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Audit those personnel files!

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Developing and maintaining organized HR – employee files is well worth your time.  The ever-present danger of identity theft exists, along with unauthorized access to confidential and sensitive information.  You do need to worry about more than just theft — improper storage of personnel data could also subject your company to a variety of possible discrimination and privacy violation lawsuits. That’s why you need to audit personnel files periodically.  To make sure you’re following the law and protecting your company from liability, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Separate personnel files from other data. Many types of documentation must be stored on their own, away from other files and accessible on a strict need-to-know basis. These files include hiring records, drug test/background check results, EEOC records, payroll files, and in some cases Workers Compensation files. I-9 files also belong on your “file separately” list.  Don’t let any of these types of files remain mingled with your personnel files — they’re simply “too hot to handle” on an everyday basis.
  • Separate terminated personnel files from current personnel files. You’ll want to lock these documents away in their own cabinet, destroying them once they’ve exceeded the retention period set by state and federal laws. Create a regular destruction schedule and destroy the documents completely according to that schedule. Do NOT, however, destroy any terminated personnel files that are, or might be, connected to a termination-related lawsuit.
  • What should your personnel files contain? Well, name and date of hire, of course, along with the application for employment, offer letter, policy acknowledgements and consent to drug or background checks. You can also include performance ratings, self- assessments, reprimands and other disciplinary or remediation records, as well as all training certifications and acknowledgements.

Play by the rules — audit those files today!

Written by Dan Hettrich

August 25, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

What you pay people: you’re not the only one keeping track

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What’s your HR department’s system for recording and documenting your employees’ hours worked and daily attendance? Computerized logins and logouts? Good old-fashioned time cards? Whatever it is, make sure you insist on thorough, accurate documentation — or you may be asked to  defend your numbers later.

These days we have all sorts of electronic conveniences that allow us to track practically anything, from our time in the hundred-meter dash to how our stocks are faring. It’s just as easy for employees to make their own electronic accounts of time spent in the workplace. That’s long been a necessity for independent contractors who need to know how much to bill their clients, but these days an increasing number of full-time employees are doing it too. Why would they bother? Well, your employee may have the idea that you’re not keeping accurate or honest records. If they can prove it, say in a lawsuit, it’s extra money for them and a hassle for you.

What can you do to make this issue a non-issue? Simple — require thorough documentation of all hours worked and any days missed. Spell out the processes clearly and firmly in a company-wide written policy. All documentation must be entered promptly and uniformly to ensure that you never have gaping holes in your records.
There are also some very cost effective software solutions with various options available for capturing time. These systems make the process almost fool proof because of the standard procedures and documentation. And, the American Payroll Association found that time and attendance solutions such as these can typically results in a savings of one to eight percent of is annual gross wages, mostly because of error elimination.

Accurate documentation of employee hours and attendance is good for business anyway. The more reliable your data in this area, the more easily you can spot scheduling inefficiencies, individual trends that might indicate chronic underperformance, and new ways to improve productivity and profitability. Once you know everyone’s documenting those hours properly, you can stop worrying about the occasional rogue employee who disagrees with your records — because you’ll have the facts to back up your figures.

Written by Dan Hettrich

August 25, 2014 at 2:15 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

HR Outsourcing: A Strategic Perspective

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Outsourcing your HR can do a lot more than just relieve immediate headaches. You may find that your core team now has time and energy to address “big picture” issues critical to your company’s growth. And you don’t have to outsource all of your HR processes — you can actually pick and choose which of those functions would benefit most from outside aid. It’s the difference between multiprocess outsourcing aimed at saving time and money, and strategic outsourcing implemented specifically to boost your company’s capabilities.

The latter movement represents an emerging wave in our industry. Ten years ago, businesses were primarily interested in reducing their costs, outsourcing multiple HR processes to achieve that goal. Today, however, strategic HR has gained popularity as a valuable  problem-solving resource. By outsourcing specific aspects of their HR that are hobbling their ability to move forward on long-term goals, businesses are essentially giving themselves the breathing room they need to evolve.

