John Allen

“HR bytes” refers to human resources technologies being developed, deployed and adopted at a breakneck pace. New and innovative software applications are making the delivery of HR services better, faster and simpler.

For years now, large Fortune 500 companies have invested in HR technology that streamlines back office processes, enhances learning opportunities and simplifies employee procedures. Now, though, progressive HR service providers are expanding their service offering beyond mere administrative and tactical HR to include more strategic services and the systems to support them, giving smaller companies access to these tools as well.

 

Time and labor management

Automated Web-based time and labor management systems are replacing antiquated time clocks and swipe cards rife with inefficiencies, and the potential for cheating. Web-based systems provide companies advanced online tools to monitor and manage their employees. 

In addition to tracking employees’ time and attendance, some systems allow employers to tap into real-time labor data on demand so managers can assess immediate staffing needs and adjust employees’ schedules accordingly. Such systems can also seamlessly integrate with a company’s internal or outsourced payroll systems to streamline processes and eliminate inaccuracies.

 

Applicant tracking

Automated applicant tracking systems assist HR personnel by providing access to applicant databases, creating accurate job descriptions, screening applicants, assessing candidates’ skills and automatically communicating with applicants.

By streamlining this time-intensive process, these programs significantly reduce recruiting costs and help better identify candidates who are likely to contribute value to the organization.

 

Online benefit enrollment

Benefits enrollment, once a tedious and labor-intensive process, is now conducted mostly online. With 24-hour Web-based access, employees can log onto enrollment systems at their convenience and review plan options, compare features and pricing, and of course, make or change benefit elections.

This allows HR teams to focus on addressing employees’ questions and managing the more complex issues that may arise during benefit enrollment.

 

Employee self-service

Employee self-service is perhaps the most prevalent advancement in HR technology. Web-based systems allow employees online access to their individual employee data, such as payroll information like tax withholdings or 401(k) contributions, so they can adjust withholding levels or contribution amounts as needed.

Self-service expands to supervisors too, allowing them to manage tasks such as scheduling or performance evaluations.

 

Talent management

Technology is delivering fully integrated solutions that help businesses manage their employees from the time they are hired to the time they retire. 

From training and career development to performance management and succession planning, talent management programs allow companies to be more responsive to their employees’ professional needs and improve overall retention.

 

Training

Web-based training programs offer employees a wide range of options to further develop their professional skills. Employees can take convenient online courses when and where they wish and complete them at their own pace.

Some programs also offer the opportunity for cyberspace interaction with instructors and other participants through message boards and chat rooms. With access to the same advanced technology as larger companies, smaller businesses can optimize their workforce and their HR processes to enhance company performance and productivity. 

 

Name: John Allen

Title: President and COO

Company: G&A Partners is a Texas-based HR and Administrative Services company that manages human resources, benefits, payroll, accounting and risk management for growing businesses.

Learn more about the company at:

www.gnapartners.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/gnapartners

Twitter: @GAPartners

 

Monday, 23 December 2013 01:24

Business Initiatives: John Allen

Re-evaluate and refocus: These five resolutions for the New Year can help you tone up your business

It’s 2014 and time to think about those New Year’s resolutions that can help you shape up. No, not your waistline — your bottom line. For many businesses, the past few years have been anything but kind. If you’re lucky, your company is still relatively fit — it may just need to tone up. Other companies, however, are far from peak condition.

As a smart business owner, you know what you need to do to keep your company in shape, but like most of us, you need occasional reminders. The following tips are just that, simple reminders of what you need to do to get your business in tip-top shape and ensure your company is strong enough to bear the weight of whatever lies ahead in 2014.

1. Refocus on fundamentals — To identify growth opportunities, business owners often focus their energies externally. Don’t lose sight of hopeful prospects, but refocus some of your time and attention internally. Examine the core functions of your business operations to be sure the fundamentals are sound and the infrastructure is strong.

2. Repair what’s broken — If some aspect of your business isn’t working, it’s time to fix it. Managers are often so busy they don’t focus on functions that aren’t operating as efficiently or effectively as they should be. Take time to examine your processes, procedures and even people, and make changes where necessary.

3. Re-evaluate and retrench — In the same way a few extra pounds can make you feel sluggish, having your company grow beyond a level it can comfortably sustain will cause it to be out of shape and ineffective.
Are you operating outside of your wheelhouse? Have you expanded beyond your core business — and beyond your comfort zone? Just as it is easier to lose five pounds than 10, it is better to recognize issues early than wait and let the burden of added weight take a toll on your business’ long-term health.

