An internal HR audit has the same goal as any other audit: to scrutinize business operations to ensure best practices are in place and consistently applied. Of course, an HR audit is exclusively focused on HR practices, offering an opportunity to identify deficiencies in employment policies and their application, employment-related documentation, and compliance with relevant employment law. Proactively auditing HR practices is the most effective method of addressing small issues before they have a chance to take up time and money that would be better spent elsewhere.
If you haven’t conducted a full review within the last couple of years, let this guide serve as a wake-up call to making an audit part of your Engagement Plan for the coming year.
The job of a Human Resources, Employee Relations or Labor Relations professional is often reactive: investigating employee relations issues, responding to a compliance violation, or searching through poorly maintained records when a legal claim is made. However, it is far more satisfying to take a proactive approach and address small problems before they become major headaches. HR auditing sets businesses up for success, establishing basic HR practices. Audits systematically review whether and how policies are being applied, ensuring consistency among staff members and compliance with legal and regulatory requirements.
Other benefits of HR audits include:
• Company-wide adoption of best practices
• Identification of potential processes improvements
• Reduction of errors and employee complaints
• Proactive preparation for government investigations
• Reduced likelihood of fines for noncompliance with employment regulations
• Possible reduction in insurance expenses
• Improved utilization of legal budgets
• Increased buy-in from managers regarding HR policies and practices
• Reduced likelihood of successful union organizing
Launching an HR audit is a major endeavor, and it is important to secure the appropriate resources. These subject matter experts are particularly helpful:
Legal Counsel – The results of an audit can be discoverable in future legal proceedings. Consult legal counsel for advice on protecting the business.
Department Leaders – Enlisting the help of department leaders saves time. They can point you towards the relevant records and explain how policies are applied from day to day.
Once your team is assembled, outline the areas you will audit and develop a list of audit questions. Common inquiries for HR audits include the following…
Contrary to popular belief, artificial intelligence, or AI, is no longer relegated to science fiction novels and “think pieces” on future innovations. In reality, AI has already arrived and is much more pervasive than most people realize. For HR professionals, the technology is already providing dividends in the areas of recruiting, onboarding, and training procedures by significantly streamlining operations.
As useful as AI is already proving to be, it is already clear that it’s best utilized as an accompaniment to people in the workplace and not a replacement, allowing employees to perform their responsibilities in a much more efficient and effective manner. Despite how the vocal naysayers are reacting, AI’s negative impact on a workforce itself will be negligible, but could instead increase the overall health of many organizations. This is evidenced in the banking industry, where ATMs could have caused job losses but instead streamlined operations and reduced costs, allowing many banks to add staffed locations. This created a positive situation for workers and customers alike
That said, many union leaders are concerned that automation means workers will no longer have the ability to demand higher wages, which will in turn continue the decline in union membership. In the private sector today, just 6.4% of workers belong to a union. Contrast that with 1983, when about 17% of private-sector workers were in a union.
The typical HR professional is being pulled in a thousand different directions at any given moment. In fact, no matter the length of the work day or size of the staff, the work always seems to continue to pile up. This unending accumulation of duties is exactly where AI can positively impact the workplace. Through various platforms, AI automates the bulk of the tedious responsibilities that are important to the organization but a tremendous expenditure of time and effort as well.
In terms of recruiting, an AI-based suite can administer any and all social media efforts, email correspondence and even interview scheduling with an interface that makes it difficult to tell if the communication is coming from a human or machine. Furthermore, all testing and training for onboarding and existing employees can be personalized down to the individual level to adhere to the training method that best fits a particular person. All of this functionality can be synced with current CRM and ERP systems to further streamline the entire process.
Like most technologies, AI will only continue to grow and evolve in the future. As far as impact on overall operations and a workforce are concerned, it will work alongside humans to make them more efficient in their responsibilities. While specific tasks like email correspondence might be automated, it will always be under the watching eye of a human being.
In other words, while on the big screen AI might still enslave humanity in a zombie-like state of perpetual anguish, in reality, it will simply permit us to excel and reach levels we otherwise would never reach. That might not be as dramatic as the Hollywood version, but, at least for HR professionals, AI will undoubtedly be a welcome tool to significantly enhance productivity.
While typically the fodder of science fiction blockbusters, AI has evolved into an extremely functional and dependable component to every HR department that has chosen to wade into the AI waters. With a versatility that enhances many facets of recruiting, especially when integrated into existing CRM and ATS platforms, the whispers of pending technological advancements to HR are finally coming into fruition and the innovations are proving to be transformative.
Although obviously important, recruiting can also be tedious and occasionally nerve-wracking. With the introduction of some straight-forward software packages, however, the more monotonous aspects of recruiting can be automated so a department can concentrate on other responsibilities. In conjunction with other applications, AI can help redefine recruiting procedures with the triple benefits of marketing assistance, communication enhancement and prospect screening.
Good or bad, an organization needs to actively market itself to attract top-tier talent. In a digital world, however, between old and new media, such marketing can be a complicated endeavor. To help HR managers compete for talent in a hyper-complicated digital world, Talemetry and other similar firms have created software packages that completely automate a digital marketing message so the proper information is distributed through the most effective platform at the most effective time. It’s an efficient way to use social media and an organization’s digital assets to reach the talent that can make the entire company thrive.
Mya, a purely digital assistant from FirstJob, just might be the recruiting tool an HR department can’t live without but didn’t even know they needed. Her intuitive interface can handle communication throughout the recruitment process, from emails and text messages to scheduling demands. Because she’s AI-based, the software learns to adapt and learn with continued use, also able to mimic natural human conversation so recruits likely won’t even realize they’re conversing with binary code. Since HR maintains complete autonomy over Mya, they can tell her how aggressive, formal, casual or lenient they want her to be, maintaining control over the tone and impression conveyed to recruits.
