Preparation pays off. While it may be well known that “practice, practice, practice” gets you to Carnegie Hall, it appears you don’t even need to do the sound check to play Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Mariah Carey’s performance to close out the year may have felt like a fitting end to 2016, a year that has caught so much flack for surprise results and the loss of so many notable actors and musicians. Twitter was ruthless, as usual. Here it is, if you haven’t seen it (and you’ll probably watch it again even if you already have, just because). Like a train wreck in slow motion, you cannot look away.
As the album version of her hit “Emotion” blared through the speakers, Carey attributed her Milli Vanilli impression to not having run a sound check. And herein lies today’s lesson for employers: Preparation Pays Off. Whether you’re a start-up company or a well-established brand, preparation in all things—especially HR—is key. While Mariah Carey may be able to just say “S**t Happens” and move on, you and your company may not get off so easily.
In honor of the queen of the high note, here are a few tips for making sure you are prepared for 2017:
- Update your employee handbook. You know that thing collecting dust in the corner of your HR office or the electronic file you haven’t even tried to access since migrating to a new platform? Yeah, that one. Chances are if you put your handbook together in 2015 or before, at least some of the policies you drafted may have need to be revised. Even though the DOL’s overtime rule change didn’t go into effect, you may be headquartered or operating in a state whose employment laws changed slightly or significantly either through legislation or court decision, making your old policy out of date. The same applies if you made the effort to update one or just a couple of your handbook policies in the past years without revising the whole thing. While spot revisions are fine to ensure ongoing compliance, it is good practice to periodically review the entire handbook to ensure revisions haven’t created contradictions, either in wording or in practice. If any changes are made, be sure to re-circulate the new handbook to your employees.
- Train your managers. This applies regardless of whether your policies change. If you have read any of my previous posts on this blog, you might notice this commandment is a theme. This is because managers and front-line supervisors are so crucial to your company’s operations, especially when it comes to the application of employment laws. As far as the law is concerned, the company speaks through its managers, therefore, if your policies say one thing, and your managers say (or do) another, you are likely going to run into a problem sooner rather than later. And your problems will likely be a bit tougher to explain than a bad ear piece. Regularly training managers on the law and your company policies is the best way to ensure your managers don’t get your employees feeling “emotions” about the Company. (Okay, I’ll stop.)
- Audit your practices/positions. Do your operations remain stagnant year-over-year? Are you still doing the same thing you did 10 years ago? Are you doing it the same way? If the answer to one or more of these questions is “No,” and, even if not, it likely should be, then you should probably take a look at your position descriptions to be sure they match up with what your company is actually doing. Position descriptions are important both in the wage and hour context and in disability situations. Courts consistently look at a company’s position description to determine the “essential functions” of a job when analyzing whether an individual employee may be reasonably accommodated. So, keeping your descriptions up-to-date is the best way to ensure your managers and/or HR department is properly equipped to engage in the interactive process. In addition, making sure your position descriptions line up with employees’ actual duties is important when determining compliance with state and federal wage and hour laws regarding overtime exemptions, etc.
Use Mariah Carey’s final blunder of 2016 for good: resolve to prepare your company for a successful 2017!