4. Reduce waste and reinvest in your business — Reducing your waistline is one way to shape up, but may I also suggest reducing your “waste line.” Look around your company. Where can you reduce costs?
And while you’re at it, look for ways to reinvest in your business, especially infrastructure. Sometimes you need to spend money to save money. Investing in advanced technology or more automated processes can help you save money over time.
5. Re-engage and reward employees — It’s been a challenging few years. At one time or another your employees have probably worried about their jobs and their financial futures.  

Such distractions can lead to reduced productivity. Keep your employees engaged and productive. Communicate openly, honestly and often. Offer opportunities for professional development, such as a training seminar, a mentoring program or a challenging project. Reward key employees with new responsibilities or a new job title to recognize their hard work and keep them motivated.

Just like getting your body in shape takes willpower and resolve, getting your company in shape also takes discipline and determination. The process, however, can be energizing and exciting, and the results can ensure your company’s strength and long-term health. Get moving and have a great year.

John Allen is president and COO of G&A Partners, a Texas-based HR and Administrative Services company that manages human resources, benefits, payroll, accounting and risk management for growing businesses. For more information, visit www.gnapartners.com.

To learn more about G&A Partners, like its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/gnapartners, and follow on Twitter @GAPartners.


After nine successful seasons, NBC’s “The Office” called it quits earlier this year. Catch an episode in syndication, though, and the administrative missteps of Dunder Mifflin’s branch managers and the valiant efforts of the paper company’s downtrodden HR guy to counsel his misguided bosses will still leave you laughing. HR mishaps and insensitive gaffes make for timeless television comedy, but in reality, a disregard for employees’ rights can be high-stakes drama.

Government regulations dictate how companies treat their employees and potential employees. A systemic disregard for these regulations, or “noncompliance” in HR-speak, can have costly consequences. Below is a sample of some common violations along with their consequences. 

Wage Payment

A small business owner works her hourly, non-exempt employees nearly 50 hours each week, but only pays them for 40 hours. A competing business owner also works his employees 50 hours each week, and although he pays them for 50 hours, he only pays the regular straight time rate rather than incorporating any overtime pay.

Consequences: Several employees file Wage and Hour charges, which in turn lead to audits of all payroll records. Both employers are found to be non-compliant under the Fair Labor Standards Act. One is required to repay two years of back pay, while the other is required to repay three years of back pay because it was determined that the violations were knowingly and willfully committed. 

Unemployment Compensation

A small company terminates an employee for work-related misconduct. The company, however, never provided the employee with an employee handbook, so he never signed a policy and procedure acknowledgment. In addition, the company neglected to maintain a written file of the employee’s misconduct.

Consequence: Because the company cannot present documented evidence of the employee’s misconduct or demonstrate that the employee should have known of the company policy, the company is charged with a wrongful termination claim that it cannot dispute.

Hiring

During a job interview, an owner of a small business casually asks the applicant if he has children. The applicant is not hired, and he assumes it is because he responded that he has three small children.

Consequence: The applicant files an EEO charge and ultimately a suit against the business. The business owner is forced to pay extensive legal fees to defend against the suit.

Harassment

A supervisor at a midsized manufacturing company continually makes sexist comments and tells subordinates off-color jokes that offend a number of employees. One employee complains, but the company does nothing and the negative behavior continues.

Consequence: The employee files an EEO charge, and later, a harassment suit. After incurring sizable legal fees, the company ultimately agrees to a significant settlement.

The most effective way to ensure your business is complying with today’s complex employment laws is to retain knowledgeable HR professionals. Whether you hire in-house or outsource HR, having access to experts whose job it is to stay current on HR issues and help train and monitor your managers can help you avoid costly pitfalls and prevent poor practices that could damage your company’s reputation. If you think you can’t afford a professional HR adviser, ask yourself whether you can afford not to have one, because the cost of noncompliance is no laughing matter. ●

 John Allen, is president and COO of G&A Partners, a Texas-based HR and Administrative Services company that manages human resources, benefits, payroll, accounting and risk management for growing businesses. For more information, 

visit www.gnapartners.com.

 

 

 

With the economy returning, hiring is playing catch-up to meet increased business demands. As companies search for new talent, the ever-present challenge is identifying the right candidate.