Take the issue of training, for example. New employee orientation and ongoing corporate training can take a big bite out of your HR department’s available time — time that could be used to better advantage on other matters. You can farm these specific tasks out to an HRO provider, freeing up your own human resource experts to perform other functions at a higher level of efficiency and quality.

That’s not to dismiss multiprocess HRO! The demand for large-scale outsourcing of three or more HR processes at a time continues to grow. Outsourcing multiple processes on an ongoing basis can still be a great way to run a tighter ship, while selective outsourcing can help you steer that ship where you want it to go. If you’re not sure which option is right for you, contact Acadia HR and let’s discuss it.

Written by Dan Hettrich

August 25, 2014 at 2:14 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Make a Statement about Your Workplace: Total Compensation Statements

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Your company is a great place to work. Maybe you offer not only a supportive and positive environment but also plenty of benefits — health, vision and dental insurance, paid vacation or maternity leave, 401K matches, Health Savings Accounts, flex accounts and other perks. Maybe you even offer on-site daycare, a tremendous convenience for employees with small children. Your workers benefit in all kinds of ways that don’t necessarily show up on their paychecks. But do they realize the monetary value of those perks — and for that matter, are you keeping track of it yourself?

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, employers are paying up to 40 cents on these “extras” for every dollar they dole out in wages. But if you want your team to fully understand and appreciate that fact, you need to create a total compensation statement. This statement displays not only salary figures but all the extra benefits you provide as well, from that 401K match your new employee just received to the paid vacation your honeymooning staffer took last month.

Total compensation statements do a lot to clarify just what each position at your company is truly worth, both to the employee who occupies it and to you, the employer. Employees can see with their own eyes just how all the benefits attached to their jobs enrich their lives and save them money on things they would have to fund independently if you hadn’t included them. A total compensation statement is good for company morale: “Look at how we invest in our employees’ well being above and beyond a simple paycheck.” It’s also good for business, because it allows you to get a really good look at how those investments add up.

Since most companies are currently engaged in 2012 planning and performance review preparation, this may be a good time to add the total compensation statement.  Performing this exercise is as good for you as the employer as it is for the employee. I’m sure you’ll discover that your total package is more valuable than you thought and so will your employees.

If you’d like to learn more about total compensation statements — just ask us!

Written by Dan Hettrich

October 21, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

How to prevent employee identity theft

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Identity theft has become an unbelievable risk and waste in recent years — and much of that risk rests with employers. HR departments contain a virtual El Dorado of sensitive personal information. In the wrong hands, this information can wreak havoc — both for your employees and for you.

Here are some important steps to follow if you want to protect your employee’s (and your own) data, while also protecting yourself from liability:

1. Follow the law. Make absolutely sure your company is following state and federal laws designed to protect employees’ sensitive information. For example, if you collected a copy of a job candidate’s credit report as part of the hiring process, the Fair and Accurate Credit and Transactions Act requires you to shred, burn or delete that information as soon as reasonably possible after hiring. Many states also have strict laws regarding when, how and with whom you can share social security numbers.

2. Create detailed rules for the safe storage, use and disposal of all employees’ sensitive information, and set strong disciplinary actions for violators, up to and including termination. Educate your employees on the most efficient ways to handle and protect sensitive information. Set a no-tolerance tone regarding both identity theft and sloppy security practices.

3. Lock employees’ personal files away securely, either literally or electronically, and grant access only to those with the proper privileges, such as HR staff. Before you grant those special privileges, however, make an extra effort to screen any job candidates who will be handling sensitive data.

4. Stop using social security numbers for everything in the world! Businesses have traditionally typed them onto health benefit forms, timecards, pay stubs, you name it, as if they were nothing but innocent identifiers. Consider them dangerous — use them with great caution and only when absolutely necessary.

Written by Dan Hettrich

September 6, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Health Savings Accounts: A Healthy HR Option

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If you want your business to attract the most desirable talent, you have to offer competitive benefits packages, including health coverage. But in today’s tumultuous healthcare environment, what kinds of coverage allow for a win-win situation for employees and employers alike? If you’ve been searching for a cost-efficient answer to that question, we suggest you take a look at Health Savings Accounts, or HSAs.

