothing is more important than follow-through. If you have great policies on the books but don’t honor them, you’re compromising your company vision and creating greater opportunity for your organization to be hurt by legal disputes. If there’s one area of your HR practice that you are targeting for improvement this year, make it your harassment prevention, training, and investigation policies.
5. Training for Managers
Team- and department-level leadership has the capacity to build great engagement and motivation or send employees running for the door. The best way to ensure the former happens (and to avoid the latter) is to provide your management teams with consistent, explicit training on how to approach coaching, mentoring, feedback, discipline, staffing, etc.
Managers in even the best organizations – especially fast-growing ones – often have gaps in their knowledge of new employee management strategies and best practices. That’s because many of them were promoted into their positions for being all-star workers. While they still have the knowledge and perspective that they showed off in that role, they don’t have the same degree of experience and preparation regarding management responsibilities. By providing them with impactful training, you build your management team into more valuable leaders.
6. PTO/Sick/Vacation Policies
One of the biggest mistakes organizations make is not clearly articulating how different absences from work should be planned, coded, and compensated. Depending on the state where your business is located, there may be specific definitions of “Paid Time Off” versus “Sick Time” versus “Vacation Time” that you must obey.
Policies must clearly establish a rate of PTO/sick day/vacation time accrual, procedures and appropriate contacts for approval, carry-over maximums, buy-back maximums, and so on. Remember, if you leave any of those considerations out in your official policies, you can be subject to a substantial legal penalty.
We’ve already discussed employee leave and PTO, but in addition to those policies, every organization should have clear expectations regarding employee attendance on record. Procedures should exist for maintaining appropriate communication about attendance and building dialogue around excessive absences with an eye towards creating a rich, clear documentation trail for future discipline, termination, etc.
Of course, your exact framework must be dictated by the way you track attendance. Policies must exist to explain expectations for both hourly workers who have a timecard as well as salaried employees, temporary workers, contractors, etc. The better a job you do articulating expectations, the better you can do holding people accountable, keeping them at their desks, and removing team members whose absenteeism affects overall team performance.
8. Reimbursement Policies
Many states have recently added or changed legislation about reimbursement of business expenses. As 2020 approaches, it’s crucially important that you review your local regulations to double-check that your employee reimbursement policy is up to date.
Your policies need to explain which expenses are reimbursable, what documentation and forms are required for reimbursement application, how applications for reimbursement will be approved, and how reimbursement will be delivered to the employee. The entire program must be spelled out in specifics, or you risk noncompliance.
9. Legalization of Marijuana
State laws surrounding the use of cannabis have shifted en masse over the last decade, and many jurisdictions now allow for legal medical and recreational use. With that said, marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, and as an employer, you need to understand how that could potentially affect your business and employees who use cannabis.
As state and federal marijuana policy continues to evolve and take shape, you must articulate a clear company policy for today and start proactive planning about what tomorrow’s policy might look like, depending on the results of elections and general direction of the culture.
10. ADA Amendments Act (ADAA) Compliance
The Americans with Disabilities Act was a monumental piece of legislation when it was passed into law in 1990s, and its scope and complexity only grew with the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. As we near 2020 and our understanding of “disability” continues to evolve, it’s crucial that every corporate organization in America has a specific plan and support framework in place to ensure compliance.
Of course, compliance isn’t just about workplace accessibility; it’s about inclusion and providing team members with services to ensure their needs are met. If you don’t have official policies describing how employee needs will be assessed and met on a continuing basis, you’re only halfway there. At the same time, it’s important to remember how employee leave, absenteeism, and disability can all be interconnected, which means your disability policy must account for leave and vice versa.