A variety of pre-employment tests and screening procedures exist to help weed out unworthy applicants and identify potential stars. 

Select the proper tools to assess

Some include cognitive tests, medical examinations, skill assessments, credit reviews, criminal background checks and drug tests:

■  Cognitive tests assess reasoning, memory and skills in arithmetic and reading comprehension, as well as knowledge of a particular function or job.

■  Physical tests measure an applicant’s ability to perform a particular task as well as strength and stamina in general.

■  Sample job tasks, such as performance tests, realistic job simulations and work samples, assess performance and aptitude on particular duties. A data processing applicant may have to demonstrate basic keyboarding skills while a copywriter may have to provide a portfolio of past projects.

■  Medical inquiries and physical examinations, including psychological tests, assess physical or mental health. These are often conducted for high level or high stress jobs.

■  Personality tests and integrity tests assess an applicant’s character traits and disposition. They can measure to what degree a job candidate is creative, reliable, cooperative and/or risk adverse. As a result, they can help determine an applicant’s fit for the job and the company’s culture.

■  Criminal background checks provide information on arrest and conviction history. These provide some level of comfort that employers are protecting the security of their business and the safety of their employees.

■  Credit checks provide information on credit and financial history, while drug tests verify that an applicant has no illegal drugs in their system. From the results, employers extrapolate a person’s financial stability or tendency toward drug use. 

Use care when testing

These evaluations can be a very effective means of determining which applicants are most qualified for a particular job. Applicant testing can be controversial, however, if the methods are perceived to be overly invasive or potentially discriminatory. In fact, improper use of assessment tools can violate federal anti-discrimination laws.

Several years ago, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission published a fact sheet outlining some best practices for administering applicant testing and other job selection procedures, which still hold true for employers. Here is a brief overview:

■  Employers should administer tests without regard to race, color, sex, national origin, religion, disability or age (40 or older).

■  Employers need to ensure that employment tests and other selection procedures are valid for the positions and purposes for which they are used. It is important to note that employers are ultimately responsible for ensuring that their testing procedures are in fact valid, even if they engage outside vendors to administer their tests.

■  If a selection procedure seems to screen out a protected group, employers should look for an equally effective alternative selection procedure that has less adverse impact, unless the employer can legally justify the rationale for the test.

■  Employers should stay abreast of changes in job requirements and update testing procedures accordingly to ensure that they continue to accurately predict job success.

■  Employers should not casually adopt tests and selection procedures with no consideration or regard for its effectiveness, limitations or appropriateness. 

As managers and employers, we all look for effective tools to assist in accurately assessing the skills and qualifications of a potential employee. When administered properly, applicant testing can provide an unbiased assessment of an applicant’s aptitude and character, and that objective data can be invaluable when faced with a tough hiring decision. 

John Allen is president and COO of G&A Partners, a Texas-based HR and Administrative Services company that manages human resources, benefits, payroll, accounting and risk management for growing businesses. For more information about the company, visit www.gnapartners.com.

 

 

As temperatures rise, swimming pools aren’t the only things that will get more use. During the summer months, company leave policies are often put to the test as workers enjoy their hard-earned vacations. 

Paid time off policies, or PTO banks, have become the preferred alternative to traditional vacation plans. A majority of companies now utilize PTO banks, making it more popular than traditional policies that distinguish between vacation, sick and personal leave. Under a PTO model, all leave days are integrated into one pool, so employees can take days off at their discretion when they need them.

Companies of all sizes are adopting PTO policies. For one reason, businesses experience fewer unscheduled absences. Experts cite other advantages to PTO banks as well:

• Ease of administration. The PTO model is often easier to administer because it folds together vacation, sick time and personal leave. Vacation leave doesn't have to be coded differently than a sick day.

• Control over absences. When companies distinguish one type of leave from another, employees are likely to use every sick day granted to them whether they need it or not. With PTO banks, employees tend to save time off to use for vacation.

• Recruitment and retention. Employers are finding that PTO programs can make their companies more competitive when recruiting employees.

• Flexibility. The value of PTO banks is especially vital in industries that operate 24/7, such as the health care industry, because it offers optimum flexibility.

• Diversity. Today, employees celebrate a variety of cultural or religious holidays. PTO banks reflect a company's respect for employees' diversity by allowing them to schedule time off around their individual holiday calendar.

• Privacy. While most employees don't want to lie to their employers, they also may not want to announce that they are chaperoning a field trip or in need of a mental health day. A PTO bank allows employees to take time when they need it without having to explain it.

