Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Polishing policy

Your HR practices could use a good spring cleaning

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The month of March has always represented the tipping point between winter and spring. The weather is warming up, the sun rises earlier every day and the days are longer. People also begin to feel a sort of a spiritual renewal. They feel more energetic and long to be outside in the fresh air and they have a sense of wanting to change things and fix things. Thus, people begin the annual ritual of spring cleaning.

Typically, spring cleaning in the home refers to washing walls and cleaning cupboards and preparing spring and summer clothing. However, I sincerely think that March is also good time for spring cleaning to occur in the workplace. For instance, it's a good time to reflect on the many organizational issues that accumulate over the years like dust in our homes.

After all, if you really think about it, human resource policies and practices in the workplace often only get developed and/or changed as a result of a specific incident. Therefore, unless there's a change in leadership, organization structure and HR practices typically remain the same for years and years. So, let's take time this year to review some potential organizational issues, clean our work house and/or refresh human resource policies when required.

The following areas of human resource management have experienced challenge over the past few years and would be worthy of your attention:

Review your organization structure -- information technology has made improvements in efficiency such that some job roles can be restructured and/or are no longer required. March is a good time to review your organization structure. How can you improve workflow? How can you reorganize to be more efficient?

Transition poor performers -- while I'm always one to promote employee development, sometimes an individual no longer fits in your organization, has no desire to upgrade their skills and/or no longer shares the same philosophy. These people will be a drag on your high-performing culture and they need to be encouraged to move along with their career. Be sure to provide career transition services to support them on their journey.

Recruitment and selection strategy -- with skills shortages in some areas, it's critical that you are employing a strong recruitment strategy. Are you utilizing behavioural interview questions? Are you utilizing psychometric assessments for your final candidates? Now is the time to review your recruitment and selection strategy and ensure that it is robust enough to attract the right candidates at the right time.

Envision future skill requirements -- the world is changing quickly and as you move forward with your strategic plans, you need to assess and prepare for the skills you'll need for the future. Review your requirements and create a professional development plan for each employee. Train for succession and train for replacement as well.

Policy manual review -- cleaning your work house means evaluating your human resource policies to determine if they are up to date and compliant with new legislation. Over the past few years there have been several revisions and new acts that have a significant impact on how you should be doing business. Check it out and get that manual updated.

Salary review -- when was the last time your jobs classifications were reviewed and your salary framework revised? Are your job values fully aligned both internally and externally and/or are certain people being paid more than they're worth? Have you added new jobs without assuring they fit within the salary structure?

Benefit review -- while this is often done on an annual basis, there are many organizations that haven't reviewed their benefit packages for many years. There are also organizations that have totally forgotten people who are off on disability. Costs for benefits are increasingly significantly. A 2013 review would be very telling. Does your current plan really fit your current needs?

Are performance appraisals up to date? -- performance appraisals are the most neglected area of human resources. When was the last time your organization conducted appraisals? Is your performance management system current? Are managers comfortable with providing feedback, especially difficult feedback? Perhaps it's time to revamp your entire system.

Is your succession plan up to date? -- or do you have a succession plan? What are your demographics? What risk will potential retirements create for your organization? Perhaps it's time to undertake an assessment of your vulnerability and make plans to overcome these issues.

Reward and recognition strategies -- organizations often have employee reward and recognition strategies that no longer motivate and have become stale. There are many new and exciting strategies that could be explored. Set up a committee and revamp your strategy.

Internet usage -- it seems that employees are increasingly using work systems to conduct personal activities such as shopping online, coupon sharing, receiving recipes of the day and plain gossiping with friends for hours at a time. Review your policy to ensure there is a monitoring provision and work with your Internet provider to conduct an audit of personal use versus legitimate work use. Identify the issues that arise and put a plan in place to rectify them.

Re-educate employees -- having an Internet use policy is not sufficient as employees need to be reminded and re-educated with respect to their responsibilities and their personal right to privacy as well as the employer's rights. They also need to be reminded that email stands for evidence that could jeopardize the security of their jobs should they engage in inappropriate behaviour.

Technology advantages -- every single function in human resource management has now been computerized. There are human resource information systems that allow employees to change their own addresses and family status. There are online training programs, recruitment search engines, and succession planning models standing ready for installation. Are you utilizing technology effectively? Take time to review and learn how technology can assist you with all of your HR functions.

Managing your human resources effectively will continue to be key to the success of organizations in the future. The world is getting much more complex, the problems and issues more comprehensive and the legal implications of errors and misjudgements are more difficult to deal with.

The month of March is the tipping point\ between spring and summer. It is also a good time to re-evaluate your human resource policies and ensure your organization remains on an even keel.

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

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 23, 2013 H1

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