Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Spring clean your business

Time to review your company's human resource practices

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OK, the grass is cut, the garden ready to plant and all your spring chores are complete and your home is ready for summer to officially arrive. But what about your workplace? Have you taken time to "spring clean" at work?

Frankly, most people don't do this at all unless they are engaged in a planned move. As a result, clutter continues to grow, operational processes become routine, systems and policies become outdated and sometimes no one notices products and/or services are in decline.

Unfortunately for organizations, particularly those without a designated human-resource professional, failing to keep up with changes and failing to conduct "spring cleaning" on an annual basis may cause significant problems. This is particularly true in the case of breaches of labour legislation and discrimination based on human rights.

While many complaints to our human-rights commission are informally resolved, those that go forward to adjudication and decision might well be shrinking from the unwelcome Internet public-relations profile. For instance, I'm sure the Brandon City Police are quite red-faced over the April 2014 award to a Canadian veteran who they removed from a public location because of his service dog.

While this example is high-profile, I can guarantee you there are many risks lurking in your organization simply because someone has not been assigned to keep your policies and practices up to date or have not trained their managers on new legislation. In some cases, an issue isn't identified or dealt with until someone notices a rather high level of staff turnover or a general increase in employee complaints.

So what challenges are common and where should you start? The following areas have been popping up in my consulting practice:

-- Compensation and benefits -- While larger organizations with HR staff can keep in touch with compensation trends, smaller and mid-sized companies are often uninformed about changes in the marketplace. At the same time, your employees are checking the Internet and comparing salaries, many times essentially comparing apples and oranges but nonetheless, when they see discrepancies, they become discontented and will push for a raise. Making your judgments on how little you can pay a new incumbent is not the way to be reading the pulse of the market compensation rates. It is best to consult with published salary surveys and/or conduct one of your own.

-- Internal compensation mismatch -- Many small-business owners and organizations alike do not have a compensation framework they consistently apply every time they hire a new person and/or give an employee a raise. This results in many internal salary discrepancies. In other words, one person in a similar job could be paid more than another doing the same work. There may also be whole groups of employees who are underpaid or overpaid for their work. There is no consistency. If this is the case, it is time for a compensation review.

-- Job descriptions -- While some people believe using job descriptions is an outdated practice, employees want to know what their responsibilities are. In addition, over time, employees engage in "job creep." In other words, they often abandon some of their job tasks, leaving them undone for long periods of time and instead, they do what they like to do. If managers are not on top of this issue, they may find an employee isn't doing anything they're supposed to do! Take time to examine your job descriptions to ensure they are up to date and that people are doing what you want them to do 100 per cent of the time.

-- Job titles -- I also find some leaders are pretty lenient when it comes to job titles and in fact, many let individuals change their own titles without recognizing the impact on the organizational structure and pay systems. Take time to review job titles and determine whether they make sense for your organizational structure. Like it or not, there is a hierarchy of reporting relationships in every organization.

-- Human-resource policies -- When was the last time you reviewed and updated your HR policies? Did you know labour legislation has changed substantially over the past few years? Did you know there are fairly new workers-compensation regulations? Are you familiar with employee privacy rights in your workplace? Are you aware of the potential risks of trying to control your employees' lifestyle decisions related to smoking, obesity and/or body art? If not, then a review of the compliance of your human resource policies is long overdue.

-- Employee morale -- When was the last time you asked employees what is what? How are your employee voices heard within your organization? Do you have high employee turnover? Are you losing people in key positions? Do you know why employees are exiting your organization? Are you conducting exit interviews? Perhaps it is time to do an employee survey to test out employee engagement and job satisfaction. This strategy will serve you well for several years as you work towards rectifying the key issues that are raised.

-- Organizational effectiveness -- Are you concerned about productivity, effectiveness and efficiency? Have you changed procedures and structure to accompany your technology upgrades? Is the leadership style appropriate to today's needs? Are you facing succession issues? Does your current organization structure still work and/or are you inefficient and overloaded with too many management levels?

-- Recruitment and selection strategies -- Are you having difficulty attracting good candidates? Are you losing good candidates because your recruitment process is taking too long? Are you at a loss as to where to find good candidates? When was the last time you reviewed your recruitment and selection strategies? If you are experiencing challenges in this area, it is time to review your recruitment and selection processes.

-- Training and development -- The standard formula for an investment in training and development is two per cent of your overall payroll expenses. So, where do you stand in comparison? If you want high levels of productivity, you must ensure your employees are trained. And if managers are to blame for poor morale, then training in leadership must be a priority.

-- HR automation -- Have you brought technology to the aid of your human resource systems? Can you quickly determine people statistics that are important to long-term success? Are you integrating your payroll with other human-resource informational requirements? If not, start exploring the various HR software solutions that can help you become more efficient and effective in managing the people part of your business.

Spring cleaning shouldn't just be limited to your household and/or grassy greens and the garden. Spring is a good time to conduct a review of several of your human-resource practices and to develop plans to make your organization more efficient and effective.

Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC, CCP, M.Ed is president of Legacy Bowes Group. She can be reached at

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 24, 2014 H1

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