• Equity. There's a common perception that employees with children are allowed more time off than single people without children. PTO banks level the playing field, because everyone has access to time off based on service, so it's objective.

Despite these advantages, many employers and employees fear the unknown. Employees fear the possibility of an unexpected illness wiping out their accrued days, leaving them with no remaining vacation for a visit home at Christmas.

Employers fear potentially higher costs associated with a PTO policy. While other leave policies allow a payout for unused vacation time in the event of termination, under a PTO an employer cannot distinguish between vacation and sick leave, so all unused time must be paid out upon termination.

So how do you decide whether a traditional vacation policy or a PTO model is right for your company? Like most things, there isn’t one method that works for all companies. Ask yourself whether your company is seeing a problem with excess absenteeism or abuse of time off. If your traditional leave policy is working, there may be no compelling reason to change course.

For companies that want to provide their employees more flexibility, a PTO bank may work better. Not surprisingly, however, proper management is key to ensuring that PTO works effectively. Many companies enforce “use it or lose it” policies and setting carryover limits or accrual caps. Some companies even establish buy-back or donation provisions to allow employees to sell or donate unused days to coworkers who may have a greater need.

No matter which type of leave policy you have in place or plan to adopt, remember this — paid leave is an essential employee benefit, and it can serve as a powerful recruitment and retention tool.

John Allen, is president and COO of G&A Partners, a Texas-based HR and administrative services company that manages human resources, benefits, payroll, accounting and risk management for growing businesses. For information about the company, visit www.gnapartners.com.

Business owners are still cutting corners to cut costs and stretching their staffs in an attempt to stretch their budgets, but a lackluster economy shouldn’t be the only thing affecting their business decisions.

When companies try to manage “on the cheap,” the result can be anything but savings. The price of cutting corners in HR can lead to escalated risks, decreased productivity, increased turnover and ultimately higher costs.

Risk of noncompliance

To mitigate risk and minimize costs, HR compliance should be a constant consideration for business owners. Employment laws govern how companies hire, schedule, compensate and behave toward their employees. Adhering to these and other government regulations is not just the lawful thing to do, but it’s also the smart thing to do to protect a business from unnecessary risks.

Federal wage and hour laws are one of the most common noncompliance violations for companies. According to one report, the average settlement per case is nearly $13 million.

Allegations include employers’ failure to pay minimum wage, unpaid overtime and inaccurate “exempt” or “nonexempt” employee classifications. Exempt, or salaried, employees are not eligible for overtime pay regardless of extra hours worked, while nonexempt, or hourly, employees can earn overtime.

Corporate anorexia and the cost of turnover In a lean economy, making do with less is simple common sense, but when companies try to operate with too little staff, the unhealthy result is what some experts call “corporate anorexia.”

Remaining employees are expected to carry a heavy portion of the company’s workload. When consistently stretched too thin, employees become less productive, and the most marketable and highest-performing employees eventually look for better opportunities.

Experts estimate that turnover costs companies anywhere from one-half to five times an employee’s annual wages depending on his or her position within the company.

While that may sound like an exaggeration, consider the hard costs of recruiting and training a new employee. Add to that the softer costs of lost productivity and lost opportunity.

Cost-saving solutions

So why would a business owner ever choose to ignore employment laws? Or risk losing the most experienced staff? For most, it’s not a conscious choice but an unavoidable outcome.

When a company is making do with less, its HR function is often severely understaffed or nonexistent. How can a small business owner or a one-person HR department effectively manage the volume of duties and stay abreast of constant changes in employment law?

HR experts suggest that when limited means dictate that companies cut corners, they should focus on the fundamentals. That includes a comprehensive employee handbook and regular compliance audits.

A handbook is the first line of defense in employee matters. It outlines company policies and establishes a guideline for behavior. When employees review and sign a handbook, they acknowledge that they have reviewed and understand the company’s policies and intend to abide by them.

Regular compliance audits can help ensure a company is properly meeting its obligations and can help identify potential risks before they become costly oversights.

Business owners can also augment their HR by outsourcing part or all of the function. Professional employer organizations and HR outsourcers employ experienced human resource professionals who have extensive knowledge in a variety of HR disciplines.

PEOs and HROs also dedicate significant resources to developing proven processes and systems that can help minimize the most common and costly mistakes. As for cost, many qualified firms cost roughly the same as one full-time HR employee.

