It’s an understatement that, to quote Bob Dylan, “the times they are a-changin’.” Within the past year or so, there has been the pandemic, Black Lives Matter, the U.S. Supreme Court’s case on discrimination against transgender employees, record unemployment, and more. What all of these changes boil down to is a necessary mandate for you to review your current human resources (HR) policies and make changes where needed. The following are some of the broad areas to consider.
Health and safety
“Safety isn’t expensive, it’s priceless.” – Author Unknown
Having policies to ensure the health and safety of your employees is not only morally right; it is also good business practice that saves money for the company in the long run. It avoids workers’ compensation claims and lawsuits as well as absenteeism. And it boosts employee morale.
Policies today must factor in COVID-19 issues. Find some help with this from OSHA.
Diversity and discrimination
“Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.”—Malcolm Forbes
Diversity isn’t just a buzz word; it’s a business policy that pays off. According to an article from Entrepreneur, diversity helps attract more talent, different experiences lead to more innovation, diverse thoughts increase customer satisfaction, and a diverse team resonates with customers and investors. Diversity doesn’t usually happen by accident; you have to strive for it. While quotas may not be the way to go (e.g., mandating that a certain percentage of the staff be women), keeping an open mind in hiring and promotion can create diversity.
Be sure to review your current HR policies to see that there are no remnants of discriminatory practices. Find some guidance on this from EEOC.
Compensation and benefits
“To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.” – Doug Conan, long-time CEO of Campbell’s Soup Company
Just before the onset of COVID-19, the unemployment rate was at historic lows and many companies complained about the ability to find and retain good employees. They often used compensation and benefits to lure and keep workers on the payroll. Now, some companies are finding they can do what’s needed with fewer employees. The use of AI has complicated the staffing equation (AI may cost more upfront but can save employers in the long run). In revamping your compensation and benefits packages, consider such matters as:
- Changes in minimum wage rules. While the federal minimum wage rate hasn’t changed in years, many states and cities have considerably higher rates, some of which are scheduled to increase—by law or cost-of-living adjustments—at the start of 2021 or later in the year.
- Sick leave and family and medical leave. After the federally-mandated coverage by small businesses expires, consider including or expanding paid time off for employees.
- Flexibility in benefit choices.Cafeteria plans may be a good solution to fix company costs while offering employees options they may want or need.
“We like to give people the freedom to work where they want, safe in the knowledge that they have the drive and expertise to perform excellently, whether they at their desk or in their kitchen. Yours truly has never worked out of an office, and never will.” — Sir Richard Branson, Virgin America
Stay-at-home orders have lifted in most locations. Now it’s up to companies to decide whether to continue with remote work, require returning to the office, or give employees a choice. The policy you craft for your company depends on your situation. However, it’s probably a good idea to build in flexibility to your policy. There may be future situations requiring workers to remain at home, and company policies accommodating this will serve well in the long run.
While these are unprecedented times, it’s usual for developments to occur that warrant revisions in HR policy. Make it a practice to schedule an annual review so you don’t fall behind the times. Consider having your policies reviewed by attorneys, accountants, and other professionals to make sure that at a minimum you’re in compliance with the law and operating in a cost-effective manner.