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HR Assessments Help Flag Potential Penalties

It’s football season. Whether cheering on a local high school, a college alma mater or a favorite pro team, fans everywhere are sporting their colors, planning tailgates and yelling at their television screens.

A tough gridiron matchup can certainly induce stress, but one of the great things about the game of football is that a coach always knows where his team stands. He knows the score, he knows his team’s position on the field, and he knows how far they still have to go to reach the goal line. And if a player makes a mistake, a referee throws a flag and a penalty is immediately assessed.

Wouldn’t it be helpful if, as a business owner, you could have that same insight into your company? What if a whistle blew the instant someone on your team stepped out of bounds or a flag was thrown when your company violated a rule for which it could be penalized? Unfortunately, rule violations are not always as obvious in the workplace as they are on the football field.

HR assessments can flag potential penalties before they occur and prevent them from causing costly setbacks. A comprehensive HR assessment provides an objective review of a business’ policies, procedures and practices to ensure they are compliant with federal and state laws as well as certain industry-specific regulations. As a result, assessments can identify areas of concern and pinpoint issues that need immediate attention.

Exactly what an HR assessment consists of may vary depending on a company’s industry, size and geographic reach. For example, a company with more than 50 employees is subject to stricter recruiting and hiring rules, and a business with employees stationed abroad will require more immigration documentation. Ultimately, though, a thorough assessment can answer some fundamental questions about your business and how it is operating.

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• How up to date are your employment forms, documentation and policies? Maintaining up-to-date employee documentation and establishing company policies is HR 101, but many companies don’t recognize the value of either until something goes wrong.

Does your company maintain current and complete employee records? Do you have current I-9 documents on file? Do organizational charts accurately reflect your company today? Do you regularly review and update job descriptions?

Is your company’s employee handbook still relevant or was it written before email or social media existed? Do you collect and retain signatures to acknowledge that your employees have received the handbook and understand they are to abide by its code of conduct?

• Are your company’s recruiting, hiring and termination practices fair? When hiring or firing an employee, it’s easy to lose sight of the process and focus only on the results. Did you get the candidate you wanted? How quickly can you get rid of that slug in sales? But in matters of hiring and firing, the process becomes significant.

Consider how you source and screen job candidates. Could your interview questions or applicant testing be biased in any way? Are hiring decisions objective relative to applicants’ skills and work experience.

Prior to terminating an employee, does your company record and discuss performance issues and provide ample opportunity for improvement? Do you conduct exit interviews? If so, are the interview questions meaningful, allowing you to gather information that might indicate a problem within the company or dissatisfaction in a particular department?

• Do your company’s safety protocols meet current industry standards? Certainly, a chemical refinery has to adhere to different, stricter safety standards than a marketing agency. Are your company’s safety protocols adequate for the size and scope of your business? Do you have necessary literature or signage appropriately displayed at all of your worksites? Are your employees regularly trained on safety protocols? Does your company’s culture reinforcing the importance of safety?

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• Do you maintain a positive work environment where all employees feel valued and treated fairly? When some companies allow dogs to come to work and offer perks like on-site massage and subsidized childcare, it is hard to know what really matters to employees.

At the end of the day, however, most employees want to work for a company that treats them fairly, values their work and provides reasonable opportunity for advancement. Are employees who are performing similar functions being compensated equitably? Are benefits and leave policies applied fairly across the organization? Do all employees have access to career development and advancement opportunities? Does your company assess performance regularly and fairly?

In football, penalties can cost a team significant yardage, but only occasionally are they game changers.
In business, penalties can result in costly fines and, depending on their severity, can be game changers for companies or for individuals who commit a violation.

Unfortunately, business owners can’t possibly cover the field to know what every player is doing. In many cases, they don’t even know all the complex and ever-changing rules of the game.
A thorough assessment looks at HR’s strategic and everyday elements to help prevent your company from getting called on a game-changing penalty.

John Allen is president and COO of Houston-based G&A Partners, gnapartners.com

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