Cutting costs can be smart, maybe even necessary, but cutting corners on critical functions or deeply into staff can backfire. If you cant cover all the bases, focus on HR’s fundamentals and enlist assistance where needed.

John Allen is president and COO of G&A Partners, a Texas-based HR and administrative services company that manages human resources, benefits, payroll, accounting and risk management for growing businesses.  For more information about the company, visit www.gnapartners.com. 

It’s an age-old debate: Is character determined by DNA or upbringing? Nature versus nurture? 

Most would argue that character evolves from both. What about companies and their cultures? Is a company’s culture merely a composite of the executives and employees who work there or can a culture be nurtured?

If left to chance, a corporate culture will evolve naturally, but stronger, healthier cultures are nurtured along the way. That doesn’t mean you can manufacture one. At its core, a culture is how a company gets things done. Executives can’t invent an ideal culture that doesn’t align with the way the company actually operates. However, you can help refine your company’s culture and character. Start with the following three steps.

Identify your company’s core values.

A strong company culture, good or bad, reflects the values of the company, its leaders and its employees. What values define your company? What matters most — profits, philanthropy, innovation, safety? If you don’t know, poll your employees. They will have a pragmatic perspective of how things get done.

Once you identify your company’s core values, prioritize the three to five values that are most important.  What do you want to be known for — quality, integrity, or just plain fun?  Keep in mind, this is not what you do; it’s how you do it.  An orthopedic surgeon may be skilled at fixing broken bones, but he gets referrals because of his genuine concern for patients.

Align your actions to your values.

It’s not enough to identify your company’s core values. You also have to walk the talk. Tiger Woods enjoyed a reputation for being a remarkable athlete with extraordinary discipline and sound ethics. However, when revelations of his extramarital affairs surfaced, his reputation was forever tarnished. He’s still considered a great golfer, but no one believes he’s the man he portrayed himself to be.

In the same way, you can’t promote your company as being fair and then challenge your partners at every turn. You’d be better off acknowledging that your company is aggressive. If you try to pass your company off as something it isn’t, you’ll ultimately damage trust with customers.

How can you help ensure that team members model your company’s values day after day? Institute practices that promote your values and the behaviors you want your employees to emulate.

Google, for example, is known for creativity, and its leaders practice what they preach. Google encourages developers to dedicate the equivalent of one day a week to innovative projects outside their job descriptions.

Engage your employees.

The most important, and perhaps the trickiest, piece to this puzzle is engaging employees. Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, once said, “The soft stuff is the hard stuff.” The touchy-feely, people side of business is often the most difficult for leaders to manage well, but it is critical to a company’s success. Employees who are satisfied and truly engaged in their work will perform at a higher level and contribute to greater success and higher profits.

Engaging employees is easier said than done (in fact, it’s never “done” — it requires continuous dedication and focus). There are, however, some practical tactics that can help.

For starters, communicate openly, include employees in the decision-making process whenever possible, and seek and provide continuous performance feedback. Show your employees that you care what they think and that you want them to succeed.

Can you nurture your company’s culture? Absolutely, but it has to emanate from your core values and employees have to model those values. The result will be engaged employees who reflect your culture because it’s simply how your company gets things done.

John Allen is president and COO of G&A Partners, a Texas-based HR and administrative services company that manages human resources, benefits, payroll, accounting and risk management for growing businesses.  For more information about the company, visit www.gnapartners.com.

 

 

 

Controversy sparks conversation, and the recent Penn State scandal is no exception. After details unfolded of the abuses committed by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky and the school’s complicity in covering it up, professionals have been talking about the steps taken and not taken by university officials to properly manage the crisis.

If there can be a silver lining, it is that business owners are examining — many for the first time — how they would handle a similar crisis. Organizational crises can explode in an instant. These incidents briefly capture headlines, but the physical, physiological and financial repercussions can have a lifelong impact on people and threaten an organization’s profitability, productivity and brand image indefinitely. Companies must act quickly to contain the damage and minimize the impact.

Prepare a management plan

A crisis management plan helps a company coordinate its response and prioritize its concerns, whether that involves protecting people, the environment, assets or the company’s reputation. A crisis plan also outlines all aspects of communication flow and who has what responsibilities.

Those identified to serve on a crisis response team should be familiar with the plan. Some companies conduct practice drills to rehearse procedures and identify weak spots.

