HR is a field full of complicated regulations and requirements. This is why companies rely on HR departments to keep things in check; however, small businesses may not have the luxury of a full HR department. For the person responsible for handling the HR needs of a small business, fixing issues and making adjustments to fulfill requirements can seem quite daunting. While it is best to call in expert help for some of the bigger projects, there are some quick fixes those at small businesses can do on their own.
Employee File Management
In my consulting work, I have met a number of small business owners and office managers who admit that their system for keeping track of employee paperwork leaves much to be desired. If your employee file management system is simply throwing all paperwork in one file with the employee’s name scribbled on the tab, it is time to make some changes. Fortunately, this is an easy fix.
Start by creating a main employee, which will contain the employment application, resume, new hire paperwork, corrective action, performance reviews, pay increases, training certifications, exit paperwork and other paperwork relating to employee performance. You want this file to represent an employee’s work performance, so do not include items that allude to protected class. Pull out any paperwork that includes medical information (e.g. leave paperwork, benefits forms), and create a separate medical file. Form I-9 must be kept separate from your main employee file. It is a good idea to keep all your I-9 forms for all employees in one place. A binder works really well for this.
Keep separate files for investigations and work comp claims. These things do not belong in the main employee file. Also be sure to set up files for any information that alludes to protected class, such as the EEO voluntary identification form.
Employee file management also includes knowing how long to keep paperwork. If you are a SHRM member, check out their website for an excellent list detailing how long to keep paperwork. Make sure to also check on specific requirements in your state.
When was the last time you updated the employee posters that show minimum wage, paydays, FMLA rights and more? Maybe the last version you have is a torn version from 1999 that is partially hidden behind a file cabinet. Each year brings new requirements, which means it is important to update your required posters and display them in a prominent place. You can check websites for government agencies to download the required posters for free, or you can choose the easy option and order an all-in-one poster. Even though the all-in-one poster cost money, it will save you the time of figuring out where to find all the required notices. Make sure your poster includes notices specific to your state.
While you are thinking of posters, make sure you have all the required pamphlets. Check with your state for specific requirements. Typically these pamphlets are free and available for download.
Good documentation is essential to HR. Setting up good documentation is an easy fix. While calling on an HR professional can be a good way to get some guidance, it is not necessary to do so in order to ensure that you are following good documentation practices. Documentation includes notes on meetings with employees and work performance, corrective action, performance reviews and investigation notes. For the purposes of this easy fix, we are going to look at notes on meetings with employees and work performance.
If you manage employees, you probably have regular conversations with employees about performance issues, attendance problems and more. It is important that you keep track of these things with written documentation, especially when putting some kind of improvement plan in place. To keep it simple, create a document for each employee, and type a few notes after meeting with an employee to discuss issues. You can keep this as a log and add to it after future meetings. Document what was discussed and expectations for improvement. Make sure to include the date of the meeting and a date for the next time you plan to check in to see if the employee is improving. This log does not have to just focus on the problems. Also include notes on things the employee has done well.
Keeping a basic log will not only provide the documentation you need to support employment decisions. It will also make writing the annual review a breeze.