As we start the new year, it might be a good time to review your HR program, including your policies and procedures. Too many accept the status quo and never consider modifying, dropping, or adding new policies to address today’s work environment. Having reviewed and written numerous policies and procedures, I find that most businesses have documents that have never been operationalized. U.S. employment laws are ever-changing and if we don’t stay on top of these changes, we can become less compliant and risk lawsuits.
Many businesses have policies developed by outside providers, which are very proper. But that can mean those implementing those policies have not reviewed or weighed in on them. Having a compliant policy manual is great, but if you never communicate or follow it, it can be more hurtful than helpful. The policy manual also isn’t a replacement for management but a reference for managers and employees. Too many times management wants to cover every potential situation because they don’t want to manage the employees under their control and believe a written document will do that for them.
Operationalizing your manuals is a very important part of the process. This means having the necessary policies to be compliant, educating the people who administer them and the employees who must follow them, and aligning them with your work practices so that everything makes sense.
Employee Policy Manuals are a lot of words on paper that need to be understood, especially their intent and legal definitions. These words need to be applied consistently, without wavering, so that everyone is treated the same when situations happen. Some people believe that it is important to bury the meaning under a pile of words so it can be twisted and turned for the benefit of the person applying the policies. However, it will boil down to what was applied and how consistently.
Programs should be reviewed continuously – at least annually or as the employment world changes throughout the year. The other difficult part of this process is following the government’s determination when something has become law. For example, the state of Pennsylvania proposed increasing the minimum wage, as did several other states. However, the increase was blocked, and the wage rate has not changed.
In addition, as you look at the policies, companies also should look at the compensation of their staff as it compares to market competition, how it compares internally, and how you have coded employees on FLSA status. Changes to the rules under this law could change a person from exempt to non-exempt.