In the heat of a crisis, a multitude of operational units and functional areas assemble to tackle immediate and tactical matters. But when an employee’s actions, intentional or unintentional, cause or contribute to a crisis, HR often plays a more significant role, advising management on how to deal with employees involved, as well as those impacted.

Immediate suspension of employees may be appropriate to allow time to investigate details or accusations. Consider, too, whether authorities should be contacted. If a law has been broken, the company has an obligation to notify law enforcement officials. Management may be reluctant to move too hastily, but inaction or a delayed response can be perceived as ambivalence and further damage the company’s reputation.

Companies should have a policy that dictates the precise steps to be taken when there is suspected or alleged misconduct so management can ensure it is following company policy as its continues to examine the matter.

Above all, communicate

Communicating internally and externally becomes paramount in a crisis. Prompt and proactive communication provides companies the opportunity to tell their side of the story. Ignoring or burying bad facts won’t change them nor can any amount of spin, but open and honest communication can shape how the company is perceived during and after the crisis.

After the initial impact, consider the steps necessary for the company to fully stabilize and ultimately recover. There could be ongoing investigations, questions of liability, or required actions involving workers’ compensation claims or potential lawsuits. Also consider what additional employee assistance may be needed.

As with many things in business, the best defense to a crisis is often a good offense. Businesses can prevent many mishaps and certain misconduct by ensuring that employees are familiar with company policies and thoroughly trained on safety protocols. And if something still goes wrong, having provided the proper instruction may mitigate some company liability. Also, as with the Penn State scandal, ongoing abuse could be stopped and damage minimized if wrongdoing, once discovered, is immediately reported to appropriate authorities inside and outside the organization.

Companies should have procedures in place that allow employees to anonymously report incidents without fear of retribution. Familiarize employees with those procedures, as well as the possible disciplinary or legal ramifications of not reporting illegal activities.

Promote openness

Promote an open culture that encourages forthright communication and forbids collusion and cover-ups. The most visionary business managers cannot predict the timing or nature of their next company crisis, but they do acknowledge that a crisis will eventually occur.

Preparedness, precautions and practice can help companies respond promptly to crises and minimize the damage they can cause.

John Allen is president and COO of G&A Partners, a Texas-based HR and administrative services company that manages human resources, benefits, payroll, accounting and risk management for growing businesses.  For more information about the company, visit www.gnapartners.com

A frenzy arose recently when the Associated Press reported some hiring companies were asking potential job candidates for their Facebook passwords. While the practice is not nearly as widespread as the news story originally suggested, the idea of such an invasion of privacy hit a strong nerve and sparked a national discussion. Maryland was quick to pass legislation prohibiting employers from asking to access an applicant’s social media profiles, and other states have proposed similar legislation.

So where should the line be drawn? If asking job applicants for Facebook passwords is taboo, can you Google them? If sending friend requests is too forward, can you connect with applicants via LinkedIn?

There are no correct answers because there are no concrete rules, but before you take to the Net to investigate your next new hire, ask yourself a few questions.

What’s to gain?

What do you want to learn by investigating a job applicant online? Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission laws dictate that companies make hiring decisions based on job-related information only. While a basic Google search is unlikely to provide much job-related data, it could easily divulge information that puts an applicant in a protected class — their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetics. Certainly, some of the same information would be disclosed during an interview, but what if after reviewing one candidate’s lackluster resume, you decide interviewing him or her would be a waste of time?

However, out of curiosity, you Google the applicant anyway and learn she’s an African-American woman in her late 50s. Now there is the potential taint of discrimination attached to your decision not to interview her.

Can you handle the truth?

What will you do with the information you discover? Remember the famous courtroom scene in the movie “A Few Good Men” in which Jack Nicholson’s character screams, “You can’t handle the truth!” Can you handle the truth? Are you ready for what you might learn about a job applicant online?

What if through connecting with your top candidate on a social networking site, you come across a fundraising campaign for his child with muscular dystrophy? You might assume if you hire him, your company’s health insurance premiums would increase or that he would be unable to fully commit to the job with a special needs child at home.

What if you discover the young go-getter you are about to hire as an executive assistant has been moonlighting at a questionable nightclub? You can’t unlearn facts once you’ve learned them, so can you trust yourself to make a completely unbiased hiring decision?

Can you be certain that what you find is a current and accurate representation of the candidate?

