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…
Creating a culture that produces happy, engaged and satisfied workers is essential for successful companies. In addition to the fact that workers in these categories are more productive and efficient than their counterparts, they’re also less likely to organize into unions, which can save employers time, money and stress. With this in mind, here are the top five ways to keep your employees happy and decrease the incentive to turn to a union.
It’s better to be pro-worker than it is to be anti-union. By approaching staying union-free from a defensive position, you communicate that you’re “afraid” of the idea of unionization. A better approach sends a message that employees are part of the solution and that their opinions and feelings matter. With this in mind, the first and most effective step to staying union-free is to act in a way that builds up your employees and their role in creating a union-proof culture, in all facets of your business. This simple method will go a long way toward keeping your workplace union-free!
Believe it or not, many employees don’t fully understand what they’ll give up by unionizing. In your employee handbook and new hire orientation, make sure you educate employees on your union-free operating philosophy and the reasons to stay union-free. Better yet, hold regular training sessions for both employees and managers on the topic. Be open to questions, even the tough ones! Generally, non-unionized workplaces have fewer legal issues, a more cohesive feel, and greater flexibility than unionized ones. They’re also free of the substantial added cost unionization creates.
Communication is a critical protection against unionization. When communication is effective, it flows unrestricted from employees to managers and back. When it’s not, though, issues arise and employees consider unionization. Take a look at your company and consider how you can improve and modernize your communication.
Can you add more relevant forms of communication via online platforms or video? Should you be holding more regular meetings to listen to and resolve employee issues? By streamlining communication, you mitigate many issues that may eventually lead to unionization.
Every company will occasionally need to make a decision that’s unpopular with employees. The ones that don’t explain these decisions, however, are at risk of unionization. Remember that employees all want to feel like they’re part of the solution, and leaving them out of critical decision making or thought processes doesn’t achieve this end.
Instead, take the time to explain unpopular decisions to your employees. Consider holding “listening sessions” where they can air their grievances. If the grievances are actionable, the company’s CEO or HR department can work to resolve them. This simple step helps ensure employee happiness and discourages the formation of unions.
A company’s supervisory and managerial staff are some of its most critical. In addition to collaborating closely with workers, these staff members also field complaints and negative feedback. To prevent unionization and ensure cohesion throughout the company, it’s critical that these complaints be dealt with effectively and completely from within the company. This helps prevent employees feeling the need to form a union to ensure their own protection.
While unionization is a complex process for companies and their workers, these five simple tips can help prevent it from becoming a reality. At the end of the day, employee satisfaction is based on the feeling that they are an integral part of the company’s success, and that their opinions and concerns are valued by upper management. By taking steps to foster this mindset in your workplace, you create a cooperative environment that resists unions naturally, rather than a strict and fragile one that is forcing employees to stay union-free.
Millennials prize work-life balance above all other employment-related goals. They’re also more likely to have a spouse or partner in the workforce than any other generation, so flexibility is key to keeping them engaged in their work. Therefore, many unions that seek to recruit younger workforces will emphasize their ability to obtain generationally-important benefits from employers. However, savvy businesses know that they can provide the specific benefits their employees desire, benefits that both engender loyalty and demonstrate responsiveness to its workers’ needs.
Instead of dividing paid leave into sick time and vacation days, employers can transition into a paid time off policy that places all time off in one PTO “bucket.” This time off policy allows employees to take time off when they need it without having to account for how they’re spending their time off. On the flip side, today’s workers, those that are highly engaged and inspired by their work, can have a tendency not to take that time off. To make sure that your most dedicated employees don’t experience burnout, allow a very limited amount PTO to carry over to the next calendar year.
Most employees carry smartphones during vacations and time off, but your manager and leaders should avoid contacting them unless it’s a genuine emergency. Support a work culture that allows employees not to check or answer their emails during their off-hours. Businesses who encourage employees to take a true vacation are rewarded with more productive and loyal employees.
Over three-quarters of married Millennials also have a spouse that works full-time. So companies that can provide flexible schedules, partial telecommuting, four 10-hour shifts per week or other attractive options can attract better talent and cultivate loyalty among employees.
Even if your company does not fall under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, you will want to offer leave options to new parents. Research indicates that paid maternity leave had no adverse effect or even a positive effective on businesses 91 percent of the time. Offering paid leave also increased the chance that an employee would return to work after the birth or adoption of a child. Top tech companies who compete for talent know the benefits of offering paid parental leave: They already offer some of the most generous packages in the United States. Remember that even your employees without children may need time off to care for a family member, parent, or spouse.