An HSA bears some similarities to flex spending accounts, but it has many more advantages in that employees can make contributions into an account with the purpose of paying future medical expenses. The funds roll over year after year, and the employee owns the account. The amount employees contribute counts as non-taxable income, making for a lower bill from Uncle Sam on April 15th.

But HSAs have one huge advantage over flex spending accounts: they roll over from year to year, so instead of the employee having to spend that year’s nest egg or lose it, he can build up a considerable sum over several years against a possible medical emergency. In fact, once your employees retire at age 65, they can access the accumulated funds in an HSA for non-medical uses as well, with no penalties.

How do HSAs help you, the employer? Well, for starters, HSA premiums are less expensive, and your company gets a tax benefit just as your employees do. You’re allowed to make employer contributions to any HSAs your company extends through its benefits program, and it can be counted as a business expense.

You can set up your employer contribution system in a variety of ways as long as it is applied universally. It’s up to you to decide whether to contribute recurring fixed amounts, a percentage of the employee’s contribution or a simple dollar-for-dollar match. Whatever system you implement can help you keep your business and its employees healthier.

Written by Dan Hettrich

August 12, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Your Anti-harassment Policy, Part 2: Handling Complaints

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In a previous post we talked about the basics of an anti-harassment policy, including what constitutes harassment, the definition of sexual harassment and how to build and communicate a proper anti-harassment policy. So let’s say one of your workers complains about an incident of harassment. What procedure should you have in place to make sure your company handles the complaint fairly and legally?

The first thing you have to do is ensure that employees feel secure about bringing such complains to your HR department. While you may not be able to lock down the confidentiality of the people involved, you must affirm that you will do everything in your power to protect employee privacy in these delicate matters. You should also assure them that your company will not tolerate any kind of revenge or retaliation in response to the complaint.

Address complaints with an immediate response to create the perception that your company takes this policy seriously. Investigate it thoroughly and take action according to your policy. Document everything.

You should also make the reporting process as clear and trouble-free as possible for the employee making the complaint. In addition to contacting the HR department, they should feel free to approach a supervisor, manager, office director or other internal authority. If the harassment comes from their own boss, they should known that they can bring a complaint to someone outside the direct chain of command.

As obvious as it may seem, remember that before your employees can follow your anti-harassment procedures, they must know what those procedures are. That’s why you have to include your complaint procedure as part of your official written policy so everyone understands what to do. Make sure you include the possible penalties for workplace harassment, which may include everything from reprimands up to and including to suspension without pay or even termination for major violations.

Companies that follow these steps will find themselves in a much better position if any of these complaints are elevated to the legal system or the EEOC.

These are complex issues, so if you’d like more details, contact us – we’re happy to help!

Written by Dan Hettrich

August 5, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Your Anti-harassment Policy, Part 1: What to Include

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As you know, businesses must take steps to protect themselves against discrimination lawsuits. Well, many of the same issues that factor in those suits – unfair treatment due to an employee’s ethnic origin, gender, physical abilities and so on – also form the basis of workplace harassment charges. Your company’s anti-harassment policy must be as clear, comprehensive and logical as possible so that employers and employees alike know how to avoid stepping into trouble and creating an unhealthy work atmosphere.

What does “harassment” mean? You don’t have to have an attempted assault during working hours to have a case of harassment on your hands. The term applies to any kind of hostility, abuse or intimidation based on an employee’s ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual preference, military or marital status, or other characteristic covered by anti-discrimination laws. You must clearly state a policy of zero tolerance for any such harassment in your workplace.

You must also prohibit incidences of sexual harassment. This type of harassment may require its own specific definition so that employees understand exactly how sensitive the issue can be. In addition to such obvious situations as requests for sex, you must prohibit any sexual comments, jokes, gestures or any other such communications that might make a worker feel pressured, uncomfortable, intimidated, offended or insulted. In other words, sexual content of any sort does not belong in your workplace.

