Human resources compliance is a necessity for any business in today's legal environment. Between the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), OSHA, sexual harassment, and antidiscrimination laws, a business that isn't aware of its HR responsibilities is headed for trouble.
When done correctly, HR compliance is a process. It's a way of defining proper individual and group behaviors, and assuring that laws and policies are understood and followed. This means you must know the laws and develop appropriate policies in relation to these laws. Compliance also means you and your managers need to communicate these policies to the troops, along with your expectations for adherence and the consequences for nonadherence. The latter requires specific investigative and punishment procedures.
Effective HR compliance programs need to be integrated into your business strategies and given more than just lip service. Compliance has to start at the top and trickle down to all levels, so everyone in the company knows that the workplace must be kept safe and discrimination won't be tolerated.
These eight steps will help you achieve your compliance goals:
- Educate yourself. HR laws change constantly. You must stay up-to-date on current laws, so you can establish appropriate policies and communicate them to your employees.
- Get good advice. Hire an HR staff with the experience and skills required to support an effective compliance process. If you can't hire someone full-time, contract with an HR consultant. It's also smart to get a good HR lawyer to work with your staff as necessary.
- Create an HR policy manual and regularly update it. Or develop a handbook that meets your initial needs and can be expanded over time. Your lawyer should always review your handbook and any new policies before you implement them.
- Train your managers. Since they have the most significant day-to-day interactions with employees, review your policy manual with each manager. Make sure they understand that they must uphold expected standards and be role models for other employees.
- Train your employees. Build employee awareness of expected behaviors. Your HR manual shouldn't be something your employees keep at the bottom of their drawers. Provide updates to the manual, and provide periodic retraining on important issues, such as sexual harassment.
- Open your ears. Listen to your employees, listen to your managers, and listen to your internal and external experts. Together these people can help you get to the root of your compliance risks, help you manage those risks, and heighten your awareness about goings-on in your company.
- Give feedback. Let people know whether they're meeting your expectations. Reinforce the importance of success, and give your employees the opportunity to correct areas of weakness. Emphasize accountability, and stress the consequences for noncompliance.
- Document your decisions. Memories fade over time, and a lack of documentation can leave you vulnerable to HR noncompliance claims. Document all key decisions and employee evaluations, establish written policies, make sure everyone gets a copy of your written policies and signs them, keep a written record of critical communications, and maintain all personnel records. Documentation is critical.