Sometimes companies that offer work-life-affirming benefits find that few workers regularly use them. It’s natural that some businesses have busy periods where employees really can’t take time off. But workers should balance these busy times by taking more time off during the year. To demonstrate that the company supports this balance, your managers and leaders should exemplify work-life balance in their lives. Not only will regular time off increase productivity, in management but it should also assuage worker fears that they’ll experience retribution if they take regular time off. Having regular discussions about taking time off conveys that the company cares about team members, making them less likely to become disgruntled during busy periods.
On-site daycare, flexible telecommuting, and other benefits allow employees a chance to balance their work lives while focusing on their personal well-being. Because so many parents are part of two-income households, companies can’t expect that a stay-at-home spouse will be responsible for covering minor family emergencies. Companies such as American Express have seen success by offering their workers even more flexibility to handle minor family problems, coupled with providing backup care services that employees can use.
Already there are more Millennials in the workforce than Generation X, and within the next few years, they’ll overtake Boomers as well. For this reason, businesses should consider now how they can support their younger workforce and demonstrate that a union-free company is better for everyone. Companies who ignore workplace flexibility and work-life balance risk creating an inviting environment for union organizing. Any employer working to build a union-proof culture knows that it’s far more cost-effective to retain the best workers, rather than having to recruit, hire and train repeatedly.
Once a labor-relations issue arises, or a campaign to unionize your workplace begins, nothing looks as bad as a quickly re-drawn grievance procedure. At best, you will have weakened your employee’s trust in you; at worst, you might be guilty of an unfair labor practice.
Making sure employees feel like they’re a part of things plays a major role in creating a union proof culture. Implementing a pro-worker alternative dispute resolution (ADR) policy now will go a long way towards securing this end.
Proper employee communication is vitally important in all aspects of your approach to human resource management. As part of your company’s continuing dialogue, it is crucial to ensure that employees feel they have a voice in the workplace arena, and that this voice is listened to by managerial staff and those in decision-making positions.
Maintaining a union-free workspace means ensuring that your employees feel valued. So, let’s look in some detail at a few ways in which you can develop a good pro-worker ADR policy, and how best to implement those policies to ensure your company stays union-free:
Even if you’re only just beginning to create your ADR policy, or you have just begun to make substantial changes to a pre-existing one, let your workers know this as soon as possible. Communicate in the way most familiar to your employees, so that while the issue may be new, the mode of communication is trusted. If you do regular video updates and distribute them via an email link, don’t suddenly start using social media to talk about your dispute resolution process – – even if you plan to use that new channel to educate employees on the program going forward.
It might seem a trivial point, but do you know what issues in the day-to-day running of your business are the most likely to make your employees concerned?
Survey your workforce. Find out if there’s a health and safety issue that they are particularly worried about, and identify any areas that might make your staff feel insecure or anxious.
Conducting an employee survey may also help shape your Dispute Resolution policy. You’ll definitely get an idea of the issues that might be addressed by your ADR program, and how engaged your employees might be in that process.
Fully integrating your workforce into the actual dispute resolution process itself is a great way to signal to your employees that you are willing to take their input seriously and give them a role in the things that matter to them.
Furthermore, employees are often the best-positioned people in your business to tell you about the specifics of an internal workplace dispute. Rather than being overly lenient, they are usually the most incentivized members of your company when it comes to grading their colleague’s work performance.
As an employer, you are not going to get every decision right. But appearing arbitrary with the application of your decision-making principles is a surefire way to bring about employee-relation breakdown.
A good insurance against this perceived arbitrariness is to have a fair and robust appeals policy. This way, bad decisions can be swiftly rectified, and it provides another outlet for employee grievance other than turning to a union.
This should be fairly obvious, yet it does require diligence from your managerial team. Consistency is the visible byproduct of integrity, and employees can spot a lack of integrity from a mile away!
Inconsistency, even in the smallest of workplace matters, can have profound implications for workforce morale. Train your managers and supervisors to understand this, and educate them on the need to apply workplace rules fairly across the board.
Listen to your employees as you create your ADR process, and take action based on what they are saying. In order to be inspired, employees must feel that they are making a worthwhile contribution to the organization – and that their contribution is valued by you, their employer. With an effective channel to have their voices heard, it won’t be a union they turn to when problems arise.
You may find The United States Office of Personnel Management’s guide to creating an Alternative Dispute Resolution process helpful.