Protection concerns

If your parents were right and you’re judged by the company you keep, for better or worse a company is also judged by the people it employs. In this age of rampant online recklessness, it’s understandable that employers would want to protect their company’s reputation from the damage even just one employee’s careless indiscretion could cause.

Remember the Domino’s Pizza incident when two employees posted a video of themselves sabotaging a submarine sandwich? Personal posts could be a red flag that the candidate you are about to hire doesn’t always display the best judgment.

But how can you be sure those party pics you found tagging your star candidate were posted with her knowledge or are not from 10 years ago when she was still a college coed?

Social media offers companies an alluring platform to connect with their audiences, whether that’s customers, employees or even prospective employees. But company representatives need to use discretion if they intend to access social media or any online tools in the hiring process. Some well-intended prying could be deemed discriminatory or lead you to pass up a potential star.

Poor judgment, whether it is on the part of an individual or part of a company practice, will always carry negative consequences.

John Allen is president and COO of G&A Partners, a Texas-based human resources and administrative services company that manages human resources, benefits, payroll, accounting and risk management for growing businesses. For more information about the company, visit www.gnapartners.com.

Many business owners started their careers punching a time clock, but after climbing the ladder to success, it’s easy to forget the satisfaction of clocking a few extra hours or the significance of the overtime pay that came along with it. However, the recent increase in class-action lawsuits for alleged violations of wage and hour laws has become an exasperating reminder for many employers.

Such cases now account for nearly 85 percent of all employment class-action lawsuits, and legal experts don’t see the trend ending anytime soon. Allegations include employers’ failure to pay minimum wage, unpaid overtime and inaccurate “exempt” or “nonexempt” employee classifications. Exempt employees are not eligible for overtime pay regardless of extra hours worked, while nonexempt, or hourly, employees can earn overtime.

Maybe it’s the time intensive reporting associated with wage and hour laws or because the Fair Labor Standards Act was enacted during the Great Depression and no longer reflects the way people work (Today’s constant connectivity and the expectation that we are accessible and responsive 24/7 doesn’t exactly accommodate eight-hour shifts or uninterrupted lunch breaks).

Whatever the reason, wage and hour law violations are one of the most common noncompliance issues for companies, and infractions can be costly. According to one recent report, the average settlement per case is nearly $13 million.

To prevent costly litigation, companies should ensure their practices and their employees comply with state and federal wage and hour laws. Here are a few tips:

  • Conducting regular audits can help ensure that the various positions within a company are properly classified as exempt or nonexempt. Audits can also validate that the wage associated with a particular position is fair. Business managers who are not familiar with the nuances associated with each classification’s criteria should defer to in-house human resource experts or engage a firm that specializes in HR to help conduct a thorough audit.
  • Educate employees on the rationale for each position’s classification. Some employees have a notion that exempt positions are more significant. Managers should emphasize that all employees are looked upon with the same level of respect, but exempt and nonexempt classifications are required to comply with federal and state employment laws.
  • Ensure managers understand the distinctions between exempt and nonexempt. Nonexempt employees should receive uninterrupted meal and rest breaks and are eligible for overtime. If managers don’t acknowledge job classifications, they may maintain unrealistic expectations or be intolerant of an employee’s required work schedule.
  • Establish a company policy that defines overtime and outlines procedures for requesting overtime. Does responding to an afterhours email or answering a phone call constitute overtime? If so, is the employee’s supervisor aware of this overtime? Best practices suggest that employees sign a weekly time card to verify clocked hours and supervisors pre-approved overtime.
  • Use a time management system to electronically track and verify employee hours. Advanced systems can even flag and calculate overtime before it occurs so managers can make quick, cost-saving staffing decisions.  Effective time management technologies can also automatically compile data, such as overtime, into accurate and detailed reports.
  • A day’s work doesn’t always fit neatly into eight hours. However, when chronic overtime becomes a costly issue, employers should evaluate the situation. What’s the reason for all the overtime? Is the employee managing his or her time well? Would hiring another employee save the company money and save an employee from burnout?

You don’t have to earn minimum wage, punch a time clock or calculate your take-home pay based on overtime hours to be impacted by wage and hour laws. These laws govern when and how your employees work every day. Stay current on the laws and make sure your company is compliant. If you don’t, it could cost you a pretty penny.

John Allen, is president and COO of G&A Partners, a Texas-based HR and administrative services company that manages human resources, benefits, payroll, accounting and risk management for growing businesses. For more information about the company, visit www.gnapartners.com.

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