Like email automation, OCR-capable software for resume scanning has been in existence for quite a while. However, companies like Pomato are turning simple resume scanning into an infinitely more flexible and informative tool that not only scans resumes for keywords and phrases but also interprets the underlying contextual meanings. With this ability, HR can get an idea of the applicant’s personality traits, strengths, and weaknesses and not just strictly be relegated to what the resume says. Furthermore, Pomato can also help construct personalized interview questions based on its findings from the resume, cover letter, and CV.
Although AI and other innovations can still be intimidating to those unfamiliar with their practical uses, the positive effects they can have on HR should be enough to persuade even the most vocal of dissidents. Despite what popular science fiction might say, the practical applications of AI and related technologies, particularly when working in conjunction with CRM and ATS platforms, won’t be replacing humanity any time soon. Instead, they simply free employees to concentrate on other tasks, maximizing their strengths and efficiency.
Human resources professionals know that union organizing presents a variety of complex challenges, and many dread their labor relations responsibilities. After all, the process of educating employees on the drawbacks of voting in a union can be taxing, and participating in contract negotiations is nearly always stressful.
However, there’s another way to look at labor relations: as a unique opportunity to develop strong skills in leadership, decision-making, communication, and collaboration through experience that can’t be gained any other way. In fact, some C-suite HR leaders credit their labor relations work as their most important development opportunity, giving them the extra boost in skills they needed to reach the top of their career ladders.
Increased Understanding of Business Strategies
The cost of labor is one of the highest expenses in any organization, and maximizing the use of people to produce the company’s goods and services is a core function of human resources. However, many HR professionals find themselves bogged down in the details of the HR function: managing payroll, performance, and interpersonal conflicts, for example.
For unionized companies, collective bargaining agreements bring focus back to the purpose of HR, as these contracts essentially boil down to an exchange of quality labor for specific compensation and working conditions. Experience with contract negotiations gives HR staff special insight into their larger role, as well as an improved understanding of business strategies that will optimize the company’s success.
When word gets around that there’s interest in unionizing, HR personnel often limit their union avoidance activities to correcting issues that have cropped up with managers’ behavior, application of policies, and similar matters. However, to be truly effective in keeping an organization union-free, smart HR professionals examine all aspects of the business. From basic operations to compensation rates for skilled workers, they look into every available possibility for improving the work environment. This offers an entirely new set of skills to HR staff. Instead of restricting their work to issues directly in their span of control, they learn to develop larger, more integrated solutions that benefit the business as a whole.
Working in HR means you’re regularly dropped in the middle of intense, highly emotional situations. The best HR professionals can handle the stress of these encounters calmly, keeping their own feelings in check while de-escalating tension between others. When labor issues crop up, they tend to be some of the most intense that any HR staff member faces. Greater exposure to labor relations means more practice with this sort of intensity. Before long, you’ll discover that staying composed is second nature for you – an important trait in any executive.
The foundation of any union avoidance strategy is increased communication, and when a union is already present, collaboration is key to maintaining a productive working environment. Working on labor relations issues is an opportunity to become more effective in both communication and collaboration – skills that are very much on display in leaders.
Of course, not every position has exposure to unions and their related concerns, but you can still work toward improving your skills. Participating in high-quality training such as the Union Proof Certification is an excellent first step in taking your career to the next level.
The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees US citizens the right to “freedom of speech.” Citizens may freely express themselves in a public forum on any subject, including political topics, and rest assured that there will be no detrimental consequences. This is a known fact and beyond contest. Right?
The First Amendment reads:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Oh, those pesky details. Note the amendment specifies “Congress shall make no law.” Unless a person is an employee of Congress, those precious freedom of speech protections may not apply.
Before you join in a protest or send that Tweet, there are a few precautions you should consider:
When social media enters the mix, the potential risks for speaking one’s mind increase exponentially with each “like,” “share” and “tweet.” Expressing political views on a contentious issue or actively promoting and endorsing a candidate (or even not promoting a specific candidate) can pose a risk. If an employer believes an employee’s stated opinion or supported political candidate reflects negatively on the company, or that their actions fall below an expected level of professionalism, the employee may face disciplinary action that could end in termination.
Those practicing activism via the Internet use email, social media postings, live-casting and podcasts to communicate and disseminate information.
Online political activism is usually categorized in one of three ways: awareness and advocacy, organization and mobilization, or action/reaction. Examples could include:
Any of these activities, even those undertaken from a private home or public venue, or those taking place during nonworking hours can be grounds for discipline and/or termination.
An online footprint can go so far as to hinder one’s chances in the hiring process. Recruiting expert Alysse Metzler, in her 2013 book “The Recruiting Snitch,” found over 70 percent of recruiters for US companies investigate potential employees on social media before hiring. According to Metzler, an online presence dominated by political views raises warning flags.
It is human nature to take a “That won’t happen to me” approach to hypothetical situations, such as getting fired for making a post to Facebook. But the reality is that it does happen. There are cases now making their way through the court systems in which employers terminated employees for participating in organized activism, for political statements and affiliations.
In the coming years, the lines between what is and is not protected speech may be more clearly delineated. Employers may revise their company handbook or onboarding materials to clarify definitions of which activities are acceptable and which are not.
Until then, take care in what you do and say. Neither employee nor employer is as protected as they may seem.