Thank you for reading the HR Advisor Newsletter. This month we look at three practices you can do to effectively manage your HR responsibilities, what you should keep in mind when writing your own company policies, and a few measures you can take to protect your organization when serving alcohol at company events.
Three Ways to Effectively Manage Your HR Responsibilities
The workplace – whether it’s an office, a salon, a restaurant, or a medical facility – is full of complexity. And many of those complexities are managed by the Human Resources Department. Sometimes the HR Department is a team of people with deep expertise, but often it’s one person who wears many hats in the organization and has no formal HR training. If your HR department looks more like the latter, and you could use a little help keeping it all together, we recommend the following three practices:
Inventory who is doing what
Because HR covers so many different tasks, those tasks are often assigned to different people in the organization. It’s common for owners, managers, and operations personnel to have a hand in HR, whether or not the organization has a dedicated HR person. But with HR responsibilities spread out, it may not be clear who’s doing what, and that uncertainty can add to the stress felt by whoever oversees the organization’s HR. Important HR functions risk being neglected and problems may go unnoticed or unresolved.
In order to manage your HR, you need to identify what’s currently being done and who’s doing it. For example, who ensures that your policies and practices meet legal requirements? Who makes internal decisions about pay, benefits, and recruitment? Where do employees go to resolve conflicts or report harassment? Who conducts terminations? Who writes policies? Where do the people doing HR go if they have questions or concerns?
It’s not a problem if your HR responsibilities are spread out among multiple people. In fact, we recommend it (more on that below). But with multiple people involved, it’s essential to verify that everything that needs to be done is being done. Once you have a clear picture of your HR functions, you’re in a better position to assess whether those functions are being done well.
Require your managers to handle more HR issues
There’s no way that HR can be involved in every employee relations issue, especially on those days when you’re putting out fires. When HR practitioners spend most of their time responding to problems, they’re not able to invest their time and energy in proactive HR solutions. When business owners get bogged down addressing employee issues, they’re not able to devote as much time to growing the business. Both in-house HR professionals and business owners can and should delegate some HR responsibilities to management.
Managers should feel comfortable giving feedback, offering praise, providing direction, disciplining poor performers, addressing certain behavioral problems, and resolving conflicts. Not every employee issue needs to be escalated up the chain of command or be placed on the desk of the HR department – although some certainly should be.
If managers – who are usually closer to the situation and better equipped to respond to it quickly and effectively – can handle the smaller, more frequent employee issues that arise, then owners and dedicated HR staff will have more time to tackle larger projects and more bandwidth to respond appropriately to emergencies. If managers don’t have the knowledge and skills to take on certain HR responsibilities, consider additional training.
Talk to others doing HR
Sometimes it feels good to talk to people who can relate to what you’re going through. It can be lonely being a business owner or solo HR practitioner. There may not be someone else in the workplace who fully understands what you’re experiencing, and even if there are people who would understand, you may not be able to open up to them because so many matters are confidential or sensitive. It can also feel like your situation is so unique that no one could possibly understand.
If you know other organizational leaders in your area or have access to online networks of fellow HR professionals, you’ll likely find value in striking up a conversation. One of the best things about the world of HR is that the people who practice it are eager to listen and happy to share what worked or didn’t work for them. If nothing else, you’ll see that you’re not alone and that your HR issues aren’t really that unique. That alone can bring peace of mind and give you the confidence to tackle each new day’s HR responsibilities.
For the most part, you can write your own policies and customize them to your liking. The key is making sure the language is clear so everyone knows what should be done, how it should be done, and who people should go to in order to get things done. Don’t be shy about the details.
Of course, your policies also need to be legal. If the policies involve money, leave, vacation, drugs and alcohol, or off-duty conduct, be sure to check them against an outside source (like the Policy Library in the HR Support Center) and make sure they are in line with federal and state law.
How To Reduce Liability When Serving Alcohol at Company Events
Serving alcohol at company events can be a liability. Partygoers who overindulge could cause an accident or act in ways that violate your harassment policy. Here are some practices you might consider:
- Employers may be liable for employee misconduct and negligence when the employee is acting “in the course and scope of employment,” so make these kinds of events optional and clearly communicate that attendance is neither expected nor required.
- Don’t plan to have any work-related activities at the event.
- To further support the non-work nature of the event, hold it off-site and outside of regular business hours, and allow employees to bring a guest.
- Set expectations around respectful behavior and encourage employees to drink responsibly.
- Remind employees that company policies, including harassment and other conduct policies, apply at the event.
- Have a plan to ensure that no minors or visibly intoxicated attendees are served alcohol.
- If possible, hire professional servers (or hold the event at a staffed facility) who will, as part of their job, politely refuse to serve anyone who they perceive has had enough to drink.
- Provide ample food and non-alcoholic beverages, both for safety reasons and so non-drinkers know you’ve given them consideration.
- Offer a cash bar where employees purchase the alcohol. This will reduce the likelihood of a claim that the employer provided alcohol directly to employees. It will also reduce consumption.
- Provide employees with a set number of drink tickets so that each attendee is limited in the number of alcoholic drinks they will be served.
- Plan for how employees who have been drinking will get home. This may involve providing taxis, ride shares, or public transit options at no cost to the employees, arranging for group transportation, or encouraging employees to designate a driver at the beginning of the event.
- Even if you don’t want or plan to provide taxi or ride sharing service, don’t think twice about calling and paying for one if an intoxicated employee has no way home other than driving themselves. To facilitate this, someone from management can be designated to stay until the end and maintain their own sobriety to ensure that everyone gets home safe.
While these steps will not eliminate all the risks, they can help reduce liability and help your employees celebrate the year and their achievements safely and responsibly.
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