But you can’t assume your employees will know what’s right or wrong – you must spell out these off-limits actions precisely in your policy and take steps to educate them on a regular basis. Post this policy in common areas and make sure everyone reads and agrees to the policy at hiring.

The Texas Workforce Commission suggests that your policy should:

  • define harassment in its various forms;
  • make it clear that no form of harassment will be tolerated;
  • notify employees of how to report harassment;
  • stress that it is not only a right, but a duty, to report harassment to responsible management
  • warn employees of the disciplinary actions that could result from violations of the policy; and
  • provide a framework for investigation and remedial actions in harassment situation

In a future post we’ll discuss what to do when an employee reports a violation of your anti-harassment policy. For help with attestation signature documents and other anti-harassment policy help, feel free to contact us.

Written by Dan Hettrich

July 29, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

A Hearty Welcome: Your Best Retention Tool?

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Your new employee seemed really enthusiastic about joining the company during the interview process. So why did he hang around for a few weeks and then disappear? Was he just not serious about the job after all — or did you do something to drive him away?

If you don’t care about the typical 15 percent turnover rate in the business world, then you won’t find much of interest in this post. If, however, losing a new employee after your HR department spent serious time and effort to find that person does bug you, then read on.

The business world has changed, and not necessarily in the employer’s favor. True, the scarcity of jobs in recent years has given companies access to a wider range of qualified candidates — but many of those candidates are in fact over-qualified, and they know it. They’ll accept your job opening today, get another tomorrow, and if you haven’t made a great first impression on them, off they go.

So how do you make new employees happy to be at your company from their very first day on the job?

Develop a detailed plan for onboarding new employees, and make sure the first day is a very positive first impression that lets them know they are important and you are excited (and prepared!) to help them be successful. Think about it — would you want to start your first day at a new job filling out an hour’s worth of paperwork, especially after all the hoops you jumped through just to get here in the first place? If you want new employees to feel welcome, put the I-9 aside until later in the day and walk them through the building. Introduce them to their co-workers. Show off your corporate culture and let them get a true feel for what your company is all about, spend time on ‘the vision’ and get them oriented to the team and position. Then maybe when that other offer comes, the answer will be: “Sorry, I’m no longer available!”

Already have your own “Welcome Wagon?” Tell us about it!

Written by Dan Hettrich

July 20, 2011 at 6:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Better hiring through referrals (or, goodbye Craigslist)

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If you had to hire someone for a critical situation in your own life — a tax lawyer to rescue you from a serious IRS issue, or a dentist to take care of that nagging toothache — would you feel okay about just grabbing any warm body off the street to do the job, or would you feel more confident using a specialist personally recommended by a trusted source?

If you chose the latter, you understand the power of networking. Most of us would much rather ask the people we know and trust for referrals than just pick a name out of the phone book. Yet all too often, employers rely on Craigslist or other relatively undiscriminating public sites to locate potential workers instead of using the powerful networking tools already at their fingertips.

“I’m not a networker,” you say? But everyone has a circle of trust — a network of friends, acquaintances and colleagues who can point you toward the best and brightest performers for the task at hand. Another great resource to consider is your employees – you’ve hired them, invested in them and gotten to know them. Based on their experience at your company, they also have a great understanding of your culture and demands of various positions, and they may have contacts that may be as productive as they are and would be a good cultural fit.  And thanks to social media technologies these concepts have gone truly global, bringing the entire business world to your company’s HR department at the touch of a mouse.

Among the many social media platforms helping businesses find qualified staff, perhaps none can rival LinkedIn for power and signal-to-noise ratio. LinkedIn focuses purely on business connections. Members post their resumes, bio profiles, company website or other business information, connecting with potential networking partners through requests for online introductions. This structured networking approach gives you access to high-quality referrals from people you trust. More and more smart employers and job candidates are finding each other in this manner. Maybe it’s the smart solution for you too!

Written by Dan Hettrich

July 14, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Posted in Uncategorized